Moving cross country or even just to a new state can be a time-consuming and expensive process. Here at InMyArea we’ve created a guide to everything you need to know before making a long-distance move.
How much does it cost to move across the country?
Whether you hire help or do it all yourself, moving cross country can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000, and maybe more depending on how much you have to move. The cost to move cross country will vary greatly by person and depend on factors like:
- The size and weight of your belongings
- The distance in miles between your new and old home
- The cost of moving supplies
- Hiring professional movers vs. a DIY move
- If you plan to ship a car
- The time of year/month/day that you move
Do-it-yourself (DIY) moves and professional movers both have drawbacks and benefits. Your decision will come down to how much you want to spend and what’s best for your peace of mind.
Hiring professional movers for a cross country move will be more expensive than the DIY option. If you’re on a tight budget, it won’t be the best choice for you. The price will depend on your exact route, but professional movers will be more expensive if they pack your belongings for you. This extra service will cost at least $100 or more. To save money, it's best to pack up your belongings yourself and just have the movers do the heavy lifting.
With professional movers driving your belongings cross country, you’ll be able to drive your own car instead of shipping it. Shipping a car is another hefty expense that can cost anywhere from $1,500 to over $5,000 depending on its weight and size. If you decide to make a DIY move instead of hiring professional movers, you’ll have to either ship your car or rent a car trailer to tow it yourself, which costs around $1,000.
Professional movers are great if you want peace of mind knowing that someone with experience is taking care of your belongings. There is less risk that you’ll damage your belongings or injure yourself while moving heavy objects. If your main concern is efficiency or having someone else take care of everything for you, we’d recommend going with professional movers.
To save on the cost of moving cross country you can rent a truck from popular companies like U-Haul, Budget, or Penske and make the drive yourself. These trucks usually have a base fee along with a price per mile of travel. However, there are extra fees that come with a DIY move. You’ll need to purchase moving materials like boxes, blankets and tape. These materials can cost around $500. If you need to ship or tow a car, you’ll add anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 to your total. It’s also important to consider the cost of gas. Moving trucks average anywhere from 4 to 10 miles per gallon. Larger trucks will require diesel while smaller trucks and vans use regular gas.
We’ll use an example to calculate the cost of gas. Let’s say you’re moving from Orange County, California to New York City, New York (one of the most popular cross country moving routes). The route is about 2,800 miles. You’ve rented a truck that averages 6 mpg. You’ll need about 467 gallons of gas to make the trip (2,800 miles divided by 6 mpg). On Dec. 5, 2019 the American Automobile Association (AAA) found the national average for regular gas to be around $2.60 per gallon. At these prices you’ll pay about $1,200 in gas for the entire trip. The national average price for diesel gas is $3 per gallon, so if your truck requires diesel you’ll be paying $1,400 in gas.
When you add up the cost of the truck, gas and moving supplies a DIY move adds up to around $4,700. Some moving truck companies charge a cleaning fee and environmental fee. It’s also a good idea to buy rental truck insurance in case of any damage or accidents. Plus, you’ll have to return the truck with a full tank of gas. Moving trucks have anywhere from 30- to 60-gallon tanks, which means that last fill could cost up to $180 for diesel. Add all these extra fees together and you’ll pay over $5,000 for a DIY move. This is still around half the cost of professional movers (if you don’t ship a car), so if you’re on a budget the do-it-yourself option is best. However, cross country DIY moves require a lot of extra planning and fees to keep track of. You also run the risk of damaging your belongings during the loading/unloading process and drive. If you’re more concerned with making the move as simple, efficient and safe as possible, go with professional movers.
Container companies offer a moving option that’s a hybrid between professional and DIY moving. These companies drop off a portable storage unit at your home. From there, you’ll pack up all of your belongings on your own. Once you’re done packing, the company will come pick up the container and drive it to your destination. Container companies like P.O.D.S. and Upack don’t do any of the packing or loading for you, but they take care of the transportation so you can drive or fly to your new home without worrying about moving your belongings.
