What Is the Cheapest Way to Move? | Move.org (2024)

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By Kurt Manwaring

May 20, 2024

What Is the Cheapest Way to Move? | Move.org (9)6 min read

At a glance

If you are looking for the cheapest way to move cross-country, take a look at the best moving container companies. They can save you thousands of dollars compared to full-service movers, and they even beat out rental trucks for large moves. . However, you still can’t beat the price of renting a truck if you’re only moving across town.

What Is the Cheapest Way to Move? | Move.org (10)

When to use full-service movers

A full-service move is almost never going to be cheaper than renting a truck or a moving container, but it may be more convenient if you can afford to pay someone else or can’t take time off work. Use our moving costs guide to compare pricing.

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How much does a local move cost?

A local move costs approximately $925 if you’re using a rental truck., On the other hand, expect to pay around $1,960 if you plan to ship your belongings in a moving container.

The reason rental trucks are so affordable is because you do almost all the work yourself. For local moves, there isn’t a cheaper option.

Rental trucks vs. moving container costs (local move)

Move type

Total cost

Cost per mile

Rental truck

$730

$1.73

Moving container

$1,960

$4.66

Data current as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Quotes based on moving a moderately furnished, 900 sq. ft., two-bedroom home a distance of 421 miles. Travel costs included.

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Our move concierge can help with a truck rental or moving container

There’s more to moving than getting your belongings from A to B—and that can be overwhelming. If setting up insurance, internet, utilities, or home security services while planning your move makes you hyperventilate, we’ve got an answer for you!

Move.org offers a free, all-in-one solution that provides you with a personal concierge who will assist you with setting up all those services (and more!). From finding the best mover in your area to forwarding your mail to your new address, our moving concierge will save you the hassle of self setup and help you save money.

Why are rental trucks so affordable for short-distance moves?

There’s a common theme when it comes to rental trucks: DIY. Moving trucks are the cheapest way to move because you’re doing the loading, driving, and unloading.

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Get a little help

Did you know you can hire people by the hour to help you pack and unpack, load and unload, and even assemble furniture? You can also check out our list of the best cheap moving companies for other affordable ways to get great moving services.

You load and unload the truck yourself

It’s not fun to look at a house full of belongings or a truck full of boxes and think of the work needed to load and unload the moving truck. That’s one reason people often pay professional movers to do the work for them.

But you save a ton of cash if you do it yourself.

How much is it to hire professional movers?

About $50 per hour per person. So if you have a handful of friends and family help out for half a day, you save upwards of $1,000.

Average moving labor costs

Type of service

DIY

Our top moving labor companies

Other moving labor companies

Loading and unloading (per hour)

$0

$50

$80

½ day*

$0

$950

$1,530

Data current as of 1/24/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

*Five workers for four hours.

You drive the truck yourself

Cheap moving options include driving the truck yourself. Any time you turn the task over to a professional is money lost on your end. If you are planning a local move, you probably don’t need a driver, but even if you are looking for the cheapest way to move cross country, hiring a driver might be worth the investment. It’s no small feat to navigate a large moving truck for several days across state lines.

In the end, it comes down to convenience vs. cost. Sure, you can hire someone else to do the hard stuff, but your bank account will be noticeably smaller because of it.

If you’re looking for the cheapest way to move a distance of several hundred miles or less, you can’t beat the affordability of renting a moving truck and driving it on your own.

What Is the Cheapest Way to Move? | Move.org (15)

Save more with a budget discount

Budget Truck Rental offers more discounts than any other rental truck company. It has deals for everyone from military members to students.

How much does it cost to move across the country?

It costs about $4,250 to move across the country using a moving container. Because you don’t spend money on airfare, food, and lodging, moving containers will cost even less than rental trucks. Our research shows that it’s about 10% less expensive to use a moving container for a distance of 2,000 miles or more.

The 10% gap may not seem like a lot, but if you’re looking to save money, every dollar counts. For a cross-country move of approximately 2,000 miles, a 10% savings amounts to nearly $400—even though your initial quote may suggest the opposite.

It adds up. For a long-distance move, your most affordable option is moving containers.

Moving containers are affordable because you do some of the work yourself. In certain cases (like long-distance moves), they are often your cheapest option because you don’t have as many travel-related costs.

For example, a flight gets you cross country in less than a day, but a rental truck can take upwards of a week. It doesn’t take long for the cost of gas, hotels, and meals to dwarf what you would spend upfront on plane tickets.

Moving containers vs. rental trucks costs (long-distance move)

Move type

Total cost

Cost per mile

Moving container

$4,250

$1.94

Rental truck

$4,620

$2.11

Data current as of 1/24/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.Quotes based on moving a moderately furnished, 900 sq. ft., two-bedroom home a distance of 2,193 miles.

Why are moving containers so affordable for long-distance moves?

It’s almost counterintuitive to think that moving containers are more affordable than rental trucks. As we illustrated earlier, that isn’t always the case.

Moving trucks are by far your cheapest option for a short-distance move.

But when you’re moving across the country, the DIY savings of loading and unloading your moving containers are compounded by significantly diminished traveling costs (e.g., no rental truck mileage fees, no overnight hotel stays, etc.).

