How To Save Money When Moving

It takes a lot of time, effort and money to haul all your junk from your former residence to your future one. But there are ways to trim costs and make the nightmarish experience more tolerable.

Money Q&A suggests ways to cut back on costs when making a move. Whether you’re renting a truck or paying a service to take care of the move, it helps to get multiple quotes before you make your choice.

If you’re handling the move yourself, you can slash the number of man hours and trips by enlisting friends. A bribe of a free meal afterward may just do the trick. If you’re out of pals, you can consider hiring neighborhood teenagers to work at relatively cheap rates.

When you’re packing your stuff up, there’s usually no need to pay for boxes. Ask a nearby retail or grocery store if you can take home its discarded cardboard.

Ten Ways To Cut Costs On Moving Expenses [Money Q&A]


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  1. rpm773 says:

    Having movers pack your things for you, especially when they’re charging you by the box, is a great way to get screwed big time.

    Score free boxes or buy the boxes from them, but pack yourself.

    • MonkeyMonk says:

      My rule of thumb is pack yourself for local moves but let the movers do the packing for long-distance stuff. Sure, they can be extra careful with the packing but the extra cost of a few boxes is so low compared to the cost of the whole move it’s not an issue. Plus, most reputable movers will provide a binding estimate for the packing that they won’t go over.

      I should also add that having the movers do the packing makes damage claims A LOT easier if anything does happen to get broken in any of the boxes.

    • Nunov Yerbizness says:

      Agreed. I had Graebel pack some of my items during a recent 50-mile move. I will never do that again. After the move, I presented Graebel with such a long list of their f***ups (things they charged and promised to pack but didn’t; things they simply left in the old house and forgot about that I had to go back and get later; things that should never, ever be shoved together in the same boxes; things that they lost) that I finally got a $950 credit out of them.

      “Professional” packers, my ass.

  2. bhr says:

    Ok, that’s it. I know this is a free site, and the quality of the post are subjective, but this is crap.

    Your advise is to enlist friends with an offer of a free meal? REALLY? That is somehow a helpful way to save money on moving?

    I know, it’s Phil, we don’t expect much, and we get even less, but for god’s sake man, at least have a little pride in your work. If you are just going to repost every dumb advice column on the net you at least can add a better takeaway than offering your friends a free meal to help.

    Has anyone ever been helped by one of Phil’s dumb advice posts?

    • HaveSomeCheese says:

      Doing just that has saved me a ton a money on the cost of movers. I’m out maybe $30 or so for the cost of some pizzas and beer, which is way better than spending hundreds for a moving company. Plus, having your friends help you move means they’ll actually be careful with your stuff, instead of movers who don’t care because its just not their problem.

      But I agree its a super weak tip, I figure people have been doing this for years.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I figure people do this until they have too much stuff or they have the type of stuff that really requires professional movers to help. I would feel awful if one of my friends hurt themselves lifting my ridiculously heavy tanker desk. Professionals would know better how to move something like that.

      • bhr says:

        Anyone who didn’t bribe their friends in their teens/20s with pizza/beer to help move or pack were either too rich to care or too dumb to read.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      I had a ‘friend’ pay for my moving services with a couple of 25¬¢ off coupons for food I don’t even eat. “But use them quick, they’re about to expire.” It was at that moment I figured out how much moving services meant to this often-moving, coupon-clipping miser. It was last moving party of his I went to.

    • jefeloco says:

      At least i wasn’t a write up on one of his own articles for whatever AZ paper he writes for… That just seemed like a new low to me.

      My biggest gain from reading these is to never actually expect anything of use from them until I get 5-10 comments in (since the first several are all complaining about the crap writing/reporting style).

  3. caradrake says:

    Also consider whether it would be cheaper to sell off your stuff and buy new at the destination.

    When I was 20, I moved across a couple of states. I paid to fly in a friend, then paid for a Uhaul and he helped drive it back. It probably cost me around $800-1000 for moving expenses – flight, truck, food, hotel, gas.

    My belongings? A bookshelf, a few hundred books, clothing, a desk, and an old computer. No other furniture. Looking back, I should have sold off most of my stuff (especially the books, which I’ve since given away most of) and bought new (used) stuff at the end of the move. It would have saved time and money.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      My family moved countless times; 20 times before I turned 12. We would have a huge garage sale, everything must go and then drive to our destination with whatever clothes we kept. Then we bought used furniture and appliances at other garage sales an thrift stores. It’s a lot easier to carry a wad of cash than to lug around refrigerators, hide-a-beds etc.

