How to Avoid Unexpected Moving Costs

Quick Answer

You know moving means paying a security deposit or hiring movers. But have you thought about the many other hidden costs of moving? Be prepared ahead of time so these 25 unexpected moving expenses don’t take you by surprise.

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Planning a move? Moving costs may seem minor compared with the cost of an apartment security deposit or home down payment. But unforeseen moving expenses could strain your budget if you're not careful. There are several ways to protect your budget from high moving costs. Here's how to plan for moving costs so you aren't caught unaware.

25 Hidden Costs of Moving

Whether you've been planning your move for a long time or you need to pack up quickly, not being fully prepared can cost you. Watch out for these hidden moving costs:

1. Packing Materials

The cost of boxes, tape, bubble wrap and markers adds up. Save money by asking friends, family, local businesses or buy-nothing groups for boxes, old newspapers or other packing materials.

2. Professional Movers

Movers registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) must provide written estimates. A binding estimate guarantees you won't pay more than the estimate unless new services are added. A non-binding estimate should be fairly accurate, but your final cost isn't guaranteed.

Get estimates from several movers, comparing them based on the same or similar services. Ask if extras such as moving equipment, packing services or disassembling furniture are included.

3. Moving Insurance

Federal law requires movers to assume liability for items during a move. FMCSA-registered movers offer a choice of full value protection (replacement value) or waiver of full value protection (released value).

Released value is cheaper, but your belongings are valued at just $0.60 per pound. This means you'd lose out big time if any smaller, more valuable items are damaged or destroyed. Movers can also limit their liability for valuables such as art or jewelry.

Clarify the coverage, ask whether it covers damage to your home and find out what your homeowners or renters insurance covers. Need additional insurance? Movers often sell third-party coverage.

4. Summer or Weekend Moving

Almost half of all moves occur between June and September, the American Moving & Storage Association reports. Weekends are also popular, especially the first and last weekends of the month. Since professional movers charge more at these times due to demand, avoid them if you can.

5. Heavy Item Charges

Movers may charge extra for very large, awkward and heavy items such as floor safes, pool tables or pianos. There may also be hoisting fees if items must be lifted through a window.

6. Stair, Elevator or Long-Haul Fees

Expect extra fees for schlepping furniture up 10 flights of stairs or dealing with elevators. You may also pay more if movers can't park nearby and must carry items long distances or shuttle them in a smaller vehicle.

Know your new home's layout and parking situation ahead of time and ask movers what costs to expect.

7. Storage Fees

If movers are delayed from arriving at your new home as planned, they'll have to hold your belongings overnight. Minimize overnight storage fee risks by scheduling your move to start early in the morning and being ready when movers arrive.

8. Truck Rental

Renting a truck and moving yourself can cost less than hiring movers. Rental companies may charge per day, per mile or both.

Ask about other fees, too. Consider gas costs and, if the move will take more than a day, hotels and meals.

9. Parking Tickets or Fees

Urban areas may not have designated parking spots for moving vans or rental trucks. If you, your movers or friends get parking tickets, you'll have to pay them. Additionally, if they must park in paid or metered spots, these costs are your responsibility to pay.

10. Hotels

If moving takes more than a day, utilities aren't turned on or you're moving a long distance, you'll need a place to stay. Unless you have friends or family nearby, search out low-cost hotels ahead of time.

11. Damage to Your Home

Clumsy movers could harm your former or new home. Avoid damage by measuring furniture carefully and taking your time moving heavy items.

12. Storage Space

A smaller home means less room for possessions. If you can't decide what to keep before moving day, you'll need to pay for a storage space. Sort your belongings in advance to avoid this cost.

13. Cleaning Costs

Your old home must be spotless to get your security deposit back (or keep new owners happy). But after a long day of packing, you won't want to mop and vacuum. Packing early gives you time to clean without paying professionals.

14. Painting, Remodeling or Repairing Your New Home

Revamping your new home while it's empty means a smoother move. Reduce costs by doing it yourself when possible. If professionals are needed, build the cost into your moving expenses.

15. Junk Removal

Can your apartment building's dumpster or your trash cans handle everything you need to discard before moving? If not, you'll have to hire a junk removal service. Start early and purge gradually to eliminate this cost.

16. Additional Utility Costs

Starting utility services at your new home may require deposits. Forget to shut off or transfer utilities at your old place and you might get stuck paying the next resident's electric bill. Make a list of all utilities and alert them early to avoid double charges.

17. Replacing Belongings

Things get lost, broken or left behind while moving, and you'll want to replace old or worn-out items, too. Review your space and possessions ahead of time and budget for buying new things.

18. Pet Boarding

The chaos of moving day stresses pets out. Pets that get underfoot during moving or that run out into the street can cause injuries and expensive vet bills. Ask a friend or family member to pet sit to avoid the cost of pet boarding or vet bills.

19. Childcare

Small children slow you down and add stress to a move. Ask friends or family to babysit so you can focus on moving, or hire a sitter.

20. Food Costs

Whether you're waiting for appliances or too tired to cook, moving usually means eating out frequently. Stock up on food that doesn't need cooking, like granola bars, apples or peanut butter sandwiches. Or, if you want to dine out, look for affordable eateries before moving day.

21. Late Fees or Extra Charges

It's easy to miss a payment during a move. Before moving, review your subscriptions, credit cards and other accounts. Update your address, note upcoming due dates and have mail forwarded to your new home.

22. Lost Wages

Unless you can move on a weekend, you may need time off from work. Since movers typically charge more on weekends, weigh that expense against lost wages to see which is more cost-effective.

23. Medical Expenses

Moving-related injury could mean an emergency room visit, missed work and lost income. Stay safe with common sense. Wear sturdy shoes, get help with heavy items and take regular breaks so you don't get sloppy (and get hurt).

24. Auto Moving Costs

Moving a long distance? Depending on the number of cars and drivers in your family, you may need to ship vehicles. Move.org reports shipping a car typically costs between $600 and $1,800, or even more. Compare this to gas, meals and hotel prices if you drive instead.

25. Tipping and Rewards

Have cash to tip movers, junk haulers or any other professionals. Reward friends or family who help out with food, drink, gifts or gift cards.

Make the Right (Money) Moves

As you plan your move, remember to update your homeowners insurance or renters insurance to cover your new place. Good credit could reduce your mortgage interest rates, security deposit requirements and home insurance premiums. Consider setting up autopay on your accounts to prevent missing payments, which can damage your credit score. Sign up for Experian's free credit monitoring to keep tabs on your credit, too.

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