Keep Moving Costs in Check

If I've learned anything, it's that moving is almost always more costly and time-consuming than I anticipate.

Couple moving with help of friends
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Young people tend to move frequently as they start their careers and change jobs, and the pandemic hasn’t reversed that trend. Members of Generation Z (ages 18 to 24) were the most likely group to have relocated during the pandemic, followed by millennials (ages 25 to 40), according to finance site Bankrate (opens in new tab).

I’m no exception. Since I graduated college 14 years ago, I’ve lived in nine homes in four cities. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that moving is almost always more costly and time-consuming than I anticipate.

Expenses vary depending on how far you’re going, how much stuff you’re transporting and how much of the work you do yourself. The average cost to have movers transport about 7,500 pounds from a two- to three-bedroom home is $1,250 for a local move or $4,890 for a move of 1,000 miles, according to Moving.com (opens in new tab).

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Cut down on expenses. As soon as you know that you’ll be moving, make a plan. “The number one thing you can do to help curb expenses is to start early,” says Kevin Kleckner, of Penske, which rents out moving trucks. That gives you time to compare pricing among services, such as truck rentals or hired hands (get quotes at sites such as Moving.com (opens in new tab) and MovingHelp.com (opens in new tab)). And to ensure that you get the services you need, book them well in advance, particularly if you’re moving during the peak season of Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, says Andrea Batchelor, of U-Haul International. Prices are typically lower if you move during slower months and avoid weekends. Getting a head start also gives you time to purge your possessions, reducing the amount to transport.

As you draw up a budget, make sure to account for packing supplies, such as tape, bubble wrap and boxes. If you hire movers, see whether they charge extra fees for specific services, such as transporting certain large items or assembling and disassembling furniture.

Homeowners and renters insurance policies often don’t cover your property while it’s in transit. Moving companies must include free coverage of 60 cents per pound, per item, for a move across state lines. For additional mover-provided insurance protection that reimburses you for the current value of damaged items, you’ll pay about 1% to 2% of your property’s total value. If you’re transporting several high-value possessions or if you packed the boxes yourself—which mover protection may not cover—consider third-party insurance, which runs about $1.25 per pound, according to finance site ValuePenguin (opens in new tab).

If your move entails a multi-day trip, factor in costs for fuel, lodging, meals and tolls. Have cash ready to tip your movers—about $20 to $50 per person, depending on the move’s length and complexity.

Get your employer to pitch in. If you’re moving for a job, ask your employer whether it will cover at least some of the cost. Housing and relocation benefits are on the decline, but 34% of employers offer a relocation lump-sum payment, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. In some cases, managers extending job offers have the go-ahead to provide such benefits, but the job candidate must request them, says Batchelor.

Because of the 2017 changes in the tax law, most people (except for active-duty military members) can no longer deduct unreimbursed job-related moving expenses on their federal tax return, and employer relocation benefits are treated as taxable income.

Lisa Gerstner
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Lisa has spent 15 years with Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and heads up the magazine’s annual rankings of the best banks, best rewards credit cards, and financial-services firms with the best customer service. She reports on a variety of other topics, too, from retirement to health care to money concerns for millennials. She has shared her expertise as a guest on the Today Show, CNN, Fox, NPR, Cheddar and many other media outlets around the nation. Lisa graduated from Ball State University and received the school’s “Graduate of the Last Decade” award in 2014. A military spouse, she has moved around the U.S. and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two sons.