Moving Across Country? Here’s How to Do It
Whether you’ve moved into a new apartment or are preparing to move after selling your house, the process of moving can make even the calmest of people feel a little stressed. And if you’re preparing to relocate and are moving across the country, you might feel like there’s even more on your to-do list.
But making the move cross-country doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive. We’ll outline all the options for moving long-distance, costs to expect, and tips for saving money as you make the big move.
Things to consider when moving across country
Setting up your cross-country move for success starts with understanding your needs. Consider these important questions before you start planning:
- Is your new home bigger or smaller than your old home?
- Are you moving with pets?
- Are you bringing any vehicles?
- Do you prefer to keep things easy or keep things cheap?
Your moving expenses can depend on the amount of help you need for your move. For example, if you hire a full moving service and need to ship two cars, the cost of moving is likely to increase. On the other hand, the more you do yourself, you’ll likely pay less. But just because you want to keep things inexpensive doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your peace of mind.
How much does it cost to move across the country?
Whether you’re moving from Pittsburgh, PA to the west coast, or from the south to Milwaukee, WI, there are many ways to make moving across the country less expensive. Your budget, preferences, and needs will all help you decide the best way to move. Depending on your needs, you can consider packing on your own and hiring movers for boxes and larger items. For example, shipping some of your items and towing a small trailer, or even fitting it all in your car, can save you a lot of stress and money.
Below is a table detailing the methods you can use with a price estimate for each method. The cost will depend on several factors, including: how much stuff you are moving, the weight of your belongings, how far you are moving, how you source your moving supplies, and the time of year you move.
|Moving Method||How It Works||Price Range||Pros||Cons|
|Full-Service Shipping||Professional movers pack your belongings, fit them on the truck, drive them to your new home, and unpack your belongings.||$4,000 to $22,000||Stress-free, all costs included in the rate, items more likely to be packed safely and securely (fewer items broken or lost).||Much more expensive than other options, you have less control over the moving process, no storage options.|
|Moving Container||The company drops off a shipping container, you pack it, and the company moves it for a flat rate.||$1,200 to $3,000||Less hassle, can be used as a temporary storage container, can be loaded and unloaded over several days.||You may pay for unused space, there’s no temperature control, you need to have space for the container to be dropped off.|
|Freight Trailer||You load a trailer and pay per linear foot of space you used.||$900 to $3,200||Usually cheaper than containers per square mile, you pay only for the space you need.||No storage option available, your items are less secure than in containers and may be more prone to damage.|
|Moving Truck||You load a moving truck, drive it to your destination and unload.||$1,200 to $2,100||Less expensive than shipping your stuff or using a full-service company, you can hire movers to help with the packing and unpacking.||Can be dangerous to drive, especially for novice drivers, additional fees cut into savings, you’re liable for damages to the vehicle.|
|Moving Trailer||You load a moving trailer and pull it with your vehicle to your new home.||$800 to $1,900||Cheaper than a moving truck, you don’t have to pay extra fees for gas or tolls.||Can cause wear and tear on your vehicle, it can be dangerous for drivers who don’t have experience towing trailers.|
|Personal Vehicle||You load your belongings in your personal vehicle.||$150 to $600||Inexpensive, convenient, and you can move on your own time.||You’ll need to downsize before your move and buy new items when you get to your new home.|
By far, the easiest way to move your belongings is with a cross-country moving company. These companies provide the transportation, plus professionals who pack up your home and load your belongings on a truck. They even provide the boxes and packing materials. There are no surprise costs as you pay for these services upfront.
But, full-service movers can be expensive. Even a small apartment may cost several thousand dollars, so be sure to compare costs from multiple long-distance movers before you decide which company to hire. Popular full-service moving companies include Mayflower Transit, United Van Lines, Atlas Van Lines, Arpin Van Lines, and North American Moving Services.
