cheapest way to move out of state
Updated July 24, 2022

The Cheapest Way to Move out of State: 15 Tips for Moving on a Budget

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Are you looking for a change of scenery? Or is work taking you out of state? Either way, moving out of state can be expensive and time-consuming. In recent years the average cost of moving out of an apartment has creeped up to $1,700, which is more than what most people can afford when trying to move on a budget.

Here you’ll find 15 of the best moving tips and tricks to help you stay under budget. You’ll end up saving time and money—meaning less stress and worries along the way!

1. Start Saving Up as Soon as Possible

When moving on a budget, you need to be prepared for all the costs associated with the move. This means make a detailed budget for your move, including all the services you intend to use and how much things like gas and hotel stays during the drive to your new home will cost. There are also costs on the other side of the move that have to be kept in mind.

Important Thing To Keep In Mind

When renting, you’ll need to have your first and last month, and a deposit saved up. Don’t assume that your safety deposit will be back in your account by the time you move—it often takes a few months and can’t be considered reliable funds to use for the move. Buying a house comes with a series of other expenses like a realtor, mortgage costs, and fluctuations in interest rates.

Good to Know: The cost of living fluctuates greatly state to state. Research the day to day living costs in the state you’re heading to and factor this into the budget. Making a realistic budget and sticking to it will help your move go smoothly.

Pro Tip: Want to bulk up your budget? Try these passive income ideas.

2. Don’t Rule out Professional Movers

While U-Haul might look like the cheapest way to move out of state, it’s a good idea to get a handful of quotes from professional movers. Moving during the off-season, October to April, usually translates into saving up to 30% on movers. It might seem like the quotes you’re given are set in stone, but you can—and should—negotiate with moving companies.

Good to Know: Don’t forget to look into the mover’s reputation before you sign a contract. Read reviews on Yelp or Trustpilot to see what previous customers have to say about the service they received or whether the company made moving a positive experience. And comb through their website meticulously so you aren’t caught off guard by any unexpected fees or hidden charges.

3. Get Your Boxes for Free

Your moving company will likely offer to sell you a moving package complete with boxes, tape, and cushioning material. Agreeing to this means an unnecessary price hike.

There are plenty of ways to get these supplies for free:

  • Check with your local grocery or liquor store to see if they have boxes you can take. Stores will have giant stacks of flattened cardboard boxes that they are more than happy to let you have.
  • Post on Facebook and other social media platforms. Maybe you have friends who have recently moved and have supplies left over to pass on to you, or someone on a community page will get in touch to recycle their things to you.
  • Look into Freecycle. This is a booming online community of people looking to give their things away for free. Better yet, signing up to the community is free as well.

With all of these options available, there is no need to spend a dime on boxes or packing paper.

4. Lose the Extra Weight

Remember that the cost to move should rarely outweigh the cost to replace. Charity shops like Salvation Army or Goodwill will take everything from clothing and children’s toys to furniture and electronics. Some charities will even pick up large furniture items free of charge. Keep in mind that taking some furniture with you is not cost-effective. For instance, wallet-friendly furniture like that from IKEA will actually cost you more to ship than to buy new.

Pro Tip: If you’re open to a sweeping life change, why not ditch everything? By donating, selling, and giving away all or most of your stuff, you’ll have a much easier and largely stress-free move. Plus, if you manage to sell a large portion of your belongings, you should make enough money to furnish your new home with an updated style.

5. Don’t Know Where to Sell Items? Download Decluttr

Once you’ve decided what things you don’t want to bring on the journey with you, the app Decluttr is a great option for removing them from your home. With Decluttr you can sell your smaller tech items like DVDS, games, and cell phones. They’ll also take any textbooks books off your hands. Decluttr works by giving you an instant valuation. If you’re happy with the price, you just ship your things to them for free. Once they receive your items, you get paid.

Pro Tip: Using Decluttr lets you earn a little bit of money that can go towards the move, giving your budget more of a cushion. And if you happen to lose any items like these during your move, you can purchase them through the app as well.

If you are looking for ways to sell some of your clothes, check out this article we put together.

6. Own a Personal Library? Don’t Carry it with You

Books are notoriously heavy to move, but it can be gutwrenching to part with them. Thankfully, the U.S. Postal Service offers something called Media Mail, which lets you send books, printed music and scripts, records and CDs for incredibly cheap prices.

Pro Tip: As long as your delivery weighs less than 70lbs, USPS will ship it. One 20lb package will cost you only $10. If you have heavy items that Media Mail won’t accept, try a delivery comparison website like Parcel Monkey.  Comparison websites are a great resource for up to date information on couriers located across the country.

7. Use a Portable Moving Container

If you’ve decided not to use professional movers, a portable moving container is a great alternative to a moving van. Not only is it one of the cheapest ways to move out of state, you can also use it as storage both before and after you move. This will allow you to slowly transition into your new home and life, removing some of the pressure to get all the packing done quickly.

Good to Know: A long distance move with a storage container will set you back anywhere between $2,000 and $3,000 per month. The average moving costs with a professional company is around $5,000, so you could end up saving $3,000 and making your life easier. And you won’t even be moving the storage container yourself. Instead, the container company will do that for you!

8. Avoid Busy Days

Just like there’s an off-season for movers, there are some days that you really shouldn’t move on. Try to keep away from weekends, especially three-day weekends like Presidents Day or Memorial Day. Not only will other people be making big moves, but families will be taking holidays and day trips creating worse traffic along the way. This means that mid-month days are your safest bet, especially during the fall and winter.

