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Published: Mar 06, 2024 18 min read

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The average person moves more than 10 times in their life. Depending on how far they go and how many belongings they have, it can cost anywhere from $500 to over $10,000 each time.

Moving doesn’t have to be an exceedingly expensive process, though. Fortunately, there are ways to cut costs and stay on budget, such as recruiting friends to help, finding free packing supplies and comparing quotes from multiple moving companies.

Use this guide to find the cheapest way to move.

Table of contents

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9 ways to move for cheap

To save money while moving, you must have a plan and apply the right cost-saving strategies for your unique situation. Consider the following cheapest moving options and choose the ones that work best for you.

1. Find free packing supplies

Packing supplies — such as moving boxes, bags, bubble wrap, packing peanuts, packing tape and plastic wrap — can be a big expense. They can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $2,000.

One of the best cheap ways to move is by finding free packing supplies instead of purchasing them. Try these strategies:

  • Ask friends, family, neighbors or coworkers who recently moved if they’ll give you their packing supplies.
  • Check Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, eBay, “buy nothing” online groups and other social media sites for people giving away moving supplies.
  • Visit garage sales to look for cheap supplies.
  • Ask local businesses like furniture and grocery stores for their used boxes.
  • Head to a local recycling center to check for free cardboard boxes.

You can also find ways to reduce the number of boxes you need. “Use the space inside your belongings to pack smaller items, such as clothes in dresser drawers or books in suitcases. This will save you from needing additional boxes and using up more space in the moving truck,” says Alex Capozzolo, co-founder of SD House Guys, a home buying company in San Diego.

Additionally, you can repurpose things already in your home as packing supplies. For example, use towels, blankets, socks and old newspapers as wrapping and cushioning materials. Don’t forget to save the packing materials from previous mail deliveries.

2. Declutter your home before moving

Every item you want to take with you adds to your overall moving cost. Declutter your home before moving to reduce the amount of stuff you need to pack.

Amid all the stress of moving, decluttering can feel like an overwhelming task on your moving checklist, so be sure to start early and get motivated.

To ease into the process, begin decluttering a room or area in your house that you don’t use very often, like your attic or garage. These areas are more likely to have things you can get rid of without extensive deliberation, helping you get the ball rolling. Sort items into piles depending on what you plan to do with them — trash/recycle, donate, sell and keep. If you pack up the items you plan on keeping as you go, you’ll be able to tackle two tasks at once.

When going through your belongings, sort items into piles depending on what you plan to do with them — trash/recycle, donate, sell and keep. If you pack up the items you plan on keeping as you go, you can tackle two tasks at once.

You can take items you no longer want to the following places:

  • Local “buy nothing” groups on social media
  • Recycling centers (for cardboard, glass, metal and fabrics)
  • Thrift stores that accept donations
  • Electronics retailers like Verizon and BestBuy (for used electronics)
  • Homeless shelters
  • Animal shelters (for old towels and linens)

3. Move during the week or off-season

The moving day you choose affects the cost. “If you have the flexibility to choose your moving dates, opt for off-peak times. Moving during the middle of the week or in the middle of the month is often cheaper than moving on weekends or at the end of the month when demand is higher,” says Joshua Haley, founder of Moving Astute, a moving company comparison website.

Additionally, avoid moving in the peak summer months. Moving in the winter might be the cheapest option because it’s less popular.

4. See if friends and family are willing to help

If you have friends or family members willing to help you move, you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Professional movers can cost around $60 per hour per mover, according to the moving service referral website MoveBuddha. Thus, even a few friends working together for half a day to help you move would make a big difference to your moving costs.

Make sure that you give your friends or family plenty of notice ahead of your move. They will appreciate the notice and be much more likely to help. It’s also a nice gesture to have refreshments ready for your helpers on moving day and to let them know how much you appreciate their help.

5. Hire day laborers

If you don’t have family members or friends available to help, you can hire day laborers, who are cheaper than full-service movers.

When you hire day laborers, you still have to pack up your items, rent a truck and drive it to your new home — just like in a do-it-yourself move. However, the laborers will help with the heavy lifting of loading and unloading the truck. Generally, you pay day laborers by the hour, so ask about their hourly rates and the estimated time they will need to move your heavy items.

Keep in mind that not all day laborers are professional movers. Many moving companies allow you to hire their workers for labor-only moving jobs, in which case the day laborers should be licensed and insured. If you hire day laborers who aren’t professional movers, such as local college students, you will likely pay less, but you won’t have the peace of mind of working with an insured professional.

