There is no one right answer to this question. Instead, it would help if you considered 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 Buy New Furniture or Move It?
If you’re asking yourself this question, it’s likely you’re moving out of state, or at least out of town. If you’re jetting across the city, it’s certainly more affordable to hire movers or rent a van, load up your furnishings, and knock the move 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.
According to Dawn M. Smith from Angi, “The cost to ship furniture cross country ranges between $300 and $800 per piece, and internationally, it ranges from $1,000 to $4,500.”
How much does it cost to ship a couch?
The cost to ship a couch ranges from $575–$1,000. The average cost of a new couch is between $300 to $3,000, depending on the size and style. If your couch is on the lower end in price, it’s likely a better financial choice to buy new when you’ve arrived at your new home. However, if you own a more expensive couch, shipping it would make more sense than repurchasing.
How much does it cost to ship a desk?
The cost of shipping a desk ranges from $475–$1,000. A typical desk can cost between $150–$300, and high-quality desks could reach up to $1,200. Unless you are hopelessly in love with your current desk (and it’s not available to repurchase), it’s likely a better option to forgo shipping and replace it.
Shipping furniture costs aren’t always as easy as adding 1 + 1. You must research companies, get bids, decide between them, sign contracts, and be there for pickup and delivery. Plus, you have to deal with possible nicks and dings, which could require paying to fix. 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
Shipping companies don’t factor in the sentimental value of your items, so you’ll have to do so yourself. 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 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 cost the same shipping cost.
That makes it even harder to use price and convenience as a determinant. Luckily, there’s 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.
However, suppose your furniture is relatively inexpensive and you have no particular attachment to it. In that case, donating to Goodwill or The Salvation Army, and buying again when you arrive is better.
How to Calculate Your Furniture Shipping Rates
Of course, it’s not always as simple as an apples-to-apples comparison of shipping versus buying a bed or a couch, for instance. Most people have more furniture than that and won’t be shipping only one piece (unless you ditch it all, except the odd sentimental items).
You can roughly gauge your shipping rates based on how much stuff you have and the size of your home. Generally, a local move can cost between $900 to $2,400, while moving furniture to another state can be as expensive as $6,900.
As a general guideline, you can estimate furniture shipping costs by multiplying the time to complete the move by the moving company’s hourly rate. The average hourly rate per mover is $25–$50. However, you will probably have at least 2 movers packing up your home. You can also try using a moving cost calculator to estimate the price.
The price to ship furniture in long-distance moves comes with many cost factors. To get the most accurate cost estimate for your move, Joshua Green from My Moving Reviews recommends requesting an in-house estimate. “A company representative will visit your home, assess the move-related situation carefully, and then give you an accurate moving estimate.”
Of course, this assumes you will be using moving help either way: a moving van or boutique shipping service. If not, and you plan to move the rest of your belongings in a car, leaving your furniture behind is cheaper because you can’t effectively wrap it into the cost of a car move.
Shipping Large or Specialty Items
Getting specialty items, such as your dog’s kennel, from Point A to Point B entails special consideration.
Not everything you want to ship will fit cozily inside a moving van. For instance, while it might not qualify as furniture exactly, your car deserves special consideration.
If you’re flying instead of driving and still want to get your vehicle (or vehicles) from Point A to Point B, you’ll want to weigh the cost of shipping and plane tickets against the cost of gas and amenities along the way.
Shipping your car can cost $1,200 to $2,100, while two plane tickets across the country will run you about $1,000 for both. Assuming an average gas price of $4 per gallon, an average miles-per-gallon of 20, and 3,000 miles from NYC to LA, the road trip will cost you about $600 (3,000/20 x 4).
If you camp those five nights and eat on the cheap, driving is by far the better option. This is especially true if your family consists of four people rather than one or two. Roll in hotels and restaurants, though, and you might be paying more. If you have kiddos, the drive takes longer for their sake.
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 of shipping 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 and any pet boarding along the way will pose another consideration over a car trip with your pet in the back.
Deciding whether it’s cheaper to ship furniture or buy new is 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. It could take some number crunching, but if you want to reduce the cost of your move as much as possible, the time spent will be well worth it.
This post originally appeared on the Life Storage blog on 6/18/18 and was revised on 4/18/23 to provide new information.