Worst Moving Mistakes to Avoid

Moving is tough enough under the best circumstances, but when avoidable mistakes are thrown into the mix otherwise smooth moves can go south in a heartbeat.Like divorce, a death in the family, or the sudden loss of a job, moving can be debilitatingly stressful and require managing lots of things at once.

That said…

It’s possible to avoid the following mistakes that often make for expensive, unpleasant, and unsatisfying experiences.

1. Not Vetting Moving Companies Carefully Enough

Choosing a random mover from the internet or phone book and hoping for the best is rarely a good idea.

Instead –

2. Not Being Organized

Even small moves across town require weeks of planning, and for larger interstate moves you’ll need a month or more.

In short, being organized is imperative.

Bar none, the best way to ensure that nothing important gets overlooked is by making a moving checklist on your phone, computer, or in a day planner.

If you’ll be doing the packing yourself, set aside an hour or two a day to work so you’re not overwhelmed at the last minute.

Make sure each “to-do” item has a “due” date, and don’t forget to:

  • Book your full-service movers, container moving company, or rental truck well in advance
  • Schedule utility services at your old and new homes
  • Notifying your bank that you’re moving
  • Get kids enrolled in new schools

3. Not Considering All Your Options

Considering every option and weighing the pros and cons of each is the best way to get the most bang for your hard-earned dollars.

Though full-service movers aren’t cheap, for many families their services are well worth the price.

Thankfully there are other options worth looking into, and many of them are less expensive and more flexible.

They include:

DIY Moves

  • Pros – Great for those with limited budgets, ample time, and sturdy constitutions
  • Cons – You’ll have to drive the truck, pay for fuel, and do the packing and moving yourself

Container Moving

  • Pros – Container moving is convenient, affordable, and you won’t have to drive a moving truck
  • Cons – Not all container moving companies have nationwide coverage, and on local moves, you probably won’t have your container delivered to your new home on the same day you loaded it

Freight Moving

  • Pros – Affordable, nationwide coverage, and no driving
  • Cons – Usually not available on local moves, and spring-ride trailer suspensions are hard on sensitive household goods

4. Not Giving Yourself Enough Time

Stress and regret.

If you don’t leave yourself enough time to pack and move you’ll get plenty of both.

In general, when estimating how long it’ll take to pack the contents of your home or apartment and actually move, it’s a good idea to double the former and add 50% to the latter.


They always take longer than expected, so be realistic when considering how much you can get done, and when in doubt, err on the side of caution.

Did You Know?

Some “expert” moving websites claim it’s possible to pack a 2-3 bedroom home in just a few days, but this is rarely the case, so plan ahead and give yourself weeks, not days.

5. Not Downsizing

We all get attached to “things.”

But the sad truth is that many of them do little more than take up space without adding any value to our lives.

And moving them is a huge waste of time and money.

Luckily, there’s downsizing.

In short, it’s all about unburdening yourself, helping those less fortunate, and reducing move time and cost.

Talk about a no-brainer.

How to Downsize for a Move

6. Choosing the Wrong Insurance

Interstate movers are required to offer both released-value insurance (valuation) and full-value replacement coverage to their customers.

Though released-value protection is free, you’ll only be reimbursed .60 cents per pound per article in the event of loss or damage – which occurs on roughly 1 in 5 moves.

Full-value replacement coverage is more comprehensive, but it’s also expensive, and it may not cover everything you think it should, so read the fine print carefully.

A more in-depth analysis on valuation.

Did You Know?

  • Valuation is different on local and interstate moves
  • Your homeowner’s or renter’s policy may cover your move
  • You may be able to purchase coverage through a 3rd party insurance provider
  • Once your move has started you can’t change your policy

7. Being a Hero

“We don’t need another hero.”

Pop icon Tina Turner really hit the nail on the head.

In moving terms, being a hero means biting off more than you can chew.

Thinking you can do the packing and moving yourself in limited time with minimal help is a common moving pitfall that usually ends in exhaustion, despair, and regret.

Instead –

  • Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need
  • Get as much help as possible
  • Consider hiring professional movers, professional packers, or both

8. Not Taking Necessities and Irreplaceables with You

Imagine this…

You just spent 12 hours in the blistering July sun moving from one home to another.

It’s late, and you and your family are dirty, worn out and hungry.

You decide to shower, change into clean clothes, order a pizza and worry about unpacking and getting settled in the following day.

But you forgot to pack an “essentials bag,” and now you don’t have:

  • Clean clothes
  • Fresh towels, soap, or toothbrushes
  • Pillows or clean sheets
  • Medications
  • Pet food

This isn’t a complete list, but you get the idea.

Insider’s Tip: In addition to the essentials listed above, it’s always a good idea to take irreplaceable items, important documents, jewelry, and valuable collections with you.

9. Not Budgeting Correctly

All the wishful thinking in the world won’t make your move any cheaper.

In some instances when money is scarce, setting a moving budget before getting quotes is a necessity.

But it’ll often lead to heartbreak when you realize your funds are inadequate.

Instead –

  • Consider every option (full-service movers, container moving, DIY, freight moving)
  • Use a moving cost calculator to get a “ballpark” idea of how much your move will cost
  • Get estimates from each provider
  • Compare them carefully, item by item
  • Assess your situation as objectively as possible before choosing the option that’s best for you

Insider’s Tip: Don’t forget to factor in hotel stays, meals on the road, and fuel if you’re renting a truck.

10. Not Comparing “Apples to Apples”

For those who’ve never moved, comparing moving estimates from different companies can be mind-numbing.

Estimates are full of numbers, industry jargon, and legal terms, and most of them are formatted differently.

After you’ve gotten your estimates, take a few days (yes, days) to compare them carefully, and resist the urge to focus solely on the big number at the bottom of the page.


Estimates include many different items and services, each of which should be distinguishable from the others.

If you don’t understand something or aren’t sure whether everything you’ve asked for has been included, make notes, and ask questions until you get satisfactory answers.

11. Going With the Lowest Estimate

Of all the moving horror stories out there, most begin like this…

“Well, I just went with the lowest estimate.”

Whatever you do, don’t be that guy (or gal).

If you’ve gotten in-home estimates from three reputable movers they should all be within 10 or 15% of one another.

On the other hand, if one is much lower than the others, it’s probably a sign that –

  • They’ve given you a “lowball” estimate (and intend to inflate the cost later on)
  • They haven’t included all the services the other have (either intentionally or unintentionally)
  • They’re estimator is inexperienced

Either way, low estimates should send up red flags.

Here’s a full breakdown of why the cheapest movers are usually bad news.

12. Waiting Until the Last Minute to Book Your Move

It’s June 27.

You’re planning on moving on the 29th – one of the busiest days of the year.

But you haven’t reserved your rental truck, hired a mover, or reserved a moving container…

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, everything.

Especially if you’ll be moving during the peak season (between late May and early September), booking your move early is of the utmost importance.

In fact, in the above scenario, you’d likely discover that –

  • The movers aren’t accepting new business
  • The rental trucks are gone
  • The moving containers are all sold out

And you’ll either be out of luck altogether or will have to settle for a scammy mover who’ll double their normal rates and give you C-level crew.

Insider’s Tip: If you’re flexible, move during the fall and winter when rates are cheaper, capacity isn’t an issue, and movers are more likely to offer things like a free month of storage or complimentary used boxes. Also, check out our article on how to make moving suck less.

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