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How To Create a Moving Budget

Budgeting for a move is no easy task. Our guide to creating a moving budget outlines the process from start to finish.

Author Image Written by Shane Sentelle Updated 04/19/2024

Moving comes with a host of unexpected costs, but a well-thought-out budget can help you avoid sticker shock. While researching average costs and creating a moving budget, you can determine how much you’ll need to put aside and identify chances to save money.

Although budgeting is vital, it can also seem like a daunting task. To demystify the process, we compiled this detailed guide on creating a moving budget and hiring the best professional moving company for your needs.


Take Inventory of Your Belongings

The first step in creating a moving budget is making an inventory of your belongings. Before you pack, take pictures or videos of your belongings and document valuable items such as fine art or jewelry. Upload photos, videos, and documents to a cloud-based storage solution to keep them safe and accessible.

Next, create an inventory list while you pack. Develop a system to keep track of what’s found in each box. You can also color-code boxes to denote which room they belong in. The more detailed and organized your moving inventory, the easier it will be to calculate the approximate weight, size, and value of your belongings. Here are the details you should include with each item added to your list:

  • Weight: While local movers typically charge a flat hourly rate, cross-country movers factor in the weight of your belongings. Several moving websites feature online calculators that list the average weight of furniture, appliances, and other household items. You can also find estimates of how much your items weigh based on the size of your home.
  • Size: If you plan to rent a moving truck or a portable container, you’ll need to estimate how many cubic feet of space your belongings require. That will determine what size truck or container you need, which then determines the price. Self-service moving companies often post guides on their websites to help with this.
  • Value: The more valuable your belongings, the more they’ll cost to insure. If you have several fragile or high-value items, that might give you more reason to hire professional movers. Moving companies often employ specially trained and certified movers to handle these items and minimize the risk of damage.

To streamline the moving process and cut costs, purge as you pack. You can sell items you no longer need at a yard sale or through online marketplaces such as eBay or Facebook Marketplace. Alternatively, you can donate gently used items to the Salvation Army, Goodwill, or a local nonprofit. The less stuff you have to move, the less you’ll pay—so downsizing before your move is worth the extra time and effort.


You can look up average moving costs with a quick search or use the free moving calculators offered by companies such as International Van Lines and Moving APT. Costs can vary widely based on the location, distance, weight, and size of your move. Expenses will also differ depending on whether you plan a do-it-yourself (DIY) move or hire a full-service mover.

Common costs associated with moving include moving insurance, fuel, equipment rental fees, packing supplies, taxes, tolls, and specialty packing services. We’ve separated these and other costs into three categories below.

DIY Moving Costs

When most people talk about a DIY move, they mean renting a moving truck. According to 2021 survey data collected by our team, most DIY moves cost less than $500. Another option is to rent a mobile storage container from a self-service moving company. Our survey indicated that this costs $500–$1,500.

DIY moving costs are usually broken down into the following categories:

  • Truck or container rental fees
  • Transportation costs (fuel, mileage, tolls, etc.)
  • Other equipment rental fees (dollies, ramps, etc.)
  • Moving insurance
  • Packing materials (furniture covers, packing tape, bubble wrap, etc.)

Professional Moving Costs

When researching how much movers cost, we found that people who hired a full-service moving company in 2022 paid an average of $8,100. You may be charged a different rate based on how large your home is and how far you’re moving. One-bedroom households paid about $31 per mile, while households with four or more bedrooms paid $49 per mile.

Expenses associated with this type of move include the following:

Additional Moving Costs

Your moving costs are not limited to what the moving company charges. You’ll also need to factor in the following costs:

  • Closing costs, security deposit, or down payment
  • Utility startup costs
  • Cleaning services or supplies
  • Storage unit fees
  • Taxes and tolls
  • Tips and refreshments for movers
  • Hotel and transportation costs
  • Takeout or dine-in meals
  • New furniture or household items
  • Groceries, including pantry staples
  • Child care or pet boarding

Create a Moving Budget Template

Although you can find moving budget templates online, it’s not difficult to create your own from scratch. Here’s how to create a moving budget for a full-service move:

  1. Create two columns. Label one column “Category” and the other “Cost.” This can be done by hand in a notebook or online with Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel.
  2. List the expense categories. For full-service moving, expense categories might include the base moving rate, moving insurance, packing services, specialty services, extra fees, and hidden costs.
  3. Fill in the cost for each expense. In the second column, estimate the cost for each expense category based on your research.
  4. Add lines for any other expenses. Examples include child care, pet boarding, fuel costs, airline tickets, packing materials, storage, and any furniture or items you plan to buy immediately after your move.
  5. Repeat the process as needed. If you request quotes from multiple companies, as we recommend, consider creating a separate budget for each one. This will make it easier to determine which company offers the best deal.

If you’re unsure of whether to hire a professional mover or take a DIY approach, create a second budget to compare the two options. Follow the steps above but adjust the categories to account for self-service moving expenses.


Choose a Moving Date

If you’re moving for work, you may not have much control over when you move. However, those with some flexibility can save money by strategically choosing their move date. Truck rental fees and full-service moving rates can vary significantly depending on the season, month, and even day of the week.

