How to Move to Alaska

We list the pros and cons of each possible way to move to Alaska so that you can choose the best method for you!

Alaska is nicknamed “The Last Frontier” for good reason.

The weather is harsh, bears are common, and at more than twice the size of Texas, much of it is still rugged and pristine wilderness.

Interesting Alaska Facts –

  • At more than 660,000 square miles Alaska is about 5 times larger than Germany
  • More than ¾ of America’s highest mountains are in Alaska
  • By some estimates the state has more than 3 million lakes
  • Alaska is 500 times bigger than Rhode Island, but has 250,000 less people
  • Nearly 85% of the state’s budget comes from oil and gas revenue
  • Alaska has the highest male to female ratio in the country

It’s also known for its high cost of living, but that doesn’t deter residents from the lower 48 from moving there every year to start exciting new chapters in their lives.

If you’re considering moving to Alaska, there are four main methods of getting your household goods there:

Though each has its pros and cons, the first two are clear standouts for a number of reasons.

Let’s take a closer look and see why.

1. Moving Container Companies – The Best Mix of Price and Service

Pros-

  • Affordable
  • Customizable
  • Relatively fast delivery
  • Can be used for storage too
  • They handle the driving and logistics

Cons-

  • Small container size
  • You’ll need to do the packing, loading, and unloading
  • May have seasonal price increases and availability issues

Moving to Alaska can be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

On the other hand, driving a rental truck through ice, snow, and vast bear-filled mountain ranges isn’t.

Luckily for cost-conscious consumers, there’s a way to enjoy the former while avoiding the latter.

Though they’re not the only container moving options when relocating to Alaska, U-Haul U-Box and U-Pack are among the most convenient and affordable.

With their services, you pack, load and unload, and leave the logistics to them.

Why Use U-Box?
U-Haul U-Box     3.5 out of 5.0 stars

With internal capacities of about 260 cubic feet, U-Box containers are a good fit for those who aren’t moving the contents of an entire multi-bedroom home.

That said…

U-Box allows customers to reserve extra containers, and if they don’t get used there’s no additional charge.

Containers hold about 2,000 pounds of household goods, and there are a number of delivery options depending on:

  • Your budget
  • Whether or not you’ll need storage
  • If you’d rather pick your container(s) up at one of their service centers and transport them to your new home on your own

Just remember, with the third option you’ll be responsible for returning the container to their facility once it’s unloaded.

On the plus side, it’s cheaper, and if you’re moving during the peak season (May to September) you can pick it up when it works for you without having to wait until they’re available to deliver it.

This is a popular choice with those living in urban areas near U-Box service centers who have their own pick-up trucks, as the containers are on towable dollies.

If this isn’t an option, fear not, because according to their website, U-Box can deliver containers nearly anywhere in Alaska.

It’s also worth noting that if you have multiple containers, they’ll only be able to deliver up to two at a time – so keep track of the items in each so you can prioritize delivery to get the things you need first.

Insider’s Tip: If you’re moving to Anchorage, Fairbanks, Soldotna, or Juneau, they’ll provide helpers (for additional cost) to assist with unloading.

Why Use U-Pack?
U-Pack     4.0 out of 5.0 stars

U-Pack ReloCubes measure 6’ x 7’ x 8’ and have an interior capacity of about 300 cubic feet.

Generally, they’ll only hold the contents of a moderately furnished studio or 1-bedroom apartment, but renting more than one is an option for those with larger shipments.

U-Pack offers door-to-door service in central Alaska, or if you’re moving outside that area they’ll deliver your container(s) to their service center in Anchorage.

From there you can hire local movers to pick up your household goods and transport them to your new home.


2. Professional Movers – Best for a Full-Service Experience

Pros-

  • You won’t have to lift a finger
  • Peace of mind knowing that professionals are handling every aspect of your relocation
  • Multiple container sizes to accommodate nearly every shipment
  • You’ll be free to drive or fly

Cons-

  • Cost
  • Packing yourself to save money may not be an option
  • Many movers only offer door-to-door service in and around cities

Though it’s a state just like California, Kansas, and Arkansas, Alaska’s remote location on the northwest tip of Canada means that your move will probably be handled like an international relocation.

Generally, if you decide to hire full-service movers, they’ll pack and load your items into an overseas container, haul it to a port on the west coast and have it transported to Alaska by ship.

Depending on the weight and volume of your household goods, they’ll be shipped in a 20 or 40-foot container.

Since ships bound for Alaska almost always depart from west coast ports, customers moving from the east coast and Midwest will have longer transit times because their containers will have to be trucked across the country first, which can take up to a week.

Keep in Mind…

Like they do on international relocations, on moves to Alaska most companies charge a flat-rate per 100 pounds of shipment weight (CWT) that includes:

  • Packing
  • Loading
  • Transportation
  • Unloading (and maybe unpacking)

In addition, international shipping regulations require them to either pack every box, or inspect ones that customers packed themselves and certify that they’re free from prohibited items.

In other words, for any weight, the charges will be the same whether the company packs 50 or 150 boxes, so packing some things yourself probably won’t save you a dime.