  4. misterfweem says:

    Don’t forget schools when you’re out box-hunting. We got more than two dozen sturdy apple boxes from our local elementary schools when we moved earlier this year.

    And if you’ve got a good pickup or access to one, renting a trailer rather than renting a moving truck is a lot less expensive, as rental companies typically charge only a flat daily rate for a trailer, while you’re paying a daily rate and mileage for a rental truck.

    • Froggee285 says:

      I second this; I teach art, and I asked the cafeteria workers if they could save a few boxes for me if they looked nice, and every week they had created a really nice pile of sturdy boxes, from the weekly food shipments. They really saved me.

  5. Hi_Hello says:

    friends thing might be a bad idea… they want to rush thing and not take care of your stuff.

    I’ve moved a lot since college. What I learn, live with stuff you can move easily. I don’t have a big flat screen tv. 25″ ..easy to carry. Most of my clothes are in two plastic bins (bedbug is part of the reason).

    And everything else can fit in my backpack or a trash can or two.

    It make moving a lot easier.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I think good friends will care about your belongings a lot more than movers who are paid to move, but don’t take it upon themselves to care about the condition of your items at their destination.

      I’ve moved a lot, too, and my advice is to pare down what you don’t want to take but you don’t need to live like you’re going to leave town. Have a home, not just a place where you stay every day.

  6. sirwired says:

    If you need a website article to tell you it’s cheaper to beg for help from friends rather than pay somebody to help you move, you are not ready for the real world, and your next move should be into your parent’s basement until you are ready to leave the nest.

  7. do-it-myself says:

    I moved a few years ago. I kept the boxes, so that’s a good amount of $$$ saved right there!

    • econobiker says:

      Yup, saving boxes is a good way to keep the money down if you have the space to put the boxes (in flattened form) away for storage.

  8. Cat says:
  9. energynotsaved says:

    I’m in the middle of a move. I am moving the dining room, 2 bedrooms and office. I don’t move mattresses. The rest of the stuff is going to friends or Good Will. I eliminated 90% of my books. I’m dumping my old dishes, glasses, and a lot of “stuff”.

    I got a quote from U-Haul, and one from a professional mover. I then listed at UShip. The UShip came in just 25% over the UHaul–and he has to deal with gas price increases and has to drive 2300 miles! (Yes, I’ve used them twice before and had great experiences.)

    I’m selling my elderly car (I fear problems getting it registered in my new state) and will purchase a car more appropriate to the new environment.

    When you are young, you can deal with long drives and moving stuff. As you get older, the money you save isn’t worth the damage you’d do to your body!

    Could I have done this more cheaply? Sure. However, sometimes going the cheapest route isn’t the best option.

    • stranger than fiction says:

      Oh yay, someone with UShip experience! I recently checked out their site (to the extent that I could without providing my info), but didn’t find anything to alleviate my concerns about drivers being reckless, or just making off with the whole load. What did they say to make you reasonably comfortable that this fate would not befall your stuff?

      I also couldn’t really get a feel for the types of driving gigs for hire. What sort of containers did/will you move with UShip — truck? enclosed trailer? tractor trailer? shipping container?

      Thanks for the info, and good luck with your move!

  10. Cat says:

    Moved to Vegas many years ago. I bribed a friend with an SUV and trailer “I’ll pay for your gas and a room at a casino”. Cheaper and safer than renting a U-Haul, and more fun, too.

    Pro Tip: Never rent from U-Haul. PENSKE all the way.

    • Gman says:

      Aye second never go with U-Haul. Abysmal service on their trucks. Both my family and a friend’s family had trucks break down on their moves leading to several hours wait on the sie of a highway waiting for another truck to get out to us.

    • caradrake says:

      Yeah… a few years ago we got a UHaul. We made a reservation for 8am. It was confirmed (twice!). Got to the location and they DIDN’T OPEN UNTIL 9AM! Then they said that we didn’t qualify for the “Your truck will be there, or you get $50” guarantee because the truck was there – it was our fault we were early.

      We’ve had excellent customer service from Budget. Their rates are usually half what Uhaul charges, and for a much larger truck.

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      We rented from U-Haul once and the inside of the truck looked and smelled like it had been used to haul crates of chickens. We had no alternative so we cleaned it out and used it. When we tried to return it the next day at the appointed place, we were refused and told to go to another U-Haul place. This went on for several times and the 1-800 number was no help at all. Later I wrote a letter to ccorporate outlining the problems we encountered and got a VERY snarky reply from a customer specialist along with a $5 gas coupon. Fuck ’em.

