What Is the Cheapest Way to Move Cross-Country?

Joe Roberts
Researcher & Writer
Read More
Published on October 12, 2021
10 min read

At a glance

Renting a moving truck, packing it yourself, and driving it to your new home is the cheapest way to move across the country. Unfortunately, it’s also the most difficult and least safe.

Luckily, there are other ways to move cross country, each with unique advantages and disadvantages:

  • Hiring a full-service moving company to take care of everything. This is the most convenient moving option, but it’s far and away the most expensive too.
  • Packing your stuff into a moving container for a professional to deliver. This option requires you to do most of the work, but you don’t need to deliver your stuff yourself. This method can also be fairly cheap.
  • Adding moving labor to a truck rental or container move. This costs a little extra, but it means you get professional packing/loading help.

Budget is a valid concern, but moving everything in a truck is a huge hassle. Buying as much convenience as you can afford will save your sanity—and your back—in the end. You can also mix the moving methods to get a blend of affordability and convenience.

Keep reading as we break down the costs and benefits of each moving method to find one that works for you and your budget.

Cross-country move type costs and benefits

Move type
Price range
Pros
Cons
Full-service move$2,500–$11,000● Least manual labor for the customer
● Safest for you and your stuff
● The most expensive option
Container move$2,000–$5,000● Mid-range pricing
● Movers handle transportation
● Customer packs and loads
Truck rental move$1,500–$5,000● The cheapest option● You do 100% of the work

The whole picture

You can’t really save money on a long-distance move without paying in elbow grease instead. The cheaper your move, the more work you’ll have to do, and the converse is also true. The more money you spend, the easier your move will be.

Bear in mind that every move is unique. Your price and experience will depend on factors like how far you’re moving, which company you hire or rent from, and how much stuff you have.

Because of this variability, you should request quotes from all types of moving companies to ensure you get the best price available. You probably won’t find a full-service mover that costs less than just renting a truck, but you could potentially get a better rate from a container company than a truck rental company, especially for a long-distance move.

And who knows? If a full-service moving company is offering a great seasonal promotion or needs to fill a truck heading your way, you could even land a dirt-cheap professional move.

The bottom line is that you should explore all of your options before making a decision.

Learn more about the different ways to move and read our tips for saving money on moving costs:

Sign up for our moving guide!

Get emails with discounts, tips, and checklists—to guide you through every step of your move.

By signing up, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Info Box
What about your car?

Your car is probably the most expensive thing you own besides your house, so you should ensure it’s treated right when you move across the country. You may not want to spend a lot of money on professional auto shipping, though. Learn about your options in our guide to shipping your car for cheap or our article where we compare shipping your car to towing it.

Why move across the country with a full-service moving company

Hiring professional movers like International Van Lines or American Van Lines is the most expensive way to move cross country, and there’s no clearly defined limit to how much it can cost.

So, is a full-service move worth the price? That depends entirely on how much room you’ve got in your moving budget  and how much work you want to do yourself.

If you’re undaunted by the prospect of packing every book, lifting every sofa, and braving every stair in your house, and then driving across the country with everything you own in tow, then a DIY move is a good option for you.

However, if several thousand dollars is a small price to pay to skip all this intensive labor, then you should absolutely hire a full-service mover. On top of the convenience, you can also rest easy knowing your stuff is being handled by professional movers with proper equipment instead of your friends who may or may not have come equipped with a single dolly.

The best part is that full-service moves are highly customizable, so you can tailor your moving service to your needs. If you want to pay a little extra for cleaning services, that’s an option. Alternatively, if you want to pack everything yourself or forego extra coverage to save money, you can do that as well.

Cross-country moving companies we recommend

Whether or not you think a full-service move is a realistic option for you, it’s worth your time to get a free quote or two. You never know what your price will be until you look.

