Moving Cross Country: Cost saving tips and advice

Here’s the deal with moving cross country.

Most people either overpay for expensive moving companies or they do way more backbreaking work than necessary just to save a few dollars.

cross country moving company

The truth is…

There are a TON! of different options for moving coast to coast.

The best option for your move depends on your budget, the requirements of your move and how much work you’re willing to do.

Luckily, our team here at moveBuddha has spent years figuring this all out for you.

In this guide, we’re going to breakdown all the different options to make your cross country move as painless as possible without breaking the bank.

If you want to skip around, here’s quick reference to each section.

QUICK REFERENCE

Alright, let’s dive in.

How much does it cost to move cross country?

The table below will give you a rough idea of what you can expect to spend on different cross country shipping methods.

1 Bedroom 2/3 Bedroom 4/5 Bedroom+
Rental Truck $2,000-$3,000 $2,500 – $3,500 $3,500+
Freight Trailer $1,500 – $2,000 $2,000 – $3,000 $3,500
Moving Container $1,500 – $3,000 $1,500 – $3,000 $6,000+
Moving Company $1,500 – $3,500 $4,000 – $7,000 $8,500

Yeah, we know. Moving is expensive.

Understanding the variables that go into move pricing can help you control costs.

Here’s a list of some major pricing factors.

  • Size of the move: the more stuff you move the more it will cost. Plain and simple. To ship a one bedroom cross country you’re looking at spending at the very least around $1,500. Larger moves can cost significantly more.
  • Supply & demand: moving to a popular city? Chances are quotes will be higher in high demand areas.
  • Access issues: if parking or pulling a large truck up to your residence is an issue, it may limit your moving options. Moving companies will typically charge more in these cases as well.
  • Time of year: mid-May to early September is considered the busy season in the moving industry and you can expect to pay 30-40% more to move.
  • Bulky items: hot tub? Pool table? Gun safe? Yeah, these items are a pain to move and will cost extra $$.
  • Region of the country: if you’re moving to a rural region far from a major highway, or close to a US border, it’s likely to cost you a little more.
  • Move dates: the beginning and end of each month tend to be in higher demand and more costly to move. Weekends also typically come at a premium price.

moving cross country

Preparing for a long distance move

Planning a long distance move is tedious and takes longer than most people expect.

Before you start looking at companies, take the time to think through the details of your move.

Here are a few things you should consider…

Put together a “move, trash, donate, sell” list. Obviously, you need to know what you’re actually moving. Don’t wait until the last minute to figure this out. Create a list of everything you have and determine whether to move, donate, trash or sell each item. If you’re moving a family, this list will help everyone get on the same page.

moving to do list

Nail down a move-out date. Do you need to move on a specific day? Can you move anytime within a week? Flexibility with your move date can save you money. It’s always a good idea to at least give yourself a one-day cushion just in case.

Pick a move-in date. How fast do you need everything delivered? Unless you’re driving everything yourself, most cross country moves are going to take 10-14 days to get delivered. If you don’t have a place to live already lined up, you’ll want to consider what options are the best for storage.

Know all your move-out/in policies. Does your apartment or homeowners association have requirements when it comes to moving? Parking restrictions, elevator reservations, insurance requirements? Talk to your landlord or a neighbor.

Ballpark the dollar value of everything being moved. To help you think through insurance options, you’ll want to understand how much everything being moved is worth. Websites like EBay and Craigslist can help you determine the value of used items.

Moving Cost Calculator

Now that you’ve got a clearer idea on the specifics of your move, you need to set a budget.

We recommend using our move estimate calculator to get a quick idea on different moving services and pricing.

You’ll also want to include travel expenses, housing expenses (cleaning services, security deposit), packing material expenses (boxes, tape, etc.) and any other move related costs into your total move budget.

What’s the best shipping method to move cross country?

Now for the real fun, figuring out the best way to move.

Below we’ll compare each cross country moving option based on affordability, delivery time, storage options, insurance and convenience.

This comparison assumes you are moving at least some furniture. If you’re only shipping boxes, check out our box shipping guide to find the best options.

Moving cross country in a rental truck

truck rental packed full

Rental truck is the go-to choice for the “do-it-yourself” crowd, but it’s not always the best option for cross country moves.

Let’s break it down:

Affordability – For small, 1-2 bedroom, cross country moves rental trucks are usually more expensive than using a professional mover or containerized moving service. For a 2 bedroom home or larger move, renting a truck is typically thousands of dollars less costly than alternatives.

