Make a Plan to Move to Another State

young woman packing moving boxes

Whether you are a recent college grad or a midcareer professional, pulling up roots and moving to a new state comes with its share of headaches. Is it better to hire a mover or rent a truck? How will you insure your belongings during transit? What expenses will your new employer cover? According to a recent Gallup poll, 33 percent of Americans wish they could relocate to a new state. Chances are, you’re one of them. Before you break out the boxes and shipping tape, consider these 10 ways to simplify the moving process.

Make a Budget and Start Saving

Shipping, gas, hotel, and insurance costs pile up quickly. Add security deposits for renting and starting utilities in your new home, and it becomes clear that moving requires quite a few upfront expenses that can drain your bank account. Making a budget and a savings plan to cover the costs will help smooth the transition, but don’t rely on the security deposit from your old place to cover those costs. It often takes weeks and sometimes longer for a landlord to refund your security deposit (check your lease to be sure).

Your budget planning shouldn’t stop when you get to your destination. Cost of living varies from region to region, and your current salary might not afford you the same luxuries after the move. Use a cost of living calculator to determine how far your current salary will take you in specific cities across the country.

Check What Your Employer Will Cover

Some companies cover relocation costs, but it is important to know exactly what that entails. Your employer may reimburse items such as shipping and packing services, transportation, and travel expenses associated with searching for your new home—if you are moving specifically for the job. Negotiate during the hiring process and ask whether your employer will cover other costs such as lease cancellation fees, realtor assistance, temporary housing, and storage.

Decide What You’re Moving

Is it really cost-effective to move a decade-old, 100-pound couch and an outdated TV? Take stock of everything you own—especially bulky furniture and electronics—and calculate if it would make more sense to sell the items before you move and reinvest your earnings in replacements once you get to your destination. Don’t forget to factor in what you might save in time, money, and energy by not hauling these heavy items. If you can’t afford brand-new furniture, consider hunting down pre-owned items on websites such as Craigslist, and use your moving truck to transport your new finds.

Get Money Back Next Tax Season

If you are relocating for work and your move meets certain distance and time requirements, you can deduct related expenses the following tax season (sadly, highway meals at Cracker Barrel are not deductible). Just be sure to save your receipts.

Plan for Partial-Year State Taxes

While you are deducting expenses on your federal tax return at tax time, keep in mind that you may have to file two separate state tax returns. If you earned income in two different states during the fiscal year—unless you are moving to or from a state that does not collect individual income taxes, such as Texas, Nevada, or Washington —you will need to file a return in each state to cover the time you lived there.

Research Movers, Truck Rentals, and Shipping Companies

The three most popular ways to transport belongings across state lines are via professional movers, truck rental companies such as U-Haul, and container services such as PODS, which provide self-storage containers that you fill and the company transports. Although each service has its own perks, prices can vary drastically:

  • Professional Movers:
    If you opt for full service, the movers will pack, load, ship, and unpack all of your belongings, so the only thing left for you to do is to tell them where to park the couch. But many people choose to do the packing themselves to save money and ensure proper handling.

    Estimating the costs of professional moving services isn’t as easy as jumping online. Movers such as United Van Lines send an expert to your home to evaluate your items and provide a quote. Unlike moving trucks and shipping services, movers often do not factor in mileage as much as weight of cargo. For example, United Van Lines charges roughly 60 cents per pound. Using this guideline, a 100-pound couch and 200 pounds of books will add up to about $180. Professional movers can get pricey, but their services will allow you to focus on other pressing issues surrounding a move.
  • Truck Rental Companies:
    Moving truck rental is not for everyone. You have to be comfortable driving a large vehicle without a rearview mirror (using side mirrors instead), and you need to be aware of the added length and width of the vehicle when changing lanes and maneuvering through narrow streets. Most truck rental companies do not offer any training on how to drive a large truck, so first-timers may need time to adjust. Typically the only requirements for renting a moving truck are that the driver be 25 years or older and have a valid driver’s license.

    Truck rental companies usually base their rates on the size of the truck (measured in length from 10-foot to 26-foot trucks), distance of travel, days of use, and insurance. Additional items such as appliance dollies (around $10 for two) and furniture pads (around $10 for a dozen) are optional. Make sure to evaluate the size of your truck against your belongings so you don’t pay for unnecessary space. For instance, if you are moving from Chicago to Pittsburgh, a 17-foot truck (recommended for two-bedroom homes) costs roughly $750 with the recommended add-ons, while the same package with a 20-foot truck (best for three-bedroom homes) runs about $950. Many rental trucks are equipped with a towing apparatus so you can hitch your car along for the ride. Don’t forget to factor in fuel costs.
  • Shipping Container Companies:
    Shipping services such as PODS and Door To Door take the hassle out of transporting your items. The company delivers a storage container to your current home and you specify where you want the company to put the container (e.g., in the driveway or in a designated spot on the street). You pack the container however you like, securing it with your own padlock. On a designated move date, the company returns to pick up your container and ship it to your destination, where you’ll unpack at your leisure. If you don’t know where you will be living in your new city yet, the shipping company often will hold the container at a storage facility. You can store your items for a monthly rate (similar to self-storage lockers), however you cannot access your belongings while they are in storage.

    Prices vary according to the destination and by container size. Containers come in various sizes that usually accommodate between one to three rooms’ worth of stuff—if you need more, you have to rent multiple containers. Keep in mind that these containers take up space, and you are not able to move them on your own. Ideally you should have a driveway or private parking space (both in your departure city and your destination) to accommodate the container for at least a couple days while you load and unload.

Obtain Estimates

Do your due diligence before signing a contract with a moving, truck rental, or shipping company. Obtain at least three shipping cost estimates from different companies in order to ensure the best deal. User-review sites such as Angie’s List can help you find the most reliable companies. You might also ask friends and family on social media for recommendations.

Get Insured

Anything can happen when all of your worldly possessions are packed into one space, speeding down the highway. Although moving companies provide insurance options to protect your belongings, it is important to understand the nuances of each package. The U.S. Department of Transportation outlines typical moving insurance options on its website.

Keep Your Valuables Close

That heirloom Rolex, your grandmother’s pearls, and that 1952 Mickey Mantle rookie baseball card are the types of items you should not send packing with the replaceable dishware. Keep irreplaceable items with you at all times, whether you are driving or flying.

Update Your Information

Moving can be overwhelming, but it is important that you update your information in your new location as soon as possible. You can update recurring bills, such as car and student loans, as well as credit card and bank accounts online or by phone once you secure a new address. As for regular day-to-day mail, this online form alerts the U.S. Postal Service of your address change and will forward your mail for up to a year.
You also will need to obtain a new driver’s license and vehicle registration. Each state sets different timelines. Visit your local DMV to check that off your to-do list and while you’re there, ask for a pamphlet on state driving laws. For example, you might be surprised to find that it is illegal to drive while operating a cellphone in your new state. Do your research and know the laws before you get dinged with a ticket. After you’ve registered, don’t forget to update your car insurance policy.

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by the National Endowment for Financial Education.]