Everyone wants to know the cheapest way to move cross country, so it’s super helpful to know all of your moving options for long-distance moves out of state! Read on to learn about the average cost for moving cross country and what is the best way to move across the country. This post is sponsored by UPack but all opinions and advice are my own.
We just moved across the country, again. This time we moved from our home near Austin, Texas to Orange County, New York.
We previously moved across the country twice before. The first time was when we finished our schooling in Utah and moved ourselves across the country, with our brand new baby twins, to Indiana.
The second time, we packed up our Indiana home of four years and moved out-of-state to Texas, where we lived for five years (with one move within TX, but in-state moves are so much easier).
If you haven’t moved in a while, or have never moved cross country, or you never moved with a family in tow, I hope this post helps you know what to expect, what your cost-effective moving options are, the pros and cons for the various moving options, and what is the best way to move cross country, for you.
Because, the reality is, your needs, finances, and moving situation are different than mine, so what makes the most sense for you, may be different than for me.
I want to help you make the best choice for you and your family that’s not just the cheapest way to move, but also fits your unique needs and preferences.
How to Move Across the Country
It’s really hard to cram over 1000+ sq feet of home goods into a minivan or in the back of a pick-up truck and move across the country.
Conversely, when you do in-town moves, it’s somewhat feasible to load up your vehicle (and maybe a few friends’ vehicles), or rent a U-Haul moving truck or trailer for the day, and get all of your stuff from location A to location B.
But, that’s not an option when you are moving hundreds or thousands of miles away. You can’t make multiple trips back and forth, or only rent a truck for the day to transport just “the big stuff.”
If you want to take your furniture and possessions with you, then you’ll need to figure out your moving options.
Options for Moving Long Distance
Because most of us don’t own semi-trucks with 53′ trailers (though my dad did, and he moved me out to college in Utah until trucking regulations cracked down on his ability to do such a thing), we need to rent something that can haul our stuff cross country. Or, we will need to pay someone else to haul it for us across the country.
When it comes to long-distance moving options, these are by far the most popular:
- Rent a moving trailer that you hitch to the back of your vehicle and tow to your new out-of-state home (requires a large SUV or truck)
- Rent a moving truck that you load and drive yourself across the country
- Hire a moving company to transport your stuff (need to make sure they have offices in both locations)
- Hire a moving company that packs, transports, and unloads your belongings (need to make sure they have offices in both locations)
- Have a storage cube delivered to your home which you load up but the company transports
- Have a moving trailer delivered to your home which you load up but the company transports
- Have the company offering you a job pay for your relocation and moving expenses (if moving for job relocation)
Every option has advantages and disadvantages to it, besides cost. Every option is going to cost you a good amount of money for this type of long-distance move.
But, before we dive into costs, let’s talk about other things to consider.
If you have mobility or health issues that prevent you from physically packing, loading, or carrying your items, then you will likely not be able to do choose a DIY moving option, unless you have amazing family and friends on both sides of the move who are willing to help you out.
Packing boxes, hauling boxes, and then stacking boxes and furniture onto a moving truck, trailer, or storage cube is hard physical work. It also often requires two people to lift and move furniture and other large items.
If you don’t have the ability to move your own stuff, hiring a company to pack and load a trailer is the smartest option.
The good news is that there are often local moving companies who do only the packing and loading portion of moves! This means you could still utilize some DIY options for moving long-distance!
You could hire them to put everything into a rental truck for you, and then drive it yourself across the country, again hiring a local moving company to help unload your stuff on the backend.
If you hate packing and moving, or are in a rush to move, you may want to hire a moving company to do everything for you. This is generally the most expensive way to move across the country, but then you don’t have to stress about any of it, which, depending on the reasons for the move, could be exactly what is best.
Course, there will still be stress worrying if the moving company you hire are ethical and trustworthy, as well as dependable, as not all moving company employees are, and some companies’ customer service and communication skills are several lacking and frustrating to deal with.
You also need to be okay waiting to receive your stuff as you will arrive at your cross-country destination before it does.
This is an important consideration too!
If you want full control over your stuff, over the packing process, over the loading process, over the hauling process, over the unpacking, and want to always have your stuff with you and arrive at your future home at the same time you do, then a rental truck (or large trailer you haul) is the very best option for you.
If you want some control over the packing and loading process, a moving storage cube or trailer, could be a good option too. This is especially true if you hate driving those huge moving trucks, also have a vehicle or two to transport beside, or have a family you’ll be moving with.
A family with two or more kids isn’t going to fit into the cab of a moving truck.
If you have a TON of stuff to move, you also may not be able to fit everything into a single rental moving truck and will need to employ other moving options in order to accommodate all of your belongings.
Cost for Moving Cross Country
Okay, now that we’ve dissected several of the cross country moving options and why you may want to choose one over another, let’s talk about costs.
The cost for moving cross country is thousands of dollars.
Even the smallest rental truck is likely going to cost you at least $1000 and that does not include fuel costs ($200+), damage protection, roadside protection, insurance, taxes, fees, and sometimes even mileage costs.
The biggest rental moving trucks will cost you more around $1800+.
