How Do Freight Moving Companies Work?

Moving with a freight trailer is quickly becoming a popular DIY option for people moving long distances. Freight moving companies offer the benefits of a moving truck rental without the hassle of having to drive. You’ll pack everything yourself, after which the company will transport your items to your new home — where you’ll be in charge of unpacking.

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Because of this, the moving process when using freight moving companies is a little different than using full-service movers. Here’s a closer look at what homeowners need to know about this household moving option.

What is a freight moving company?

Freight moving companies drop off a large, 28-foot long trailer at your residence. These trailers offer roughly 1,900 cubic feet of space. You can use as much space as you want, and then the company will pick up the trailer and deliver it to your new place.

Freight usually costs more than rental trucks, although once you add in fuel and travel costs, the pricing can be about the same. Using a freight moving company is also about the same cost or slightly less than portable storage container companies. Some shippers even offer international moving services.

But whether or not a freight mover is right for your move isn’t just a question of pricing. You’ll need to consider things like parking access, delivery time frame, access to labor, insurance and more to determine if renting a freight trailer is the best way to move.

Luckily, we put together this freight moving guide to provide all the answers you’ll need to determine if freight is right for you.

What are the top freight moving companies?

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When it comes to freight moving companies, U-Pack generally stands out from the rest thanks to its affordable pricing and nationwide network. U-Pack also allows you to rent smaller storage containers if you’d rather use those instead of a freight trailer. Regardless of which option you choose, you only pay for the space you actually use. Estes Sure Moves offers similar services with both freight trailers and 22-foot moving trucks available.

Another popular moving company in this space is Old Dominion. Like U-Pack and Estes, you only pay for the space you use. However, they don’t offer any additional insurance (which is available through U-Pack and Estes).

Generally speaking, these freight moving companies are recommended for long-distance or interstate moves. U-Pack’s freight trailers aren’t available for local moves. While the others offer local moving services, they tend to be more expensive than other moving services. That being said, long-distance prices tend to be very competitive.

Freight Pros & Cons

  • No driving
  • Fast delivery
  • Only pay for the space you need
  • Require 40′ to park
  • Spring suspension, pack carefully
  • Insurance is limited
  • Labor not included

How much does a freight moving company cost?

Pricing with freight is simple. You only pay for the space you use in the trailer.

Freight trailers are measured in terms of linear feet. The freight mover will quote you a rate per linear foot for your move. Most companies have a 3 to 4 foot minimum (equivalent to a small one bedroom) to rent space in their freight trailer. Beyond the minimum, you are free to use as much or as little space as you need.


Most companies have a 3 to 4 foot minimum (equivalent to a small one bedroom). Beyond the minimum, you are free to use as much or as little space as you need.

Pricing is on a per foot basis. For example, let’s say you get a quote for 10 linear feet of space for $2,500 total, and the rate per linear foot is $250/foot. If your move ends up requiring 12 linear feet, you’ll owe $3,000 total ($500 extra for the 2 additional feet). If your move only requires 8 feet, you’ll owe $2,000 total (your price is reduced by $500 for the 2 feet you didn’t use).

The trailers used by freight moving companies are 28 feet in length and can hold roughly the same amount as a 26-foot rental truck plus a 10-foot rental truck combined.

Here’s an example of what you could expect to pay for a freight mover based on the size of your home and distance of your move:

1 bedroom 2 – 3 bedrooms 4 – 5 bedrooms
250 miles $900 – $1,400 $1,100 – $1,700 $1,800 – $2,700
1,000 miles $1,300 – $1,800 $1,800 – $2,700 $3,200 – $4,100
2,500 miles $1,800 – $2,700 $1,900 – $2,900 $4,500 – $5,800

3 insider tips for saving money with freight

We went deep undercover with freight moving insiders and got them to spill the beans on how you can save money when you use a freight moving company.

Use the terminal

Freight companies will typically give you the option to load and unload your items at what is known as the terminal. Terminals are usually located within a 60 mile radius of urban areas. Loading, unloading, or doing both at the terminal will typically result in a pretty significant price break.

Of course, you’ll need to weigh the savings against the added cost of going back and forth to the terminal. A terminal-to-terminal move can make a lot of sense for smaller shipments where a cheap van could be used to shuttle items.

Move mid-month

Leases on rental property typically turn over at the end of every month, causing spikes in demand on the last few days of just about any month. Avoid the rush and move in the middle of the month to save money.

Sell, donate, trash items

Freight companies charge a set rate for each foot of space you use in the trailer — so small moves will always cost less than larger moves. Reducing the amount you’re moving can help lower your costs.