When you add up the cost of renting a moving truck, gas, moving supplies and the extra fees for a DIY move, container companies are right around, if not less, than the cost of a DIY cross country move. If you don’t feel like driving a moving truck or dealing with all of the extra moving parts that come with a DIY move, we’d recommend container services. However, if you don’t want to pack or load your belongings on your own and you have a bigger budget, go with professional movers.
There are several popular options for moving truck rentals. Prices and extra fees will vary greatly by your location, the size of the truck, and the distance of your move. To give you an idea of how the major companies compare, we’ll use a real-life example.
Below is a comparison of the cost for each of the major moving companies to move belongings from Southern California to Northern Georgia:
- Budget Truck Rental: $2,433 for a 12-foot truck or $2,537 for a 16-foot truck
- Penske Truck Rental: $2,519 plus fees for a 12- or 16-foot truck
- U-Haul Truck Rentals: $2,528 plus fees for a 15--foot truck
- Enterprise Truck Rentals: n/a. Enterprise trucks must be picked up and returned at the same location, so this isn’t applicable for cross country moves.
Penske is the least expensive option in this scenario, but only by a few dollars. While Penske was the best for this move, we’d recommend comparing all of your options using your specific moving route and dates before making a decision.
Moving across the country is always going to be expensive, but there are several ways to cut costs.
The months leading up to your move are the perfect time to get rid of belongings that you don’t absolutely need. Professional mover rates are partially determined by the weight and total size of your belongings, so the less you have, the cheaper it will be to move. For DIY movers, you’ll be able to rent a smaller, less expensive truck or container by purging your belongings. Have a yard sale and sell goods online through Craigslist or mobile apps like Offer Up. You can make money to set aside for the cost of moving. Plus, the people who purchase your belongings will take the items with them so you don’t have to deal with moving or disposing of them. You can also give things to friends and family or donate items to your favorite charity. You’ll thank yourself when you get to your new home and have less items to unpack and organize.
Late spring and summer are the busiest times of year to move because many families and college students move at the end or before the start of the school year. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, most people move during the summer. Because these are busy moving times, professional movers and moving trucks are in higher demand. Companies may charge more during the busy months, and it can be harder to find movers last minute. On the other hand, in the off-peak moving season when business is slow, you’re more likely to find deals from moving companies. If you have flexibility with the timing of your move, we’d recommend moving in the fall or winter.
You should also consider the day of the week that you move. Weekends are busier than weekdays because most people have weekends off.
Leases for houses and apartments often end on the last or first few days of the month. Because of this, the beginning and end of every month are busy moving dates. You may be able to find a better deal on movers or truck rentals in the middle of the month.
If you’re hiring professional movers, pack up your belongings yourself. Movers charge extra fees for packing services, so if you do it yourself you can save money. Plus, when you pack your own belongings you can organize and label the boxes the way you want to so that you know which items are in each box when it’s time to unpack.
Moving supplies like blankets, boxes, bubble wrap and tape can add up to $500. One easy way to save on your cross country move is to find these supplies for free. Ask local stores if they have any boxes to get rid of. A few common places to get free boxes are:
- Grocery stores
- Liquor stores
- Large retailers like Walmart, Costco, Home Depot and Target
- Recycling drop-off locations
Your friends and family may have moving materials that they can lend you. In the months leading up to your move, save any large boxes and bubble wrap that you get from online purchases and deliveries. Not only is this more economical, but it’s also more environmentally friendly.
Quick Summary: There are several different options for moving cross country. Whether you want professional movers, a do-it-yourself option or shipping container services, there are choices for various budgets. If your main concern is cost, we’d recommend the DIY option of renting a moving truck or using a moving container company. For those with a bigger budget who want a professional to move their belongings and remove the hassle and heavy lifting, go with professional movers.