DIY Moving

Move yourself to save a few bucks (but it might cost your back)

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The do-it-yourself, or DIY move, is for the bold and adventurous. DIY movers are not going to be hiring anyone to help haul all their worldly possessions from one place to another, although they might call on family and friends to lend a hand. When you choose this option, you are telling the world that you laugh in the face of back-breaking manual labor, driving a truck the size of your apartment, and turning your family and friends against you. You’re also saying that you want to save as much money as possible because this tends to be one of the cheapest moving options for obvious reasons.

Still, you’ll have to shell out some cash unless, for some reason, you personally own a big rig. You will choose among renting a truck, portable storage container, or space in a freight truck. More on that later. You’ll also have to invest in pizza, refreshing drinks, and toilet paper (for the bathroom of your new residence) for the friends and family you coax into helping you. It’s the least you can do.

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DIY Moving
Time Investment

You might not realize how much time you actually spend planning and executing your move. Breaking down where all that time goes can be tricky and tough to agree on, but we've seen over 100,000 moves, so we've got a pretty good estimate of where it disappears to. One thing we can agree on is that your time is valuable. So, to help you decide whether it's worth it to just pay someone else to do this or that part, here's a breakdown of where your time will be spent.

Total Time Investment

0hr.
48hr.
31hrs.

Based on an aprox. 1,100 mile move of a 3 bedroom home.

Quoting & Planning Time
0
48hr
5 - 7 hrs.

When it comes to time spent, truck rentals tend to have an easier rental process than portable storage units because for something like PODS ®, you'd have to get on the phone for a long-distance move. A phone call with either a truck rental company or a portable storage container company could last you anywhere from 15 - 45 minutes, depending on how complicated your move is. (By the way, we’re including any research you do, including hanging out here on HireAHelper’s Moving 101 guide to read up about your options). You’ll also have to coordinate schedules with your friends and family, get all the necessary equipment, make a timetable for moving day - not to mention the days of packing yourself leading up to moving day.


Packing Time
0
48hr
12 - 14 hrs.

Again, this is based on packing up a 3 bedroom home, so scale accordingly for your move.


Loading & Unloading Time
0
48hr
11 - 13 hrs.

Let’s face it, you’re not a professional mover. It’s gonna take you, your cousin, and your roommate quite a bit more time to load up that truck than the pros.

TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS COMPARISON

  • You Load
    You Drive
    Avg. Review
    1
    5
    4.20
    Average Cost
    Local Move: $131
    Medium Move: $297
    Long Move:Long Move: $1097

    Positive Review

    The most cost effective and flexible option. You control your own moving day schedule.

    Negative Review

    You have to drive a ginormous truck. How fast should you take that speed bump, or that turn?

  • You Load
    They Drive
    Avg. Review
    1
    5
    4.45
    Average Cost
    Local Move: $663
    Medium Move: $1434
    Long Move:Long Move: $3218

    Positive Review

    The most convenient option if you need temporary storage for your move. It’s delivered straight to your home and transported to your new location by pros.

    Negative Review

    How much is all of this added convenience worth to you? That is the question.

  • You Load
    They Drive
    Avg. Review
    1
    5
    4.51
    Average Cost
    Local Move: $1167
    Medium Move: $1556
    Long Move:Long Move: $2904

    Positive Review

    It's the most affordable way to have the pros drive your stuff to your new home.

    Negative Review

    Two words: air-ride suspension. They don't have it. Your stuff needs to be expertly wrapped and loaded to survive this ride intact.

The Perfect Match

Are you and the ambitious DIY move a perfect match? Someone who is strong, organized, and a good boss is a great fit for DIY moving. If the purse strings are extra tight and you are physically and emotionally able to handle a move (more power to you), then you should consider the DIY move. You will have a hand in every inch of the move – packing, loading, driving, and unloading. And you’ll be delegating work to your willing family and friends. Brush up on those stress-management skills now, however, because the whole deal is going to be resting right on your shoulders.

