Sometimes I get calls where a person asks me, “How much will it cost to move to the East Coast?” and I often wish I had a simple answer. There is no simple answer to that question and no one-right-way to do an interstate or long distance move.
I often respond with something like, “Well… what would you be moving and how many miles are you going?” just to get the vaguest idea of what type of service they are seeking.
Moving cross-country is expensive and challenging, no matter if you move everything yourself or you hire movers to pack, move, unpack. With a local move, if it doesn’t all fit or isn’t all ready, it’s ok, you can take a few trips in your car with those last-minute items. When you’re going from California to Vermont, it all has to fit and it all has to be packed really well.
The most important step of any interstate move is planning and hopefully this blog can help you get started with this crucial step by outlining a few different methods of moving far away and some things to expect on a long-distance move.
D.I.Y.: The cheapest, most labor-intensive long move. This is the move for those who have strong backs, love adventure, and don’t tend to get sleepy at the wheel. You will need to rent the truck, rent or buy lots of moving pads, ropes, and likely rent a moving dolly. Always be sure to budget for meals, hotels, and fuel. It is safe to estimate fuel at about $3.10/gallon and assume the lowest miles per gallon rating for planning. If you end up with extra fuel money it is better than running out of gas and cash a few states before your destination. The best way to stretch your fuel dollars when covering great distance is to keep to the posted truck speed limits of 55 m.p.h. I know, it feels slow but it can save lots of money over the course of a few thousand miles.
Also keep in mind if you are an A.A.R.P., AAA, or other large organization member, you are possibly eligible for hotel/motel savings, possibly even a deal on your rental truck. Be sure to ask!
Many states will require that you enter the weigh stations for commercial vehicles if you are driving a rental truck. It will usually be posted near the entrance if rental trucks are required to be weighed. Don’t be nervous, the officer’s and staff of the weigh stations don’t expect the average citizen to know all the trucking laws and if there is any problems with your truck’s registration, it will be directed to the rental location.
Though the truck is the property of the rental company, be sure to take good care of it. Before you try and drive thousands of miles in a rented vehicle with all of your goods, take a few minutes and read the manual. Learn how to check and add fluids if necessary. Some rental companies may not want you to do this and if so will provide this service at their locations nationwide should you need oil in Nebraska or something like that.
Drive-It-Yourself: This is like the first option, but you have a local service like the Moving Crew load your rental truck, and a similar local service unload it and place the items in your new home. The same advice applies to the transit, but for the load and unload you will pay an hourly rate.
When the Moving Crew does load or unload moves like this, we ask that the customer provides the moving pads and the tie-downs. These are always available at the truck rental location and are critical to a safe long-distance move. I know you need to save every penny you can when moving far away, but skimping on pads is a bad idea. There is a lot of bumpy road between here and there and though we’ll do a great job loading the truck, a lot can happen crossing 3 mountain ranges, deserts, plains, hills, and forests.
The “U-Pack” Trailer/ On-site storage units: This is a great option for long moves that is less-expensive than a full-service relocation and saves the driving for a professional licensed semi-truck driver.
There are a few different companies that provide services like this, the most recognized being ABF and P.O.D.S. In the case of ABF or similar services, the company drops off a semi-trailer and a ramp at your home, you or a local moving service loads it up. When your goods are all in the truck, you install a bulkhead (temporary wall), they pick up the trailer, and eventually it is placed outside your new home where you or a local service unloads it. You are charged by the mile and the linear feet of trailer floor used, and pay hourly for the labor at both ends.
For P.O.D.S., S.A.M.’s, U.N.I.T.’s (seeing a pattern here?) or other portable storage units the process is very similar. When the thing is full and your items are secured, the company picks it up and trucks it to your new home, or sometimes stores it for awhile in a secure yard until you are ready. With this service you pay for the unit, the travel, and any time it is stored.
