Best Ways to Move to College Out of State

As a soon-to-be college student, you’re saying adios to life as a high school student and leaving home for the first time.Whether you’re moving to a college dorm or you’re living off-campus, you’ll need a game plan to make sure the move to your new home goes as smoothly as possible.

The best way to move to college out of state depends on your budget and needs. If you want convenience and someone to do the work for you, hiring professional movers is your best bet. If you don’t mind doing the packing/unpacking and loading/unloading, then a moving container like PODS or U-Pack is a good choice. For a full DIY approach where you do all the work, a rental truck is an option — but it can get expensive for long distance moves.

From hiring full-service movers to local moving to long distance moving, there’s a lot to consider when you relocate for college. But don’t worry: moveBuddha’s moving experts have got you covered.

Check out this guide to learn about the best student moving options, plus some helpful tips for saving cash on your college move-in day.

What are the different college moving options?

Your current location, the school’s location, and your budget will have a big impact on which moving options make the most sense for your relocation.

A lot of new college students make the mistake of taking the most scrappy approach to save a few bucks. We’ve definitely been there, but sometimes cheaper isn’t always better. Fortunately, college movers aren’t as expensive as you may think and there are lots of ways to make the move meet your budget.

Check out these college moving options to find what works best for you. If you’re not sure which option to choose, compare pricing for all of your options at once with the moveBuddha moving cost calculator.

Rent a moving truck and DIY it

Average cost: $30 to $500

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If you’re transporting several large items — plus your other belongings — it’s best to rent a moving truck. You can certainly rent a truck for cross-country moves, but this option is more popular for local moves.

The truck rental company will bill you for every day you have the truck, plus a mileage limit. You need to handle all of the driving and heavy lifting, as well as bring your own packing supplies. Some truck rentals offer free dollies to speed up the loading and drop-off process, but check to see if your company offers it.

Since you aren’t hiring a moving service, you’re saving a lot of money. But even then, it’s a good idea to find a rental truck at the best possible price to keep your costs low.

Use a moving container

Average cost: $225 to $850

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Whether you don’t want to deal with the hassle of driving a moving truck or you’re moving cross-country, moving containers seriously streamline the moving process.

Here’s how it works:

  • You request a moving container online. You’ll usually have the option to choose from different sizes and price ranges.
  • The container company drops off the container at the specified address on the date you requested.
  • You pack and load the pod.
  • The container company returns to either store or transport the container to your specified destination.
  • The container arrives at your dorm and you take the lead on unpacking everything.

Collegeboxes is a popular option that includes both shipping services and summer storage. They can even ship internationally, so this option is perfect for studying abroad.

U-Box is another popular option that gives you the power to load your own stuff and ship it to your dorm or apartment without the need to hire college movers.

Moving containers or pods are ideal if you need self-storage, since the pods easily double as storage containers.

There’s just one problem here: some campuses or apartment complexes don’t allow moving containers or pods. They take up space in the parking lot, so check for any move-in rules before booking a moving container.

Hire professionals

According to our moving cost calculator, the average cost to hire professionals for a college move ranges from $25 to $100 per hour locally, or $1,000+ for cross-country moves.

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Rental trucks and pods are budget-friendly, but if you’re more concerned about a stress-free moving experience, hire a professional moving company.

Yes, it’s more expensive, but:

  • You don’t have to worry about driving.
  • Movers create estimates by weight, so the price you pay is proportionate to the size of your move.
  • Professionals handle your items, which reduces the risk of damage.
  • Professionals work faster than your family or frat brothers can move, which makes this quicker than a DIY move.

If you’re interested, there are actually moving teams that specialize in college moving. Here’s how it works:

  • Hire a mover: Companies like Dorm Room Movers and Storage Squad will do all the heavy lifting for you.
  • Pack your stuff: For a flat rate, you’ll receive all the boxes and moving supplies to pack up your belongings.
  • Move to college: The movers will pick up your boxes, store them, and ship them to your university. Some services will even deliver boxes straight to your dorm room!

Professional movers give you much more peace of mind, although they usually cost more than a DIY move. But don’t let that discourage you: sometimes movers are cheaper than doing everything yourself.

Get a free quote with the moveBuddha cost estimator to see if it makes sense to hire professionals for the job.

Tips for moving to college

At this point, you have a rough idea of how you want to move to college. But even then, it helps to know a few tricks of the trade to make college moving as easy as possible.

Follow these quick tips to plan the most stress-free move. For more tips, read our guide on how to prepare for cross-country moves.

1. Plan ahead

Unlike moving to an in-state college, moving long-distance requires careful planning.

Once you have your college housing arrangements, determine which items you need. On-campus housing provides many of the basics, like a bed, but you’ll need to bring the rest.

It’s a good idea to contact your new roommates and coordinate who brings what furniture, decorations, and other supplies well in advance.

