Securing the load


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Moving across the country can be a financial nightmare. But fear not, fellow cheapskates. We’ve done the heavy lifting for you (well, not exactly), scouring the web, trawling social media, and comparing prices to find the cheapest way to move out of state. The quotes we received are based on a one-bedroom apartment move from Los Angeles to New York City. And at the end, we offer some additional tips to stretch your moving budget for those extra long-distance moves. Here are the cheapest ways to move across the country.

The Do-It-Yourself Move

By far the cheapest way to move long distances is to sell most of your furniture, load your car, and drive. But not everyone can imagine packing all of their possessions into the back of a Honda Civic and driving 2,000 miles. You’ll also have to keep in mind that a cross-country DIY move won’t be free given expenses like food, gas, and lodging. We feel confident saying that most people — save for minimalists and adventures — should skip this option.

The Hybrid Move

If you’re keen on doing some of the moving yourself, your best bet is a hybrid move. Instead of hiring full-service movers (expensive), you’ll take on some of the work, such as loading and unloading a moving container. Or, if you can somehow fit all of your belongings into your car, you could hire local movers to help pack and carry your possessions. The following methods are hybrid moves.

The Cheapest Way To Move Long Distances: Rent a Moving Container

Cheapest Containers: SMARTBOX, U-Box, and U-Pack

While the exact details vary depending on which company you use, most drop off a moving container at your residence, which you then pack and load yourself. The company then picks up the container, delivers it to your new residence, and then you unpack it yourself. 

Using our fictional Los Angeles to New York City move, we compared four moving container companies: SMARTBOX, U-Box, U-Pack, and PODS. Although each company has its own perks and quirks, SMARTBOX, U-Box, and U-Pack offered the best deals, quoting us between $3,000 to $3,500 for our fictional move. PODS, on the other hand, wanted at least $6,533 for a similar-sized container.

Portable storage unit being loadedPhoto credit: JodiJacobson/istockphoto

Rent a Freight Trailer

Cheapest Trailer: U-Haul

Like a moving container, you’ll pack a rental trailer yourself, though you’ll also have to haul it to your final destination. Considering the price of gas, lodging, food, and other moving expenses, this may end up being more expensive than renting a container, though up-front costs are lower. Between U-Haul and U-Pack, two of the leading cargo trailer providers, U-Haul offers a 6 by 12-foot cargo trailer for around $1,500 in our fictional scenario, far cheaper than U-Pack’s $3,300 quote.

Rent a Truck

Cheapest Rental Trucks: PenskeBudget, and U-Haul

All three major moving truck rental companies offered similar estimates, quoting us around $3,000 for 15- and 16-foot moving trucks. If you have to go with one, Penske is a good bet, as Forbes reports that it has one of the highest customer ratings — not to mention perks like roadside assistance. 

Still, renting a rental truck is far from the most economical option. Not only will you have to load the vehicle yourself, but you’ll also have to drive all your belongings thousands of miles. Once you account for travel costs, it’s clear that renting a container is far, far cheaper.

Other Tips and Tricks

Whatever service you choose for your cross-country move, know that there are a few universal tips and tricks that can help you save money and time, such as:

  • Choose moving dates strategically. Moving during the off-season (the fall and winter months) means that your quotes will be lower. Similarly, weekday moves are cheaper, too.

  • Declutter. Channel your inner Marie Kondo and sell, donate, and toss everything but the essentials. The fewer things you have to haul, the cheaper it will be.

  • Ask for discounts. Many moving services offer discounts for students, veterans, AAA members, etc.

  • Find cheap packing supplies. Since every cent saved counts, try to find boxes and other packing materials for free on Craigslist or from stores like Costco.

  • Don’t forget about travel costs.If you’re driving, the cost of gas, lodging, and other incidentals will add up. And if you’re selling or leaving your car behind, budget for a plane ticket.

The Bottom Line

To keep moving costs low, get rid of all but the essentials and rent a moving container. Out of all the ways to move across the country, it’s the cheapest and most convenient. We also recommend you do your own research and request your own quotes. Costs will vary drastically depending on where, when, and how you plan to move. Whatever you decide … good luck! We know it’s not easy.

Gallery: People Are Packing Up and Leaving These 10 States

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