The Ultimate Moving-Out-of-State Checklist (2023)

By Amanda Lutz

Jun 16, 2023
back of a truck carrying goods moving house

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All moves require significant investments of time and money, but moving out of state adds a layer of complexity. While you can complete a small, local move in a matter of days, a long-distance move generally requires several weeks of work, both before and after moving day.

Enlisting one of the top moving companies can make the experience simpler and less stressful, but you’ll still have plenty to do. Our ultimate moving-out-of-state checklist covers the most important tasks to complete and things to consider when relocating across state lines.

 


 

Out-of-State Moving Checklist

Below, we rounded up the most essential tasks to complete when moving out of state.

Estimate Your Expenses

The first item on your to-do list should be to estimate your upcoming expenses. To do this, you will need to create two budgets: a moving budget and a monthly budget.

For your moving budget, compile a list of moving expenses you might encounter and decide how much you are willing (or able) to spend. Include the cost of any moving services you plan to use, plus travel expenses, such as airfare or a hotel stay. You should also save money for repairs, emergencies, and other one-time costs.

Next, consider your monthly or annual expenses. Start with your current budget, and adjust it to your expected income, housing costs, and other bills as necessary. Research the income tax and cost of living in your new state. Continue refining this budget throughout the moving process as you finalize arrangements.

Find a Job and Housing

While you can estimate your expenses before making firm plans, budgeting is easier once you have secured housing and employment. Which one you focus on first depends on your situation. For retired individuals or those with large savings accounts, house hunting may be the top priority. Others may not want to commit to a specific area until they have a job offer that justifies the move.

Tour Your New Home

Once you have decided on a place to live—whether you have already purchased a house or simply decided on a particular city or neighborhood—make time for a walk-through. Visiting your new residence in person is ideal. While you are in town, make note of key details, such as the location of the nearest gas station, grocery store, and hospital. If you have access to the new house or apartment, take measurements so you can decide which furniture will be moving with you.

If you cannot make an in-person trip before the move, do your research online. Your real estate agent, broker, or landlord should be able to provide any necessary measurements, and you can use Google Maps to take a virtual tour of your new neighborhood. You can also browse the official websites and social media pages for your county, city, and town for important information.

Choose a Moving Company

Gather quotes from three or four moving companies and compare their rates, services, and customer reviews. Note that under federal law, interstate movers must include full-value contents protection in their initial estimates by default. However, you can choose to forgo it and rely solely on complimentary released-value protection, which covers up to 60 cents per pound per item. You can also obtain coverage through a third-party insurance company.

Make sure any moving company you hire is properly licensed. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) maintains a database of registered moving carriers and brokers. The FMCSA website also has resources to help customers avoid scams, understand their rights, and prepare for their moves.

Make Travel Arrangements

Professional movers can get your belongings from your old home to your new location, but you will need to make your own travel arrangements. The distance and timing of your move might affect your plans. If you are moving three hours away during the summer, driving is the simplest option. Moving cross-country in the middle of winter is different. For that, you might prefer flying.

If you choose to fly to your destination, arrange car transportation with the moving company. You could also have movers transport your second car or a recreational vehicle, such as a boat or ATV.

For an extra-long trip, you might need to book an overnight stay at a hotel. You might also need temporary housing if your belongings will take a week or more to arrive. Base your decision on the timeline your moving company provides, your new home’s condition, and what you can carry with you.

Announce the Move

Who you tell about your move is entirely up to you, as is when and how you tell them. If you have children, though, make sure to tell them before roping in anyone else. A big move to a different state can stir up emotions, and the news will be even harder to process if they hear it from someone else first. 

As soon as you know for sure you are moving, call a family meeting. Be ready for a wide range of reactions, from excitement to sadness, anger, or indifference. Make time over the following days and weeks to answer questions, offer comfort, and help your family prepare.

Consider who else your move might affect. Do you employ a nanny who will need to find new work? Is there anyone you’d like to keep in contact with? Don’t forget to notify your employer and your child’s school, if applicable. If you’re a renter, make sure to give your landlord appropriate notice that you’ll be moving out.

