Moving on a shoestring

A Frugal Long Distance Move

by Our Readers

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Frugal Long Distance Move

I'm single and 50 years old with no kids. I am contemplating a move from Minnesota to Southern California. I know the cost of living is higher there, and I'm planning for it. Are there any really great deals for renting movers or trucks that I may not know about? I've moved around enough locally that I'm good at getting rid of unwanted stuff first, and I'm pretty good at organized packing. But, the cheapest price I could find for renting a moving truck and a trailer for my car is around $2000. Based on that chunk of change, I definitely know I couldn't actually hire movers. Thanks in advance for any ideas you might have.

Space Versus Weight

Several years ago, when my husband and I were temporarily relocating to Los Angeles from Montreal, we were quoted $10,000 by a traditional moving company. Shocked that it could be so expensive to move the meager contents of our two-bedroom apartment (which did not include any appliances), we thought we were going to have to haul our possessions ourselves, or sell everything and repurchase upon our arrival. Fortunately, my husband happened upon an ad in our local newspaper. The company shipped antiques between a few major cities and was always looking for extra cargo to fill their trucks. Because of the nature of their business, they charged by linear foot, instead of by weight, the way household moving companies do. This was key for us. We were able to collapse all of our furniture, and along with our boxes, we only took up 14 linear feet in the truck. The cost was around $1400. We decided to pay an additional $200 on each end for them to do the loading and unloading. It worked out very well for us, and when we returned to Montreal three years later, we used the same company. If you can find a company that charges by space, instead of weight, you may be able to benefit from huge savings!

Don't Move It! Sell It!

This one is easy! My friend Kathy bought a house down the street from me. She had nothing but her clothing. She moved in with no furniture at all. The plan was to fix up the old house in her spare time and sell it in two years when it was remodeled.

Kathy furnished the house with furniture, rugs and accessories from estate and yard sales. She refinished the hardwood floors, painted the walls and trim white, and bought faux Oriental rugs at estate and yard sales to show off the wood borders around the rugs. She bought miscellaneous old furniture at sales and painted every single piece white or ivory. She bought used picture frames, painted them ivory, and installed mirrors in the frames, which made the house look bigger, and prospective buyers literally "saw" themselves in the house when they toured it.

Now, fast-forward two years, and the house sells because it is so cute, and the furniture shows the house to advantage. A week before the closing, Kathy held a three-day "estate" sale and sold everything!

Kathy recouped the money she had spent on the furniture, rugs and accessories. She actually made a small profit because people were buying the "look" of the pieces in the house, all those perfect vignettes.

After the closing, Kathy left with only her clothing in the back of her car, and she drove to the new house she was planning to restore, several hundred miles away, wasting no money on moving!

This was the neatest trick I ever saw. Most people's run-of-the-mill household stuff can be replaced cheaper than moving it with a couple of weekends of yard and estate sales. Don't move it! Sell it! Really, your used household goods are practically valueless. Sell all your furniture and move for free. Buy what you need at the new home from resale shops and tag sales.

Check ABF for a Frugal Long Distance Move

They are commercial freight hauling company, but they have a moving component. Basically, they drop a trailer in your driveway, and you load it. You pay by how much of the trailer you use. You lock it, and they return to pick it up and drive it to your new home. They drop the trailer at the new house, and you unload. You do not have to use the whole trailer, but if you need more space, it costs more. We used it to move from ID to TN. It was great! There were no problems. It was so much less than movers, and we did not have to haul it!
Dee in Tennessee

The Ease of Using a Pod

My husband and his family moved their mom's stuff from FL to MA by hiring a "pod." It's a secure unit that is dropped off. You pack at your own rate, and then call to have it picked up and delivered. After you empty it, you call again, and they pick it up. They loved it and were very happy with it. For more information, visit

Recoup Moving Costs

For the same amount or less, the mover could purchase a used trailer, move her belongings, and sell the trailer at the other end, thus recouping much or all of her moving costs.
JD in St Louis

Join in on Someone Else's Move

My suggestion is to look into joining AAA if you're not already a member. It's possible to receive a discount for renting a Penske truck if you are a member.

Another idea is to look into the possibility of sharing a truck with someone else moving to the same location. Could you advertise or check online in order to share these expenses?

Read This Book before Moving

My relative passed away (out of town), and we weren't sure which way to go. Should we hire a mover or rent a U-Haul? We tried looking for quotes online but got so many calls/emails from companies that seemed shady that we wondered what we should do.

In the meantime, we found a book called Complete Idiot's Guide to Smart Moving. The book explained how to determine if we should hire a professional mover or do it by ourselves. It also gave a breakdown of how many rooms of stuff we have versus how big a truck we should rent. Also, the book detailed how to pack the truck, how to hire, what kind of packing material to use, and what else we needed to do before packing it. It also included a checklist of things to do before we left and when we arrived, plus plenty of resources for packing materials.

We decided to rent a U-Haul truck and hire local movers to pack/unpack the truck. We used Angie's List to hire the people who packed it. It cost less than $900 to move the entire contents of a two-bedroom house, and the movers only broke one thing (not very valuable).

Another good site was If your going to need a professional mover, check out this site, so you can protect your belongings from bait and switch companies who tack on extra charges when you reach your destination or can't find all of the things that were originally packed onto the truck.

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