I've moved between states multiple times and found Amtrak's Express shipping option to be a great money-saving tool.
What's the Cheapest Way to Move From State to State?
Moving interstate or across the country on a shoestring budget? If you need to get your stuff or across the state, to a neighboring state, or to the other side of the United States, you've probably realized how big of an expense moving can be.
In many cases, it costs more to ship your stuff than it would to just buy new stuff at your destination. The general advice most people who are moving get is to sell or otherwise get rid of as much as they can before moving the rest. This is good advice, but there's bound to be a decent amount of stuff you can't get rid of that you will need to figure out how to move as cheaply as possible.
Hiring a moving company or using LTL freight will likely cost you a couple of grand. Renting a moving truck and driving it yourself is also expensive. You could ship with UPS or USPS, but those options are insanely pricey as well.
I recently moved from the LA area to Chicago, and I spent $169 to move my stuff across the country. No—that's not a typo. The secret to moving long-distance cheaply is Amtrak Express shipping.
The Most Affordable Way to Move Across the Country in 3 Steps
- Get rid of as much stuff as you can, especially large items like furniture.
- Ship everything you can using Amtrak Express shipping.
- Find an alternative method for anything you can't ship on Amtrak (Amtrak's restrictions are outlined below). If you're flying, your best option is to pack as much as you can in your checked bags. If you're driving, your best option is to try to fit as much as you can in your car. If neither of those options work, your next best option is mailing items via USPS Parcel Post or Media Mail (if applicable). Traditional shipping isn't cheap, but Parcel Post and Media Mail are generally cheaper than other options.
An Overview of Amtrak Express Shipping
Amtrak Express is an inexpensive freight-shipping service. Amtrak offers this service only between major cities, however, so you'll need to drop your shipment off at the nearest major train station and then pick it up once it reaches the destination city. This is not a door-to-door service, but the extra effort required to get your stuff to and from the train stations will save you a ton of money.
You may ship up to 500 pounds per day using Amtrak Express. If you have more than 500 pounds worth of material, you'll need to break it up into multiple shipments over multiple days.
The first 100 pounds of your shipment cost a flat rate of $67. Additional weight costs $0.57 per pound. If you've got 300 pounds worth of items to ship, your shipment will cost around $181. If you've got 400, it will cost about $238 and so on.
Once your shipment arrives at its destination station, you will have 48 hours to claim it. If you fail to do so within that time frame, you will be charged additional storage fees.
Anything that's this good of a deal has a catch. Amtrak Express' catch is its restrictions—and there are a lot of them. The maximum box size is 3'x3'x3'. The maximum box weight is 50 pounds. This means no furniture or oversized items.
Amtrak does not allow anything breakable, valuable, or electronic to be shipped with them, and this can be problematic as well. No appliances (microwave, crockpots, TVs, blenders, etc.), computers, or printers (pretty much anything with a plug) can be shipped. Since nothing breakable is allowed, you can't send dishware, either. Luckily, dishware is cheap, so I would recommend acquiring it at your destination rather than moving it anyhow.
More Information About Moving With Amtrak Express
There's not a lot of published information about Amtrak Express Shipping. There is some information on their website, and you can get more information by calling 1-800-377-6914.
Before you start packing, call Amtrak. They will be able to tell you what stations provide the service, give you up-to-date pricing information, and verify that what you would like to ship is allowed. They will also know where exactly you need to drop off your stuff. Usually, it's a loading dock that may be tucked away on the backside of the building.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2012 Modern Lady
Junior on June 17, 2020:
Hey if you are shipping TO or picking up FROM NYC PENN STATION there is a service provider that picks up and drops off or whatever moving you need to do for very cheap - Larry And A Truck +1 (914) 236-8999
Bill-CA on April 14, 2020:
Thanks, Modern Lady. Amtrak seemed like a good bargain. As Cat wrote, they've changed rates. You cited LA to Chicago, but from Sacramento,CA to Jacksonville,FL
I was quoted:
$105 for the first 100# [+57%],
$0.95/pound over 100 [+66%],
and a 250-pound cap. [-50%]
Jacob Salvatore on February 20, 2020:
Well cities like Florida there are plenty options available for transport however the charges of them are nominal and up to their services which are being offered by them moreover you need to consider them according to their services and reputation in market.
Cat on January 28, 2020:
Just called and for LA to Savannah or Charleston it’s $105 for the first 100 lbs and then 95 cents a pound after that.
