How To Move Cross-Country on a Budget (2024 Guide)
One of the biggest concerns when relocating to another state is finding the money to finance a cross-country move. While expenses like truck rentals, moving insurance, and packing supplies can add up quickly, there are a few things you can do to keep your moving costs down.
We’ve researched the top moving companies across the U.S. and found ways to lower moving costs. Read on to discover our top tips for how to move cross-country on a budget.
How Much Does Moving Cross-Country Cost?
We spoke with representatives from six of the top moving companies in the U.S. about the cost of a cross-country move. We averaged the estimates they provided and found that a partial-service interstate move costs $6,988, while a full-service move is closer to $9,593. Your move doesn’t have to be this expensive though, especially if you use this guide to help you save.
8 Ways To Save Money When Moving
By following just one of our tips, you’ll cut some costs, but by combining a few of these ideas, you’ll save a lot more.
1. Start Planning Early
2. Downsize and Declutter
Long-distance movers base their rates on the timing, distance, and difficulty of your move, including the size and weight of your shipment. The less stuff you have to pack and load, the less expensive your move will be.
The same principle applies when renting equipment for a do-it-yourself (DIY) move because a larger truck or container will cost more than a smaller one. A heavier shipment will also come with higher fuel costs. By decluttering before your move, you’ll avoid bringing things you don’t want or need to your new home, which can help to lower the cost.
Follow the tips below to downsize and declutter:
- Digitize your documents. Rather than packing boxes full of paperwork and documents, digitize them. Scan important documents into your computer and store them electronically to save space.
- Make ditch and donate piles. Go through every room and closet and collect things you no longer use or enjoy. Get rid of clothes that don’t fit, toys the kids no longer play with, broken kitchen gadgets, and appliances you never use. Throw away or recycle broken or worn-out items, and donate anything gently used.
- Sell unwanted items. If you have the time before your move, you can sell your items online or at a yard sale or consignment store.
3. Cut the Cost of Moving Materials
Small Small moving costs can add up quickly, especially purchasing packing supplies. You can find ways to save on packing materials though. The tips below will help you cut supply costs:
- Use what you already have. Wrap fragile items in towels and blankets, use newspaper instead of packing paper, and transport clothes and other soft items in garbage bags and laundry baskets. You may even be able to keep your clothes inside your dresser drawers rather than packing them into boxes.
- Ask local businesses. Businesses that regularly receive large shipments may have empty cardboard boxes you can use. Ask the manager of your local grocery and big-box stores for potential packing materials they would otherwise discard.
- Borrow from friends and family. Ask friends, family members, and coworkers if they have empty boxes or spare supplies. You can request that they save boxes, newspapers, and materials like bubble wrap and tissue paper that they would otherwise throw out. You can also ask a neighbor who recently moved if you can take their moving supplies.
- Buy used packing supplies. Check online marketplaces before buying new supplies. Find the “Take a Box, Leave a Box” bin at your local U-Haul store or browse the U-Haul Customer Connect site. You may be able to find boxes and packing materials for free or at a significantly reduced price.
4. Time Your Move Strategically
Timing is everything when hiring a moving company. Peak moving season is May through September, so if you have some flexibility, aim to move during fall or winter Since summer is the busiest season for cross-country moving companies due to nicer weather and kids being out of school, moving prices are higher. The only exception to this is major holidays, such as Christmas. If you’re moving on or right before a big holiday, movers may charge you more because they’re short-staffed.
5. Reach Out to Friends and Family
Moving can be stressful and time-consuming, but you don’t have to do it alone. Enlisting friends and family to help can make the process more enjoyable and save you money. Here are some ways the people around you can help cut costs:
6. Consider a DIY Move
Instead of hiring a full-service moving company to pack, load, or drive, consider doing it yourself. Handling the necessary moving labor without the help of professionals can save you a lot of money. Movers charge a premium for these services:
- Packing and unpacking: Having a full-service mover pack and label all your boxes is convenient but also costly.