That being said, there is typically a 3-4 foot minimum space requirement. Be careful not to reduce beyond this point, as it won’t result in any additional savings.

Fees to watch out for when using freight movers

You pay only for the space you use on the trailer, but you should be aware of the other potential costs of using a freight mover. Keep in mind that these fees can vary from company to company. Ask what is (and isn’t) included in your quote so you know what to expect.

Parking permits

Freight trailers require roughly 40 feet of parking space. Some municipalities require parking permits to park the trailer on the street — and you may have to pay a small fee to get that permit. Check your city’s website for more details.

Weekend pickup / delivery

Drivers don’t like to work weekends. Most freight companies prefer to operate within Mon-Fri and charge extra for weekend drop offs.


1 or 2 months of storage is typically available for an additional fee. If you need longer term storage, consider using a moving container or delivering to a storage unit (though some freight moving companies also offer long-term storage).

Additional load & unload days

Need more than 3 days to load or unload? You can purchase additional days as needed on a per day fee basis.

Additional valuation coverage

Freight moving companies offer very basic and limited protection for damage in their base package. Most providers offer add-on options to increase insurance coverage in the event of an accident. Remember, these policies won’t cover damage due to the loading or unloading of items, since you’re responsible for that yourself.

Blankets, pads, and straps

Moving blankets, straps and moving pads will need to be purchased separately.

Live load & unload

If you can’t leave an unattended trailer on your street, you may need to coordinate for the driver to stay with the truck during the loading or unloading. The driver is simply staying with the truck. He won’t provide any help loading or unloading.

The first hour or two is usually free, and then an hourly rate will apply. New York City and other urban areas typically require live loading.

Truck cleaning fee

Be sure to sweep clean the trailer before final pickup to avoid a cleaning fee.

Weight tickets

Military PPM(DITY) move? You can usually request weight tickets for an additional fee.

Moving equipment

Hand trucks and dollies are typically available to rent from a variety of providers. Prices and availability vary.

Guaranteed delivery

Want your trailer delivered on a certain day at your destination? Most providers are willing to offer guaranteed delivery at an additional cost.

What’s included with a freight mover?

Every freight company generally offers the same set of services for a freight trailer move — but keep in mind there can be small differences between freight companies that make a big difference for your costs.

When getting moving quotes, ask every freight company the same set of questions and be sure to write down their answers on the estimate paperwork. You should also look up customer reviews and do some extra background research on the company, like their years of experience.

Usually included in your quote:

  • Door-to-door transportation
  • 3 days to load & 3 days to unload
  • Fuel & tolls
  • Loading ramp
  • Dedicated trailer (typically 28′ long)
  • Bulkhead divider to secure your belongings

Not always included:

  • Help loading or unloading (hire moving labor)
  • Parking permits, if necessary
  • Pads, straps, or blankets
  • Dolly or hand-truck (sometimes available to rent)
  • Insurance policies (coverage varies by company)
  • Packing supplies such as boxes, bubble wrap, etc.
  • Weekend pickup/delivery (sometimes available)

Don’t be afraid to negotiate with your moving company. You can ask about moving discounts and bundling service add-ons to get the best rate.

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How does freight moving work?

A freight trailer is delivered to your residence, and you have up to 3 days to load it. You can use as much space as you need.

Once loaded, a secure bulkhead is installed in the trailer to keep all items tightly locked together. Your move will be the only household goods shipped in the trailer. The rest of the truckload will be packed with commercial goods that are getting shipped to the same region.

The freight company picks up and delivers the trailer to your new location after emptying out the commercial goods. You’ll then have up to 3 days to unload.

Here’s a timeline for how you should prepare for working with a freight moving company:

45 days out

If you don’t want to be the one loading the trailer, now is the time to hire professional moving labor.

Don’t wait much longer, or you may end up paying more!

14 days out

Make sure you have gathered, bought, or rented all of the moving supplies that you’ll need, such as blankets, pads, straps, and moving boxes.

You don’t want to be left empty handed on moving day!

The big day

The freight company will need a place to drop off the trailer, so make sure there is room for it!

You have up to three days to load it and request a pickup. You load the trailer yourself, unless you hire extra help.

In transit

Freight shipping typically moves quicker than professional movers because they also carry commercial goods. Your freight moving company should be able to provide an accurate delivery date.

Delivery date

When you’re ready to have the trailer delivered, make sure you have plenty of room for it at your new home.

