Unveiling the Hidden Costs of Moving

Man and woman carrying carton box
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Moving into a new home represents a significant milestone in one’s life. It symbolizes not just a change of address but embarking on an exciting adventure brimming with fresh opportunities, new beginnings, and the chance to create lasting memories. This transition, while exhilarating, can also present a series of challenges, especially in the financial realm. The process of relocating is often fraught with unexpected expenses that can surprise even the most budget-minded individuals, potentially turning an exciting experience into a stressful one.

In this article, we aim to guide you through and illuminate those hidden and often overlooked costs associated with moving so you don’t get an unexpected surprise when you least need it. From the fees when you first set out on your moving journey to the costs associated with professional movers, we cover it all. We aim to ensure that first-time homeowners, relocating professionals, and budget-conscious movers alike can begin this activity with clarity and help you navigate the complexities of moving, allowing you to focus more on the joy of settling into your new home and less on the stress of unexpected costs.

The Importance of Unearthing Hidden Moving Costs

Accurate budgeting plays a pivotal role in the planning phase of relocating to a new place. While most individuals consider the apparent expenses, such as fees charged by moving companies or security deposits required for rentals, the unpredicted costs can often disrupt your finances and blow your budget out of the water. These unforeseen expenses include redecorating your new home, additional moving supplies, or even temporary accommodation if your new home isn’t ready on time. By thoroughly identifying and preparing for these hidden costs, you can sidestep the stress of last-minute financial burdens.

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The Hidden Costs

Packing supplies

Beyond essential boxes and tape, moving your valuable and fragile items might necessitate specialized packing materials, including bubble wrap, wardrobe boxes, or custom crates for artwork and electronics. The cost of standard packing supplies can quickly increase, with specialized materials increasing this expense. On average, acquiring enough packing supplies for a moderately three-bedroom home can cost between $200 and $300.

“It’s always good to use quality packing supplies; however, if you need to reduce these costs, consider sourcing alternatives such as seconds from a storage or packing supply shop or ask for free, durable boxes from local stores or community groups and using household items such as towels and bedding for padding instead of buying bubble wrap.

Spokesperson at Movingle New Zealand

Therefore it’s important to know exactly what you need otherwise these extra hidden packing supply costs may creep up on you unexpectedly.

Redecorating and restocking essentials

It’s easy to overlook the need to immediately restock everyday household supplies or undertake small redecorating projects to make your new space feel more like home. Budgeting for redecorating is pretty subjective; however, allocating a budget for items like paint, curtains, or new pieces of furniture can help avoid unexpected expenses. 

Any upgrades on furniture or appliances for the new house that you should have moved across should be well accounted for and planned in your budget. Otherwise, you may find yourself living without certain pieces of furniture that may require waiting to be delivered, placing further stress on living without the essentials like a washing machine or dryer.

Food and accommodation during the move

The rigors of moving can take a toll on your regular routines, particularly when it comes to sleeping and eating. Many need to pay more attention to the cost of meals and accommodations during the transition, especially if it’s a long-distance move that spans several days or encounters delays. For those moving long distances, hotel stays may become necessary, with costs varying widely depending on location and level of comfort desired. On average, budgeting for hotel stays should consider the number of nights you might need to spend away from home and the nearby dining options. 

Eating habits can also fluctuate during a move. The convenience of fast food or dining out may become necessary, leading to unexpected expenses. Planning by packing nutritious snacks and meals can save money and maintain health and energy levels during this hectic time. Keeping a cooler with fresh fruits, vegetables, and sandwiches can mitigate the need for frequent restaurant stops, helping to keep your budget and your diet on track during the move.

Transitioning utility services

Transitioning your utility services is a crucial step in the moving process, yet complexity and potential costs are often underestimated. Arranging for the disconnection of utilities at your old home and setting them up at the new one can sometimes incur fees, especially if installations or unique setups are required. For instance, transferring services such as internet, electricity, water, or gas might necessitate an on-site visit from a technician, leading to installation fees. Furthermore, suppose you’re moving to a different region or a location where your current service providers are unavailable. In that case, you may have to pay termination fees and start-up costs with new companies. Timing is critical when scheduling the termination of your current utilities and activating new services. Ideally, you want to avoid any lapses in essential services like water, gas, and electricity, ensuring they are functional from entering your new home. Planning these transitions carefully helps minimize stress and inconvenience, enabling you to focus on settling into your new environment comfortably.

Additional Moving Expenses

Another area often overlooked when budgeting for a move involves expenses from the moving companies themselves. Some hidden costs can include:

Callout fees

Callout fees, also known as travel or service fees, are additional charges applied by moving companies to cover the cost of the movers traveling to your location. These fees vary based on the distance traveled and are often overlooked when planning a moving budget. Some companies might incorporate these fees into their quote for local moves, but it’s essential to ask about them to avoid unexpected costs explicitly. Callout fees can become more pronounced for long-distance relocations due to the greater distances involved. It’s advisable to get precise information from your moving company regarding how they calculate travel fees to ensure your moving budget is as accurate and comprehensive as possible.

Stair fees or extended carry fees

Stair fees are an additional cost some moving companies charge when carrying items up or down stairs. This fee is usually based on the number of steps or the number of flights, and it can significantly increase the overall cost of your move, especially if your new or old home has multiple levels where lift access is nonexistent. It’s essential to inform the moving company about the presence of stairs during the quoting process to receive an accurate estimate. This is the same as extended carry fees, where the removal truck must be parked far from the home. This expense catches many people off-guard, assuming that moving quotes include all aspects of the physical move. To avoid surprises, explicitly ask if stair or extended carry fees are included and how they are calculated. This foresight can help you budget more accurately and negotiate these fees or find a company offering more favorable stair access terms. 

