If you are reading this you’ve probably been asking yourself just how you can possibly do a full Personally Procured Move PPM or DITY move without losing your mind.
Maybe this is your first military move. Or perhaps you’ve had a terrible experience with your household goods (HHG) being shipped with moving companies before and are wanting to do it yourself this year. Or maybe you are one of the many military families this year being forced into a DITY move unexpectedly with this current PCS moving crisis.
No matter what your reason to do a PPM, I’m glad you are here.
I’m no expert, but we’re doing our 5th full PPM with the Army this month, and I’ve learned a few things (mostly from making mistakes). I’d like to share what I know with you, in case it can help make your move easier!
I’m going to organize this as advice about options for transporting, loading and unloading, then packing.
(If you are in need of help on packing timelines to help you organize your PPM packing, check out these super helpful schedules on how to pack for a DITY).
The money side of a DITY move
But first, money: You are not technically “reimbursed” for anything. The DoD will pay you what it would have paid a full service moving company. How you spend and how much you spend of that money is up to you.
The money you are paid for a DITY move is considered taxable income. If you save receipts for items you bought to move then you can write the moving expenses off as tax deductible when you do your taxes.
So save receipts for everything you buy for the move.
(An expanding file like this is easy to have in the car along the move for important documents and receipts to all be in one place!)
Transportation of your Household Goods (HHG)
You have 2 main options for transportation in a DITY move: drive it yourself or hire a company to drive it. Both options require you to have weight tickets.
You need to go to a weigh station in your current location to get an empty weight before you load and then visit the scale again for the full weight once everything is loaded. You can only count things inside the vehicles towards your weight. So weigh your cars empty. Weigh the trucks and trailers empty. If you’re using a trailer or car dolly have the trailer attached, with the car on it, and weigh the whole set up empty.
Some companies provide empty weights. When you call to reserve, ask about tickets and how to get empty and full weights.
The point of these tickets is to figure out how much your HHG weighs. You will only be paid UP TO your weight limit. If you go over, it’s not a big deal, you aren’t charged for going over. If you are under your allowable weight then you won’t be paid as much. So your goal is to go slightly over weight, in order to get the full payout.
If you drive it yourself you can call U-Haul, Penske, and Budget. You can also rent a car dolly and tow your car behind a truck. The pro to this is it’s usually cheaper than a trucking company. The con is you have to drive it yourself.
Hiring a company to drive your Household Goods (HHG)
If you want to hire a company to transport your household goods for your DITY move, you have a few more options. The two main options are a trailer or a container that you load and the company transports.
DITY Move trailers that you load, they drive:
Estes SureMove and U-Pack/ABF are the two main companies for trailers. With both they will bring trailers to your home, and give you 3 days to pack, then pick it up and drive it. Next they schedule a drop off at the new place, and give you 3 days to unpack. You pay by the linear foot (how much space you take up in the trailer.) You can reserve as much as you think you’ll need; they’ll just send two trailers if it’s more than one trailer’s space. If you use less than you reserved you pay less. If you use more then you pay more. Weight is not a concern, pack it all in.
You will load as tightly as possible then put up a metal divider that you will lock. You keep the only key. That keeps your stuff separated in case there’s more loaded into the trailer and it keeps your stuff secured. They don’t want the liability of theft, so it’s designed in a way where they can’t get in to it; there is no cross loading or help packing, and no inventory sheets. They usually provide all weight tickets. Storage can usually be purchased as an add-on service. Both companies usually offer military discounts.
Containers you pack and a company transports
The main companies for container moves are PODS and U-Haul’s U-Boxes. These are smaller containers brought to you and you load them. The con compared to the trailer is you can’t rent a partial container, so you end up paying for space you don’t use. They also have weight limits. So when loading them you may not be able to pack as much as will fit into each one because what you pack is not allowed to go over the weight limit for the container. They also don’t automatically provide weight tickets, so you might have to pay close attention to get them. The pro is you can have them for as long as you need instead of the 3 days the trailers offer.
