Moving Cost Checklist: How to Budget for Moving Expenses

Cost is the number-one consideration when planning a move. Your budget will dictate when and how you move — whether it’s a full-service experience with one of the best long-distance movers or the DIY route with moving container companies.

But deciding on how much you have to spend is tough if you don’t know what line items to plan for. Plus, moving is notorious for “surprise” expenses like gas, food, and packing materials that could toss all your financial planning out the window.

Your budget might not be set in stone, but even so, you need to plan a move that best fits your financial situation. Check out this in-depth guide on how to create a moving budget for long-distance and local moves. Then, use our printable costs checklist of expenses to help you plan and stick to your budget.

Table of contents

How to create a moving budget

Follow these five steps to ensure a smooth and cost-effective move:

  1. Estimate costs. Start by gathering quotes from different moving companies. Most quotes aren’t binding, which means they could differ from your actual cost. Even so, these estimates can give you an idea of average moving costs. Always ask for three free quotes from similar companies for an apples-to-apples comparison.
  2. List all potential expenses. Make a comprehensive list of all possible moving costs. Common fees for DIY moves include rental trucks and packaging supplies like bubble wrap, packing tape, and cardboard boxes. Hiring a full-service moving company comes with additional costs for disassembling and reassembling furniture or transporting your stuff to a storage unit. Remember house-related costs like a security deposit on an apartment or hiring a cleaning service for your old home.
  3. Account for hidden costs. These moving expenses aren’t immediately apparent, but they add up. They include tolls and fuel for moving trucks, pet deposits, homeowner’s insurance (if you bought a new house), and real estate agent fees.
  4. Plan for unpacking and settling in. Once you get to your new home, you will probably have a weird transition period where you’re sitting on the floor or eating on paper plates. You may need to buy kitchenware or new furniture, so give yourself a settling-in budget for anything you’ll need to be comfortable at your new place.
  5. Track as you go. Create a spreadsheet on your phone or computer and track expenses throughout the moving process. Set up a tab in your email to store all receipts, too. Compare these costs to your moving budget and make necessary adjustments as you go to stay on track financially.

How your type of move can affect costs

The type of move you have will have a big impact on your moving costs. The two main types of moves are full-service and DIY (do-it-yourself), each with its own set of moving costs.

Full-service moves

If you plan on working with a professional moving company, one of your first steps should be booking your moving day with them. Our list of the best moving companies is a good place to start your search. Hiring a professional moving company like Safeway Moving or Mayzlin Relocation tends to be more expensive than doing it yourself, but it can save you a lot of time and effort.

With this option, you’re paying trained crews to handle everything from packing to transporting your belongings. This option is ideal for those who prefer a hands-off approach and want to avoid the physical labor involved in moving.

With a professional moving company, the average cost of a local move is $1,710, and the average cost of a long-distance move is $4,823. Of course, your expenses can vary based on how much you need to move and how far you’re going.

The main costs here are the professional moving company fees. These typically cover packing, loading, transportation, unloading, and unpacking. While some moving companies include packing supplies in their quote, others might charge extra for items like bubble wrap, packing tape, and cardboard moving boxes.

All moving companies must offer minimum coverage on your belongings, but most provide more comprehensive moving insurance for an additional fee, so consider whether that’s worth the added cost.

The following table will give you a general idea of how much it costs to move cross country for different moving scenarios.

1 Bedroom 2–3 Bedrooms 4–5 Bedrooms
<50 miles $399–$1,200 $657–$3,308 $1,194–$6,101
250 miles $1,000–$3,419 $2,009–$5,530 $3,133–$11,955
1,000 miles $2,211–$4,532 $3,500–$12,129 $5,207–$17,375
2,500 miles $3,215–$6,901 $4,450–$14,601 $9,000–$20,018

DIY moves

DIY moves are way cheaper than hiring a full-service moving company, and for a good reason: you’re doing nearly everything yourself. With this option, you rent a moving truck from companies like Penske or U-Haul and handle all aspects of the move yourself, from packing to driving the truck.

You can also go with one of the top moving container companies like PODS or U-Pack. With containers, you load everything yourself but the company handles the transportation for you. Regardless of how you want to do it, the DIY option is suitable for those who want to save money and don’t mind the extra effort involved.

The most immediate expense for a DIY move is renting a truck or a storage container. A truck rental for a local move will typically cost $20–$100 per day, with more expensive rental fees for larger trucks. Many truck rental companies will charge a fee if you exceed a set mileage limit. These fees range from $0.59–$1.00 per mile. For this reason, moving trucks are typically more cost-effective for local moves but expenses (mileage fees, accommodations, food, and gas) can add up quickly for longer distances.

