If you’re planning a small move, you may be able to skip hiring a moving company or renting a truck and just ship your boxes to your new home instead. This is often a great choice for college students as well as people who are moving out of studio apartments without large pieces of furniture.
The cheapest way to ship moving boxes depends on how many boxes you need to ship and whether you’re sending them. What you put in the boxes — light household items or heavier pieces — can also affect the price.
Here, we’ll show you the cheapest ways to ship moving boxes so you can focus on the move. We’ll highlight the pros and cons of each option and discuss the most affordable options — our moving cost calculator can help you tally up the cost of a move based on your specific needs.
- U-Haul U-Box
- U-Pack Relocube
- U-Pack vs. U-Box
- Parcel carrier
- Marketplace -Uship
- Ship by plane
- Ship by car (only if you’re shipping a car)
- Ship by freight
- Use a trailer (only if you’re driving)
- Ship with a moving company
If you’re planning a long distance move, turn to MiniMoves. They specialize in moving small amounts of boxes from one state to another. It’s a good choice if you only have a few small furniture items and are moving a standard 1 bedroom or studio.
There are several great reasons to ship your boxes with MiniMoves:
- Fair prices and their service area makes them an option for most movers
- Pricing includes door-to-door service including pick up, transport, and delivery
- Loading and unloading labor are included in the cost
- You can add-on packing and unpacking services
- You only pay for the number of boxes you ship and there is no minimum requirement
Get a free quote from MiniMoves, and speak to an experienced customer service representative to get a breakdown of the options that work best for your move.
ShipSmart is another company that will ship boxes and help small movers transport their belongings across the country. They are a good option if your items are too large or too heavy for shipping with traditional companies like FedEx and UPS.
Benefits of using ShipSmart include:
- Door-to-door service for convenience and flexibility
- They focus on shipments under 2,000 pounds — perfect for small moves
- In-home drop off makes it easy to get heavy items into your new place or opt for curbside drop off
- You can add professional packing and unpacking services
- They offer multiple insurance options so you have peace of mind during the shipping process
The best way to get a free quote is to call ShipSmart (866-333-8010). If you mention that you found their info through moveBuddha, you’ll get a 10% discount.
The cheapest way to ship moving boxes isn’t always a shipping courier. In fact, you can make the move and save big bucks by using a moving container like the U-Box from U-Haul. This is a great option if you need storage during the move. The company can ship your boxes to another local address or across the country (and international!)
Here’s what to expect when using U-Box
- Gentle ride suspension protects fragile items from bumps during the move
- Ship it immediately or store it until you’re ready to make the move
- No fees for changing your date or canceling gate reservation
- One U-Box fits the contents of about one-and-a-half rooms
- You only pay for what you use (even if you order more containers)
- Choose from delivery service or transport it yourself on a specialty built trailer or by visiting a U-Haul location for packing
Want to see how a real-life U-Box mover fared? Check out Nancy’s moving experience with U-Box.
When it comes to shipping 20-30 moving boxes, your options aren’t just limited to shipping companies. A container company like U-Pack’s Relocube is another great option. It’s also a great value and our top pick for cheapest moving containers. Designed to fit everything from one room into a single cube, it’s ideal for small studio apartment or one-bedroom moves.
Here’s how it works:
- You load and they drive
- Rates include the cost of the driver as well as fuel
- The cubes are lockable and you keep the key so you don’t have to worry about theft during the move
- You can order more than one cube if your move is bigger than just one room. You’ll only pay for what you actually use
For more info, check out our guide to U-Pack Relocubes.
USPS, DHL, FedEx, UPS: The big players
Many people look to major carriers like UPS or FedEx first, only to be surprised at how quickly costs can add up when shipping boxes in bulk. Generally, the more boxes you’re trying to ship the less economical traditional parcel shipping services become.
We certainly recommend getting prices on at least two of these companies to see where they line up.
For those who have a lot of books they can’t part with, there is a cheap shipping hack with USPS.
USPS media mail is a special type of mail classification allowing you to send media (books, DVDs, CDs, printed music) cheaply.
If you’re shipping books long distance, there is no cheaper option than media mail.
As long as the contents of your box meet the definition of “media” and your box is under 70 lbs you’re good to go. Find out more about media mail here.
Quote a few carriers to see what kind of pricing you can get. Since the big carriers offer higher insurance coverage and more careful handling, it may make sense to ship electronics and fragile or high-value items separately through these carriers. Use media mail when possible!
Find Shippers with UShip Marketplace
UShip is a marketplace connecting trucking companies with people looking to ship things.
Most people don’t realize the massive trucking industry ($700B in the US alone) is made up of thousands and thousands of independent haulers.
And guess what, these truck drivers are more than willing to haul your boxes if they have some extra space on their rig.
The tricky part is finding a driver already headed the route you want to go. That’s where UShip’s marketplace comes in.
The way it works is you post your move on UShip’s move board. Truckers can view the requirements of the move and then bid on the job.