Planning

Still stickin with the D.I.Y. move? Sure we can't tempt you with a refreshing Hybrid™ move instead? No? Ok, fine then. I suppose we'll help you plan the most awesome D.I.Y. move you've ever executed in your life. Here's all we know on how to move by yourself:

  • Timeline, Budget, & Inventory

    Everyone who has ever moved in the history of the world will tell you that it is never too soon to start planning. Get started as early as you can. The first step is determining your schedule. Ask yourself the following:

    • When do you have to be out of your old place?
    • When can you move into your new place?
    • Where can you store your stuff and on whose couch can you crash, if there’s a lag in between those dates?


    Taking into consideration all this information, determine your moving dates. If there’s flexibility, you’ll be better off because you might be able to get a price cut when equipment is less in demand. Moving mid-month and mid-week - especially in the fall and winter - tends to bring down your costs, but it might be harder for friends and family, depending on their schedules, to help you out then. Take all these factors into consideration and come up with a date to bring with you when seeking quotes from your various transportation options.

    Learn how to make a moving binder and take photos of your stuff for future insurance claims by watching the MonkeySee.com YouTube video, “how to plan a stress free move.” You can also try out apps, such as the moving list for iPhone, which costs $2.99 and offers a to-do list for you to work through, and the moving planner for android phones, which costs $0.99 and provides a timeline of your move to keep you on track.

  • Pick your transportation

    Think of this step like you would dating. You’re looking for a good match for you. Don’t marry the first option that comes along. Get to know them. Rental trucks are perfect for someone unafraid of driving a ginormous vehicle, whereas portable storage units are right if you need to store your goods at all and don’t have much to move. The freight trucks are a nice fit if you don’t want drive and have lots of stuff.

    Visiting their Web sites, asking questions of customer service representatives, and reading through their stats here on Moving 101 ™ are all great ways of “dating” move transportation companies to see which one to marry for your move. Here’s a quick overview of each of your transportation options:

    • Moving Truck Rental - This is the traditional choice. As the name implies, rental truck companies, will have you renting a truck, some as big as 26 feet, sized to meet the amount of stuff you need to haul. You (perhaps, along with friends and family) or hired help will load and unload it. Of course, you’ll have to drive it from your old residence to your new residence. Most of these companies have been in business for many years and have lots of experience in renting out their equipment to DIY movers like you. The major players in this sector are U-Haul ®, Penske ®, and Budget ®. The staff can offer valuable tips. You will pay, on average, around $155 for a local move, $225 for a short move, and $971 for a long-distance move. Gas and insurance will also have to be factored into your budget should you go this route. You can compare different truck rental companies and real average pricing and reviews in our moving truck rental guide.

    • Moving Containers - This is the fresh, new way to move yourself. PODS ® and 1-800-PACK-RAT ® are among the big names in this sector. The companies provide you with a shipping container, often made of a durable material, such as steel. You take as long as you’d like to pack all your stuff into it and then a driver comes to pick it up and transport it either to a storage facility or your new place. You could even keep the container for storage on your property. Regardless of what you do with the big box, you alone keep the key, which has to make you feel more secure about the safety of your prized possessions. Typically, the containers come in two sizes - 8’ and 16’. But you might require more than one if you are moving a big place, such as a 3-bedroom home. This can get pricey, which is why the portable storage containers are often a better option for moving smaller apartments and homes. Prices range from just under $500 for a local move (with the largest container) to more than $5,000 for a long-distance move (with two of the largest containers). To compare prices and reviews on different moving container companies, check out our moving containers guide.

    • Freight Moving Trucks - These guys are the grandaddies of the trucking industry, but they are only relatively recent additions to the world of moving. Still, they have lots of experience shipping stuff - important and sometimes delicate stuff - across the country. As a result, they are a great option for those who need to move bigger homes a great distance. How it works is that you rent space in a 28-foot trailer, which is driven by a professional driver, and you load and unload your stuff. Your stuff travels with other people’s stuff, but it’s separated by dividers, so no need to worry about cooties. You only pay for the amount of space you use. Prices are similar to those of the rental trucks, but you don’t have to do the driving. ABF U-Pack ® is the leader, by far, in this category. But there are other options, such as Old Dominion ® (OD) Household Services and Estes SureMove ®. Learn more about freight trailer moving in our freight moving trucks guide.

