How to Personally Procure Your Next Move

Most people think that not hiring a moving company means that you have do all the work yourself, but that is not true. Certainly, the cheapest option is the one where you pack your own stuff, move your own boxes, and drive your own truck but there are different options between allowing a moving company to do everything and doing everything yourself. While a Personally Procured Move is a technical term for military members who choose to receive financial compensation from the military rather than moving themselves, this post applies to everyone who is looking to move homes but does not have a company footing the bill.

To Drive or Not to Drive: Moving Truck vs Moving Container

ConsiderationMoving TruckMoving Container
General Cost$500-$2000$1500-$4000
Includes Travel ExpensesNoYes
Needs RampYesNo
Easy StorageNoYes
Car Tow AvailableYesNo
Driving RequiredYesNo
Loading Timeline1-2 Days5-10 Days

If having to pack up and move all yourself was not daunting enough, personally procured moves have traditionally also included driving a large moving truck down highways and through crowded cities. The advent and popularity of moving containers like PODS, U-Pack, and U-Box can remove the need to drive a moving truck. They also offer advantages like significantly more relaxed loading and unloading timelines, loading without use of a ramp, and easier storage. For example, if you are moving to another city but plan on taking a few weeks off in between and want to store your stuff or anticipate house hunting for a few months, a moving container offers a simple solution. You only have to load and unload the moving container a once and pay approximately $100 for storage. By contrast, a moving truck is typically cheaper and is also capable of towing a car behind it. Moving containers companies can sometimes work with car shipping companies for a discount, but typically shipping the car will be another expense.

In either case, both options are compatible with military moves and moving container companies will provide weight tickets (see below) and all the paperwork necessary to complete a do-it-yourself-move. To see how these costs play out in a real-life example, I have pasted the market information I gathered during my move to Los Angeles, California. Obviously, costs vary with distance traveled and time of year, but the table below gives a rough comparison between costs for moving from the three largest companies for moving from Dayton, Ohio to Los Angeles, California. In this example, the moving containers would saves a very long drive, but it is also more expensive.

DetailUHAULUHAUL (U-Box)PODSU-PACK
Price$1906$3200$3400$3742
Gas & Parking500000
Unit20′ Truck3 U-Boxes16′ Container3 ReloCubes
Storage Space1070 ft3771 ft3835 ft3915 ft3
Weight Limit5700600042007500
Military DiscountN/AN/A10%$50
Total$2406$3200$3060$3692
Price comparison for moving from Dayton, Ohio to Los Angeles, CA made in the summer of 2020.

Packing Strategies

Anybody who has watched professional movers work knows how strategic they are. Typically, they come with more boxes and packing supplies than they could possibly need, bring all items to a central place, wrap them with paper, and then pack them. While this method is the most efficient way to pack, some prefer to pack with a mindset to facilitate unpacking and setting up the new home. For this there are two strategies: pack by item or pack by room. The first strategy requires grouping all of the same item and packing them together whereas the second strategy relies on packing a home room by room.

For example, someone may have towels in all the bathrooms, a linen closet, and maybe in a closet with beach supplies. The people who pack a house by items would pack all the towels into the same box whereas people who pack by room would pack the towels as they are packing each bathroom and linen closet. Both strategies can work, but generally packing by room works best when the family is moving between similarly sized homes.

Help Moving

Most moving companies offer different packages for workers to come help you move your stuff. You can typically expect to pay $20-$40 per hour for movers to come help. These packages make a lot of sense if you have bulky items or heavy boxes that might require more muscle. Keep in mind that moves are also a good time to reach out for help to your neighbors, church, or friends that can provide that help for the cost of a pizza and few beers.

Packing Supplies

For packing supplies, you want to have more than you will need. One of the most frustrating things that can happen during a move is the need to constantly go to a local store to pick up more packing supplies. Most military family have boxes from previous moves and you can always ask around to see if you can get moving supplies for free. If you need to purchase moving supplies, you should buy them from a local brick and mortar store so that you can buy slightly more than you think you need and then return the ones you do not use. UHAUL is particularly good about returning unused moving supplies and you can return boxes bought at any store to any other store nationwide for a full refund. In today’s online shopping world, recommending a brick and mortar store might be unusual but it makes returns a lot easier. Just remember to hang on to the receipt.  

Military Paperwork

Previously, the military referred to personally procured moves as do-it-yourself moves, and while the military does not need a reason to change the names of programs periodically, this change was done to reflect the fact that the military member can hire people to help with the move. Regardless of the name change, the military still requires the same paperwork.

Importantly, the military requires weight tickets of your moving truck (or container) empty and full. One ticket must be from the destination while the other must be from the point of origin. The most common publicly certified scales are CAT scales which are at various gas stations.  For the uninitiated, you simply pull onto the scale and if possible you should try to position your truck on to a single weight block. You should call the weigh master with the button on the scale and make sure you give the weigh master the information you want on the ticket. The weighing usually takes 15 seconds and then you pull around to the building to collect your weight ticket.Each weight ticket must contain:

  • Your name, grade, and last four of your social security number
  • Moving Truck/Vehicle identification (Typically Make/Model)
  • Date of weighing
  • Scale name and location
  • Weigh master’s signature
  • Legible weights

According to DOD policy, the truck should be weighed with a full tank and without the military members in the truck. This is a good rule of thumb, but just make sure you are consistent. After the move finishes, then the paperwork wrangling begins. During the move make sure you keep all of your receipts for acceptable expenses to prevent the government from taxing your reimbursement for the moving expenses. For a list of acceptable expense and all the paperwork needed visit the Defense Finance and Accounting Service website for personally procured moves.

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