One of the things we love about Alaska is the “can do” attitude its residents embrace. When you live in the Last Frontier, you have to be resourceful and flexible to get many things done. That’s why it might seem like a no-brainer for you to perform a DIY move to Alaska.
If you’re considering a move to Alaska, you’ve likely got that same can-do spirit. You may be considering a do-it-yourself move, rather than hiring a moving company to handle all the details of your relocation. DIY moves can take many forms, including:
- Putting your possessions in boxes and using a general freight carrier to move them.
- Packing a trailer, hitching it to your truck and driving it to Alaska.
- Buying your own container and shipping it to Alaska via steamship line.
- And many more—we’ve seen some pretty creative solutions from our fellow Alaskans!
While we love the frontier attitude, our office has received many calls from stranded future Alaskans. Unfortunately, their DIY moves have left them in desperate need of help. So to help you make a well-informed decision for moving to Alaska, we’ll walk you through five things you need to consider before making a DIY move.
1. Is Your Truck Ready to Haul Your Trailer All the Way to Alaska?
If you don’t have that many possessions, hitching a trailer to your truck and driving it to Alaska could be a viable option. Depending on the size, you could haul anywhere from 1,500-4,000+ pounds of your household items behind your truck.
However, we did receive a call from a person recently who got on the road for Alaska, only to find out that his truck couldn’t handle the trailer load. In this particular case, this future Alaskan no longer had a home to go to and was desperate to get himself to Alaska to start work on time.
To avoid this situation, before you decide on a trailer, make sure you:
- Confirm your truck’s towing capacity directly from your vehicle’s manufacturer before renting or buying a trailer. Keep in mind that any modifications you’ve made to your vehicle may change your towing capacity.
- Check out our guide for prepping your truck for the long drive to Alaska. No matter your starting point, this is going to be the road trip of a lifetime, and you want to be ready for every eventuality.
- Make sure you (and any other drivers) feel comfortable maneuvering with a trailer. Tight corners and parking lots can get tricky. Please make sure you also practice backing up a few times, so you get the hang of it before it becomes a critical maneuver.
You might also find this complete towing guide from Road Show helpful as you decide whether pulling a trailer to Alaska is right for you.
If towing is the way you’d like to go, there’s one other thing you want to make sure to consider.
2. Are You Taking All Your Costs into Account for Your DIY Move to Alaska?
When you’re doing your research, you’ll likely be weighing the costs between your options. If you’re considering renting or buying a trailer, you’ll need to take into account that up-front cost for the purchase or rental.
However, you’ll want to make sure you take into account all of your costs, including:
Fuel: When towing, your truck will get significantly fewer miles to the gallon. So as you calculate the cost of fuel, make sure you take this lower gas mileage under consideration. Besides, if you’re traveling through Canada, fuel is sold by the liter. As a result, a gallon of gas can cost as much as $4.50. So for a 3,000-mile trip, you may find yourself spending more than $2,000 in fuel!
Meals & Lodging: You’ll see some incredible sights when you decide to drive to Alaska instead of flying. However, you’ll also have to pay for daily meals on the road and a place to sleep. Make sure you factor in these costs when putting a budget together.
If you’ve decided to tow your belongings isn’t the way you want to go, you might be thinking of a DIY container solution. Let’s walk through that option.
3. Are Purchased Ocean Containers as Economical as They Seem?
We’ve heard many people tell stories of purchasing and loading their own 20′ and 40′ containers. At first glance, this might seem like the more budget-friendly way to move. However, there are a few challenges in moving what the shipping industry calls a “shipper-owned container.”
You have to prove your container is seaworthy. If your container is more than five years old, it has to be inspected to determine its safety. All of this information—the manufacture date and the dates of inspection—should be noted on the inspection plate on the container door. Before you purchase any container, make sure you understand this critical information, or your container may not be eligible for ocean freight.
You’ll need to find a mover with the proper equipment. Containers need to move to port on what’s called a chassis—a trailer that attaches to a truck. Many times, when you have an empty container delivered to your home, it may be left on the ground. However, once you fill it, you may have difficulty finding a company who can pick it up off the ground and get it on a chassis. Attaching a shipping container requires specialized equipment that may not be available everywhere. Before you purchase a container, make sure you’re able to find someone who can load it onto a chassis and get it to port. You’ll also want to make sure you can find someone to deliver it to your new home.
Final costs may vary. At first blush, it might seem like purchasing your container will be less expensive than hiring a moving company. However, if you have a smaller load—maybe half of what a 20′ container could hold—you might spend less by hiring a moving company. The best way to find out? Get an in-person quote in which an expert evaluates your possessions.
As you gather quotes from moving companies—we recommend you get three, independent quotes, by the way—there’s something else you’ll want to consider.
4. Is There a Difference Between a Common Carrier and a Household Goods Carrier?
When it comes to moving goods, there are a couple of different types. Carriers may either be common carriers, who are licensed to move freight of all kinds, or household goods carriers, who are licensed by the federal government precisely to move household goods.
Here’s the difference: Household goods carriers are specialists in moving household goods. They’ve gone the extra mile to get certified to pack and move personal possessions. Plus, they’re subject to particular regulations designed to protect consumers like you. These carriers are licensed to provide services such as packing, loading, transport, and unpacking. They also offer full-value liability protection for your goods. If you choose this option, they’ll pay to repair or replace anything that is damaged or lost during transit.
In contrast, common carriers move all kinds of freight. They don’t specialize in household goods, and they often offer limited liability protection.
The bottom line? Make sure you ask any company you get a quote from whether they’re a household goods carrier or a common carrier. Take a good look at the type of liability they are willing to offer you in case of loss and damage. While a common carrier may provide you with a cheaper quote, keep in mind that you often get what you pay for – a lot less.
Finally, if you do choose to hire some help—whether it’s for a full-service move or to pick up and drop off your belongings—there’s one last thing you’ll want to know.
5. Does Your Carrier Have Experience in Alaska?
Alaska is a unique place, which is probably part of what drew you to the state in the first place. Getting trailers, containers, and other shipments to and around Alaska presents some unique logistical challenges. Not all carriers are up for it.
We’ve gotten calls from families who hired a carrier to move their shipper-loaded trailer to Alaska. After the process began, they found out the company could only get their shipment to an ocean port in Seattle or Tacoma. They were left to finish the relocation on their own.
As you interview any company to assist you with a move to Alaska, talk to them about their real-world experience in the state. Have they ever moved someone to your exact location? Getting to Anchorage is not the same as getting to Juneau, for example. What exactly did they deliver? Where did the shipment come from? If you don’t get satisfactory answers, you might want to look elsewhere.
Doing Your DIY Move—the Right Way
At Royal Alaskan Movers, we applaud the “can do” attitude behind your DIY move. You’ll need that spirit in Alaska, and you’ll find many others like you who embrace it here. Additionally, now that you’ve considered some of the common challenges surrounding DIY moves to Alaska, you’re armed with all the information you need to make the right choice for your relocation.
If we can help in any way, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Our Anchorage-based team has extensive experience on the ground all over the state. If you’ve got a knotty problem or a challenging move, we have the experience—and the solutions—to help.