What Is the Cheapest Way to Move? How Much Does it Cost to Move?

There are a surprising amount of options for moving locally or long distance. You can work with professional movers, DIY the entire job, or use a combination of both. What you’ll pay will vary based on your preferred method, where you live, and the time of year and day of the week you move. Overall, it’s cheaper to do the entire move yourself — but what you save in money, you’ll pay for in time and hassle.

Here is a breakdown of what you can expect to pay for each mode of moving.

DIY Move

Your options for DIY moving are renting a truck, portable storage container, or freight trailer. Depending on which of these methods you use and which company you work with, you can hire help for one or both ends of your trip for an additional fee, but with each of these options, you’ll need moving supplies, which may include:

  • Boxes
  • Packing tape
  • Packing paper and bubble wrap
  • Dollies or hand trucks

You can usually rent or buy these items from your moving company, or you can buy them from big box retailers and wholesalers. If you want to save money, keep an eye out for free boxes and other packing materials. Check sites like Craigslist.org and Nextdoor.com to see if people who have recently moved are giving them away, or check with your local grocery store or other retailer to see if you can take any shipping boxes off their hands.

Depending on whether your get your materials new or secondhand and how much you need to pack up, you can expect to pay between these amounts for moving supplies:

Paper packing boxes and other supplies for local move (within 50 miles) Paper packing boxes and other supplies for long-distance move (over 50 miles)
$225 – $710 $225 – $710

Moving truck

Renting a truck is the most popular way to do a DIY move. You’ll likely be charged a base rate (which will depend on the size of the truck you use, how many miles you travel, and the time of year and day of the week you rent it) as well as a daily use fee. You’ll also have to pay for your own gas, and you’ll be required to fill the gas tank to a certain level when returning the truck. Keep in mind that the fuel efficiency rate for a moving truck is much different than for smaller cars. You get significantly fewer miles per gallon with these vehicles, a number which is reduced even more on a truck full of belongings. There’s also an added fee for tow dollies and vehicle trailers, which attach to the back of moving trucks to transport personal vehicles.

Local move (within 50 miles) with moving truck Long-distance move (over 50 miles) with moving truck
Belongings only $50 – $330 $705 – $3,500
Vehicle tow $130 – $350 $130 – $350
Belongings and vehicle tow $180 – $680 $835 – $3,850

Portable storage container

Renting a portable storage container has become an increasingly popular option. You’re usually charged three fees: drop-off, transfer, and pick-up. The rental company you hire will drop off one or more storage units for you to fill with your belongs at your current home, and then they’ll move your container(s) to your new abode for you to unpack. Your big expenses with this option are the size (which usually ranges between 7 and 20 feet long) and number of containers you use, as well as how far you’re moving them. Most portable storage container companies give you a certain number of days to use the containers for a set fee, with the option of adding more time for an additional charge.

These are the amounts you can expect to pay when using a portable storage container service. Keep in mind that you may pay more if the company you work with doesn’t have a hub in your starting or ending point.

Local move (within 50 miles) with portable storage container Long-distance move (over 50 miles) with portable storage container
$400 – $700 $900 – $4,500

Freight trailer

A step up from renting a portable storage container is using a freight trailer. Most of these companies only work with customers making long-distance moves, because the storage units are basically large semi truck trailers. These containers are dropped off at your home for you to load with your belongings, and then the trailer is transported and dropped off at your new residence for you to unpack. In addition to how far you’re traveling, the amount of weight you’re shipping will help determine the amount you’ll pay to move.

