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How To Prepare for a Long-Distance College Move

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Since long-distance college moves come with plenty of challenges, it takes careful planning to create a smooth and cost-effective transition. Sticking to your budget and understanding shipping options for your car and other possessions will help you ace your big college move.

In this article, our research team will offer various moving, packing, and car shipping tips for college students making a long-distance relocation.

Crash Course:

  • Creating a schedule and sticking to it are some of the most important elements for a successful college move.
  • Colleges and universities typically have welcome events and move-in assistance available for new students.
  • If you decide to ship your car to college, be sure to compare quotes from multiple companies and book at least two weeks in advance.

Gather Move-In Information From Your School

Learning your school’s regulations for moving onto campus is the best place to begin your preparations. Colleges and universities have varying move-in dates and guidelines, with some giving you a range of dates and times and others being more regimented. Be sure to find out:

  • When you’re allowed to move in
  • If there will be student groups or anyone else to help with moving
  • If there are any items you can’t bring
  • How big your dorm room is
  • What type of moving equipment you can use
  • Where you’re allowed to park
  • If the school provides hand trucks, dollies, or other equipment

While these details won’t be the most exciting to learn about, they’ll remove much of the stress you’d otherwise face on move-in day.

Plan For a Long Day

We also suggest moving in as early in the day as possible to get a feel for your dorm room and the area surrounding campus. If you have a roommate, it’s also a good idea to contact them ahead of time. You may find that there are shared items and appliances you don’t need to pack.

Above all, keep in mind that moving to college is an all-day process. Dress for the weather and don’t forget to drink plenty of water.

Tips on Packing for a College Move

Perhaps the best packing advice is to avoid overpacking. As mentioned above, you can reach out to your roommate before moving so you don’t both bring the same appliances and accessories. In general, we’d suggest the following for any college move:

  • Make a packing basket: Put tape, labels, scissors, and other supplies in a basket so you can easily access what you need.
  • Designate a box to open first: Toiletries, towels, and similar items that you’ll need right away should be placed into an “open first” box.
  • Pack similar items together: Rather than sorting through items and organizing them after the move, make things easy on yourself by packing similar items together.
  • Label everything: When each box has a label on every side, unpacking goes much more quickly and smoothly.
  • Use small boxes for heavy items: Overloaded boxes make moving more difficult than it ought to be. Place any heavy items in the smallest boxes possible to avoid undue strain.

College Must-Have Items

A few things probably come to mind when you think about packing for a big college move: bedding, an alarm clock, hygiene products, storage solutions, and various electronic devices. The list of college living must-haves is likely longer than you realize, though. Here are a few items we consider non-negotiables for living on campus:

  • Shower essentials: Shower shoes are required if you live in a dorm, and a shower caddy will simplify your daily life. A robe is another underrated college living accessory.
  • Laundry accessories: A hamper, laundry basket, hangers, lint brush, and steamer could all be considered must-haves. Detergent, dryer sheets, and quarters for laundry machines (if necessary) also fall under this category.
  • Cooking tools: You may eat most of your meals at an on-campus dining location, but you’ll still want to have basic supplies like a can opener, chip clips, and food storage containers at the ready.
  • Cleaning supplies: A small vacuum, a paper towel holder, dust wipes, a broom, and an all-purpose cleaner will go a long way toward maintaining a clean living space.

Note that most of these supplies can be purchased once you arrive at college. There’s no need to take up valuable storage space by packing these readily-attainable items before the move.

Shipping to College Dorms

Moving cross-country – or at least to another state – for college is a bit easier for students in the 2020s. There’s no shortage of companies that help students make these big moves, and they’re typically cheaper than using major carriers like FedEx and UPS. Self-moving services also come with less hassle and lower fuel costs than renting a truck from a company like U-Haul.

Many self-moving services use cubes made to fit a small room’s worth of furniture. Drivers pick up the loaded cube and drive it to campus, where it fits into a standard parking space. Before selecting this type of moving service, ask about your school’s parking regulations since you may not be able to leave your cube in a space overnight.

What About Shipping Your Car?

If you plan to take your car to college, you may want to consider having it shipped. Driving for a long-distance move comes with fuel, food, and lodging expenses along with more stress on top of an already exhausting process.

You might not have the time or patience to add a long drive as part of your college move. Also remember that shipping your car to college won’t add any miles or wear and tear to the vehicle.

Our Car Shipping Survey

In August 2023, our team surveyed 1,000 people who had shipped their cars. Moving or relocation was by far the most popular reason for shipping a vehicle, with 47% of respondents selecting this option. A full 84% of those surveyed said they compared quotes from multiple shipping providers, which is our best tip for finding a reasonable auto transport price.

When it comes to cost, 28% of respondents said they paid between $1,000 and $1,500 for their car shipments. This was followed closely by $500 to $1,000, with 27% of those surveyed reporting this price range. All in all, 61% of respondents paid less than $1,500 for their shipments.