Either of these methods of moving are great, but there are a few things to consider and be aware of. One concern is when it will arrive at your new home. Because of the vast nature of networks and the way logistics are arranged and coordinated, you might not know for sure exactly when your belongings will arrive. I’ve had a few clients who had to camp out in an empty home for a few weeks, unsure of when the trailer will arrive. This also makes it difficult to schedule the local unload service. The savings versus a full-service move could be a few thousand dollars so if you are cool with a sleeping bag on the floor for a bit, or have friends/family to stay with this could be ideal.
Another concern is the driving. You have no idea who’s going to be driving the truck or how smooth and cautious they are. Make sure whenever you are moving long distances that your items are well-packed in good boxes and that your items are loaded into the truck with care and thought.
The Van-Line Move: This is the most typical interstate move. This is a full-service relocation brokered by a local agent and fed into a national network of truck drivers, and completed by a local agent on the other end. These moves are bid using weight and mileage.
These moves are done professionally, and methodically, though like anything there are some horror stories from the industry. ANYTIME you hire a mover for anything you should check them out thoroughly before you commit. There are good and bad movers out there and in the modern world a business’ reputation is well-documented. Most local agents of Van-Lines, the drivers, the labor, and the management do a great job.
Though the local agent may have a company name like Joe’s Movers, if they are a Van-Line affiliate, they will also represent something more familiar like Mayflower, North American, or Red Ball.
The Van-Line affiliates offer an array of services from full-packing and moving, to just loading, driving, and moving. Often your goods will not fill the entire 53ft semi-trailer and it will be carrying a combination of different family’s goods separated by bulkheads. Because of this it is incredibly important (and the law) that the movers label your goods with numbered stickers and maintain an inventory log.
The other thing about this type of move is that there are seldom guaranteed drop-off dates. This is done for the sake of logistics only, or the routing of trucks. Say your goods are loaded in Sacramento, the truck may drive to L.A. and load another person’s goods. Then it may drive to Salt Lake City, unload the other belongings, drive down to Houston and load more, head up to Chicago and unload, before finally getting your items to your new home in North Carolina and then head to Detroit to load up again, and on and on.
The dedicated logistics professionals in this country are very impressive in my opinion. The shear amount of fuel, time, and money saved by route-planning is extraordinary. Though it may seem zig-zaggy and crazy to the average person, it is not. We might not always understand the plan, but you can bet that it makes perfect sense in terms of moving tons and tons of freight and household goods around this vast nation everyday.
The “Exclusive Use” Move: This is where the movers arrive at your door in their own truck, load, drive, and unload your goods. This has the highest level of accountability, the most direct route to your new home, the least time spent waiting for your goods, and the most peace of mind of any interstate or long distance move. It should be expected that this is the most costly of the options for moving far away. The mover will also offer a packing service and supply the boxes, though this is not exactly cheap either.
These moves are bid based on weight, mileage, and “exclusive use of a ____ cubic ft vehicle.” Packing or unpacking is usually done separately, bid on time and supplies used.
Unfortunately I have had many people call and ask for this type of move, only to be astounded by the price. One of the reasons this move is so costly, is because it causes the mover to either rent a truck and fly the movers back to home base, or drive back across the miles with an empty truck, paying the movers the whole way.
This move has the highest fuel and labor costs, but what the person moving gets is the assurance that their belongings will be handled with care, driven directly to the new location, and unloaded promptly by the same people who loaded it. This is the Cadillac of moves, but depending on the situation can be the best option, especially if you are moving artworks, heirlooms, and other items of exceptional value.
Getting to the Point Finally: If you’ve read all the way to this point, thank you. You are a trooper. Ultimately the point of this entry was to inform about the different methods and means of getting your life’s gatherings from point A to point B. With any big change in life there is much to think about and much to plan.
Regardless if you’re moving to the house next door, or the most northern point of Maine, ask questions, get info, plan ahead, and have a garage sale before you get an estimate.
Please contact me with even the smallest question about moving. If my company cannot be of service on your move, maybe I as a mover can offer suggestions and insight on how to have the smoothest move possible.
-Andy Zuker, Co-Owner of The Moving Crew