Moving sucks. Can't I just fast-forward through the next 2 months?
February 6, 2016 11:53 AM   Subscribe

I need advice for moving across the country, from Oregon to South Carolina. Difficulty level: dog, cat, rabbit, kid, 2 cars, 2 scooters, and a 2-car garage full of tools.

I accepted a faculty tenure-track position at a University in South Carolina. Yay! Now we have to move there from Oregon. Boo! The last time I did a cross-country move I had a dog, a van, and an unabridged dictionary, and not much else. Things are more complicated now.

We have a 4-bedroom house full of furniture that I'm not overly attached to, so I'm really considering just dumping it all and buying new furniture in SC. But my spouse, who is a woodworker and works as a general handyman, has SO MANY TOOLS. Also, he has two Vespas that he refuses to part with.

We have two cars, a 2015 Kia Soul and a 2002 Focus. Spouse thinks I should get rid of the Focus before we go, and buy a new car at the other end. I hate the idea of another car payment.

We also have a 5-year-old, a German Shepherd, a cat, and a rabbit.

Financially, it's going to be pretty tight. I have only $1000 relocation reimbursement (I know, I know, wtf) and spouse doesn't have a job there yet. We're selling our house, and the proceeds will be enough to pay off our mortgage, pay the realtors, put a down payment on a new house, and pay closing costs, but not much left over, maybe a couple grand. I have a few thousand in savings but don't want to touch it because though I think spouse will find a job quickly, what if he doesn't?

We are moving in the second half of March, come hell or high water, because I start April 1.

If you were me, what would you do?
posted by rabbitrabbit to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
We have a 4-bedroom house full of furniture that I'm not overly attached to, so I'm really considering just dumping it all and buying new furniture in SC.

That may cost you more than movers to move cross country. First, you'd have the hassle of selling your stuff (or just dumping it, in which you wouldn't get any money for it); second, you'd have the expense of re-buying everything. I'd look into a POD and first, make a large spreadsheet outlining the cost-benefit ratio of selling all my stuff vs. just moving it. If money is tight, maybe you should keep what you have? Then again, if it's old and you have the means to buy new or gently used stuff anyway, maybe that's an option. Hard to know without the details, but I'm inclined to think that it would be more cost effective to have movers do it than buy all new furniture. Especially if you already have two Vespas, two cars, a kid, pets, etc... how can you do this without movers?

I do agree with your spouse about getting rid of (selling?) the 2002 Focus, because driving a 14-year-old car that far sounds to me like it would wear it out. I had a Subaru that I drove cross-country and that 2,500 mile drive completely did it in, costing me more money in the long run and I ended up with a car payment anyway, which was actually more cost effective than dumping a ton of money into the old one. YMMV.

My only data point is that I, too, moved cross country ... but like you, I only had a few things. No kids, no dogs, no furniture.

Good luck! Have you looked at previous AskMe questions? Might be helpful to see what others have done in the past.
posted by onecircleaday at 12:11 PM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Personally, I would sell all the furniture on Craigslist and then hopefully South Carolina has an Ikea so you can replace it cheaply. And then I'd either ship everything to myself or fly with extra bags...

However, given that you want to move with Vespas and some pretty big stuff anyway, I honestly think your cheapest option may be to rent a truck and drive it all the way there yourself. Given the stuff you plan on bringing with you, I don't really see how paying someone else to transport it for you makes financial sense if your budget is small. You can rent an actual truck, or they have those trailers you can rent and attach to the back of your car. It won't be a fun drive -- even just moving with my normal car, I've moved with everything I owned packed into my car and I was the slowest driver on the road and nervous the whole time, but I was slow and steady and got there safely. (For what it's worth, whenever I looked at PODS and similar services, the price was way too high for me, but I also didn't own anything particularly valuable. I've moved across country a couple times.)

