The True Cost of Moving

Moving to a new city or town can involve costs that exist far beyond simple finances. For the 40 million Americans who relocate annually, many will be forced to juggle standard moving costs (such as rent, utilities, and security deposit), additional costs (home improvement and grocery store trips), and the stress of the process all at once. As a result, many turn to friends and family to offset the work and costs associated with moving.

Figuring out a plan for moving can be time-consuming and hard to manage, so many people ask for help. Due to job changes, family demands, or personal reasons, people often need to relocate—an experience that can be painful for loved ones and the mover’s wallet at the same time.

To find out what the average person deals with and spends during a move, we surveyed 963 people who have moved at least once in the past five years to determine collective experiences and feelings while relocating to a new place. What do people spend, on average, during a move? And what advice do people have for those who are about to move for the first time?

Read on to uncover all of our findings (and review a handy checklist) below.

The money involved in moving

Average total spent on the moving process, by resident and dwelling type The average apartment move required $1,427 for first and last month's rent plus an $870 security deposit, compared to the average house move requiring a $28,152 down payment plus $4,016 in closing costs.

By far, the expense that made the biggest dent in our respondents’ moving budget was new furniture and decor costs, amounting to an average of $1,818 per move. Other costs that respondents spent the most on during a recent move involved hiring movers and shipping items from an old home to a new one, totalling $903 and $874, respectively.

Someone who chooses to move by themselves will avoid these costs. However, for people who live alone and have a lot to transport, a professional moving company is oftentimes the only way to go. Innovations in the industry are bringing high-tech solutions into the moving sphere, including more advanced tracking methods and more diligent trip updates, which will hopefully result in more ease of moving for people looking to make the process as painless as possible

When people move to a new place for a fresh start, they tend to change up other aspects of their lives too. As a result, someone may feel a desire to shake up their surroundings with new home decor pieces and furniture to arrange a new house, which allows these costs to add up quickly.

Moving budgets included various compensation for help they may have received, and they were likely to not forget the people who helped during their time of need: respondents made sure to compensate moving help with a drink or two, with the average set aside for alcohol totaling $32 in refreshments.

Helping hands

Did anyone help you move?

Nearly half of all respondents had help moving from friends and family, a crutch that we tend to rely on when dealing with relocation. While 21.5 percent of respondents did compensate their loved ones financially (with an average of an $80 payout), nearly triple the number of respondents (58.3 percent) were likely to cover food costs for their friends or family.

One of the reasons people don’t hire a moving company is to keep costs low. As a result, more respondents were likely to compensate their friends with food or alcohol. This is a micro-example of work exchange, the act of someone putting in work in exchange for various compensation offers (like meals). This concept is not new, as a majority of survey respondents of all generations compensated moving help with food.

Helping a friend or loved one during a move can strengthen your friendship and assist someone in a major task that they likely couldn’t complete by themselves, which isn’t the worst way to spend an afternoon. Still, a quarter of respondents tackled the feat alone.

If the opportunity presents itself and you are available, offering that helping hand (even in exchange for pizza and beer) could be doing your friend a massive favor. However, if some respondents were able to go back in time, they may have reconsidered the low-cost help and opted for a professional job.

15.6% of people wished they had hired professionalsfor their last move.

Even though moving companies led to issues with broken items for 20 percent of respondents, 30 percent admitted that their friends and family members were the ones to damage items during a move. Since this help is usually low- or no-cost, these accidents are much more acceptable, versus a professional company that is tasked to take care of your precious housewares and furniture.

Despite the risk involved with moving companies, over 15 percent of respondents regretted taking the moving process alone and would have hired movers if they could go back. There are many costs associated with moving, and vetting your moving company can help prevent beloved items from breaking (and becoming yet another cost).

The unseen emotional toll of moving

The unseen emotional toll of moving

Regardless if someone is embarking on a new journey or moving due to reasons out of their control, not all relocations result in a happy ending, especially if loved ones are separated due to the move. Fewer than 1 in 3 people who moved away from someone they loved or cared for were left in emotional turmoil after their move, calling the process “very or extremely stressful.”

