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How To Pack a Moving Trailer for a DIY move

Posted in Moving on Dec 07, 2020, tagged with how to, moving tips, small moves

Packing a moving trailer is like playing a game of Tetris, except the blocks are heavy and important to you, and most frustratingly they do not clear and create more space when they’re tightly stacked. Regardless of how expertly you pack your moving truck, these boxes and pieces of furniture aren’t going to disappear, which makes the approach you take to pack your moving trailer all the more important.

Hiring a professional moving team or shipping your household goods using less-than-truckload (LTL) or white glove shipping saves you the hassle of loading your belongings into and out of your moving truck, but DIYing your move is typically more economical. The method you choose ultimately depends on what matters to you more—your money or your time.

When should I rent a moving truck?

Renting and packing your own moving trailer or truck is best suited to small, local moves (under 150 miles) where you don’t have lots of heavy furniture, items that will be difficult to load, or delicate and valuable items like antiques.

If you are moving long distance (over 150 miles), it is typically recommended that you hire a professional moving team or a shipping company that specializes in small moves and household moves. However there are certain circumstances in which renting your own moving truck may be the best option for a long distance move:

  • If your budget is more important than convenience or peace of mind
  • If you feel comfortable driving a large truck long distances
  • If you are physically capable of loading and unloading your belongings
  • If you aren’t moving a lot of heavy or bulky items
  • If you aren’t moving antiques or valuable furniture

Get our advice for when to hire movers and when to move yourself.

Large van line movers can be very expensive for long distance moves, but they aren’t your only option for transporting your belongings to a new state or across the country. TSI specializes in long distance small moves, from shipments as small as 1-2 pieces of furniture and a few boxes to the entire contents of a 2+ bedroom home. Large van lines often have minimum weight requirements, so our rates are lower than large van line movers for small moves. We also offer personalized services based on your unique circumstances.

What size moving trailer do I need to rent?

If you’ve decided to rent a moving truck and DIY your move, it’s important that you rent the right size vehicle so you have space for all your belongings without paying for space you don’t actually need. The most commonly used method for selecting the size of your moving trailer is by the number of bedrooms in your home.

Number of Bedrooms Truck Size
Studio apartment Cargo van or 10' moving truck
2 bedrooms or less 15' moving truck
2-3 bedrooms 20' moving truck
4+ bedrooms 26' moving truck

TSI TIP: When renting a moving trailer, you should always read the truck rental company’s size guidelines carefully to avoid choosing a truck that is too small for your belongings.

If you’ve decided to DIY your move, here’s how to pack your moving trailer:

1. Distribute the weight evenly

Plan from the beginning to safely and evenly distribute weight throughout the back of your moving truck. This is a key step because it makes it easier to load and unload, and it also makes the truck easier to control during transit. Heavier items should be placed on the floor near the cab and against the sides of the truck, where they can easily be secured using moving straps.

2. Big and heavy furniture goes on the truck first

Your largest and heaviest items should be loaded onto the truck before anything else. If they are first onto the truck, they’re easier to secure to the walls and will be more stable. This way, there’s less risk of them falling or damaging other items, and they create a framework for where boxes and smaller pieces of furniture can go.

TSI TIP: Before you start loading furniture, make sure it is as disassembled as possible. Not only will this make it lighter and easier to carry, it will also make it easier to fit into the truck. Remove the legs from tables and chairs, as well as any glass panels from cabinets and tables, and carefully wrap and pack these pieces separately. Be sure to label what goes where and keep screws and small pieces in plastic bags.

3. Position your couches, headboards, and tables on their sides

Like tray tables on a plane, narrow but long items like couches, headboards, tables, rolled up rugs, etc. should be kept in an upright position to limit the amount of space they take up within the truck. Moving blankets and plastic wrap can protect upholstered furniture and provide additional cushioning that will help prevent damage to other items within the truck as well.

TSI TIP: To properly roll a rug, roll it with the pile side facing out and the backing facing in. This protects the backing from stretching and breaking. Depending on the rug, it might make sense to carefully roll it around a piece of PVC piping. You can then wrap the whole bundle in heavy plastic wrap or purchase a rug box for protection.

4. Save the lightest boxes for last

To keep light and small items safe from getting crushed, your lightest boxes and belongings should always be packed properly so that they will be safe in the event that they do move around in transit. They should also be loaded in last, and only placed on top of furniture and appliances.

5. Use moving straps to secure everything

Using moving straps is not just a good idea, it’s a necessity when loading a moving truck. Moving straps will keep your items from shifting during transit, preventing large pieces from crushing boxes and damaging your belongings. Strap down your items as you load them in, starting with your largest and heaviest items and finishing up with light boxes.

TSI TIP: Light items still need to be strapped down as they can easily move around in transit and break or cause damage if not secured.

6. Keep your most important items separate and clearly labeled

For peace of mind and an added layer of security, keep important documents, jewelry, collectibles, and other valuable items in your personal vehicle if you aren’t driving the truck yourself.

In the event that you are driving separately from your moving truck, you should also make sure your box of moving day essentials and an overnight bag are in your personal vehicle. If you are traveling with the truck, make sure these items are in an easy-to-access location so you don’t have to unload every single thing to find what you will need first and foremost. Clearly label these boxes so that they can be quickly identified.

Packing a moving trailer: conclusion

Loading a moving truck is always going to require physical effort, planning ahead, and a sense of good spatial awareness. If you have opted to DIY your move, keep these 6 tips in mind as you start to pack your moving truck: 

  1. Distribute the weight of your heaviest items evenly throughout the truck
  2. Big, heavy pieces should be loaded in first
  3. Long and narrow items should be stood on their ends to save space
  4. Secure all items in place with moving straps
  5. Load lightest items onto the truck last
  6. Keep your most important items separate and clearly labelled

Decided not to DIY your move?

We specialize in long distance small moves.

Learn more