Understanding Moving Costs and Insurance

Be sure to budget for things you might not have thought of, like storage, hotel stays, and more.

Moving into a new home opens up a world of fresh possibilities, once you get over the giant hurdle of relocating all your stuff. You can minimize the hassles and costs of moving by planning ahead—and by using helpful discounts from your AAA Membership.

What costs should I consider when moving?

Whether you hire movers, use a container service, or rent a truck, you’ll want to budget for moving expenses.

Here are some typical moving costs to keep in mind:

  • Moving services. The cost of a professional mover depends on factors such as the distance of your move, the total weight of your belongings, and the characteristics of your current and future digs (such as stairs, a steep driveway, or narrow doorways).
  • Large item fees. Some movers charge extra for handling large, heavy, or awkward items, such as a piano or a ping-pong table. When asking for a price quote, tell the moving company about any such items to avoid surprise fees.
  • Moving truck rental. You can save money with a DIY move, but make sure you understand all the fees associated with renting a truck, including per-mile charges and car-towing fees.
  • Packing supplies. If you’ll be packing your belongings yourself, you may need boxes, packing paper, bubble wrap, tape, markers, and labels.
  • Specialized movers. Specialized movers are trained to pack and handle valuable items that require extra care, such as antiques, artwork, or medical equipment. Ask your moving company if they have a team that provides this service; if not, consider hiring a specialty mover for these items.
  • Pet boarding. It’s best to keep your fur baby from being underfoot during the move. This may mean boarding Fluffy for a day or two.
  • Temporary storage. Need to vacate your current home before your new place is available? You’ll have to stow your stuff in short-term storage. (This will likely add to your moving services or moving truck rental costs as well.)
  • Hotel costs. If your move can’t be completed in one day, you may need somewhere to stay overnight or longer.
  • Moving insurance. Check to see whether your homeowners or renters insurance policy covers your property in transit. If not, consider a moving insurance policy that protects your personal belongings from being lost or damaged during the move.

Should I hire a mover, use a storage container, or rent a truck?

Generally, the more work you’re willing to do yourself, the more money you can save. Here we break down several approaches to moving, and outline the costs associated with each.

Full-service moving company

  • How it works: Professional movers pack and load your belongings onto their truck, drive them to your destination, and unload them into your new home. For in-city moves, book two weeks in advance. If you’re moving to another state, try to book 12 weeks out.
  • Estimated cost: A local move ranges from $800 to $2,000 for a four-bedroom house, according to HomeAdvisor, and roughly $1,000 per room for a cross-country move, depending on factors like the weight and bulk of your belongings, how far you’re moving, and the time of year. To save money, get estimates from several movers and negotiate. You’ll get the best deal if you book in advance, and if you move in the middle of the month or the middle of the week. For additional savings, pack your own boxes.

Moving van rental

  • How it works: You pack and load your possessions into a rented moving van, drive the van to your destination, and unload your belongings into your new home.
  • Estimated cost: From $20 to around $150 for a local move (usually based on a day rate plus mileage) to between $500 and $1,700 for a long-distance move (generally based on the number of days you’ll have the truck and miles). A roundtrip rental is usually the least expensive option if you’re moving within a city, while a one-way rental, and potential associated fees, is likely for long-distance moves.

Moving and storage container rental

  • How it works: You rent a container, pack your belongings, and load them into the container yourself. The container company moves the container to your new home, where you unload it. Several companies give you a month or more to pack and/or unpack your storage container.
  • Estimated cost: From $70 to $5,000, depending on the size and weight of your belongings and the distance traveled.

Are moving costs tax-deductible?

No. People relocating for work used to be able to deduct moving expenses from their federal income taxes. But U.S. tax reform—namely, the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—discontinued the deduction. The only exception is for military personnel with special circumstances. (The moving expenses deduction might reappear in tax year 2026, unless Congress decides to continue its exclusion.)

However, some states, including California, Hawaii, and Arizona still allow moving expenses to be deducted or excluded on state taxes.

Will my employer cover my moving costs?

Maybe. If you need to relocate for a job, the company may offer you a relocation package that either covers all moving expenses or pays a specific dollar amount. A relocation package can include reimbursement for home-search expenses (such as transportation and hotel costs), real estate commissions and closing costs, packing and moving expenses, and the cost of getting yourself to your new city.

If you’re accepting a new job and would like to negotiate for a better relocation package than what you’re initially offered, do it before you accept the position. Once you’ve reached an agreement, make sure to get it in writing.

How can I save on moving costs?

