Cheapest Ways to Move Across Country (With Detailed Numbers)

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No matter where your Point A and Point B may be, moving can be expensive — but it doesn’t have to be. Below, we’ll cover every aspect of the cost of moving across the country and detail which methods of transport are the least expensive so you can save as much money as possible.

Tips for Moving Across the Country

Ask About Company Relocation Benefits

If you’re moving for work reasons, make sure to ask your boss whether or not your company will pay for your move as soon as possible. It’s common for employees of large companies to have their belongings packed, shipped cross-country, stored, and unpacked at their company’s expense.

Alternately, some companies will offer their employees the cash to take care of things themselves, often thousands of dollars.

Do you own your own company? If you’re moving for business reasons, you can have your company pay for the move instead of paying out of your own pocket.

Begin Saving Early

If your company isn’t paying for your move, you’ll need money. Save early to avoid stress later. Estimate your costs in advance of the move and begin saving as soon as possible.

Depending on the moving method you choose, you may have many costs to consider: hiring movers, renting a moving truck, booking a rental car, booking one or more plane tickets, staying in hotels if driving across the country, shipping costs, and more.

Additionally, don’t forget that you’ll pay a rental deposit on your new apartment or a down payment on a new home.

In addition to saving, you may want to consider getting a AAA membership, especially if you’re driving across the country for your move. AAA offers discounts at more than 100,000 places, plus special benefits for travelers like locksmith, towing, and auto shop services. Join AAA online starting around $60 annually or call AAA at (800) 922-8228.

Move During the Off-Season

Airline tickets, plane tickets, bus tickets, truck rentals, and basically everything else you need to move have seasonal price variations. If you have some flexibility in choosing your move date, consider an off-season relocation if you want to save the most money possible.

Moving between October and May will save you the most money. Many people want or need to move during the summer, so prices tend to be lower in the late fall, winter, and early spring.

Prepare to Pack by Decluttering

You can move more easily and cheaply by getting rid of unnecessary or unwanted possessions. If getting rid of things is hard for you, try reading books like “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” for tips on what to keep and what to toss.

Once you’ve decided what to declutter, you can either sell it, donate it, or gift it to friends and family before you move. Platforms like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace can help you find local buyers who are willing to pick up your items on short notice, or you can find thrift stores in your area (like Goodwill) that are willing to accept your items.

Finding Packing Materials

The cheapest ways to move across the country all require boxes. You may be able to find free boxes at places like grocery stores, bookstores, and liquor stores. Not all stores are willing to give up boxes for free, but if you speak with a manager and ask politely, they may be willing to help you.

You can also ask around your neighborhood or social circle and check platforms like Craigslist if you don’t want to buy new boxes.

See our related research on where to get free newspapers for packing up dishes and other fragile items.

Cross Country Moving Options to Consider

Before considering your moving options, understand what your time is worth. The cheapest options take the longest. If you must skip three days of work to save only a few hundred dollars, the cheapest option may not be worth it.

Also, the longer you’re on the road, the more convenience food you’ll have to buy and hotel rooms you’ll need to book. Those costs can really add up.

First, we’ll sort the cheapest options by which moving method you prefer: flying, driving, taking the train, or riding the bus.

Second, we’ll look at the least expensive options by how much stuff you own; you decide whether you’re a minimalist, a hobbyist, or an accumulator.

If You Want to Fly

Moving cross country via plane can be less expensive than you’d expect. You may be able to check a few boxes just as if you were checking bags.

It’s also worth noting that you can sometimes use frequent flyer miles to check baggage, and some credit cards also allow you a free checked bag as well.

Take a look at the top airlines to choose from: Southwest and JetBlue.


Southwest allows its domestic travelers to check two bags for free, and each bag can be a maximum of 50 pounds. So that’s you + your carry-on + one personal possession + two checked bags for just the price of a plane ticket. You can book online with Southwest.


JetBlue is the second-best airline for getting you and your stuff across the country. JetBlue allows for one free bag that can weigh as much as 50 pounds — you can book online with JetBlue.

Besides Southwest and JetBlue, no other U.S. airline allows you to load its planes with your belongings cheaply. Checked baggage fees on other airlines range from $25 to $100. See the complete list of prices by the airline.

