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What’s the Cheapest Way to Move Cross-Country?

Long-Distance Moves

by Bridget Houlihan Posted on May 1, 2024
Moving across the country is an adventure, to say the least. Long-distance moves can be complex, and they definitely require lots of planning and foresight to ensure they’re as efficient and stress-free as possible. Naturally, it’s going to cost more to move cross-country than to another nearby neighborhood, but is it possible to move far away without breaking the bank? And is the cheapest way to move cross-country the best way?

Cheapest Way to Move to Another State — FAQs

Q: How can I reduce the cost of a cross-country move?
A:
Our top tips include decluttering before the move, looking for free boxes to pack your items, choosing a moving date that’s not during peak season, and hiring reputable but affordable moving companies and labor. 

Q: How much should you budget to move across country?
A:
According to Forbes, the average cross-country move costs around $4,600. However, the size of your moving budget will depend on how far you’re moving, how much stuff you’re bringing, and what type of move you make (i.e., DIY, hybrid, or full service).

Q: What is the cheapest time of year to move cross-country?
A:
October to April is generally the cheapest time of year to move.

Q: What is the best way to move across the country?
A:
The best way depends on your budget. Is money no issue? Then you’ll definitely want to take advantage of the convenience of a full-service move. Want to take everything into your own hands? The DIY route may be the best — and most affordable — option. Prefer a hybrid approach with the ultimate flexibility? A portable moving and storage container may be just the right thing. You can always plug in your moving details into a moving cost calculator like MoveBuddha to get an idea of the cost comparison.

Are There Affordable Moving Companies?

Affordability is relative, of course. But when it comes to finding the cheapest way to move to another state, your first consideration should be what type of moving option you want to go with. Here’s a look at the most popular choices.

DIY With a Rental Truck

Renting a truck and doing your move by yourself (and hopefully with the help of friends and family) is often an affordable way to move locally, but it may not be the cheapest way to move cross-country. You’ll need to take into consideration renting the truck, the fuel you’ll need to put into the truck, any tolls along the way, as well as any mileage fees the truck rental company has. You’re also responsible for loading (and unloading) the truck by yourself (including heavy items) and making sure that your belongings are packed safely and securely. If you’ve never done this before, it can take more time than you might think.

Once your truck is packed, you’re also responsible for driving it across the country, which can be stressful, especially if this is new to you. And you can either tow your car or have a friend drive it across the country with you. The hotels and meals along the way can really add up quickly, so keep this in mind, as well.

Pro Tip: Get moving boxes for cheap on Facebook Marketplace, at liquor stores, and on apps like Nextdoor.

Once you arrive at your destination, chances are, you’ll want to unload quickly, so you can return the truck without incurring additional fees. This can make you feel rushed, and you’re at a greater risk of damaging your items or even hurting yourself. If there was any damage to the truck along the way, you’ll be responsible for paying for that, too.

And even with the most meticulous planning, you may find there’s a gap between your move-out and move-in dates, which means you’ll need to find storage for your items — yet another expense. Not to mention the labor involved with loading and unloading your belongings multiple times before you even get to your new place! 

Professional movers wrap a chair in a protective plastic film during a move.

Full-service movers will securely pack up your items, dismantle large pieces of furniture, and do all the heavy lifting — for a price.

Full-Service Movers

Full-service movers are the most expensive option, but they will take a lot of the stress away from moving. They’ll basically do anything you’re willing to pay for. For instance, they will securely pack up your items, dismantle large pieces of furniture, and do all the heavy lifting, so you won’t have to worry about injuring yourself — or possibly damaging an item. And that’s all before the truck leaves your driveway. 

While you won’t need to actually load the truck yourself, you will want to be around to manage the movers and let them know what to pack and how you’d like it prepared before it’s loaded. You’ll also be on a tight timeline as moving companies allocate a specific amount of time and a certain amount of movers to take care of your rooms. If you have additional (or heavier-than-normal) items or you misjudged how much stuff you have, this could incur additional fees from the movers and add more time to your packing. 

It’s also nice not having to worry about driving a large truck long-distance, but most moving companies going to another state will put your household items with others’ to be as efficient as possible. This increases the chances that your things could be mixed up with other peoples’ stuff or get damaged.

Because your stuff is moving to your new home on a truck, you’re free to drive or fly to your new home. However, in addition to the already-expensive full-service movers, you’ll need to calculate the cost of fuel, hotels, and food when you’re looking for the cheapest way to move long distance, as well as the airfare, if you choose to fly.

And like the DIY move, if your move-out/move-in dates don’t coincide perfectly, there’s the chance you’ll need to rent a storage unit and have the movers unload the truck there. If this is the case, you'll also have to pay for another set of movers to transport your items once your home is ready.

A PODS truck with a moving container on the back is reversed into a residential driveway, as the driver prepares to position the container for easy packing and loading

Your PODS container will be dropped off at your home, and you’ll have a whole month to pack and load your items on your own schedule.

