Moving across the country is daunting, whether you’re moving for a new job, to follow friends and family that have already moved, or simply because you need to relocate somewhere with different opportunities.
The problem with moving cross country? It can often be more difficult than moving from one part of town to another. It’s even more difficult than moving across the state. Moving bills alone can make it difficult to change where you live, much less the challenges of finding a new job and settling into a new community and social group.
If you’re looking to make your next cross country move a little easier, you’re in the right place. We’ve researched the ways you can save some money for your next cross country move. Follow our tips and tricks and you’ll be able to make your move much more affordable!
The Cost of a Cross Country Move
Before we get into the best methods to save money on your cross country move, let’s talk about the base costs you should expect from your move.
To start with, let’s talk about the cost of hiring a moving truck. Unlike moving across town, a moving truck is a must. You likely won’t be able to make this move in trips, unless you’re willing to spend the next month going back and forth between your old home and your new home. Remember, every drive you make yourself means added gas and food costs, not to mention all that time sitting in your car and driving in traffic and/or bad weather.
Moving trucks are usually charged based both on the size of the truck and necessary mileage, so your costs will be higher for a moving truck that needs to go cross country than one that’s making an hour or two drive across town.
You may also want to pay for a moving crew that can load and unload the truck for you. Usually, moving crews are pretty good about taking care of your things, and they’ll be able to fit more of your stuff in the truck, safely, than you could loading on your own.
Here’s a rough estimate of your costs based on the size of the home you’re moving from.
|1 Bedroom||2 Bedroom||3 Bedroom||4 Bedroom +|
|Freight trailer||$1,500-$2,000||$2,000-2,750||$2,500-3,500||$3,000 +|
|Moving Company||$2,000-3,500||$3,000-$4,000||$4,000-5,500||$5,000 +|
|Moving Container||$1,500-3,000||$2,500-3,500||$3,000-4,000||$4,500 +|
Now, before you get sticker shock, remember that we’re going to show you how you can save some money on these costs. It is important to keep in mind how much moving your things is likely to cost. Moving companies aren’t going to change their rates just because it would be convenient for you.
Even truck rentals and the other more affordable options for moving boxes and furniture cross-country can quickly get more expensive when you add in gas costs and any concerns about driving a vehicle that large. Tip: Get free gas cards to save some money.
Here are the main factors you should consider when you’re trying to estimate the costs of your move:
Major Cost Changing Factors
The Size of Your Current Home
The size of your current home is more important than the size of the home you’re moving to. That’s because your current home tells you roughly how much furniture and other things you’re going to need to move with you.
If you were to pack up everything you own, you’ll still only need to move as much stuff as your current home can hold (unless you have an additional storage unit).
The number of bedrooms your current home has is a good way to estimate it’s size. After all, a significant portion of your furniture and other possessions will be in your bedroom, and the rest of your home is likely sized to match the number of bedrooms.
Supply and Demand
Another thing to consider is how popular and heavily populated your new city will be. Moving to rural areas is usually cheaper than moving to a big city like New York or Los Angeles.
That’s partially because there are only so many moving companies in big cities per the demand for their services, but it’s also partially because the cost of living is higher, and they need to charge more. Some companies also recognize that they can charge a premium for certain locations.
Ease of Access
Moving can also cost more if your moving company’s driver can’t get very close to your new home or has to drive over dirt roads. Anything that makes driving and parking the moving truck more difficult can add additional costs to your move.
Time of Year
Moving companies are usually busier during peak moving season, roughly May-September. Moving outside of that season might be a little more difficult, but it’s also usually cheaper.
Time of the Month / Week
The day of the week you’re planning to move, and the time of the month can also both affect the price of your move.
If you’re looking for more affordable pricing, aim for moving in the middle of the week and in the middle of the month. That’s when the demand for moving companies tends to be the lowest.
While moving to a rural area can be more affordable than moving to a big city in a high demand area, truly remote living comes with its own costs. Rural moves are most affordable when your new home is relatively close to a major highway. The more out of the way your new home is, the more you should expect in moving fees.
Ways to Lower the Cost of Moving Before You Move
Lowering the cost of your move starts long before you’re scheduling trucks and getting ready to leave. It starts by prioritizing what you already have and effective planning at home.