Check third-party online marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook to find day laborers to help you move. You can also check day laborer centers, which connect homeowners and small business owners with local skilled workers

6. Use your own vehicle for most of the move

If you’re moving from a smaller home — such as a one-bedroom or two-bedroom home — using your own vehicle for the majority of the move is a great cost-saving option. Transporting all or most of your belongings in your vehicle can help cut down the amount of time you need to rent a moving truck or hire laborers, thus saving you money.

Unless you own a truck, however, you’ll probably need to make several trips to get all your things to your new home. If your vehicle has towing capabilities, you can rent or borrow a trailer to help reduce the number of trips you have to make.

You can also opt for a hybrid version. “Move everything you can in your car or cars if you can recruit friends and family, and for the larger items, consider using professionals. This will ensure the least number of trips and won't break the bank as the moving company is not moving the whole house but only selected items,” suggests Ryan Carrigan, CEO & founder of MoveBuddha.

7. Rent a truck and compare quotes from several truck rental companies

If your car isn’t big enough but you still want to save money, you can rent a moving truck that you drive yourself instead of hiring full-service movers to transport your items. Make sure you compare costs; choosing the first truck rental company you find may sound convenient, but it will probably lead you to spend more than necessary on your truck rental.

The best moving truck rental companies have affordable prices and strong customer ratings — read testimonials and online reviews to get an idea. You should shop around for several rental truck companies and request quotes from at least three or four of them. You don't have to choose the cheapest company, but by comparing quotes, you’re much more likely to find an affordable moving truck rental company that suits your needs.

Be aware of moving scams in your search. Most legitimate truck rental companies won’t ask for large deposits or full payment upfront. If a company has no reviews or many negative reviews, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

8. Consider renting a moving container

If you aren’t willing to drive a rental truck yourself, another option is renting a moving container. Moving container companies — such as PODS or U-Pack — deliver the container to your home. You will have time to pack all your belongings and load them into the unit. Once ready, the company will pick up the storage container and transport it to your new address.

While renting a moving container is typically more expensive than renting a moving truck, it’s still usually more affordable than hiring movers, even after gas and mileage fees. Expect to pay around $500 for a local move up to about $5,000 for a long-distance move using moving containers, according to data from HireAHelper, a website that helps you search for local moving services.

Some moving container companies also provide storage, which may be useful if you can’t immediately move all your belongings into your new home. This would eliminate the hassle of renting a storage unit and moving your items multiple times.

9. Get quotes from multiple moving companies and negotiate your moving costs

While doing most of the move yourself is the cheapest way to move, it’s not suitable for everyone. If you need to hire full-service movers, the best way to get the lowest price is to get free quotes from multiple companies and negotiate your price. The cost can vary significantly by mover.

“Don't be afraid to negotiate with your moving company to see if you can get a better deal. Ask if they offer any discounts or promotions, and see if they're willing to match or beat competitors' prices,” says Haley.

While the cheapest rate may be appealing, it’s also important to ensure your chosen moving company is credible. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recommends the following steps for selecting a reputable mover:

1. Get written estimates from multiple companies and compare them. Make sure the quotes are personalized and based on actual assessments of your belongings.

2. Check that the mover is authorized to do business and insured. The FMCSA requires all interstate movers to have a U.S. DOT number. If you’re moving within one state, check with your state’s regulations.

3. Check consumer complaints on the FMCSA database. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

4. Consider your priorities. Keep in mind that a lower cost could mean lower quality (but not always).

5. Do your research. Know your rights and your movers’ responsibilities. Also, review the company’s policy surrounding lost and damaged items.

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What is the average cost of moving?

The average cost of moving is highly dependent on how far you’re moving. According to data from MoveBuddha, the average cost of a local move is $1,187, but it can range from $350 to $2,500. Long-distance movers can cost between $2,500 and $11,600 or more.

To give you an idea of how the cost can range based on the size of your move, the table below includes the cost range estimates for various-sized houses and move distances. The numbers are rough estimates based on historical pricing, according to MoveBuddha. Keep in mind that your pricing can vary.

