Updated on 07.08.07

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

Trent Hamm

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.

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  1. kim says:

    I’d say that you made the best decision! Let the pros do it and then enjoy your first night in your new home.

  2. Another thing to factor is whether or not that price includes insurance against damge to your stuff. If you break something, you’re screwed. But if they break, will they pay for it?

    FWIW, there’s no way that I’d move myself to save $220.

  3. Laurel says:

    Did you consider renting a U-Haul type truck so you could move everything in one or two trips? It still would have been a long load/unload time, but the driving back and forth would have been minimized.

  4. It’s exhausting enough to move, especially with one little one and another on the way. And once you transport your belongings, half the work remains. For $350 it’s (several times) more than worth it, IMHO.

  5. !wanda says:

    My friend is moving to another state and has gone with AFB U-pack moving. They deliver a trailer or big cube to your house, and you pack your own stuff and pay by the foot. It took 7 of us 2 hours to pack all her stuff in 8 linear feet of trailer, and now the stuff is on its way to Tucson for less than $50. It was sort of fun being with friends and stacking and cramming and tying down all the stuff, too, but maybe that’s just me. Anyway, Trent clearly doesn’t need something like this, but I would totally go with AFB or a similar service if I were moving out-of-state.

  6. christine says:

    We moved two months ago and hired movers and it was the best decision that we ever made. We starting carrying things down (from the 3rd floor) before the movers got there, saving us an hour of paying time. We only moved a mile away, but didn’t have to do any of the heavy lifting. We also had to move mid-week due to apartment leases being up on the last day of the month – there was no way we were going to find enough people to be willing to take off work to help us.

  7. DJ says:

    Saving your pregnant wife the headaches associated with moving yourself is alone worth the $350.

  8. feonixrift says:

    Don’t discount the hours that would likely be spent recovering from all that heavy lifting if you did it yourself! If you aren’t used to the weight, it can be easily a week of pain.

  9. Dennis says:

    Do they pack your stuff for you?

  10. Heather says:

    I second Laurel’s comment. Your time estimates seem unrealistic given the ability to make a single trip with a rented U-haul style truck. We have made a similar move and the truck rental, including gasoline, worked out to about $50. With the help of friends we were eating sandwiches in our new house by lunchtime and used the afternoon to unpack (also a thing for friends to help with if you packed well).

  11. Karen says:

    Like feonixrift, I’d be thinking about the possible injury to self! For me, the extra $220 would be insurance against pulling out my back. Since my work requires me to be on my feet (I teach) I’d end up taking time off.

    Just isn’t worth it.

  12. Lynn says:

    Make sure they are licensed and bonded. I used to work as a Senior Claims Specialist in household goods loss/damage and I can promise you, if its not covered by a policy or bond, you can write off. Remember to weigh the cost of replacing/repairing an item vs $$$ and time saved. I even had a business card that read “Make a claims adjuster happy, break something!” LOL nowadays if I move, I move myself.

  13. ammb says:

    wife pg + sm child? $350 from a checked out company sounds like a good way to save unnecessary wear n tear on the family. just make sure everything’s inventoried & sign nothing until all’s accounted for.

    we used moved to get up to our 3rd floor apt & we’ll be using movers to get down to our house when we buy one. saves our backs & our time :)

  14. Jared says:

    When my wife and I moved out of our second-floor apartment last November, we paid movers to move the heavy items to the house. During our 3-year stay at the apartment, we had acquired heavy furniture (delivered for free by the company) including a sofa-bed. After watching the deliverers move the items into the apartment, I knew there was no way we were going to try and move them back down myself. It cost us about $150 to have them move the heavy furniture, and took about an hour (it was a short move). The rest we moved by car.

    As for your situation, your back and arms will appreciate the extra money spent on movers. You can always have a “moving in” party at your new house – rather than having your friends help move, have them help unpack and order pizza! You’d be unpacked in an amazingly short time.

  15. Helen says:

    Don’t forget to tip the movers!

  16. You totally made the right decision. We have moved 6 times in 7 years and only one time have we had movers. I hate moving. But moving with movers was amazing. I think the key is that you’ll be moved in four hours. Particularly because you want to have your son’s things moved over by the time he finishes daycare, it’ll be so much easier to do when you’re not stressing about it yourself. And I personally would also pay a cleaning service or a friend to clean your apartment. It might cost you $100 but that way you can focus on the new place.

  17. Movers for sure. If I were pregnant I’d consider it $350 well spent. Her aching everywhere otherwise. You’d be in the dog house potentially.

  18. MoneyNing says:

    I found that everytime I asked my friends to move, I end up buying them a very nice meal which costs more than just hiring the moving company in the first place.

    Also, using moving companies essentially takes most of the heavy lifting out of the picture for you so there’s more time to enjoy the move to the new place instead of the potential arguements since everyone is tired.

  19. Dani @ Living Behind the Curve says:

    When we bough our house last year, we used a local moving company that was highly recommended by several of my co-workers. We were offered a substantial discount if we moved in the middle of the week, which worked well for us since I had already planned on taking time off for the move. The movers were wonderful, and not a single item was broken or damaged. (I moved our computers and guitars myself.)

