Conventional wisdom says that it’s less expensive to move yourself than to hire professional movers. That’s no longer true, especially if you count the hidden costs of each option. Learn more…
As we all know, moving is time-consuming and stressful. It can be costly too. If a move is in your near future, you have a lot of decisions to make, including whether you should move yourself or hire professional movers. We’re going to help with that decision by exploring the real costs of moving yourself versus hiring professional movers.
Determining which option is right for you largely depends on a number of factors, including the number of rooms you’re moving, the size and weight of items you’re moving, proximity to your new home, the complexity of the move, your appetite to do-it-yourself, and your available free time.
In addition to considering the obvious costs of renting a moving truck, fuel, and supplies, we’ll look at some hidden costs you should consider when it comes to moving yourself. Hiring a professional moving company can also introduce some extra costs you should be aware of as well.
First, let’s discuss some factors other than cost that might dictate which option you choose.
The logistics involved in moving the contents of a small, one-bedroom apartment a few miles away (say from Salt Lake City to Park City or Heber) are pretty simple. However, when it comes to moving multiple rooms of furniture to another state or across the country, it’s a different story.
If you have a lot of large items such as mattresses, armoires, washer/dryer combos, sectionals, and big screen TVs, knowing what sized truck you’ll need and figuring out how to properly stack items (and which items go in first and last) becomes trickier. It’s also easy to underestimate how many days you’ll need the truck (loading always takes longer than estimated), and while most moving companies will gladly let you keep the truck an extra day or two, that will drive up the cost.
When you hire a legitimate and experienced moving company in Salt Lake City, chances are your move will be more efficient. Unlike friends who might commit to helping you move but have unexpected things come up that leave you short-handed, a professional moving company is under contract to arrive on the day and time agreed, with the proper equipment and labor to get the job done. When you have to be out of the property you’ve sold or rented by a specific date, you need a resource you can count on.
Heavy and bulky items
You may consider yourself to be very physically fit and you might even be able to bench press your own weight. However, when it comes to moving large, unwieldy items it’s not just the weight of the item, it’s the shape and size. Professional movers shift cumbersome items like these every day and they have the techniques and proper equipment to make it easier. From roller skids and skates to toe jacks, lifting straps, or air bearings, the pros have the right tools to move heavy or bulky items safely and more efficiently. They’re also trained to navigate stairs, tight corners, and avoid damaging items when moving items.
If you’re moving out of state (more Utahns move to California and Texas than any other states), the timing may simply be impossible for you to load your items, drive to your destination, and unload at your new home. That can be a weeks-long endeavor and even if you are able to find the time, you might rather spend some time getting to know your new city and getting settled in your new home.
Which is cheaper? Moving myself or hiring a moving company?
Let’s dig into the cost comparison between hiring professional movers versus the DIY approach.
Cost of Hiring professional movers
The cost of hiring a professional moving company can vary widely based on dozens of factors including how many rooms you have, the distance of your move, the complexity of the move, and the quality and reputation of the company you hire. As of 2023, the average cost to have professional movers move a studio or 1-bedroom apartment locally is $450-$800, while the cost to move a 4 bedroom home could run between $1,800-$2,000. Moving to another city or out of state is obviously more and the distance is a factor that will increase the cost.
Hiring professional local or long distance movers enables you to see the all-inclusive cost of moving including transportation, labor, fuel, insurance, etc. It’s nice to be able to budget for your move by seeing all the costs on one estimate. However, unless you’re careful, there are some unexpected costs that could crop up and lead to cost overruns. Here’s how to avoid those costs:
When getting an estimate from a professional moving company, it’s important to accurately list all the rooms of items you have and to disclose any especially large or cumbersome pieces that you’ll need to have moved. A grand piano or pool table often requires special equipment and planning to move, so you’ll want to have that included in your estimate to avoid any day-of surprises or unexpected charges. Also be sure to let the person you speak with at the moving company know if you have an auto or motorcycle that needs to be transported (and be prepared to pay extra for that service).
Moving companies will likely charge extra if you want them to pack or unpack your items, disassemble or reassemble furniture, remove junk or trash from your home, or store your items short- or long-term. Be sure you mention anything extra you expect your moving company to include during the cost estimate phase.
Most professional moving companies can give you a ballpark cost estimate based on the number of bedrooms, your building types, number of stories, etc., most estimators will want to visit your home to assess the size and number of items that will need to be moved. An on-site estimate is definitely going to be more accurate and it’s a good way to ensure that the moving company brings all the needed equipment (and labor) to make your moving day go smoothly.
Moving Yourself – the DIY approach to moving
Moving truck rental
For local moves, the cost of renting a moving truck can be quite reasonable. It’s a bit more costly for long-distance and/or one-way moves. According to move.org, the cost of renting a truck and purchasing fuel can range from $130 if you’re moving less than 50 miles away to more than $2,140 for a move that’s 1,750 miles away. When considering renting a truck, it’s also important to understand the extra costs for insurance, mileage, taxes, towing equipment, or supplies (moving dolly, boxes, straps, moving blankets etc.). The super low rate you see advertised on the side of rental trucks is often far from the final cost.
The cost of your time
Depending on how much you and your spouse or partner earn per hour at your jobs, two full days of loading a moving truck, driving to your new home, and unloading the truck could represent some significant cash. For example:
2 people x 2 days x 10 hours per day x $17.28/hr.* = $712
That’s if you just earn the median Utah hourly wage. If you’re an above-average earner, the cost of your time would be much greater. Don’t forget to add in the cost of the time it takes you to pick up and drop off the moving truck.
*based on the average hourly wage for Utah as of Sept. 27, 2023 according to Zip Recruiter.
Cost of food and accommodations
If you’re moving more than 500 miles away, you’ll also want to consider the cost of food and accommodations for the trip to your destination. Driving a moving truck a thousand miles takes way longer than driving a car the same distance. The last long-distance DIY move I made, my food and hotel cost ended up being 3X what I had originally estimated.
Hidden costs of help from friends and family
If you ask friends and family to help with free labor, you’ll probably spend a few bucks on food and beverages for your crew. Those costs add up quickly. Consider the cost of lunch and dinner for 4 people over two days.
Increased risk of injury
If you and your family are moving furniture and large items, the risk of injury is a real concern. While you may be in great shape, what you need to worry about is the friend or relative who gets injured trying to lift something too heavy or slips and falls going down the stairs. It’s unlikely that your homeowners or renter’s insurance would cover it and you might very well be legally liable for covering the medical costs of such an injury. The cost of a minor laceration at an instant care clinic is one thing. The cost of a debilitating long-term back injury is something else completely.
Increased risk of damage to your belongings
If a professional mover packs and moves your belongings, if an item does get damaged, you have the mover’s insurance to help pay to have your items repaired or replaced. When family and friends help you move, all bets are off. If your cousin accidentally drops and breaks your OLED/LED TV, moving yourself could prove to be the most costly option by a long shot.
Hopefully, this article has helped you to consider many of the often overlooked costs for both hiring professional movers and the do it yourself option. If you’re a person that likes to run the numbers and compare for yourself, you might consider using a chart similar to the one I created below which estimates the cost for the move of a 4 bedroom home from Salt Lake City to Park City (approx. 33 miles). Since the DIY approach tends to be less expensive with local moves, this provides a good best-case-scenario” for possible savings.
It’s worth noting that this cost comparison is based on everything with the DIY move going flawlessly. That means no injuries, no broken or damaged items, and no unexpected delays. It really pays to examine the true cost between the two options and then make an informed decision. You might just find that you can save money and your back at the same time!