Calculating The Cost Of A Moving Service Versus The Cost Of Doing It Ourselves

Since my financial armageddon, I’ve become very good at calculating the cost of various services, the time it would take me to do it myself, and using that data to determine if it is an efficient use of time. As we’re about to move, one of the big decisions for us was whether it was cost-effective to use a moving service or not.

The situation: We’re moving from a two bedroom apartment to a house that’s about twenty minutes (or so) away. My wife is several months pregnant and thus is restricted on the weight she can lift, for understandable reasons. We do have some volunteer help that’s willing to assist with the move at various times.

The moving service: We got several quotes and our best bet seems to be Two Men and a Truck, which quoted us that everything would be moved for about $350. Ouch. However, all items would be moved in four hours, which is a big benefit for us – we could be unpacking by 1 PM if the move began at 9 AM one day. In all, eight man-hours would be invested by the two of us.

The costs of doing it ourselves: My estimate is that it will take forty five minutes per pickup truck to load and unload by myself, plus forty minutes of commute time. This gives an hour and a half of unloading. Plus, each trip would put about thirty miles on my truck and cost about two and a half gallons of gas.

Given all of the stuff in our apartment and the stuff in a storage locker (similar trip, actually), I estimate that it would take fifteen trips for me to get everything. That means that I would spend about twenty two hours loading and unloading boxes and transporting them, plus thirty eight gallons of gas and about five hundred miles of wear on my truck.

What’s the cost of that? I’ll estimate $20 for the wear, plus $3 a gallon times 38 gallons, equals $134. There’s also a total of twenty two hours of time investment, which would be somewhat reduced with help from others with moving, down to as low as seventeen hours.

Putting things together: The moving service would cost $220 more than moving ourselves, but it would save us fourteen hours of labor (as little as nine if we called in help). With those restrictions, I’m essentially paying the movers $16 an hour (or $24 an hour if you figure in the potential extra help we could get if we did it ourselves) to move all of our stuff – they would obviously do it more efficiently than we would. I’m basically buying hours that would be spent moving back at a $16 an hour rate.

Is it worth it? There’s not really an easy yes or no answer here – it depends on personal values. Taking our whole situation into account (two big pieces were the pregnant wife factor and the under-foot child factor), we decided to hire the moving service then invite all of the people who would have helped us move over for a housewarming party that weekend, when most of our stuff will still be in boxes, and save those “favors” from friends for a time when it could be more valuable to us.

That’s not to say there isn’t a good argument for doing it yourself; there is. It saves a nice piece of money, obviously, and I could be loading and unloading with help while my wife is unpacking at the house with her sisters and friends. We mostly decided on the other way because of the time factor – our time, right now during this moving week, is more valuable to us than that.