Delivery time – Since you’re responsible for the driving, renting a truck is the most accurate and typically fastest way to ship goods cross country.

Storage options – Truck rental agencies typically will only rent the truck out for 9-12 days. The only storage option when renting a truck is to rent a local storage unit and unload everything into it.

Insurance – Rental truck companies offer coverage options for accidents and catastrophic events like lightning or floods. “In-transit” damage like a scratched dresser or crushed box is not covered.

Convenience – Unless you can find a friend to drive for you, driving a truck 2,700+ miles cross country makes truck rental the most inconvenient option for moving.

Get more rental truck tips here and compare prices with our rental truck cost calculator.

How to use freight shipping to move coast-to-coast

freight trailer for moving

Using a freight trailer to move cross country is similar to renting a truck but with no driving involved. You load the trailer and the freight company will drive it door-to-door.

Let’s break it down:

Affordability – For small, 1-2 bedroom, cross country moves freight can often be a more affordable alternative to renting a truck. For a 2 bedroom home or larger move, freight is a good alternative to hiring an interstate moving company.

Delivery time – A major benefit of freight is fast and accurate shipping times. Expect 8-12 days to ship cross country.

Storage options – If you only need up to 3-4 months of storage, freight companies are a good option. Longer term storage is usually too costly or not available.

Insurance – Freight companies offer coverage options for accidents and catastrophic events like lightning or floods. “In-transit” damage or damage caused by poor packing is not covered.

Convenience – If you don’t like long drives in a big ole rental truck, freight is a perfect balance between do-it-yourself and full-service moving.

Get more freight moving company tips here and compare prices with our moving estimator.

Using a portable storage container to move cross country

moving pods

Portable storage containers have become all the rage in recent years and with good cause. If your move involves long term storage, containers are a great option.

Let’s break it down:

Affordability – Portable storage containers are competitive price wise for small to mid-size moves or moves that require long term storage. Moving containers become less affordable as the move gets larger and multiple container units are required.

Delivery time – Similar to freight, a major benefit of moving containers is fast and accurate shipping times. Expect 8-12 days to ship cross country.

Storage options – Containers are an excellent option for both short and long-term storage.

Insurance – Container companies offer coverage options for accidents and catastrophic events like lightning or floods. “In-transit” damage or damage caused by poor packing is not covered.

Convenience – The ability to have all your goods shipped and stored multiple times in the same container is a big perk when it comes to containerized moving. The days of schlepping everything in and out of a local storage facility are no more.

Get more moving container tips here and compare prices with our moving container cost calculator.

Hiring a professional moving company

Most of us would prefer to have someone else handle the pains of moving and that’s exactly where professional moving companies come in. Movers will handle all the heavy lifting, furniture breakdown and they can even pack your boxes if requested.

However, the convenience of moving companies comes at a higher price and with some disadvantages compared to other options.

Let’s break it down:

moving company house prep

Affordability – Moving companies are going to be your most expensive moving option in most cases.

Delivery time – Professional movers tend to be the least accurate option when shipping long distance. Delivery spreads range from 3-21 business days. Generally, the larger the move, the faster and more accurate the moving company can be projecting delivery.

Storage options – Storage will depend on the individual moving company but most providers have some storage options.

Insurance – Moving companies will offer a variety of coverage levels and deductibles for you to choose from. The coverage is far from all-encompassing but movers provide more coverage when compared to other moving options.

Convenience – The only hard part about using a professional mover is finding a good company. The research and booking process can take some work but once you’ve booked it’s smooth sailing.

Learn more about moving companies here and compare prices with our moving company price estimator.

Other cross country moving options

Tow behind trailer

Uhaul tow behind trailer
How it Works

Many will say this is the cheapest way to move cross country. We don’t disagree. If you rent or buy a tow behind trailer to hitch to your vehicle you can save a lot of money on the long distance move.

Things to keep in mind

  • Trailers are dangerous. If you don’t have experience hitching and driving with a trailer, do not learn on a 1500+ mile moving adventure. Trailers are responsible for a lot of accidents.
  • Good safety tips for driving with a trailer
  • Rent a tow behind trailer from UHaul
  • The ultimate frugal move – buy a tow behind trailer on Craigslist and then sell it on the other end.

Moving labor services

moving labor bellhops

HireaHelper is a marketplace where you can hire movers to help you on an hourly basis. This is a great option if you’re just looking for some extra hands to load a rental truck or pack a moving container.


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If you’ve made it this far, you likely have a really solid plan put together for your move.

If you still have some questions about cross country moves, submit your move to us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our enlightened Move Guides.