Guide to Moving in NYC

So, you’ve finally found your dream apartment, signed the lease, and secured a rad roommate. After weeks of apartment hunting, open houses, application anxiety, and broker bartering, it’s safe to assume that the worst is all behind you – right?? WRONG! You still have to overcome one more hurdle before settling into your new digs and that is the dreaded NYC move. Any New Yorker will tell you that moving in the city can be a real nightmare. Between the cost, the logistics and the overall stress, you may feel tempted to skip it altogether and stay put in your tiny, hole-in-the-wall, 6th-floor walkup, 5-roommate apartment. What are another 12 months anyway, right? Luckily, we’ve compiled this comprehensive guide to moving in NYC to get you through the process and into your new place as painlessly and efficiently as possible!

guide to moving in nyc
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Why Moving is Harder in NYC Than Other Cities

Moving tends to be a stressful endeavor, regardless of where you live. That being said, NYC presents the following unique challenges that further complicate the process:

  • Walk-ups. Many apartments in NYC (especially affordable ones) are walkups with no elevators. If you’re using movers, you’ll probably end up paying extra for each flight of stairs — this on top of a generous tip you’ll feel compelled to give after watching them sweat for hours on end. Also, walk-up moves tend to take significantly longer – especially when moving from one walk-up to another!
  • Small spaces. With rent prices on the rise, affordable apartments in NYC tend to be small. Many buildings also have narrow doors and hallways, which present a real challenge for maneuvering furniture in and around the apartment. Unless you’re exceptionally handy with IKEA tools, you’ll need to pay extra to have your movers disassemble and reassemble large items, such as couches and tables. As with walkups, this also adds more time (and aggravation) to the move.
  • No parking. Parking is a perpetual dilemma in NYC, especially when it comes to moving. If your new building does not have a designated service entrance or parking lot, your movers may end up parking several blocks away. The longer the distance the movers need to carry your items, the longer the move will take, and the more expensive it will be.
  • Foot traffic. With many New Yorkers working 9-5 jobs, you need to plan your move strategically to avoid rush hour foot traffic from neighbors. If you’re moving at a popular time of the month (usually the first or last of the month), you also run the risk of overlapping with other neighbors who are moving into or out of the building.

When is the Best Time to Move in NYC?

  • No overlap time. NYC landlords typically try to minimize lag time between tenants. If you’re moving from one NYC apartment to another, this means that you’ll typically need to complete your entire move in one day, rather than gradually moving into your new place over a few days. 

How Much Does Moving Cost in NYC?

guide to moving in nyc
(Source: Kristen Brenemen via Flickr Creative Commons)

When budgeting for your NYC move, you should consider the following factors:

  • Packing supplies. Boxes, bubble wrap, and heavy-duty tape are must-haves when it comes to moving. The cost of these can vary depending on how thrifty and creative you get (i.e., shadily waiting outside the local grocery store to snag free boxes or befriending the local liquor store proprietor and asking for his used booze boxes), but you should expect to spend about $100-200 dollars if you pay out of pocket. PRO TIP: Check out City Moving Boxes, which offers fair prices and same-day delivery on all your moving needs.
  • Cleaning supplies. You’ll need to leave your old apartment in decent shape if you want that security deposit back. Don’t forget to stock up on paper towels, cleaning spray, and any hardware materials (i.e., spackle, paint) that you may need to conceal – ahem, repair – any damage. Expected cost = $50-$100 dollars. If it’s a real mess and you’re pressed for time you might consider hiring a cleaning service like Handy to get the job done for you while you’re at work. If you go this route, add another $50-$100 to your moving tab.
  • Movers. The price of hired movers will vary depending on the number of boxes you have, the distance of the move, amount of flights involved, the size of the apartment(s), and any extra services required (i.e., packing boxes, assembling/disassembling furniture) – plus tips! There’s also a fair amount of price variety among different moving companies, so be sure to shop around before making a final decision. Most companies in NYC charge about $95 dollars/hour. Check out this guide to choosing the most cost-effective options for your move and refer to these local movers:
moving in nyc guide
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Different Types of Movers in NYC

When shopping around for movers, these are the three main options to consider:

  • Commercial Movers. If your budget allows for it, there are plenty of reputable moving companies in and around NYC. Some companies offer hourly rates, while others provide flat rates based on the factors mentioned above (i.e. apartment size, distance, etc.). The good thing about using a commercial moving company is that they are guaranteed to be legitimate, insured, and knowledgeable about navigating the various nuances of moving in NYC. The downside is the cost, which tends to be the most expensive option when it comes to hiring help for your move. Here are some well-known commercial moving companies in NYC:
  • Man with a Van. NYC is abundant with advertisements for Man with a Van, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Unlike commercial moving companies, Man with a Van services tends to be cheaper and may not require as much advanced notice. A drawback is that since many of these services are independently run and owned, they likely won’t offer insurance to cover damaged items or property during the move, and you’ll need to be wary of potential scams. Try these recommendations for some vetted local movers:
  • Task Rabbit. Task Rabbit is a site that lets you search for local “Taskers” who can assist with anything you need help with, from packing and cleaning to moving your entire apartment (van included). The benefit is that each Tasker sets their own hourly rate, so you can shop around to find someone who fits your budget.
moving guide nyc
(Source: Matt Law via Flickr Creative Commons)

How to Plan/Organize Your NYC Move

To avoid finding yourself in a hectic, last-minute moving nightmare, you’ll need AT LEAST one month to prepare for your NYC move. Here is a suggested timeline of tasks to help you get organized before the big day:

  • One month before move
    • Pick your move-out/move-in dates; Notify landlords and roommates
    • Investigate and schedule movers (the earlier, the better!)
    • Measure the doors and spaces of your new apartment
    • Begin purging unwanted belongings (i.e. donating old clothes you never wear)
    • Close current accounts and set up accounts for new apartment (i.e. change mailing address, transfer utility accounts, return cable boxes and schedule wifi installation for new apartment)
    • Secure packing supplies
    • Begin packing boxes, starting with out of season clothing, books, and any items you will not need until after the move. Make sure to label boxes!
  • One week before move
    • Finish packing all boxes, leaving out only what you can’t live without for the next few days
    • Assess for anything that needs to be dismounted or repaired before moving out
    • Thoroughly clean apartment
    • Schedule a final “walk-through” with current landlord or super
    • Secure keys from new landlord
    • If necessary, reserve service elevator(s) and secure certificates of insurance
    • Confirm details with movers
  • One day before move
    • Pack a small bag with essential items (i.e. toothbrush, pajamas, clean undies, one or two outfits) and valuables (passport, birth certificate, laptop) that you can keep with you during the move
    • Do a final sweep of the apartment, checking for anything you may have forgotten
    • Empty fridge and cabinets; Take out all trash
    • Have everything prepped and easily accessible for movers
    • Plan how you will personally get to your new apartment on moving day (cab is usually your best bet if using movers)

How to Do a DIY Move in NYC

If you’re brave enough to attempt a DIY move, there are several ways to get the job done. If you don’t have any large furniture items, borrow a car from a friend or family member and do several trips back and forth. Alternately, Zipcar offers van rentals with relatively affordable pricing for members. For larger moves, rent a U-Haul and recruit some strong friends to help with the heavy lifting. Rates vary depending on ZIP code, gas, and mileage, but are typically much more affordable than hiring a commercial mover. If you go this route, just make sure to account for the aforementioned challenges of NYC moving, especially the lack of street parking. Be sure to bring along a buddy who can watch the truck or van while you unload.