  11. tkates says:

    Sure, ask your friends to help. But if they hurt themselves moving your heavy sleeper couch, be prepared to pay medical bills.

    I’ve moved up and down the East Coast twice. My suggestions:

    1. Start with clearing out what you don’t need several months before you move. Go through everything you own and sell/trash what you don’t need or use. Get rid of junky furniture because it’s not worth the truck space to move.

    2. Get boxes off Craiglist and pack them correctly. Most liquor store boxes are too big for books (but you can fake it with several layers of clothes if you need to. You can also get bubble wrap and paper from Craiglist.

    3. Rent real furniture pads. Furniture will rip through your comforters. Save your blankets for wrapping lamps or other fragile items that need a lot of padding.

    4. If you are moving cross-country, consider renting your own UHaul and hiring movers on either side. That saved me thousands and the danger that the moving company would try to pull a fast one.

    5. Pack all of your valuables in your car or whatever vehicle is coming with you. If something happens to the truck, at least you have your computer and your picture of your beloved Grandpa.

    6. If you need to tow your car behind the UHaul, rent both but return to the rental center to have them attach the trailer once you’ve packed the truck. Trailers are hard to attach, and one set of movers didn’t do it correctly. My car started raising up in the front when I drove onto it, and we had to delay the move until UHaul could come out and connect things correctly.

    • Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

      Frankly, you have a more helpful list than Phil’s half-assed one. :P

  12. ElleAnn says:

    We bought some of our boxes off craigslist and got the rest for free from supermarkets and liquor stores and pulled a few (nice clean boxes) out of the top of the recycling dumpster at our apartment complex. I probably worked on box collecting about a half hour a week for the 6 weeks leading up to our move. After the move I sold the whole stack of 40+ boxes for $10 on craigslist (some had been used 3 times and were looking kinda sad… but in my experience people never show up when they say they will when you give things away free on craigslist).

  13. ckspores says:

    Enlisting friends in exchange for beer and/or pizza is a very college/young adult thing to do. Unfortunately, at almost 30, I have friends that have moved multiple times and have never paid a mover or rented a truck. I’m always busy on those weekends. No one should be enlisting friends once they are out of college and moving to grownup land.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I don’t know if this is really something related to age, or “grown up land.” Moving is something a lot of people do, and everyone does eventually. Sometimes people have to move but don’t have the means to hire professionals to help them move.

  14. HowardRoarksTSquare says:

    What if you have no friends?

  15. j2.718ff says:

    Simple solution: don’t own a lot of stuff. I’ve moved more than a few times, and on no occasion did I need to consider a moving van. (I do own a station wagon, and that provides more than enough space for everything of value that I own.)

    I don’t count furniture in my inventory of “stuff”, as I can very easily buy/sell it on craigslist. It’d probably cost more in gas to move a couch 2000 miles than it would to just buy another one when I get to my final destination.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I’ve always used a moving truck because it means we don’t have to make as many trips back and forth. I don’t think we have a ton of stuff, but we sure aren’t parting with the majority of it. Then again, we’ve only moved locally.

  16. Rachacha says:

    When we moved, we were not able to score enough free boxes, so we purchased them from a shipping supply company. Their moving boxes were expensive, but the same size plain shipping box in quantity was reasonable. Also, look at the total cost of a moving truck. U-haul for me had the lowest daily rate, but their mileage fee was horrible. Ryder was more than twice the daily fee of u-haul, but with the mileage they quoted it worked out to be about half the cost of uhaul.

  17. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    I find the most inexpensive way is to rent a commercial trash compactor. You don’t even need to box your stuff. Just load ‘er up and let ‘er rip! The bales can effortlessly be stacked in a panel truck with no problem and are easy to load and unload.

    From experience, I would discourage using this method to move any house pets.

  18. Cor Aquilonis says:

    When you’re packing your stuff up, there’s usually no need to pay for boxes. Ask a nearby retail or grocery store if you can take home its discarded cardboard.

    NOOOO! Buy the dang boxes and packing material! I used to work for an organizer that packed boxes for movers, and believe me when I say buying a sturdy box of the appropriate size and packing it correctly with the right cushioning material and technique is way, way cheaper than REPLACING YOUR STUFF, which you will have to do when it gets dropped or broken or crushed. Using crap moving materials is false economy.

    I recommend buying ample:

    Moving boxes specifically made for moving the stuff you’re moving
    Paper for wrapping
    Brand name packing tape
    Tape gun
    Shrink wrap

    Than using as much as is necessary, and don’t be scared to use a little more than that. Remember, tape and paper is cheap, your stuff isn’t. If you’re stuff isn’t worth packing right, it isn’t worth moving.

