How much does a do it yourself move cost in New York City

by Paul Lenkiewicz

Doing the move yourself is going to be the most affordable way to relocate in NYC in almost all cases. There are some things you need to keep in mind while preparing for your move if you are not hiring professionals, that you may not think about. In this post, we are going to outline the cost of moving on your own, the challenges you will face and ways to solve those challenges.

How much does a do it yourself move cost?

If you are doing on your own, there are several things you will need in order for the move to go smoothly. If you are only moving your personal items, and no furniture, you should be able to get a rental SUV for the day with unlimited mileage and make as many trips as you want. The advantage of having a car as opposed to a truck is that it will be easier to maneuver, and it will actually handle your items better if they are not packed well. The disadvantage is that you will likely need to make multiple trips, and some large items may not fit. Think about tall lamps, long rugs, large TV – if they are not fitting in a rental SUV or your own vehicle, you should likely go for a truck. Likewise, if you have a ton of items in your home (2 bedroom move or bigger), you are probably signing up for disaster without a truck, even if you are not taking your furniture. So the natural next piece of advice is: rent a truck.

Cost of renting a truck to move on your own

U-Haul rental rates in NYC are generally advertised around $19.99 for in-town moves. This is generally true, however, keep in mind you also have to pay for taxes, basic insurance, and mileage (at around $2/mile).

  • Mileage – Let’s say your pickup and delivery are about 5 miles apart and the nearest rental location is 5 miles away as well. This makes for about a 15-mile round trip, plus some burn (circling the block looking for parking, going to the gas station, etc.) Let’s round it up to 20 miles, or about $40. You should use Google maps to map out the nearest uHaul location and your pickup and delivery to get the exact number, then add a few miles.
  • Taxes and Insurance – This varies with which rental company you select, and what kind of coverage you take. It is generally advisable to skip the additional coverage for the truck, so only with the basic requirements, you should budget about $20 extra for a small move. Additional coverage for incidentals can cost around $50.
  • Gas – Most rental trucks will not get great gas mileage. Furthermore, gas may be a misnomer. Many uHaul trucks run on regular gasoline, however, there are also many rentals that will require Diesel. It is almost always cheaper to return the truck with the same amount of gas as you got it with, instead of paying for them to refuel (which they will do at like $5/gallon rate). Most of the 15′ and above GMC trucks will not get more than 10 MPG in the city. If you get a small van or a diesel truck, you may average slightly higher but not by much. Even for the smallest of moves, you should budget $10 for the gas tank.
  • Tolls – This is probably the most overlooked aspect of renting a truck in NYC metro area. Most crossings have a toll, and if you pay attention, trucks pay double or more than a passenger vehicle. This includes any commercial plates vehicle, even the rental pickup trucks in most cases. You can find the current schedule of tolls for trucks on the MTA site here. You should look at the “tolls by mail 2 axle” section. For example, crossing the Verazzano is $38.00. There are similar tolls for tunnels and bridges going to NJ. Midtown tunnel or Battery tunnel (now Hugh L. Carrey tunnel) are $19.00.
  • Parking – if you are going to leave this truck anywhere near downtown Manhattan (South of approx. 56th street) on a weekday, you better be prepared to pay the commercial meters. They are not cheap, and an hour will cost about $5.00. This may or may not apply to outer boroughs as well. You can leave the truck on “NO PARKING” zones, including fire hydrants, but only if someone is active around the truck to keep an eye on it. “NO STANDING” zones mean you will get a ticket even if you are in or around the truck, ready to move. These usually have RED SIGNS, and include bus stops, bike lanes, and corners. Most of the parking tickets you will receive will cost you $115.
Uhaul moving truck rental rates
Uhaul truck rental rates from their website 12/4/2019

In total, despite the base rate of only about $19.99, renting a truck for even the shortest of distances will likely run you around $70. If you are moving interborough or across town, the total average will likely go up to around $150-$200 for the day. Keep in mind you do not have to use Uhaul! Shop around at Penske, Budget, Enterprise Trucks or Ryder which are the major companies. Since about 2010, a number of small local truck renting companies have popped up which do often have better rates. Check Google Maps for a local business near you.

Materials for a do it yourself move

Whether you use a moving company or move on your own, you will likely need boxes, tape, wrapping paper etc. to do your pack. For the purposes of this post I will skip this part. When moving yourself what you need to think about is how to protect your furniture. By the way, this isn’t only important to protect your belongings. Furniture pads also prevent damage to property. If you scuff up the walls or floor of your apartment or the hallways in either your origin or destination location, you better believe that your super will come after you for that, and unfortunately for all of us, even minor wall scuffs can cost a few hundred dollars to repair by a professional.

Dozen of moving pads rental will cost approximately $10.00. Each dolly is about $7. You will need tape to secure the pads to your furniture as well. Two dozens pads, and 2 dollies, 6-pack of tape which is likely the minimum even a small move would require, will cost an additional $40.00. It is worth it to note that the rental companies’ blankets are of significantly worse quality than what the movers would use. Those cost approximately $120-$150 a dozen to purchase, and as far as I know most companies do not rent them out.

Labor for your move

We covered the truck and materials above. For a small move, you may only be spending about $110 for the truck and materials which is an unbeatable bargain. Now, you have to drive the truck, find the parking spaces, and load and unload it. You always have the option to call in the favors with your friends and throw everything in and out of the truck as quickly as possible. This will likely make you less popular with your friends, or catch up with you and require you to return the favor in the future. You also need to consider some pitfalls of this approach:

  • Parking tickets – as I already mentioned, they are $115, and if you find yourself driving the truck, and running in and out of the apartment to help direct everyone, get the keys, set things up, etc. etc. odds are that you will end up with an orange envelope at the end of the day (or more than 1!)
  • Damage to property – inexperienced and often unmotivated friends will likely be doing more talking than moving, and even the smallest mistake can lead to a dent in the wall or the floor than can end up costing you hundreds of dollars to repair. All that money you just saved? Gone.
  • Damage to your items – you can’t really blame a group of your friends for dropping the box full of glasses or banging your sofa into a banister.
  • Not enough help – you cannot expect too much from people you are not paying for help. If someone cancels on you last minute, you may end up having to call last-minute help which is almost always more expensive. Likewise, you may just overestimate how good your friends are at moving, and that heavy sleeper sofa may not have anyone strong enough to handle.
  • Making two trips – if you do not know how to pack the truck, everything may not fit, and you end up making two trips. Effectively close to doubling the cost, and time the move will take.
CityMove has great offers for labor only moves
Use to get offers from experienced local movers to help you load and unload your truck

The smartest thing you can do is hire helpers to load and unload your moving truck

Typically, 2 helpers will cost approximately $200-$400 for 2-4 hours of help loading and unloading the truck. This leaves you to deal with the logistics of the day, and will get you someone who knows how to wrap the furniture up, how to pack it in your truck. Unless you have done your move many times over, have very limited number of items to move or you have some really reliable and fit friends, this is a really great deal. You can post your load and unload only move on CityMove, and get offers from local professionals to help you. CityMove is a platform where you can describe how many items you are planning to use, specify that you only need help loading and unloading (no truck), and get offers from hundreds of local NYC companies to compete for your business. Your personal information is completely anonymous until you decide to pick one of the offers.

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