19 Cheap Ways to Move Out of State

By Jackie Beck   Updated 09/14/2021 at 7:31 am

Some of the cheapest ways to move out of state just take a bit of planning and elbow grease. But even if you aren’t the DIY type, it’s well worth looking at your options.

That’s because the average cost of moving to another state ranges from $12,338.10 to $16,311.60 for a full service move with storage for a 3 bedroom house*.

The good news is there are many ways to save money on a move. In fact, the potential for savings is HUGE. (We spent a lot less on our cross-country move, which included shipping cars.)

Let’s go over some of the ways to save on a long-distance move below. Because the best way to move is the one that works for you and your budget.

Here Are 19 Cheap Ways to Move Out of State:

1. Reserve your move early

No matter when you plan to move, make any reservations as early as you can. That’s because prices usually go up as you get closer to your move date. It’s a bit like surge pricing; the more the demand, the higher the price.

So get things set up when the demand is lower. Months in advance is not too early, especially if you plan to move over the summer.

2. Avoid moving over weekends and holidays

People try to avoid taking off work and disrupting school schedules. That means peak moving days are usually on weekends and holidays. Avoiding peak days will help you save, even if you have to adjust your work schedule.

3. Move during the off-season

One of the cheapest ways to move out of state is to move during the off-season. According to MovingLabor.com, the off season is usually October through March. You’ll save because demand is lower then.

4. Avoid scams that will cost you more in the long run

While it’s natural to want to find the cheapest way to move, sometimes a low bid can end up costing you a fortune. That’s because moving scams are on the rise.

Be especially wary if you got a quote from a moving broker. While the broker themself may be legit, they are not the company doing the move, and they have no control over the other company. So any quotes you get from a broker are not binding.

Make sure that anyone you get a quote from actually sees your belongings first, either in person or over a video call. And be sure to avoid these red flags.

Otherwise what looks like a cheap move could end up costing you triple or worse. And that’s if you actually get your belongings when all is said and done. So do your research and make sure anyone you hire is reputable. And remember that just checking online reviews is not enough.

5. Get binding quotes

This goes along with the last point, but get any estimates in writing based on the mover’s review of your actual stuff. (Again, broker’s quotes are not binding, because they aren’t the movers.) Make sure you understand exactly what any quotes include too. That way you’ll be able to compare apples to apples when trying to find the best deal. There’s more info on moving estimates here.

6. Get the right memberships to save

You can also make your move cheaper with the right memberships. As just one example, we needed to have two cars shipped. Having a Hagerty Driver’s Club membership saved us more than the cost of membership on shipping my husband’s car.

Companies like Costco, AAA, AARP, etc also have programs that can save you money on moves. You can find everything from discounts on moving companies and supplies to moving consultants with the right membership.

7. Ask for discounts and comparison shop

No matter who you go with, it never hurts to ask if they offer any discounts. You’re especially likely to get one if you’re in the military, or a veteran, teacher, senior, or student. If you’re a union or credit union member, you may be eligible for discounts through those as well. But no matter who you are, asking “is there any way I can get a discount?” won’t hurt.

8. If you’re moving at a company’s request, ask for a relocation package

If you’re moving for work, ask if they will pay for some or all of the relocation costs. You can do this during the salary negotiation process, but you can also ask if you’re an existing employee. It never hurts to ask, and for sure the cheapest way to move out of state is to have someone else pay for it!

9. Do as much as possible yourself

Hiring people costs money, so the fewer people you need to hire, the more you will save. Do as much as you can yourself or with the help of friends and family. This can include packing, loading, the move itself, unloading, or unpacking. Anything you can do without hiring someone will help you save.

DIY doesn’t have to mean you do everything yourself either. You can do a hybrid move where you do some things yourself, and hire help for others.

For example, you might pack & unpack yourself but hire movers for few hours on each end to load & unload, or only pay for heavy items to be unloaded, etc. Two hours of movers to carry large items up or down stairs may be well worth it!

10. Rent a moving truck or trailer

If you feel ok about driving a moving truck or hauling a trailer behind your car, this can save you quite a bit too. But do factor in the cost of gas along the way and any extra fees when comparing costs. And again, be sure to reserve early, especially if you’re in an area that many people are moving out of. There are only so many moving trucks and trailers available for out of state moves. If you happen to be moving to a place that many people are moving from, you may be able to get a deal here.

11. Use a moving and storage container company

Companies like PODS, U-Pack, 1-800-PACK-RAT, etc will deliver a portable storage container to your home on a set day. Then you, your friends, or the people you hire pack it with your belongings. Then it’s picked up again on the day you schedule, and shipped across the country, where it will then be delivered to your home. This is the route we went. We used PODS, and were very happy with the service.