Using a moving container will run you between $2,300 and $4,100, depending on the company you pick, how many containers you need, and how far you’re moving.

Aside from rental fees, there are several other items to consider for your DIY moving checklist:

  • Moving equipment: Depending on what you’re moving, you might need dollies to help transport heavier items. You may also need to rent moving straps, blankets, furniture covers, and moving blankets to protect items in the truck. If you’re using a container, you might want to purchase a lock to secure your items during the moving process.
  • Moving supplies: You’ll need to purchase your own packing materials, including bubble wrap, packing tape, and dollies for heavy items. Consider shopping around for cheap moving boxes or using free ones from local stores to save on costs. Craigslist, Nextdoor, and Facebook Marketplace are also great options for scoring free or cheap boxes.
  • Insurance: Many truck rental companies offer optional insurance for your move. This can include coverage for damage to the rental equipment, damage to your possessions, and even medical coverage if you get in an accident. Though optional, this can add much-needed protection and peace of mind.
  • Gas: Moving with a rental truck might seem more affordable than it is if you don’t factor in the cost of gas. Aside from filling up at gas stations during a long-distance move, most truck rental companies require that you return the vehicle fully loaded with gas. Many moving trucks only get 10–12 mpg, so fuel costs add up quickly.
  • Labor: If you need help loading and unloading, you might hire help from one of the top moving labor companies. This of course adds to the overall cost but is still often cheaper than a full-service move. We typically recommend hiring a full-service moving company if you’re going this route, though, since designing a piecemeal move with separate companies is a logistical headache.

Moving costs checklist

As you can see, there are so many ways to plan a move. Ultimately, the right option for your situation comes down to your budget.

Whether you’re planning a residential or commercial move, knowing the common costs involved will help you budget effectively.

Residential moving expenses

  • Professional movers: Hiring professional movers for a full-service move includes packing, loading, transportation, unloading, and unpacking. A full-service long-distance move costs, on average, about $4,900.
  • DIY move: Renting a moving truck for a DIY move can cost between $50 and $200 per day for a local move and $1,000 to $3,000 for a long-distance one. Moving containers typically cost between $2,300 and $4,100.
  • Packing services: If you hire professionals just for packing, this can cost between $300 and $1,500, depending on the size of your home.
  • Unpacking services: Professional unpacking can add another $100 to $500 to your moving expenses.
  • Living costs: During the move, you might be eating out more than you’re used to, so you’ll want to consider this in your budget.
  • Accommodations: If you don’t have a place to stay for a night or two, you should consider hotel or Airbnb costs in your budget. Couch surfing with friends and family can cut costs here, but it isn’t an option for every move.
  • Insurance: Most movers must include minimum coverage for your belongings, but this coverage won’t be enough to replace your stuff if it’s lost or damaged. Consider the value of your items and decide if it’s worth buying up on insurance. Most moving companies offer some sort of add-on plan. Protecting your belongings during the move is crucial. Additional moving insurance will run you about 1% up to 5% of the your belongings’ total estimated value.
  • Airfare, car rental, gas, and tolls: Whether you’re driving or flying to your new home, you’ll need to consider the cost of transportation, especially if you are transporting your vehicle through a car shipping company.
  • Car shipping company: Many people opt to hire a car shipping company rather than drive to their new home, especially for long-distance moves. If this is true in your case, set some money aside to use one of the top car shippers.

Commercial or office moving expenses

On average, office moves cost between $5,000 and $20,000. Small ones (five employees or fewer) can cost less than $2,000, while large corporate relocations with multiple departments often cost $50,000 or more.

Keep a close eye on your budget by managing these costs:

  • Office movers: Specialized movers for office relocations can cost between $1,000 and $7,000, depending on the size and distance of the move.
  • Equipment moving: The costs of moving heavy office equipment, such as pianos or large machinery, vary widely, often adding $200 to $2,000 to your bill.
  • Storage unit: Renting a storage unit for temporary office equipment or furniture storage can cost $50 to $300 per month. Expect to pay a higher rate if you want climate-controlled storage.
  • Packing and unpacking services: It’s generally best for employees to pack and unpack their own items, but you’ll probably want the movers to handle everything else.
  • New office updates: Don’t overlook the costs associated with moving to a new building. Make sure your new breakroom will have a coffee machine and a water cooler. Cancel or reschedule trash pickup, landscaping, security, and cleaning services. Issue new parking passes, ID cards, and security codes.

