What’s the Cheapest Way to Move Cross Country? | art by Jonan Everett

Jonan Everett

What’s the Cheapest Way to Move Cross Country?

•  3 minute read

When it’s time to make a cross-country move, there are smart ways to avoid the pain of high expenses.

After one year in Wyoming, my husband and I have packed it up again. This time, we’re moving in the opposite direction. After paying down over $20,000 in debt thanks to living small in a rural state, we realized that debt payoff couldn’t buy us happiness. Between that and our daughter having medical issues that required us to be closer to a hospital, we knew that Wyoming wouldn’t be where we put down our roots.

So last September we began narrowing down our next destination and settled on a few cities. Amazingly, my husband’s job hunt only took three months before he got a great job offer in Philadelphia.

While it’s a great thing for our family, a cross-country move — especially with a kid — is a pricey venture. Professional movers, flights for my daughter and me, a road trip for my husband and our dog, and an apartment hunt in our new city all added up to about $10,000. That’s an insane amount for most families.

The good news? There are cheaper ways to move cross country. In fact, we managed to do it at about half that price.

Here are our tricks of the trade:

  • Take a DIY approach
  • Find ways to save on insurance
  • Get second-hand moving supplies
  • Sell some of your belongings
  • Save your receipts

DIY Moving

Traditional movers are extremely expensive for long moves, especially if you live in a rural area. The quotes we got were upwards of $7,000 — not including packing help — and had an estimated delivery date of over two weeks past our move.

Instead, we decided to go the old-fashioned route: a U-Haul truck. We paid $1,500 for a 10-foot truck, including mileage, moving supplies, a weeklong rental, and an option to add more days if necessary. Other do-it-yourself companies gave similar, competitive quotes.

If you’re worried about driving in the winter or hate the idea of being stuck in a truck for several days, check for pods. You pack them and a truck picks them up and delivers them to your door. A pod rental for our move was just a little over $2,500, which is still cheaper than traditional movers.

 

You can also find discounts on moving services through sites like Groupon.

 

Saving on Insurance

If you go with U-Haul or a similar truck rental, you’ll get sold a story on rental insurance. But you may be able to save up to $400 (or even more) if you make a call to your current insurer.

We were surprised to find out that our car insurance covered our moving van rental at the same rate as their offering. Our renters’ insurance also covered our items while they were in transit. If your insurance says no, check your credit card. The card we used to book the truck (and then immediately paid off) covered the van like it would any other rental car.

Speaking of insurance, if you’re moving for a new job, check when your health coverage will start and lapse. We planned our move while my husband still had insurance from his old job, just in case something happened. While it’s not a money-saver, it gave us a little peace of mind.

Used Supplies Rock!

We reused our old boxes from our last move. However, I also learned that many stores will just give you boxes if you ask. Grocery stores in particular have produce boxes that are perfect for heavy objects like books, and electronic stores will sometimes give away TV display boxes to protect your set.

For our more delicate furniture, we used blankets from thrift stores instead of pricey bubble wrap. The library was happy to give us their copies of old newspapers, and we bought our packing tape from the dollar store. All in all, we paid about $30 for packing supplies that would have cost over $150.

Don’t Move It — Sell It!

My husband and I live minimally, but we decided to test just how minimally we could move. We considered getting a bigger truck to fit our sofa, second bed, and kitchen table, but that would have cost us anywhere from $500 to $2,000 more. So instead, we sold the items.

We ended up making about $600, which will be used to buy new furniture in our next home. The $600 that we got from selling our old stuff and the $1,000 we saved by avoiding renting a bigger U-Haul are enough to buy new or used furniture for our new home.

Keep All of Your Receipts

Here’s something you might not know: Moving is tax-deductible. We can include this expense in our next tax filing under IRS rules for the distance, time, and work. Some expenses you can deduct are the cost of movers, gas, and food during your road trip, flights to your new home, and mileage on your car.

Final Thoughts: Finding the Cheapest Way to Move Cross Country

While moving can be pricey, there are ways to do it within a budget. Whether you’re stuffing your car to the brim with boxes or planning on doing it with professionals, save in advance, research your options, and look for little ways to cut costs. It all adds up in the end.