41 Ways to Save Money on Moving Costs, According to Experts

published Oct 26, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Photos From Left to Right: Shutterstock, Nicole Morrison

When I moved from Milwaukee back home to Chicago, I faced a rude awakening: my rent quite literally doubled. On top of hiring movers, the extra expenses of living in the country’s third-largest city, move-in fees, and other costs, I really needed a way to cut back on spending for the move. Here’s a big list of ways to cut costs, taken from my own experience, plus tips from real estate agents, home stagers, movers, and other real estate professionals.

1. Start planning — and saving — for your move at least three months in advance. This way, you won’t get hit with any last-minute costs you hadn’t planned for (like extra supplies) or fees from movers.

2. Pick up free moving boxes from the grocery store and local businesses, and post in your neighborhood groups to see if anyone is giving any away.

3. Pare down your stuff. Do not even try to move everything. Start a donation pile or have a yard sale, says Yawar Charlie, director of estates division at Aaron Kirman Group, Compass. Move only what you know and think you will use. It’s worth it to sell or donate clothes, outdated electronics, and furniture you don’t need, says Kristina Morales, Realtor at eXp Realty. 

4. Get at least three written quotes from movers and make sure you read reviews of the companies online, Charlie says. Their digital footprint and other reviews are something to consider when making a decision. If a company treated others poorly, there’s a good chance you’ll be treated the same. 

5. If you’re still young (ah, to be in your early 20s) or haven’t accumulated much stuff, view moving as a DIY project, says Jenny Usaj, owner and broker at Usaj Realty. Call in those favors with friends with pickup trucks and tarps to avoid renting a vehicle.

6. Moving companies generally charge by the hour in addition to mileage, Usaj says. If you go this route, it’s best to have your packing completed ahead of time. So, reserve the truck for the day of the move and don’t keep it any longer than necessary.

7. Find a friend who has an SUV or van and pay them to rent their car if it’s available, says Phillip Salem, a real estate agent with Compass Real Estate. This way you can load valuables and other items you don’t want moving companies to handle on your own.

Credit: Photo: Shutterstock

8. Book ahead! Moving companies often have better rates when you book at least a month in advance, Salem says.

9. Make it easier for movers (and cheaper for you) by staging boxes in your garage or entryway, Morales says. Clearly mark cardboard boxes with the name of the room where they’re going.

10. Or try moving boxes and loose items yourself, leaving the movers to handle the larger, heavier items, Morales says.

11. Try to move into a new place during the cheapest non-peak months — January or February — as rent may be reduced, says Ben Creamer, cofounder and managing broker at Downtown Apartment Company. Many apartment buildings offer generous incentives to encourage lease signings in slower months.

12. Or, if that’s not doable, schedule your move sometime in the low season (October to April) for better prices.

13. Book movers during the week, too, as prices tend to be higher on the weekends.

14. Renting moving containers or Pods may be cheaper than hiring movers, Morales says. With these, you pack and load your items in the container which is then moved to your new home. The Pod or container itself will cost between $350 and $550, compared to a standard long-distance move, which can easily cost thousands of dollars.

15. Pack strategically, says Elliott Helm, owner of moving company Sterling Interstate. Use fewer boxes by placing smaller items into larger items, like putting a jewelry box into a dresser drawer, or stacking full shoe boxes into a larger box.

16. Disassemble furniture yourself before the movers arrive, Helm says.

17. Purchase moving insurance in case something valuable breaks; it will likely save you money in the long run.

18. Leave some wiggle room in your budget to help offset some of the unexpected costs of moving — for example, if the move takes longer than expected, or you need to purchase wardrobe boxes at the last minute — as well as those you can anticipate well in advance, says Stephen Rosen, head of sales for Better.com.

19. Make sure you know exactly what services your moving company is providing and what you are paying for, Rosen says. There are tons of additional charges you can opt into (or out of), such as coverage for theft, loss or damages, and packing services.

20. If you’re not the best organizer or simply don’t have the time to pack and need the additional support from movers doing it, cut your costs by providing packing supplies for them such as boxes, newspaper, and moving blankets, Rosen says.

Credit: Photo: Shutterstock

21. If you’re doing a long-distance move, double check before you sign an agreement that there will be no extra costs such as fuel or overnight accommodation charges, Rosen says.

