How to Move Across Country Without Breaking the Bank

How to move across the country—14 tips that may help

Millions of Americans move between states each year. And while it’s difficult to determine the cheapest way to move cross country—or even the cheapest way to move out of state—there are cost-saving techniques others have tried. These ideas may help you save as you move cross country, but the ultimate takeaway is this: Plan and prepare, and think about how you might be able to save on moving costs. With that in mind, here are some tips to help get you started:

1. Set Aside a Budget

While there’s a chance you could swing it, it’s not likely that you’ll move cross country without spending any money. In fact, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the average interstate move costs thousands of dollars. There’s no right or wrong way to save money, but it may be helpful to first estimate a budget for roughly how much you think the move will cost. Since it probably won’t be exact, you might want to keep it safe by overestimating how much you’ll need to save. This will give you a buffer, as well as allow for potential unexpected costs.

2. Declutter

You might find that moving across the country is an opportunity for you to evaluate your possessions and decide which ones you still have use for. As you go through everything and find objects you no longer need, consider these 3 options:

Sell It 

Have things you no longer need? Someone else might be looking for that same item at a lower price than brand new. See which items there may be demand for and perhaps think about selling them.

Donate It

It could be more convenient or necessary to donate some of your unwanted items. And, as an added bonus, you may even be able to deduct the value of certain donated items (such as a “noncash contribution” that’s worth more than $500) from your tax return.

Chuck It

Alternatively, you may decide that an item has reached the end of its life and should be thrown out. But before you send everything to the city dump, be sure to consider what items can be recycled—and don’t forget about electronics.

3. Find Free Boxes and Other Supplies

One potential area to save money is through the packing supplies and materials you use. You may be able to go to local grocery stores and other businesses and ask for old cardboard boxes that you can take for free. Another idea is to collect old newspapers, free coupon magazines or catalogs to wrap things in. You could even use old sheets and towels to wrap certain fragile items.

4. Is It Worth Shipping Anything?

If you do some research, you might discover that shipping some of your larger or more difficult items may be more convenient than moving them yourself. For example, the US Postal Service provides an online postage price calculator. You can use this tool to get an idea about what it might cost to have something shipped to your new home. Look around online for options, and decide if it’s cheaper than transporting by other means.

You might discover that shipping some of your larger or more difficult items may be more convenient than moving them yourself.

5. Shop Around for Full-Service Movers

If you decide to go the route of hiring movers, it’s often a good idea to shop around and make sure you get movers who fit your needs. Some things you might consider as you look for a full-service moving company are how estimates from different companies compare, and whether they have any add-ons that you may end up paying for (such as extra payments for heavier items or moving from places with stairs).

6. Or, Rent a Truck

Another option is to rent a truck or trailer yourself. You might decide this is the cheapest way to move or that it’s more convenient.

7. Pack Carefully

One potential cost you may not have thought about is the cost of replacing damaged items while packing and moving. This is why it’s a good idea to wrap delicate items carefully, and perhaps avoid placing them with, or next to, heavy items—or items that could scratch or damage them. If you’re using a moving company, the mover may be liable for the value of the goods they’re transporting for you. That said, it might be worth familiarizing yourself with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s consumer protection regulations.

8. Think About Your Moving Date

While the timing of your move may be dictated by work or school obligations, you might want to schedule moving around certain times of the year—which could be cheaper— if you have the choice. Gas prices are sometimes higher in the summer, and certain movers may charge more at peak times such as the weekend. On the other hand, weather concerns or dangerous road conditions could be reason enough to avoid making a move during the winter.

Gas prices are sometimes higher in the summer, and certain movers may charge more at peak times such as the weekend.

9. Can Your Company Pay for the Move?

It might be worth checking whether your company will pay for your moving costs. If it’s a new job that requires you to move to a new location, it’s possible that you may be able to negotiate this perk.

10. See Who Can Help

There’s also the possibility that you have people around you who would be willing to help you pack and move—either for free or at a small cost. Friends, family, or even local groups such as scouts or church groups may be looking for opportunities to help. Are there teenagers in your neighborhood interested in earning extra cash? You might find that paying them is cheaper than hiring a moving company. Just be warned: If you decide to go this route, the cost of replacing any lost or damaged items will probably fall to you.

11. Don’t Forget Your Travel Expenses

If you’re driving a moving truck, you usually travel with your belongings. But if you’re using a full-service moving company—or shipping your things—you should also consider the cost it takes to physically move yourself to your new home. As you think about how to move across the country, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the best way to get there? Plane? Train? Car? Bus?
  • Is it just you moving? You and a spouse? You and your family?
  • Do you need to plan for the cost of moving a pet or pets as well?

Unanticipated costs can add up fast. So the more travel expenses you consider when budgeting for your move, the less likely you’ll be to overspend.

12. Transport Some Key Items With You

As you think about the best way to travel, you might also want to consider which items to bring with you. If you’re driving a truck with everything in it, this won’t likely matter. But if you’re flying, you may save money by bringing a few items in an extra suitcase, even if there’s a baggage fee.

13. Plan Your Most Efficient/Cheapest Route (Before You Go)

As you plan your travel, it may also be worth thinking about how to move across the country in the cheapest way by planning ahead of time. For example, if you’re driving, you can plan the best route by using maps and checking gas prices, as well as looking for deals on where to stay en route. If you’re flying, you can look out for online deals. The US Department of Transportation’s Consumer Guide to Air Travel provides a number of tips to help you save money on fares and other air-travel expenses.

14. Bring Your Own Food

Whichever method of transport you choose for moving day, another possible way to save money is bringing your own food to eat as you travel. Even if it’s just some road snacks, it could save you some money by keeping you from stopping to eat too often. Additionally, restaurant foods are often more expensive and less nutritious than food prepared at home. So, if you want to save money and also feel your best on moving day, cutting down on fast-food pit stops may be the way to go.

As you begin the process, you’re bound to figure out how to move cross country in a way that works best for you. Hopefully these tips have helped spark ideas to get you started in the right place.

We hope that you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.