Make sure you have enough moving boxes, tape, and other moving supplies, as well as enough help moving. With a little bit of preparation, you’ll avoid the last-minute scramble on moving day.

2. Organize your packing

It’s tempting to gather all of your stuff and shove it into boxes, but this is a recipe for confusion when you get to school. Follow these quick packing tips to simplify the unpacking process:

  • Only pack what you need: Chances are, mom and dad are going to keep some of your belongings at home for you. You don’t need to take all of your earthly possessions with you when you go to college. Limiting your college packing list will save you time, money, and hassle, so only pack what you truly need. That might include dorm essentials like a first aid kit, cleaning supplies, toiletries, hangers, linens, a change of clothes, and school supplies.
  • Pack balanced boxes: When packing, organize your belongings so they’re both accessible and evenly balanced. The last thing you want is to recreate the Leaning Tower of Pisa with boxes. Don’t over-stuff boxes; if a box is full, just get another one.
  • Go for smaller boxes: Instead of cramming everything into a few giant boxes, go for smaller boxes. Sure, you’ll need more of them, but small boxes are less heavy and easier to stack. Not to mention, you won’t exhaust yourself as quickly when you need to carry them up a few flights of stairs.
  • Remember your moving method: How are you moving your stuff? Whether you’re going for a truck, container, or full-service movers, pack with the transportation method in mind.

3. Move yourself

Whether you’re moving locally or moving out of state, moving yourself is usually cheaper than hiring professionals. But this is a hefty task, so come prepared.

Here are a few things you need to know about DIY college moving:

  • Watch your spacing: If you’re driving, all of your stuff needs to fit either in your car or rental truck. If you’re bringing a buddy along for the drive, make sure there’s room for both of you in the car.
  • Rent a trailer: It’s going to be tough to transport large pieces of furniture in a hatchback. For large items, consider renting a tow-behind trailer. Shop around for the best prices, as well as availability in both your hometown and your college town.
  • Plan plane travel carefully: If you travel by air, you’re restricted to how many checked bags you can take. You’ll have to pack light and leave any airline-restricted items behind. With air travel, you’ll either need to ship additional belongings to your new dorm or buy replacements once you get to school.

4. Ask friends and family members for help

Moving by yourself is a tough task, so ask friends and family if they can pitch in. Offerings of free pizza can go a long way to persuading broke college buds to carry a few boxes.

If you bring someone along for the cross-country drive to college, they can keep you company and help with unpacking. Just make a plan for how they’ll return back home once you settle into your dorm.

5. Opt for shipping

Who says you need to move everything the traditional way? One of the easiest ways to simplify college moving is to ship your belongings ahead of time.

This way, you don’t have to lug everything around yourself. Ship via train, bus, or parcel carrier and let the delivery services do the hard work.

Each option has its benefits, so you’ll need to do your own research to see which services are a good fit. Here’s our detailed post for the cheapest ways to ship moving boxes.

Shipping can get pricey, though, so only ship the essentials—no shipping mini-fridges cross-country. You can buy other, bulkier items once you arrive at your destination.

6. Consolidate

Do you have a friend from your hometown who’s moving to the same college? Make everyone’s lives easier by consolidating your belongings.

This is a great way to use the same resources and split the cost of moving. Some moving companies will even encourage you to do this, so if you really want to hire a mover at a lower cost, look for one that lets you split the cost with a friend.

7. Pay for storage services

After you finish your freshman year of college, you don’t have to move everything back home again. That’s expensive, not to mention unrealistic. Instead, store your belongings locally over the summer break.

A great option for college students is, which is an Airbnb-like platform where you find a storage solution near you. Collegeboxes also offer summer storage, making them ideal for college moves.

It can’t hurt to look at storage units and companies and compare prices, too. You’re sure to find a place that’s both safe and offers a good deal.

8. Remember move-in day restrictions

You’re itching to start your new life at college, but don’t get carried away just yet. Check with your university or apartment’s move-in day restrictions for a drama-free moving experience.

Consider things like:

  • Documentation: Keep a copy of move-in day instructions and rules so you don’t forget them. You can also reference them if anyone gives you a hard time about moving times or parking.
  • Space limitations: Trucks and trailers are hard to maneuver around everyone else’s vehicles. Check your moving policies to make sure your university allows trucks, trailers, and moving pods.
  • Arrival time: Your college likely will designate move-in times, but the earlier you can arrive, the better. You can get a jump on the day, avoid long lines, and unpack early enough in the day to have time to go out in the evening.

Move to college on your own terms

There are so many ways to do college moving. This is an exciting but busy time, so go with the option that best fits your situation. You may have to decide between cost, convenience, and hands-on work, but there are plenty of options available to you.

Whatever you choose, make sure you have the budget for it. Check moveBuddha’s free moving cost calculator to crunch the numbers and see how much you need for your move to college.

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