22. If you’re moving to a location with an association or building management team, check for fees associated with the move. Some buildings charge to supervise the move, reserve service elevators, and leave a truck parked outside.

23. Ship things instead of having the movers do it, says Aaron Kirley, president at LugLess. Get a quote with and without boxes for your clothing, bedding, and anything else you’d otherwise feel comfortable shipping with FedEx or UPS. Once you get the quote without that extra space, consider shipping it if the cost is lower.

24. Nothing gets a massive discount more than telling a mover, “Well, company X quoted me $500 lower.” Knowledge = savings, Kirley says.

25. Consider a hybrid move, says money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. If you’re moving to a different city or across state lines, moving companies will increase rates dramatically. In this case, you can save without compromising the help by doing a hybrid move. This is when you hire professionals to load up a truck you rented but then you drive it to your new home. Upon arrival, you can have another set of local movers there to help unload boxes and big pieces of furniture.

26. You can also often find coupons for moving companies on municipal websites (Chambers of Commerce and city directories, for example) and in welcome guides for new residents, says Creamer.

27. Look on coupon code websites for discount codes that could apply to moving trucks, or see if anyone on Instagram is offering discount codes on their profiles, Woroch says. For instance, sites like CouponFollow.com offer promo codes for Budget Truck rentals

28. Begin to save any packaging from shipments you get several months in advance to help pack, and ask friends and family to do the same, says Woroch.

29. If you’re selling your home before moving, consider selling your home furnished or partially furnished, or tell the buyers that certain furniture pieces and accessories in the home are for sale and you are willing to negotiate on price, says Jen Turano, agent at Brown Harris Stevens. If there are items you’re OK with leaving behind, let the buyers know that you’re willing to leave them at no cost. If the buyers of your home do not want any of the furniture or accessories in your home, tell your real estate agent that you can either sell or give away the items.

Credit: Photo: Shutterstock

30. Ask your real estate agent to contact the moving companies you’re considering for your move, says Christopher Totaro, agent at Warburg Realty. Many moving companies offer referral fees to agents and your agent can have the referral fee applied to your bill as a discount — sometimes as much as 10 percent.

31. Host a DIY packing party, Creamer says. Ask your friends and family for help. You can entice them with food and drinks, along with ample boxes to pack. It can be a fun way to say goodbye to your old apartment, while also saving money on your move. 

32. Speaking of parties, save any balloons (bonus points for biodegradable ones!) you may have on hand in the months leading up to the move. For an inexpensive alternative to bubble wrap and air pouches, use those balloons, says Patty Matus, an agent with Century 21 Alliance Realty Group in Ulster County, New York. If they aren’t inflated all the way, they won’t pop.

33. Use towels, sheets, and blankets to wrap fragile items instead of paying for tissue paper or bubble wrap.

34. Get creative with boxes, Creamer says. Use suitcases, tote bags, reusable grocery bags, trunks — anything you already have that will carry things and defray the cost of buying boxes.

35. Many people don’t realize that you can hire movers to do only certain parts of your move, says Jennifer Nau, founder of Campus2City at REAL New York. Moving into a fifth-floor walk-up? Hire a moving company to unload your truck and take everything up the stairs. Then, you can take care of the rest.

36. U-Haul offers an online Box Exchange and “take a box, leave a box” in every one of their company-owned locations, Matus says.

37. Go through your routine, make a list of items you use every day, and pack them somewhere you can get to easily, says Olivia Hunt, Realtor at Realty ONE Group. This will save you money, as you won’t need to re-buy items you already own out of last-minute desperation.

38. Save your receipts from any donations you make of items you don’t plan to move; you can deduct them on your taxes, says Hunt.

39. Ask movers for a fixed price rather than an estimate to ensure you don’t pay extra for add-ons later, such as a long-carry or stairs, says Beatrice De Jong, trends expert at Opendoor.

40. Call moving companies to see if they’ve had any cancellations, De Jong says. They may be willing to significantly lower costs if it means filling a truck headed toward your destination.

41. Get boxes from UsedCarboardBoxes.com, says Anastasia Hartmann of RE/MAX Professionals in Cottage Grove, Minnesota. This company offers boxes that are once-used or may be new factory misprints, overruns, or customer returns that are no longer needed. They “rescue” boxes, make them available at deep discounts, and offer fast and free delivery.