Keep, Donate, Trash
This might seem like a simple thing to suggest, but it really is an important step.
The first thing you need to consider when you’re moving is the total value of the items you’re moving vs. the cost of getting them to your new home. Ignore items with sentimental value in this calculation. You might spend a little more to bring some extra decorations or to carry your dad’s old recliner along with you, but it’s usually worth keeping the things that have sentimental value for your new home.
The old couch that you hate? That may not be worth the cost of moving it, in either real dollars or sentimental value.
Moving clothing that doesn’t fit? Unless there’s a reason to keep it (we understand keeping your graduation outfit, wedding clothes, prom attire, and other sentimental clothing, even if it no longer fits) it’s probably a good idea to trash or donate the majority of your ill-fitting or worn-out clothing.
Consider getting rid of furniture you don’t use, and anything cheap enough that you can replace it more affordably than you can move it.
Even your mattress might end up on the trash or donate pile (only donate if you have a friend or family member who can take it directly. Thrift stores won’t accept used mattresses) if it’s a relatively affordable model. You can always get a new mattress delivered to your new home.
Calculate the Value of Your Things
In addition to using your keep, donate, and sort piles to reduce how much stuff you have to move it’s also important to figure out how much your stuff is worth. Calculating the value of your items can make it easier to part with some things, but it’s more than that.
Knowing what your stuff is worth will also help you insure your move, and tell you how much insurance you should carry in your new home (either renters or homeowners insurance).
Check Your Move In/Out Policies
One of the things a lot of people forget is to check and see what they have to do before moving out of their old home. Even if your rental lease is expiring there are still likely a few things you’ll need to do before you can leave.
Turning in your house keys is only the first step. Your landlord may also ask for a pre-move walkthrough to assess any damage to the home and go over cleaning requirements.
Skipping anything required before moving out can lead to more fines and make your move that much more expensive.
Write A Budget
Once you’ve made sure you’ve dotted your I’s and crossed your t’s in terms of move out policies, you’ll also need to write a moving budget. This can happen at any point in the process, but it’s a good idea to know the value of your things and to have an idea of how you’ll move everything from one home to the next.
Next is making a budget. Talk to a couple of local moving services to get a ballpark estimate of the costs. The estimate probably won’t be exact, pricing changes with demand and can change from day to day.
In addition to the costs of moving your items, you should also plan a budget for travel expenses, food and living expenses, and some money to pay for necessary things in your new home. Things like toilet paper and paper towels, your first several meals at the new location, and some extra money for last-minute purchases should all be included in your moving budget.
Affordable Ways to Move Cross Country
You’ve paired down your stuff and have a plan for how to get rid of the extras. You’ve carefully packed every box and improved your Tetris skills so that everything takes up as little space as possible. You’ve got some money set aside for quick and easy meals at your new location, hotel stays on the way, and all your other moving expenses.
Now it’s time to decide which moving option is going to be the most effective and most affordable option.
Do It Yourself, Rental Moving Trucks
Rental moving trucks are one of the first things most people think of when they want to move affordably. Unfortunately, the truth is that this isn’t always the best option for a cross country move.
Not only do you have to pay for the truck’s base rental price, but most rental companies also have an additional charge above a certain mileage. Some companies will also charge if you’re planning on dropping off your rental at a different location, which is a must for cross country moves.
You’re also on the hook for gas costs with a rental moving truck and may be additionally liable for any damage to the truck on the road. Even chipped paint and cracked windshields that aren’t necessarily your fault may get added on to your final bill.
For small moves, this option isn’t significantly cheaper than a professional moving service or other options. Especially if you wind up with any additional fees for the rental. However, it can be one of the more affordable choices for moving a larger household.
This is one of the most efficient options for arrival time since you and your stuff will arrive at the same time.
Fortunately, most companies offer relatively affordable insurance for both the moving truck and it’s contents. As long as you choose to insure your truck you should be okay, even if the worst happens on the road.
This option isn’t terribly convenient for most people since you’ll need to load, unload, and drive the truck yourself. Even if a friend or family member is willing to take over driving for you, they’ll still be stuck with the long driving time.