Long-distance move (over 50 miles) with freight trailer
Studio/1-bedroom home $900 – $2,700
2- to 3-bedroom home $1,100 – $2,900
4- to 5-bedroom home $1,800 – $5,800

Hiring Professional Movers

While it may come with a hefty price tag, hiring professional movers can save you a lot of time and energy. How much you’ll pay to hire professional movers is based on several factors, including:

  • How far you’re moving – local moves are less expensive than long-distance moves
  • The time you’re moving – the time of year and day of week you move impact your cost (summer and weekends are peak times)
  • How much you’re moving – your fee is determined at least in part by the amount of belongings being transported
  • How many movers you work with – movers charge between $35 and $50 per hour per mover, and the more belongings you have, the more movers you’ll need

The pricing information below considers national averages for local and long-distance moves with full and partial service. You can save money by doing some or all of the packing and unpacking yourself, and getting quotes from multiple companies when finding a moving service online or finding a long-distance mover online will help you lock down the best price.

Average price for local move (within 50 miles)

You’ll need at least two movers for a local move, but some jobs may need as many as six, depending on the size of the home and your moving timeline. You’ll be charged an hourly rate based on all of the time your movers spend working for you, including packing, loading, driving, and unpacking.

Local move (within 50 miles) with professional movers
Studio/1-bedroom home $250 – $575
2- to 3-bedroom home $565 – $1,400
4- to 5-bedroom home $1,175 – $2,450

Average price for long-distance move (over 50 miles)

Long-distance movers charge by the weight of the items you’re shipping rather than by the hour. These companies will send someone to do a walk-through of your home and all of the possessions you plan to ship (other than vehicles, which are usually charged separately). A specialist will walk through every area of your home — including spaces like your basement, garage, attic, shed, and front and backyard — and discuss the items you plan to ship. While they won’t go over every single spoon and Barbie doll in your home, you will discuss whether you want to move big pieces of furniture as well as the contents of large spaces, such as closets and storage spaces. Your pro will then calculate the weight of your items, factor in the distance you’re moving and any other applicable costs, and give you a quote. 

The prices below will give you an idea of what you can expect to pay based on what other long-distance moving customers have reported paying. Keep in mind that these averages likely don’t reflect full-service moves — those in which the packing, loading, transport, unloading, and unpacking are all done by professionals — which usually cost at least $10,000. Additionally, you should tack on between $1,500 and $3,000 for each car, boat, and other personal vehicle being shipped.

Long-distance move (over 50 miles) with professional movers
Studio/1-bedroom home $875 – $2,350 or more
2- to 3-bedroom home $1,850 – $6,000 or more
4- to 5-bedroom home $2,675 – $7,250 or more

Additional fees to consider for both local and long-distance moves with professional movers

No matter the distance, you may pay fees for any service your moving company considers as additional labor. This often means any service other than loading and unloading the moving truck. Be sure to discuss your pricing in detail with any moving company you’re considering hiring so you know exactly what you’re paying for.

Additional charges may be due to the following factors: 

  • Changing your timeline may add to your fee. If you’re working with a local mover and rebook them for a different day than the one you originally agreed on, you may be charged. If you work with long-distance movers and push back the day they deliver your items, you will likely incur a fee to store your belongings mid-transit. In either case, this should be laid out in your contract.
  • You should only work with a moving company that offers insurance in case your belongings are damaged, but the coverage offered at no added cost almost never covers your possessions completely. You may benefit from buying a premium insurance package, the price of which will vary by moving company.
  • If shuttles are needed, there will be extra fees. For example, if the moving truck cannot pull up to your home and a smaller vehicle is needed to move items from your home to the truck, you’ll be charged for the shuttle’s gas and the extra loading time.
  • Don’t forget to tip! You’re not required to give gratuity, but it’s customary to tip anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of your total cost for local moves and 15 to 20 percent for long-distance moves. Note that when moving locally over multiple days or long distance, you may not have the same people loading and unloading your belongings, so split the tip amount accordingly.

No matter how you do it, you’re going to spend some time, effort, and money on your local or long-distance move. Knowing how much it costs to move and what you can afford is an important way to keep your budget and your sanity intact, but don’t forget to compare prices for moving companies in your area. If your heart is set on hiring help for your move, there is an option for just about every budget to bring in professionals for at least one leg of the journey.