How to move long distance and the true cost of moving

How To Move Long Distance & The True Cost of Moving

Moving just about anywhere is usually a huge hassle. Whether you are taking every item you’ve ever accumulated, or just a stick with a bag tied to the end, there’s no escaping hard work during a move. However, with the right planning and mindset, you can avoid costly pitfalls. My wife and I recently moved from Colorado to Washington with our two kids, cat, dog and most of our furniture. Though it was stressful, we learned a lot of lessons about moving options and what things to prioritize when moving long distances.

The cost of moving and what to prioritize during a long distance move

Considerations before moving

If you’re like us, then the dream of moving long distance had been percolating for years before you finally decided to take action. That doesn’t mean that you’ve been planning, just dreaming, and those two mindsets are typically contradictory. Dreamers consider all the benefits of being in a new environment, planners think of the problems that will inevitably arise along the journey, but, you need to be both a dreamer and a planner in order to relocate successfully.

Initial expenses during a long distance move

The first consideration during any move should be your finances. If you have prioritized your savings appropriately, or recently sold your home, then you likely have some cash to deploy, but that doesn’t imply that you should throw care to the wind. Moving costs can range from expensive to ludicrous and where you land on that spectrum is usually determined by your timeline and what you’re willing to do yourself. We will explore moving expenses in closer detail a little later.

What will you do for work when you move?

If you are part of the growing group of remote workers, then you already know what you will be doing for work. However, if you’re quitting your job to move, you need to do an accurate, worst-case projection of how far your funds will carry you before you can no longer cover necessary living expenses.

Related: The Best Free Budgeting and Net Worth Tracking Spreadsheet

Don’t assume you will be able to find a job upon arrival, or buy a house without employment. at the very least you should have interviews lined up, but ideally, you will want a firm offer (maybe even one that covers your moving expenses) before you take off.

Related: 5 Ways That Working From Home Can Make You More Money

Where will you live?

If you quit your job to move, it’s going to be nearly impossible to buy a house or secure a rental until you have stable employment. Moving with a working spouse helps, but consider the fact that you will need to prepare for two moves if you can’t immediately secure your ideal house, rental or employment in a particular area. The prospect of moving all of your stuff to a storage unit before your final move is certainly daunting, but sometimes easier than buying a property from out of state, or county.

Long Distance Moving Expenses: The costs of physically moving your things

You have a lot of options to get your stuff from one place to another and from what we found, there is no perfect option. Doing everything yourself is a monumental task but having someone else handle things can become expensive quickly. In the end, we opted for a hybrid moving model, wherein we handled some tasks ourselves and hired out others. A lot of what you will decide will depend on how fast you want to move and what you are personally willing or capable of accomplishing alone.

Getting your possessions from your house to a truck

No matter how you approach it, you will need to get your stuff from your current home to a truck or car. If you are have the time and are willing to pack a truck yourself, this is the first area where significant money can be saved. While historically we’ve opted to ask friends and family help us move, this time we hired professional movers and after experiencing the difference, we will probably never go back. Professional movers are insured, experienced at placing items in trucks, efficient and have the tools and equipment to handle heavy or unwieldy furniture, like pianos. They are also much less likely to hurt themselves, or your property, in the process. In order to find quality movers, you can find out who companies like UHaul contract to, and contact them directly.

Our costs of professional movers

– $145 / hour + tip, in Colorado
– $165 / hour + tip in Washington

Total cost of professional movers: $1,400

Getting your possessions from a truck to your new home

Your options for getting your possessions across state lines are numerous and can be overwhelming.

Here are some of the most common options:

  • Travel light: Sell or donate the majority of your stuff and move with just the essentials via one-way plane ticket. This plan pretty much carries itself through to fruition but you need cash on hand to literally replace everything in your new location. This option is pretty common for people moving to a new country, or to a location that truck transportation is difficult, but I’m not a fan of this option for moves across the contiguous United States unless you truly have very few possessions. It’s not usually cost effective to buy new stuff and the carbon footprint you leave by acquiring and disposing of massive amounts of items is hard to justify.

    Related: Poor, Cheap or Minimalist?
  • PODS / U-Pack: With these services, you load, or pay movers to load, a shipping container and someone else drives it to your location at a scheduled date and time. You can find a great comparison of these products here, but as you can imagine these are usually the most expensive options. Further, based on my reviews of both companies, there are a lot of unhappy clients, citing inefficient scheduling, unscrupulous billing practices and damaged property.