If you also need to tow a vehicle behind your rental truck (or behind a second vehicle you own), a tow dolly (where the back wheels are on the road) cost around $300 or more and the full flat auto transport dolly costs around $600 or more.
If you can’t tow your vehicle yourself and hire someone else to pick, transport, and delivery your car for you, the price ranges from $850-$1300 or more.
If you need moving helpers to load or unload your truck, a crew of two people over 3 hours can cost you about $165-540 depending on the moving company you choose. Costs will vary on your location and the amount of stuff you have.
If you need help on both sides of your move, double that number.
Plus, the cost for moving cross country is much more than physically transporting your stuff.
There are the costs associated with throwing away several items before you move (think perishables but also all sorts of replaceable items); the cost of packing and moving supplies like boxes, tape, dollies, furniture blankets, bubble wrap, mattress bags, and labels (see my list of places to get free moving boxes); damage to your furniture and other belonging (thus lessening their value or requiring repairs and touch-ups); staying at hotels along the way as you move; replacing items you sold or tossed once you get there; furnishing the home; buying organizational products; restocking your pantry and fridge; and the wear the tear on your vehicle if it tows a trailer or car behind it.
The Cheapest Way to Move Cross Country
Everything you move across the country has a cost, because the more stuff you have, the more expensive the move.
If you are hiring people to pack your home, then the more stuff you have, the longer it is going to take and thus the more it is going to cost to have them pack and load it all up.
The more stuff you have, the bigger trailer, cube, or truck you will need to transport it all, thus raising your overall moving costs.
I highly, highly recommend going through everything you own and deciding if it’s worth keeping and paying to move across the country.
If it’s not worth keeping, or you won’t need it in your new home, I recommend selling items through Facebook Marketplace or Craiglist, or holding a yard sale.
As we prepped for our New York move, we made $3,835 from selling items through the Facebook Marketplace. We could have made more if we had started selling and listing items sooner. Note that $2000 of that came from selling major household appliances (fridge and washer/dryer), but the rest was from so many random odds and ends that other people wanted or needed and were willing to pay for!
This money totally helped defray and limit moving costs!
For items not worth keeping, look over my list of places to donate clothes that don’t resell them, or otherwise look to find charitable places to donate the items.
Another smart way to save money on moving costs is to use up the items in your pantry and fridge before you move!
I know no one wants to cook when you’re in the middle of packing and moving, but transporting heavy boxes of cans, jars, and food boxes greatly increases your moving costs if you need to have room for all of it on the truck.
Use up stuff in your pantry and cupboards and fridge as much as possible. This way you won’t have to throw away food you already paid for! It’s super hard to keep frozen or refrigerated foods cold during cross-country moves and honestly, not worth the effort.
How to Move Across the Country for Cheap
The cheapest way to move across the country is by getting a rental truck or trailer (like UHaul, Budget, Penske) and doing all the moving yourself.
The next cheapest option is likely a storage container which you load but another company ships to your future out-of-state home for you, things like UPack.
We got quotes from both PODS and UPack and ultimately decided to use UPack for this move. PODS’ quote was overly complicated with separate costs for every leg of the voyage, storage fees, and taxes thrown on top.
I still am not sure how much PODS quoted us because they threw so many numbers at us during the phone call.
UPack, on the other hand, was way cheaper, and their quote online included all taxes, fees, shipping, driver, and fuel fees.
We ended up getting an ABF Upack trailer delivered to our home rather than UPack storage cubes because it was much cheaper to do the one trailer versus multiple cubes.
I also like that you pay only for what you use, so if you don’t end up needing that fourth storage cube, no worries – you won’t pay for it.
If we didn’t end up needing all estimated 17′ of the 28′ UPack trailer, we would only pay for what we used, and if we went over (which we did by 2 feet) then they have a set foot rate they charge you ($76 per extra cubit foot).
You can also choose to save a little extra by taking your stuff to a UPack facility and loading up cubes or trailers there, or by not having them drop it off to your home, but unloading everything at a facility near your new home.
Plus, when we called them, as they told us too via email for some additional discount savings, they dropped the price from our quote even more, by like $400!
They also have a guaranteed drop-off window time-frame so you aren’t sitting around all day waiting for it (and they did show up right in the middle of the window!).
We ended up booking a UPack trailer for our move to New York (full Upack review coming soon!) and it was estimated we’d need 17′ of the trailer for $2,921, but we ended up using 19′ of the trailer for $3073.
The Upack trailers are 28′ long, 9′ high, and 8′ across. It’s super tall and roomy inside to load it up with your stuff.
More expensive than storage containers, is hiring others to load your stuff into a trailer for you.
We got a quote from Mayflower for this move and it was over $9000, and we would still have to pack up all of our belongings and unload the truck ourselves. Super expensive!
The most expensive moving option is paying for professional movers to come into your home and load everything up and transport is all to your home again.
I’m sure there are other ways to move across the country for cheap, so I’d love to hear your tips and advice in the comments.
I do recommend UPack and suggest you get a cross country moving quote from them (and other companies) and compare the moving costs!
Also, if you are looking for cross country moving checklists, packing tips, tips on how to load a trailer, and other tips, UPack has some great free resources for you on those too!