If you're willing to shed the major items, I would just ship smaller stuff to yourself. Tools and stuff are going to cost more than clothes, yes, but I shipped a large luggage 3,000 miles that was absolutely packed with clothes for $80 via FedEx. I think I've heard that Greyhound is a cheaper shipping option - might be worth doing some price shopping. Also, on Southwest, you get two checked bags free + a carry-on, and then you pay $75 per extra bag and/or $75 for each bag that is over 50 pounds. Maybe one of you flying with extra luggage is an option.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:35 PM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Even the smallest move cross country is going to hit the $2,000 mark (we recently moved our son from his one bedroom apartment in CA to Alabama, the cost was a bit over 2 grand without having to move scooters or an extra car).

$1K isn't going to go far in this situation.

This page by U-Haul gives you some info on cost for a truck (and also talks about U-pack, where you pack and load and unload, they drive)...

Honestly, you're not going to move all your stuff for $1K, but the replacement cost is going to be significant as well. You may want to look into floating a loan to get your stuff the long run it may be cheaper...
posted by HuronBob at 12:40 PM on February 6, 2016

Make an inventory of what you need, sell what you don't, donate what you can't sell, rent a trailer/truck, haul everything yourself?
posted by 0cm at 12:45 PM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

If it helps, since you're moving for a job, you get a tax credit for moving expenses. That helped a lot when I moved my one bedroom Oregon to Mississippi for ~$3K.

ABF UPack is probably going to be the most cost-effective. You pay by the linear foot of a semi trailer. It will almost certainly be cheaper than driving it there yourself.

It may be worth it to sell furniture if your stuff isn't super-nice and/or you're willing to buy used stuff after you move. I had better luck selling on facebook groups than craigslist - less flaking, more people seemed to be on there in my area.
posted by momus_window at 12:56 PM on February 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you do decide to take both cars, there are services that will put your vehicle on a carrier and take it cross country for you. We did this when we moved from central NJ to Austin in late 2007. My husband made all the arrangements, so I don't have a recommendation off the top of my head, but I can tell you it's pricey. We paid about $900 to move his car (and took three kitties in mine, which was larger).
posted by immlass at 1:45 PM on February 6, 2016

I've never done a move this big, but my parents have moved cross-country twice in the past few years, so I have some idea of what works and what doesn't. Very similar difficulty level: 2 dogs, 1-3 cats, 1 kid, 2 cars (one new and nice, one less so), trying to do it on the cheap. No scooters or garage full of tools, but my mom is a big packrat so they definitely had a volume issue.

Both times, they rented a ginormous moving truck and towed one of the cars behind it. One person drove the truck while the other followed in the car. My brother rotated between truck and car, as did the dogs. I think the cats had to stay in their kennels (see below) in the truck since the car wasn't big enough for the kennels. Obviously this worked pretty well, or they wouldn't have done it the second time.

Important lessons: Avoid the bigger mountains out west, since they can be hard to cover in such a huge truck, and consider long-range walkie-talkies - my parents got separated somewhere in Kansas I think and there was no cell reception - apparently it was very harrowing.

Also both times, they used a POD for stuff they wanted to bring with them but wouldn't need for the first month of so.

Important lessons: For their first move, they were moving to a teeny-tiny small town and so the closest POD hub was like seven hours away. Which meant doing a lot of driving to get the POD, when they were thoroughly not feeling long car rides. So if you do a POD or similar, I'd try to get it delivered to your new place or to a very nearby hub.

They also spent a lot of time scoping out pet-friendly hotel/motel chains in advance, so when they started getting tired they could plan to stop at the next #HOTEL they saw. They say the dogs handled both moves really well; the cats, naturally, were really pissed off about the whole ordeal. They had the cats in big dog kennels; each kennel had a litter box (bungee-corded into place) and food/water dishes. Having the same unloading and reloading routine at hotels helped keep the dogs happy and the cats from becoming murderous, too.

I think you're right to not want to use your savings for this, or at least not all of your savings. I think my parents used the cash leftover after selling their house and a bit of credit, both times, and that seems to have been fine.

