How to Move Cross Country on a Budget

By Amanda Lutz Updated January 29, 2024

Moving cross-country is a big expense, but there are ways to reduce costs. From decluttering to do-it-yourself (DIY) packing methods to relocation negotiation, here’s how to save on your long-distance move from start to finish.


1. Compare Multiple Quotes

When you begin planning a cross-country move, collect several moving quotes from different companies to compare the service level you get with each to the total cost. Even if you already know what type of cross-country moving company you want to hire, pricing and contract details vary greatly. 
If possible, request an in-person estimate to get the most accurate quote possible. Explain special services you need, such as moving a piano or shipping a car. Finally, find out the contract type for each professional mover. A nonbinding quote can increase if your belongings weigh more than expected, whereas a binding quote can’t change no matter what happens during the moving process. Comparing quotes helps narrow down the best long-distance moving companies.


2. Look for Discounts on Moving Services

Many moving companies offer discounts for certain groups, such as military members, teachers, or college students. Ask your movers if they have any savings offers that apply to you. Here are some major moving companies and the discounts they offer.

AmeriFreight Discounts:

International Van Lines Discounts:

Penske Discounts: 

U-Haul Discounts:

U-Pack Discounts:

Check regularly for online promo codes, which could reduce your bill by a set dollar amount or a percentage.


3. Understand Insurance Coverage

Insurance coverage could prevent you from footing the bill for lost or damaged items during your move. Before you start exploring policies, ask your moving company what kind of liability they include in their contract.

Full value protection means the moving company is responsible for the replacement cost of everything during their portion of the move. Released value protection isn’t as comprehensive and only covers 60 cents per pound per item. Consider supplemental coverage to make sure your belongings are fully covered.

In terms of cost, third-party moving insurance is typically charged as a percentage of the policy amount. So if your policy covers $25,000 worth of belongings, your insurance company will charge anywhere between 1% and 5%. That means your policy would cost between $250 and $1,250.


4. Move During the Off-Season

It’s not always possible, but choosing a moving date during the offseason can result in lower costs. Most movers consider the offseason to be from October through April. If you’re comfortable negotiating, ask for a deeper discount during these months for the most cost-effective move possible. Also, avoid last-minute truck rentals and moving on weekends to reduce moving expenses.


5. Negotiate Relocation Benefits with a New Employer

If you’re moving cross-country for a new job, ask your company if they offer employer-paid relocation assistance. A recent survey revealed that over 26% of people relocating were reimbursed for some moving expenses by their employer, and nearly 16% had some living expenses covered.

Your company’s HR department should have details on relocation assistance. If you’re still in the process of negotiating salary and benefits, you can include relocation benefits in your compensation negotiation. Common perks include reimbursement for long-distance movers, lodging before you get into your new home, and storage facility costs.


6. Get Rid of Extra Clutter

Whether your movers charge by weight or space, having more belongings automatically increases the price point for a long-distance move. Declutter as much as possible to streamline your possessions and avoid moving more than necessary to your new home. Have a garage sale for higher ticket items and use the proceeds towards your moving costs.

Donate anything you can’t sell or list it for free online to save you the hassle of bringing it to a local thrift shop. Instead, people can pick up items from the curb. If you reduce your belongings by 10%, it could shave $500 off a $5,000 move.


7. Source Used Packing Supplies

Coordinating a cross-country move takes a lot of packing materials, including boxes, packing tape, and bubble wrap. You can hire a moving company to source and pack for you, but tackling these tasks yourself will save you money.

Instead of buying new items, start saving boxes from Amazon deliveries in the weeks leading up to your move, and look online for people giving away leftover boxes from their own recent moves. Not only can this expert tip for moving cross country save you money, but it’s also a more eco-friendly approach than using all new moving materials.


8. DIY as Much Packing as Possible

Full-service moving costs can be high, so consider tackling some work yourself. Even if you get movers to load, drive, and unload for you, you can source the packing supplies and handle packing and unpacking yourself.

The cost of packing and unpacking can quickly add up because movers typically charge about $60 per hour for this service. According to Move.org, average costs range from $300 to $800 but can go higher if you have a large home with many personal belongings. Plus, you’ll lose control over how fragile items are packed. If you DIY, you’ll lower your moving costs and potentially avoid having to replace anything dainty.


9. Enlist Help From Family and Friends

Reduce your moving costs by getting help from family and friends. According to Angi.com, professional movers often charge between $25 and $50 per hour for two workers. You can offer less to young adults and still get good results if you’re willing to manage them.

Even if you don’t have inexpensive labor for loading or unloading, ask for help in other areas to maximize your moving cost savings. For example, if you have young kids, ask a family member or neighbor to watch them while you handle some moving tasks.


10. Opt for Moving Containers

Moving containers are convenient for long-distance moves because they help you navigate gaps in housing without having to load and unload your belongings from a rental truck to a storage unit. Instead, you or your movers load the moving containers, which can then be secured in a storage facility until you’re ready to have them delivered to your new location. A portable moving container can remain on your property for several days or weeks, which gives you time to load it at your own pace instead of hiring movers. 

Another benefit is that some moving container companies only make you pay for the space you use. While PODS charge by container size, U-Pack only charges you for the space you use, which could help reduce costs on larger moves. Do some research to find the most affordable moving containers that still fit your needs.


11. Maximize Space in Your Own Vehicle

If you’re driving your car to your new location, think strategically about what to bring with you.  Include the things you’ll need when you arrive, such as a coffee machine and mugs, towels, toiletries, and linens. By keeping those by your side, you can avoid buying doubles of items that haven’t arrived yet.

You may also want to bring fragile, valuable items with you to reduce the risk of damage in the moving truck or storage container. Fill in spaces with pillows or blankets to prevent things from shifting during the drive. Investing in an overhead carrier is an inexpensive way to maximize your vehicle’s space and reduce what you pack in the moving truck.


12. Plan Your Own Trip in Advance

When creating your moving budget, don’t forget to account for your personal travel costs. Include expenses such as gas, hotels, and food for your entire trip. Then find ways to lower your costs, such as making lodging or car rental reservations ahead of time to get good deals.

Check if you have any credit card travel rewards to use for hotel expenses. Consider stocking up on car snacks at the grocery store to avoid inflated prices at gas stations. Consult an out-of-state moving checklist to ensure you’re fully prepared.


13. Save for Surprises

No matter how much planning you do, it’s smart to have a financial buffer in case moving costs are higher than expected. A contingency buffer should be between 5% and 10% of the move’s total cost. A $5,000 move amounts to between $250 and $500, and a $10,000 move amounts to $500 to $1,000.


Our Recommendation

Moving cross-country can feel overwhelming, but there are several options based on your budget and time constraints. The most important thing is to compare prices and contract quality to make sure you’re getting the service level you want within a budget that feels comfortable. If it’s a work-related move, explore employer relocation assistance before you start making plans.


Moving Cross Country on a Budget FAQ

How much money should I have before moving cross-country?

How much money you should save before moving cross-country depends on your home’s size and which moving options you choose. A DIY move will be less expensive than hiring a full-service moving company. Get several estimates to compare.

What is the least expensive month to move cross-country?

The least expensive month to move cross-country is January, although you’ll notice major savings anytime between October and April. If you have control of your move-out date, focus on scheduling your move during this time of year.

What is the best way to ship a car cross-country?

The best way to ship a car cross-country is to hire a professional moving company that offers car shipping services. A less expensive option is to use a larger vehicle to tow a smaller vehicle.