  • Pack up to ship out

    This is the part where most people get tripped up. They tend to procrastinate because, well, who really wants to go to through the hassle of packing up their entire life? But the sooner you start, the sooner you will be done. Go from room to room and assess whether you really need each item. You might decide to throw away some things, give others aways, and sell others in a garage sale or on eBay. The less stuff you have to bring with you, the easier your move will be. Here are some tips on how to get rid of stuff before you move yourself.

    Once you know what you’re bringing, then you can start the actual packing. Be sure to keep necessities, such as your toothbrush and paste, deodorant, your kid’s beloved blankie, and important documents, such as the deed to your home, in luggage that you can bring with you. The rest should be snugly packed into boxes that are the same size, so that you can easily fit them tightly into the truck or container. Label everything clearly, so that you know just where to put the boxes in your new place. This will make unpacking and getting organized a lot easier.

    One of the biggest "how to move yourself" tips we can offer is to NOT wait until the last minute - make sure your boxes are ready to be loaded on moving day. Don’t be that guy. Your friends and family, who take the time to help you out, will think less of you (and they should) if you have them wrap up dishes and everything in your underwear drawer instead of simply loading boxes onto a moving truck or into a shipping container. It also will take more time, the stuff may get shoved into boxes without much thought to their protection, which means you could even end up spending more money replacing damaged items. Plus, the longer the move takes, the more money you’ll have to pay for the trucks or containers.

    In the YouTube video, “How to Move and Pack Your House,” you’ll learn how to keep your friends even though you’ve asked them to help you move. There’s also some valuable scoop on how to score free boxes. BuzzFeed’s “33 Moving Tips That Will Make Your Life So Much Easier” keeps it real, is a good read, and offers some good advice, such as packing your glasses and stemware in clean socks for extra padding.

  • Load the truck or container

    On moving day, you should be all set to load the truck and container and get to, well, moving. One person can stand in the truck or near the container to coordinate loading and ensure a tight fit. Trust us - it's not a waste of time. The alternative is to have everyone carrying things to the truck, each person left to pick their favorite spot for the box or end table they're carrying. You'll be left with half as much usable space, which means you'll either end up leaving stuff behind or having to re-pack the whole truck or container.

    So, you and your friends and family can bring boxes out to the coordinator. He or she will tie things to the rails and use mattresses and other soft items to cushion more delicate things. You want your stuff to fit into the trailer or container tightly, so there’s minimal movement when driving. Use furniture blankets to protect items, such as your dresser or china closet. Be sure to have hand trucks on hand for moving the heavier stuff, so no one throws their back out.

    For a more detailed look at how to load a rental truck, you can check out wikiHow’s “How to Pack a Moving Truck” or U-Pack’s ® “Tips for Loading a Moving Truck.” You can also see how professionals load a truck in the YouTube video, “How Franks WorldWide Moving Packs A Moving Truck.” Just don’t be fooled into thinking that you’ll be able to finish the job in the 5 minutes that it takes these pros to do it on screen; the video is on the speed track, and sadly we are not.

  • Unload the truck or container

    If you are moving locally, you might have the same friends and family on hand to unload. If you move to a new city by yourself, you might be on your own or have another group helping (if you don't, though, HireAHelper, can help you find pros who can!). Regardless, the process is the same. You’re basically just taking whatever you fit into the container or truck out and into your new place or a storage facility. Labeling and color coding the moving boxes should help people decide in which room they should place the box they are carrying. For instance, a box labeled dishes and mugs should probably go in the kitchen, whereas one with books might go into a home office or bedroom.