Pro Tip:  If you can, keep driving during rush hour to a minimum. Getting stuck in traffic, especially with hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, of possessions will only slow you down and drain your gas tank and wallet.

9. Take Advantage of Cash Back Apps

Cash back apps are the cheapest way to move out of state because you’ll be earning money as you go from Point A to Point B. For those on the East Coast or Texas, GetUpside is an app that has partnered with local businesses to help save you money.

Good to Know: All you need to do is download the app, pay with a credit or debit card, and then take a photo of your receipt. You can earn up to 25 cents cash back for each gallon of gas bought, making the long trip to your new house a little cheaper. You’ll also receive up to 15% cash back on groceries and up to 35% cash back at restaurants in select cities. Apps like GetUpside can be used alongside other loyalty programs and discounts so it never hurts to look up which app runs in your local area.

10. Ask About Company Compensation

Are you being transferred to a new branch of your company? Or just received a job offer in California? If your company is invested in retaining you, they should also want to help you with your moving costs.

Good to Know: Contact your HR department to find out if some, or all, of your relocation costs are covered by the company. Unfortunately, not every company is happy to offer up reimbursement for your relocation. You might find yourself having to negotiate with your employer for this perk.

Here Are A Few Tips For When You Start Your Negotiations

  • Evaluate your needs. You need to have a realistic idea of what your moving costs will be, and all the processes involved.

For instance, some people will need to sell their home and uproot their family and pets, but others can pack up an entire apartment into their car and hit the road.

  • Understand the corporate culture

A company that values relocation as part of its ethos or culture, will probably be more open to helping pay for your move.

You should also investigate the company’s relocation policy. If there isn’t one, then you should definitely state your desires and concerns about the cost of moving.

  • Look into temporary housing

This is an offer made by about 75% of companies, so it’s worth asking about.

Similar benefits include storage units, moving coordination, or spousal employment assistance.

Make sure to save all your moving receipts so that you can be fully reimbursed.

11. Look for Inexpensive Moving Help

Even if you’ve chosen not to employ a professional moving company, you’ll probably need some assistance getting all of your things into the van. First ask friends! Offering sustenance and buckets of gratitude is often enough for close friends and family to help you out.

This is definitely the cheapest way to move out of state and can actually infuse a typically hectic day with some laughter and fun. If your friends aren’t available, look for some cheap labor options.

Good to Know:  HireAHelper or College Hunks Hauling Junk and Moving are two great options for inexpensive moving help. If these services aren’t available in your area, look into the online community, Moving Helpit will connect you with moving companies near your home and offers customer referrals and reviews. Choosing moving helpers over a comprehensive moving service will save you thousands of dollars.

12. Take the Bus or Train

This one is a top moving tip for someone who doesn’t plan to bring much with them. Moving by bus is undeniably the cheapest way to move out of the state. Greyhound buses are probably the most affordable cross-country bus service around and you’ll be able to bring up to 250lbs of luggage with you.

However, there are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Unfortunately, but for obvious reasons, you won’ be able to transport pets via bus.
  • Your suitcases and boxes won’t be secured, which means things might get damaged in transit.
  • Depending on what state you’re moving to, this mode of transport can be wearisome. There will be dozens of stops, which will slow you down.

Good to Know: Though a bit more expensive than taking the bus, Amtrak is a great option for moving. You’re also allowed more luggage than the bus—up to 500lbs—and during shorter journeys you can pay $25 to bring your small cat or dog.

However, there are far fewer stations so it might be difficult to get to and from the stations with all your belongings. While there are some overnight journeys which cuts down on the cost of accommodation, food on the train is notoriously expensive so you’ll want to stock up on snacks.

13. Be on the Lookout for Red Flags

Professional interstate moving companies are closely regulated by the government to ensure monetary and physical safety is maintained. Your mover should have no problem providing you with their valid insurance, registration, and U.S. Department of Transportation number.

Good to Know: A legitimate moving company should be happy to offer you this information and it’s a big warning sign if they are hesitant. Some movers will try to scam you with markups you never heard about or hidden fees that didn’t show up in the initial quote. Ask for a breakdown of the quote and look at reviews to see if other customers have been forced to pay more than expected.

14. Get Insurance

You might think insurance is an unnecessary moving cost, but if you’re transporting your entire life to another state, it’s a good idea to have your belongings protected.

You options are:

  • Full Value Protection: this is an added cost, but holds your mover 100% accountable for the full value of your shipment. If something goes wrong during the move, the company has to replace, repair, or give you a cash reimbursement.
  • Released Value Protection: unlike full value, released value protection won’t require you pay a fee. However, if your items are damaged, the moving company won’t have to pay the full amount. Instead, they pay 60 cents per pound per article.

That means if your $500 stereo that weighs 50lb is broken, you will only receive $30.

Choosing released value protection is a good way to save money, but you have to decide for yourself if the risk is worth it.

15. Keep Tabs on Your Spending

As we’ve said before, keeping receipts associated with your move will help you get reimbursement from your employer. But keeping your receipts on hand during the move and marking down your spending is also a good way to stay on top of your budget.

It’s easy to think you’re well within your budget, but restaurant stops or getting stuck in traffic jams and having to refill your gas tank multiple times, can add up quickly. If you keep a tally on your spending, you can cut back when necessary.

Have you recently moved to a different state? Share you best money-saving tips and tricks below!


Logan Allec, CPA

Logan is a practicing CPA and founder of Choice Tax Relief and Money Done Right. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.

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