How to Move Long Distance “On the Cheap”

Strategies for how to move long distance cheap are hard to come by. But with a certain amount of ingenuity and a willingness to forgo comfort and/or some security, you can bring down your costs of moving a great distance.

Cheap interstate moving companies and solutions are out there. You just need to make the decision about whether they are the right partners for you when you make such a big, stress-filled journey. Moving from one coast to the other is filled with pitfalls and problems. Cheap long distance moving companies can be an ally, or your worst nightmare. You can also explore inexpensive options like Amtrak, Greyhound and the like but they can have drawbacks that make them non-starters from the get-go.

Moving On Your Own

Renting a truck, loading it up and hitting the highway seems like the start to a fun road-trip movie, but you need to be aware of the pitfalls. The cost can add up, based on distance and gassing up the vehicle. You have drive that behemoth the whole way, so if you are uncomfortable driving anything bigger than a sedan, you might want to outsource that job. You can only go 55 miles per hour and you have to stay on major interstates, so any funky GPS tricks that will get you around major cities or traffic jams are likely moot.

That said, you can drive your own rented moving truck long distances, but you need to keep safety in mind. Have a trusted partner along with you, so you can switch off behind the wheel and be able to pass the time without going crazy. As for loading the truck, call in some favors from friends and get some free muscle. You can also have a packing and loading party to send your off on your way. Serve pizza and soft drinks (no beer. you want your stuff to get on the truck without breaking).

Families looking to make a cheap long distance move can also hitch a trailer to their car, provided they have a decent sized vehicle that handle the load. Plus, the kids can make an adventure out of the whole thing. As long as you have plenty of iPads and tablet games to entertain them.

Shipping Via Amtrak

Amtrak is an option for moving long distances or across the country at a very cheap rate, but there are plenty of caveats. You can’t include your electronics, furniture, fragile artwork or other unusual items. It is mainly focused on clothes, books, office items, non-fragile kitchen items like pots and pans. Shipments can start at 250 to 500 lbs. with the first 100 lbs. at just around $60. Each pound after than can run you around 50 cents per pound. A very cheap option if you plan on minimizing like crazy and buying what you need when you get to your new abode.

Just be aware that Amtrak is not the most modern institution and shipping on the U.S. rail system is going to be subject to communication breakdowns, a lot of paperwork that probably should be digitized at this point in 2015 and very strict freight restrictions.

Shipping Via Greyhound

Sending your stuff on a bus? Yup, that option exists. You can choose a standard or priority shipping option or even door-to-door service, based on your needs. It may be unusual, but it might end up being your best option for how to move long distance cheap.

U.S. Post Office

What many people may not know is how cheap it is to ship via U.S.P.S. You can ship medium and large-sized boxes for right around a buck per pound. The post office also has a media mail option with specific rates for books, DVDs, CDs, etc. If you put in the effort, you can find a lot of savings shipping via the U.S. Post Office.

Donating vs Selling

When you are moving across the country, you are going to want to minimize your load as much as possible. Let’s face it: You don’t need every single thing that you have in your house or apartment right now. You could do without at least 30% of it. The question is what to do with it.

Selling a bunch of stuff, either online or in a garage sale, is an option. You can make some extra cash to help with the move and lighten your load a lot. But the hassle involved might not be worth all the time and effort. Unless you are an eBay wizard, you probably won’t get what you think the items are worth.

Goodwill, Salvation Army and other donation networks can be your saving grace. You can offload clothes, baby toys, still-good kitchen items and dishes, old bar glasses and beer steins and a whole host of other things you don’t want to schelp across the country. Plus you can get a nice little tax deduction for your efforts.

This may be painful, but you should consider selling your beloved 55-inch flat screen that hangs like a shrine in the living room. If you want to move from New York to California on a lower budget, hauling a delicate but huge piece of electronic equipment across the country is an unnecessary expense. Plus, you can find reasonably priced new TVs once you plop down right next to the Pacific.

Save on Packing Materials

Intensify your search for cheap or free boxes. Plenty of businesses around your current home, from grocery stores to liquor stores get deliveries every day. That means loads of unwanted boxes, cluttering up their retail space. You can take that off their hands.

As for bubble wrap and other cushioning, use your linens, towels and extra bedding to your advantage. Wrap delicate items in sheets and old towels to avoid paying out the nose for bubble wrap. Plus it is efficient. It allows you to pack more of your stuff in less boxes.

Moving with Pets

If you are heading across the country with the dogs and/or cats, be sure that they are comfortable with traveling long distances. Consider using tranquilizers to keep them calm or asleep during the trek. Keep an eye out for friendly hotel chains that accommodate pets, if you plan on making stops along the way.

The Pitfalls of Moving Long Distance Cheaply

We get it. Long distance moving costs can add up. You want to do everything that you can to learn how to move long distance cheap. That’s why you might want to take on a lot of the burden yourself, like renting a truck, finding free boxes or dealing with shipping all your things. But the peace of mind that can be had from hiring a trusted moving company is pretty valuable.

If you pick a reliable moving company, like FlatRate, you can be sure that you can deal face-to-face with real, accountable people. That might not be the case if you ship by train, bus or government postal service. If anything happens to your shipment, the bureaucracy that you will have to deal with will be staggering. Hiring a cheap long distance moving company sounds like a good compromise, but you might get the same runaround.

Solid long distance moving companies will have the proper insurance for your items. Their whole business if moving your things from place to place, reliably and efficiently. You can set up a plan with these movers and then move on with your life. It might be a little bit more money, but you won’t need to deal with all the extra hassle that comes from doing it yourself.

So, make the decisions carefully. The time saved and hassle avoided might make it worth it to expand your budget and hire a trusted moving company.