Respondents who didn’t leave anyone behind were most likely to say their move wasn’t too bad, with 2 in 5 people surveyed saying their experience was only “slightly stressful.” This would account for the typical stressors that come from moving. However, respondents who reported having to leave behind a loved one were more likely to consider the process to be stressful (33.3 percent), very stressful (22.1 percent), or extremely stressful (11.4 percent).

Women were twice as likely as men to say that their move was extremely stressful (the highest level of stress our survey allowed respondents to select). Recent research shows that women tend to stress out over the minutiae, the small things, and the unrealistic possibilities of the future more than men, and moving can fall into those categories easily. It’s a major event that’s rife with checklists, which can become overwhelming.

One variable that can impact someone’s overall happiness during a move concerns the end destination, such as the location or the home itself. Our survey respondents were 7 times more likely to say they were unhappy when they moved into a smaller home, perhaps indicating that most people relocated due to financial necessity and not for downsizing due to retirement or financial comfortability.

Moving advice from respondents

Moving advice from respondents

In terms of avoiding unnecessary costs, respondents were in agreement that moving boxes were a waste of money and time. There are dozens of stores and companies that you can get free boxes from, so be creative and ask your local grocery store first before spending money on boxes. Better yet, save the boxes you move with (if you have the space), break them down, and keep them for the next relocation. Your future self will be thankful.

Across all age groups, one common thread seemed to be in agreement: Plan your move effectively. Most people think about getting everything packed up in boxes and organized by room, but our respondents didn’t consider things like unplugging and defrosting the fridge or freezer ahead of time and updating their voter registration and driver’s license with their new address.

Tips for stress-free moving

Moving can be tough, so follow these steps to ensure the most painless process you can:

  • Make a list to ensure important tasks do not fall to the wayside.
  • Start planning right away and begin sorting items that you plan to keep, donate, sell, give to friends, or throw away.
  • Start the packing process as early as possible.
  • Tell your loved ones in advance that you’ll be needing their help. With enough time, they might even feel up to planning a going-away party and won’t mind as much when you ask for help.
  • Call ahead and set up any new utilities or services you want to be turned on for when you arrive. Who wants to arrive at their new home and not have water or power?

Don’t forget to go over your new home checklists as well to make sure you are taking care of the important things during your adjustment.


While many people are inspired to move by a desire to change locations or seek out warmer weather, not all relocations are the same. Some are fraught with tears and painful goodbyes. Some represent embarking on a solo adventure.

Approach your moves with a clear mind and a clear focus on the costs. If friends and family are able to help, that will be a huge benefit to you. However, if you want to trust the pros with the process, head over to Porch to find a professional moving company that is right for you. When you arrive at your new destination, Porch can also assist in any home renovation projects you plan to undertake.

Methodology and limitations

The results of the above study were gained via a survey run on the Amazon Mechanical Turk service. There were 963 participants total: 235 baby boomers (with a margin of error of 6 percent), 349 Gen Xers (with a 5 percent margin of error), and 379 millennials (with a 5 percent margin of error). Of these participants, 433 identified as men, 525 identified as women, and five chose to identify as neither.

The data were calculated to exclude outliers for all responses regarding costs. We did this by finding initial averages and standard deviations for each question asked regarding how much was spent for a certain expense. Then, the standard deviation was multiplied by either two or three and added to the initial average. Any data point above that calculated number was then excluded from the data.

To qualify for this survey, respondents had to have moved to a new home within the last five years. All data presented in the study rely on self-report. There are a few issues that may come with self-reported data, such as telescoping or exaggeration. An attention check was given to respondents to ensure that they were not answering randomly. If they failed the attention check, they were not allowed to continue with the survey.

Fair use statement

Feel free to share the results of this survey (for noncommercial purposes) with your friends and family while they help you move, and tell them you appreciate them. Speaking of appreciation, please link back to this page and cite us when mentioning these findings.

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