There are two basic methods of car shipping: open transport and enclosed transport. Here’s a quick comparison of these shipping styles:

  • Open car transport: Your vehicle gets shipped on an open-air trailer with several other vehicles. This method is far cheaper than enclosed shipping but leaves your car exposed to both the elements and to road debris.
  • Enclosed car transport: Your car is transported in an enclosed hauler, keeping it safe from bad weather and potential road hazards. This is the more expensive auto transport method and is usually reserved for high-value vehicles like sports and luxury cars.

Open car shipping is the most sensible option for college students who are on a budget, though you may want to consider enclosed shipping if you own a luxury vehicle.

Open Car Shipping Cost Estimates

Here are some car shipping cost estimates from our top-rated companies for a 1,500-mile open auto transport delivery:

Car Shipping CompanyEstimated Cost
Montway Auto Transport$1,459
Sherpa Auto Transport$1,075
SGT Auto Transport$1,385
American Auto Shipping$1,559

Enclosed Car Shipping Cost Estimates

Below are some estimates for an enclosed auto transport shipment of 1,500 miles:

Car Shipping CompanyEstimated Cost
Montway Auto Transport$1,829
Sherpa Auto Transport$1,275
SGT Auto Transport$2,079
American Auto Shipping$2,079

Featured Car Shipping Companies

We reviewed the industry’s top car shipping providers. Here are our featured picks:

Our #1 Rated Provider

Our Rating: 4.7 out of 5.0

See Plans

On Montway’s Website

(844) 601-0286

Or Call Montway Directly

Highly Rated Provider

Our Rating: 4.6 out of 5.0

See Plans

On SGT’s Website

(864) 635-4879

Or Call SGT Directly

Best for Locked-In Pricing

Our Rating: 4.6 out of 5.0

See Plans

On Sherpa’s Website

(888) 916-6358

Or Call Sherpa Directly

Best for Affordable Services

Our Rating: 4.4 out of 5.0

See Plans

On Nexus’ Website

(224) 286-8173

Or Call Nexus Directly

Keep in mind that the price you pay for a vehicle shipment will depend on a range of factors. The following variables will contribute to the final cost of a car shipment:

  • Vehicle model: Smaller cars usually cost less to ship than large SUVs and trucks.
  • Shipping distance: Car shipments of longer distances come with higher overall costs but lower per-mile rates.
  • Pickup and delivery locations: Many shipping companies offer both door-to-door (pickup and delivery as close to a home address as possible) and terminal-to-terminal (using centrally located shipping terminals) services, with door-to-door being pricier.
  • Time of year: Moves for college usually fall during the busiest season for car shipping: the summer months. More demand could lead to higher shipping costs.
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Car Shipping Tips From an Expert

Our team asked Sam Ismailzada, the CEO of car shipping company AmeriFreight, for his best auto transport advice. “Planning ahead of time and not rushing the process has a significant impact on the price,” he said. “Typically, about one to two weeks of lead time is more than enough in most cases.”

Ismailzada also stressed the importance of researching various shipping providers. He said, “Don’t go for the cheapest option or a company that only tells you what you want to hear. Go with a company that transparently explains the whole process and tells you what you can do, what you can’t do, and the why behind it.”

Adjusting to the On-Campus Lifestyle

Just because you’ve successfully moved onto campus doesn’t mean you should slow down. After all, there’s an entire college community to learn about and settle into. Below, we’ll give a few recommendations for how to adjust socially and financially to your new college environment.

Take Advantage of Welcome Events

Moving to college – especially if it’s a cross-country jaunt – can be stressful. However, colleges and universities typically have welcome day activities that can help you get comfortable on campus, meet other students, and learn useful information for the year ahead. Although you’ll likely be greeted with long lines, these events are ideal for getting off to a good start at your new school.

Create a Budget

Once you’re settled into your new accommodations, it’s time to create a budget that you can stick to throughout the school year. There are plenty of free apps that can help you to do this. We also recommend setting up a spreadsheet to track your income and any regular expenses. At the very least, write down how much you generally spend so you know exactly where you stand at any point in the semester.

Use Your Student ID To Save Money

You’ll quickly find out that many businesses in your college town offer student discounts. During the first few weeks in your new college home, take your student ID everywhere. You may find discounted prices on all kinds of food, electronics, clothing, and entertainment options.

Moving Cross-Country for College: FAQ

Below are some frequently asked questions about moving cross-country for college:

Do I need to change my driver’s license when I move to another state for college?

No. As a college student, you’re not considered a permanent resident of the state in which you attend school. You can keep your original driver’s license as you work toward your degree.

Should I bring my car to college?

Whether you should bring your car to college depends on various factors. Having a car on campus can make it easier to travel home during school breaks, get to an off-campus job, and visit local restaurants and attractions. However, parking is an issue on many college campuses. Along with paying for a parking permit, you also have to consider the cost of gas and vehicle maintenance.

What is the best company to ship a car?

Montway Auto Transport is our top recommendation for car shipping. The company has a strong industry reputation and offers a host of shipping options at reasonable prices. You can get an instant car shipping quote on the Montway Auto Transport website.