Best overall
internationalvanlines
International Van Lines
4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Locked-in estimates
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Moving labor included
Best for up-front pricing
americanvanlines
American Van Lines
4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Locked-in estimates
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Moving labor included
Best customer service
allied
Allied Van Lines
4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Locked-in estimates
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Moving labor included
Best for customizing
northamerican
North American Van Lines
4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Locked-in estimates
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Moving labor included

Why move across the country with a moving container company

Using a container company like U-Pack or PODS for your move is actually pretty similar to renting a moving truck and packing it yourself with one important difference: you don’t do any of the driving.

Here’s how it works:

  • The container company delivers the containers you rented to your home.
  • You load them at your leisure (though it may cost extra if you take too long).
  • The company picks them up from your old home.
  • The company stores your containers at a secure facility.
  • The company delivers the containers to your new home.

Doing all the heavy lifting means you skip most of the moving expenses that come with hiring professional movers while still getting professional delivery services. This makes container moves a solid middle ground between full-service moves and full DIY moves.

Moving and storage container companies we recommend

Get a quote from a few of our favorite moving and storage container companies to learn exactly how much a container move will cost you.

Why move across the country with a rental truck

Moving across the country in a rental truck from a company like U-Haul or Penske is your cheapest option, but it’s also the worst option if you want your long-distance move to be pain-free and convenient.

Worst of all, it’s not as cheap as you might think. Renting any company’s largest moving truck for a move over 1,000 miles will still cost you several grand. In extreme cases, we’ve seen truck rental moves cost three-fourths as much as comparable full-service moves when you factor in moving expenses like fuel costs, hotel stays, and pizza for your friends.

Still, if the difference in cost is worth all the extra effort it’ll take on your part, there’s no denying that renting a moving truck is usually the cheapest way to move across the country.

Truck rental companies we recommend

Some truck rental companies are more affordable than others, and pricing can depend on where you live. Get quotes from a couple of our favorite truck rental companies to find the best price for you.

Best overall
penske
Penske
4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5
  • Icon Yes  Light
    $1,136.50 avg. rental price
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Local and long-distance moves
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Five truck sizes
Best local prices
budget
Budget
4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2
  • Icon Yes  Light
    $1,054 avg. rental price
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Local and long-distance moves
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Five truck sizes
Most availability
uhaul
U-Haul
4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2
  • Icon Yes  Light
    $992.19 avg. rental price
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Local and long-distance moves
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Seven truck sizes
Most truck sizes
enterprisetruckrental
Enterprise
3.1 out of 5 stars
3.1
  • Icon Yes  Light
    $129.70 avg. rental price
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Local moves only
  • Icon Yes  Light
    14 truck sizes
Best for quick moves
Home Depot logo
Home Depot
3.1 out of 5 stars
3.1
  • Icon Yes  Light
    $1,330.60 avg. rental price
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Local and long-distance moves
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Eight truck sizes

How to mix and match moving services to save money

There’s no law that says you need to go all in on one moving method. In fact, mixing and matching moving services from different cross-country movers  can help you get great service without breaking the bank.

For example, you could hire professional movers to deliver all of your heavy or fragile furniture while you drive your boxes of books and clothes in a small moving truck. This would be cheaper than sending everything with a moving company and more convenient than doing all the work yourself.

Additionally, many moving container companies and truck rental companies offer loading and packing help for an additional cost. So you can still get some help from professional movers even if you’re opting for a cheap DIY move.

Five ways to save money on a cross-country move

No matter which moving method—or methods—you choose, there are several ways to make your move more affordable.

1. Hunt for discounts

Many moving companies offer deals and discounts for their services. Some of these deals come in the form of seasonal promotions while others—like senior and student discounts—are offered year-round.

Before you pick your moving company, hunt for good discounts like a grandma with a page of coupons and a pair of scissors. You can start your search by checking out our moving deals and discounts page.