Move distance

1 Bedroom

2 to 3 Bedrooms

4 to 5 Bedrooms

Less than 50 miles

$460 to $1,380

$805 to $3,050

$1,320 to $4,050

250 miles

$1,060 to $3,550

$1,840 to $5,350

$2,480 to $7,000

1,000 miles

$1,435 to $5,850

$3,030 to $7,300

$4,960 to $17,500

 2,500 miles

$1,559 to $6,950

$4,464 to $9,250

$6,007 to $20,100

The best way to get the most accurate estimates for your move is to get personalized moving quotes from companies in your area. The cost of your move is affected by the following factors:

  • Your location
  • The distance of your move (out-of-state moves may cost more)
  • The size of your house
  • How many belongings you’re moving (and how heavy they are)
  • When you’re moving
  • How long your move will take and how many movers you will need
  • The company and services you choose

Tips to help you afford the move

You don’t have to wait until the week of your move to start preparing and finding ways to save money. Beyond finding free packing supplies and using cheap moving services, try these tips in the months leading up to your move to make it as affordable as possible.

Start saving ahead of time

It's a good idea to start saving money to help you pay for your move as soon as you learn that you'll be moving shortly. Saving even a small amount every week can go a long way by the time you’re ready to move. Put your moving fund in a safe place, such as a savings account, so it's ready when it's time for you to move.

Know how much you expect to spend

Knowing how much you will likely have to spend to move will help you set your savings goals and prepare a moving budget. You can use an online moving cost calculator to help you get an idea.

Don’t forget about stray moving expenses — like gas and lodging — that aren’t directly included in your moving costs. Plus, if you have specialty items like pianos or plants that are difficult to transport without damage, expect to pay more to move them. Keeping your plants safe during a move isn’t easy, so it generally costs more to package and ship them.

Sell unwanted items and use the money to move

When preparing to pack, set aside unwanted items to resell. This can help boost your moving savings.

You can sell new and used items online on marketplaces like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and Poshmark. All you’ll need is a camera (such as the one on your smartphone) and a description of each item to start listing your unwanted items for sale online.

Research similar items that have already sold to get an idea of how you should price your listings. You might be surprised how much money you can make, and those funds can go toward paying for your move.

Bear in mind that selling your unwanted items is an additional time investment. If you’re pressed for time, this may not be the best option for you.

Check if your employer offers relocation assistance

If you’re moving to a new location for work, check to see if your employer offers relocation assistance. An employee relocation package is a financial benefit your employer may provide to help employees pay for their moving expenses when moving to a new location for work.

Relocation assistance packages can be worth anywhere between $2,000 and $100,000 depending on your role at the company, whether you’re a new hire or current employee and whether you own or rent your home. Make sure you take advantage of this option if it’s available to you.

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The cheapest way to move FAQs

What is the cheapest option for moving?

The cheapest option for moving is to do it yourself. This may involve using your own car, packing and transporting your belongings and enlisting the help of friends and family. However, this may not be suitable for everyone.

If you need to hire help, save money by comparing costs from multiple types of moving service providers. Consider doing some of the work yourself while hiring a professional moving company for the bulky items. You can also look into the cost of moving containers instead of movers.

How do you relocate on a budget?

To relocate on a budget, you may have to do much of the moving labor yourself. Full-service moving companies can cost a lot of money, so consider a DIY move by packing, transporting and unpacking yourself. You can either rent a moving truck or use your own vehicle. Additionally, ask friends and family to help. If no one is available, you can hire day laborers instead of full-service movers.

Other cost-effective ways to move include decluttering your house before moving to avoid transporting things you don’t need. You can also find free moving supplies.

What is the least expensive day to move?

Typically, moving during the week from Monday through Thursday is cheaper since weekends tend to be the most popular. You can save more money by moving during the off-season in the winter.

How much will your move cost?

The total cost of your move will depend on how far you’re moving, how many items you’re moving, the type of help you decide to hire and more. The average cost of a local move is $1,187, according to MoveBuddha. However, you could pay more than $10,000 if you have a large house and are moving far away.

Summary of Money’s guide to the cheapest way to move

Preparing for a big move can be stressful, but applying these tips will help you save money:

  • Look for affordable or free packing materials.
  • Instead of hiring full-service movers, consider hiring labor-only movers and renting a moving truck or container.
  • Get rid of your unwanted items so you have less stuff to move.
  • Recruit friends and family to help you package and move your items so you don’t have to hire professionals.
  • Move during the week instead of on the weekend. Also, consider moving in the off-season for lower costs.
  • Request quotes from multiple moving companies to find the best rates.
  • Negotiate your moving company costs.
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