San Francisco skyline from the water

Leaving The City? Our Best Tips on San Francisco Moving Costs and Relocation Services

California San Francisco

by Kristin Hanes Posted on July 2, 2020

So, you’re thinking of moving out of the glittering City by the Bay? You’re not alone. Urban flight from San Francisco has been a thing for a while now, with one in three residents wanting out, according to a city government survey. Now that thousands of tech employees are working remotely, we’re expecting to see an even larger exodus from San Francisco.

Many are moving out to find cheaper housing, more space, and an affordable cost of living, and that might mean moving to Bay area suburbs like Oakland or Alameda.

Whether you’re staying in the Bay area, moving to another part of California, or even leaving the state, here’s a guide to what you need to know about expenses and moving services. We’ll even take a quick look at some specific moves, like moving from San Francisco to Sacramento, San Diego, or L.A.

Things to Keep in Mind Before Choosing a Moving Service

The type of relocation service you choose for moving out of San Francisco has a lot to do with how quickly you need to leave your current place. 

If you need to get out fast but don’t have a new place lined up yet, a portable container service like PODS can make it easier to manage the transition. On the other hand, if you have a nice leisurely move ahead and room for a storage container in your driveway, you may want to slowly pack up your belongings over the course of a few weeks. Doing a quick move from place to place? Then a moving truck might be the right choice.

Whatever your relocation situation is, these questions will help guide your planning: 

  • How much stuff do you have to move?
  • What’s your budget and timing?
  • Are you looking for contactless moving to reduce risks of COVID-19 spread?
  • How much work are you willing and able to do yourself? Do you have friends or family who can help?
  • Do you need storage or scheduling flexibility?
  • Are you moving out of an urban area that has parking restrictions?

Once you’ve done some thinking, you’re ready to explore which types of services best fit your needs.

driving a rental truck through San Fran

What are your options for moving in San Francisco?

There are many types of relocation services you can use when moving in or out of San Francisco. Since you’re most likely living in a dense urban environment, if you’re thinking about renting a truck, you’ll probably need to get a permit with the SFMTA to park on the street. Keep in mind that renting your own moving truck is particularly challenging in a bustling urban environment like San Francisco. You’ll have to deal with crazy steep hills, traffic, and tight turns. 

That being said, you still have five main options for moving:

1. Traditional full-service mover

2. Moving container service

3. Hybrid moving container service specialized for city moves

4. Rental truck

5. A combination of the above

Let’s take a look at moving costs, how each service works, and its pros and cons. 

How much does it cost for a local move in the San Francisco Bay area?

There’s going to be quite a bit of a price difference for relocating within the San Francisco Bay area, depending on which type of service you choose, how much stuff you move, and the mileage from point to point.

Renting your own truck is usually the cheapest route, while using traditional full-service movers is the most expensive. A portable container falls somewhere in between.

While there’s no substitute for getting detailed estimates based on your specific move, here’s a general range on local San Francisco 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 San Francisco will range from $50* on the low side for rental trucks to $2,000* on the high end for a traditional mover. If you go with a PODS moving container, the cost to move locally in San Francisco for a moderately furnished 2- to 3-bedroom household is usually between $510* to $590*, including one-month built-in storage, either in your driveway or at a secure Storage Center, with standard delivery and pick-up service.

 San Francisco Moving Costs: Local Move Estimates*

Household SizeFull-Service MoversPODSRental Truck
2-3 bedroom
(800 sf to 1,200 sf)
(1-month storage included)
(plus fuel costs)
*Based on estimates from PODS and MoveBuddha and, 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.

How much does it cost to move from San Fran to other California cities?

Many people relocating out of San Francisco are moving within the state in search of cheaper pastures. Sacramento, San Diego, and Los Angeles all have lower costs of living and great job opportunities. Plus, with Sacramento, you’re closer to Lake Tahoe, and in Southern California you’re near the beach!


RouteMilesFull-Service MoversPODS
(includes 1-month storage)
Rental Truck
(plus fuel costs)
San Francisco to Sacramento
San Francisco to L.A.
San Francisco to San Diego500$1,745-$3,800$1,989-$2,849$630-$972
*Based on estimates from PODS and MoveBuddha for a 2-3 bedroom household (800-1,200 sf), 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.

How much does it cost to move from San Francisco to another state?

If you’re relocating to another state, it makes a lot of difference if you’re staying on the west side of the country versus driving all the way out to New York or Florida. The more miles you put on the higher your cost. Here are some rough estimates for your different options:

  • 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.

In addition to price, there are a lot of other factors that go into choosing moving services. In fact, for many people, their moving situation and preferences play a much bigger role than cost.  Here’s a look at how the different moving services work, plus common reasons why people choose the different options.

packing before a move

Traditional Movers: Working with San Francisco Moving Companies or Long-Distance Movers

If you don’t want anything to do with packing and moving your stuff out of San Francisco, you may want to consider hiring professional movers. This type of service is the most expensive and also the most hands-off.

When you work with a full-service mover, you can choose the level of service you want. For example, you can stick with the basics and just have them do the loading, unloading, and driving, or pay more to have them do it all, including boxing up your stuff and wrapping fragile items. They’ll even take apart and reassemble furniture if you want.

When looking at San Francisco moving companies, start out by asking friends and family members for referrals and get estimates in writing. When you’re comparing estimates, be wary of unusually low bids, as these could be scams.