Here are some tips for reducing your moving expenses:

  • Shop around. If you’re hiring professional movers, the American Moving & Storage Association recommends getting written, “in-home” estimates from three different moving companies. For these estimates, a representative visits your home to gauge the situation rather than providing a guestimate over the phone. Some companies can do a virtual home survey that you complete yourself.
  • Move mid-month. Most people move at the beginning or end of the month, so booking your moving service in the middle, when the demand is lower, can cost less. Choosing a weekday over the busy weekend can also help cut costs.
  • Use your AAA discounts. AAA Members get a discount with Consumers Relocation Services, which compares quotes from various movers, coordinates shipping vehicles, and offers personal assistance for other aspects of your move. For a full-service move, Atlas Van Lines offers a moving discount, plus full-value protection for your belongings. (AAA Members who book with Atlas Van Lines save $600 on average.) For a do-it-yourself move, Penske offers savings too. AAA Members get 12 percent off the daily rate for one-way and local Penske truck rentals, plus discounts on packing and moving supplies. If you’re packing yourself, The UPS Store offers discounts on boxes, tape, and markers. Need a storage unit? Self Storage Finders and SpareFoot can help you find a local storage unit and provide discounts to AAA Members. SpareFoot users receive the first month’s storage free, and get a $20 Amazon gift card.

What is the best way to pack?

Follow these packing tips for a smooth transition:

  • Sell or donate some of your things. Hold a yard sale or use online selling platforms such as Craigslist and Nextdoor to sell belongings that you don’t need, or give them to your favorite nonprofit organization. Your lightly used clothing, furniture, appliances, electronics, and other items may serve a greater purpose in someone else’s household—and you’ll avoid bringing unnecessary clutter to your new home. Paring down could also lower your moving costs.
  • Recycle or trash your junk. Need to recycle or trash large items? Some waste management providers will schedule a one-time pick up for free. If not, contact a junk removal service to pick it up. (AAA Members get a 10 percent discount when using 1-800-GOT-JUNK.) Note: Hazardous waste such as electronics, motor oil, and paint may require alternate disposal.
  • Tell your mover about unusual stuff. Large and odd-shaped items—swing sets, intricate light fixtures, welded sculptures—may call for special handling. Let the movers know if you have a plasma TV, or anything that needs to be stored in a climate-controlled environment, such as a wine collection.
  • Consider moving precious personal items yourself. This could include family photos and heirloom jewelry with sentimental and/or monetary value.
  • Plan for transporting your plants. You’ll have the most control over their care if you move them yourself. Professional movers will relocate plants under certain circumstances, so talk to your mover. If you’re moving out of state, your plants may need to be inspected for pests before crossing state lines. Check with the state agriculture department at your destination (and any state you plan to drive through along the way).
  • Photograph your electronics setup. Before packing up your gear, take a photo of the wiring and cable configurations to use as a guide while setting them up in your new home. Consider using colored tape to mark cables and the corresponding device inputs and outputs.
  • Label every box. As you pack, label each box with a unique name and the room where it goes in your new home. Then make a list of each box and the items in it, either on the box or on a master list.
  • Mark boxes to unpack first. Note which containers hold items you’ll need right away, such as bedding, towels, and dishes.

What is moving insurance?

Professional movers are federally mandated to carry two kinds of insurance that covers your belongings in the event that anything gets damaged or lost during your relocation. Look for an A+ rated company that either offers goods-in-transit insurance or allows you to purchase coverage through them.

If you buy full value protection from your mover, any lost or damaged items will be repaired or replaced. The cost is typically less than 1.5 percent of whatever you think your possessions are worth. Let’s say that’s $75,000. You would pay $1,125 or less for coverage.

If you opt for released value protection, which is free, your coverage will be minimal. This type of policy pays 60 cents per pound per item. That means if the mover drops and breaks your 30-pound flat-screen TV, you’ll get only $18 to put toward a new one. You can supplement this policy by purchasing third-party liability coverage. In that case, your mover would pay up to 60 cents per pound for damaged or lost items, then your liability coverage would kick in.

Bottom line: Make sure that your coverage is equal to or greater than the value of your personal property.

Do I need moving insurance?

Your renters or homeowners insurance policy may offer coverage for losses that occur when your belongings are being relocated. It’s still best to purchase goods-in-transit coverage from your mover. If anything is lost or damaged during a move and you file a claim through your homeowners insurance, your annual premium may go up.

What does moving insurance cover?

Moving insurance typically covers the bulk of your belongings. However, always ask about a policy’s exclusions. For example, not all policies cover valuables such as antiques, jewelry, or wine. You may be able to purchase a floater policy to cover these items.

Where can I learn more about moving insurance?

Get answers to frequently asked insurance questions here.

The content provided in this article is for informational purposes only. AAA of Northern California, Nevada & Utah makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this or any article on the AAA website.