How to Move Cross Country for Cheap
Moving cross country is challenging, exhilarating, and stressful, but it can also be extremely rewarding.
Once you’ve decided to move, take the hassles as opportunities. You get to:
- Reduce clutter
- Prioritize important things in your life
- Practice a DIY lifestyle
With big moves, it’s tempting to pick up a credit card, call full-service movers and have other people deal with the hassle of moving your possessions across state lines- but that can get costly. A DIY approach to your cross country move can not only save you serious money but leaves you a more self-actualized person on the other end.
Find A Home
Because we live in the “internet age”, you can do the majority of these steps in your pajamas. Research your destination city online, instead of making multiple trips to find a job or home. You won’t only save time, but also save hundreds on airfare and accommodations.
Some things to put on your checklist for at-home research:
- Safety First: Crime statistics are online. Check out apps like:
- The Neighbors App
- Neighborhood Scout
- City websites will tell you statistics on specific crimes (violent, property, drug & alcohol, etc.)
- Culture & Nightlife: Yelp, Google Maps, and Culture Trip can tell you what’s available for culture in your new city- from restaurants and bars to public parks and cultural attractions.
- WalkScore: Informs you what’s within walking distance of a prospective new home, your potential commute time, and the lifestyle of an area.
- Social Media: Most neighborhoods use social media groups to connect and inform neighbors of events or crime. Join the group for your prospective neighborhood to make sure you vibe with the people.
Decide When to Move
Picking the right time to move can have a big impact on the amount of money you’re shelling out. Summer months and weekends are peak times to move, so expect potentially higher rates from anything from truck rentals to movers. Moving in winter is not only do-able, but you’ll also save on everything from moving supplies to move help.
Start Planning Your Move Early
When should you start planning the move? The answer is yesterday! It’s ok if you’re reading this because you’ve procrastinated for the past three months and you’re in a real pickle, but that stops here.
- Get a Moving Checklist: Having a moving checklist to help keep you on track is critical.
- Declutter: You don’t need the cheap (free) furniture you got in college. Gift it to another poor student and treat yourself to grown-up furniture in your new digs. Check out these tips on effective decluttering.
- Pack Early: No, like, really early. Scoring free moving boxes is easy and you can pack off-season clothes, books, and other non-essentials months before your move.
- Let Technology Help: It’s the 21st century, surrender your stress to an app to help you plan, strategize, and organize your move. One that comes to mind is Wunderlist.
How Will You Move?
You just have more options when you DIY- and who doesn’t like options? But to narrow them down, below are the 3 most common options for moving across the country:
Moving Storage Container
A company will drop off storage containers at your loading and unloading locations! And can store your container at your home or in a secure warehouse for as long as you need. Some of the most well-known storage container companies include:
- U-Box (U-Haul)
- ReloCube (Upack)
Moving containers aren't for every situation. Here's a look at some of the pros and cons of using a moving container:
- Available for local and long-distance moving.
- Many different container sizes are available.
- Flexible drop off/pick up schedule.
- You can typically load and unload at your own pace, giving you as much time as you need.
- Can store your stuff in the container until ready to unload.
- Not all storage containers can be shipped long-distance.
- Portable storage containers are typically more expensive that renting a moving truck or using a freight moving company.
- Some towns and cities require a temporary parking permit for moving containers.
- Difficulty dropping containers off close to your home if you live on a busier street with no driveway, or in an apartment with no designated parking space.
- Some portable storage companies give large drop off/pickup windows.
Pretty self-explanatory, but a truck rental is a great option when going from point A to point B in one shot. Just about everyone is familiar with U-Haul, but that doesn't mean they have the best prices. If you're serious about moving for cheap then you should get price quotes from each rental truck company. You may score a major deal and wind up spending even less on your move.
- Penske Truck Rental
- Budget Truck Rental
- U-Haul Rental
Renting a moving truck is by far the most popular way to complete a do-it-yourself move, but is it the best option for your move? Here are some pros and cons of using a moving truck:
- Usually cheaper than using a moving container.
- You’re in complete control of your move.
- Your items are with you at all times.
- You can tow your car or motorcycle behind the truck.
- You do all of the driving.
- You will pay for all of the fuel that your rental truck needs, which can really add up when moving long-distance.