You’ll have 3 days for unloading and unpacking everything, so you don’t have to feel rushed!

Compare and contrast

Freight moving companies are a popular do-it-yourself option, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the best option for your situation. Compare freight to moving containers, professional movers, and rental trucks to see how they stack up.

Freight vs. professional movers

See how freight compares to professional movers.

Freight Pro Movers
Delivery Freight companies tend to have much faster and more reliable delivery windows than movers. Moving companies often give wide and unreliable delivery windows, especially for smaller shipments.
Cancellations Freight companies are much less likely to cancel on moving day because they aren’t
reliant on moving crews and have access to a much larger fleet of trucks.
Professional moving companies have much smaller truck fleets and rely on labor crews to show up on moving day,
increasing the chances of cancellations or delays on moving day.
Prep Time Freight offers 3 days to load, so you have more time to pack and clear everything out. With professional movers you’ll need to be fully prepared before they arrive — unless you’re also paying for packing services.
Pricing Freight pricing is based on a simple per foot charge. Professional moving quotes can be difficult to understand.
Privacy Your items are the only household goods in the freight trailer, secured behind a bulkhead door. Unless your move is a full truckload, professional movers almost always pair shipments together.
Labor Freight provides no labor, although it’s not hard to hire some help. Professional movers will load and unload the truck, including basic furniture assembly.
Insurance Freight companies usually don’t offer more than basic
valuation coverage.
Professional moving companies tend to have more insurance options and better overall
coverage for damages.
Moving Equipment Freight provides limited equipment. Professional movers will bring pads, blankets, dollies, and straps to make
sure all items are properly secured.
Storage Freight storage is expensive. Professional moving companies typically offer a month of free storage.

Freight vs. moving containers

See how freight stacks up against moving containers.

Freight Trailers Containers
Space A single freight trailer can hold roughly the same as two and a half 16′ storage containers. If you need more than 16′ of space, you’ll need to get a second container.
Pay for What You Use With freight you only pay for the space you need. With containers you are limited to two or three different sizes.
Pricing Freight websites offer instant & transparent online pricing. Container companies usually require calling for quotes.
Parking Freight trailers require around 40′ of parking space, clear of low-hanging trees or power lines. Urban areas can be a challenge. Containers are smaller and tend to be easier to
fit in the driveway or on a city block.
Load/Unload Time Freight typically allows 3 days at loading and 3 days at unloading. Containers offer open-ended loading and unloading.
Off-Site Storage Freight storage is costly, short-term and not easily accessible. Containers offer affordable, long-term storage with on-demand access to items.
Loading Freight trailers require a loading ramp and have 9-foot ceilings, making loading more difficult. Containers rest on the ground and tend to have lower ceilings, making loading a little easier.
Partial Move Freight trailers need to be fully unloaded at your destination. Containers make it easy to leave half your items in storage.

Freight vs. rental truck

See how freight compares to rental trucks.

Freight Trailers Rental Trucks
Driving Freight is basically like renting a truck without the driving part. Driving a rental truck long distances can be a real hassle.
Space 28-feet freight trailers can hold equivalent to a 26′ truck + a 10′ truck. The largest rental truck size is 26 feet.
Pay For What You Use Only pay for the space that you use. Pick from a few sizes of rental truck.
Built-In Costs Freight includes mileage, tolls, gas, etc., into their base price. With rental trucks you’ll need to estimate costs like mileage, tolls, and gas.
Storage Freight offers some options for short-term storage. With rental trucks you’ll have to unload into a unit and load it up again later.
Delivery Since you aren’t driving with freight, you have slightly less control
over delivery time than with a rental truck.
A rental truck gives you more control over delivery time.
Car With freight a car will need to be shipped separately. Rental trucks allow you to rent a car hitch and tow your own car.
Parking The 28′ freight trailer is pretty big and can be difficult to park in
urban areas. Permits may also be required.
Small rental trucks are easier to park and maneuver. Rental trucks typically don’t require
a special permit to park on the street.
Suspension Freight trucks typically have spring suspension (bumpier). Rental trucks usually offer air-ride suspension (smoother ride).

Are freight moving companies right for you?

Freight moving companies can be a great choice for long-distance moving — especially if you’re trying to keep your moving costs down when compared to full-service moving services.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that freight shipping is right for your move — and if you’re doing a local move, it might not even be an option. Get free moving quotes from multiple reliable companies and compare their service offerings to determine the best match for your budget, length of the move, timeline, and the amount of items you need to move. By doing some extra research and prep now, you can enjoy a stress-free move later!

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