cheapest way to move across country

What is the Cheapest Way to Move Across the Country?

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There are plenty of reasons that can induce someone to uproot themselves and their families: job opportunities in your field might be more plentiful in some other state, living expenses are often lower elsewhere and, if you’ve relocated a long distance before, you might want to move back to be closer to your relatives.

Unfortunately, your enthusiasm for making a new start in some far-off place can be quickly dampened once you figure out how much all of this costs. Moving doesn’t have to mean selling your wedding dress, though: learning more about the cheapest ways to move across country lets you know about options you might not have been aware of. These usually involve sacrificing a little convenience or speed for savings, but you’ll most likely be delighted to have some extra money left in the bank once you’ve tallied up all the expenses associated with a long-distance move.

How to Move Across the Country Cheaply: 10 Tips that will Help You Land on Your Feet

Depending on your needs, the best way to move across country may be the one that gets you there fastest or the one that costs least. In either case, keeping the following in mind will help ease the financial burden of any inter-state move.

Steer Clear of Suspiciously Cheap Cross Country Moving Companies

Wait a moment: if this article is all about finding the cheapest way to move long distance, why is paying more the very first piece of advice it offers?

Unfortunately, it’s very easy to be penny-wise and pound-foolish when you realize just how much it can cost to move across country. Rogue movers may not be properly licensed, accredited and insured, leaving you with a much larger tab if anything should go wrong. Other companies may try to tempt you with a low-ball offer, but not go out of their way to tell you about other fees – you may end up paying a lot of extra surcharges for heavy items of furniture, having to use the stairs (or even the elevator) and any parking tickets they receive while unloading before you can get your belongings back.

cheapest way to move across country boxes
Moving company / Photo by HireAHelper

Some families have even seen “independent” movers disappear into the sunset with virtually everything they own. To sum up: you should really be looking at movers with generally positive reviews stretching back a few years. These will typically charge fair instead of fire-sale prices, but the extra peace of mind is well worth it.

Do Your Own Packing

Most moving companies are willing to box up your stuff for you. However, this takes them just as long as you would have spent on the same task, and they most certainly charge for their labor.

Packing stuff into boxes isn’t the most enjoyable pastime in the world, but it does save a ton of money you’d probably rather spend elsewhere. You’ll also be able to sort items logically, making unpacking and finding the items you need immediately much easier. Bonus points for scrounging cardboard boxes from local stores instead of buying a moving kit. There is a caveat to this, though: movers’ insurance will typically not cover damage to items you packed yourself, so make sure to at least write FRAGILE on boxes that need it.

Get Full-Value Protection Insurance

Once again, it may seem weird that we’re encouraging you to spend money instead of just telling you about the cheapest way to move out of state, but bear with us for a moment. The basic insurance package offered as standard by even the cheapest cross country movers compensates you for damage by weight – but only up to the princely sum of 60 cents per pound.

cheapest way to move across country tv
Broken TV / Photo by I G

If your $1,000 computer ends up taking a tumble down some stairs, in other words, the reimbursement you receive won’t even cover the cost of a new mouse. Comprehensive insurance may cost you as much as one percent of the value of whatever you’re insuring but will end up saving you 99% if your moving truck somehow ends up in a river.

Travel Light

The less you own, the easier it is to move: you can literally get on a bus right now with no money to start a new life. This is certainly the cheapest way to move across states, but not ideal for everyone.

While this isn’t a guide on how to sell everything and move across country, you almost certainly have a lot of clutter in your home that you won’t even notice is missing once you’re at the other end of your move. Give away your unused junk to friends or charity, sell used dvds and other stuff you’re likely to get a good price for, and ditch what’s worthless. This will not only cut down on the expense and hassle of moving but allow you to move into your new apartment with better feng shui.

Timing Is Everything

There is a season for everything, and when it comes to moving house, the peak periods are weekends, the beginning and end of the month, and summer. This pushes up the prices on everything from moving supplies to truck rentals.

Short-term rentals may sound like effectively turning one stressful move into two, but they do have their benefits. If you can find a cheap, furnished apartment near the new location you can rent for a few weeks, you’ll only have to unpack once, and storage rental isn’t that expensive. Choosing this option gives you time to deal with any complications that arise without having to spring for a hotel and pet boarding fees, which can prevent you from paying rent on two properties during an overlapping period and – most importantly – save you a lot of cash quickly on moving services.

