Hiring Movers vs. DIY Options: What’s Best?

For small, simple moves, rent a truck or use a moving container service. For large, complicated moves, hire movers.

Tracy ScottNovember 13, 2020
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The high cost of hiring professional movers might make you wonder, "Should I just do the heavy lifting myself?"

Certainly, a do-it-yourself move can be much less expensive than hiring a full-service moving company. For small moves especially, renting a moving truck or using a load-it-yourself moving container service like PODS, U-Box or U-Pack to save on labor can be a smart money-saving option. But cost isn't the only factor to consider. In general, it's a good idea to hire full-service movers for larger or more complicated moves, or moves that you want to make less time-consuming, stressful or physically taxing.

Here's how full-service movers, moving container services and truck rentals stack up.

Full-service moving

When you hire a full-service moving company, like Mayflower Transit or Allied Van Lines, a team of trained movers handles moving logistics, loading, driving and unloading your belongings at your destination. You can also pay extra for additional services, such as packing.

Why get it?

  • Someone else does the heavy lifting. You don't have to lift a single box if you don't want to. A full-service mover will get your belongings on and off the moving truck so you can focus on other things.

  • Some items need special care. You can find movers who are trained to pack and transport fragile items, such as pianos or grandfather clocks. If you mishandle these during a move, you risk damaging them.

  • There are stairs or other accessibility concerns. If you have stairs or your home is a long distance from the street, a do-it-yourself move could be physically exhausting or logistically difficult. Hiring movers could ensure the safe transport of your items and help you avoid injuries.

Why skip it?

  • Hiring movers usually costs more than using a moving container service or renting a truck. If you're on a tight budget, it might not be an option.

  • For long-distance moves, delivery can take a week or longer. While movers can handle local moves within a matter of hours, longer moves can take several days to arrive. Unless you choose an expedited shipping option, you might have to live out of a suitcase for a time.

Moving container service

Moving container services, like U-Pack, U-Box and PODS, transport belongings much like full-service movers, but they generally leave the loading and unloading to you. Typically, the company delivers a portable storage container to your residence, you load it with your belongings, and the company picks it up and delivers it to your destination.

Why get it?

  • Someone else does the driving. Moving container services offer transportation and delivery services, so you don't have to drive a big moving truck or trailer.

  • There's plenty of time for loading and unloading. With these services, you typically get at least a few days for loading and unloading included in the base price. With a truck rental, you usually pay by the day, and taking days to load and unload can make a move more expensive.

  • It's generally less expensive than full-service movers (with some exceptions). For a small, uncomplicated move where you're handling the loading and unloading yourself, moving container companies can save you plenty.

Why skip it?

  • Some homes might not have space for a moving container. Containers need a flat surface and a significant clearance area for placement. So, if your home has a steep driveway or lacks parking, you may need to consider another option. Otherwise, you may have to take your belongings to a nearby service center and load containers there, which can be time-consuming.

  • Paying extra for help with loading and unloading is costly. For an additional cost, moving container services let you hire movers to load and unload your items. But in some cases, that extra expense can make a moving container service just as expensive as hiring a full-service moving company.

Moving container company overviews from NerdWallet

Truck rental

Truck rental companies, like U-Haul and Penske, allow you to select from trucks or trailers of different sizes. With this option, you manage all of the move details, including packing, loading, driving and unloading. Trucks and trailers are serviced, cleaned and inspected according to the company's standards. And if you have an issue while driving the truck, most provide 24/7 roadside assistance.

Why get it?

  • It's less expensive than hiring movers or a moving container service. Special discounts for military, college students and members of organizations like AAA can lower expenses further.

  • A big-enough truck could allow you to move everything in one go. You likely can't cram all your household belongings in your car. You might be able to fit everything in a large truck, though, which could save you from making multiple trips.

Why skip it?

  • You're responsible for loading, transport and unloading. While you can save money, renting a truck and handling your move yourself can be time-intensive and physically exhausting. Belongings may be lost or damaged in the process if they aren't packed and loaded correctly. You’ll also be responsible for driving and fueling the vehicle during transport and could be liable if the vehicle is damaged.

  • Driving a moving truck, especially over long distances, can be difficult. If you haven't driven a moving truck before, you might be more likely to make mistakes or cause accidents. A truck also might present logistical challenges — for example, if the parking garage for your new apartment has a low clearance, you might not be able to park there. For moves that exceed 100 miles or go along unfamiliar roads, consider leaving the driving to professionals.

What’s best?

It's best to rent a truck or use a moving container service for small, straightforward moves if you're looking to save money — especially if you can get packing and loading help from friends and family. But for larger or more complicated moves, go with full-service movers.

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