Parking permits

An often-overlooked aspect of moving involves obtaining parking permits for trucks and vehicles. This is particularly important in urban areas or cities with strict parking restrictions. You may avoid hefty fines with the appropriate licenses, or your moving process could be significantly delayed. The process for obtaining a parking permit varies by location, so it’s crucial to research and apply for any needed permits well in advance of your moving day.

Depending on local regulations, parking permits may be required at your old and new residences. In some cases, securing a permit involves notifying the city or municipality of your move date and the size of the moving truck. Fees for parking permits can also vary, so including this in your budget is essential. Failure to secure a permit can result in not having a guaranteed spot for the moving truck, which can lead to long carry fees if the movers have to park further away than expected.

To streamline your move, contact the local council in both your current and future locations to inquire about the need for a parking permit, the process for obtaining one, and the associated costs. Planning this aspect of your move can save time, reduce stress, and ensure a smoother transition to your new home.

Toll fees

An often overlooked expense during the moving process is the toll road cost. Depending on your moving company’s route to your new home, there may be tolls that can add unexpected costs to your final moving bill. These tolls are charged for using certain roads, bridges, or tunnels designed to help manage traffic flow and maintain infrastructure. The fees can vary widely depending on the toll road’s length and the type of vehicle, with larger moving trucks typically incurring higher tolls than standard cars. When planning your move, it’s essential to ask your moving company about their route and if it includes toll roads. Some companies may include these costs in their initial quote, while others will add them as a separate expense. 

Excess volume charges

Excess volume charges are a hidden cost that can significantly affect the cost of your move but is often not considered until it becomes an issue. These fees are applied when the items you are moving exceed the volume initially estimated by the moving company. This discrepancy can happen for various reasons, such as underestimating the number of belongings, adding items last-minute, or simply misunderstanding the space your items occupy. Moving companies calculate the cost of a move based on the estimated volume of goods, assuming a certain amount of truck space will be required. If the actual volume exceeds this estimation, additional charges are applied to cover the cost of the extra space needed or the additional trips made by the moving company.

Unexpected pet relocation costs

Relocating with pets introduces complexity and expense often underestimated in the moving process. Beyond the basic costs of pet carriers or crates, there are several potential unexpected expenses to consider. For instance, if you’re moving to a different city or country, you might need to comply with specific health certifications, vaccinations, or quarantine requirements, each carrying its costs. Some companies charge extra for transporting pets, especially if they require special accommodations or air travel. It’s also crucial to consider the potential overnight boarding fees if the move is long-distance and spans several days. Research and prepare for these costs before your moving day to ensure a smooth transition for you and your pet. This preparation includes consulting with your vet, understanding the regulations of your new location, and discussing with your movers the logistics and costs of pet relocation.

Vehicle relocation

Another crucial aspect to consider when moving is relocating your vehicles. This might be particularly relevant if you’re moving a long distance and prefer to avoid driving the cars to your new home. Many moving companies offer vehicle relocation services, or you might need to hire a specialized auto transport company. The cost for these services can vary based on several factors, including the move’s distance, the vehicle’s type and size, and whether you choose an open or enclosed transport service. Open car carrier transport is typically less expensive but exposes your vehicle to the elements, while enclosed transport offers more protection at a higher cost. 

Insurance and valuation coverage

Insurance during the move is crucial yet often overlooked. Moving companies offer some liability insurance, but it may not cover the total value of your possessions in case of damage or loss. Therefore, investing in additional moving insurance or checking your existing homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policies might be wise to see if they provide coverage during moves.

Storage costs

The need for temporary storage frequently surfaces during a move, especially if there’s a delay between vacating your old home and gaining access to your new one. This requirement can introduce unexpected costs into your moving budget. Storage unit rates can vary widely based on size, location, and the duration of storage needed. Additionally, some moving companies offer storage solutions, which might come at a premium compared to self-storage options. It’s also important to consider the costs of moving your items into storage and then out to your new home, as this effectively doubles the handling—and potentially the risk of damage—of your belongings. To mitigate these expenses, it’s advisable to research storage options in advance, understand the pricing structures and how long you require storage for, and incorporate this into your overall moving budget.

Making Informed Choices

In navigating the maze of relocation costs, the key to maintaining control over your budget and limiting your hidden expenses is making informed choices at every step. Begin with detailed research and planning, seeking out information on all potential costs associated with your move. Comparing quotes from multiple moving companies can uncover a range of service options and pricing, helping you to identify the best value. Additionally, it’s crucial to read the fine print on any agreements or quotes you receive; understanding the details can prevent unexpected charges from emerging later.


Relocation is invariably a complex endeavor, fraught with both expected and unexpected challenges. However, with knowledge about these potential hidden fees and unforeseen costs, you can plan more effectively, ensuring your move is as smooth and stress-free as possible. Remember to talk with your chosen moving company about every aspect of the moving process, from the route taken to potential tolls and the specifics of insurance coverage. If you are relocating with pets or have the need to ship your vehicle, exploring all your options and preparing for associated costs can mitigate financial surprises. Remember to plan, research, and budget carefully for a successful transition to your new home, allowing you to relish the excitement of this significant life change.

About the author

Howe is the founder and CEO of Find a Mover, a removalist comparison platform that easily helps consumers with moving companies. A guest on Real Estate Right and a frequent contributor to many high authority moving sites in the moving space. You can connect with him on LinkedIn


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