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 Estimate

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 Estimate

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
    4.22
    Average Cost
    Local Move: $134
    Medium Move: $292
    Long Move:Long Move: $1078

    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
    4.49
    Average Cost
    Local Move: $675
    Medium Move: $1457
    Long Move:Long Move: $3166

    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
    4.49
    Average Cost
    Local Move: $1375
    Medium Move: $1631
    Long Move:Long Move: $2924

    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

  • Matt L  Kalamazoo, MI

    2/25/2019

    - Moving Container Review

    Matt L  Kalamazoo, MI

    2/25/2019

    - Moving Container Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    This was my first use of a container to move my belongings across the country. Overall, it worked well. The POD was delivered within the 3 hours window and arrived in good condition. I chose this method of moving because I also had to move my car and this was the best option I had available. I would definitely consider using PODS again for a long distance move.

    Move Details

    Distance 900 mi
    Cost $1,600
    Per. Mile $1.78
    SqFt. Moved 750

  • Suzanne B  Alva, FL

    2/11/2019

    - Moving Container Review

    Suzanne B  Alva, FL

    2/11/2019

    - Moving Container Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    I thought everything was very reasonable for a long distance move. PODS was super easy to work with and there were no problems with changing our schedule as needed to make our move work for us.

    Move Details

    Distance 620 mi
    Cost $2,000
    Per. Mile $3.23
    SqFt. Moved 1,800

  • Todd R  Youngsville, NC

    2/9/2019

    - Moving Container Review

    Todd R  Youngsville, NC

    2/9/2019

    - Moving Container Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    We picked Pack Rat because they had a cleaner pricing model with what appeared to be less add on expenses. The PODs were clean and the company is large enough to provide climate controlled storage in both our departure and destination city. Overall the experience was uneventful. Pack Rat showed up as requested and provided exceptional customer service.

    Move Details

    Distance 1,750 mi
    Cost $6,600
    Per. Mile $3.77
    SqFt. Moved 4,200

  • Glenda W  Sebring, FL

    2/7/2019

    - Moving Container Review

    Glenda W  Sebring, FL

    2/7/2019

    - Moving Container Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    Very pleased with this company. The cube was in good condition. Their service during booking, pick-up and drop off was excellent. I would highly recommend the company. I would use them again.

    Move Details

    Distance 1,100 mi
    Cost $1,141
    Per. Mile $1.04
    SqFt. Moved 1,000

  • Mark L  San Ramon, CA

    2/3/2019

    - Rental Truck Review

    Mark L  San Ramon, CA

    2/3/2019

    - Rental Truck Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    The truck was fine and people were friendly the only issue I had I initially rented a truck from Budget who called and said sorry we don;t have the truck. So I rented one from U-Haul which was $120 more than Budget.

    Move Details

    Distance 70 mi
    Cost $325
    Per. Mile $4.64
    SqFt. Moved 2,000

  • Sharon S  Albuquerque, NM

    2/1/2019

    - Moving Container Review

    Sharon S  Albuquerque, NM

    2/1/2019

    - Moving Container Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    ABF Pack Relocube worked perfectly for the size and distance of my move. The cube was clean and ready to pack when it arrived. At all locations of the move they arrived on time and the employees performed there jobs professionally, safely, and quickly. My property arrived safely without damage. I would definitely use ABF again.

    Move Details

    Distance 1,600 mi
    Cost $2,204
    Per. Mile $1.38
    SqFt. Moved 200

  • Susan M  Middlesboro, KY

    1/28/2019

    - Rental Truck Review

    Susan M  Middlesboro, KY

    1/28/2019

    - Rental Truck Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    The process of picking up the truck went very smoothly. The inside of the truck was a bit dirty and the dozen moving blankets I ordered were not in the truck. This was a bit of a pain as my furniture was not properly padded.

    Move Details

    Distance 500 mi
    Cost $275
    Per. Mile $0.55
    SqFt. Moved 1,000

  • Ben B  Santa Fe, NM

    1/7/2019

    - Freight Trailer Review

    Ben B  Santa Fe, NM

    1/7/2019

    - Freight Trailer Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    Excellent and courteous service and reasonable pricing. Made our move smooth by allowing for storage (with out need to offload trailer) at our destination while we found a place to stay. Will definitely use again.