CARLOS naranjo on October 31, 2019:
I want to see if I can ship a car from Seattle to San Diego or Los Angeles are, and if yes how much will it cost
Luisa on August 13, 2019:
I’m moving from Scottsdale Arizona tonAustin Texas
How much will it cost for 8 big boxes?
carly on June 22, 2019:
Yall need to stop asking how much it would cost on a forum, get a calculator out, and do some math.
Mary Jane Rodino on May 30, 2019:
I have 40 Boxes different sizes and odd shaped signs. Want to Ship from NJ to Florida what would it cost.? Thankyou.
Emily on May 26, 2019:
I'm moving from Michigan (GR) to LA. How much would it be if I had 6 boxes each 50lbs?
Matt on April 02, 2019:
Seattle to Memphis is $105 for the first 100lbs, .95 each lb after that. Higher than I expected, unfortunately.
Bello on March 23, 2019:
For everyone who is moving across country etc. Amrak is this best way to move household stuff. My husband was a computer contractor for over 30 years. Everytime, a new and better job was offered. We shipped our stuff with them. Can't believe we are going to do it again. God is sooooooo Good. Yes, I'M 65 yrs of age. Up state New York to Utah, Utah to Houston etc. This time we're moving from Georgia to North Dakota. Have a good move everyone. Also, always get the insurance they offer.
Katie on March 18, 2019:
Just inquired about Seattle to Newark/NYC shipping costs:
- Up to 50 lbs = $85 flat rate
- Up to 100 lbs = $105 flat rate
- Anything above 100lbs = flat rate of $105 + $0.95 per lb over 100
paula on December 15, 2018:
i need to ship a few boxes from san diego to Houston Texas. can someone give me an idea please
BRIAN on August 29, 2018:
NEED TO SHIP 3 BOXES TO PHX - CAN YOU HELP ?
David Johnson from Denver, CO on April 25, 2018:
Awesome hub! Amtrak really is an amazing (and super cheap) way to move efficiently. Greyhound also offers similar service as well as "bus freight" options if you have a lot of stuff and furniture to move. Amtrak is definitely a more scenic and relaxing way to go than Greyhound though. Thanks for sharing your tips!
Dot on April 07, 2018:
I moved across country from LA to NYC in 2016. I didn't know about the no electronics and dishware restriction...so I ended up shipping my printer and a bunch of dishware and cooking pans via Amtrak. Everything was fine! I also shipped an big decorative chest, so apparently it wasn't necessary to ship in a cardboard box.
Ashley D on March 25, 2018:
Does anyone know if they will help you unload your boxes to drop off? I am afraid I will not be able to lift and move my 6 boxes which are each about 50lbs :x
Elizabeth on December 12, 2017:
I'm moving to LA in February and need to ship kitchen items (blender, knife set, dishes) and house things like a mirror and curtain rods. Can they tell if you're sending dishes? It sounds like they don't break things you send, so I'd be ok shipping my dishes through Amtrak.
Tristen on July 06, 2017:
I moved from DC to Chicago and shipped this way. I had to go to the big station in the middle of DC because the small stations aren't equipped to do big loads, even if they offer shipping. (It was like 350 lbs, my clothing, books and kitchen stuff). They had me put it from my trunk straight onto the pallet, weighed it and immediately wrapped the whole pallet in plastic to keep it all in one big box cube. When they rolled the pallet out in Chicago for me to pick up, everything was still wrapped just like I left it. So I know they aren't going to dig through your boxes, but they may bring dogs through or maybe scan it through a machine. Purely speculation though! Great service, they didn't charge me for storage when I was late picking up because my shipment beat me to Chicago. My jaw dropped at the price being so cheap, but looking at the old prices does make me sad that they upped it!
Kiley Surma on January 30, 2017:
Has anyone attempted to protect and pack electronics and/or liquids and/or small furniture (i.e. end table wrapped in linens) in the middle of a box on Amtrak? I'm assuming that they don't open up boxes...
Alex on September 20, 2016:
Does anyone know if Amtrak will ship a large rug (8ft long rolled up)?
Sandi on August 28, 2016:
Extremely helpful. Our daughter moved overseas and had to leave her possessions in Seattle. Definitely the cheapest way to get her stuff back to the east coast.
Katie on August 18, 2016:
I can confirm the rate Gaurav just posted is still effective as of 8/18/16. I just called to get rates from Newark, NJ to Seattle, WA. Also, if anyone is interested to know about storage - they charge $4 per item per day after the first 48 hours. This is a good option in case your stuff makes it out before you do.
Gaurav on July 29, 2016:
The rate as of a week ago was $82 for the first 100 lbs, $.80 for each additional pound.
Emily on July 17, 2016:
Thanks for this tip! I'm moving from Boston to San Francisco -- does anyone know the current rate?