Handle All the Paperwork

Paperwork may be the least exciting part of moving, but it must be done. Start by requesting a change of address through the United States Postal Service (USPS) website or at your local post office. As part of this process, USPS will forward your mail for a period of 12–30 months. This comes in handy if you forget to pass along your new address to someone who needs it.

Next, list all your bills, accounts, memberships, and subscriptions. Update your billing address with each provider and cancel any services that won’t transfer to your new state. It is especially important to update the address associated with your bank account, insurance policies, and credit cards.

If you have kids, reach out to their current and new schools. Find out what you must submit to transfer their records and complete their enrollment.

Enlist Professional Help

Think through everything you need to do before, during, and immediately after you move. Examples include repairs, cleaning, packing, furniture assembly, appliance installation, unpacking, and even changing the locks. For each task, decide whether you will handle it yourself or enlist professional help. Most long-distance moving companies offer a wide range of services, and they can often recommend third parties for any services they do not provide.

Sort Through Your Belongings

Three to six weeks before your move, start going through your belongings. This process is worthwhile even if you plan to let professionals handle the packing. Get rid of anything that does not belong in your new home, from furniture that won’t fit to clothes you hardly wear.

If you have trouble letting go, consider hiring a professional organizer to help. You can also research different methods of deciding what stays and what goes. Marie Kondo’s trademarked KonMari Method—which advocates for tidying by category (first clothes then books, papers, and miscellaneous items), rather than location, and discarding anything that no longer sparks joy—is only one example. There’s also the 20/20 decluttering rule, which says you should safely dispose of anything you can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes.

Contact Service Providers

Remember that list of bills you made? Use it to sort out your utilities and home services. Call your current utility companies to cancel services, effective on your move-out date. Then, look up providers for your new home and call them to set up service, effective on your move-in date.

Double-check your cell phone service, too. Though most carriers operate across the nation, coverage does vary. Do a little online research to determine which carriers offer the best coverage in your new town.

Consider Your Pets

Moving is just as stressful for pets as it is for people—perhaps even more so. As you prepare for your move, your pets will sense something is changing, but they won’t know what. If your pet displays signs of anxiety, schedule a vet appointment. Your vet can prescribe medication or recommend other calming aids to help your pet through the transition.

Your pets will likely have to travel with you, though some moving companies—such as Allied Van Lines—offer pet relocation services. Regardless, it’s wise to keep your pet’s favorite toy or blanket nearby. You should also stick to its regular routine as much as possible during the move.

If you plan to board your pets at any point, make sure they have any required vaccinations and paperwork. You should also research the pet license requirements. Most state or local governments require that dogs and cats be up to date on their rabies shot, at the very least.

Schedule Social Activities

In the hustle and bustle of moving, pencil in a few social activities. Plan a party to say goodbye to friends in your current city. Give your children opportunities to hang out with their friends, too. Then, once you move to your new city, be intentional about making new friends. Attend a few community or school events, invite some coworkers for drinks, or invite your neighbors to a housewarming party.

Make the Move Official

Last but not least, make your move official by establishing domicile in your new state. You will need a new driver’s license or state ID. If you own a car, you must transfer the title and registration to your new state. These tasks are handled by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). While there, you can also complete your voter registration.

 


 

Important Considerations for Out-of-State Moves

If you are moving to start a new job or be closer to family, you won’t have much say in where you move. In that case, use the following list to help you prepare for the transition to your new home. If your options are wide open, these considerations will help you make a well-informed, rewarding decision.

Job and Housing Markets

Real estate prices and employment opportunities play huge roles in where people build their lives. Before moving to a new state, research the job and housing markets.

Consider not only the current situation but also where you want to be in five or 10 years. How easy will it be to find another job, advance in your field, or start a new business if your circumstances change? Is the value of the real estate in the area likely to increase or decrease in the coming decade? 

