Cheap Ways to Move Across the Country
Moving is a bittersweet adventure. You probably can't wait to be at your new home, starting a new chapter in your life. However, you may be dreading the long move ahead of you, along with figuring out all of the logistics to get across the country.
There are a lot of different things to consider before you move and questions that you need to be able to answer. The first one is, "How do you plan to move your furniture, pets, cars, and everything else you have?" You will need to decide if you want to hire a cross-country moving company to assist or if you want to rent a truck and move yourself.
Whichever option you choose, use this guide to help save time and money on your move. I'll go over the different methods of transportation you can take and break down their pros and cons.
To Get Started
I recommend that you get free movers estimates first so that you get an idea of what it will cost to hire movers. This way, when you're doing the math about how much it is going to cost to move yourself across the country, you'll be able to see how much you'll actually be saving over professionals doing all of the work for you.
How Much Does It Cost to Move Across the Country?
If you've been looking for an answer to that question, then you've probably found it hard to get exact numbers. Unfortunately, it's not very easy to predict the cost, because too many factors play a part in the price.
Try Moving Without Furniture
Large, heavy furniture is the reason why moving across the country is difficult and expensive. The easiest and cheapest thing to do, of course, is to sell all of your furniture before you move. Sell off your beds, couches, entertainment centers, large TVs, tables, and anything else that you can't fit in your personal vehicle or send on a bus.
Obviously, if you have to rent your own moving truck or hire movers, your costs are going to be significantly higher. It's a lot cheaper to sell off all of your large electronics and furniture and buy them again in your new town or city.
If you can manage to move with only clothes and small possessions, then you can send your stuff on Amtrak or Greyhound for cheap. Check with each company to learn their weight limit policies and other important information.
Move Furniture Across the Country Yourself
You also have the option of moving yourself if you can fit all or most of your possessions in your vehicle. Driving will be more expensive, but it's still cheaper than renting a moving truck!
Learn the Cheapest Ways To Move Furniture
If parting with your furniture is not an option, then you'll need to find a way to move it. This is where pricing gets a little tricky. I recommend getting free quotes from multiple cross-country moving companies so that you'll have an idea of what it's going to cost to hire professionals.
Any extremely large or awkward items will be very expensive to move. These include pianos, pool tables, aquariums, storage sheds, gun safes, etc. They'll be expensive if you hire a company and difficult to move on your own. Take this into consideration when deciding on what you're going to take and how you're going to move.
Companies such as U-Ship offer shipping services for almost any item from moving households to vehicles, boats, pets, etc., so check them out if you can't figure out a reasonable way to get some of your items moved.
Drive It Yourself
The cheapest way to move furniture is to rent a moving truck or trailer and drive it yourself. Just remember that there is a huge difference between doing everything yourself and letting professionals do everything for you. It takes a lot of effort to move a household across the country, so make sure you are both physically and mentally prepared. Learn about the pros and cons of all of the different cross-country moving options to choose from for your household size and budget.
Things to Consider
- It takes a lot of time and labor to clean, organize, pack, box, and load everything into a truck. There is a lot of heavy lifting involved.
- Learn how to lift with your legs! Back injury is the number one most common moving-related injury. I can't tell you how many people I've talked to and witnessed hurt themselves while lifting heavy furniture. If something is too large, awkward, or heavy for you to move by yourself, then ask for help! You will be useless to everyone, including yourself, if you slip a disk or pinch a nerve while trying to be a hero.
- When it comes to driving, consider the hours on the road. If you have never driven a large vehicle before, driving one across the country filled with thousands of pounds of furniture may be more difficult than you anticipate.
- If you are planning on renting a moving truck, make sure that you have or purchase a lock for the trailer. Truck rental suppliers do not rent out locks for the truck, so you just need to make sure you have one to protect your furniture and belongings.
- Know the road conditions. Make sure that the route you take doesn't lead you through steep mountains with two feet of snow or ice. You've got enough to worry about traveling across the country without damaging your stuff. A heavy truck will brake and stop much more slowly on wet and icy conditions, so make sure you are prepared for that as well.
Other Moving Costs to Consider
Hotel and Gas
Moving trucks are gas guzzlers, especially when they are filled up with heavy furniture. Make sure to allocate yourself plenty of gas money.
As for motel/hotel rental, if you plan out you're route ahead of time, you can try to find deals online for different places along the way. I personally prefer to stay at Econo Lodge, Best Western, and Super 8 motels because they are cheap but not too cheap.
Another way to save some extra money on the way is to pack your own food. Instead of stopping at restaurants and buying food and drinks at gas stations, bring a small cooler of fruit, drinks, sandwiches, and snacks.
