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Moving Across the Country in 6 Steps

How Much Does it Cost to Move Across Country?
Jacqueline DeMarco
Jacqueline DeMarcoUpdated March 27, 2023
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
While moving across the country can feel overwhelming and be expensive, there are ways to make it easier and keep costs down. The keys: Research your moving options, create a budget, and start planning at least two months in advance.Preparing for a move across the country requires a lot of planning in advance. It generally takes two months to plan such a move. Making a checklist with all the important tasks to be done can help keep you organized.How much does it cost to move across the country? It can cost thousands of dollars on average. Below we highlight six steps that can help simplify the moving process.

Overwhelmed at the Prospect of Moving Across the Country? 

The costs to move across the country can be overwhelming. It’s normal to feel stressed by the idea of such a big move. It can seem especially daunting if you’re moving across the country alone. But creating a to-do list and breaking down all the tasks into manageable steps can help a lot.Two important things you’ll want to focus on first are your budget and the timeframe. Figuring out these things can help you put the rest of your moving plan into motion.

How Much Does it Cost to Move Across the Country?

Moving across the country can be expensive. The national average cost is $4,778, and it ranges from $2,676 to $6,918. What you’ll pay depends on such factors as how many belongings you’re moving, exactly how far you’re traveling, and the moving services you use. Fortunately, there are ways to help cover these costs, including taking out a personal loan to move.Small personal loans up to $5,000 may help you cover the costs to move across the country. Banks, credit unions, and online lenders may offer such loans to borrowers with fair, good, or excellent credit.If you’re graduating from medical school and getting ready for your residency, the cost of relocating for a medical residency can add up. You may have several residency relocation loan options if you find yourself in that boat.

Steps to Move Across the Country

These six tips for moving across the country can help keep you on track:

1. Determine Budget and Moving Needs

One of the best ways to start planning a move is to make a budget that accounts for your moving expenses plus the cost of replacing any belongings that aren’t worth moving. For example, if you have old furniture, you might choose to buy new furniture when you move into your new place.These are some of the moving expenses to plan for:
  • Hiring movers
  • Packing materials
  • Trailer or truck rental if you choose to move your belongings yourself
  • Moving insurance, if needed (check your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy first to see if it covers your belongings during a move)
  • Expenses for the trip across the country, including gas, lodging, meals or airfare
  • Closing costs and downpayment, or rent and security deposit for the new place
Recommended: Ways to Pay For Moving Expenses

2. Begin Packing in Advance

Packing is a big job, so it’s best to start sooner than later. Get rid of any items you don’t need (you can donate them or have a yard sale). The more belongings you have, the more your move will cost, so use this as an opportunity to declutter. Label boxes with what’s inside them and what room they belong to in order to make unpacking easier.

3. Research Moving Options

When moving across the country, you have a number of different options to get your belongings to your new residence. Do your research to determine which of the following methods is best for you:
  • Full-service moving company. This is the easiest option, but also the most expensive one. Full-service movers bring all of the necessary packing materials and pack up your belongings. They move them across the country and unpack them in your new home. Moving companies generally charge by weight, so what you’ll pay depends on how much you’re moving. Full-service movers typically cost $4,000 to $10,000 and up.
  • Truck rental. You can rent a truck, load it yourself, and drive it to your new home. This option can be more affordable than hiring movers, but is also a lot more work. The size of the truck you’ll need will dictate the price you’ll pay. For instance, for a 20-foot truck, which can hold the contents of a two- or three-bedroom home, you’ll likely pay more than $1,500. And remember, you will also need to pay for gas.
  • Moving container. A third option is to put your packed belongings in a moving container and have it shipped across the country. Again, the price is dependent on the size container you need. A 10-foot container can cost about $3,500. Just be aware that some cities require permits to have a moving container sitting outside your home or in the street — even for a brief period of time. 

