The logistics of moving without a car
May 10, 2012 8:07 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving in a few months and don't have a car. What are my options?

I'm currently in Philadelphia, and I'll be moving to New England this fall for grad school. I've never moved away for my education, so this'll be a new experience for me in any event. However, it's for a PhD, so the fact that I'll be moving for the next five (hopefully no more) years is intimidating, and it means that I don't really have the option of leaving things with, say, my parents. So all my stuff has to come with me.

I don't have a car or a driver's license; getting either in the meantime is unlikely, to say the least. A friend of mine promised he'd drive the rental truck--I'm confident everything I own can fit in a relatively small one--but now, because of his personal circumstances, it's very likely he won't be able to follow through. Off-hand, I can't think of any other friends who have that kind of flexibility to help out. (He's in academia, so the summer is full of downtime.)

In case I'm left stranded, what are my options for getting my possessions from Philly to New Hampshire? (I'm not worried about transporting myself.) Is it possible to do this relatively cheaply? If anyone has specific moving company suggestions, that'd be helpful too.

Thanks, everyone!
posted by xenization to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Offer a ride on Craigslist rideshare and whatever other popular rideshares there are on the East Coast - provided they drive the U-haul.

Or -- and I suggest this in all seriousness -- leave everything you must keep with your parents, give it away, or put it in storage. Bike to New Hampshire and start over for five years.
posted by aniola at 8:20 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

How much stuff were you planning on bringing? What kind of stuff? Can you pare down enough just to bring a few suitcases? Fresh starts are a great thing; I wish I had a reason like this to do it.
posted by supercres at 8:22 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ship it in a Pod?
posted by COD at 8:40 AM on May 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

ABF Freight also has a couple of options: one that's similar to Pods called ReloCubes that may or may not be cheaper; and also a service where you can pack your stuff into a section of a big-rig trailer that they drive to your destination.

The last time I did a big move, I used ABF. They had a trailer down at their warehouse; I hired a couple of movers to carry my stuff over to the trailer, then unpacked it into the trailer. At the destination city, I did the same thing in reverse. I don't recall the cost, but it was pretty cheap, and more convenient than driving a U-Haul.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 8:55 AM on May 10, 2012

Get rid of as much stuff as possible, either by selling, freecycling, or donating (I did this last year and donated most of my furniture to a charity that actually brought a van and a mover to pick it up!). Purging will keep storage and/or moving fees at the minimum. I'm about to head back, and knowing that I don't have my full apartment's worth of crap waiting for me is wonderful.
posted by smirkette at 9:16 AM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm with the crowd on this one, the cost difference between moving your crap and buying new is surprisingly narrow.

Get as many books as you can on an e-reader, and movies and music on storage devices made for that kind of thing. All the rest can be packed up in small boxes and shipped Media rate via the USPS.

Now, what do you have left? Clothes? Furniture? Household crap?

I'm guessing that if you've been a student for the past few years, none of any of this stuff is really great quality. Dump it all. Sell it if you can, donate the rest. Nothing made with particle board should be moved. As for bedding, have you heard the stories about bed bugs? Just forget it. Let it all go.

The remainder should fit nicely in a couple of army surplus dufflebags.

Now that you're footloose and fancy free of stuff. Now, between selling stuff, and what you've saved on your move, you've probably got about $2,000 in spending money.

Hit Target, Ikea and Wal-Mart and buy new some bedding, towels, a bed and a desk.

Now you can do it in reverse, haunt yard sales, moving sales and Craigslist in your new location for all the extras.

The bonus is now you're not trying to fit specific furniture into a new space. You're free to take any lodging you fancy because you don't have to worry about getting your bed up the stairs, or fitting that dresser in that weird corner.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:38 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Start working on your driver's license regardless of whether you think you can get it in time. Situations like this will keep happening in life, and not having the license is just making yourself more helpless, instead of less.

Like James Bond, you want your education to be a broad toolkit so you easily adapt to any situation.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:31 AM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I moved from New York to California for grad school a few years ago with no car. I gave away/threw out all of my furniture and a lot of other possessions. The big stuff I couldn't bear to part with (Italian gelato maker I used for research for my senior thesis, Kitchenaid mixer, good pots and knives, some nice linens I inherited) I fedexed (weird, I know) to myself in CA- which was less expensive than I thought it was going to be, about $160 for 5 big-ish boxes. The books and movies I sent to myself via USPS media mail (like Ruthless Bunny said), which was VERY inexpensive (I want to say something like $30 for about 100+ pounds of books in 5 boxes but I don't recall exactly) and worthwhile as I had a lot of very nice books I wanted to keep and it would have been prohibitively expensive to ebook them all.

Then, when I got to California I got everything else at IKEA- Bed, couch, kitchen table, some linens, etc. Looks like the closest to you will be IKEA Stoughton but you might be able to get delivery/a ride by a fellow grad student. There's always craigslist, especially if its a college town.

It was amazingly cathartic to start fresh without the moving-vans part.
posted by zingiberene at 12:13 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I did pretty much exactly what zingiberene did in your situation (MA to DC): sold/got rid of/stored in my parents' house everything big. FedExed some kitchen stuff, clothes, bedding, toiletries, some small personal things. Media mailed my books. Mailing everything was less than $500, and I mailed something like 12 boxes of stuff and 7 wine boxes of books. (The best was shoving my cast iron dutch oven, filled with several of my tools wrapped in dish towels, into one of those USPS flat rate boxes. They were NOT pleased, but it made it intact.) After I moved I went to IKEA and bought an apartment (literally--couch, bed, dresser, table & chairs, kitchen gear, lamps, etc). I kept things really spare for quite a while and just added small things as I found I really needed them.

I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was the best way to move and it was SO FUN to start over.
posted by min at 6:28 PM on May 10, 2012

U-Hal has (or at least used to have) a message board where people could share trailers and trucks. I just looked on the site and didn't see it, but it may be worth investigating for more than 2 minutes (like I did).
posted by mrfuga0 at 8:53 PM on May 10, 2012

Also like zingiberene, I shipped all my stuff from NY to CA - books, music, clothes, even a bicycle.
I used UPS, and they broke the bike, but they paid to fix it. I donated my bed to my roommates, some shelving to another friend, chairs to another friend, and painfully tossed a bunch of papier-mache costumes from a party in the trash (first taking photos, of course). It was a lot of boxes, 20 or so, but cheaper than a moving company.

I bet if you could find a friend of a friend to drive, especially if you promised a floor to sleep on - then you could possibly have him/her return the truck to the same place and just do a two day rental, plus mileage and gas. Let people know you're in a bind. Be careful, of course - could you take a 3rd friend, or family member to help you move?

"that kind of flexibility" - you can get to almost anywhere in New England and back to Philly in a weekend. It's, what, 8 hrs to Brunswick, Me? So if you left at 5am on Saturday, your friend could be home by midnight Saturday. I'm just saying....
posted by at at 4:48 AM on May 11, 2012

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