The Cost of Moving Your Stuff (Back) Across the Country

I think I’m done moving for a while.

Photo credit: Rich Moore, CC BY 2.0.

About a year and a half ago, I wrote my first-ever Billfold piece on how much it cost to sell most of my stuff and move the rest of it from Chicago to Portland, Oregon.

The Cost of Moving Your Stuff (And You) Across The Country

I used a variety of DIY methods to make the move happen, ranging from hosting a yard sale to purge my belongings to mailing a box of (broken) drinking glasses to myself. I moved most of my remaining stuff via Amtrak shipping, which was cheap and efficient, but also kind of a pain on the front end because it involved driving a bunch of boxes to Union Station in downtown Chicago.

I arrived in Portland with no furniture. Once I got my apartment, I placed a giant IKEA order for a new bed, a small sofa, a desk chair, and a bunch of square shelving units. (You know the ones. They’re extremely Ikea.) I was really proud of the way I made good use of a small studio space, and was mostly satisfied by how I transported my Chicago belongings.

Then, after two gorgeous Pacific Northwest summers, one depressingly rainy winter, and an expensive unexpected medical crisis, I decided to move again — this time, back to my home state of Ohio. Considering I’d purchased all my furniture a mere 18 months prior, the idea of selling everything all over again was significantly less appealing than it was the first time. I decided to be a grown-up and rent a moving truck.

My dad, giant hero that he tends to be, agreed to help me move back across the country, having also helped move me out to Portland in the first place. The big difference was, this time he drove my moving truck while I drove my car, so we weren’t in the same vehicle. We did get to caravan, though, and made most of our stops together. We also had a lot more fun this time because we allowed ourself eight days to travel instead of five, and we took a nice break in the middle to spend time with friends in Colorado.

With this in mind, here is a breakdown of the cost of moving my stuff (back) across the country.

Cost breakdown:

Moving truck: $622.84! After doing some research, I saw that for my trip, Penske was going to be cheaper than U-Haul. Also, it was a lot cheaper than I thought it would be — I assumed I’d be paying at least a grand for a one-way truck rental for that distance, but it was under $650, which was more than manageable for my plans. This total included fees and (bare minimum) insurance.

Car repairs: What was less manageable was the $1,122.67 I had to sink into my car before leaving town. I took the car in for a tune-up the week before my trip, and more was wrong with it than I realized. Still, I needed to get the repairs done if I wanted to drive across the entire state of Nebraska feeling confident my car wasn’t about to explode. And, much like Meghan’s clunker car story, I’m determined to drive my paid-off car until it completely fails. One way or another, it was coming back across the country with me.

Gas for the truck and my Cavalier: $433.08; Good lord, so much gas. That’s not even counting a couple truck fill-ups my dad paid for. When we drove out in just my car, the gas total was $264.62. Obviously, the gas was going to be a lot more since we were driving two vehicles, but also, those 16-foot trucks have giant tanks. They cost at least $50 for each fill-up.

Hotels: $190, as opposed to $450 like last time. On this trip, we only stayed at two hotels over eight days, thanks to friends who live in Salt Lake City, Fort Collins, Colorado, and Chicago.

Meals on the road: Like we did on the way out to Portland, my dad and I alternated who paid for meals. My share was $229.50. My half of our previous road trip’s meals were only about $150, but we were on the road a few more days this time.

Storage unit in Columbus: $346.29, or $115.43 per month for three months, while I stayed with family and looked for an apartment.

TOTAL: $2,944.38 (as opposed to $1,348.07 spent on the way out)

Ughhhh. Moving to Portland was a wonderful experience, one I wouldn’t trade for anything, but I think I’m done moving for a while, now that I’ve found an apartment in Columbus.

Renting a moving truck is absolutely more expensive, but truly worth it. This time around, I was willing to pay more money for less hassle. It once again comes down to what you can afford to give more of at the time: your money, or your time. When I was leaving Chicago and moving to the West Coast felt fun and exciting, I didn’t mind putting the time into slowing selling off my stuff and paring down. However, if I’d known I was only going to be out there for a little over a year, I’m almost positive I would have rented the truck and kept all my stuff. Hindsight is 20/20.

Meryl Williams is an Ohio-based writer who is chronicling her life as a roller derby girl via her awesome TinyLetter. She loves Rilo Kiley and most cheeses.

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