    When the truck or container is cleared out, you can use the boxes to set up a table and chairs for your guests to refresh themselves with some of that pizza and beer you promised them at the start. Don’t forget to return the truck or container.

    Then, the fun really begins when everyone leaves and you start taking all your stuff out of the boxes to put it away. This could take a day or three years, depending on your level of motivation, aptitude for procrastination, and willingness to live out of boxes for long lengths of time. No worries, you’re in the new place and that’s all that matters, right?

    Seriously, though, you probably want to get unpacked. About.com’s moving expert offers tips on “How to Unpack in 10 Steps” that can get you off to a good start (with clean sheets and everything). the unclutterer blog offers some insight in “The Art of Unpacking,” which provides the order in which you should unpack things, in case you were wondering. for some basic instruction on what to do next, you can view budget van lines’ YouTube video, “How to Unpack The Right Way.” or you can watch the many, many online videos that your everyday janes have posted of their adventures in unpacking everything from their kitchen to enough books to fill the library of congress.

Tips

DIY Alert

Think this through.

Moving all by yourself or with a few well-meaning loved ones (who are not moving professionals) is a really big challenge. While you’ll be saving money up front, it could end up costing you in the long run. For one, if you don’t pack things well, they are likely to break and you’ll have to replace them. You could have an accident with the rental truck if you’re not comfortable driving one of those big boys. Or you could royally piss off all those helping hands and be left alone with relationships in serious need of repair. If you can’t fit any kind of professional help into your budget, then just try to be as prepared as possible and be considerate of anyone who offers to help you. The point is that you need to know exactly what you’re about to take on.

DIY Checklist

Pack ahead of moving day.

One of the biggest mistakes DIY movers make is leaving the packing - the wrapping and placing of items in boxes - to the last minute. Then, their friends and family show up on moving day and find themselves loading things into boxes before loading them onto the truck. Besides annoying your loved ones, you’ll also be putting your stuff at risk. People will rush and they won’t properly pack delicate items. They might put too much stuff into one box. Or your things could get shuffled around to the point that it will be completely unorganized when you begin unpacking. In addition, you will be off schedule on moving day, which could mean keeping a rental truck, for instance, longer than you were supposed to. That could end up costing you more money. So, make sure everything is packed and ready to be put onto the truck or into the portable storage unit before moving day.

DIY Book

Do your homework.

You’re already off to good start because you’ve come to this page. Do some research into how to conduct a smooth move. The Internet can unlock affordable help in the form of rental trucks, portable storage units, packers, and unpackers. Get advice from professionals on how to properly pack a box and load a truck, so your stuff stays in one piece. Make sure you have a firm grasp on what moving day will look like, so there are no surprises.

Thumbs Up

Be considerate.

Your loved ones have agreed to help you move. That’s a big deal. Be sure to have water on hand for them throughout the day. Offer them something to eat, such as a pizza. Make sure there is toilet paper and soap in the new place, so everyone can freshen up. And say thank you. Better yet, write out thank you cards, along with your new address cards. If you can afford it, offer up a little gift to show you really appreciate their help. Moving is not fun. Only people who really love you are going to help you move. And you want to nurture such relationships. Trust us.

Equipment

Have the right equipment on hand.

Make sure to have hand trucks and furniture pads or blankets for the move. You and your friends might be able to lift a king-sized bed or giant entertainment unit. But you might also put out your backs or break something (like yourself) if you do. A hand truck would help. And furniture pads protect your things from the elements, dust, and from scratching or banging against each other. Professional movers often provide this for you or allow you to rent this kind of equipment; you might have to get it on your own. Just make sure it’s all on hand on moving day.

Recent Customer Reviews

  •   Peachtree Corners, GA

    5/31/2017

    - Rental Truck Review

      Peachtree Corners, GA

    5/31/2017

    - Rental Truck Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    I have used Penske for every move. The trucks and trailers are always in excellent condition. We have always moved long distance 400+ miles and have never had a problem. Their customer service is perfect every time. I initially used them because they have great pricing for one way moves. They offer great discounts including online reservation discount and military. I have used them for all 7 of my moves and would use them again. I recommend them all the time to anyone moving.

