Moving across town or long-distance can involve the same amount of work on your part. The added burden is the cost of the cross-country move. Somehow, any amount spent moving just feels too much.  

Once, I moved everything on an airplane from New York to Seattle by tipping the outdoor baggage handlers $350. Today the handlers are gone along with that option. So, today we’ll cover everything you need to know, plus give tips, on keeping that long-distance, cross-country move as cheap as possible. 

By the way, we’re Bellhop Movers, experts at local and long-distance moves. We’d love to help make you move as affordable as possible. Let’s get started! 

How to handle the stress of a cross-country move 

Frame the long-distance move as an adventure odyssey 

Hopefully, this cross-country move is something you wanted to happen. Starting with the right attitude is important. If you can frame this as an adventure stage in your hero’s journey it can make a difference when you look at the work involved. Also, it helps to have a few project management skills, (don’t worry, we got some tips there too). And then working with great movers truly makes a difference in your cross-country move. 

Find the cheapest way to move 

A long-distance move pretty much requires many of the same dollar costs as a local move: packing supplies and materials like boxes and bubble wrap. The variable costs that add up are things like rental truck fees, insurance (highly recommended!), and fuel costs. We’ve got tools that can help you estimate before you even start eyeing the expired kitchen spices. Like many movers Bellhop wants to make it easy. We’ve got: 

Bellhop - "Best Movers Ever'

Factor in the emotional cost of moving 

The dollars-and-cents cheapest way to move is to do it all yourself. But that raises the emotional and physical cost on you and your family. Picking full-service movers over a DIY move may be a better choice, particularly if there are physical or time-related considerations. Be real here. Maybe you get help with packing and unpacking at your new home. Many full-service movers, Bellhop included, offer hourly services as part of their service. 

Break it down into manageable tasks 

Just looking at an American map of your new home over yonder can bring panic. Like triathlon champions or Everest climbers, break the long-distance move cross-country into attainable goals and mini-goals and micro-goals. A micro-goal may be to go buy packing supplies like moving boxes and bubble wrap. A mini goal may be to declutter a bedroom or list on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace that couch or other heavy items (you hate by now) because you researched in your new home town affordable replacements. 

Celebrate the small wins 

Involve the family. Kids can look for expired food items. Friends can help sort and organize sports gear and yard tools. Then celebrate with pizza. It helps. 

Sharing the cost of moving long-distance 

Employer-sponsored moves can reduce moving expenses 

If your long-distance move is job-related, ask your employer about relocation assistance to your new location. Many companies offer to cover moving expenses, which can significantly reduce your financial burden. This support can range from reimbursing you for the cost of hiring professional movers to providing a moving truck, pods, or moving container. And if you’re lucky, all the moving expenses. 

Share a moving truck 

Professional movers offer the option of sharing a truck for long-distance and American cross-country moves. The movers fill the truck with more than one move.  You only pay for the space or weight you need. When you start investigating cross-country moving companies, ask if they offer this option, particularly if you are moving a small amount like a two-bedroom apartment. 

You can help here by finding other families to share the cost. Once I used a shared moving truck when I moved a daughter to college. You may know other families going to the same destination; find them through a high school or college parent Facebook group. This idea also works for military families being redeployed to the same American base. 

Get help: balancing cost and convenience 

Hire moving labor 

For those planning a DIY move to cut down on expenses, hiring moving labor for specific tasks can be a game-changer. Professional movers can be engaged to handle the heavy lifting, such as loading and unloading the moving truck, which is often the most physically demanding part of the move. Services like Bellhop’s hourly help, provide the benefits of professional movers without the full-service price tag. This moving option is particularly appealing for those navigating the complexities of a cross-country move. 

Enlist friends and family 

Nothing beats the cost-effectiveness of enlisting friends and family to help your DIY move. Whether it’s packing, loading a rental truck, or the final clean-up, having a team of loved ones by your side can significantly reduce the stress and moving cost. However, remember to show your appreciation with plenty of food, drinks, and maybe even a thank-you party once you’re settled in your new home. 

Long-distance Move Options 

Research best ways to ship household goods 

One of the initial decisions you’ll face is how to ship your household goods. For smaller moves, shipping your items via FedEx, UPS or other shipping companies can be the cheapest way to go. These carriers offer competitive rates for long distance moves for very small quantities. I met a mom shipping her son’s dorm room essentials at a FedEx. Also the US Postal Service has gotten better at pricing boxes. And take advantage of the ‘book rate’. 

