The Best Ways to Handle a Small Move

Amy Pawlukiewicz
Written by Amy Pawlukiewicz
Updated March 9, 2022
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Make your small move a snap with these tips

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Not all moves require you to haul everything in your house across the country. When making these smaller moves, you don’t necessarily need to hire a large-haul or interstate moving company. Here are the best ways to handle a small move.

What’s a Small-Load Move?

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By definition, a small-load move is when you’re hauling a smaller load instead of a whole house. Examples of smaller move types are below.

Studio or One-Bedroom Apartment

If you’re vacating a studio or one-bedroom apartment, you probably don’t have a considerable amount of stuff to take to your next place. You can typically move from a studio or one-bedroom place by renting a truck yourself and—if you need help—hiring one or two handypeople to help carry your items.

First-Time College Move

Moving your kid to college usually means you’re not taking furniture with you since dorms typically supply beds, mattresses, dressers, and desks. You’ll need to pack clothing, smaller items like lamps, and other belongings but nothing that would require the assistance of a moving company. 

Local Move

A new city or even a cross-city move might mean you need to hire a moving company. But what if you’re trading in your home for a property on the next block? Even if you’re moving a house full of furniture, a full-service moving company may be overkill, especially if you’re able to get keys to your new space and gradually transfer everything over on your own time. If you want to knock everything out in one day, renting a van or truck and making a couple of trips could do the trick.

Specialty Move

Purchasing larger specialty items like a piano, dining room set, large appliance, and so on from a company that doesn’t offer delivery or a private seller wouldn’t require you to hire a full-service moving company. However, you may want to consider hiring specialists if you’re hauling something fragile or special.

Small-Load Move Considerations

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Before you decide on a method for your small move, think about these factors so you make the right choice for your situation.

Budget

No matter how much stuff you’re moving, your budget will be the ultimate determining factor in how you choose to move. If you’re working with a smaller budget, renting a van or truck and doing the move yourself may be your best bet. If you have a larger budget, getting a moving container or hiring some pros may help take some stress off your plate.

Distance

How far you’re moving will also determine what kind of method you choose. If you’re taking a smaller amount of items but have to go a long distance, such as an out-of-state or cross-country move, renting a shipping container and having the company ship it will be much easier than driving a truck yourself. For a closer move, like intrastate or within the same city, renting a truck or van may be sufficient.

Timeline

Most of the time when you’re moving, you’re on a set timeline and need to have everything completed by a specific date. But if you have lots of flexibility, moving gradually and taking a few boxes at a time might work for you. If you’re on a compressed timeline, hiring a small moving company will lighten your load—both literally and figuratively.

Storage

Do you have belongings that need to go into storage during the course of this move? Depending on how much you have to put in storage, the simplest way to go is to rent a storage container that the company can come pick up. That way, you can just pack up in your driveway, have the pros haul it and ship it, and have it dropped off when you’re ready. However, if you’re going to need things from your storage space from time to time, you’ll want to rent a self-storage unit you can access on demand.

Methods for Handling a Small Move

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Keeping all the considerations above in mind, here are the best methods for handling a small-load move.

DIY Move With Car 

In some cases, such as a college move, packing up a car or SUV is the most effective and efficient way to get the job done. This is a cost-effective option that’ll allow you the most flexibility in your timeline since you don’t have to worry about returning a rental truck.

DIY Move With Rental Truck

If you need more space, renting a van or truck is also a good option that’ll save you some cash on the labor end. A van rental is usually good for a studio apartment or dorm move, while a small truck can carry the items of a one- or even two-bedroom apartment. Most moving trucks come with moving equipment, like dollys and straps. But be sure to ask the company what they provide when you’re preparing for moving day. Rentals for local moves usually start at around $20, but check with the company near you for their rates.

Storage Container Rental

Storage containers you pack up in your driveway don’t just work for when you’re shipping items off to storage. You can rent these containers, pack them up, and have them shipped to your new home as well. This option usually works well if you’ve got a more open timeline, as you can move things into the container slowly before the company comes to pick it up. While you’re responsible for loading the items yourself, this option takes the stress off of having to move the container from location to location.

Containers come in a range of sizes, usually from 8 feet to 16 feet. Pricing depends on how big the container is, how long you need it, if you’re storing it, and the mileage of the move.

Shipping

Shipping is a good option if you only have a few boxes to send to your new location and don't need an entire shipping container. This option can get expensive if you have a lot of heavy boxes, so it's best reserved for a very small move with lighter items.

Hiring a Moving Company

Hiring a moving company is the easiest way to get any kind of move done. It’s also the most costly way. Pricing will vary based on the size of the move, the mileage, and sometimes even the difficulty of the move, such as if there are flights of stairs involved or narrow pathways. Check with your local moving companies to get an accurate quote.

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