aerial view of Chicago skyline

Moving In Chicago: What’s The Best Way To Relocate In Or Out Of The City?

Chicago Illinois

by Megy Karydes Posted on June 18, 2020

Between the insane traffic and extremely limited parking – not to mention our Windy City weather -- Chicago can be a challenging place when it comes to moving. 

Whether you’re moving out of the city to the suburbs, moving long distance, or just relocating locally, it’s easy for your brain to get overloaded with all the details both big and small. But before you jump into googling Chicago movers, it’s important to remember that you have real choices in how you make this move. It’s worth it to consider all your options – both the ones you’re familiar with and the alternative solutions you may not have tried.

If you’ve moved before, you’ve probably used traditional full-service movers, rental trucks, or both. But have you thought of trying moving containers? These days, with more uncertainty about moving plans and concerns about contactless moving, portable containers are a popular solution for people needing storage options, scheduling flexibility, and peace of mind.

Not that containers are for everyone – they’re simply worth checking out, along with your other options. You might even end up combining services – after all, just as no two moves are the same, one service may not fit all needs.

To help with deciding what’s best for your move, here’s a look at your options, how each works, and an estimate of what your moving costs would be like for each.

Before researching Chicago moving services, truck rentals, and moving containers, think through these factors:

  1. How much stuff am I moving?
  2. What’s my budget and timetable?
  3. Do I need storage and scheduling flexibility?
  4. Do I want to consider contactless moving to reduce risks of coronavirus exposure?
  5. How much work am I able and willing to do myself? Do I have friends or family who can help?
  6. Am I moving in an urban area that has parking restrictions?
Mover helps carry sofa up steps

Chicago moving options

When choosing your moving options, keep in mind that Chicago’s driving and parking conditions can make driving a huge rental truck a nail-biting experience. That said, you still have five main options for moving:

  1. Rental Truck
  2. Moving container service
  3. Hybrid moving container service specialized for city moves
  4. Traditional full-service mover
  5. A combination of the above

Since everyone likes to have at least some ballpark idea on costs, let’s start with that.

How much does a local move cost in Chicago?

While there’s no substitute for getting detailed estimates based on your specific move, here’s a general range on local Chicago moving costs to help with early planning, based on pricing from PODS and the MoveBuddha Moving Cost Calculator. Depending on the amount of stuff you’re moving and the number of miles, local moving costs for a moderately furnished 2- to 3-bedroom home in Chicago will range from $49* on the low side for rental trucks to $2,321* on the high end for a traditional mover. If you go with a PODS moving container, the cost to move locally in Chicago for a moderately furnished 2- to 3-bedroom household is usually between $425* to $474*, including one-month built-in storage, either in your driveway or at a secure Storage Center, with standard delivery and pickup service.

Chicago Moving Costs: Local Move Estimates*

Household SizeFull-Service MoversPODSRental Truck
2-3 bedroom
(800 sf to 1,200 sf)
*Based on estimates from PODS and MoveBuddha, costs don’t include insurance or taxes. Prices will vary based on specific location, dates, amount to be moved, and available discounts.

How much does it cost to move out of Chicago to other parts of the country?

Long-distance moving costs depend on distance, the amount of stuff you’re moving, and market conditions in your destination city. Here are some rough estimates for the three main types of moves:

  • Truck rentals for long-distance moves average $971 plus incidentals, according to HIreAHelper, while MoveBuddha estimates a range of $2,000 to $4,000+ for cross-country moves. 
  • Traditional full-service movers for moves over 1,000 miles range in cost from $950 to $8,400+, according to MoveBuddha. 
  • PODS portable containers will usually cost from $1,237 to $2,999 for long-distance moves, including one month for storage.
Moving from Chicago to Milwaukee or Milwaukee to Chicago? For moving costs, jump to our Milwaukee section below.  

Since price is only one factor in your moving decision, let's take a look at how each option works.

Family unloading moving boxes from rental truck

Chicago Rental Trucks

If you’re on a bare bones moving budget, renting a truck is usually the cheapest option for small, local moves. It also puts the most pressure on you (and your driving skills!). But if you’re young or at least have young friends or relatives who can help out with the heavy lifting, you can save a good chunk of change when you’re not moving too far from Chicago. But the cost savings aren’t as clear cut if you’re moving a long distance or cross-country. Be sure to factor in costs for transporting a vehicle while you’re driving the rental truck, as well as gas, mileage, and other expenses.

Before you rent a truck for your move, make sure you plan your route and parking ahead of time. See our section below for details on parking a rental truck in Chicago.