DIY move 

Hands-down, the cheapest way is a DIY move. Driving that moving truck across country can be a road trip adventure. I won’t forget the look on my dog’s face as we drove slowly past a bison in Yellowstone!  

Be real about the pros and cons of a DIY moving 

For many, a DIY move is the cheapest option. However, it’s important to consider the cons of this approach: the time investment required, the risk of injury during the moving process, the frayed relationships that can result from the stress of moving, and the potential theft of items if the moving truck is stolen. (When everyone was moving to Seattle, stealing U-Hauls happened often. I saw too many sorry stories on the news).  

DIY move safety tips

If you go this route, consider the following moving preparation tips. You don’t want to be blamed later (and forever) for the loss: 

  • Don’t leave family heirlooms, jewelry, photo albums in the moving truck overnight. Moving trucks are easy to steal and often targeted. Consider using UPS or FedEx. Ship the priceless photo albums USPS Mail book rate. 
  • Ditto firearms which carry a legal responsibility if stolen. 
  • Ditto your child’s / wife’s / husband’s favorite XXX thingy they can’t live without. Be sure to ask them what items to keep out of the moving truck. 
  • Invest in a steering wheel lock and other theft deterrents. Thieves seeing the lock will look for another moving truck. Consider learning how to disconnect the battery so the moving truck won’t start. 
  • Choose motels with well-lit parking and look for security cameras. 

Rent a moving truck: finding the cheapest option 

If you decide on a DIY move, finding the best deal on a moving truck rental is crucial. Prices and terms vary significantly between moving companies, so it pays to shop around. Consider factors like rental duration, drop off fees, mileage fees, and insurance coverage to ensure you’re getting the best value. U-Haul and Penske are obvious rental company choices. If you choose another, nail down any drop off fees, if they don’t have a moving company location in the same town. 

Be real about the real time moving long-distance 

Cross-country move in a large vehicle is different than a long-distance drive in your car. You can’t drive as fast comfortably, and your mileage will plummet. Limit your driving time to eight hours and take frequent breaks. There is a reason that long-distance movers and the Federal government regulate a driver’s driving time. Safety. An extra night on a long-distance cross-country move is worth it particularly if combined with a little sight-seeing fun like a kids splash park. 

Hybrid move approach: a middle ground 

A hybrid move, where you pack your belongings and a moving company transports them, can offer a cost-effective compromise. You save money on some labor costs while still taking advantage of the efficiency and experience of professional movers. This is the most common move. 

You pack and load. They drive: a cost-effective strategy. 

Using a moving container is another strategy that strikes a balance between DIY and professional moving. You pack and load your belongings into a moving container, PODS, or freight trailer, and then the moving company handles the transportation. This budget-friendly option offers flexibility and can be more affordable than a full-service move. 

Full-service move. The moving company does it all. 

The most expensive option is where the movers come and basically take over the entire event, including packing. You can help by decluttering as much as possible before. Movers, even professional moving companies, will likely add some ‘wiggle room’ to any estimate to allow for the unusual. 

Tips to keep moving costs low 

Have a good overview and project plan 

Moving is an additional hassle-filled, burden overlaid on your already busy life. Before starting on that cross-country move look at this helpful schedule that can get you organized. It covers helpful reminders about notifying your apartment, checking with the DMV, when to get moving quotes, have that yard sale.  

The Better Way to Move

Start with a good checklist 

The first step in planning an affordable long-distance move is to create a detailed moving checklist. This will help you organize your tasks, from deciding what to take with you to figuring out the logistics of getting your belongings to that new home. 

Choose a cheaper moving date 

The date of your move can significantly impact the cost. Moving companies often charge more during peak moving seasons and on weekends. Fuel costs surge in summer. Planning your cross-country move during off-peak times can lead to lower prices and more availability among movers and rental options. 

Find free moving boxes and supplies 

One of the simplest ways to cut costs is by sourcing free moving boxes and supplies. Check with local liquor stores, supermarkets like Trader Joe’s, and even friends and family who have recently moved. If you’re using a professional moving company, inquire about used boxes. 

Protect your valuables during the move 

Use high-quality packing materials and moving boxes to secure your items. Label each box clearly, especially those containing fragile items, to inform movers to handle them with care. For highly valuable or irreplaceable items, consider moving them yourself or using specialized moving services to ensure their safety. 

Find deals and discounts 

Scouring the market for deals and promotions on moving services can lead to significant savings. Many moving companies offer discounts and deductibles during the off-season or for online bookings. Signing up for newsletters from professional moving companies (United Van Lines and Bellhop), rental truck providers (Penske), and moving container companies can alert you to limited time offers that reduce moving costs. Bellhop offers a 10% discount when you provide your email. Even retail giants like FedEx and U-Haul offer deals that can reduce the cost of shipping and rental services. Plus, memberships in organizations like AAA can provide discounts on services from partnered moving companies. 