2. Be wary of exceptionally low quotes

Low moving quotes are always nice to find, but if a price sounds too good to be true, it very well might be. Watch out for companies giving quotes that are several hundred dollars cheaper than most competitors. They might be scamming you, and if that’s the case, they’ll probably hit you with hidden fees later on. They might even hold your stuff hostage for exorbitant prices.

This means springing for a suspiciously low quote can end up costing you much more than hiring a trustworthy company with a higher initial quote.

That said, a low price isn’t always evidence of a scam. If you’ve found a company that is offering you a stellar rate, use our list of ways to spot a moving scam to make sure the company checks out before you sign anything.

You can also check to see what we’ve said about the company. At Move.org, we carefully vet every moving company we recommend by monitoring customer complaints, government reports, and industry trends. If we’ve given a company a positive review or if it appears on one of these lists, we trust the company enough to recommend it to our readers:

     The Best Moving Companies

     The Best Moving and Storage Container Companies

     The 5 Best Car Shipping Companies

3. Take advantage of price-matching

If you get written estimates from two different moving companies that offer the same type of service, and one of those estimates is lower, the company with the higher rate will lower its own price to match the lower one if it offers price-matching.

This makes price-matching a dream come true for people who want great rates from great movers. There are a few caveats, though:

     The inventories you submit to both movers need to be EXACTLY the same.

     Every service on both quotes needs to be the same.

     The move dates and locations on both quotes have to be the same.

     Most companies will only match written estimates from reputable competitors.

If you can clear all these bars, and the company you want to work with offers price-matching, then you can get a lower estimate with just a little extra legwork.

4. Move during slow seasons

Moving prices are all about supply and demand, and most people move in the summer. As a result, moving is generally most expensive in early summer and least expensive in the dead of winter. Prices steadily climb in spring as you get closer to summer and drop in autumn as winter creeps nearer. This seasonality can vary a little based on location, but it generally holds true.

This means you can usually get a better price if you plan your move for winter, early spring, or late fall instead of during the height of moving season.

Exclamation
Pro tip: book your move in advance!

No matter what season you’re going to move in, you’ll score a better price by booking several months in advance instead of waiting until the last minute to hire movers. If you know your move date, it’s never too early to start shopping and book your move.

5. Downsize before your move

Moving expenses depend on how much stuff you’re moving, so getting rid of a lot of stuff—like clothing you never wear anymore, furniture that’s been in storage for years, and busted lawn ornaments—is the most reliable way to make your move cheaper.

Putting on a yard sale, donating useful items to charities, and throwing away old junk are all excellent ways to save big when you move long distance.


Frequently asked questions about cross-country moving

What is the cheapest way to move across the country?

Renting a moving truck and doing all the work yourself is the cheapest way to move across the country. However, it can still cost several thousand dollars, and it will be far less convenient than hiring professional movers.

How much does it cost to relocate across the country?

Cross-country relocation can cost anywhere between $1,500 and $11,000 or more depending on how you move, how much stuff you have, and when you’re moving.

How can I move across the country without a U-Haul?

Moving cross country in a U-Haul is never convenient, and it’s not even that cheap. If you can afford it, the best way to move across the country is to hire professional movers, but you can also rent a moving and storage container or rent a truck from one of U-Haul’s competitors like Penske or Budget.


Recommended resources

As you’re planning your cross-country move, use these resources to keep track of everything and prepare yourself for moving day:

     The Only Moving Checklist You’ll Ever Need

     How to Plan Your Moving Road Trip

     How to Pay for Your Move

     Things You Should Know about Moving Containers

     Where to Get Moving Boxes

Joe Roberts
Written by
Joe Roberts
Joe Roberts is a professional writer with a degree in writing studies and over four years of copywriting experience. He previously worked at Overstock.com, where he wrote about furniture, home decor, and moving. Joe has moved all over Utah, so he knows his way around a moving truck—and he spends his time (and money) expanding his personal library so it will be even heavier next time he moves.