13 Cheap Ways To Move Across The Country

By: Harrison Gough Last Updated: Sep 17, 2023

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Moving across the country can be expensive, but there are ways to save money. Discover the cheapest ways to move, including renting a truck, packing yourself, and hiring movers.

13 Cheap Ways To Move Across The Country

Moving across the country, or even internationally can be expensive. The further you need to move the more logistics and support you have to plan ahead of time. Getting all of your belongings across the country to your new home safely is no joke.

In general, moving anywhere requires a lot of planning and organizing. But throw in the complexity of a cross-country or international move, and you quickly realize you can’t do it all by yourself. You will need to hire experts to help you get everything to your new home in one piece. Because of this, longer moves can get pretty expensive.

From packing paper and cardboard to renting vans and petrol, these costs can easily add up quickly. Thankfully, there are ways to do the move so it doesn’t cost a leg and an arm.

Before you pack, think about how avoiding unnecessary expenses can save you money in the long run. It is possible to feel overwhelmed by the costs involved in the moving process as the average cost to hire a moving service across the US averages $4,893.

It’s ok to assume this is the average cost of the move. It was not cheap. Even cheap international and cross-country movers can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars. However, there are lower-risk cross-country movers available. For example, you can find movers that use labor-only movers or hire a moving container.

There are ways to save money when moving across the country. It’s all about knowing all of the different ways to do it and which method would be best for your budget and goals.

Luckily, we’ve done the research for you, and you can find it all broken down below so you can pick the best and cheapest move for you and your family.

Different types of moves

When you think of moving across the country, a moving truck and movers usually come to mind. And that is totally valid. It’s actually the most efficient way to make the move to your new home.

But it is not the cheapest way, and there are a lot of different ways to move that are lesser known. Before you book a professional moving crew, it’s so important to know all of your different options.

1. Rent a truck, pack yourself, and save a ton!

This one requires a ton of work, but you save the most. If you don’t mind spending more time planning and packing for your move, this option is for you.

You will save a lot, but you will need to set aside a lot of time before or after work to plan. If saving money is a priority and you don’t mind the planning and stress, this is your go-to option.

You will pay $400 tops for the truck and if you can find free boxes lying around, you can save even more.

This option wouldn’t be for you if you have a lot of irregular or heavy objects to move, since moving those alone or with friends can get complicated.

2. Rent a truck, hire movers, & drive the truck yourself to your new location

This is the second cheapest option you have. But where you save money, you add a little bit more stress and logistics to your life. Saving hundreds to thousands of dollars is worth it at the end of the day though.

In this option, you will rent a moving truck from uHaul or one of the similar rental truck shops. Then, instead of moving the boxes yourself, you will hire movers.

You can do all of this for as cheap as $600-$800, depending on how many boxes you need to pack and how many miles you need to drive.

That will save you about 3 to 4 thousand dollars. Talk about big savings. But those savings don’t come with a little hard work and planning.

3. Rent a container, pack yourself, & skip driving a huge truck yourself

Sometimes packing your things in a shipping container is the cheapest way to move long distances and across oceans.

The cost can have a huge variation in price, though. In the US, it costs about $3,000 to pack and move in a shipping container or something similar.

This means all you need to worry about is packing your boxes. The shipping company will typically pack and move the container for you, which means you get to skip driving a big truck on a busy highway.

While this isn’t your cheapest option, it sometimes is the best way to go long distances. The price of your shipping container will vary based on the following factors.

  • How much stuff you’re moving
  • How far you’re moving
  • Whether you’re moving domestically or internationally
  • The weight of your items

4. Hire professional movers and don’t lift a finger

Finally, if you don’t want to lift a finger getting all your bulky belongings to their new home, this is for you. You can even use a moving cost calculator to estimate your expenses.

The average cost of hiring professional movers to pack and move your belongings is $5,000. The price can vary based on how far you are moving and how much stuff you need to move.

Companies like PODS offer smaller moving containers for shorter-distance moves too.

Whatever it is you choose and why to make sure you shop around. There are lots of different services that can support your budget and timing needs.

Never book the first mover you talk to!

Estimating Your Moving Costs

Many best moving companies offer online estimates on how much you will need to move.

Some people will ask questions online, then call you with a quote.
For example, United Van Lines will ask you if you are willing to take a quote online.

Other companies provide quote ranges for someone moving from Chicago to Boston in August 2018 with items from a one-room apartment.

Keep in mind that some of the quotes given by moving companies are binding, meaning your quote won’t change last minute. You won’t have to factor in unexpected fees. What you see is what you get.

Other quotes can be non-binding, meaning they may drastically wreck your budget on the day of the move.

The best way to get a moving cost estimate is to reach out to a variety of different cross-country moving companies and get a quote.

Every move will be different based on how far you are moving and how many belongings you have to move. The best way to start budgeting your move is to get a quote.

Factors that increase the cost of moving cross-country

By now, we all know moving is not cheap. All the little costs like movers, boxes, and packing tape all add up.

The biggest resource of yours is usually time. And we all know we can’t get that one back.

This might help reduce sticker shock when you move. While moving companies have different prices, certain factors can increase the cost of the transfer across the country:

  • Irregular objects, like pianos
  • lights of Stairs
  • Elevators
  • Big, bulky objects
  • Objects that have to be specially lifted through a second-story window to get into the new house
  • Long hauls
  • Number of miles to your new home
  • Time of year you are moving (there is a busy season in summer that will increase your prices).
  • Special permits to get your things across the country or internationally

What is the cheapest way to move cross country?

DIY moving may offer some advantages as you saw above! You save a lot, but you have to plan more.

