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How To Move Cross-Country on a Budget (2024 Guide)

Author Image Written by Shane Sentelle Updated 05/16/2024

Moving to another state is expensive enough, but moving cross-country can be even more daunting. Expenses like truck rentals, moving insurance, and packing supplies add up quickly, but 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 discovered many ways to lower moving costs. Read on for 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 their estimates 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

Planning ahead is the best way to save money on your long-distance move. Give yourself at least eight weeks to research your options and make informed decisions about how and when to move. Here are some tips for planning ahead:

Create a moving budget. Determine how much cash you’ll need to make a cross-country move and start setting that aside each paycheck. Start with how much money you’ll need to hire a full-service moving company and then leave a little room in your budget for surprise expenses and room and board along the way.
Make a packing list. Include the furniture, breakable items, and other belongings in each room to determine how much stuff you have, how many boxes you’ll need, and whether you’ll require specialty packing materials for fragile items. Figure out what you want to keep and what you can replace when you get to your new home. While you don’t need to include everything in your home on the list, a rough estimate will be helpful, especially if you need a quote from a moving company.
Book early. If you’re using a moving company, book your moving date at least two months in advance. If you’re renting trucks or storage containers, reserve the equipment early on. This will help you secure a lower rate and ensure that the resources you need will be available on your move date. If you are interested in hiring movers, check out our top picks for long-distance moving companies.

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 moving costs can add up quickly, especially 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. Summer is the busiest season for cross-country moving companies due to nicer weather and kids being out of school, making moving prices 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.  

Moving during the week rather than on the weekend is also less expensive, but if you can’t schedule your move for an off-peak time, remember to book in advance. Waiting until the last minute will leave you with fewer options and higher prices.

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:

Ask your friends and family to help you pack your belongings and load them into the truck. You can order some pizza or buy them gift cards as a way to thank them, which is far cheaper than hiring a professional packer.
If you’re planning a DIY cross-country move and you know someone with a large truck or van, consider borrowing it instead of renting one. Not only will you save money, but you’ll have more control over the pace and timing of the move.
Some people find having their pets at home while packing and loading too overwhelming or even dangerous since the door may be propped open to allow loaders to come and go. Instead of pet boarding, ask a friend or family member if you can leave your pets with them for a few days. 

6. Consider a DIY Move

Consider doing it yourself instead of hiring a full-service moving company to pack, load, or drive. 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.

Here are some alternative moving methods that might be worth considering if you are trying to make your move more affordable:

Companies such as U-Haul, Budget, and Penske rent various-sized moving trucks and trailers. 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 many 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 option can be cost-effective 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 each one.
  • 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. Insure only 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 any of the following apply to you:

  • You have health issues or limited mobility that would be compromised by physical labor.
  • You are too busy or overwhelmed to handle all the to-dos, such as packing or loading.
  • You 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 transport.

There are financial benefits to a DIY move if you don’t fall under these criteria. Nick Valentino, vice president 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.”

Our team has researched the top moving companies across the country, and here are the ratings we devised:

Star Rating BBB Rating Service Model Link
International Van Lines International Van Lines
American Van Lines American Van Lines
A+ Carrier and broker GET ESTIMATE
Safeway Moving Inc. Safeway Moving Inc.
B- Carrier and broker GET ESTIMATE
Interstate Moving & Relocation Group Interstate Moving & Relocation Group
JK Moving Services JK Moving Services
A+ Carrier and broker GET ESTIMATE
Allied Van Lines Allied Van Lines
North American Van Lines North American Van Lines
Moving APT Moving APT
Mayflower Mayflower
A+ Carrier and broker GET ESTIMATE
United Van Lines United Van Lines
A+ Carrier and broker GET ESTIMATE
International Van Lines
Logo International Van Lines
Star Rating
BBB Rating A+
Service Model Carrier
American Van Lines
Logo American Van Lines
Star Rating
BBB Rating A+
Service Model Carrier and broker
Safeway Moving Inc.
Logo Safeway Moving Inc.
Star Rating
BBB Rating B-
Service Model Carrier and broker
Interstate Moving & Relocation Group
Logo Interstate Moving & Relocation Group
Star Rating
BBB Rating B
Service Model Broker
JK Moving Services
Logo JK Moving Services
Star Rating
BBB Rating A+
Service Model Carrier and broker
Allied Van Lines
Logo Allied Van Lines
Star Rating
BBB Rating A+
Service Model Carrier
North American Van Lines
Logo North American Van Lines
Star Rating
BBB Rating A+
Service Model Carrier
Moving APT
Logo Moving APT
Star Rating
BBB Rating B
Service Model Broker
Logo Mayflower
Star Rating
BBB Rating A+
Service Model Carrier and broker
United Van Lines
Logo United Van Lines
Star Rating
BBB Rating A+
Service Model Carrier and broker
Company Star Rating BBB Rating Visit Site

Cross-Country Moving Checklist

Aside from sticking to your budget, there are plenty of other things to remember when moving cross-country. Add these to your list if they’re not already part of your to-dos:
Have a plan for the kids and pets while you’re in the packing phase and traveling.
Don’t forget to leave out necessary items such as toilet paper, toothbrushes, pajamas, and phone chargers. You’ll need them before, during, and after your move, and you don’t want to go tearing open your boxes to find them.
Change your address with your bank, utility, and subscription providers. Remember to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to update your license and your local post office to set up mail forwarding. 
If your fridge and freezer are coming with you, remember to empty, clean, and defrost roughly 48 hours before loading. 
Verify that any moving company you hire has the proper credentials, and look for the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) number on its website. You can also use the Federal Motor Carrier Administration site to learn if your mover is authorized and check to see if your mover belongs to organizations such as the American Moving and Storage Association or International Association of Movers. This isn’t required, but it shows that the company cares about upholding standards. 
Keep an inventory of all boxes and items that go into the moving truck to ensure your belongings arrive at their destination.
Make sure to include storage fees in your moving budget if your moving schedule requires it. Companies such as Safeway Moving offer around a month of free storage in their rate, so collect estimates before committing to one.

Our Conclusion

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

We back 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.

To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews Team at reviews@thisoldhousereviews.com.