Where To Get Moving Boxes for Your Next Move (2024 Guide)
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The average cross-country move costs more than $4,700. Using free or inexpensive packing supplies can save you money. However, subpar packing materials can damage possessions and cause movers injuries. Sturdy boxes and high-quality packing materials may be worth the extra expense to keep people and possessions safe. In this guide, we cover where to get moving boxes—both for free and for a cost—for all of your packing needs.
Where Can I Find Moving Boxes and Packing Supplies?
You can find free boxes on online marketplaces, at grocery stores, and in several other locations, or purchase moving boxes from a retailer or individual. Free boxes cost nothing but require more time and effort to obtain. Plus, not all free boxes are suitable for moving. Purchasing boxes increases your moving cost but ensures their suitability for the task and saves effort compared to searching for free boxes.
Big-box stores, such as Target and Walmart, carry standard moving boxes and packing supplies. Many people live near a big-box store, and prices are generally lower than at more specialized retailers. However, the availability of specialized box types and sizes is usually limited.
Home improvement stores, such as The Home Depot and Lowes, carry a wider selection of packing boxes, including heavy-duty and specialized boxes. These boxes usually cost more but are higher quality.
Moving and Packing Stores
Stores that specialize in supplies for moving and packing, such as U-Haul and The UPS Store, offer the largest selection and highest quality boxes and supplies. Prices are usually higher, but the ability to get everything in one place saves time and effort.
Most brick-and-mortar retailers also sell supplies online. Additionally, there are online-only options, such as Amazon and Uboxes. Online retailers offer discounted prices and greater selections than brick-and-mortar stores. However, shipping times may delay your packing project, and there is no opportunity to physically inspect the products before buying them.
You can get cheap or free boxes from community marketplaces, such as Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, U-Haul Box Exchange, and your local classified ads. However, the quality and selection vary widely.
When shopping for secondhand boxes, look for clear photos and details about the size and type of boxes available. Pay particular attention to signs of excessive wear, such as creases or tears. Worn-out boxes are more likely to break open or collapse after packing.
Sources of Free Boxes
Saving shipping boxes is an easy and free way to accumulate moving boxes. Shipping boxes are usually sturdy and high-quality and come with free packing materials. However, shipping boxes may have damage and come in all different shapes and sizes, which can make them difficult to stack efficiently.
Retail stores, restaurants, recycling centers, grocery stores, bars, liquor stores, and other businesses often pile up shipping boxes behind their businesses. You can find good-quality boxes this way, but some may have stains, gaps, smells, or damage, or lack tops. Businesses may not want you digging around in their trash, so ask before you take anything.
People you know who moved recently may have moving boxes they want to get rid of. Ask friends and family if they have any boxes you can use.
Tips for Choosing the Right Retailer and Supplies
There are many well-known and reputable retailers selling packing supplies. For small moves, you can usually meet your needs by purchasing supplies from a big-box store or reputable online retailer. For larger moves or moves that include numerous fragile or specialty items, a retailer that specializes in packing and moving supplies may be a better choice.
Consider the types of boxes you need, your budget, and how much time you have. Discount stores offer lower prices. Moving and packing stores offer a bigger selection of specialty and heavy-duty boxes. If you are moving soon, you may prefer a local store to an online store due to the shipping time.
Read customer reviews and consider policies such as whether the store accepts returns of unused supplies or helps you get rid of your boxes after you finish moving. Purchasing moving bundles can save you the time and effort of selecting individual boxes and supplies and may cost less money.
Types of Moving Boxes and Packing Supplies
Moving boxes come in several shapes and sizes, depending on the intended use.
Corrugated cardboard is the industry standard for moving boxes due to its durability and light weight. Corrugated cardboard consists of three layers, including an interior liner, an outer liner, and a fluted material wedged between the liners. The layers of material make corrugated cardboard less prone to breakage.
Corrugated cardboard boxes are affordable and come in several sizes.
- Small moving boxes: These are best for small but heavier household items, such as books, canned foods, and small appliances.
- Medium moving boxes: These work well for lampshades, toys, craft supplies, medium kitchen appliances, and small bedroom and bathroom items.
- Large moving boxes: Use this size for lightweight bulky items, such as folded clothing, stereo speakers, and stuffed animals.
- Extra-large moving boxes: Use these for even larger lightweight items, such as blankets, comforters, pillows, folded towels, and couch cushions.
Heavy-duty boxes have two corrugated cardboard layers. They are more durable than standard boxes and provide more protection from dust and dirt that could damage your possessions. Use heavy-duty boxes when you store items in dusty, dirty, or moist locations, such as a garage or shed.
Wardrobe boxes come with a metal bar for hanging clothes. Use wardrobe boxes to move clothing that you can’t or don’t want to fold. You can also use wardrobe boxes to move tall items, such as chairs and artificial Christmas trees.