    • skapig says:

      Paper offers very limited protection. It can help pad the box to make it firmer, but don’t count on it to save anything fragile.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      But if some of your stuff isn’t breakable (clothes, books) why not use the free grocery store boxes? And the best boxes to use for moving dishes, glassware, etc. are ones from liquor stores and bookstores because their purpose is to hold heavy items.

      Why does anyone HAVE to buy boxes if they simply find free ones that do what they’re meant to do?

  19. skapig says:

    Be careful with discarded boxes you get from stores. Some might not be as strong because they don’t have to be.

  20. threeoutside says:

    I figure, no one is born knowing everything, and if some of these tips that are old hat to us grizzled old experienced movers, what’s wrong with that?

    And here, free of charge, is my best tip for Moving Day: (Seriously, remember this):

    When you’re packing the truck, put the bed, frame, box springs etc, in last so it’s the first thing out when you arrive at your new place. Put a full set of bedding: sheets, pillows and pillow cases, and blankets if you need them, in your car where you can get at them easily. Take the bed and bedding inside and set it up before you do anything else. (This means it’s a good idea to figure out your bedroom furniture arrangement before you get there.)

    Make the bed set-up your Number One Priority. Then, at the end of that long, horrible, exhausting, day, it’s ready for you to flop into and fall asleep, instead of having to set it up AFTER all the labor and yelling are done.

  21. tamstress says:

    I mailed all my books in small-ish boxes to a neighbor in my new neighborhood via Media Mail; saved space & money! It helps to get to know the neighbors before you move in, especially in a cross-country move.

  22. PhiTauBill says:

    For all moves, consult this website.
    For interstate moves, consult this guide, too.

    And, research, research, research the moving company before you select it. Don’t just select the lowest bidder. Use, but do not necessarily trust, resources like the BBB website, and RipOffReport.

    There are a ton of shady operators out there, and it is a very important decision at the end of the day who you entrust with your belongings.

  23. Derigiberble says:

    If moving long distance movers can end up being significantly easier while being about the same price as do it yourself. The big van-line companies will consolidate multiple moves into a single truck. Because nearly all of the cost is going to be fuel and paying the driver on a long distance move and their ability to spread that across multiple movers really can save them and you a bundle.

    This is even more true if you are moving to a popular place to move. The self-service moving companies charge a premium to move there (because they already have too many trucks there from other people moving) and the big moving companies likely already have multiple trucks scheduled to make the trip.

    If you absolutely must drive the van yourself you might consider hiring people to load and unload the truck. Call around at local storage places, and expect to pay around $100 per hour for a two or three person team with a certain minimum.

  24. annecat says:

    After moving myself (with parents and friends) last time, I vowed never again. If you can at all swing it, a moving company is TOTALLY WORTH IT (just to move, not to pack). Of course, we did have two flights of stairs with which to contend. And a lot of furniture and books. It was brutal.

    • do-it-myself says:

      I too would rather pay instead of going through the pain and suffering. I’ve moved too many times to go through it ever again. Packing, I can do.

  25. gman863 says:

    On a longer move, you may save a small fortune by renting a U-Haul truck, packing the boxes yourself and hiring loaders/unloaders through U-Haul by the hour.

    If you have to buy boxes, the best prices are usually at Walmart or Home Depot. For unusual shaped or very fragile items, U-Haul sells specialty boxes.

    Renting a large U-Haul, gas and the unloading service cost me a total of about $1100 (Mobile to Houston) five years ago. I drove my car to Houston to close on the house, left it in the new home’s garage, flew one-way back to Mobile and had a friend picke me up at the airport. Even with these costs, it was less than half of the $3500+ a professional mover such as Mayflower wanted just to transport (not pack) all my stuff.

    When renting a U-Haul truck for a one way move, it’s possible to negoiate either an extra day and/or extra free miles. If you can hold on to the truck an extra day at your new location, it’ll save you the delivery charges on new items you’re picking up for your new pad (in my case, a plasma TV at Fry’s and a dining table at IKEA, both purchased after my old stuff was unloaded at my new house – just make sure you or your friends are strong enough to unload them).

  26. Coalpepper says:

    Another place for cardboard boxes is the recycling bin if there’s no ordinance against it (or you don’t mind violating it). I just moved from Mesa to St Louis, and many of my boxes came from a municipal recycling site and Paper Retriever ( bins.