Hire a Professional Moving Company
Hiring a professional moving company gets more expensive the more things you have to move and the more services you add to your appointment. It can be an affordable and stress saving option if you’re moving a relatively small home and don’t need a lot of extras.
But, if you’re looking to move a 3+ bedroom home, it’s relatively likely that moving companies will be one of the most expensive moving options.
If you still want to hire a professional moving company, make sure you pack everything yourself. Try not to pay for additional services like packing help. Loading and unloading are usually a requirement, and you’ll still want to insure the trip, but most other moving services cost more than they’re worth.
Professional moving services are affordable for 1-2 bedroom homes, but quickly get more expensive for larger homes. Consider hiring a professional moving service for part of your move if you have a large home, but paying to move everything will likely be expensive.
Most moving companies are relatively good at getting your stuff to your new home at the scheduled date and time. However, traffic, bad weather, and other problems on the road can delay them. Make sure you bring everything you need for at least a day in your new home just in case your moving team gets delayed.
Insurance is often, but not always, included with the cost of a professional moving service. Make sure to ask about insurance for your items, it’s worth the additional cost of an insurance policy that covers the total value of your things.
Professional moving companies are usually the most convenient option since they help with loading and unloading and handle the driving for you.
Hauling In Your Trailer
If you already own a trailer you may be able to move on your own. This option is best for people who either have a relatively small home or who are only moving a few hours away and can make a few trips to move everything.
However, this option isn’t available to everyone, and you do need to be careful loading your trailer to make sure you don’t accidentally exceed your vehicle’s hauling weight limit.
If you already have a trailer or need a trailer for professional or recreational reasons other than moving, this can be one of the most affordable options available.
Since you’ll be driving things yourself, this option offers good arrival time. However, if you have to move things in multiple trips it can add some additional challenge since you’ll need to pack based on what items need to make it to your new home first not simply based on how things best fit in the trailer.
You’ll likely need to talk to your current insurance providers to see if they offer moving insurance coverage if you choose this option. Since you won’t be working with a third-party company there won’t be any additional insurance providers involved with your move.
That can make your move more affordable, but it also means that you might have to take on a little more risk during your move.
This option is relatively convenient since it’s so affordable and relies on resources you already have on hand, but it’s less convenient in that you’ll need to drive all your things yourself.
Portable Storage Containers
This is a newer option, and it’s actually one of the better options for most people. Portable storage containers are relatively flexible, widely available, and come with some storage options that make it easier to plan your move in stages.
Portable storage containers are a competitive option in terms of affordability for small to medium moves. They’re less affordable for people with a lot of furniture and bulky items that might require more storage containers, but for most family homes in the United States, this is a good option.
Portable storage containers are very good about arriving when you need them to, and can often be stored so that you can move in stages, only unpacking the items you need at first, and then gradually unpacking one container at a time.
Insurance is often offered along with your portable storage containers and is a good option. It’s also important to insure your items while they are in storage if you’re not going to get everything delivered right away.
Portable storage containers are one of the most convenient options for small to medium-sized moves, but they can be a bit cumbersome if you have a large home and a lot of items that need to be moved.
Freight Shipping From Coast to Coast
The last option is to ship your furniture and other items in a freight container. This option is usually most affordable for the larges moves, like when you’re moving from one coast to the other, or if you’re crossing several states through the heart of the country in one move.
Freight shipping is a good option if you’re looking to move a small home cross country or even a large home in a big multi-interstate move. It’s generally as affordable or more affordable than renting your own moving truck.
Arrival is highly predictable when you’re shipping freight. You should expect 8-12 days in shipping for most cross-country moves, so it’s not necessarily as fast as some alternatives, but you’re also much less likely to have delayed delivery times or any damage to your possessions.
Freight shipping does have some difficulties when it comes to insurance. You can get coverage for flooding, lightning strikes, and other rare disasters that can damage your property. However, regular in-transit damage usually isn’t covered.
This is a good in-between option. It’s more convenient than driving everything yourself, but also usually more affordable and slightly less convenient than professional moving companies.
A lot of the potential savings in a big cross country move like this come from simple things like making sure you’re only moving the possessions you really need, and that everything is packed efficiently and well. But choosing the right moving service and budgeting for your expenses can make it a lot easier to stay on track and to make sure you have the financial pad you need to start life right in your new home!