What's the cheapest way to move all of my stuff to the West Coast?
November 7, 2010 11:52 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving from New York City to Oregon at the end of the year. What's the cheapest way for me to move all of my things--mostly books, papers, and clothing, enough to fill a 10-foot U-Haul van?

A few more details: I'm not in any particular hurry. It's fine if my things take two or three weeks to get to Portland. My priority is saving money. I could even buy a small, used van and drive them across the country myself, if that's the best/cheapest way.
posted by thecolor12 to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Check out sending your books and papers through the US Post Office using their media rate.
posted by mareli at 11:58 AM on November 7, 2010

I did the same move this year, using an ABF U-Pack cube, and couldn't have been happier with the results. Cost me $1756 to get all my stuff from Jersey to Portland, and I didn't have to do any driving on either end.

There may be an issue with leaving the cube at your NYC place, though. If you don't have off-street parking, they have to have the driver wait as you pack it and you only get a few hours to do it without additional charges. (Very doable if you are organized and have help, but it's pressure.) If you have a driveway or someplace they can leave the cube, then you get a couple days to load it at your own pace.
posted by bink at 12:22 PM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and it took a week to go across the country.
posted by bink at 12:23 PM on November 7, 2010

That and seriously re-evaluate just how much you 'need' all the stuff. It'd be rather stupid to haul a ton of books and papers cross-country only to have them keep sitting on a shelf, unused. Same thing with wardrobe, if you haven't worn it recently then get rid of if.

Sell it locally and pocket the cash instead.
posted by wkearney99 at 12:31 PM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just moved from Portland to Philadelphia and I used Amtrak Express. You're not supposed to ship "anything with a plug" but for all the other stuff it was the cheapest way. I don't remember the exact cost but I remember thinking I'd gotten way too good a deal. I want to say it was about $285 for 500 pounds of stuff.
posted by smirkyfodder at 12:35 PM on November 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've had good lucking having people bid on my moving jobs on U-ship.com, especially if you have some flexibility in your dates.

My former neighbor swears by buying a used truck from U-Haul and then selling it on craigslist at your destination. Apparently trucks of that vintage don't really depreciate any more, as long as they are still running. He is the kind of person who can fix a broken down 20 year old truck on the side of the highway though, that might be a consideration if you are not that kind of person.
posted by ChrisHartley at 1:21 PM on November 7, 2010

I did the reverse move a few years ago and used Greyhound package expresss. I paid a bit extra to get the pick up/drop off service, good for me since I didn't have a vehicle, although the drop off guy was a bit over the hill and not in the greatest shape, so we did most the lugging. Super cheap, so I didn't complain!

Everything arrived within a couple weeks, if I recall correctly, and in good shape.

But they do really get abused so pack and pad well, if you have fragile stuff, probably best to carry it yourself.
posted by abirdinthehand at 1:40 PM on November 7, 2010

I used ABF upack for my last cross country move. They didn't bring the container to me. I rented a u-haul for the day on each end, got my stuff in the u-haul, to the upack place (they tend to have at least one on the outskirts of most major cities), repacked, went on my merry way. In reverse at the other end. It was the cheapest option (NY state to Denver), and not terribly inconvenient. 2 out 5 plants survived the trip as well, which was more than I expected.
posted by freshwater at 1:55 PM on November 7, 2010

Amtrak Express ftw. Many caveats apply regarding what stations they will ship to and from, what items are okay, weight limits, etc. Call for details, ask specific questions regarding your cargo and call again just to be sure, because there is close to zero info on it online to the point where it's almost sort of a secret. I did it, stuff got banged around a bit but nothing broken in transit and no packages lost. I shipped ~20 boxes averaging 15-20lbs each and it was insanely cheap.
posted by slow graffiti at 3:36 PM on November 7, 2010

+1 Amtrak Express, an always-forgotten option. I shipped ~400 pounds of books for $232 (I believe that's $65 for the first 100 lbs, 0.55/lb after that) from Newark to Seattle. It rules. The stuff waits for you at the train station for up to a week without charges.
posted by zvs at 5:32 PM on November 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

I did this exact same move in 2006. I moved 13 boxes via the USPS, sending 4 massively heavy media-mail boxes of books and other media shit that I didn't need and 9 boxes first-class with delivery confirmation. I believe my grand-total was around $350 for postage.
posted by wcfields at 12:24 PM on November 8, 2010

I just moved (October 1) DC to LA using Interstate Van Lines. They moved all the stuff on both ends for me and in total wound up being approximately the same cost as renting a U-Haul and driving it myself (and that was before gasoline and the time off required).
posted by citywolf at 12:33 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

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