If You Want to Drive

If you’ll still want your car at your new destination, it might make the most sense to transport it yourself. To find out what it costs to drive just the vehicle and your belongings, follow these steps:

  • Calculate your move route via Google Maps.
  • Write down the mileage.
  • Calculate your average cost per mile. While there’s no perfect way of doing this, the best way is probably to use the federal mileage reimbursement rate. For 2020, it’s 57.5 cents per mile. For example, for the driving distance between NYC and LA, or 2,789.4 miles (41 hours, if you’re curious), it’ll cost around $1,600.
  • Adjust your average cost per mile depending on your highway fuel economy. The 53.5 cents per mile covers future maintenance and repairs as a result of your driving; if you have an older car or a really economical car, your costs will be lower. If it’s cheap to repair and maintain, you could use a lower cost per mile on top of the fuel costs.
  • To save costs on driving, see if anyone wants to come along with you to split the costs. Ask around — someone may want to go along to see the country. Make sure that they don’t bring too many of their own belongings, and you’ve agreed on who will pay for what in advance. You don’t want to add a dispute with your travel buddy to an already stressful trip.
  • Keep in mind when driving cross-country that it may be worth purchasing a roof rack or trunk/receiver hitch rack. This will expand the cubic footage of storage space you have available without significantly reducing your fuel economy.

If you don’t want to pay $1,000 or more for driving, shipping, or towing your car, you can always sell your car and buy a new one when you get to your new location. Just remember you’ll have to pay new licensing fees and sales tax. You’ll also take on the added liability of a vehicle with which you’re unfamiliar, in addition to the changes of living in a new place.

Shipping Your Car

While driving your car across the country is expensive, shipping your car will cost about the same price, possibly somewhat less.

If you choose to ship your car, you may need additional insurance in case the car is damaged in transit. You’ll also have lost your ride across the country (which may not be a concern if driving across the country doesn’t appeal to you).

Towing Your Car

See our related research on rental companies that allow towing.

Renting a Car

See our related research on car rental companies that allow one-way rentals (some with unlimited miles).

If You Want to Take the Train

Amtrak is the only cross-country train option for relocations.

Amtrak offers two free checked bags, and you can check up to two additional bags for $20 each. That’s a total of four bags for $40.

Amtrak can be a really cheap option for getting across the country; several types of discounts are available.

Find out more in our dedicated research on Amtrak’s Shipping Rates.

If You Want to Take the Bus

Greyhound is the best option for taking a bus across the country.

You can bring a carry-on bag that weighs up to 25 pounds, and you also get one free checked bag weighing up to 50 pounds. You can get one additional checked bag for only $15 — so, a total of one carry-on and two checked bags for $15.

Explore Greyhound’s discounts for children, students, seniors, and military members to save even more on your move.

Pod Shipping Services

PODS, U-Pack, and ZippyShell are trailers that the company drops off at your house or apartment before your move. You pack all your belongings into the trailer and then schedule a pickup date.

Your belongings are taken by truck to your new location while you fly, drive, take a train, or ride the bus.

Note that in collecting the quotes below, we indicated that we had a one-bedroom apartment. Your needs may vary, and you may need a larger number of pods or a larger size of trailer than our quotes reflect.


Customer service representatives quoted us a price of about $2,300 for a move from New York City to Los Angeles. This would include a four-hour loading period and a 7-foot by 7-foot by 8-foot trailer. Larger trailers are available at an additional cost.

Cross-country shipping with U-Pack takes about six to eight business days, and you’ll then have about three business days to unload your belongings.

Note that in some areas, ReloCubes, which our quote includes, may not be available. In these situations, U-Pack offers space within a larger 28-foot long trailer.

Find out more about U-Pack


PODS will park a trailer at your location, allow you time to load it, and then pick it up for shipping at a later time.

We were quoted about $4,800 for a move from New York City to Los Angeles with a 16-foot container; however, keep in mind that different services cost different amounts.

Five days prior to the initial delivery, you’ll need to pay the first month’s use of the trailer and delivery fee. For our quote, that cost was about $950. The cost of driving the trailer across the country was around $3,800, and delivery was an additional $100 (which includes pick up of the empty trailer).

