How To Save Money Moving If You’re Crazy (and Lucky)

Since Mr. FP and I began our married life in the summer of 2001, at which time we were living in a two-bedroom apartment that rented for, as I recall, $565 a month, we have moved house ten times. Yes, ten. A few of those moves were short distances; most were between states. Our two children, ages two and three, are now living in their third state.

So we have tried pretty much all the kinds of moving:

  • Van lines. These provide full service, but are expensive, keep your stuff for a and undetermined period of time, and have lousy service.
  • Local/individual movers. These will actually often do longer distances as well. They have much better service than van lines, in our experience, and their prices are equal or less. Since they generally put just your stuff on a truck and drive it to you, you get it much faster.
  • U-Pack. In this service, the shipping company ABF drops off a full-size trailer (we had to get special permits to have it parked  on the street when we used it) and you fill the first part with your stuff. They charge by the linear foot used and fill the rest of the trailer, after you put up a bulkhead, with commercial shipping going in your same general direction. They have good service, reasonable prices, and keep to a good schedule, but you do still have to wait for your stuff for quite a while–about a week for the distance we were looking at this time. And the trailers are hard to load (you can, of course, hire local movers to help load and unload). If you are going a long distance and do not want to drive your own truck, this is probably the most economical option.
  • Driving your own truck. While this option is the most grueling, it is generally the cheapest option for a smaller move. Advantage: Your maintain control of your stuff at all times.

For our recent move to Denver, we chose option D: Drive your own truck. This even though it meant driving in separate vehicles for 28 hours–I followed behind the truck in our 1999 Accord with the toddlers in the backseat. The main deciding factor was convenience. We did not want to be living in a new city for a week with toddlers and no stuff, nor did I think that four humans and one cat could ride comfortably in an Accord for three days. (The cat, in her carrier, was Mr. FP’s only companion in the moving truck.)

Our quote from U-Pack was about $2700. Renting a Penske truck for that distance was about $1700, and online gas estimators put the gas for the truck at about $700. (Other moving costs–movers that we hired to help unload, hotels on the road–would have been about the same either way.) So we expected to save only about $300, plus whatever we saved by having our stuff sooner (fewer meals of restaurant/convenience foods, not needing to buy a new air mattress, etc.) Better than a nail in the foot, as my father would say, but nothing to get excited about by itself.

We actually wound up saving a whole lot more than that. A truck breakdown (stranded five hours in Strip Mall, Ohio) allowed us to negotiate a refund of $800. While it was certainly an unpleasant experience  and one would prefer that they resolve maintenance issues ahead of time, really the whole thing worked out in our favor. And gas was more like $500. Total savings: $1300.

Was driving through the flyover states with a backseat full of toddlers, listening over and over again to “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” a grueling experience, one I am glad I will not have occasion to repeat? Well, yes. But now the three days are over, and the extra money is still there.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done to save some money? Was it worth it?

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About frugalparagon

I'm a part-time librarian and mom to two small boys. I blog about striving for the long-term goal of financial independence while running a tight ship at home.

2 responses to “How To Save Money Moving If You’re Crazy (and Lucky)”

  1. Amy K says :

    Glad you made it there safely. We’re planning a move in a few years and none of the options sound appealing. Happy unpacking!

    • frugalparagon says :

      Thanks for the good wishes! I hope you figure out the right option for moving–none of them are what I’d call pleasant! With U-Pack, you can actually hire movers at both ends to load and unload. Two hours of labor from a local company only cost us about $85.

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