Mary on July 01, 2016:
Jane, you can totally ship extension cords and the keyboard. Honestly, they just ask you at the counter what's in your box. I did indeed have my imac packed up, but the lady was really giving me the side eye about it, and cautioned that if there are electronics, you sign a waiver freeing amtrack from any liability if it gets damaged. That I ended up bringing with me on the train. I don't think the items you mentioned will be an issue at all.
Jane on May 23, 2016:
I saw that you can't ship electronics on Amtrak. I have just some extension cords and a keyboard that I was hoping to take with me. How closely do they check to make sure that you're not shipping things you're not supposed to?
Jamie on September 26, 2015:
Thanks for the tips! My first cross country trip (New Orleans to Boston area) I did on Greyhound which was surprisingly awesome. I have traveled Amtrak before and it was a wonderful experience. I love the train! That is why I am going Amtrak for my next cross country move (Boston area to Seattle) soon. I shipped a slow cooker my mom bought me via snail mail and I got it back in pieces! I won't be doing that again
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on August 03, 2015:
Train is also the most environmentally friendly way to move goods across land.
jcilles on February 16, 2015:
I just sent 26 boxes from D.C. to L.A. and they weighed a bit over 600 lbs altogether but they put them together bc I had my dad with me and my aunt and uncle are picking them up. I dropped them off on a Thursday morning and my aunt said she got the arrival call by Monday morning. I had done some research on the prices but I was still amazed when I saw the total. Like I said, they were a bit over 600 lbs...and they cost roughly only $450, including $1,000-worth insurance! I'm very thankful my family drives big trucks!
Sue on May 21, 2014:
Amtrak shipping is by far the best way to ship that is available. Have used them 3 times to ship across the United States. Every time, excellent move.
Dave W. on October 16, 2013:
Thanks for the useful post. I called them to ask about shipping from Cleveland, OH to Portland, OR, and the current rate as of 10/16/13 is $72 for the first 100 lbs and 73 cents for each pound thereafter. Bicycles are $72 each.
Modern Lady (author) from Chicago, IL on April 27, 2013:
Sonia, thanks for the update! Good luck with the move!
Sonia on April 26, 2013:
Finding this info was perfect timing! I'll be moving cross country again in a few months and definitely wanted to be smarter about it this time around. I called Amtrak this morning and their pricing has gone up a bit. It's now $67 for the first 100 lbs, then $0.57 for each lb thereafter.
Modern Lady (author) from Chicago, IL on April 21, 2013:
MysticYat, thanks for the compliment! I didn't know that you could ship boxes for free if you're a passenger. That is a great deal! I'm surprised that there wasn't a luggage limit. Next time I move I will have to check that out.
MysticYat on April 19, 2013:
YAY, someone who gives practical, real-world information. I would like to note that unless you have a lot of brand new, high-end furniture, the most cost effective way to move cross-country is to sell everything except your clothes and your important life momentos and buy new in your new location. I moved from FL to CA via Amtrak 12 years ago - and since I did the traveling on Amtrak I was able to check all 12 of my huge boxes free of charge as baggage. Am getting ready to move cross-country again and will once again sell everything big, ship the rest via Amtrak and load myself, my kid and my cats in the car for a comfortable drive to our new home. :-)
Westbound Karma on March 04, 2013:
Thanks for the info. I will definitely check them out next time I move. I used UPS last time. I only shipped about 7 boxes but cost me a small fortune.
Modern Lady (author) from Chicago, IL on January 21, 2013:
This is by far the most affordable option. Perhaps not the easiest, but shipping as much as you can by Amtrak will save you a lot of money.
Ade on January 21, 2013:
This is great, thanks. Looking to move cross-country and this seems like the most affordable and easiest option.
Modern Lady (author) from Chicago, IL on September 18, 2012:
Sommer, glad you found this useful! Amtrak was a total lifesaver when I moved, but I don't think many people know about it. Next time you need to move, definitely look into this. Even if you still need to hire a van for your larger items, it will still save you a ton of money to ship all the small stuff.
Sommer Dalton on September 18, 2012:
Voted up and useful! Moved 7 times in 5 years and wish I would have known about this!
Modern Lady (author) from Chicago, IL on August 02, 2012:
Thanks for your support, moonlake! Amtrak was a lifesaver for me when I moved. I hope this is a useful tip for others looking for an inexpensive way to get a lot of stuff shipped.
moonlake from America on August 02, 2012:
What a useful hub. I didn't know Amtrak did shipping. Enjoyed your hub and it was very interesting. Voted up and shared.