    Move Details

    Distance 450 mi
    Cost $1,300
    Per. Mile $2.89
    SqFt. Moved 2,500

  • Bonnie D  Lake Cormorant, MS

    11/28/2018

    - Moving Container Review

    Bonnie D  Lake Cormorant, MS

    11/28/2018

    - Moving Container Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    Delivery at the beginning was on time and efficient. The person who delivered to my new location had huge obstacles to confront - mud backing up a narrow road, etc. he did we,, in spite of those things!

    Move Details

    Distance 1,809 mi
    Cost $2,800
    Per. Mile $1.55
    SqFt. Moved 1,000

  • craig u  San Francisco, CA

    11/16/2018

    - Rental Truck Review

    craig u  San Francisco, CA

    11/16/2018

    - Rental Truck Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    We got a 22' truck from Penske, along with a car trailer, and everything about the rental went very smoothly. We hired a professional driver to drive it for us (Robert Burke from Acumen Driving) and added him as an authorized driver on the truck, and he picked it up at Penske with no problem. They don't have a limit on miles like other rental truck companies, and give you several days to complete the trip.

    Move Details

    Distance 450 mi
    Cost $750
    Per. Mile $1.67
    SqFt. Moved 1,000

  • Willem S  Springfield, MO

    9/21/2018

    - Rental Truck Review

    Willem S  Springfield, MO

    9/21/2018

    - Rental Truck Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    I used Penske because I needed a 22' truck and U-Haul had nothing between 20' and 26'. It turned out to be an excellent decision because the Penske 22' rented for more than $200 less than the U-Haul 20'. It was diesel but in excellent condition and didn't take long to get used to.

    Move Details

    Distance 800 mi
    Cost $914
    Per. Mile $1.14
    SqFt. Moved 2,130

  • Valerie S  Lynnwood, WA

    9/4/2018

    - Rental Truck Review

    Valerie S  Lynnwood, WA

    9/4/2018

    - Rental Truck Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    I rented a 16 foot truck from the Sodo Budget Truck Rental. I had read some pretty bad reviews, but I found that all truck rental companies have bad reviews. Moving is stressful. And if things don't go according to your plan, you can get frustrated pretty quickly. But I had nothing but good experience from this location. The truck was in decent shape. They said it had new tires on it. It had 135k miles on it, so at least it wasn't on it's last leg. I would say the major pitfall of the whole thing was the power of the truck. I literally could no go over 45 mph up any hill. When the speed limit is 75 and semi trucks are passing you, the truck is weak. There didn't seem to be a spedometer limit, like where it doesn't let you go over 65 or anything. The engine sounded a little raspy the higher I go to 70 so I tried to stay below 70. But, otherwise, it was what I needed to get across the country. Oh, the truck would "pop" when the pressure would change. I thought all my stuff was crashing down, but when it was happening over and over, I realized it was the pressure change was causing the metal to pop in and out. Oh, and I tried to go without their insurance coverage because I have full coverage insurance. We called and Progressive only covers rental cars. The difference was if you can reach into the back seat, they'll cover it. If you have to get out of the vehicle to reach your items, they won't cover it...it's called something else. So if you're just getting like a van, they'll cover it, but if it's a truck, they won't. The truck was $650, the insurance coverage was $475, so with tax it was $1185.

    Move Details

    Distance 2,000 mi
    Cost $1,185
    Per. Mile $0.59
    SqFt. Moved 1,200

  • Julia N  Port Townsend, WA

    8/19/2018

    - Freight Trailer Review

    Julia N  Port Townsend, WA

    8/19/2018

    - Freight Trailer Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    The dispatcher and I seemed to have some communication problems but the person who dropped off the trailer at my destination was very friendly and helpful. Minimal breakage, just a few plates, which I attribute to the excellent loading job done by the crew I hired in Sant Cruz.

    Move Details

    Distance 1,000 mi
    Cost $3,570
    Per. Mile $3.57
    SqFt. Moved 1,200

  • Carol J  Arlington Heights, IL

    11/3/2017

    - Rental Truck Review

    Carol J  Arlington Heights, IL

    11/3/2017

    - Rental Truck Review

    Rating:

    0 1 2 3 4 5

    We did a cross country move. Renting the truck was easy as well as returning to a different location. The truck was very comfortable and quiet which made the trip so much more enjoyable.

    Move Details

    Distance 1,700 mi
    Cost $1,000
    Per. Mile $0.59
    SqFt. Moved 1,200

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