PODS Portable Moving Containers

Another option that might make the most sense if you’re looking for the cheapest way to move to another state is a PODS portable moving and storage container. Here’s how it works:

Your container (or containers) will be dropped off at your home, and you’ll have a whole month to pack and load your items on your schedule. If you need help with the heavy lifting, PODS can refer you to local packing and loading assistance. And when it’s time to move, a PODS pro will come and pick up your container and drive it to your new home. Then you can either drive your car or have it shipped. (Ask about good car shipping companies!)

With a PODS portable moving container, not only do you get a large container (or more than one) to pack up your items, but you also get one month of storage built in. This is ideal if there’s a gap between your move-out/move-in dates. Once you’re ready to unpack, they’ll deliver your container to your new address, ensuring you only need to unload it once — keep your container in your driveway for as long as you need. Talk about a less stressful and cost-effective way to move! 

PODS has two container sizes for long-distance moves, an 8-foot and a 16-foot. You can choose to go with one or more containers, depending on how much stuff you have. And if you’re unsure if you’ll need both, you can always stagger their deliveries until you have a better idea of the space you really need to load your items. If it turns out you don’t need an additional container, that’s not a problem. Just call PODS at (855) 706-4758 by 4 p.m. local time at least three days before delivery and cancel it at no cost

Pro Tip: Looking for the cheapest way to move furniture to another state? Consider loading it into a PODS portable moving container — and have the PODS professionals take care of all the logistics!

Using a PODS portable moving container gives you the flexibility to make the move on your schedule. And you can always reach out if you need to make adjustments or changes, ensuring you stay in charge of your move. Like what you hear? Find out more about the perks of moving with PODS on the PODS Blog.

The Cheapest Way To Move Cross-Country

To get a better idea of what really is the cheapest way to move to another state, we thought it would be helpful to explore two long-distance moving scenarios. Here, we’re going to focus on a DIY move with a rental truck versus renting a PODS portable moving container. Since full-service movers are always the most expensive option, we’ve left that out to dive deeper into the true costs of the other two. Our two scenarios include:

  • Sally, who is moving from NYC to L.A. with her spouse and two children and using a PODS portable moving container
  • Harry, who is also moving from NYC to L.A. with his spouse and two children but using the DIY method and renting a truck

In both scenarios, Sally and Harry are moving a similar amount of stuff. Let’s see which option really is the cheapest way to move long distance!

A family of four has a lively conversation at the front of their PODS portable moving container, which is almost fully loaded.

Sally and her family decided the cheapest way for them to move cross-country would be with PODS.

Sally’s Cross-Country Move With PODS

Sally has just landed a new job in L.A. as an entertainment lawyer and she’s starting in a few weeks. This is an itemization of the costs associated with Sally’s decision to move with a PODS portable moving container. 

Schedule the Move

Sally and her family decided the cheapest way for them to move cross-country would be with PODS. They decided to get one 16-foot container to move their 4-bedroom home, plus one 8-foot container for any extras. 

Sally wanted to make sure they would use that much space, so Sally staggered the delivery of each of the containers. And since PODS has pay-as-you-go pricing, Sally only paid for the 16-foot container up front. If she, indeed, needed the 8-foot container, she would pay for it when it was delivered. 

COST: $3,436 – $5,154

Prepare for the Move

Sally and her family spent time decluttering and getting rid of items they no longer needed. They had so much stuff after doing the whole-home declutter that they had a garage sale and made some money.

COST: $0 (The family made money!)

Packing 

When it came time to start packing, Sally wasn’t stressed because she knew they had plenty of time to load up their container. She was able to snag free boxes on Facebook Marketplace and asked her family and friends to help move boxes and furniture into the container. In exchange, she offered to buy the whole group pizza and sodas to thank them for their help. 

And since they had time to pack correctly, about three-quarters of the way through loading, it looked like they weren’t going to need the additional 8-foot container — all their belongings would fit in the 16-foot one. Sally simply called PODS and canceled the additional container and incurred no fee because it was more than three days before delivery.

COST: $150.00 (for pizza and sodas)

Travel to L.A.

Sally wasn’t interested in making the cross-country drive, so they found a cheap flight from NYC to L.A. and had their car shipped instead.

COST: $700 - 950 (for the flight to L.A. for 4 people)

COST: $1,500 - $2,500 (to ship one car)

Arrival and Unloading

Upon arrival in L.A., Sally is informed that she and her family can’t move in just yet, as the landlord is tenting the home to treat it for termites. He agrees to put them up in a local hotel for three days. Luckily, since Sally went with PODS, she doesn’t have to worry about getting a storage facility on short notice, unloading a moving truck, and having to arrange for another truck to re-load and take their items to their new L.A. home. Instead, she can just relax because she can keep her container at a local PODS Storage Center until they can safely move in.

It’s so nice loading and unloading items just once, and when the landlord gives them the go-ahead to officially move in, they only need to hire some local movers for a few hours to help unload the heavy items. Once they’re done, PODS arrives and picks up the container to get it out of the way.

