10 Cheapest Ways to Move Cross Country

Moving truck full of boxes

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Have a cross-country move coming up, and trying to figure out how you're going to do it as cheaply as possible? Here are some strategies to help you save hundreds (if not thousands) on your long-distance move.

Rent a Moving Truck or Van

If you're looking to save as much as possible, a DIY move is definitely the way to go. This will eliminate all the cost of having someone else pack, move, and unpack your stuff. Just rent a moving truck, pay for your fuel and travel expenses, and you're all set. A 26-foot truck is big enough to move the typical three to four-bedroom house and doesn't require a special driver's license to operate. As you calculate the cost of a DIY move, don't forget to factor the cost of the fuel. According to U-Pack, a 26-foot diesel moving truck may only get eight to 10 miles per gallon. That will add considerably to the rental cost that you're quoted.

Rent a Moving Container

If you don't have the time, or desire, to tackle a full-blown DIY move, consider renting a moving container. It'll be dropped off at your house, so you can fill it up at your leisure. Then, it'll be picked up and shipped across the country. You'll pay a flat-rate for each container (as little as $60), plus a delivery and shipping fee (determined by mileage). If you don't have homeowner's insurance, you may also need to pay for insurance to protect your stuff while it's packed up and in transit. Moving containers are rented for one month at a time, so if you need extra time to pack or unpack, or you can't get into your new home right away, this option offers some flexibility. In fact, if you need the moving company to store your stuff for a while, they can do that, too. PODS and U-Haul are two companies that offer this service.

Tip to Save Even More

Skip U-Haul's delivery fee by picking up your U-Boxes, or by taking your belongings to the nearest U-Haul facility and filling the boxes there. Both PODS and U-Haul have a promo code box at checkout, so be sure to do a quick web search for a promo code before you complete the transaction.

Use a Freight Trailer

Handle the packing and unpacking yourself. Then, hire professional movers to drive your stuff cross-country. Companies like Estes SureMove and Old Dominion Household Services will drop off a 28-foot trailer at your home, and give you three days to fill it. Then, they'll pick it up and drive it to your new home and give you another three days to unload it. This option costs about half as much as a full-service move. And since freight companies typically charge by the foot, rather than by weight, you won't have to pay for any space in the trailer that you don't use. They'll just put in a partition, and fill the extra space with someone else's stuff.

Find Free Moving Boxes and Packing Supplies

Cardboard boxes and packing tape are shockingly expensive when you need enough to pack up an entire house. Cut the cost by finding free sources for moving boxes and bubble wrap. Then, buy a bulk package of packing tape. Whatever you do, do not buy your packing supplies directly from a moving company. It may be convenient, but you'll pay a lot more for them if you do.

Time Your Move Just Right

May through September is peak moving season, which makes it the most expensive time of year to move. If your moving date is flexible, try to plan your move for some time between October and April. To save even more, aim for mid-week and mid-month. Moving companies won't be as busy, so rates will be a lot more competitive and more options will be available to you.

Lighten Your Load

Whether you decide to tackle the move yourself or to have someone else do it for you, you'll spend a lot less, if you take the time to declutter and get rid of the stuff you no longer need beforehand. Have a big yard sale, or list your stuff on Facebook Marketplace. Then, put the money you earn towards your move.

Make Sure You Understand What You're Agreeing To

Before you sign any contracts, make sure you understand all involved fees and how each step of the move will be handled. Is the estimate you received binding? How will costs be calculated? Will the mover be contracting all or part of your move out to a third party?

Grab All the Discounts You Can

Many moving companies, including Penske, Budget, North American Van Lines and United Van Lines offer military discounts. Many others, like Atlas Van Lines and Penske, offer AAA discounts. And that's just two possibilities that may be available to you. Be sure to ask every company you're considering if they offer any discounts. You may just uncover one (or more) that you qualify for.

Don't Get Scammed

If you get rates from several moving companies, and one comes in way lower than the rest, be wary. You don't have to talk to too many people to hear nightmare stories about people who have had their belongings damaged, lost, or stolen.

Keep Track of Your Moving Expenses

Moving for work? Be sure to save all the receipts from your move, if your employer has agreed to cover your moving expenses. This might include things like gas, a rental truck or trailer, short-term storage, packing supplies and the cost of food and lodging while you're in transit. If you were planning to claim your moving expenses as a deduction on your taxes, you should know this deduction was phased out in 2017. It won't be back until at least 2026 if it comes back at all.