One way this works is that, whether using a full-service moving company or shipping your stuff, you pay less if you allow your contractor to combine your goods with others going the same way in order to make up a full truckload. This may take a few days, so giving yourself the flexibility to make this possible, along with seasonal price differences, makes a huge difference to the final bill. These savings pile up quickly when moving a long distance, and you may even be able to get some help with paying rent while you’re between residences. Your new landlord may have another property that’s sitting vacant, for instance, and be happy to let you use it at a discount for a short while.

Ask Your Employer for Help

Many companies offer rebates to relocating employees, both new hires and people who’ve been transferred. You may not be aware that these exist, and even if there’s no official policy on the matter, they might be willing to help out. Asking, in any case, costs absolutely nothing and may make moving on a budget much more comfortable.

Hit up Friends and Family

cheapest way to move across country movers

Many people don’t really like to ask for help, and nobody likes someone who does this all the time. Still, packing up and moving virtually all your worldly possessions is no easy task; everyone knows this and the people who care about you will mostly be willing to offer their assistance. Rewarding them with pizza and beer afterward is a lot more affordable than hiring casual workers for the day, which can end up costing anything from $50 to $100 per hour.

Consider Drive-It-Yourself Options

Assuming that you’re comfortable with managing a large vehicle, you can potentially save thousands of dollars by taking care of the loading and unloading yourself instead of paying a moving company for their workers’ time.

You have several options to choose from here, most of which allow you to pay for only a one-way trip:

  • U-Hual
  • Hertz
  • Penske
  • Enterprise
  • Budget

You will, however, need to do the math to see if this will actually work out much cheaper. Taking out insurance is a must, you can expect to get only about 10 miles per gallon on a medium-sized truck, and gas prices are pretty steep in some states you may have to cross. You’ll also need a vehicle large enough to fit all of your belongings at once or risk having to pay for extra miles and days if you have to travel back and forth.

cheapest way to move across country road

In general, though, renting a truck is the single cheapest way to move stuff across country. What it is not is fun: long hours behind the wheel, uncomfortable truck cabs and having to contend with traffic, bad weather and the various irritations of living on the road can all sour your moving experience.

Shipping Companies Are Your Friends

Another self-service option, which doesn’t involve as much sitting down and staring at the road, is to load up a trailer or pod container and let someone else take care of the actual transport. How much you’ll pay depends on the size, the distance to be traveled and also how long you want to keep the container sitting in your yard or driveway. This option means that you can take your time when packing and enjoy a more organized, unhurried move.

cheapest way to move across country heavy
Shipping company / Photo by Tara Hunt

Companies you can contact for a quote include:

  • Uship
  • PODS
  • Estes Suremove
  • 1-800-PACK-RAT
  • Go Mini’s
  • Old Dominion Household Services

Tying up Loose Ends Instead of Loose Change

It’s really easy to lose track of the little details in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of moving day. Unfortunately, forgetting about them can lead to some sneaky, unnecessary expenses – you might want to spend a few minutes going over your bank statements to see which services you’ll no longer need in your new location.

Monthly parking fees, gym memberships, and utilities should all be canceled, or money will just keep disappearing from your bank account. It’s wise to visit the post office, or at least leave a forwarding address with your current landlord, so you won’t miss reminders of any outstanding bills and perhaps become liable for penalties.

cheapest way to move across country checklist
Long distance moving checklist

You’ll also need to do your homework with regards to your new residence: you may have to apply for a parking permit for the moving truck a week or more in advance or risk getting fined, while some neighborhoods have restrictions regarding the times of day in which loading and unloading can be done. If you don’t inform the moving company about this, you may have to pay an extra fee for overnight storage and finishing the job the following day.

Also don’t neglect to let the government pay for part of your relocation (well, allow you to claim it as a tax deduction), assuming that it was work-related. Since last year, this windfall is only available to members of the military, but tax laws change all the time, so there’s no telling what the situation will be after the 2020 election.

Final Words

One of the best tips for moving across state lines without breaking the bank is just this: planning prevents predicaments. It’s essential to draw up a relocation budget and make sure to reserve 20% or more for all the stuff that you can’t foresee, but Murphy is sure to remember. This should cover each and every expense related to the move, even though some bills may come due only well after you’ve settled into your new residence: you need to know the total amount to plan effectively and compare different alternatives.

Taking out a short-term loan, for instance, may enable you to move sooner and avoid a weekly long-distance commute, thus saving you money (as much as living in an RV). Perhaps you’ll want to find some temporary accommodation at first to give you time to scout the local property market for your perfect home.