Top reasons people moving in Chicago choose rental trucks:

  1. Budget constraints
  2. Easy to get prices fast, make reservations, and do everything online
  3. Not worried about driving or parking a truck in Chicago or anywhere
  4. Have plenty of help for loading and unloading
  5. Enjoy having as much control over the moving process as possible
  6. Experienced with using rental trucks for moving

How to get estimates:

  • For local and long-distance moves: You can get a detailed quote online or by phone (followed in writing via email)
PODS truck delivering moving container

Moving with PODS Containers: How it Works

If you need storage, plenty of scheduling flexibility, or want to combine services to serve special needs, portable container services like PODS offer affordable options. It’s also a great choice if you don’t want to drive a huge truck in Chicago traffic or weather. The built-in storage can also be a lifesaver if you’re decluttering and downsizing, need to clear the way for home staging to help sell your home, or for remodeling your new place (check out our home remodeling checklist.) Learn more about local services by visiting PODS Chicago Moving & Storage.

How PODS standard service works:

  • The container is delivered to you.
  • You take your time loading it up to the brim (or hire optional labor help).
  • PODS picks it up and takes your container to your new place.
  • When you’re done unloading, PODS picks up your container.
  • Take a full 30 days to move or pay a set monthly rental fee for more time.
  • If needed, PODS can keep your loaded container at a secure storage center

Top reasons people moving in Chicago choose PODS containers:

  1. Contactless moving and storage to reduce coronavirus exposure
  2. Built-in storage either at your location or at a secure Storage Center
  3. Freedom to take your time and change schedules to adapt quickly
  4. Safety of belongings because you own the only lock and key
  5. Fair pricing with no surprises or hidden fees (usually less expensive than movers)
  6. Easy to combine with other moving options

How to get PODS estimates:

  • For long-distance moves: You can get a detailed quote by phone at 877-350-7637 (followed in writing via email)
Busy Chicago street

PODS City Service

If you’re moving to or from a location in Chicago where you can’t leave a container overnight, you may want to consider an option like PODS City Service. You get the same built-in storage as with PODS standard service and you don’t have to deal with driving or parking a truck yourself. The only difference is the container is kept on the PODS truck and taken away on the same day to ease the stress of moving in a busy urban city like Chicago. You can also combine City Service with PODS standard service, depending on the parking availability in each location. For example, you might be moving from a city apartment to a home in the suburbs.

How PODS City Service works:

  • A PODS driver brings your container at your scheduled time and stays for loading, helping to defend against tickets, thieves, and any other potential threats to your belongings.
  • While your container remains on the truck, a lift carries you, your helpers, and your belongings to and from your container.
  • You load and unload at ground level – no carrying heavy items up and down a ramp.
  • When your container is loaded and ready to go, your PODS driver can take it to a secure PODS Storage Center and keep it there as long as you need, or you can have it delivered to your new place.

How to get estimates:

  • For local and long-distance moves: You can get a detailed quote by phone at 877-350-7637 (followed in writing via email)

Top reasons people moving in Chicago choose PODS City Service:

  1. Less stress about city driving and parking
  2. Ramp-free loading and unloading
  3. Convenient storage available at a secure Storage Center
  4. Safety of belongings because you own the only lock and key
  5. Fair pricing with no surprises or hidden fees
  6. Easy to combine with other moving options
Woman signs paperwork for Chicago mover

Traditional Movers: Working with Chicago Moving Companies or Long-Distance Movers

If money’s no object and you’re more comfortable handing over all your belongings and the chores of moving to a third party, then hiring pro movers may be your preferred choice. Full-service movers will do all the truck driving, loading, and unloading. For an added fee, they’ll also take care of the packing and unpacking, and sometimes even furniture disassembly and reassembly.

When you’re checking out Chicago movers, ask around for referrals and get three estimates in writing. When you’re comparing estimates, don’t be too quick to jump at a bid that’s a lot lower than the others -- it could be a scam.

How to get estimates:

  • For local moves: You can usually get an estimate by phone (ask for a written copy via email) or sometimes online, based on an hourly rate per moving professional.
  • For long-distance moves: An in-home visit or virtual walk-through is usually required, and the estimate is based on the estimated weight of your belongings and distance.

Here’s a quick checklist when hiring moving companies:

  • Check their licensing and online reviews.
  • Ask if they’ll be using subcontractors.
  • Find out how their scheduling works and how they handle date changes.
  • Ask about the deposit, cancellation, and refund policy.
  • Find out if there are any extra fees for stairs, extra-heavy items, or other factors.
  • If you need storage, ask if it’s available, and get details on costs and access.

Top reasons people moving in Chicago choose traditional movers:

  1. No time to deal with moving chores.
  2. Prefer extra services, regardless of price.
  3. More familiar with how traditional movers work.
  4. Don’t have any scheduling constraints or storage needs.