- Loading and unloading: If you and a few helpers can get all your boxes and furniture on and off the truck, that’s one expense you won’t be charged for.
We spoke with Nancy Zafrani, general manager of Oz Moving & Storage, about how to minimize packing costs. She said, “If you are trying to cut costs, I recommend packing yourself. The key to this is giving yourself enough time to do it right, and do it completely. Otherwise, you’re not saving as much.” She pointed out, “A costly mistake people often make is not being packed or prepared when the movers arrive, so they end up incurring the added costs of packing and supplies. Another mistake is having more property/boxes than expected. Don’t underestimate how much you have to move. If you tell your movers you have four rooms of furniture and it turns out to be six, some companies will charge a premium cost for additional, unexpected property being moved.”
7. Consider Alternative Moving Methods
Although hiring a full-service moving company can save you a lot of hassle, you need to weigh the convenience against the cost. To save money, consider alternative moving methods, such as renting a truck or using a freight trailer service.
Companies such as U-Haul, Budget, and Penske rent moving trucks and trailers in various sizes. With this option, you’re in charge of loading, driving, and unloading the truck. They also rent equipment that will make lifting, carrying, and securing heavy items easier. This includes hand trucks, furniture dollies, ratchet straps, and lifting straps.
Renting a moving truck is significantly cheaper than hiring a full-service mover, but there are a few things to keep in mind. In addition to the rental fee, which is based on the anticipated mileage and demand, you’re responsible for the cost of fuel and tolls. You may also be liable for any damage to the truck and your belongings unless you pay for a damage waiver or cargo protection insurance.
A portable moving container is a great alternative to a hiring a moving company. Container companies such as PODS and U-Pack will drop off a container at your home and give you a set amount of time to load it with your belongings. Once it’s packed, the moving company will pick up the container and transport it to your new location or a storage facility.
Remember that there are certain items moving companies will not move. These restrictions generally apply to moving container companies, but freight services may also have limitations. PODS, for instance, notes on its FAQ page that hazardous materials and illegal items cannot be placed in its containers. The company also recommends not packing heirlooms, important documents, and other irreplaceable items in its containers.
Using a freight trailer service is similar to renting a portable moving container. The company will drop off a trailer at your home and give you a set amount of time to load it with your belongings. Once the trailer is fully packed, the company transports it to your new home, where you will unload it.
With a freight trailer service, you only pay for the space you use. The company may choose to combine your shipment with those of other customers, which can result in lower transportation costs. The biggest downside is that the timing may not be as flexible as other moving options.
If you don’t have a lot of belongings to move, you may be able to ship them to your new address. Many shipping companies offer flat-rate boxes that can be used for most household items, including clothing and electronics. You can purchase insurance to protect your items during shipping and track your shipment online.
This can be a cost-effective option if you don’t need to move large or heavy items, such as furniture. You may even be able to schedule pickup of your items, eliminating the need to drop them off at a shipping facility. Shipping your belongings can take longer than other moving methods, however.
8. Look for Sales and Discounts
Every penny counts when moving cross-country on a budget. Many moving companies have sales or offer discounts for certain groups. Here are some tips for finding the best deals:
- Look for sales on moving supplies. Take some time to research sales on packing materials before you start packing. Check online retailers and big-box stores for discounts on boxes, packing tape, and other supplies.
- Search for online promo codes. If you’re booking a rental truck or container online, search for promo codes before you check out. Discount or coupon websites, such as RetailMeNot and coupons.com, may have promo codes for moving-related services, and you can sign up for email newsletters from moving companies to receive exclusive discounts and promotions.
- Check for discounts. Many companies offer discounts for AAA members, military personnel, veterans, students, seniors, and those with disabilities. International Van Lines, for example, has up to a 15% discount for military members, and 1-800-PACK-RAT offers 10% off for seniors.
More Moving Tips To Save Money
The guidelines above provide a comprehensive plan to cut moving costs, but there are some ways to save that often go overlooked. Other ideas to cut costs include:
- Collecting estimates. Get quotes from at least three moving companies to compare pricing. You can do this on the company’s website or by calling.
