woman holding hundred dollar bills over her face, looking out of the corner of her eye at moving icons, wondering what the cheapest way to move cross country is

5 Cheapest and Best Ways to Move Cross Country or a Long Distance in 2021, With Price Estimates

Moving is not cheap. If you are moving clear across the country, you can expect to pay even more.

The cost of a cross country or long distance move will vary greatly, anywhere between $300 for a full do-it-yourself  and upwards of $10,000 for full-service cross country movers.

Here are the 5 cheapest and best ways to move cross country or a long distance, with price estimates:

Move typeEst. price
1. Full DIY (no rental)$275-$500
2. DIY trailer rental$1,175-$2,750
3. DIY truck rental$1,830-$4,100
4. Moving container rental$2,300-$6,550
5. Hiring movers (for cheap)$2,315-$8,300
  • Each estimate includes the cost of gas (where applicable) & packing materials
  • Each estimate uses the following ranges:
    • Low end  – 1,500 mile 1 bedroom
    • High end – 3,000 mile 5 bedroom

1. Full DIY (no rental) – Absolute cheapest option

Est. price: $275-$500

Gas – $225-$450

We factored in the average highway MPG of a truck hauling a trailer (~20 mpg) and the current average cost of gas per gallon (~$3). Then we calculated the price to drive between 1,500 and 3,000 miles cross country.

Packing materials – $50

We added an additional $50 for moving boxes, tape, packing paper, etc.

The absolute cheapest way to move cross country is to use your own labor and truck/trailer. Your only expense is the price of gas.

Most people don’t just have a moving trailer laying around, we get it. But if you do, might as well put it to use.

Own a pickup truck? Consider downsizing significantly and trying to pack everything into the bed of the truck. We are not saying that this option is the most practical or recommended, but if you are really tight on cash and want a fresh start, maybe its worth a shot.

If you own a camper, RV, box truck, or van, those could potentially work too.

What you need for a full DIY move:

  • A vehicle and/or trailer that can fit all of your stuff
  • A driver
  • Two able-bodied movers
  • Tools for assembly and disassembly
  • Boxes
  • Packing material
  • Tape

The good

  • Cheap

The bad

  • Lots of work
  • Lots of time
  • Requires a truck/trailer
  • Risk of damage to your items

The bottom line

If you are strapped for cash, have the right moving equipment, and are willing to put in the manual labor, this could be the best option for you. However, since most people don’t own a moving truck/trailer, rental is usually a more practical option.

If a rental-free DIY move isn’t for you, keep reading to see your rental options.

2. DIY trailer rental – Cheapest rental option

Est. price: $1,175-$2,750

Trailer rental – $900-$2,250

We scanned the web for the best trailer rental and found U-Haul to have the best pricing and selection. We ran a free online quote for their largest trailer (6’x12′) for a 1,500 mile move and a 3,000 mile move.

Gas – $225-$450

Calculated assuming 20 mpg, with the cost of gas at $3 per gallon, and a distance range of between 1,500 and 3,000 miles

Packing materials – $50

For moving boxes, tape, packing paper, etc.

If you do not own a trailer, this will be your second cheapest option.

Trailer rental is cheaper than truck rental because you are racking up the miles on your personal vehicle rather than the rental.

Make sure that the trailer that you rent is large enough to fit all of your belongings. The biggest trailer for rent that we were able to find online was U-Haul’s 6’x12′, which has a maximum weight rating of 2,500 lbs.

If you have never driven a trailer, remember that it will drive differently than you are used to. You will need to take wider turns, increase your following distance, and watch your top speed.

Last, make sure that your vehicle has a trailer hitch and is rated to haul the weight that it will be towing.

What you need for a DIY trailer rental:

  • A vehicle to haul the trailer
  • A driver
  • Two able-bodied movers
  • Tools for assembly and disassembly
  • Boxes
  • Packing material
  • Tape

The good

  • Cheap
  • You don’t need to own a trailer

The bad

  • Lots of work
  • Lots of time
  • Risk of damage to your items
  • Trailer size limitations

The bottom line

Renting a trailer is your cheapest long distance moving option if you don’t have your own trailer or moving vehicle.

It requires all of the work and risk associated with a full DIY move. Another potential limitation with this option is cargo space.

However, if you are on a tight budget, don’t own a trailer, and don’t have a lot of stuff to move, this option could be your best route.

3. DIY truck rental – Best balance between practicality & price-consciousness

Est. price: $1,830 – $4,100

Truck rental – $1,330-$3,150

We received online price quotes at various long distances, moving routes, and truck sizes from the top 3 moving truck rental companies (Uhaul, Penske, and Budget) and took the average price from each provider. For the low end of this range, we quoted a 1 bedroom truck size at 1,500 miles moving distance. For the high end of this range, we quoted a 5 bedroom truck size at 3,000 miles moving distance

Gas – $450-$900

We estimated the price of gas to drive a moving truck between 1,500 and 3,000 miles using 10 mpg (approximate mpg to expect for a truck rental) and a gas cost of $3 per gallon (the current US national average price)

Packing materials – $50

If you have a bit of a budget but still don’t want to break the bank, moving truck rental is a great option.

Since it offers ample cargo space at a decent rate, this is probably the most practical budget-conscious decision.

Truck rental rates can vary not only by truck size and distance, but by availability. For that reason, we suggest that you book as far in advance as possible and receive rate quotes from multiple companies. U-Haul may be cheaper for one route and Penske may be cheaper for another. Also beware of unexpected pricing add-ons.