Find out more about PODS


ZippyShell was by far the cheapest option that we found when researching pod-style moving companies.

The representative we spoke with said ZippyShell includes loading and unloading your packed boxes and furniture in less than three hours. Everything is shipped in dry, covered tractor-trailers.

We were quoted about $3,300 (based on current national fuel prices) for a 15-foot by 7-foot by 7-foot container with limitless tie-down capabilities and $50,000 in protection.

Find out more about ZippyShell

Summary of the Cheapest Moving Options

  • For minimalists: Greyhound, Amtrack, and Southwest Airlines offer the least expensive options if you’re only moving with a few bags of luggage.
  • For hobbyists: Rent a truck and dolly your car, towing it behind you. This will allow you to fit all of your belongings in one trip without additional shipping costs for your vehicle.
  • For accumulators: U-Pack offers one of the less expensive pod-style shipping services for your belongings.


28 comments - Comments are closed.

  • Christina

    Hello. I have already driven most of my belongings across the country, but I am looking to ship the rest of my furniture, etc. Time is not an issue, but I want the cheapest option. The main hurdle is that I moved to Alaska. PODS and many other of the you pack type moving options do not have service in Alaska. Advice?

  • danawane

    Am I the only one who is confused as to how ZippyShell could be by far the cheapest at $3,258.50 when U-Pack is listed as costing $2,343? Which one is incorrect?
    FYI, U-Haul pods, the only company that seems to allow you to check prices without providing contact info and/or wait for a quote, indicted it would be about $3,000 for a trip that is about 8-10 hours shorter than your hypothetical move.

    • First Quarter Finance logo
      First Quarter Finance | Rebecca Turley

      Hi there!

      We came to our conclusion based on the size of the container ZippyShell provides (15 feet) and the fact that they have movers and unload your packed boxes — a service that other storage companies do not provide.

    • Darkstarius

      Danawane: First of all, the zippyshell is 15ft – much larger than a pod – it’s more like the size of 2 pods really. Second off, our quote was locked in this spring PRIOR to the “hot moving season” so if you got a quote now during the busiest time of year, you’ll probably be quoted a bit higher – that’s why it pays to plan ahead. WI to UT came to just under 3k and that includes both the loading and unloading (2-3 guys) and they did a fantastic job. They also have storage for 30 days included and insurance. I got a quote from U-Pack and other cube companies and they were higher and didn’t include any loading or unloading. I’m just telling you how it is and am happy I went with Zippyshell.

  • Rachel

    Hi, I am moving a family of 3 in a 2 bedroom apartment in California to a rural area in North Carolina. Neither PODS, nor UShip delivers to my location. Only storage centers about 100 miles out, so I would have to move my stuff to a local moving truck or company at that point. We are trimming out most big furniture but this is still looking like a headache already!!

      • Darkstarius

        I found the cheapest of the “pod” options to be ZippyShell! It came to under $3k for a move from WI to Utah for a 15 foot container and that includes 2 people that load and unload the container. They also give you 30 days of free storage if you need it. I compared them to other options like Pods and even a rental truck and they were the cheapest. They also have a lot of positive reviews!

  • Melissa

    We are planning a move from CA to NC. My husband has a garage full of heavy tools and saw tables. He does not want to part with anything. We also have a 40 foot storage unit, packed to the gills. I am all for purging and taking almost nothing. Not sure what he will part with. We have things at the storage location and at our current location. In essence, we will have to move twice! We plan to drive my car and sell his car prior to moving.

    Any money saving thoughts?

  • Christa

    I’ve applied to Ohio State for the fall semester and if I get in, I plan on moving from California (around the Bay Area) to Columbus, OH. I want to try and move in mid to late July and while I don’t have much. It would be my first time moving out so I only have my room at my mom’s and possibly a car, but I’d most likely need to be covering the costs all myself. I’ve started saving now but my bank accounts are pretty much empty (under $100 each) and I only work part time. What do you guys think would be the best bet for me?