COST: $150.00 (for groceries for 3 days)

COST: $500.00 - $1,250.00 (for local movers to help unload)

Total Estimated Cost for Sally’s Move

  • PODS cost: $3,436 – $5,154
  • Pizza and soda for friends and family in NYC: $150.00
  • Flight: $700 - $950
  • Car shipment: $1,500 – $2,500
  • Groceries for 3 days: $150.00
  • Local movers to help unload: $500.00 - $1,250.00

TOTAL: $6,436 – $10,154

A happy couple is sitting on the back of their moving truck rental. The truck is already loaded with a couch and several moving boxes.

Harry decides that renting a truck and making the drive across the country is the best option to help them save some money.

Harry’s Cross-Country Move With a Rental Truck

Harry will be starting a new job in L.A. as a nurse. His spouse and family want to get there for as little as possible, which is why they decide that renting a truck and making the drive across the country is the best option to help them save some money.

Schedule the Move

Harry gets a few quotes for trucks and decides to go with a 22-foot truck that he will drive to L.A. He’ll need the truck for seven days — one day to load it, five days to travel, and one more day to unload it.

COST: $2,549 - $5,010 (according to MoveBuddha estimates)

It’s 2,790 miles from NYC to L.A., rental trucks average 10 miles/gallon, and the average gallon of gas is $3.66

COST: $1,021.14 (miles / MPG x gas price)

Depending on the truck rental company, you may need to pay for half up front, and half when it’s returned, or the majority of it upfront and then the difference when it’s returned.

Harry is responsible for all tolls, and he may encounter additional fees if he goes over a certain mileage, there’s damage to the truck, or he needs to rent it for additional days. 

Prepare for the Move

Harry and his family did some decluttering and downsizing to bring less with them across the country. They had so much extra stuff, he organized a garage sale and made some extra money!

COST: $0 (They made extra money!)

Packing 

To save money on packing, Harry was able to secure boxes from Facebook Marketplace for free, and his family and friends were happy to help them pack up the truck. 

COST: $150.00 (for pizza and sodas)

Travel to L.A.

While Harry is going to drive the rental truck, his spouse and kids are going to drive the family car. They’ve planned to take five days getting there (road trip adventure!), which means that they’ll be spending four nights in hotels and eating out for five days. 

COST: $567.30 (gas for the family car)

COST: $856.00 (hotel for 4 nights)

COST: $1,160.00 (food for 5 days)

Arrival and Unloading

Once they arrive in L.A., Harry and his family get word that the previous tenants haven’t finished moving out yet. The landlord offers to put them up in a hotel for the next three days and deduct some costs from next month’s rent.

Unfortunately, their rental truck needs to be returned because it’s already been reserved for another move by someone in L.A. So Harry has to scramble to find a local storage unit and quickly unload their items.

COST: $525.00 (average cost for a 10x20 storage unit in L.A.)

COST: $500.00 - $1,250.00 (for local movers to help unload)

After three days, the family is ready to move into their new place, but Harry has to rent another truck to move their stuff from storage and hire more local movers to help with the loading and unloading.

COST: $60.00 (average cost of a truck rental per day)

COST: $1,000.00 - $2,500.00 (for local movers to help unload)

Total Estimated Cost for Harry’s Move

  • Rental truck cost: $2,549 - $5,010
  • Fuel estimate: $1,021.14
  • Pizza and soda for friends and family in NYC: $150.00
  • Fuel estimate for family car: $567.30
  • Hotels: $856.00
  • Meals on the road: $1,160.00
  • Storage unit: $525.00
  • Local movers to help unload: $500.00 - $1,250.00
  • Additional rental truck (one-day rental): $60.00
  • Local movers to help load and unload: $1,000.00 - $2,500.00

TOTAL: $8,388.44 - $13,099.44

A woman strikes a happy pose in front of her loaded PODS portable moving container.

If you want to save money and make your move as stress-free as possible, you may want to consider going with a PODS portable container.

What’s the Cheapest Way To Move Cross-Country?

Every move is unique, and if you’re looking for the cheapest way to move long distance, it’s helpful to know you do have options. But if you want to save money and make your move as stress-free as possible, you may want to consider going with a PODS portable container (as seen in our Sally scenario). You have flexible container options, you can load everything on your schedule, and if things don’t go according to plan, you won’t be left all alone to figure it out in a new city.

While packing and driving all your belongings may seem like the cheaper option, when you factor in fuel, meals, hotels, tolls, and other expenses, it looks like it could end up costing you more (as seen in Harry’s scenario). This is especially true if something unexpected happens and you have a stressful situation you have to take care of (like unloading and loading your belongings multiple times).

Go With PODS If You’re Looking for the Cheapest Way To Move to Another State

If you want to find the cheapest way to move cross-country, consider getting a quote from PODS. Every move is different, and the price you end up paying depends on a variety of factors. No matter where you’re moving to, it’s worth finding out if getting a portable storage container to make the move will be the cheapest option for you. If you’re moving to a big city or an urban area like L.A., you can even take advantage of PODS City Service, where a PODS professional won’t just handle the tough-to-navigate big-city streets; the driver will also keep the container on the truck (no driveway needed) and, as you unload, help keep an eye on your belongings. How’s that for service?

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