The busiest seasons for moving companies are late spring and summer, from May through early September. College students and recent graduates often relocate during this window. It’s also the most convenient time for families with school-aged children to move. Prices are at their highest during this time frame, but it may be the right choice regardless.

Ultimately, the best time to move depends on your budget, schedule, and priorities. Winter is the cheapest time to move in most areas, but it also carries the highest risk of weather-related delays. The shoulder seasons of fall and early spring are typically accompanied by milder temperatures and lower prices on both homes and moving services.

QUICK Tip

Get Moving Quotes

We recommend gathering quotes from at least three full-service moving companies and three self-service moving providers. This will allow you to accurately price and compare your full range of options and choose the best solution for your needs.

Full-Service Moving Quotes

Most full-service movers allow you to request a quote through their websites. Some companies offer both instant ballpark pricing and binding estimates. You’ll typically need the following information to request a quote:

  • Where you’re moving from
  • Where you’re moving to
  • Desired moving date
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Full name
  • Email address
  • Phone number

Make sure that you understand what type of moving estimate you’re getting. A ballpark quote, if available, will be provided after you fill out an online form. Otherwise, you can expect a customer service representative to contact you. To receive a binding estimate, you’ll likely need to complete a moving inventory, schedule a virtual or in-home consultation, or record a video walk-through of your home.

Self-Service Moving Quotes

For self-service moving, you can consider renting a truck or a portable moving container. A few truck rental companies include U-Haul, Penske, and Budget. Portable storage containers, or moving pods, are available from companies such as 1-800-PACK-RAT, PODS, and U-Pack.

These companies provide online quotes, too. Once again, you’ll need to provide details about your move including its date, size, and destination. Most companies offer multiple truck or container sizes and guide customers on which one is most appropriate.

Keep in mind that self-service companies don’t handle loading and unloading. However, they may be able to recommend third-party companies that offer packing, loading, and other services. If you think you’ll hire assistance, ask about hourly rates and factor them into your moving budget.

Moving Budget Tips

Follow the tips below to draft a more accurate budget and better prepare for moving expenses.

Weigh Cost vs. Convenience

Account for Hidden Costs

Build an Emergency Fund

It is possible to move cheaply on a budget. Just remember the trade-off between cost and convenience and be realistic about what you can handle. If you rent a moving truck to save money, you’ll need to invest more time and energy into the moving process. Professional movers cost more, but they also provide a valuable service.

As you consider each line item in your budget, think about the associated tasks. Packing is a good example. Self-packing will lower your costs but lengthen your to-do list. Only you can decide if that extra work is worth the money it saves.

Even quotes provided by full-service interstate moving companies won’t include every moving expense. Make sure that your budget accounts for the hidden costs associated with moving, such as restocking your fridge and pantry. You may also need to pay for furniture assembly, appliance installation, and cleaning services.

Review any moving quotes carefully, noting what each does and doesn’t include. Ask about any extra fees that may apply to your move, such as stair or elevator fees. You can also expect companies to charge more for heavy, bulky, fragile, or valuable items.

No matter how many hours you pour into planning, you can never fully account for Murphy’s law. The list of things that could derail your move is endless, from a broken-down truck to an ill-timed injury. Expect at least one or two things to go wrong and set aside an emergency fund to handle any surprises that might affect your bottom line.


Our Conclusion

You’ll likely get out of a moving budget whatever you put into it. If you invest sufficient time into creating your budget, unexpected expenses won’t be a complete surprise. You can also use this process to create an inventory for insurance purposes, compare quotes from multiple companies, and find your ideal balance between cost and convenience.


FAQ About Creating a Moving Budget

What is a good moving budget?

A good moving budget depends on the size of your move, the distance you’re traveling, and the services required. Our 2024 moving survey shows that intracity and local moves cost about $2,000 while long-distance moves cost anywhere from $4,700 to over $10,000. However, these are only averages and don’t account for costs beyond what you pay the moving company.

How do you budget for the cost of moving a piano?

To budget for the cost of moving a piano, ask different moving companies what they charge for this service. International Van Lines, for instance, charges a $150 fee for upright pianos and a $350 fee for baby grand pianos.

How much should you set aside for unexpected moving expenses?

You should set aside 5%–10% of your total moving budget for unexpected moving expenses. This can help cover things like last-minute packing supplies or even a meal if the move takes longer than expected. It’s better to have a small but unnecessary buffer than to be caught short.

Do movers charge by weight or volume?

Full-service moving companies charge by weight for long-distance moves and by the hour for local moves. If you plan to rent a truck or a portable container, volume matters more.

How can I save money on my move?

You can reduce moving expenses by getting rid of items you don’t need and by hunting for free moving supplies. You can also save money by moving during the offseason or midweek and by booking at least two months in advance.

Should I budget for tips for movers?

Yes, you should budget for tips for movers. It’s customary to tip movers about 5%–10% of your moving cost or $20–$50 per mover, especially if they give strong service.


Our Rating Methodology

We back up our moving company ratings and recommendations with a detailed rating methodology to objectively score each company. We conduct research by reading through the company websites, analyzing customer reviews, conducting consumer surveys, requesting quotes, and speaking with customer representatives. We then score each moving company against our review standards for services, content coverage, scheduling, trailer and container options, additional benefits, and reputation to arrive at a final score out of 100.

To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews Team at reviews@thisoldhousereviews.com.