When making decisions like these, remember that the best way to move across the country is not always merely the cheapest: your time and energy are valuable as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Does It Cost to Move Across Country?

Numerous factors affect how much a move from one side of the U.S.A. to the other will end up setting you back, but you can, in case you’re just weighing the possibility, use the following figures as a guideline:

  1. Renting a 20-foot truck to get from Portland to Chicago: about $1,300.
  2. Moving the contents of a 3-bedroom home from New York to Miami with full packing, loading and unloading services: about $7,500.
  3. Hiring a 14-foot trailer in Los Angeles for delivery in Kansas City, Missouri: about $2,200.

Is It Cheaper to Move Furniture or Buy New?

For short moves, it’s almost always cheaper to take your furniture with you. When figuring out the cheapest way to move across the country, however, you will need to take the value of the different pieces into account. Buying new items will always cost more than what you already have can fetch on Craigslist, but it’s of no use to take a ratty old couch you’re planning to replace anyway, or for that matter a cabinet that won’t fit into your new living room.

In the end, the more important question is really how attached you are to the pieces you’ve already collected. Moving house can be somewhat traumatic; having a nice dining table or lounge set that reminds you of good times can help ease the transition.

How Much Does It Cost to Rent a Pods Container?

Depending on your location and other variables, you will probably pay a rental rate of about $125 per month for a mid-sized container. Additional fees are charged for delivering and collecting it from your premises, as well as transporting it between cities.


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    22 thoughts on “What is the Cheapest Way to Move Across the Country?

    1. K. Moore says:

      Thanks for your guideline. I’m planning to move to Chicago after the Christmas holidays. That’s really hard but possible. I hope my family will be happier than now!

      1. Joseph says:

        Thank you and good luck!

    2. Simon says:

      Estes Suremove is a good option. Can recommend them to everyone. They helped me twice!

      1. Joseph says:

        Thanks for sharing your experience!

    3. Lisa says:

      I’ve never had to deal with moving cross country, but I once helped a relative move all the way across the state of Texas. That was just about as long, and could easily have been really expensive! I agree with this article that there is a LOT of homework to do beforehand, to be sure you make an informed decision about the moving company, etc. Thanks for consolidating all this info!

      1. Joseph says:

        Thank you, Lisa. You’re cool!

    4. Dana says:

      I did a road trip a few years ago and have been thinking about the best way to move across county ever since. I plan to undertake that adventure later next year, and I’m so glad I found this article beforehand! Doing your own packing definitely seems like a strong cost saving tip.

      1. Joseph says:

        Thanks and good luck, Dana!

    5. Gina says:

      I never thought of making a moving checklist until I read your post! Thanks for all the great info on cheap ways to move across the country. I’ve been thinking about moving because of my work situation and maybe moving closer to relatives, but wasn’t sure if I can afford it. Now I have more options to work with after getting all these excellent tips and tricks about moving.

      1. Joseph says:

        You’re welcome, Gina. Good luck with your moving!

    6. Enrique says:

      I agree with this article completely. Don’t always go for the cheapest way to move out of state but the smartest. My buddy did this mistake and then had to buy a new tv cause he got it broken.

      1. Joseph says:

        Thank you!

    7. Johanna Nelson says:

      If you plan to move in 2020 I would definitely say leave everything behind. It’s much easer to sell everything you can and buy new or second-hand stuff later. Wasting energy on packing and unpacking is pointless.

      1. Joseph says:

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Johanna!

    8. TaRRant says:

      It is perfect time to make a few plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I want to read even more things approximately it!

      1. Joseph says:

        Thank you!

    9. linda says:

      My best friend got married and moved to another state last year. She said it was a stressful experience but she’s happy now. They did research and the cheapest way to move across the country was taking the essentials only.

      1. Joseph says:

        That’s wonderful! Have a great day!

    10. David Nor says:

      It’s good to know that the cheapest way to move across the country is by renting a moving truck. I got a new job that’s more up north about five states away from I currently live. I’ll keep what you said in mind and most likely make the drive with a rental truck to keep the move cheap.

      1. Joseph says:

        Thank you, you’re amazing!

    11. Rhonda Jackson says:

      The best way to avoid surprises hon is to plan beforehand. If you’re lazy and want others to do this, you’ll have to pay them. Otherwise cheap will turn into extra spicy real soon.

      1. Joseph says:

        Agree with you, thanks!

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