Good luck! I don't envy you guys the move but congrats on the new job!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 2:05 PM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

We used ABF cubes when we moved 600 miles. You can fit a LOT of stuff in the cubes if you pack wisely. I think if you are willing to part with some of your furniture, especially bigger or non-dismantlable items, this might be the best matrix of relatively cheap and not horrible for you.

You can also hire local movers to pack/unpack the cubes on either end if you don't want to. We packed it on our end to save a little cash. It's doable, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you are willing to get some stuff broken (ours didn't, amazingly, but we knew we took the risk without having professional padding).

*make sure you bring emergency water supplies for you and pets in case a huge storm knocks out power along a wide swath of your route and no stores are open and it's 95 degrees. Ask me how I know.
posted by nakedmolerats at 2:16 PM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you're worried about car payments, buy another 2002 Ford Focus on the other side. You're going to need the money asap, and you don't need the expense and worry of moving a 14 year old car all the way across the country.
posted by wotsac at 2:20 PM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Can you rent for a year on the other side, rather than buy right away? That might ease the cash flow and narrow down the furniture you really want to keep/move.
posted by nkknkk at 2:24 PM on February 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

We also have a 5-year-old, a German Shepherd, a cat, and a rabbit.

That is like the set up to one of those riddles where you have to move everyone across the river without the dog eating the rabbit and so on.

My guess is that the cheapest option for the scooters, tools, books (you are an academic, after all), and household stuff will be renting a truck. If you don't sell the car, you can drive one and tow the other with the truck. The other option would hiring a moving company and taking the scooters on a lightweight trailer behind one of your cars, but based on my very limited moving company experience that will cost more than renting a truck.

You've kind of set up this question in a way that is hard to produce great answers -- your budget is capped at less than the cost, while your husband insists on his tools and scooters. Your budget is also pending the house sale, which is itself not guaranteed.

Whether it makes sense to move the furniture or buy again will depend on exact costs -- we moved furniture for our last move, but it was a fully reimbursed move. Without that reimbursement, I would have moved less furniture and slowly bought new pieces over time. An hour checking prices on Ikea's website and then comparing the costs of renting a small truck versus a large truck will give you the answer to this.

If you were me, what would you do?

I would sell the old car and sell the scooters, because all three are adding a lot of cost to the move without adding any practicality, you need money now, and you can always buy new scooters and a new car later. Pets and kid would be driven in the newer car. I would rent the smallest truck that will hold all the tools, books, all your household stuff (clothes, kitchen gear, art, etc), and as much furniture as made sense when you did the math above comparing replacement costs to the larger truck.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:30 PM on February 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Vespa owner here, so I know he's not gonna sell the scoots! And the weather in South Carolina will allow him to enjoy them so much more there. Sort through and dump everything else you can. Sell, donate, trash. If he "needs" to keep all his tools, he's gotta be the one to pack them up! Rent a uhaul truck to carry everything you keep. Sell the old car. Rent a uhaul trailer to carry the scooters behind the car you keep (they have those.) One of you drives the big truck, one of you drives the car with trailer. Kids, pets, and suitcases go with the car driver. Four or five nights of hotels on the road will eat through that relocation budget pretty quickly, though, and I don't see you doing it any quicker than that.
posted by raisingsand at 3:16 PM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sell or donate everything you don't absolutely need. Be ruthless in your appraisal of need vs. sentimental attachment.
posted by deathpanels at 5:20 PM on February 6, 2016

As others have said, $1K is just not going to cut it for a cross-country move. I moved from Chicago to Pittsburgh and did a Relocube. It was a really great experience and did end up saving me some money over the cost of cross-country movers. My small 1BR apartment filled 1 1/2 Relocubes, and that was after I donated a ton of clothes and gave a bunch of stuff away to friends. I paid for movers to move stuff from my place and into the cube in Chicago and then unload the cube and bring it to my place in Pittsburgh. On both ends they went to a Relocube center, though the cubes can be picked up/delivered at your home address - just costs a bit more. The total of the cubes plus movers and tips was about $2K. The real benefit of the Relocube, though, especially for a very long-distance move, is how quickly things arrive. You can pay them to guarantee arrival in 1-2 days, and even if you don't, they come in less than a week. My stuff arrived in about a week (I moved over Thanksgiving) and I drove here in the interim. I brought a few boxes of stuff that I'd need right away: air mattress, bedding, clothes, pet stuff.