4. Secure Funds/Financing 

To help pay for all your moving-related expenses, you may want to consider financing. For instance, covering the costs of moving is one of the various ways to use a personal loan. With a personal loan, you get a lump sum of money that you pay back in monthly installments over time with interest.Online personal loans tend to have lower interest rates than credit cards do, which can be one of the typical reasons to take out a personal loan.The stronger your credit, the better the chance you’ll have of getting a lower interest rate. This is just one of the tips for getting a personal loan that you’ll want to know.You could also finance your move with a credit card. And if you use a rewards card you may be able to earn valuable points or get cash back based on your spending. However, the interest rates with credit cards can be high, so you’ll want to try to pay off the balance as soon as you can.

5. Creating a Checklist for Moving 

To stay organized, write up a checklist of all the tasks you need to do, such as packing, cleaning, meeting with the movers, and so on. Crossing each one off as it’s completed will give you a sense of accomplishment. A list that you can keep adding to will also help ensure that you don’t forget anything.

6. Make Sure Your Housing Will Be Ready

If you haven’t already bought a house or rented an apartment, you’ll need to carve out time before you move to find a place that suits your needs. And if your new place won’t be ready when you first get there, you’ll want to make arrangements to stay at a hotel or short-term rental until you can move in.

Moving Across the Country Timeframe 

It typically takes two months to plan a move across the country. With that in mind, you can start to figure out the logistics. For instance, if you need to be in your new home within three months for a new job, you’ll want to start planning quickly.

Factors That Impact Costs of Moving Across the Country

Here are some of the factors that can impact the costs of moving across the country:
  • Using paid labor vs. volunteer helpers
  • Renting a 26-foot box truck vs.10-foot box truck
  • Transporting lots of furniture vs. no furniture
  • Buying supplies vs. requesting free moving supplies
  • Getting discounts vs. no discounts 

Ways to Save on Moving Costs

As mentioned earlier, hiring a full-service moving company can be quite expensive for a cross-country move. It might be more affordable if you can rent a box truck, load it up yourself, and make the move without using paid labor.Volunteer helpers — such as family or trusted friends — may be willing to help you move across the country. Transporting as few items as possible in the smallest vehicle that can meet your needs can also minimize your costs.Buying large moving boxes can add up, so you may want to consider ways to reduce those costs. You could, for example, ask retail stores whether they can provide you with used boxes free of charge. Boxes that a retail store would otherwise recycle or discard can be reused as moving boxes.Some purchases may be necessary to logistically move across the country. If you need to buy supplies or hire professional movers, you can take advantage of any discounts that may be available to you. It doesn’t hurt to seek discounts.

When Is the Best Time to Move Across the Country? 

Spring and fall can be ideal times to move because costs tend to be lower then and the weather is good for a cross-country trek. Summer is typically the most expensive time. Winter is the least expensive season, but the weather can create logistical problems, which is something to keep in mind.

The Takeaway

Moving across the country can be expensive and stressful, but there are ways to streamline the process, keep it organized, and help stay on budget. Planning far in advance can help things go as smoothly as possible, both financially and logistically.

3 Personal Loan Tips

  1. Personal loan interest rates vary from lender to lender, but generally depend on your credit score. With one online application, Lantern by SoFi makes it easy to find and compare the personal loans interest rates that you qualify for.
  2. If the interest rates you’re being offered seem too high, try lowering the loan amount. Generally, the larger the loan, the greater the risk for lenders, who likely charge a higher interest rate for the increased risk level.
  3. Getting a personal loan with bad credit is possible. There are lenders who specialize in bad credit loans.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you move across the country?
What steps do you need to take to move across the country?
How difficult is it to move across the country?
How much can you save moving yourself cross country?
Are there states that will pay you to move there?
Photo credit: iStock/Antonio_Diaz

About the Author

Jacqueline DeMarco

Jacqueline DeMarco

Jacqueline DeMarco is a personal finance writer and editor based in Southern California. While she spends the bulk of her time writing about complex financial issues, she also tackles a variety of subjects ranging from food to fashion to travel. Her work can be found across dozens of publications such as Credit Karma, LendingTree, Northwestern Mutual, The Everygirl, and Apartment Therapy.
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