Here are some key points to cover with 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.

Pros for hiring a full-service moving company when relocating from San Francisco:

  • You won’t have to deal with driving
  • No heavy lifting or asking friends and family to help
  • If you have them pack and unpack, you won’t have to deal with finding moving supplies and breaking down boxes after your move
  • If it’s a good company, you get more convenience and less stress
  • You can choose extra services depending on the company

Cons for hiring a full-service moving company:

  • You’ll probably spend more money
  • Movers will be in and out of your house, handling your belongings
  • Estimates often require an in-home walkthrough or a virtual tour
  • Schedules can be rigid and hard to adjust if your dates change
  • Storage may not be available, or may be expensive and inaccessible 
  • More potential for damage or lost items, as your belongings can be moved multiple times as they’re often combined with other customer’s stuff for long-distance transport

How to get estimates for full-service movers:

  • 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.
packing a PODS container

Moving containers: How PODS works for relocations

If you need to relocate out of San Francisco quickly and don’t have a new place lined up yet -- never fear. A portable container service like PODS could be exactly what you’re looking for. With PODS, a container is delivered, you load it up, and it will be picked up and stored at a secure facility for as long as you need. Once you’ve found your new place, your container is delivered to your doorstep, whether it’s in the Bay area or across the country.

Another factor is affordability. Using a portable container is much more wallet-friendly than paying for movers. Plus, you won’t have to deal with the hassle of trying to maneuver a truck down San Francisco's steep hills and narrow streets. The built-in storage included with PODS can also be super handy for decluttering and home staging to help you maximize your home’s curb appeal.

How PODS standard service works:

  • The container is delivered to you.
  • You take your time loading it up to the brim.
  • PODS picks it up and takes your container to your new place or to a secure storage facility
  • 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.

While it’s ideal to have a driveway or an apartment complex parking lot where you can keep the container, that might be tough if you’re living in ultra-dense SF. The good news is you can get a permit from San Francisco Public Works to keep a storage container on the street or on a sidewalk. 

If you live somewhere in San Francisco where you can’t leave a portable container overnight, you may want to consider using PODS City Service. With this service, your container is kept on the truck while you load it up. You load your items at ground-level using the hydraulic lift, so you don’t have to deal with using a ramp. Experienced drivers also watch over the truck and your belongings while you’re loading. 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. 

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.

Pros for using a moving container when you’re moving in San Francisco:

  • This is the most flexible option; the built-in storage makes it easy to move in stages and it’s easier to reschedule in case of date changes
  • If you keep it in your driveway, you won’t feel rushed to pack up or unpack 
  • More affordable than hiring professional movers
  • You won’t have to worry about driving your own truck in San Francisco
  • Nobody will be touching and moving your stuff, making this a no-contact way to move with less chance of damage or loss
  • You have the option to hire hourly workers to help you load and unload
  • You can easily pair a storage container with either a professional mover or your own truck

Cons for using a moving container: 

  • You may prefer to let professional movers do everything
  • A storage container may be more expensive than renting and loading your own truck
  • You may not be able to keep the container overnight at either of your locations

How to get estimates for PODS moving:

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

Getting a rental truck for your relocation out of San Francisco

Hiring a rental truck from a company like Budget or Penske is usually the cheapest way to deal with moving out of San Francisco for small, short moves. This will be the most stressful method, though, as you’ll have to deal with parking the truck, driving it, and making sure you have enough people to help you load and unload.

If you’re going total DIY, make sure you plot your route first to avoid steep hills, narrow streets, and tight turns -- if that’s possible in your part of San Francisco. You’ll also need to grab a parking permit from the SFMTA.

For moving long distance, renting your own truck and using a container service is a toss-up in terms of price, especially when you factor in costs for transporting a vehicle while you’re driving the rental truck, as well as gas, mileage, and other expenses.

Pros for using a rental truck for your San Francisco move: 

  • Usually the cheapest way to go for small, short moves 
  • You’re in control of the entire moving process 
  • Easy to see pricing options and book online
  • Usually good availability, though weekend dates book early during the summer

Cons for using a rental truck: 

  • Parking permit required, or you’ll have to double park illegally
  • Driving the truck can be difficult in San Francisco
  • Loading and unloading your own stuff
  • Most stressful option
  • No storage options
  • High late fees

How to get estimates for rental trucks:

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

San Francisco Storage Units

Sometimes when you’re relocating, it can be hard to get your move-out and move-in dates to align. You can have a gap of days, weeks, or even months between moving out and moving into the place where you plan to put down roots.

That usually means you’ll need a temporary storage unit in the interim.

You can either choose self-storage, where you’ll have to rent a truck and move all your stuff to the storage unit yourself or rent a portable storage container.

With a PODS portable storage container, you just fill it up at your house, and a driver takes it to a secure storage facility, whether that’s in San Francisco or in your new city. You can easily access your container and items by advance appointment -- no contact needed. When you need your stuff again, the truck hauls the container to your new address.

Making your move out of San Francisco

We’re not going to sugarcoat it. Moving to a new place is a lot of work, but we know you can do it. For more tips, see our guide to surviving moving day in the Bay area. If you’re prepared and pick the right options for your situation, the transition can be a positive new beginning for life in your new home.

Kristin Hanes is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in SF Gate, Marie Claire, and, among other publications.

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