You can also consider using cross-country movers who aren’t full-service. Companies like U-Pack will provide the transportation and optional loading services. You can save money by boxing your personal belongings and/or loading them yourself.
Moving container companies are a great option when moving across the country to help you save money while keeping things low stress. You choose the container size, and the company drops it off at your soon-to-be old home. Then you can pack your container when it’s most convenient for you. When the container is ready, the company picks it up and ships it to your new home. As a bonus, your container can act as a portable storage unit. This is a great option for someone relocating to temporary housing, like a rental home or an apartment, before moving into their new home.
The main drawback with moving containers is that you’ll need to have space for the container. This can be tricky in urban areas or if you live in an apartment or co-op. Popular moving container companies include Pods, U-Pack, SmartBox, Zippy Shell, and 1-800-PACK-RAT.
Freight shipping allows you to reduce the expenses of a cross-country move. You pack your belongings into a trailer and pay only for the space you use. Most companies use bulwarks to secure your items, but accidents can always happen. Be sure to pack fragile items carefully or save them for personal transport. Popular freight companies include SureMove, U-Pack, Estes, Conway, and FedEx Volume.
In addition to traditional freight shipping, you can also ship smaller groups of items with Greyhound and the postal service.
Looking for a DIY moving solution? Renting a moving truck is one of the most popular ways for moving across the country. The cost of moving is relatively low, but you’ll have to do a lot of the work yourself. However, you can lighten your workload by hiring movers. If you want movers, but are working on a tight budget, consider hiring someone from a company like TaskRabbit.
Keep in mind that moving trucks often come with additional fees for things like mileage and tolls. Be sure to read the contract carefully before agreeing to the terms. And make sure to consider purchasing insurance. Car insurance doesn’t always cover a moving truck, so it’s important to understand your policy coverage. Popular truck rental companies include U-Haul, Penske, Budget, Enterprise, and Home Depot.
If you want to avoid additional expenses, and you have a vehicle that can handle it, renting a moving trailer is a great option. A moving trailer is more cost-effective than a truck and usually has a cheaper rate and fewer fees.
However, pulling a trailer puts a lot of stress on your vehicle. Be sure that your car can handle the hitch and trailer weight before deciding on this option. Popular moving trailer companies include U-Haul, Penske, and Budget.
If you need to save money— or are looking to downsize — you can pare down your personal belongings to just what fits in your personal vehicle. While this may not work for larger households, it could work if you’re moving across the country on your own. You may be able to cover some of your expenses if you sell some of your belongings in a yard sale or online. Plus, using a personal vehicle is a much more comfortable option for a long road trip.
How to reduce your costs when moving across the country
Even though moving cross country is expensive, there are still ways to save money during your move. Here are some tips for cutting costs on a cross country move:
- Downsize before the move. Not only does this save significantly on moving costs, but you can also make a little extra money by having a garage sale or selling on an online marketplace like Craigslist. And don’t forget to donate what you can’t sell. Those donations can be tax-deductible.
- Take on more of the move yourself. Packing everything yourself can help you save on labor costs. And if you drive the moving van, you can save on hiring professional drivers. You can also clean your old home yourself instead of hiring professional cleaners. The more work you take on, the more money you save.
- Don’t buy moving supplies. You can get sturdy boxes from your local wine and spirits shop, grocery store, or big box store and use blankets for moving pads. Use old newspapers as packing materials or save the packing materials when you order things online.
- Move during the slow months. Moving costs are highest between Memorial Day and Labor Day. If your moving date is flexible, try to move outside the peak season.
- Move midweek. If you have to move during the peak season, try to move in the middle of the week. Weekend surcharges are common because weekends are the busiest time to move.
- Mail your media. If you have a large collection of books and papers, you can mail them to your new home for less. The post office offers discounts for “media mail.”
- Negotiate for relocation costs. If you’re moving for a new job, ask for financial support from your new employer. Just remember that you’ll need to pay taxes on that money at the end of the year.
