Moving often represents a financial strain, regardless if you’re single or have a family and menagerie in tow. Ditto whether you’re heading across town or moving to a new city for a job. The good news is, moving isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. You can customize your move to suit your needs (and your wallet!) One easy way to bring down costs is to ask yourself, “Is it cheaper to ship furniture or buy new?”
There is no one right answer to this question. Rather, you should consider a variety of factors to determine which fits your moving budget better: bringing your furnishings with you or buying new goods upon arrival.
Is It Cheaper to Ship Furniture or Buy New? (Spoiler: It’s Often a Toss-Up)
For the most part, this question assumes you’re moving out of state, or at least out of town. If you’re jetting across the city, it’s almost certainly more affordable to hire movers or rent a van, load up your furnishings and knock everything out in a day.
Interstate or international moves, however, complicate the decision-making process considerably. Some simple comparisons can make your decision to ship or bring much easier.
For instance, according to uShip, a buffet table costs between $400 and $500 to move across the country. Buffets and sideboards of similar sizes from Ikea can range from $300 to $500. That probably means you can shave a Franklin or so off of your buffet if you opt to buy anew.
One shipping service, Roadie, estimates it will cost about $200 – $500 to ship a couch. When pricing out a new one from Target, you end up somewhere in the middle range (around $350), though Ikea couches tend to be more expensive ($1,000 or more). In that case, it’s probably better to ship that couch, unless you’re looking for an excuse to buy new!
On the other hand, remember that shipping furniture isn’t always as easy as 1-2-3. You have to research companies, get bids, decide between them, sign contracts, be there for pickup, be there for receipt and deal with possible nicks and dings. When costs balance, your best bet is to pick up a new piece in your new city, especially if you’re a thrifty shopper and know how to find quality used furnishings.
The Role of Sentimentality in Shipping Vs. Buying New Furniture
Cost is not the only factor. How you feel about your bed, dresser or roll-top desk also matters.
Shipping companies don’t distinguish between that Furniture Outlet couch you got in college and your grandmother’s velvet parlor settee from the 1930s. If it weighs the same and takes up the same cubic footage, then barring insurance concerns, it will be the same cost to ship.
That makes it even harder to use price and convenience as a determinant. Luckily, we have an easy way to think about it:
If you have very expensive furniture in which you’ve invested a lot of time or money (refinishing, reupholstering, etc.) or items with sentimental value, then shipping is the best option.
How to Calculate Your Own Furniture Shipping Rates
Of course, it’s not always as simple as an apples-to-apples comparison of shipping versus buying, say, a bed or a couch. Most people have more furniture than that, and won’t be shipping only one piece (unless you ditch it all with the exception of Gram’s settee).
You can roughly gauge what your shipping rates will be based on how much stuff you have. For example, if you have a 2-3 bedroom apartment, your boxes alone are likely to be about a studio’s worth. Use a moving cost calculator to estimate the pricing for a studio apartment. Then subtract that from the full size of your home, and you should have a reasonable estimate.
In general, the cost of moving a studio to a city 1,000 miles away is about $1,500, while a two-bedroom is $3,500 on the low end. That $2,000 difference is about the same as shipping 5-7 pieces of furniture (the cost drops with more items). So, it seems that the more furniture you have, the cheaper the moving van route becomes.
Of course, this is assuming you will be using moving help either way: a van or boutique shippers. If not, and you plan to move the rest of your belongings in a car, then it’s cheaper to leave your furniture behind, because you can’t effectively wrap it in to the cost of a car move.
Shipping Large or Specialty Items
Not everything you want to ship will fit cozily inside a moving van, of course. For instance, it might not qualify as furniture exactly, but your car deserves special consideration.
If you’re flying instead of driving and still want to get Ol’ Bess (what, you don’t name your car?) from Point A to Point B, you’ll want to weigh the cost of shipping + plane tickets against the cost of gas/amenities along the way.
Shipping your car can cost $1,000 to $1,500, while two plane tickets across the country will run you about $1,000 for both. That’s $2,500 total. Assuming an average gas price of $3 per gallon, an average miles-per-gallon of 20 and 3,000 miles from NYC to LA, the road trip will cost you about $450 (3,000/20 x 3). If you camp those five nights and eat on the cheap, driving is by far the better option, especially if your family consists of four people rather than one or two. Roll in hotels and restaurants, though, and you might be paying more, especially if the drive takes longer for the sake of kiddos.
So, calculate your options carefully before you choose to ship or drive. If the car’s a junker, buying new might be your best option anyway!
Additional considerations include the cost to ship your boat or your dog. Now, we’re not saying the dog is furniture, but his kennel is. The price of putting it on a plane, as well as any pet boarding along the way – a common additional cost for connecting flights – poses another consideration over a car trip with Rover in the back.
It’s a lot to think about, but hopefully, you feel more prepared to decide whether to ship the bigger items in your life or buy anew! Feel free to share any additional tips in the comments. Bon voyage!