Maybe you just landed a job in another state or decided it’s time to live closer to family. Whatever the reason, you’re ready to pack up and move west… or east, north, or south! Moving across the country is a huge decision that won’t just impact your social circle and environment but also your wallet.

Long-distance relocation isn’t cheap, but no worries — we’ve got your back. We gathered estimates from national moving companies to reveal the cheapest way to move across the country.

Money used to move across the country.
Source: (MORAN / Unsplash)

Overview of average moving service prices

When it comes to moving services, there are plenty of options, and the cheapest one depends on your specific needs. For a quick overview of the average costs of different moving services, take a look at the following tables where we’ve estimated the cost to move in the spring.

Just keep in mind that prices vary depending on distance, location, time of year, and volume of belongings.

Full-service moving company: $5,000 – $22,090

(Per Moving.com’s cost estimation tool)

Miles 1 bedroom 2 bedroom 3 bedroom 4 bedroom
Up to 600 miles
(Charlottesville to Chicago)
$3,093 – $4,262 $4,262 – $5,453 $6,566 – $8,875 $8,875 – $13,254
Up to 1,200 miles
(San Diego to Seattle)
$3,668 – $5,116 $5,116 – $6,570 $7,923 – $10,732 $10,732 – $16,058
Up to 2,600 miles
(NYC to San Francisco)
$5,000 – $6,991 $6,991 – $9,017 $10,878 – $14,758 $14,758 – $22,090

Shipping services: $545 – $5,100

Moving service 1 bedroom 2 bedroom 3 bedroom 4 bedroom
Moving container (average cost for 100 – 2,000 mile moves) $2,000 $2,570 $3,220 $3,900
Cargo trailer rental
(up to 1,200 miles per U-Haul)
$545 $725 $725 – $1,275 $1,275+
Truck rental
(1,750 miles per move.org)
$1,640 $1,690 $1,790 $2,140
Freight trailer
(up to 1,200 miles per U-Pack)
$3,408 $3,970 $4,535 $5,100
Movers lifting a couch that will move across the country.
Source: (Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock)

Choose the right moving service for your specific needs

No two moves are exactly alike. Depending on your timing, physical abilities, access to help, and other factors, you may need more support than the cheapest moving service offers. To better understand your options and the pros and cons of each, let’s take a closer look at each type of moving service.

Full service moving companies

If your schedule is jam-packed, or packing and heavy lifting just isn’t your thing, then a full-service moving company is the right choice for you. A full-service moving company helps you with every step of your move, including planning, packing, loading, relocation, and unpacking.

Because this service involves more intensive work than transporting your items from point A to point B, you’ll pay significantly more for a full-service move.

However, note that a full-service move includes professional movers, which would cost around $80 to $100 per hour if you hired labor separately. Additionally, you’ll rely on the same company for every step of the process, consolidating costs and streamlining logistics.

Pros:

  • One-stop-shop for moving
  • All costs included
  • Stress-free

Cons: 

  • Higher cost
  • No storage option
  • Less control over your move

Companies that offer full-service moving packages include United Van Lines and Mayflower.

Cargo trailer rental

If you have a large truck or van with decent towing capacity, you might consider renting a cargo trailer. Cargo trailers are either covered or uncovered and are usually available to rent for a period of days. These trailers are much cheaper if you return them to the same location after moving. However, even with one-way trips, there’s typically no additional fee for per-mile usage.

Be aware that, even if your vehicle is up to the task, towing a large trailer changes the way you drive. Familiarize yourself with best practices for towing a trailer before hitting the road.

Pros:

  • Rental by the day
  • No per-mile costs
  • Move your vehicle at the same time as your belongings
  • Cheaper than a rental truck or van

Cons:

  • Wear-and-tear on your vehicle
  • Packing with uncovered trailers is tricky
  • You may end up paying for more space or time than you need

Companies that offer rental trailers for moving include Budget, U-Haul, and Penske.

Rental trucks and vans

Rental trucks and vans are similar to trailers in the sense that you’ll pack, load, and unload your belongings yourself. However, because you’re using the company’s vehicle, you’re on the hook for mileage fees and gas along the way.