    • First Quarter Finance logo
      First Quarter Finance | Hillary M. Miller

      Hi Christa,

      In your case, the biggest deciding factor is likely to be your car. If you plan to have the car with you on campus, you’ll probably want to simply load up your belongings and drive out to Ohio. You’ll want to spread the driving over several days (Google Maps says it’s 36 hours driving from SF to Columbus), but you can definitely save some money by planning ahead and booking motel rooms in advance — that way you can have some time to shop around for the best deals instead of searching for an available motel room when you’re tired and ready to check in. (You could even look for a well-lit Walmart parking lot in a safe area and sleep in your car for one or two nights of the journey if money is particularly tight — I don’t necessarily recommend this, but it’s been done.) If you aren’t taking your car, flying Southwest will likely be your best option. With two free checked bags and a carry-on, you should be able to bring the majority of your belongings without too much of a problem; if there’s something important to you that you can’t take with you on an airplane, you can always ship it to yourself. (It helps if you can be a little un-sentimental about the things you bring — there are plenty of Targets and Walmarts in Columbus where you can purchase anything that doesn’t fit in your suitcase!) I hope this helps, and best of luck with your application!

  • Callie

    I’m moving from Kansas City to Boise, ID in January, and I’m really lost on how to even get started. I have nice furniture (sectional and dining table) that I don’t want to get rid of, but I’m trying to minimize the rest of my belongings. I’d prefer to not tow my car on a truck, due to the fact that you have to drive so slow and this will be in the winter, but I’m not sure how to get it all there with me. I also don’t want to pay out the wazoo to do it. Thoughts?

    PS, I will also have my dog with me.

    • First Quarter Finance logo
      First Quarter Finance | Hillary M. Miller

      Hi Callie,

      As far as transporting your furniture, PODS is likely to be your cheapest option — and that’s still not too cheap. With PODS, you’ll be able to avoid driving the furniture yourself. It’s also worth getting a quote from similar companies who offer the same type of service, such as SMARTBOX and ZippyShell. If you’re planning to keep the car at your new location, you can avoid driving it there with car shipping services such as Ship A Car Direct, although that will add to your total as well since you’ll still need to transport yourself and your dog. If you do decide to ship your car, and you have few other belongings, you may be able to get away with the two free checked bags that come with a Southwest plane ticket (assuming your dog is small enough to travel in-cabin). This is probably the cheapest combination of options that avoids driving entirely. I hope this helps, and best of luck with your move!

  • Kathy

    Moving from Maryland to Monterey, CA in January with my dog. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. My things are currently in storage.

    • First Quarter Finance logo
      First Quarter Finance | Hillary M. Miller

      Hi Kathy,

      Bringing your pet with you can definitely add an extra layer of stress to the move. Since you’re traveling with your dog, you can probably rule out Greyhound and Amtrak (although dogs are technically allowed on Amtrak, in certain cases). Depending on how big your dog is, flying may still be an option, if you’re comfortable with that. If you plan to have your car at the new house, driving to Monterey yourself may be the best option. (That is a long haul, though — I’ve done Chicago to Phoenix several times and it takes at least 2-3 days to do that comfortably, and I’d say Maryland to Monterey is double that distance — so with one driver, that’s likely a bare minimum of 4-6 days, unless you want to drive for 14+ hours a day.) As far as moving your possessions, PODS might be ideal. You’ll just pack up the shipping container and then it will be driven to your new home for you, so all you have to worry about is transporting yourself, your car, and your dog. Best of luck with your move!

  • P.S.

    Moving from MA to WA in January (preferred thankfully there is some wiggle room on time) committed to splitting the driving with my fiance since neither one of us has seen the country. I’m thinking of going the POD route but we live in a 4th floor walk up and I think we would both keel over trying to move out ourselves even if we took our time. We also have a very narrow driveway that tenants park alongside. I’m a newish driver and not particularly comfortable with the idea of driving a U-Haul my fiance is not particularly thrilled with the idea either. Does this only leave hiring a moving company? Am I going to have a heart attack at their quotes? Thanks.

    • First Quarter Finance logo
      First Quarter Finance | Hillary M. Miller

      Hi P.S.,

      A POD might be a great option, since you won’t have to drive it yourself. If you want to avoid hauling your things down all those stairs, you could look into hiring a local moving company just to help you move all your possessions downstairs and into the POD. Here are the Yelp listings for the best-reviewed moving companies in Massachusetts in case you do go that route. Many of the reviews for Stairhopper Movers and Raimond’s say that both these companies offer quite reasonable rates. Best of luck with your move!

