Cheap Ways to Move Across Country
What's the cheapest way to move from one coast to the other? If you're moving across the country and trying to save cash (which is usually a given), this is a very smart question to ask. It turns out, you really can cut the cost of moving in a bunch of different ways.
"The least expensive move is the DIY move, obviously," says Michael Keaton of Moving.org. By "DIY," he means doing all the packing, heavy lifting, and transportation yourself.
"The most expensive is a professional move," he explains. "There are also a lot of midrange options on the market, like moving containers, that you have to load and unload on either end. When you are packing your belongings yourself, you're responsible for making sure everything is cushioned and properly tied down. You might be saving money, but you're assuming more risk."
Here are four basic options for a relocation across the country, ranked from cheapest to most expensive. To compare these options, let's look at it from the view of an imaginary couple moving a two-bedroom apartment from Brooklyn, NY, to Los Angeles.
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1. Check extra bags and ship the rest
If you plan on flying to your new home, pack your primary possessions in suitcases and boxes. The extra checked bag fee is generally $35 to $50 per bag, and you can ship a few boxes of books or kitchen items to your destination for under $100 per box, if you choose the most cost-effective (aka slowest) shipping.
Generally speaking, this is the least expensive way to move because you don't have to worry about transporting heavy furniture, but that's also the downside of this method: You can't bring any furniture. So this is feasible only if you are moving to a furnished apartment or buying all new stuff.
2. Rent a moving truck and drive it yourself
Renting a moving truck and driving it yourself is a reasonable option for people who are traveling with lots of stuff, including heavy furniture. A 15-foot moving truck from U-Haul costs about $2,700 for a nine-day, 3,300-mile move, which is what U-Haul estimates our fictional couple would need for their cross-country move. That truck gets 10 mpg; so with a gallon of gas averaging $2.50, their trip would cost about $825 in gas.
This also might be a good option if you have to move a car; you can save lots of money by towing it. Depending on the type of auto you own, a tow dolly from U-Haul can be rented for $150 to $250 for a trip from New York to California. (It costs an estimated $1,000 to $1,500 to ship a car that same distance.)
Skip this method, however, if the idea of driving a giant truck several thousand miles across the country makes your head spin.
3. Rent a moving container
Pods are portable storage units that are dropped off at your house days before your move for you to fill. A truck then comes to pick up the pod and transport it to your new home.
The advantage? You don't have to drive, and you can bring all your furniture with you. The bummer? You have to do the loading and unloading at each end. People flying to their destination should look into this option.
The rate for three U-Haul U-Box containers—which can hold approximately the same amount as the 15-foot moving truck—is about $3,300.
You can also request (and pay for, of course) extra months of storage before your pod is delivered, which is helpful if you're going to be house shopping on the other end of your move or staying somewhere temporary for a while.
4. Hire professional movers
A full-service move across the country for a two-bedroom home, according to the estimates at moving.com, is $4,500 to $6,000, with an additional $1,400 to $1,900 for packing service.
According to Keaton, federal regulations require movers to come take a look at your stuff before they can give you an official quote. To save on professional movers, Keaton suggests reducing the amount of stuff you bring, not moving on the weekend or at the end of the month, and avoiding the busy moving season of May through August.
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