What Is the Cheapest Way to Move Cross-Country?

Jenny Willden
Researcher & Writer
Read More
Published on January 01, 2019
4 min read

At a glance

When moving all your belongings across the country, you have three options to get everything to your new home, each with different strengths and drawbacks.

Option 1: Drive it yourself in a rental truck

  • The good: It’s the cheapest option
  • The bad: It puts all packing and transporting responsibilities on you

Option 2: Pack everything into a container and have a professional drive

  • The good: It’s pretty cost-effective, and you don’t have to transport your belongings
  • The bad: You need to have space to store the container, and it’s not as cheap as driving a truck yourself

Option 3: Hire a full-service moving company

  • The good: It’s the easiest, most hands-off option
  • The bad: It’s the most expensive option

Sign up for our moving guide!

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

The whole picture

Whether you’re moving from the Big Apple to the Bay Area or from Monterey to Miami, budget is a big consideration. Beyond cost, you also have to consider the time and energy required. Do you have a spare week to drive coast to coast? Are you in the know on how to safely pack and stack boxes?

We’ll give you the scoop on each moving type so you can choose what’s best for you.

The cheap option: Truck rental companies

Though it’s cheaper than a using moving company, renting a moving truck does require more responsibility. You’re in charge of packing, driving safely, getting insurance, and hauling your stuff across the country in one piece. If you have the time and serious driving skills, you’ll save plenty going this route.

The hybrid option: Moving container companies

If you don’t mind carrying, packing, and loading your stuff on your own, container companies are for you. A portable storage container is delivered to your house, you spend a few days loading it, and voilà!—it disappears and then reappears at your new home for you to unpack.

However, this moving style isn’t designed with Manhattanites in mind. If you live in a high-rise building or don’t have a driveway to call your own, your container won’t have a place to hang while you load it up.

The spendy option: Moving companies

Don’t want to use vacation time for moving? Afraid you’ll tear a hammy carrying your entertainment center down the stairs? A full-service moving company may be just what you need to make relocation pleasant. Professional movers show up at your house, pack your belongings (if requested), and drive them to your new home. This assistance can be a huge gift, and moving companies insure your entire load.

What’s the lowest dollar amount required to move?

Moving costs vary widely, and calculating the cheapest cross-country option can be tough. That said, renting a truck and driving it yourself is always most affordable at first look. If you’re thrifty, you could get your belongings cross-country in a small truck for around $1,000. But factoring in fuel, insurance, taxes, and hotels can make the cost nearly on par with container or full-service moves.

For any move type, the price is factored by a few things:

  • Move type and level of assistance required
  • Weight/amount of possessions
  • Time of year
  • Distance you’re traveling

Nailing a specific figure is nearly impossible, but these ballpark estimates help you know much to save in your piggy bank for moving day. Call the company or use an online estimation tool for a more accurate figure.

Move type
Cost range




What is the cheapest option for moving cross-country?

If you’re looking to save cash—without regard to time and effort—renting a moving truck and taking an all-American road trip is the best method. But beware: fuel, toll, insurance, and hotel costs can add up to make the cost comparable to hybrid or full-service choices.

Chat Boxes Icon
Pro tip

Break down your long-distance moving costs to see whether full-service or hybrid-style moving will give you a better deal.

One cost-saving option is to split the difference between full-service and DIY moves with a container company. You pack and they drive, allowing you to fly or drive to your new home without a massive moving truck tagging along.

What’s the best option for balancing time and cost savings?

Driving everything you own across the country sounds like an adventure, but will you still think so after five long days of driving past cornfields? It may be worth a few hundred or couple thousand dollars to use a moving storage container or hire a full-service mover to do the heavy lifting. Then you can simply drive or fly yourself, turning your big move into a more relaxing trek.

What are some ways to cut cross-country moving costs?

  • Ditch unwanted items. Still hanging on to your IKEA coffee table from college? It’s time to let go. Moving prices are determined by space or weight, meaning you’ll save by donating or selling your furniture or books.
  • Get insurance. Worried about your ukulele or crystal corgi collection making it safely across the country? Insure it. If your moving option doesn’t include insurance, pay the fee to add it on. Trust us; it’s way cheaper than paying out of pocket to replace Great Aunt Irma’s vase if it gets broken in transit.
  • Move off-peak. Summer means school’s out—and moving is in. Since families and college kids typically choose summer moves, you can save 25% to 50% by relocating in winter. Mid-month is ideal for deal-finding as leases usually terminate at the month’s end.
  • Plan ahead. Schedule your move six to eight weeks out for the best rates and availability.
  • Shop around. Nab the cheapest price by getting multiple estimates before choosing your mover or container company.

Let us help you find a cross-country mover

Leaving it to the pros to move your belongings across the country? Check out our list of best interstate moving companies for recommendations on top-ranked long-distance movers. Prefer the you-pack-it-they-haul-it route? Use our best moving container company resource to find a reliable pod company to drive your pre-packed cubes across the country affordably. If you’re the DIY type, rent a truck from a trusted company with our best moving truck rental companies article.

Jenny Willden
Written by
Jenny Willden
Jenny’s been writing stories since she first picked up a pencil and is lucky to call it her profession. She’s lived in five U.S. states (and counting) and uses her mishaps to help you master your next move.