FYI: 5 Hidden Costs of DIY Moving

I thought I’d save money by moving my stuff myself. I did, but not as much as I had expected.

Moving is stressful. There’s so much time that goes into deciding what’s worth keeping, what’s worth selling, and what needs to be ditched completely. There are also additional costs involved, many of which aren’t obvious.

I recently moved from Philadelphia to a small town in New Jersey, and even though I tried to save by moving myself, I was blindsided by additional fees. Next time you try to move yourself, be aware of these potential extras:

1. Insurance for your possessions

Insurance is typically optional, but you can’t not buy it when your belongings (some presumably fragile) and money are on the line. I paid $14 for basic insurance on a 10-foot U-Haul truck.

2. Mileage

The cost of a moving truck alone can run into the hundreds, depending on the size of the van and the distance. But if you think it’s like renting a car — unlimited mileage — think again. Many companies charge per mile after you’ve driven an allotted distance. For instance, after I drove 50 miles, I started getting charged $0.40 per mile.

In addition, you have to return the truck with the same amount of gas as when you picked it up. Otherwise, you’ll be charged a hefty fee.

3. Environmental fees

U-Haul charges a $1 environmental fee for those who rent moving vans. According to its website:

“U-Haul is committed to pursuing practices that support and foster the development of sustainable and environmentally friendly business operations.”

While nobody can really complain about a dollar, it’s still an extra fee.

4. Using movers? Don’t forget the tip

If you hire movers, you already know what you’re getting yourself into financially, but what you might not know is it’s also appropriate to tip. According to, a $20-$50 tip is appropriate for a move that involves more than 10 items and/or stairs, a cramped elevator, narrow passages, or large and/or heavy items, such as appliances.

5. Save a little for utilities

While this technically isn’t a cost of moving, something else to remember: utility deposits.

For some, deposits to get utilities turned on may be obvious. For me, it wasn’t. I hadn’t paid deposit fees for utilities in the past. When I called my new electric company, I learned I had to pay a $140 deposit (luckily, one that will be returned to me when I move again). I was also told I’d be charged a one-time $14 service fee when I received my first bill.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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  • Y2KJillian

    The last time we moved, we rented some of those “pods” that sit in your driveway and you can fill at your convenience, then
    a big truck comes and takes them to your new place. We paid up front…and when they brought our furniture, they demanded we pay them again, plus a “required overnight storage fee” that we thought we had already paid. We had a receipt…but they claimed that was just for the first stage of the process. I ended up giving them a check for hundreds of dollars and checked out suing them, but their story was simply that I had “forgotten” what I’d agreed to and that it was standard practice, even required by law for them to charge me at the delivery. I even, for about ten minutes, considered letting them keep our old furniture and living with an empty house for a while. Anyway, watch out!
    We once hired a friend to help with a move…he took fifteen minutes break every hour, smoked cigarettes wherever he decided to plop, and wasn’t strong enough to lift his share of two-man items like normal sofas. Think twice before paying people you know well. We never felt the same about him again.
    After renting a U-Haul truck once, my husband didn’t go on the truck after-inspection with the clerk, who came back demanding we pay rental on the “dolly” that had been tie-wrapped in a corner of the truck. We have our own dolly, and left theirs untouched…but voila, now the tie wraps were cut and missing. My husband had quite a screaming match with the man, who finally said he would “let it go,” but we were bad people for trying to cheat U-Haul.
    Moving is traumatic enough (and dramatic enough) without these kinds of things! Get everything in writing if you possibly can, and best luck to you. I hope I die right here and never have to move again.
    Wait, that sounds odd. Never mind!

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