What you need for a DIY rental:

  • A driver
  • Two able-bodied movers
  • Tools for assembly and disassembly
  • Boxes
  • Tape
  • Packing material

The good

  • Relatively affordable
  • Lots of cargo space

The bad

  • Lots of work
  • Lots of time
  • Risk of damage to your items

The bottom line

A DIY move with truck rental is a practical and popular long distance moving solution for those who are willing to invest some money but are still price conscious.

If you choose this route, you still have to be willing to put in a lot of physical labor and time, but you can breathe easy knowing that you will have plenty of cargo space.

To ensure the best rate when booking, be sure to quote multiple companies, start well in advance, and be aware of pricing add-ons.

4. Moving container rental – Most time flexibility

Est. price: $2,300-$6,550

Container rental – $2,250-$6,500

We received price quotes from PODS, U-Pack, and U-Box for multiple routes, distances, and household sizes, and averaged out the pricing. For the low end of the range we quoted 1 bedroom 1,500 miles. For the high end, 5 bedroom, 3,000 miles.

Packing materials – $50

Moving containers (PODS) are standalone storage containers that are loaded and unloaded onto a flatbed truck for transportation.

  1. They drop off the empty container(s) in your driveway.
  2. You load on your own schedule.
  3. They pick up the full container once you are done loading.
  4. They drive to your new home.
  5. They drop off the full container in your new home’s driveway.
  6. You unload on your own schedule.
  7. They pick up & return the empty container to their warehouse.

One major benefit with container rental is the time flexibility. When you rent a container, you can usually have it for several weeks, even months for no additional charge. This allows you to load and unload on your schedule. You can also use your containers as storage, either in your driveway or at the container company’s facility.

Another benefit with moving container rental is you don’t have to do the driving. Rather than hauling a big truck or trailer cross country, you can travel from the comfort of your own vehicle.

What you need for a moving container rental:

  • Two able-bodied movers
  • Tools for assembly and disassembly
  • Boxes
  • Packing material
  • Tape

The good

  • Time flexibility
  • Free storage
  • They drive

The bad

  • Expensive
  • Lots of work – you still have to do the loading/unloading

The bottom line

Moving containers are a unique option that can simplify your move by giving you time flexibility and eliminating your need to drive the moving truck.

However, long distance container rental is pretty expensive and you still have to do all of the loading and unloading yourself.

Unless you need storage or a move with a loose time frame, we suggest hiring movers, which will cost around the same price for a lot less work.

5. Hiring movers (for cheap) – Most peace of mind & time savings

Est. price: $2,315-$8,300

Movers – $2,265-$8,250

We used the average long distance moving rate of 60 cents per pound and 75 cents per mile.

For the low end of the range we used 1,500 miles and 1,900 lbs. The average weight of a 1 bedroom house is around 2,200 lbs. We subtracted 300 lbs from the average, assuming that you downsize to lighten the load.

For the high end of the range, we used 3,000 miles, 10,000 lbs.  You can expect an average 5 bedroom house to weigh anywhere between 7,000 and 20,000 lbs. Since we are assuming that you are downsizing to lighten the load, we used a number in the lower end of this range (10,000 lbs). Keep in mind that the weight of your move can vary significantly. Use this tool to help estimate the total weight of your belongings.

Packing materials – $50

In contrast to short distance moves that bill by the hour, long distance moves usually bill by weight (around 60 cents a pound). If you want to hire movers for less, get rid of stuff. The less weight you have to move, the less your move will cost.

It can be hard parting with your belongings, but prioritize accordingly and remember how much each item will cost you to move.

With this option, remember that you will still need to pack yourself. Most full service movers will happily pack for you, but this costs more. Since we are on a budget, this option assumes that you will still do the packing/unpacking.

Once you are done packing, the hard work is done. The movers will take over, safely and quickly loading all of your items onto their truck and driving it to your new home.

What you need for hiring movers:

  • Boxes
  • Packing material
  • Tape

The good

  • No manual labor
  • Time savings
  • Total peace of mind

The bad

  • Most expensive

The bottom line

Hiring movers is hands down your most pain-free route. The movers have the experience, technique, and muscles to move your belongings safely and quickly.

With their professional truck loading, your belongings are much less likely to get damaged during transit. In the rare case that any of your items are damaged, you can file a pain-free damage claim.

By getting rid of stuff and doing your own packing, you can save thousands on your long distance move.

Bottom line, if you can swing the price, we highly suggest this option. Your back will thank you.

Conclusion

Your best and cheapest ways to move cross country are:

  • Full DIY (no rental), $275-$500: Best for those who are on a tight budget and own their own truck/trailer
  • DIY trailer rental, $1,175-$2,750: Best for those who do not own a trailer, are on a tight budget, and do not have a large amount of stuff to move (2 bedrooms or less).
  • DIY truck rental, $1,830-$4,100: Best for those who are budget conscious and have a lot of stuff to move (3-5 bedrooms).
  • Moving container rental, $2,300-$6,550: Best for those who require a flexible time schedule or storage solutions
  • Hiring movers (for cheap), $2,315-$8,300: Best for those who can afford it, are able to downsize, and who value their time/peace of mind.

Based on your budget, experience, time frame, and muscle size, you will want to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each option.

If you choose to hire movers, we can help. Click here to receive free long distance moving quotes.