The truck driver has a chance to make some extra money and you get a great price.
The only drawback here is sometimes independent drivers aren’t the most professional.
While UShip does provide reviews and a verified vendor system, you’re still ultimately responsible for picking a good vendor. Do your research!
Certainly, doesn’t hurt to post your shipment requirements and see what kind of response you get. If you find a shipper with a proven track record and a decent price, UShip can be a great option for small moves.
For more, check out our complete UShip Review.
Checked Baggage: The airline move
With checked bag fees going up and up, many people overlook airlines as a viable method for shipping.
Most airlines are still pretty expensive when it comes to checked bags, but Southwest and Alaska Air are certainly worth a look.
Southwest airlines offers decent bag rates with 9 bags running just about $525- roughly $60/bag.
Alaska Air offers checked bags at $75 per bag..
If you don’t mind looking like a packrat in the airport, consider “the airline move”.
For a complete breakdown on carry on rates check out this article from MapHappy.
United and Delta also offer cargo shipping options. To be honest, we don’t have much experience with either one of these offerings and couldn’t find out too much about them.
If you know more, let us know in the comments. Links below.
While airlines won’t work for the majority of people, it’s still worth looking into.
Ship By Car: The Trunk Move
This option is only relevant if you’re planning on shipping a car at the same time as the boxes.
If that’s not the case, just go ahead and skip this option right now.
But if you do happen to also be shipping a car, most auto transporters will allow you to put items in the car.
Just make sure to check with the auto shipper about their policies prior to loading the car up with boxes. Some companies have a maximum weight policy or may not allow shipping within the car at all.
Most auto shippers allow for 100 lbs to be shipped inside the car as part of the base cost. Additional weight may cost extra depending on the auto shipper. There may also be restrictions around the numbers of boxes or suitcases you can put inside the vehicle.
If you’re shipping a car be sure to have a look at our list of best car shipping companies.
If you’re already paying to ship a car and can fit everything in the car this is a very affordable option.
Freight shipping: Palletize your boxes
Update: ShipSmart, (866) 333-8018, will actually do all the work of prepping and shipping your goods via freight for you. Mention moveBuddha to get a 10% discount from ShipSmart.
For those who don’t mind getting their hands dirty, freight shipping can be a very economical option.
Here’s how it works…
- Put all the boxes on a wood pallet and shrink wrap the hell out of it. Make sure to shrink wrap around the actual pallet so everything stays anchored to it. Here’s a picture of what it should look like.
- Load the pallet up with boxes at a location where it can easily be brought out to the truck, i.e. your garage.
- Now you need to call around and get rates from freight companies. Here is a carrier list. Boxed, household goods are typically categorized as freight class 150.
- Haggle, haggle, haggle. Carriers are going to try and overcharge you. You should be able to get 1 pallet shipped for a few hundred bucks depending on the details.
- You’ll probably need a liftgate (small elevator on the back of the truck that will bring the pallet down to ground level) and a pallet jack to move the pallet. This will be a small additional charge. Make sure to let the shipper know you need these services.
Freight can also be a good option if you’re just trying to ship a couch or single furniture item.
If you don’t mind doing some prep work and haggling, freight can be a very affordable option.
Tow Trailer: Hitch it and drive
If you’re already planning on driving and your car meets the towing requirements, a cargo trailer can be a great way to transport small and even larger moves.
U-Haul is the only company we know of that rents trailers for long distance moves.
If you’re really looking to save money, you can also buy a cargo trailer off a site like craigslist and then resell it at your destination.
Keep in mind, tow-behind trailers are responsible for a lot of accidents and can be dangerous. Hence, why so few companies rent them.
If you don’t have experience hitching and driving with a trailer, we wouldn’t recommend learning on a long distance moving adventure.
Trailer sauce has some excellent tips for trailer towing.
For those with the right car and experience driving with trailers, this option is going to be hard to beat.
Why moving companies aren’t a good option
Full-service moving companies are not a good option if you’re trying to just ship moving boxes or a few furniture items.
We often get asked if a moving company will just toss a few extra boxes onto their truck.
While this seems like a win-win for both parties when you add up all the costs associated with moving, these arrangements rarely make financial sense for a moving company.
That’s why many moving companies have minimum size requirements on long distance moves.
In the winter, movers typically won’t accept loads under 1000 lbs (roughly 55 medium moving boxes.)
During the busy summer moving season, companies typically raise their minimums to 3000 lbs.
If your move is closer to 1000 lbs, then it might be a good idea to check out our moving cost calculator to compare moving companies to other options for larger shipments.
There is a slight chance you may be able to find a mover who will do you a favor, but more than likely moving companies are not a good option for shipping a couple of dozen boxes long distance.
If you want to check moving company prices check out our list of the best interstate moving companies.
Have another idea to ship moving boxes? Let us know in the comments. We’re always happy to discover new ways to ship moving boxes — especially since popular methods like Amtrak and Greyhound are no longer options.
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