Advice on Hiring Professional Movers
Maybe I'm biased due to my profession, but I definitely recommend hiring a cross-country moving company if you can afford it. So many things can go wrong during a move of this nature given the distance involved, and there are companies out there that specialize in cross-country moving.
Full-service movers will come to your home, professionally pack, wrap, pad, and load everything in your house, and safely transport it to your new location. They will also unload everything for you when they arrive. The extra money that it costs to hire cross country movers is surely made up in time saved, the lack of stress and physical labor avoided.
Get Multiple Quotes
The best part of all is that it doesn't have to be much more expensive than moving yourself. By making movers compete for your business, you can find the cheapest cross country moving companies available for your move!
Your best bet is to submit a few details about your move to a trusted third-party website, which will, in turn, send your information out to up to six qualified cross-country moving companies. Each moving company will send you an instant pricing quote for your move. This makes it easy for you so you don't have to go asking for quotes, company to company.
Watch out for Prices That Are Too Good to Be True
If a price to move you across the country seems too good to be true . . . then it probably is. Unfortunately, the professional moving industry is plagued with fraudulent activity and shady business practices. Be careful when hiring a professional moving company to transport your furniture, valuables, and keepsakes.
Verify that a company is licensed and insured to do business in the USA. Read online reviews on the BBB (Better Business Bureau), AMSA, Google, Yelp, Superpages, Angie's List, etc to make sure the company has a good reputation.
Better Business Bureau Tips for Avoiding Moving Scams
How to Find Free Moving Supplies and Boxes
Don't waste money on supplies you don't need.
Get Boxes From Stores
The best way to acquire free moving boxes is to go to your local grocery or department stores—such as Walmart, Target, Best Buy, liquor stores etc—and ask the employees if there are any extra boxes lying around that you can have.
Almost all of these stores that have a large inventory will have a huge surplus of cardboard boxes in the back that they can give you for no charge. These boxes have a tendency to pile up fast and just end up getting thrown away or recycled anyways, so as long as the employees aren't too overworked there should be no problem in gathering up some boxes for your move.
Note: I have heard a few reports of grocery store boxes, primarily fruit/vegetable boxes, having bug problems. I recommend trying the other stores first.
Use Newspapers and Junk Mail for Packing
Don't spend unnecessary money buying "moving" or "packing" paper when you can easily gather free newspaper and junk mail which will easily accomplish the same thing. Newspaper makes great wrapping paper for glasses, plates, and other fragile items that you'll be moving. Instead of buying packing peanuts, just ball up some newspaper or coupon fliers and use them to pad your boxes to prevent your stuff from shifting or sliding around during the move. You can save a lot of money by using free moving supplies for packing your stuff.
Use Blankets and Towels as Padding
Also, a free and very effective method for padding furniture, fragile items, electronics and more is to use your heavy blankets, towels, jackets, and clothing. This ensures that your important breakable possessions will be safe and secure without the added costs of renting moving blankets and pads.
When Is the Best Time to Move?
Moving is almost always more expensive when school is not in session. There is a higher premium for moves on a holiday or weekends. If possible, make your cross-country move during the week during the regular season. Winter (Oct-April) is about 20-30% cheaper than summer (May-August). In fact, about 70% of all moves happen in summer. Book your move or truck at least two weeks before your move date (4-6 weeks is ideal).
How to Ship a Vehicle
There are different options available when looking for a cheap way to move a car across the country.
Get a Car Shipping Quote From Your Movers
If you hired professional movers for your furniture, you can add a "car shipping quote" to your free estimates. All major cross-country movers and van lines offer car shipping options along with a full-service move.
Add a Vehicle Tow Option
If you plan on moving yourself with a rental truck, then the cheapest way to move your car or truck would be too add a vehicle tow option to your truck rental. That way all you have to do is hook your car up to the back of the rental truck and drag it by its front or back two tires. There will be a minor fee to include the tow option, but it sure beats driving it or paying for a car transport company to ship it.
Look Into Auto Transport
If you are moving small and can ship all of your stuff by mail or train, but need a way to move your car across the country, then auto transport may be your only option. There are a few options out there that offer affordable cross-country auto transport:
- Open-air shipping Open-air car shipping just means that your vehicle will be on the back of a truck with other vehicles, exposed to the open air and chained down. There are a lot of others out there, so shop around and do your homework before choosing a company!
- Enclosed truck auto shipping If you have a priceless vehicle or feel like your car or truck is priceless to you, then this may be a better option. Prices are usually about 55-60% higher for an enclosed truck. The benefit of this option is the peace of mind knowing that your car or truck is safe from the weather, rocks, rain, etc during the trip.
- Drive-away driver There are agencies that connect car-owners with people who need to travel cross-country who will drive someone else's car. This method is inexpensive but does require some research. You are basically paying for the gas while someone else drives your car for you.