Our POD being delivered -- one of the cheapest ways to move out of state

One caveat here though: make sure you know how much stuff you really have and how much space is available inside the container. We needed to use two of the largest PODS for our move, and our house was 1286 sq ft. But it sure beat having to drive our stuff cross country ourselves!

And as the name implies, moving and storage container companies also often include a short storage period. That can save you money and effort if there’s a gap between when you leave your old place and can get into the new one.

As with other methods of moving out of state, if you go this route reserve as early as you can.

12. Declutter as much as possible

No matter how you choose to move, decluttering is one sure-fire way to save. The less stuff you move, the less it costs. Especially when it comes to bulky or heavy items. We had several very large items that took up a lot of space. If they had been easy to replace we could have saved quite a bit.

So going on a decluttering frenzy can really help. You can sell or donate the items you won’t be bringing with you. Start early with this process, because it takes time. But the savings are worth it!

13. Sell (almost) everything and start over fresh

If you really want to go all in, your moving costs will be a whole lot less if you have very little to move. So you could sell most things and start over fresh. Usually this is easier to do if you just have a couple of rooms of stuff.

14. Use public transit

If you’ve gone the mega-decluttering or sell it all route, or you just don’t have that much to move to being with, using public transit can be a cheaper way to move. You can use a bus, train, or plane. Check with the companies you’re thinking of using to see what their limits and rates are on checked items. Typically you’re not limited to luggage either; boxes are ok. It may also be worth it to ship some things via USPS or a delivery service.

15. Spend less on moving supplies

While you can sometimes get by without boxing things up for local moves, an out of state move is almost certainly going to require a lot of packing. And if you want most of your stuff to arrive in one piece, you need to pack it right.

“If it moves, it breaks” is a good phrase to remember when it comes to packing boxes. So don’t skimp on using enough packing materials, but do looking for free or discounted packing supplies.

You can use coupon codes to get discounts on new packing materials and boxes, find free ones to use, or a combo of both.

Good sources for free packing materials? Your local Buy Nothing group, on NextDoor, friends who have moved recently, or grocery stores, liquor stores, and bookstores.

We also saved by going on a paperwork shred-a-thon, and then using that shredded paper to pack fragile items.

16. Carry some items with you personally

If you’re using a moving company or container service, bring sentimental, expensive, and essential items with you personally. While this won’t necessarily reduce the cost of your move up front, it can save you money and stress in the long run. It’s all too easy for something to get broken or lost during a move.

By carrying these types of things with you, you’ll reduce the chance of a costly loss and the expense of replacing what broke.

Plus, there’s usually a period of time where you’re at your new location, but your belongings aren’t. You won’t have to run out and buy temporary items if you have the essentials with you.

17. Save on travel costs

Moving out of state involves more than just moving your belongings out of state. You’ve got to get there too if you’re not driving the moving truck! We camped our way across the country with our pets, plants, and essentials loaded in my SUV. We went the camping route for other reasons, but it did save hundreds in motel costs. Plus we got to see some beautiful sights. Staying with family & friends may be an option too if they are located along your route.

18. Save on car shipping

If you need to ship a car, there are several ways to do that for less. You can ask a friend to drive your car there, then fly them home. You could store it at a friend’s house, and fly back to pick it up later. You can use an auto train if that’s available where you’re going. You can use open transport shipping instead of enclosed. You can be flexible on departure and arrival times, so your car only ships when a truck is in the area.

Factor in the time you’ll be without your car too, and what that’s worth to you. I really wanted a car shipper that could give me a very narrow timeframe for pickup and delivery, while still being reasonably priced, so ended up using CarsArrive. That worked out well for me.

And just like with hiring movers, beware here if you use a car shipping broker. You’ll know if you’ve contacted a broker because you’ll be inundated with quotes. The options can be very confusing.

No matter what, get a firm quote in writing from the actual company that will have your car. And know exactly what’s included in the price.

19. Include storage costs

If you need storage as part of your move, take storage costs into account when getting quotes. You may be able to save here by using a service that includes it (like moving containers). You can also try to negotiate extra time in your current spot to avoid the need for storage. For example, if you’re selling your house, you may be able to rent it back after closing for a set amount of time. This is another area where you might be able to get help from friends and family too, if they’ve got some unused space.

Key Takeaways

The bottom line is that the truly cheap ways to move out of state involve a combo of planning, flexibility, and elbow grease. Put all three of those together for maximum savings on your move! Moving out of state is expensive, so it’s definitely worth it to choose the best options.

*Based on data from the International Shipping and Packing Association the average 3 bedroom house contains 9,000 lbs of household goods. And according to the U.S. General Services Administration the average price of a full service move with storage ranges from $137.09 to $181.24 per 100 lbs depending on distance. (From 501 miles to over 2,500 miles.) So that would be anywhere from $12,338.10 to $16,311.60 for the the average cost of moving to another state if you have a typical 3 bedroom house.

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