Cost-of-Living Differences

Your monthly mortgage or rent payment will likely be the biggest change when you move to a new state. However, you might see a significant difference in other costs, too, especially if you’re moving from a suburban or rural location to a big city.

Several reputable sites have online tools that make it easy to compare the cost of living in different cities and states. You can look up average gas prices by state on the American Automobile Association (AAA) website and research the price of common items by changing your location on Instacart, Walmart, and other grocery apps. Be sure to consider how the move will affect your taxes, health care costs, and insurance rates, too.

Climate and Risks

Seasonal weather and natural disasters can affect everything from your wardrobe choices to your homeowners insurance costs. It’s important to consider the general climate of your potential new home and any special risks associated with the area.

Start by researching average seasonal temperatures and the rate at which various natural disasters occur. The likelihood that you will experience a tornado, hurricane, earthquake, blizzard, or flood will vary greatly depending on where you settle down—and your home insurance costs will reflect that risk. Crime rates also vary from place to place.

Local Amenities

Some cities might be a better fit for you culturally or offer better amenities than others. The differences will be especially stark if you move from an urban center to a rural area or an entirely new geographic region.

As you plan your move, take your lifestyle and life stage into account. If you have young children, the quality of local schools might be important to you. If you are nearing retirement, you might be more interested in the health care system and recreational opportunities. Think about the amenities and activities you enjoy most in your current city, then make note of anything that might be missing. This will give you a wish list that you can use to weigh your options.

 


 

Our Recommendation

Before moving, take time to consider every angle—from moving costs to the cost of living—to decide if, when, and where to move. Work with a reputable long-distance moving company to choose a moving date, schedule the services you need, and purchase adequate moving insurance. Once the details of your move have been ironed out, work on administrative tasks, such as filing a change of address and setting up utilities for your new home.

A comprehensive moving checklist and detailed budget can bring order to the chaos of an interstate move. With a solid plan in place, you can focus on one task at a time and rest assured that nothing has been forgotten.

Moving Out of State FAQ

What is the first thing to do when moving to a new state?

The first thing to do when moving to a new state is change your address with the USPS and visit the DMV to get a new driver’s license and vehicle registration. Though rules vary from state to state, this generally must be done within the first 30 days of moving. Check what documentation your state’s DMV requires before going.

How do I start over in a new state?

If you want or need to start over in a new state, begin by looking for a job and housing. In most cases, finding a job should be your top priority. However, with sufficient savings, you may be able to secure housing first and continue your job search after moving.As you plan and pack, think about who and what you need to leave behind. You may need to cut contact with certain people, which means not informing them of your plans. You may also want to leave behind items that would stir up bad memories. After moving, make time to explore your new city, make friends, and get involved in the community.

What should I do with my car before I move to a new state?

You should update your car insurance policy before moving to a new state. You will need your new insurance card to transfer your vehicle registration. After moving, you can head to the DMV to get a new driver’s license, transfer your vehicle title and registration, and obtain new license plates. Depending on the state, your vehicle may also need to pass a safety and/or emissions inspection prior to registration.

What is the best way to move to another state?

In terms of convenience, hiring professional movers is the best way to move to another state. A full-service moving company can handle every aspect of your move with care and efficiency, including packing, cleaning, unpacking, and furniture assembly. However, the cheapest option is to rent a moving truck and do all of the packing and heavy lifting yourself or with the help of friends and family.

 


 

How We Chose the Top Moving Companies

We researched and analyzed dozens of full- and self-service moving companies and formulated a moving review methodology based on a number of factors, including package options, pricing, and reputation. We also identified customer pain points based on customer-review analysis, proprietary consumer surveys, and interviews with former and current moving professionals.

Speaking directly to a representative at each company, we determined the number of package options available, the coverage provided, the types of moves available (long-distance, local, and international), and any extra perks offered, such as mobile apps, moving checklists, and 24/7 customer service.

We also gathered pricing data from each of the companies and determined whether they provide ballpark estimates or binding quotes. To determine reputation, we evaluated companies based on their rating with the Better Business Bureau as well as their overall score on Yelp.