- Finding price-matching programs. Some moving companies will match the price of another, so get as many quotes as possible to negotiate rates.
- Limiting moving insurance. Only insure your more expensive items. You don’t need to cover your box of toiletries or T-shirts.
- Splitting the transportation cost with another mover. Some interstate movers have load-sharing programs that let you share a truck and split the rental and fuel costs with a fellow relocator.
- Canceling utilities and subscriptions. End internet and cable service on your last day in your house or apartment so that you aren’t paying for services you won’t use. Sign up for companies in your new location once you’ve arrived and can shop for that area’s best deals and get new-member discounts.
- Making a grocery list for the move. Many people plan to just order fast food once their kitchen items are packed, but this can add up quickly. Get snacks and foods that don’t need to be cooked for your home and while traveling so you don’t have to rack up restaurant or delivery fees.
- Asking your employer for relocation services. Find out if your company will pay for part or all of your move if you’re relocating for work.
Matt Woodley, the founder of Mover Focus, suggests, “Check with your current home or renters insurance to see if it covers items during a move. This could save you from purchasing additional insurance from the moving company.”
He also told us, “If you’re moving for work-related reasons, some of your moving expenses might be tax-deductible. Consult with a tax professional to see if you qualify.”
When To Hire a Professional Mover vs. DIY
When creating your moving budget, it may be helpful to consider the value a moving company or new packing supplies offer. Although saving money is a priority, it may be worth spending more in certain situations.
We recommend hiring a professional mover if you:
- Have health issues or limited mobility that would be compromised by physical labor
- Are too busy or overwhelmed to handle all the to-dos, such as packing or loading
- Have many expensive or fragile items you’d be devastated to lose or break; professional movers offer specialty services for these items, such as extra wrapping, crating, and temperature-controlled transporting
There are financial benefits to a DIY move if you don’t fall under these criteria. Nick Valentino, VP of Market Operations at Bellhop, recommends, “Drive yourself. Much of the cost of cross-country moves comes from labor. Professional drivers will spend a lot of expensive hours moving your stuff. If you feel comfortable spending a long time behind the wheel, you can save hundreds of dollars in moving costs, especially if you don’t have to stop overnight.”
Cross-Country Moving Checklist
Moving cross-country is manageable through careful planning and accurate budgeting. Remember to get quotes from at least three companies before agreeing to a rate, and plan your move out as early in advance as you can so you have more options.
FAQ About Moving Cross-Country on a Budget
How much does it cost to move cross-country?
How much it costs to move cross-country depends on several factors, including the size and distance of your move. According to Moving APT, a DIY cross-country move with a rental truck can cost anywhere from $1,600 to $5,200. Using a moving container service can cost $2,000 to 8,200, and hiring a moving company can cost $2,200 to $16,650. We got quotes from several top moving companies and received an average quote of $6,988 for a partial-service move and $9,593 for a full-service move.
What is the cheapest month to move cross-country?
The cheapest time to move cross-country is typically from October to April because most people move during the summer. You can also save money by avoiding holidays, school breaks, and long weekends. Instead, opt for a mid-week move during an off-peak month.
What are the best ways to save money on a move?
The best ways to save money on a move include:
- Ask about discounts and promotions.
- Book early and compare prices.
- Declutter and downsize before packing.
- Enlist the help of friends and family.
- Rent a moving truck or moving container.
- Time your move strategically.
- Use free or low-cost packing materials.
Our Rating Methodology
The This Old House Reviews Team backs up our moving company ratings and recommendations with a detailed rating methodology to objectively score each company. We conduct research by reading through the company websites, analyzing customer reviews, conducting consumer surveys, requesting quotes, and speaking with customer representatives. We then score each moving company against our review standards for services, contents coverage, scheduling options, additional benefits and custom service options, and reputation among customers to arrive at a final score on a 5-point rating scale.
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