TV Moving Boxes and Electronics Boxes
You can easily damage TVs and electronics during a move. Specialty moving boxes protect TVs and electronics from accidental damage. Retailers sell packing kits, including covers, packing tape, plastic wrap, and furniture pads, to protect your TV and other electronics during your move.
Picture and Mirror Boxes
Pictures and mirrors are large and fragile. Picture and mirror boxes come in sizes that fit these items better than standard moving boxes and provide additional protection.
Dishes and Glassware Moving Boxes
You need to individually wrap dishes and glassware to avoid breakage. Retailers sell kits that make this process easier and provide individual storage spaces and added protection for fragile items.
Packing Tape Options
The right packing tape will ensure your moving boxes stay closed during moving and storage. Consider the width, longevity, temperature tolerance, adhesiveness, and ease of use of the packing tape you use.
Moving boxes need strong tape at least two inches wide with powerful adhesive to prevent boxes from falling apart during transport. Extreme heat can cause the tape to break down. If you are moving in the summer, use tape with a high heat tolerance.
Use a tape dispenser to easily cut the tape and prevent the end of the roll from becoming lost. Avoid using masking, electrical, or duct tape on moving boxes. Masking tape is not strong enough and can’t withstand high temperatures. Electrical tape has weak adhesive and will leave residue on your boxes. Duct tape does not hold up in high temperatures and is not durable enough for moving.
Average Cost of Moving Boxes
Moving boxes come in several price ranges:
- Small boxes: $1–$2.50 standard, $2–$2.50 heavy duty
- Medium boxes: $1.60–$3.50 standard, $2–$3.50 heavy duty
- Large boxes: $2–$2.50 standard, $5–$6 heavy duty
- Extra-large boxes: $3–$3.50 standard, $7–$8 heavy duty
Specialty boxes, such as wardrobe, dish, and TV boxes, cost more than regular boxes. The exact cost will depend on the size and type of box.
Protecting Fragile Items During a Move
Fragile items, such as glasses, dishes, and electronics, are easy to damage during a move without proper protection. Minimize damage by using specialty boxes, such as dish packs and TV boxes, to protect your most fragile possessions.
Label boxes containing fragile items so you know to handle them with care. Wrap delicate items in bubble wrap or paper. Pad the bottom of boxes with paper or bubble wrap and fill empty spaces to reduce movement and cushion items against impacts.
Pack particularly fragile items, such as lampshades, individually to avoid damage from contact with other items. Seal liquid items, such as cleaning supplies, to prevent spills. Pack heavy, fragile items in sturdy boxes to avoid breakage due to boxes collapsing or bursting open.
Pack the heaviest items in the bottom of boxes to prevent them from falling over due to being top-heavy or collapsing in the middle. Place lighter items on the top to avoid crush damage.
Use extra heavy-duty packing tape on the bottom of the boxes to ensure they stay closed. Consider using a professional moving company that can provide custom crating for bulky and valuable items instead of packing and moving them yourself.
How To Determine How Many Moving Boxes You Need
The easiest way to estimate how many boxes you need is to use one of the online calculators offered by various retailers and moving experts. Input information such as the number of bedrooms and people in your household and specify your packing style to get an estimate.
The larger your home and household is, the more boxes you will need. People with a lot of possessions usually need more boxes than people who live a minimalist lifestyle. Sticking to the basics or taking extra care to pack specialty items in individual boxes will impact what you need to buy.
Using free moving boxes can save you money but can also add time and effort to the process of acquiring moving supplies. Using free boxes also increases the risk of damage to your possessions or injuries to movers due to box breakage or inefficient packing techniques.
We recommend purchasing new or discounted boxes from a reputable retailer. You can get everything you need in one place, and you will have the peace of mind that you are using high-quality boxes and supplies that won’t damage your possessions or injure your movers. Online marketplaces offering lightly used moving supplies are also a good option.
Consider purchasing a moving bundle that includes all the basic supplies you need and supplementing it with individual boxes. Using the right supplies will give you the best chance of having a frustration-free move.
FAQ About Moving Boxes
How long before a move should I start packing?
Start preparing to move—including sorting through your items, donating and selling unwanted belongings, and organizing each room in your home—at least six to eight weeks before your move date. Begin packing at least three weeks before your move date, starting with your least-used items.
Do movers provide boxes?
Professional movers can usually supply boxes and other packing supplies. However, you may have to pay extra for these supplies.
What are the advantages of using moving boxes?
Using moving boxes instead of random boxes protects your items better and simplifies the moving process. Moving boxes are clean, sanitary, and uniform in size and construction, which prevents damage to items and makes stacking them on a truck easier.
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