Why Does Moving Take So Long?

With ample planning, adequate help, and the right size truck, DIY moves can be quick and efficient.

Assuming everything is packed and ready to go, small cross-town studio and 1-bedroom apartment moves can take as little as half a day.

On the other hand, when moving the contents of a moderately furnished 4-bedroom home, it’s wise to schedule one day for loading and another for unloading.

That said, throw in an epic snowstorm, a truck breakdown, and/or last-minute real estate issues, and even 6-hour moves can turn into multi-day (or multi-week) nightmares.

In this post, we’ll look at why moving takes so long, and what you can do to speed things up.

Why moving takes so long – and what you can do about it

1. Don’t underestimate the size and scope of your move

Whether hiring professional movers or handling your relocation yourself, it’s imperative to step back and consider what a huge undertaking it’ll be.

Long before your actual move date, think about how long it’ll take to –

  • Pack your loose household goods into boxes
  • Disassemble and reassemble bulky items like beds, home gyms, entertainment centers, and tables
  • Wrap everything in moving blankets
  • Carry everything out of your home or apartment and into the moving truck or portable container
  • Drive between your old and new homes (on DIY moves)
  • Unload the moving truck and get everything situated in your new residence

Since moving almost always takes longer than expected, planning and starting early are imperative.

2. Plan ahead and don’t overlook important details

Regardless of how much “stuff” you have and where you’re moving from and to, the move process should start weeks or months before your scheduled pick-up date.

Packing and moving aside, when planning a relocation you’ll need to take care of lots of little details.

Here we’re talking about –

  • Finding a new home or apartment
  • Dealing with realtors and banks
  • Vetting and hiring full-service movers
  • Renting a truck, booking a moving container, and finding help (on DIY moves)
  • Canceling and scheduling utilities, cable and internet services

Of course, this isn’t a complete list, but overlooking any of these important details can lead to big delays, even bigger cost overruns, and serious disruptions for you and your family.

3. Don’t bite off more than you can chew

If you asked 100 professional moving companies why moves typically take longer than expected, many would say that customers not doing what they said they would is the biggest culprit.

With such busy schedules, it’s no wonder that this is so common.

If you can’t do what you planned on doing it’s not a big deal.

Just be sure to let the moving company know so that they can make the necessary adjustments and arrangements.

If they’re kept in the dark, when the crew shows up on move day they’ll have more work than anticipated, and they may not have the necessary tools and/or packing materials to get the job done in a timely manner.

Unforeseen service issues like these often result in longer move times and higher moving costs.

4. Top-quality movers take planning and execution seriously

If you’ve hired a careless or inexperienced mover, their actions (or inactions) can significantly increase both moving and delivery times.

This is often the case when movers show up with too few crew members or a truck that’s too small to hold your items.

This can happen on DIY moves too, which is why it’s so important to opt for a bigger truck and to get more help than you think you’ll need.

Likewise, even if you don’t have much left to pack on move day, if you’re out of packing material like boxes, tape and paper you’ll have to run out and buy them at the last minute.

This alone could add hours to move time.

5. Consider unexpected delivery delays

Especially on long-distance moves, a variety of factors can increase both move and delivery times.

In addition to poor planning, real estate issues, inadequate labor, and having the wrong equipment for the job, moves can be delayed by everything from hurricanes and blizzards to tornadoes and earthquakes.

But though they’re rare, even a simple truck breakdown can add days to your overall move time.

Delays like these often mean extra travel expenses and living in ratty hotels, or worse yet…with the in-laws.

Legitimate delays may be unavoidable, but you should never be asked to pay for things over which you have no control.

And remember, if they deliver outside the agreed-up dates, most reputable movers will pay a lump sum for each day they’re late to cover the cost of additional expenses like food and lodging.

A quick look at “average” packing and moving times

Though there’s no such thing as an “average” move, the following tables will give you an idea of how long it generally takes to pack and move homes and apartments of various sizes.

“Ballpark” self-packing time on DIY moves

Home / apartment size Minimally furnished Moderately furnished Certified pack rat
Studio or 1-bedroom apartment 3 to 4 hours 4 to 6 hours More than 6 hours
2 or 3-bedroom apartment 6 to 8 hours 1 to 2 days 2 to 4 days
Small 2-bedroom home (no basement or attic) 2 to 3 days 4 to 5 days More than 5 days
3 or 4-bedroom home with basement, attic, and garage 4 to 5 days 5 to 7 days More than 7 days

Keep in mind that these figures don’t include time spent donating, decluttering, and downsizing during the packing process.

Loading time on DIY moves

Home / apartment size Minimally furnished Moderately furnished Certified pack rat
Studio or 1-bedroom apartment 2 to 3 hours 4 to 6 hours 1 day
2 or 3-bedroom apartment 4 to 6 hours 5 to 7 hours More than 1 day
Small 2-bedroom home (no basement or attic) 5 to 7 hours 6 to 8 hours 7 to 9 hours
3 or 4-bedroom home with basement, attic, and garage 6 to 8 hours 7 to 10 hours More than 1 day

As a rule of thumb, if there aren’t any access issues like stairs, elevators, or long carries at your new residence, unloading generally takes between ½ and ⅓ the time of loading, depending on how much help you have.

If you’ve hired professional movers, make sure they address additional moving costs on the front end so there won’t be any big surprises at your new home.

Minimize move time by taking advantage of helpful pre-move resources

Moving is full of potential pitfalls, and shady moving companies are a dime a dozen.

On the bright side, with the right help and resources moving doesn’t need to be a hassle.

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