- Ask friends and family to help. The more people you have helping you pack can certainly make moving that much easier. But that doesn’t mean you have to hire professionals. Asking trusted friends and family to help you pack can be a less expensive option than hiring a professional moving company. Just be sure to offer them something in return for helping.
- Follow the speed limit. While it’s the law, driving the speed limit can help you save on gas. This is especially true when you’re driving a rental truck or towing a trailer. Rental trucks often get 10 miles to the gallon or less. When you speed, your fuel efficiency plummets.
- Look for discounts. Some companies offer referral discounts and other ways to save on their services. You can ask the company directly for discounts or options to save. Don’t forget to check out message boards for tips from others who’ve recently moved.
- Compare costs from multiple companies. Gather moving quotes from several moving services before you decide on a company. You may be able to use a low quote from one provider to lower costs with another.
- Save your receipts. You can often deduct your moving expenses from your state taxes when moving to a new state. Speak with your tax advisor before you move to understand more about the process.
What to expect shipping your car across country
If you don’t want to drive cross country or don’t have the means to drive your car to your new home, you’ll likely need to ship your car. While the process may sound daunting, shipping your car is fairly easy- you just need to choose a shipper. The shipper will come to your home or nearest drop-off terminal to pick up your vehicle. Then your vehicle is transported to your destination, either your home or a drop-off terminal nearest your home.
“One of the biggest benefits of shipping your car when moving cross country is the amount of time and money you will save,” said auto industry expert Emily Kordys. “Most car shipping companies offer customizable services, allowing you to choose a pick-up and delivery window that best fits your schedule along with the type of transport you want for your vehicle. Shipping your vehicle also protects your vehicle from wear and tear and potential damage that can end up costing you hundreds of dollars.”
You can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $2,100 to ship one vehicle cross country. However, your costs can be higher or lower depending on several factors.
- Distance: The further you need to go, the higher the fee. Most companies charge per mile.
- Time frame: If you need your car soon, expect to pay a rush fee. You may also get a discount for “no rush.”
- Car size: As larger cars weigh more and take up more space, they also cost more to ship.
- Type of transport: Open transport, shipping your car on an open trailer car carrier, can cost up to 40 percent less than enclosed transport.
- Time of year. Summer tends to be the most expensive time of year to ship.
- Pick-up and drop-off. Door-to-door services are usually more expensive than terminal-to-terminal.
- Type of vehicle. If you have luxury or classic cars, it can cost more to transport.
Average costs to ship a car cross country
Below is a table showing the average cost to ship a medium-sized vehicle. This is intended to give you a rough estimate of costs. Your actual costs may vary.
|Distance||Open Transport||Enclosed Transport|
If shipping your car(s) fits your budget, then it’s time to get things ready. Here’s a moving checklist to help you ship your car:
Research shipping companies:
- Get quotes from three to seven (or more) shippers
- Choose a company and set a date
- Call your insurance agent to learn about special coverage for shipping
Have your car inspected:
- Your mechanic should inspect the engine, tires, battery, emergency brake, etc.
- Wash your car and fill up your gas tank
- Perform a visual inspection of your vehicle and record your odometer number
Drop off your vehicle:
- Remove anything decorative from the exterior of your vehicle
- Remove personal items from your vehicle
- Disable alarms
Pick up your vehicle:
- Perform a visual inspection of your vehicle upon receiving it
- Update your car insurance, registration, and license in your new state
Moving into a new home is a complex process, and figuring out how to move cross country can make things even more complicated. But with research and careful planning, it doesn’t have to be another stressor on your list. Outlining your budget, time frame, and the number of items you plan on moving can help you determine a plan that works best for you and your cross-country move. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying your new home and exploring a new city.
*Redfin does not endorse any of the agencies or services mentioned. Redfin strongly recommends that consumers make informed decisions, and independently verify a service provider will meet their needs.