Declutter, sell, donate: less is more 

Before embarking on your long-distance move, take the time to declutter 

Platforms like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and local yard sales offer opportunities to sell unwanted items, turning clutter into cash. Donating items to local charities not only reduces your moving costs but can provide tax deductions, further offsetting other moving costs.  

If you haven’t looked in that storage unit in a while, maybe don’t. Just take it all to a thrift store. Ditto that heavy workout equipment that’s generating as much guilt as cobwebs. 

Assess the worth of big, old items 

Large, bulky items can be particularly costly to move, especially on long-distance moves. Evaluate each large item’s sentimental and monetary value versus the cost of moving it. Sometimes, selling or donating and then repurchasing similar items at your new location can be the cheapest way and most practical option. Consider treadmills, free weights, sectional sofas. Check on Facebook Marketplace: it’s a great way to explore your new hometown and maybe meet a new best friend. 

Yard sale strategies and online selling tips 

Holding a yard sale is a fantastic strategy to declutter and earn extra money for your moving fund. Advertise in local newspapers, online, and with neighborhood signs to attract a large crowd. When selling online, take clear photos, write detailed descriptions, and price items to sell. Maybe your home buyer wants them.  

Obtain multiple moving quotes: navigating costs and services 

Now is the time to dust-off (or grow) negotiating skills. First by reading up online about a moving company’s prices and deals. Some may offer flat-rate shipping based on mileage and an ‘average’ home. Be ready to ASK. 

Now your detailed inventory list will trim some of the fat off the professional mover’s quote and show the moving company you’re serious. 

Ask, ask, and ask again 

This shows you’re serious and can gain respect. Some cross-country movers have salespeople who just sell. Like car dealers. Know this and ask informed questions about flat-rate, average costs, upfront charges like deposits. 

Don’t hesitate to ask moving companies for discounts or shared move options, which can significantly reduce your moving expenses. Some movers offer lower rates for cross-country moves if you’re flexible with your moving date, allowing them to consolidate your shipment with others.  

Everything that is a line item is negotiable. Ask about free moving boxes or a reduced rate on used boxes and packing supplies like used bubble wrap. If you add hourly help to unpack, ask about reducing the hourly charge. 

DIY move questions 

If you decide to do that long-distance move yourself and rent a truck from U-Haul or Penske, there are additional questions (and opportunities for deals.) 

  • Is there a drop-off fee since you won’t be returning the truck? They have to relocate trucks from popular destinations. Once it was Seattle, now it’s Texas and any city in Florida.)  
  • Are moving supplies and aids like blankets and dollies included? 
  • If you have to transport an auto too, will they discount the car trailer? 

Include insurance in your quotes 

When you’re gathering quotes from different moving companies for your cross-country move, it’s crucial to ask about insurance options. Moving can be unpredictable, and having insurance is essential for the peace of mind it offers. Ensure that the quotes include detailed information on coverage types and the extent of protection against loss or damage.  

After the move: setting up your new home for cheap 

Unpacking and organizing: doing it yourself vs. hiring movers 

Once you arrive at your new home, the task of unpacking and organizing begins. While hiring movers for unpacking can save time and reduce stress, doing it yourself is the cheapest option.  

Create a strategic plan to unpack room by room, starting with essentials (bedrooms, and kitchen utensils for takeout pizza). A good night sleep is a must.  Declutter further as you go; another yard sale can make new friends. Break down the moving boxes and separate the grocery store and liquor store boxes for recycle. Rental of a pod or portable moving container will give you a little more time to organize but it also means you are doing it yourself. (And your neighborhood may have rules). 

Decorating on a budget: making your new home be yours 

Decorating your new home doesn’t have to be expensive. DIY move tips extend into DIY decorating strategies, such as repurposing existing items, shopping at thrift stores, Craigslist and undertaking DIY projects. Embrace the unpacking process as an opportunity to creatively organize and decorate your space. Use moving boxes to craft storage solutions. Seek out discounts from retailers and reutilize packing supplies like bubble wrap and moving blankets for DIY projects. 

Good luck with your move 

Bellhop has reliable movers and dedicated moving trucks that can help things go as planned. Whether you need long-distance moving, local moving, apartment moving, commercial moving, or last-minute moving, we’re here to help. 

Find movers near you today. 

Warren Sly