DIY moving is the most inexpensive option. Unlike moving containers, which will do the transportation on their own, you must take the car, and usually the truck, yourself.

The DIY move still depends on any extra needs you may have. It will largely depend upon your ability and willingness to work hard. Moving is no joke.

Renting a truck can be your most affordable option for long-distance relocations. Shipping containers are usually much more expensive, but they cut out the need for you to drive.

When moving across the nation DIY, saving on moving containers can be compounded with significantly reduced travel time (e.g. no rented vehicle mileage fees, no overnight hotel stays).

Moving containers aren’t usually the cheapest when you are moving across the country, but they are the cheapest option when you move abroad.

You can easily reduce your expenses by tens of thousands if you do your move.

By now, you probably have a feel for which option is best for your goals, budget, and belongings.

Here’s a list of 13 other ways you can save along the way:

13 easy ways to reduce moving costs

1. Drive the truck yourself

I cannot emphasize the potential savings you pocket by driving the truck yourself. While it can be more stressful to get behind the wheel of a big ol’ truck, you save thousands by doing so.

And as a bonus, you get insight into your gas cost as well as the time it takes you to get there.

Ultimately, hiring a driver is more about convenience and reducing risk, but it can get extremely pricey to hire an expert to drive the truck for you.

2. Rent a moving truck for a DIY move

You can save money by renting moving truck, and it’s easy and efficient.

By using DIY, you can minimize costs and control your relocation. Make it a point to pick the proper size truck: pick a truck that is too small and it will require multiple trips, wasting time and money. If you pick a truck that’s too big, you will pay more to rent it.

Take time to carefully pick and pack your car and truck when you’re choosing one. Many truck rental places, like uHaul, offer a hitch so you can attach the haul to your car, moving your belongings and car in one go.

3. Choose a hybrid move

A hybrid move involves combining DIY and professional moving services in the process.

So you’ll be able to use this method for your move instead of using a professional moving service.

It would also make sense to pack everything yourself and hire professional moving companies to move items in rented cars or buses. You can even hire a team to help you unload everything.

You may choose to do everything by yourself and hire someone to pack and transport you. In essence, the process involves outsourcing everything you cannot or don’t want to do.

4. Declutter and donate (or sell) your things

Purging items you no longer want can simplify your living space as well as reduce your relocation costs.

This means that the more things are removed before moving the lower the costs of transportation.

Consider garage sales if your goal is to get money or give money back to a local charity if your possessions are in good shape and need some extra money.

5. Ship your stuff

Shipping a piece of furniture is not usually the easiest or cheapest choice, but this can be a very convenient moving option.

Aside from shipping items via USPS or FedEx or UPS, you can also send bulk goods via a number of services like Uship.com.

6. Rent a moving container

Moving containers can be seen as an option for many people moving across a continent.

The use of portable moving containers provides a better alternative to hiring movers for a number of reasons. Renting moving containers is cheaper than a professional truck driver.

Also, transport containers can double as storage containers when moved, meaning if your house isn’t ready when things arrive there’s no problem because you can store them in the container.

Cost will vary by duration of rental container and size. The cost of moving containers is typically around $2,000 to $3,000 a month.

7. Look for discounts

Before moving, look for long distance movers, moving containers, truck rentals, and moving supplies stores with offers available for sale or discounts.

Typically, these discount offers are so generous it makes an expensive moving company a more cost-effective or affordable option.

For veterans and military personnel, a variety of discounts are offered through numerous organizations such as

  • PPDO
  • U-Pack
  • Budget
  • Penske
  • North American Van Lines, and more.

What About AAA Members? You will get a discount for movables at Atlas Van Lines or the Extra Space Storage and Penske locations.

8. Additional moving services

Hiring the right staff to handle specific pieces of moving can help make relocation less difficult and more convenient.

Some companies will also charge extra charges for long-distance moves, furnishings reassembling, or other services.

9. Shop around for full-service movers

Ensure you hire the right moving services to meet your needs. And remember that certain services can be more expensive than others.

Alternatively, you can look into moving firms that offer a complete list of services. Request a free estimate for their services and ask about the additional charges you could have.

Are these services billed separately or do some of their customers charge extra charges? Can customers pay hourly rates? Typically moving companies will charge based on your specific needs.

10. Don’t forget personal travel costs

Travel expenses should be taken into consideration.

If you drive, take into account fuel costs. Multi-day trips do not include costs like accommodation and the meals you will need to eat along the way. And for travel when you need extra accommodation and have pets, make sure this is a part of your budget too.

11. Find free moving boxes and supplies

A way to reduce costs on long-distance moving is to gather and use as many free moving supplies as possible.

Look for used boxes, packaging paper, and wrapping materials in nearby businesses, online shops, and community groups.

There are many online sites that offer free shipping and movers, including Amazon. If you’re interested in a particular box, ask a friend or your family.

12. Choose a cheaper moving date

Believe it or not, the decision of when to relocate will affect the costs of moving to another country.

Avoiding a busy moving day can save you money in the rental of vehicles and moving companies.

Some of the most popular moving dates are weekends, the time from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and the first and final weeks of the month. Expect to make mid-month moves from October to April, if possible.

13. Ask friends and family for help

Naturally, you can always ask your friends for help moving. This may be the most affordable way to travel across the nation.

You can, however, have to accommodate other people’s schedules or you can even re-pay a friend in other ways (think pizzas, wines, or gift certificates).

Save Money Moving Across Country

Moving across the country or internationally is not cheap. All the little costs add up and they add up fast. But if you follow this guide, you can meet your budget needs as well as your moving goals. Don’t miss out on big ways to save while you book it to your new, beautiful home.