Moving supplies and equipment

  • Packing supplies: Budget for packing materials such as bubble wrap, packing tape, cardboard boxes, and dollies. This can add up to $100 to $300. To reduce your costs, try to find free moving boxes at local stores.
  • Storage: If you need a storage facility for longer-term storage, expect to pay $50 to $300 per month.
  • Additional moving supplies: Consider whether you need other types of packing supplies like tape guns, stretch wrap, box cutters, permanent markers, cleaning supplies, rope, or a hand truck.

Additional moving expenses

There are a few other hidden expenses that, depending on your situation, could eat up a chunk of your budget.

Consider these additional costs to create an airtight budget:

  • Home inspections: Before buying a new house, you might need a home inspection, which can cost $300 to $500.
  • Utility setup: Setting up utilities like electricity, water, and internet in your new home might involve setup fees and deposits, typically costing $100 to $200.
  • Deposits: Moving into a new rental may require a security deposit equivalent to one or two months’ rent.
  • Cleaning: For most moves, you’ll likely need to do some cleaning and repairs before you leave. Hiring cleaning services for your old home and new home can cost $100 to $300 each time. For renters, cleaning is essential for getting your security and utility deposits back — which can help offset the cost of your move. Professional cleaners could help you save time but will add to your total expenses, so weigh the pros and cons of hiring a crew for this.
  • Babysitter/pet sitter: You’ll be busy during your move — especially if it’s a DIY one. With all of the moving around and time spent outside, consider getting a babysitter and/or pet sitter to keep children and fur babies occupied and out of the way while you’re loading up the truck.
  • Snacks, drinks, and gifts for helpers: If you have friends or family help with your move, treat them well. Provide lunch, refreshments, and/or small tokens like gift cards to show gratitude and make the process go more smoothly.
  • New household goods: When you move in, you’ll likely need to buy essentials like cleaning supplies, toiletries, and items you couldn’t move, like flammables and perishables. If you’re moving into a larger home, you may eventually want to buy new furniture or decor to fill the space. Immediately after the move, focus on essential supplies that you need right away for daily living.
  • Real estate agent(s): When selling your home, consider agent fees and commissions as part of your moving budget. If you’re buying or selling a home, Realtor® commissions can range from 5% to 6% of the property’s sale price, amounting to several thousand dollars. Although you’re not paying them directly, they’re still getting a cut of your home’s sale price. In a sense, their commission is also a moving expense, even if it’s not coming out of your bank account.
  • Safety items: Every time you move into a new house, you should invest in basic safety and security precautions. Measures like new door locks, a security system, a fire extinguisher, and pest control will keep your family and house safe.
  • Cash for tips: If you hired a professional moving company, it’s customary to tip your moving crew. In our movers tipping guide, we recommend tipping 15% to 20% of the total cost of your moving fees and dividing that amount equally amongst crew members.
  • Vehicle registration: Moving to a new state often means having to get a new license and registration. Depending on the state, registration can cost up to $225 and a new license can run from $30–$60.


What is a reasonable amount for moving expenses?

A reasonable amount for moving expenses depends on several factors, including the distance of the move, the size of your home, and whether you hire professional movers or opt for a DIY move. You can expect to spend between $300 and $1,500 for a local move. A long-distance move can range from $2,000 to $5,000 or more.

It’s important to create a moving budget that accounts for all potential costs, including packing supplies, truck rental, and any additional services you may need.

How do I calculate how much it will cost to move?

To calculate how much it will cost to move, start by requesting at least free quotes from at least three moving companies. You can also use our moving cost calculator to get estimates and compare prices.

Consider the size of your move (number of rooms or weight of belongings), the distance, and any additional services like packing or storage. Don’t forget to include packing materials, fuel costs, tolls, and hidden costs such as security deposits, cleaning, and utility setup fees. Add everything up to get a more accurate estimate of your total moving expenses.

What items are commonly overlooked when estimating moving costs?

Items that are commonly overlooked when estimating moving costs include:

  • Packing supplies
  • Fuel and tolls
  • Storage fees
  • Cleaning services
  • Deposits
  • Temporary housing
  • Utility setup fees

What should I consider before hiring a moving company?

You should consider important factors like cost, services, availability, and reputation before hiring a moving company. Read reviews from real customers through resources like our Better Moves Project to find reputable providers. Request at least three quotes to give you a better idea of pricing for your move. Confirm the company’s availability for your moving date, ask about their insurance coverage options, and ensure they offer all the basic and add-on services you need.

Can you negotiate a moving estimate?

It is difficult to negotiate a moving estimate without sacrificing services, but there are ways to lower your costs. Start by using our moving cost calculator to get quotes from at least three companies. Since many movers have price-matching policies, a cheaper quote from a competitor could be used as leverage to get a better deal. You should also ask about moving discounts. Many companies offer better deals for military members, students, seniors, and first-time customers, among others.

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