Also, renting a truck means that you’ll need to be comfortable driving a large vehicle. Because moving trucks are so heavy, accidents involving these trucks cause serious damage. Many auto insurance policies don’t cover rental truck accidents, so you might need to purchase additional insurance for the duration of your move for around $15 to $30 per day.

Depending on your driving situation, you might end up paying additional fees, as well. For instance, if you are a licensed driver under the age of 25, most companies will charge more for you to drive their truck. And if you want to share the responsibility of driving the truck over thousands of miles, you may need to pay a per-day fee for the additional driver.

On a final note, if you use a rental truck or van, you may need to pay to have your personal vehicle shipped to avoid making the drive twice. Shipping a mid-size car across the country costs around $1,105.

Pros:

  • No personal vehicle needed
  • Load and unload on your schedule
  • A wide variety of vehicle sizes available
  • Rental companies usually have dollies and moving blankets available to rent as well

Cons:

  • You might need to ship your vehicle
  • Mileage fees add up fast
  • Liability for accidents and damage (dependent on your insurance)

Companies that offer rental trucks and vans for cross-country moves include Enterprise, U-Haul, and Budget.

Moving containers

Moving containers are a relatively new and popular option for long-distance moves. You pack up the container at your current, and the moving company comes over, loads the containers onto a truck, and ships them to your new address.

The biggest advantage to moving containers is that you can leave them at the new location for an extended period, eliminating the need for interim storage if you have a gap between moving out of your old place and moving into your new one. The main disadvantage is that moving companies have a limited selection of container sizes available. So if you’re between sizes, you may end up paying for container space you don’t use.

Take note that there are a couple of issues you might run into when parking your container. In some cases, there are restrictions on where you can leave the container and for how long. Containers are anywhere from 7 feet to 16 feet long, so it’s important to verify that you or the company has a safe and legal place to leave it. Some companies, like Pods, may have a storage facility nearby where you can leave your container for a fee. If you’re moving into an apartment complex or neighborhood with narrow streets and little parking, the situation could get complicated.

Also, remember that these containers aren’t temperature-controlled. Take care to remove or insulate items sensitive to extreme heat or cold, such as electronics, valuable art, personal care products, and perishable food.

Pros:

  • No additional storage necessary
  • Hassle-free shipping process
  • Unload for as long as you need

Cons:

  • Pay per entire container, not just used space
  • Potential parking issues
  • No temperature control

Companies that offer shipping containers for moving purposes include SmartBox and Pods.

Freight trailer shipping

The final option to consider is renting space on a freight trailer. Freight trailer shipping allows you to purchase space on a trailer per linear foot. Much like storage pods, the company drops the trailer off at your home and allows you to load it yourself. Once you’ve finished loading the trailer, you mark off the amount of space you used, and the company picks the trailer up and drives it to your new home. However, unlike storage containers, you’ll need to unload your belongings when the trailer arrives and can’t just leave them there until you’re ready.

Be aware that you’re shipping your belongings inside of a semi-truck with a full trailer, meaning that serious shifting around can occur during driving. While companies usually provide a large bulwark to separate your load from others, it’s still important to ensure that everything is secure so that nothing gets damaged during the trip.

Pros:

  • Usually cheaper per mile than containers
  • Pay for only the space you use
  • No vehicle or long-term parking space necessary

Cons:

  • Jostling during shipping
  • Limits on loading/unloading times
  • It may be difficult lifting heavy furniture into the trailer

Companies that provide freight trailer shipping services include SureMove and U-Pack.

A phone used to find the cheapest way to move across the country.
Source: (Misho Tektumanidze / Unsplash)

Don’t forget to negotiate with moving companies for the best price

Most of the companies mentioned above provide estimates online or over the phone. However, an estimate isn’t a price set in stone. You may be able to negotiate with a company to match the price of another moving service.

A final pro tip: If you need help moving but think that professional movers’ rates are too high, consider hiring local freelancers for less using TaskRabbit.

Header Image Source: (Michael Scherback / Unsplash)