Get quotes and compare your DITY move options!
For all of these transport options, call all the companies you like and get quotes. Sometimes there is a few hundred or thousand dollar difference in the three truck companies, or the two trailer companies, or in the two container companies. Sometimes they’ll price match their competitor; it doesn’t hurt to ask! (Especially you’re partial to a more expensive choice.) Don’t forget to ask for military discounts, and don’t forget to discuss and get weight tickets.
Whatever you do, be sure you aren’t hiring a moving broker!
How to Recognize and AVOID Moving Brokers in a Personally Procured Move
When hiring help you may come across companies that look like moving services, who offer all the things you’re looking for, but they are actually brokers, and complete scam artist. Get all the info on how to recognize and avoid moving brokers.
Loading and Unloading during your PPM
Here again there are two options: you can do it yourself or hire a team.
Doing it yourself is fairly self explanatory – you load in and unload all of it yourself, or you have friends help.
Alternatively, you can hire loaders and unloaders to help load and unload the truck. They’ll carry your boxes and furniture out of the house, and into the new house. You can hire a company or amateurs. Check U-Haul’s website for loaders or you can post in the local Facebook page.
Google what the usual rate per hour per man is for that area. Expect to pay between $25-$100 an hour per a man. The work usually takes no more than 4 hours if you have a decent sized crew for the job.
The number of people you hire depends on how much stuff you have; if you have 10,000 lbs or less 2-3 people should do it. If you have 15,000-20,000 lbs hire 3-4 at least.
Packing supplies for your DITY move
You’re going to want some or all from this list: boxes, packing paper, bubble wrap, dish packs, moving blankets, box labels, clear wrap, mattress bags, painter’s tape, vacuum bags, hand carts, packing tape…
Two main options for boxes: new or used
New boxes are sold in lots of places. U-Haul, Home Depot/Lowe’s, U-Line, Sam’s… U-Haul has entire house packages, if you’re overwhelmed with choices.
For supplies check those places, as well as Amazon, Harbor Freight (they have good deals on handcarts and moving blankets)… Google and price shop. Sometimes you can rent or borrow. Some options come with handcarts and blankets…there’s lots of variation.
For used boxes, you can ask on the local page, but that’s not as effective as my other favorite ways. Drive around local base housing the night before trash day and check the curb, you might get lucky some weeks. And you can watch for incoming moving trucks, talk to the new family and give them your phone number, and ask them to call you as they unpack and you’ll come get their boxes and paper. This is preferable because you’ll get boxes from the same company, so sizes will be more uniform and easier to load. And used packing paper is extra cushioned because of all the folds.
Boxes are only good for about 4 moves, so if you’re going to do PPMs often you’ll need to replace boxes regularly.
You don’t want to pack using flimsy boxes like that items were shipped in like Amazon boxes (these are fine for packing fragile items in, then packing that box into another moving box.) You don’t want compromised boxes. You might be able to salvage a box that’s been cut open, but leave crushed boxes on the curb.
There’s also military wives who offer packing and unpacking services at various bases. If you need help in those areas you can likely find someone with experience who charges a reasonable fee.
When do I start packing?
One of the biggest obstacles people face in a DITY move is knowing what to pack and when to start. I have created a long packing schedule for those moves where you have more than 2 weeks and time to pack but because in military life we often find we don’t have time to get things ready and we have to move quickly, check out my rush packing schedule suggestions that will help if you have less than 2 weeks before the truck arrives.
Carolee Armstrong, Guest Author
Carolee is an Army spouse and the mama of 3 boys and a girl.
Their family has persevered through 4 DITY moves and are in the midst of their 5th PPM this summer. Carolee is so helpful to share all she has learned through her experiences with the hopes that it helps your family during this crazy PCS season!
A great resource for your DITY move questions is the PCS Like A Pro – Your Smooth Move that has military spouses from all branches working together to navigate the chaos of PCS seasons.