  • cj

    Anyone do a cross country move in an RV? About how much did it cost? Thanks so much

  • Sherilyn M Martin

    We’ve been exploring shipping options for both car and shipping container. We’ve seen some third party shipping companies and I was wondering if you have any recommendations? They all look kind of shady and have very mixed reviews. I can’t find a gold standard essentially. Thanks!

    • Anthony Joseph

      I’ve moved across the country multiple times and always used Upack for containers and Autolog for my car. Always with no issues and the cheapest costs. Good luck.

      • Anthony Joseph

        Sorry I forgot Autolog is now called United Road.

    • Cheryl Justyce

      Whatever you do, do NOT trust *any* reviews from They are a shady company themselves and will not post negative reviews about any company unless they have every piece of information short of a DNA test (probably require that too). They protect the shippers very adamantly, probably because they are being paid by those transport companies… so not trustworthy at all. I’d even bet most of the positive reviews on that site are posted by the companies themselves. Shady, scummy and pandering to crappy shipping companies!

    • First Quarter Finance logo
      First Quarter Finance | Hillary M. Miller

      Hi Sherilyn,

      It looks like you’ve already gotten some good advice! Upack and United Road are definitely both options worth investigating. It’s tough to find a shipping company with consistently strong reviews. SMARTBOX and ZippyShell are both companies where many customers have had good experiences with shipping containers — but again, the service might depend on the particular location that you’re working with. Ship A Car Direct has a pretty solid reputation on most review sites, so that could be another good option for car shipping. Best of luck with your move!

  • Katie peede

    Im attempting to plan my family of 4 moving from Indiana to Nevada in October. We have a lot of stuff we cant get rid of yet… and two cars. Im thinking PODS. And then drive my big SUV and tow his Jeep Wrangler behind me.
    But then i think, since im already driving why not just drive a u haul truck and tow a car. But then that leaves one car to deal with. This is stressing me out! Suggestions?

    • First Quarter Finance logo
      First Quarter Finance | William Lipovsky

      Hey Katie,

      First off, you have time on your side so that’s great. So here are the costs you’re dealing with: cost of PODS + tow rig for SUV + cost to drive SUV while it tows the jeep vs. cost to rent U-Haul truck + tow rig for the truck + fuel costs + cost to drive 2nd vehicle cross-country. I’d get a quote for PODS and a quote from U-Haul for your exact dates to see exactly what numbers you’re dealing with. Then consider the fuel costs and wear and tear costs of each of the two scenarios outlined above. Remember the wear and tear because you can expect your SUV to cost about 70 cents/mile for fuel + wear and tear (that’s based roughly on AAA estimates). So it really just comes down to running the exact numbers. Should only take about 30 minutes. Though money of course isn’t the only factor. How do you like comfort? Driving your SUV cross-country will be much more comfortable than driving a U-Haul. Also, driving two vehicles will take two people’s time while they drive so that means someone will have to commit another roughly 25 hours of their life to driving across middle America. That’s a huge cost if you’re a busy person. Your question is a good one but if I had to just pick without running the numbers, I’d nudge you towards the PODS option. Good luck! Let me know if this analysis needs updated in any way as you get closer to your October departure date.

  • Anthony Joseph

    U-Pack was way cheaper for me than PODS when moving across the country twice.

  • Nita

    We just did a cross ocean move. We found it cheaper to sell our stuff (great when planning) and ship boxes via USPS through the post office. It saved us 60% of the cost of using shipping companies. Also, posting stuff for sale months in advance earned us enough money to by brand new furniture in our new place. Also, we didn’t buy a house right away. We decided to learn the area, the real estate market and live the places we were interested in before purchasing a home.

    • First Quarter Finance logo
      First Quarter Finance | William Lipovsky

      Smart! That does sound like the cheapest way to move across an ocean. It seems like you enjoyed the freedom that comes along with getting rid of a lot of your stuff as well. I like your house hunting methods too! Smart stuff others can take note of.

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