- If the truck rental company doesn't have the truck you reserved you may have to drive up to 50 miles away to pick up at a different location.
- Can be tricky when moving with kids and pets, since rental trucks don't have a lot of passenger seating.
Freight Moving Trailer
The in-between option from a storage container and truck rental. A company drops off a freight trailer and gives you a set number of days to load and unload your belongings. The three largest "You Load, We Drive" companies are:
- ABF U-Pack
- Estes SureMove
- Old Dominion Household Services
Using a freight moving company for your move is a great option if you're looking for affordability without the hassle of driving. Here are some of the pros and cons of using a freight trailer:
- An economical way to move long-distance.
- You only pay for space you need.
- You don't need to do the driving- these companies will have a professional driver transport your stuff to your new home.
- You typically only get three days at each end to load and unload your stuff.
- You’re dependent on their schedule for when they deliver your trailer.
- Trailers are 28 feet long, which may make it difficult or impossible to drop them off near your home or apartment.
Create A Moving Budget
Starting early means better planning and saving, so you’re prepared for unexpected expenses or emergencies. Early and thorough research will make it easier to get the price you want from the company you want to use- negotiating isn’t inherently rude.
To negotiate like a boss, inform the company that you want to use their service, but a competitor is offering a cheaper rate. Ask if they can reduce their price for you. Many times, especially for long distance moves, a company will come down.
Find Hidden Discounts
When you’re facing a long distance move that can cost thousands of dollars, don’t be shy about asking for discounts. Many major companies offer anything from 10-60% off their goods and services. There’s never any harm in asking.
Here’s a shortlist to get you started for discount hunting...
- Discounts offered by MovingLabor.com partners
- AAA Memberships
- Car insurance & roadside assistance programs
- Cash payment discounts
- Students, vets, union members, and senior discounts
- Costco members
Hire Moving Help
Don’t break a sweat loading and unloading your truck. Compare rates and hire labor-only moving help at a fraction of the cost when compared to hiring a traditional moving company. When you hire move help they'll do the heavy lifting, which means you won't find yourself in an awkward PIVOT! moment...
So what can moving help do for you? These are the most common moving services requested by our customers:
- Loading Help: There’s an art to packing and loading a moving truck or container. Pro movers can save you money by using less space in your trailer or container, and they'll do it a lot faster than you and your buddies can.
- Unloading Help: The last thing you want after moving yourself across the country is to unload a truck. Let pros handle it.
- Moving Furniture: Stop stressing about how you’ll get your entertainment center to the top of your four-story walk-up. Hiring moving labor by the hour is an easy and affordable solution.
- Help With Packing Boxes: Once you’ve decluttered, packing can be a breeze with the help of professional movers.
Be A Cheap Traveler
All right Jack Kerouac, chances are you’ll have to spend a few nights on the road. With a little extra planning, you can save yourself hundreds by avoiding interstate-adjacent motels. Here are some cheaper lodging options to consider:
- KOA (Campgrounds): Kampgrounds of America are all over the country. Cost varies by location and time of the year, but you can snag a campsite for as low as $25/night, with amenities in the campground. They also offer deals and coupons online.
- Couchsurfing: This community asks for involvement rather than money. You can travel cross country for free by staying on members’ couches. You just need to share your couch to reciprocate. Once it’s unpacked.
- Hostels: Considering you’re just going to be catching some sleep while you’re on the road, consider staying at a hostel for a fraction of the cost of a motel.
- Rent a Private Home or Room: We've all heard of Airbnb, and there are many similar sites. Often times when people will put their homes up for use you'll pay less than you would at a typical hotel, and homes listed on these sites are often pet-friendly!
Moving Day Success
There’s a lot to keep track of and big life changes are stressful. When utilizing the tips in this blog, by the time moving day arrives:
- You’ve started the process months earlier.
- You decluttered.
- You found a sublet, lease, or home to buy in your new city.
- Professionals helped you pack.
- Movers are loading your truck or pod.
- You have cheap places to stay along the way.
- You are stress free!
As you can see, you’re well prepared for your cross country move. Early planning prepares you for the unexpected, saves you money, and lets you enjoy the adventure of a long distance move. Instead of scrambling to get packed, loaded, and on the road, you can focus on more important things. Once you make a big DIY move, you’ve got the experience and skill to DIY almost anything.