    One of the hidden expenses that I dreaded with the move was the chance of spending a week or more eating take-out while we searched boxes for pots and pans. Having movers allowed me to relax during a very stressful time — I actually sat on a camping chair in my empty living room — and not only did I cook dinner that night, we were 100% unpacked by the time I returned to work a few days later.

  20. profplum27 says:

    Movers are definitely the way to go. Just be careful with the mover you choose. Two Men and a Truck said it would take four hours to move our one-bedroom apartment to another less than two miles away, and it ended up taking eight.

  21. plonkee says:

    I’ve just been through a similar calculation myself with the same result. There’s no pregnant wife and small child to contend with here, but I am a single girl and to move myself would require a rented van (£100), several helpers (2 friends possibly, 3 relatives driving from 100 miles away – easily £80 in food/drink + associated future favours) and so much effort on my weekend.

    I’m paying about £340 for the movers and taking some time off work – well worth it.

  22. MB says:

    Trent —

    Having moved ourselves once and used a mover once, I would never again do it ourselves. In fact, I’d gladly pay 4x that to have someone else do it.

    Just want to remind you though, that you need to tip the movers. Here in NJ (which admittedly has a much higher cost of living), our moving guys (4 of them) worked so hard that we tipped them $100 each … and I bought them lunch. I don’t begrudge them a cent …

    Also, my other hint: if you own the new house before moving out of the apartment, you should take over a carload of stuff everyday or so. I brought over all our kitchen stuff and clothing that way. Took it out of the cabinets in the old house, packed it fairly casually in boxes, drove to the new house, and unpacked the stuff right into the new cabinets. Makes packing and unpacking easier and even cuts down on the moving costs because there’s that much less for the movers to move.

  23. m360 says:

    I tend to agree with the little by little way. I like to let places overlap so that I can take a week/few days to move a few carloads at a time, at least the little things (like your storage items).

    Also as moneyning mentioned, it can cost a lot more to feed the friends, buy them a 6 pack, case, or what ever they’re into. Also, if they help you move and it’s understood that you owe them one, what are they going to spring on you in the future?

    I’m all for helping those who have helped me but sometimes the price isn’t worth it (depending on the caliber of friends). I have had many disasters when friends help me move. They bite off more than they can chew, like when it took 3 hrs. to get my couch up the stairs and wanted to quit. The rest of the move became more exspensive than it would have been if I just hired someone in the first place. I have had to leave heavy things behind, had things stolen during the moving process, and the ‘hired help’ had to go home to the jealous girlfriend, etc.

    I am extremly frugal, and down right cheap but I have come to learn that being too cheap can backfire at times. The stress factor, pain tolerance of all involved, and other things that don’t really cost anything should all be taken into consideration. I think you are wist to hire a moving company. I think I will too, the next time I move.

  24. This is a common debate I have with myself with moving, Trent. I’ve yet to go with the option of having someone else do it, because I’m usually very gun-ho and love DIY methods. As I get older though, having someone else (like 2 Men&Truck) at least help would be beneficial.

  25. Kevin says:

    We have moved quite a few times, and there are two other considerations which have been important to us.
    1) Breakage. If a mover breaks something, it’s hard and unpleasant to collect. If a friend breaks it, it’s even worse. SO, we move the stuff we really care about ourselves.
    2) Accidents and Injuries. On one move I backed the moving truck into our car, immediately cancelling out all our savings. Admittedly accidents and injuries don’t happen every move, but you feel silly trying to save a few bucks when they do.

  26. Kristi says:

    Call around and get more quotes. I hired movers for $200 to move 6 rooms worth of stuff. (They usually charge by the room). The people who advertise as movers always charge more. Call the guys in the newspaper that advertise themselves as handymen. They’ll do moving and at a much cheaper price.

  27. Wyntyr says:

    The faster you can get your belongings into the new house, the better. I remember what it was like being that pregnant and going through the nesting phase. Your wife will probably want to get everything settled well before the big day! Everything is going to have to be just right, really clean, and ready for the new baby.

    I think her piece of mind would be worth the money.

  28. Rob in Madrid says:

    I’ve done lots of moves and surprisingly the one I liked least was the “full service move” where they came in and packed everything. I would much prefer to do the packing my self and let them do the loading. I know where everything is and can ensure it’s well packed. We had a lot of stuff damaged. Things like loose table legs, kind of thing you can’t put a claim in for.

  29. Pete says:

    What about renting the truck yourself and hiring people to help you pack it through a site such as craigslist.com or hireahelper.com. Its a whole lot cheaper than hiring a full service moving company and I would rather have someone with experience move my stuff then have my friends come in and start bumping furniture into walls and dropping boxes filled with dishes or whatever.

  30. Pamela Munro says:

    I have done all my own moves – (ok, once my parents paid for it) – The last time my husband frankly did most of it over time. We ditched a lot of furniture and moved what we had in several truck/car loads. Unless the packers are really GOOD (& I would think expensive) you probably could do better yourself. Hire daylaborers for heavy lifting. Move the fragile/valuable items yourself in your own vehicle for security. Or rent a Uhaul truck or trailer….Having your friends help is really a bonding experience which goes beyond the $ value of the help – It’s the way we knit community together, so don’t rule out that participation entirely!

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