Moving containers are usually the cheapest way to move long distance.

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Save money on packing materials

Another way to lower moving costs is to find free or low-cost packing supplies. From boxes to bubble wrap, let us show you how to find affordable packing materials.

You load and unload the moving containers yourself

Just like with a rental truck, you will maximize your savings (compared to a full-service move) by loading and unloading the moving containers yourself.

If you want to pay for a little help, some moving container companies (like U-Haul) offer hourly labor services specifically for loading your containers.

In fact, U-Haul Moving Help® has some of the lowest prices we’ve seen for loading and unloading services.

But it still is going to cost you..

At around $40 per hour per person, it’ll set you back nearly $900 to hire five people for half a day. The savings of DIY add up even more if you factor in what it would cost to pay someone else to pack your belongings.

Moving labor costs per half-day

Type of service

DIY

U-Haul Moving Help

Loading and unloading

$0

$880

Packing and unpacking

$0

$960

Data current as of 1/24/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

You don’t pay as much for travel

Using moving containers is one of the cheapest moving options if you are interested in flying to your new home. This will save you on the travel costs of gas, hotels, and food while all of your stuff makes its way across the country.

This works especially well if you are opting out of a multi-day road trip for a quick flight, but doesn’t save you as much if you need to move shorter distances. The real savings here is getting you off the road, into the air, and onto your new home quickly without any additional travel costs.

Moving containers vs. rental trucks travel costs

Expense

Moving container

Rental truck

Meals and lodging

N/A

$730

Airfare

$520

N/A

Gas and mileage fees

N/A

$560

Total travel-related costs

$520

$1,290

Data current as of 1/22/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Quotes for cross-country moves from moving container and rental truck companies typically suggest that moving trucks are your cheapest option.

But when you factor in travel-related costs, moving containers end up being the least expensive choice for long distances.

Bottom line: rental trucks are the cheapest option for moves of hundreds of miles. Moving containers are your most affordable choice for moves of thousands of miles.

What Is the Cheapest Way to Move? | Move.org (17)

Moving containers double as storage units

For a monthly fee, you can leave your belongings in a moving container and turn it into a makeshift storage container so you don’t have to stress about being 100% moved in on day one. Of course, if you prefer to have your stuff off-site, we also identified the best self-storage unit companies.

Recap

Rental trucks and moving containers are your two cheapest moving options. For short distances, you can’t beat the price for rental trucks—they’re nearly 300% cheaper than moving containers. They win for the cheapest way to move small loads.

For long distances like a cross-country move, moving containers are cheaper—even though your initial estimates may suggest otherwise. In this case, saving on travel-related expenses like food, hotels, gas, and mileage fees can be the difference between.

The cheapest way to move FAQs

The average cost for a long-distance move is approximately $4,250 for moving containers and $4,620 for rental trucks. Using a top-tier company like U-Packcan potentially cost even less.

When you’re moving, there are three main ways to ship furniture to another state:

  1. Get aone-way truck rental.
  2. Ship it in amoving container.
  3. Hireprofessional moversto take it for you.

Here are some tips to help you save money when you move:

  • Ask about discounts.
  • Host a garage sale.
  • Search for free boxes and otherfree packing supplies.
  • Get several moving quotes.

You can also minimize costs if youprepare your new homefor your arrival by doing things like scheduling home improvements and reserving parking. Nothing adds extra costs to your move quite like showing up to find there’s nowhere to park and your basem*nt is flooded.

The cheapest way to move your stuff long-distance is to use a moving container company. It often costs less than renting a truck because you don’t pay for essentials like food and hotels.

Yes. If you don’t want to do the work yourself, you canhire full-service moversto transport your belongings across the country. You can also chat with ourfree move conciergeto locate the best professional moving company for your move.

Local businesses will often give youfree boxes. We recommend checking with grocery stores, furniture stores, liquor stores, and other retailers. We also have a guide to buyinginexpensive cardboard boxes.

Recommended resources

Best rental truck companies

  • U-Haul Truck Rental
  • Budget Truck Rental
  • Penske Truck Rental
  • Enterprise Truck Rental
  • Home Depot Truck Rental

Best moving container companies

  • U-Pack
  • PODS
  • 1-800-PACK-RAT
  • U-Haul
  • SMARTBOX

People also asked . . .

  • Where Can I Find Moving Discounts?
  • Are There Discounts for Members of the Military?
  • Can I Move During the COVID-19 Outbreak?
  • Is There a Moving Checklist?
  • Can I Ship My Car When I Move?

What Is the Cheapest Way to Move? | Move.org (18)

Written by

Kurt Manwaring

Kurt Manwaring brings nearly a decade’s worth of research experience as a business consultant to the Move.org team. He specializes in taking complicated issues (like moving) and presenting them in a way that everyone can understand. His writing has been featured in hundreds of publications, including USA Today, Martha Stewart Living, Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Heavy, Slate, and Yahoo! Lifestyle. He brings a BS in sociology and an MPA (masters of public administration) to the Move team. He would love to hear about your moving experiences and questions at kurt@move.org.

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