Mix and match: Combining services to customize your move

If one solution doesn’t meet all your needs, consider creating your own by picking and choosing. Here are some popular hybrid scenarios, based on PODS research:

  • Using a moving container to help declutter or to send belongings straight to storage and then hiring full-service movers for the rest.
  • Moving personal items in a container and letting movers take the heavy or fragile items.
  • Hiring labor help to pack and load – or just the heavy items -- so it’s like a full-service move using a container.
  • Using a container and then renting a truck to “finish” the move, using it for leftover or essential items for use in temporary housing.

Up next -- moving from Chicago to Milwaukee...

Milwaukee skyline at night
Downtown Milwaukee skyline

Moving from Chicago to Milwaukee?

While Milwaukee attracts more residents from Chicago than the other way around, the moving route between the two cities is well travelled. While the most recent census data showed about 3,600 people moved from Chicago to Milwaukee in 2015, 2,300 Milwaukee residents moved to the Windy City. A more recent indicator from Apartment List search data shows 35% of people looking for apartments in Milwaukee hailed from Chicago in the first four months of 2020.

Reasons for people making the big shift from Chicago to Milwaukee include getting more bang for their buck on both rent and housing prices, a shorter commute to work, and better public schools.

How much does it cost to move from Chicago to Milwaukee or from Milwaukee to Chicago?

Though it’s only about a 1½ -hour drive to cover the 92 miles between the two cities, it’s better to give yourself at least two days if you’re using a rental truck. Relocating a moderately furnished 2- to 3-bedroom household from Chicago to Milwaukee will cost from $142* for a two-day truck rental to $3,474* for a traditional mover. Moving a moderately furnished 2- to 3-bedroom household from Chicago to Milwaukee with PODS containers will usually cost from $799* to $949*, including one-month built-in storage, either in your driveway or at a secure Storage Center in Chicago or Milwaukee, with standard delivery and pick-up service.

Moving costs* for Chicago to Milwaukee (AND VICE VERSA)

Household SizeFull-Service MoversPODSRental Truck
2-3 bedroom
(800-1,200 sf)
*Based on estimates from PODS and MoveBuddha, costs don’t include insurance or taxes. Prices will vary based on specific locations, dates, size of household to be moved, and available discounts. For a detailed quote, call PODS at 877-350-7637.

Worried about parking a rental truck in Chicago? Read on for tips...

No Parking Signs on Chicago street in winter

What are the parking requirements for rental trucks in Chicago?

Moving is enough of a hassle without dealing with external factors. But if you’ll be using a rental truck, the one thing you must consider and plan in advance is where you plan to park. Don’t even think about leaving your car or truck for a few minutes if it’s parked illegally or without the proper parking permit. Chicago doesn’t mess around when it comes to issuing parking tickets or even towing your truck if you’re parked in an illegal spot. Here are some tips to help avoid fines and hassles on moving day:

  • Reach out for help: The best place to start researching parking requirements are by visiting your alderman or alderwoman’s website. You can find your alder’s contact information by visiting the city’s ward and alderman website page. You’ll want to find the right office for both where you’re moving to and from because you’ll need “no parking” signs from both offices in order to secure a spot in both locations. If your truck or van is small enough, you may be able to secure free “no parking” signs, but many alders remind residents that these signs are not enforceable, meaning it’s no guarantee that vehicles won’t park there because they won’t be ticketed or towed by the Chicago police.
Pro tip: Reach out to the alder offices sooner than later, because some offices are quicker to respond to requests than others.
  • Check into permits: Depending on the size of your truck, you may need to secure a moving van permit. The cost of the permit for parking a moving van can be found here
  • Beware of snow “dibs”: Remember how challenging it is to drive down narrow side streets after a snowfall if the snow hasn’t been plowed? Parking becomes even more chaotic, because Chicago has a tradition of calling “dibs” on public parking spaces when someone shovels a parking spot by placing old furniture or some other random household item. It’s not legal, but cars have been known to be vandalized if you try to move someone’s item from the spot. You’ve been warned.

Parking permits are often an afterthought when you’re moving, but in a city like Chicago, it shouldn’t be. Save yourself the headache and having to deal with unnecessary fines and tickets by planning ahead.

Making your move in Chicago

It’s true that there seems to be no shortage of things to consider or do before moving, but proper planning can mean the difference between getting overwhelmed and a smoother move with less stress. Our moving checklist will help you bring order to chaos. If you haven’t decided where you’re moving, our Chicago Neighborhoods Guide can help you narrow your search. By taking control of your move now, you’ll soon be able to enjoy your new home and surroundings.

Megy Karydes is a Chicago-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in Rodale’s Organic Life, Forbes, and USA Today.

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