    Move Details

    Distance 500 mi
    Cost $800
    Per. Mile $1.60
    SqFt. Moved 2,000

  •   San Diego, CA

    5/27/2017

    - Freight Trailer Review

      San Diego, CA

    5/27/2017

    - Freight Trailer Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    We've moved with ABF before using a Relocube, and as a company we just think they're great. Helpful, on the ball, and they send you all the info and paperwork you need ahead of time. The trailer was definitely a different game entirely from the Relocube, as it does require more skill to pack and restrain everything to avoid breakage (thanks to HireAHelper we got great loaders who took care of that), and even with their fee factored in we're coming out way, waaay ahead of hiring professional movers. The reason I'm subtracting one star is because of the LOCK situation. To their credit, they do go to great lengths to indicate the specs of the lock you need to provide to secure the divider within the trailer -- the shackle needs to be at 2" tall and no more than 1/4" thick. Unfortunately, I'm yet to find a single lock that lists the shackle thickness on the package. Most look like they're right around 1/4", so you might buy one with a 2" high shackle assuming it's "the one they mean," but let me spoil the surprise: it's not. It's too thick. Any reasonable secure lock is too thick. We finally found one that worked at Target; it's basically an oversized luggage lock. At the end of the day, the trailer ITSELF is locked with a beast of a lock that only the driver can open, and I trust ABF, so I'm not too concerned, but I still wish they'd allow a heavier gauge.

    Move Details

    Distance 2,000 mi
    Cost $2,695
    Per. Mile $1.35
    SqFt. Moved 1,000

  •   Pittsburgh, PA

    5/27/2017

    - Moving Container Review

      Pittsburgh, PA

    5/27/2017

    - Moving Container Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    Drivers were great & do impressive work alone & under some duress (on a narrow one-way street). But 3-hour arrival windows were off. At both drop-off & pick-up, arrival was 30+ minutes after that window. Don't tell me early morning if it's going to be late morning or almost noon. zzzzzzzzz

    Move Details

    Distance 350 mi
    Cost $498
    Per. Mile $1.42
    SqFt. Moved 1,700

  •   Foothill Ranch, CA

    5/23/2017

    - Moving Container Review

      Foothill Ranch, CA

    5/23/2017

    - Moving Container Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    the pod worked very well. The only problem I had was getting thur on the phone. Long wait time. I did try to use the computer service but there was a problem. Over all I would use them again.

    Move Details

    Distance 70 mi
    Cost $700
    Per. Mile $10.00
    SqFt. Moved 766

  •   Westbrook, ME

    5/22/2017

    - Rental Truck Review

      Westbrook, ME

    5/22/2017

    - Rental Truck Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    Picked the truck up in South Carolina, along with a car trailer. The truck was clean and had low miles, which settled some worries I had about renting a truck for a long distance move. Dropped off in Scarborough, Maine and the gentleman was just as polite as the one in South Carolina.

    Move Details

    Distance 1,070 mi
    Cost $1,400
    Per. Mile $1.31
    SqFt. Moved 1,000

  •   Norfolk, VA

    5/17/2017

    - Rental Truck Review

      Norfolk, VA

    5/17/2017

    - Rental Truck Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    The truck ran well and didn't have any mechanical issues. There was initially a price discrepancy from the online booking when we picked up the truck, but it was quickly resolved.