FCL (Full Container Load) vs. LCL (Less-than-Container-Load)

With FCL you’ll have exclusive use of the container even if there’s space left over.

This is usually the way moves are handled, but in some instances, your company may offer you the option of LCL, which means they’ll fill the unused portion with another shipment.

This can save you money, but it’s generally only done by companies that handle lots of moves to Alaska, like some of the big van line agents in West Coast cities like Portland and Seattle.

It’s also worth mentioning that if you’re moving less than 1,000 pounds of household goods, your mover may pack your belongings into a small wooden shipping vault and then load it into a larger container.

This is how overseas military moves are often handled and can reduce the overall cost significantly.

Just remember that not all companies offer door-to-door service to every place in Alaska.

If you’re moving to Anchorage or Wasilla they probably will, but if you’re heading to a remote corner of the state to prospect for gold, they may not.

During the pre-moving screening process, this should be one of the first questions you ask.

Did You Know?

Some west coast moving companies offer “thru-van” service from the continental US to Alaska during the summer months.


3. Freight Companies – A Decent Last-Minute Option

Pros-

  • Cheap
  • Most use 28-foot trailers with lots of interior space
  • Some only charge for the actual space used
  • They do the driving

Cons-

  • Many freight trailers have spring suspensions that are hard on delicate items
  • You’ll have to do the packing, loading, and unloading
  • May not offer door-to-door service to every part of the state
  • Most freight companies don’t transport household goods

To keep their trucks full and operating at maximum efficiency, many freight companies now offer household goods transportation.

These non-traditional services are usually offered by LTL (Less-than-Truckload) companies that move lots of relatively small shipments for various commercial customers.

U-Pack offers 28-foot ‘pup’ trailers for those who have more than will fit in one or two ReloCubes.

With this option, they deliver to most of Alaska’s major cities and military bases, or you can unload at the service center and hire a local mover to finish the last leg of your move.

Insider’s Tip: Freight companies are worth considering, but for the most part you’d be better off using a moving container company since their services are specifically geared toward household goods moves.


4. Rental Trucks – Only for Adventurous Types

First off, yes, you can rent a U-Haul truck and drive it from the continental US to Alaska at certain times of the year.

That said, you probably shouldn’t.

The weather in Alaska can be snowy, icy, and downright treacherous even when the rest of the country is basking in mild spring and late summer weather.

Getting caught in a surprise snowstorm is no cakewalk even for professional truckers, let alone rookies with little or no experience driving anything bigger than a car.

On top of that, due to the distance, the prices can be in the $4,000 to $6,000 range not including fuel, lodging, and labor for unloading and unloading – so it’s far from cheap.

According to U-Haul’s website the cost to rent a 10-foot truck to Anchorage in mid-June 2021 is:

  • $4,563 from Phoenix
  • $4,798 from Chicago
  • $3,798 from Los Angeles

With distances in the 4,000 to 5,000-mile range, driving time is usually between 8 and 11 days for most people.

With your rental you’ll have a set amount of time to make the trip, after which additional charges will apply.

Many other rental companies don’t allow their trucks to be driven to Alaska – and for good reason.


Other Moving Options

Downsize by Selling, Donating, and Discarding

Getting rid of nearly everything you own and starting from scratch is a great option for minimalists.

By doing so you could conceivably eliminate relocation costs altogether and take what’s left on the plane with you through carry-ons and checked bags.

But realistically, it’s only feasible for young single travelers who haven’t accumulated lots of stuff.

And remember, household goods are typically much more expensive in Alaska than the rest of the country, so replacing them may cost more than shipping them.

Use the Mail

It may sound odd, but shipping a few boxes of necessities through FedEx or the USPS may be a cost-effective alternative to traditional moving services.

And you can choose whether you’d like expedited or standard delivery and pay the associated price.

On the downside, some items are prohibited, and items shipped in boxes are more prone to damage than those in containers.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ

1. How much does it cost to move to Alaska?

With so many variables there’s no such thing as an average price to move to Alaska.

But prices can range from a few thousand dollars to $20,000 or more when moving the contents of a 3 or 4-bedroom home with a full-service mover.

2. What can’t I ship to Alaska?

Prohibited items on moves to Alaska are generally the same as they are for domestic and international moves – liquids, flammables, explosives, aerosols, corrosive, and marine pollutants.

Ask your mover for a complete list of items that can’t go.

3. How do I move my car to Alaska?

The most common method for moving vehicles to Alaska is by ship.

Depending on its size and value, where you’re moving from, and your budget, you’ll have the option of putting it in an overseas container, or using Ro-Ro service, where it’ll be transported to the port via car hauler, unloaded and driven on to the ship.

Once in Alaska, the steps are reversed and it’s delivered to a company terminal or your new home.

See best car shipping companies

4. What is there to do in Alaska?

Though it’s most associated with snowmobiling, skiing, hunting, and fishing, Alaska has tons of museums, restaurants of all types, a symphony orchestra in Anchorage, and some of the world’s most stunning natural attractions, so boredom shouldn’t be an issue.

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