I thought about getting rid of all of my furniture, but I worried about the hassle and expense of buying new stuff. I was so exhausted for the first month after the move that the idea of having to go furniture shopping was overwhelming. It was nice for all of my friendly old furniture to arrive a few days after I got here.

I moved with a dog and two cats. Thankfully we were able to do the drive in one day, but it was surprisingly easy. I sprayed calming spray in the cats' carriers a few days in advance and left them out for them to sniff. I put puppy pads down in their carriers in case they had to go, but they didn't. The dog sat on my lap most of the ride and slept a lot. Most rest stops (in Ohio and Indiana, at least) have dog relief areas.
posted by anotheraccount at 8:13 PM on February 6, 2016

Do you need two cars? Couldn't you bus or ride one of the Vespa's to work?

Does you husband enjoy furniture hunting? If yes, then ditch any furniture that you don't like and don't immediately need. But it takes a long of effort to restock a complete house, even if you just go to ikea and buy all the things, and you have a job to ready for. Definitely keep any furniture that is flat pack and not horrible. It'll take up negligible space when dismantled.
posted by kjs4 at 3:57 AM on February 7, 2016

Dump your furniture and most of your household goods. Rebuy when you get to Columbia. Charlotte is an hour and a half away, and there's an Ikea there. High Point, furniture capital of the US, is only 2.5 hours away. There are a bazillion thrift and antique stores in your area. I can also recommend Value City Furniture (We have American Signature here in Atlanta) for cheap but decent furniture. I have a mattress, dressers and a dining room set from them and they've held up admirably!

To save dough on the actual move, check into ABF U-Pack. They deliver the container, you pack it. They pick it up and transport it, you unpack it. Ask them about the scooters, if you drain the gas tanks, you might be able to move them in the container. That should take care of tools, scooter and assorted stuff you can't do without.

Take both vehicles to the mechanic have them go over them and ask if the Focus is road-trip worthy. If it is, you're driving cross-country with your kid, dog, rabbit, and cat. What's great is that you can mix and match different animals and kid, with different drivers depending on how everyone is feeling. You can probably get away with about 6 hours per day. If it's better to sell the Focus now, you can all drive in the Soul.

Don't over-pack the cars, if you have to ditch the Focus somewhere along the line, you can just put everyone/thing in the Kia and keep on trucking! If you don't have AAA get it. They'll plan your route for you, the discount will help you with motel rates, and the roadside assistance is fab! Best $125 you'll ever spend.

Motel 6 is pet friendly and they're doing a huge revamp so all their properties are modern, if Spartan. Talk to your vet about transporting the pets. Some may need Prozac or anti-nausea drugs. Keep everyone contained and on leashes. Don't lose your cat at Devil's Tower!

Even if you do no sightseeing on your way, you will all remember this trip as one of the best times of your life. You will also have stories. I recommend sightseeing though. Even if it's just the world's largest artichoke.

My friend transported her husband, mother, three-year-old child, Pitbull-Ridgeback mix, and 4 cats from California to North Carolina. One of the cats hid in our house in Nashville and she had to come back to fetch her once she was settled. As I said, there will be stories.

I'd suggest getting a two bedroom apartment for a year to get the lay of the land before buying a new house. This gives you breathing room and you're not going to be rushing to spend all your money. It will take a lot of the pressure off.

I sometimes fantasize about starting completely over.

Good luck, let me know when you land, we can try to do a meetup! We Rabbits need to stick together!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:26 AM on February 7, 2016

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