    Move Details

    Distance 855 mi
    Cost $1,300
    Per. Mile $1.52
    SqFt. Moved 650

  •   Cape Canaveral, FL

    5/14/2017

    - Moving Container Review

      Cape Canaveral, FL

    5/14/2017

    - Moving Container Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    Using a Packrat container definitely took a lot of the stress out of my move, by not having to worry about a truck + getting my car there. The size of the containers themselves are much larger than the competition's for the same price. It's easy to get the unit dropped off and picked up. I didn't give a 5 star rating though because of a few small reasons: their mobile website is awful. I couldn't pull up my contract or an invoice. When you're moving and your computer is packed, this is important. That brings me to my 2nd reason: I had to call to get copies of those and calling is such a hassle. They put you on hold for forever. The feature to have them call you back is nice, but it'd be nicer to speak with a customer service representative. Lastly, I was verbally told during my initial quote one price and he emphasized that "that was the final number, there wouldn't be any additional hidden charges no matter what." So I had that cost approved by my company and was then hit with surcharges. They were nice enough about helping me with those, but it took multiple phone calls and time, which would have been much more difficult and time consuming had I not been spending the day driving cost country. See previous hesitations above.

    Move Details

    Distance 1,200 mi
    Cost $3,200
    Per. Mile $2.67
    SqFt. Moved 1,200

  •   Aurora, CO

    5/3/2017

    - Rental Truck Review

      Aurora, CO

    5/3/2017

    - Rental Truck Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    The driver who dropped off my boxes and picked them up after they were filled was great!!! She was very careful getting the boxes back onto the truck. She was very efficient and went the extra mile and picked up my boxes the same day.

    Move Details

    Distance 1,800 mi
    Cost $2,600
    Per. Mile $1.44
    SqFt. Moved 1,100

  •   Palm Harbor, FL

    4/30/2017

    - Moving Container Review

      Palm Harbor, FL

    4/30/2017

    - Moving Container Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    Worked with me for a good price on a long distance move. Placed the containers exactly where I asked and on schedule. Never had a problem getting questions answered.

    Move Details

    Distance 300 mi
    Cost $3,000
    Per. Mile $10.00
    SqFt. Moved 1,600

  •   Elk Grove, CA

    4/30/2017

    - Rental Truck Review

      Elk Grove, CA

    4/30/2017

    - Rental Truck Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    The truck was ready when I appeared. The auto transport was sitting next to it and the staff person showed me how to hookup the trailer and I was off. Before I left town, I went back to the yard and the staff person double checked how I loaded and restrained the car.

    Move Details

    Distance 650 mi
    Cost $482
    Per. Mile $0.74
    SqFt. Moved 1,000

  •   Tacoma, WA

    4/13/2017

    - Moving Container Review

      Tacoma, WA

    4/13/2017

    - Moving Container Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    Good but one of the bulkheads couldn't be locked and they are charging for more feet than movers saId I used. They said they will check it again and reimburse if it is wrong. I saw the mark on the truck so I low the movers told me the correct usage.

    Move Details

    Distance 3,400 mi
    Cost $4,500
    Per. Mile $1.32
    SqFt. Moved 3,700

  •   Addison, IL

    4/4/2017

    - Freight Trailer Review

      Addison, IL

    4/4/2017

    - Freight Trailer Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    This company dropped the trailer the day after I called. They picked it up the day after I called -- they were great to deal with. I was able to follow the truck while it made its way from NC to IL. Don't have a complaint at all and would use this type of service again.

    Move Details

    Distance 860 mi
    Cost $1,480
    Per. Mile $1.72
    SqFt. Moved 1,000

  •   Forney, TX

    1/10/2017

    - Moving Container Review

      Forney, TX

    1/10/2017

    - Moving Container Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    Very efficient and convenient - they drop the trailer, you load it up they pick it up then deliver as promised - Highly recommend this service as you have the flexibility to pay for what you need.

    Move Details

    Distance 1,500 mi
    Cost $1,200
    Per. Mile $0.80
    SqFt. Moved 700

  •   Kyle, TX

    11/5/2016

    - Rental Truck Review

      Kyle, TX

    11/5/2016

    - Rental Truck Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    They did not tell us to put Diesel Exhause Fluid. They told us not to worry about it. If we had known to put it in, then the check engine ligtht would not have come on in the mountains of Utah on our way to Idaho.

    Move Details

    Distance 1,800 mi
    Cost $2,606
    Per. Mile $1.45
    SqFt. Moved 2,500

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