    I realize that with massive companies there are always going to be unhappy customers and some friends of ours have used these services without issue. But something about reading page after page of 1 star reviews mentioning pick up/drop off several weeks after contracted dates, and pictures of rat invested containers and destroyed furniture, caused us to think twice. The high price tag (PODS quoted over $6K for our move from the Boulder Colorado Area to Camas Washington and our house was only 2300 SQFT), and the possibility of entering an unending nightmare during an already stressful time, made the prospect of using these companies untenable for us.
  • Rent a truck and hire a driver: This option is pretty self-explanatory, you rent and load a truck and hire a driver to take your stuff to your new location, but there are some considerations:

    – You will have to cover the drivers lodging, fuel, tolls and flight home
    – You may be required to use professional movers to pack the truck
    – You have to schedule a truck rental separately and deal with multiple contracts

    For out 1,200 Mile journey, we were quoted $2020 for the cost of the driver and the above-listed expenses, which we found to be pretty reasonable. The truck rental itself was estimated at around $2000, so at a combined cost of ~$4000, we would be saving $2,000 be opting this option over PODS (we didn’t get an estimate for U-Pack). A service that I personally reviewed and nearly used is: Rented Truck Driver LLC
  • Hire a truck and drive it yourself: After nearly booking a driver to take our stuff to our new house, we had a thought; what if we drove the truck ourselves? It seemed crazy at first, but the more we considered the savings and looked at the route, which included 16 out of 18 hours on major highways, the prospect of driving the moving truck ourselves became more and more attractive.

    And, that’s what we did. Aside from some uncomfortable hours on the road and speeds of 30-40 miles an hour up hills, the option of driving our stuff ourselves turned out to be a great choice. My wife may have a different perspective as she’s the one who actually drove the truck, but that’s a story for another day.

    Our costs of the truck for 3 days: $2000.00 + $350 in gas = $2,350

Miscellaneous expenses and total cost

Aside from the above mentioned costs, a slew of other expenses arise during a move, such as:

  • Flights from and back to Washington: Because driving 18 hours with two kids under the age of 4, a cat and a dog just sounds like it wouldn’t be fun for anyone. We used some vouchers but the expense would have been around – $500
  • Food and personal lodging – $300 at motels and fast food restaurants
  • Purchasing packing boxes – $100
  • Car maintenance for two vehicles (oil change, inspections, air filters etc.) – $400

Total Misc. expenses: $1,300

Totaling our expenses

  • Cost of professional movers: $1,400
  • Cost of the Penske truck + gas: $2,350
  • Total miscellaneous expenses: $1,300

Total moving cost from our 3 bedroom house,1,200 miles away: $5,050
– It would have cost us $3,650 if we had the time and energy to pack the truck ourselves.

Total if we had hired a driver: $4,020 + $1,400 + $1000 (Misc. expenses minus personal lodging) = $6,420,
-We saved $1,370 driving ourselves.

Total if we had gone with PODS: $6,000 + $1,400 + $1,000 : $8,400
We saved $3,350 by opting to rent our own truck and drive it.

Final Considerations

Obviously every move is unique and involves different considerations. You could easily save more money than we did by making a few adjustments – namely not also flying back and forth and packing the truck yourself. However, this analysis should illuminate you to the most common ways that people endeavor to move long distances, as well as the most important things to consider when evaluating your long distance moving options.

Though it was definitely the hardest thing we have had to do as a family, and we didn’t even mention having to say goodbye to friends and family, in retrospect we wouldn’t have done it any other way. Okay, I might have pre-booked my motel instead of calling 10 places at midnight in Ogden Utah just to find out that there was no vacancy within a 20 mile radius, but other than that I think we chose the options that proved most valuable to us.

What is the longest you have moved and how did you accomplish it? Let me know in the comments!


  1. The article compares various options for physically moving belongings across states, including hiring professional movers, using PODS/U-Pack services, renting a truck with a driver, and driving the truck oneself.Among the different moving options you considered and ultimately chose, which one did you find to be the most efficient and stress-free for your family?

    1. We actually ended up renting a U-Haul and driving it from Colorado to Washington, which ended up being much cheaper, if not more stressful!

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