Cheapest way to move a bunch of stuff across the country
June 25, 2014 7:46 PM   Subscribe

I am planning a move across the country. Most of my furniture is cheap second-hand ikea second-hand, and it's really not worth it to rent a u-haul to drag it all across the country. So I'm mostly moving books, clothing, and some kitchen stuff. At a loss. For the most part speed is not a concern, I just need my stuff to get to my new home eventually. Any advice on the best and least expensive way to do this? Posting it one box at a time seems pretty expensive (from looking up usps rates).
posted by bunderful to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Do you own a car? It doesn't sound like much stuff. Could you not fit it all in your car?

If you don't have a car, I know that there are (or at least used to be) some places online that you can find people who want to get their cars cross-country and are looking for other people willing to drive them.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:53 PM on June 25, 2014

When I shipped my stuff from LA to DC last year, I used Greyhound Package Express. It's the cheapest option I could find, and all the stuff I shipped did arrive in one piece. In your situation, that's what I would use (again). I used the door-to-door rather than depot-to-depot option, which was definitely worth it.

If you decide to use them:
They quote a time of about a week, but it actually took about a month for my stuff to get from coast-to-coast. They're pretty strict about their weight and especially their size limits, so don't try to fudge it too much. For example, one of my packages was too long, and I had to declare it abandoned property and couldn't ship it. Also, make sure to pack your stuff really tightly and shrink-wrap/tape the boxes really well. I used plastic storage boxes from Target (the big size), and that worked great. I'm not sure that I would trust cardboard, because you want to be sure that the boxes are waterproof and can handle rough handling. Though then again, I guess the handling isn't *that* rough, because out of pretty much all my earthly possessions, literally the only thing that got broken was the glass in one picture frame.
posted by rue72 at 7:54 PM on June 25, 2014

It depends on exactly where you're moving from and to, but I've done the cross country move a couple times, and both times used different Pod-type companies. Depending on the actual amount of stuff you have, ABF-upack pods are pretty cheap. I'm sure there are a couple other slightly cheaper ways to do this, but it's totally cheaper than USPS. They also have the advantage of being quite a bit smaller than the actual 'PODS' company's containers.

Family of two adults and a sub-2 year old moved almost all our stuff (we got rid of a bunch of furniture, and our bikes, some clothes and important sentimental things came in the car with us) fit everything into two of their pods with a bit of room to spare. One pod could easily fit an entire single person's belongings into it, and you wouldn't have to get rid of everything if you didn't want to.

The 'Door to Door' company is cheaper, but doesn't service certain areas. We were moving from Portland Oregon to Portland Maine; Door to door was like 150 bucks cheaper, but didn't service maine, so we had to pick the pod up ourselves in new hampshire, then load it into a uhaul to complete the journey….It was just a pain in the ass. But if they service the areas you're moving, they're just as good in terms of service and speed.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:59 PM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Shipping by amtrak is pretty good, but not for electronics (although they let me ship a box that said "microwave"-- it did not in fact contain a microwave, so I dont' know what they would have done if it did). On the order of 300$ for 500lbs of stuff. Depends on where you're sending it and you have to actually call them for a quote. I just sent stuff Toledo-Denver, and though they quoted 4-6 days, it actually only took 2 (annoying in my case, because now I have to pay them to store it while I am in NJ..)

Books can be shipped library rate by USPS. c. 35$ for 70 lb box.
posted by nat at 8:05 PM on June 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm shipping all of my books and movies by media mail. I just calculated it online. A 45lbs 12X12X12 box costs 23.05. There are restrictions though.
posted by AtoBtoA at 8:09 PM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I did a move from Minnesota to rural Maine three years ago by car.

- Media mail for books (I did 10 boxes, cost about $200 total, for about 300 books, mix of paperback and hardcover. I only kept things I knew I really wanted to move, and have since replaced a bunch of things in ebook copies. I advise more smaller boxes: you will have to do some hauling of them to the post office and so on. I think mine ended up around 25 pounds each, and that was manageable, and more wouldn't have been for me.) They showed up between 5 and 10 days after I sent it, though there was one box that was something like 12 days.

- I had some archival magazines (which can't go media mail because of advertising): these went in priority mail boxes.

- I weeded out the clothes I didn't want, and mailed all the not-summer stuff (clothing is light)

- I sold my existing car on one end - it was going on 11, needed AC fixing and other things, and just was not going to do cross country in August well, rented a car for the trip (on the advice of the friend helping me drive, a Mazda 5 has a lot of room, but good gas mileage, and having the back seats fold down gave us a lot more options for space.) Got a new-to-me car on the other end.

- The car had me, the friend helping me drive, the cat (harnessed into one half the back seat), a folk harp, the stuff I couldn't trust to mail (5-6 moderate sized boxes/containers), my comforter and other bedding (not a mattress: I bought that on the other end first thing), my laptop, and so on. We had a bit of room to spare, and could see behind us. Plus clothing for the actual trip.

- I then used various sources (no Ikea nearby, but I found a place that sold futons, and did a run to the nearest small city for basic supplies, and then did bits by Amazon Prime over the next few weeks) as I figured out what I needed.

- I did not keep anything I did not love. If I was just "Meh, it's a set of dishes" about it, I did not move it. Ruthlessness is your friend in this kind of thing.
posted by modernhypatia at 8:28 PM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

We shipped over a thousand pounds of my ex-MIL's stuff for about $500 via Amtrak last year from North Carolina to California. I've moved via Amtrak, my best friend moved via Amtrak. They've always gotten stuff across the country in less than two weeks (more like a week, when I moved Seattle to NC) and for super cheap.
posted by joycehealy at 8:29 PM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've done this loads (back and forth between Toronto/Saskatoon, Vancouver/Saskatoon, Vancouver/Toronto) and I'll fourth all the advice to ship/Greyhound stuff, if you're shipping boxes. Door to Door is wonderful (although I've had really really ratty shitty drivers) and it's reasonably cheap, much cheaper than pods or partial load movers. Pack stuff WELL: bubble wrap, cardboard, lots of padding and tape. It's not handled gently.

They take odd shaped stuff (I've shipped pole lamps and even broken down furniture) and if you ship 20-30 boxes or items, they get bundled together into single shipments of 5 or 6 items, and the price per piece is surprisingly cheap: I think the last pile of stuff I shipped this way came to about 600 bucks.

You're in the USA, but I can tell you that in Canada one bankers box of books (which holds a lot!) is usually 25-30 bucks to ship across the country.
posted by jrochest at 10:13 PM on June 25, 2014

I did something crazy so don't take my advice of you think it is nuts. I was moving from Los Angeles to Chicago. I split a u haul with a stranger off Craigslist (took his info and such) who was also moving in the same timeframe. Then he drove the u haul and I picked up my stuff after I flew there. Total cost was 200 for a good amount of boxes ( no furniture). Also included was some anxiety and incredulous talk from everybody I told.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:08 AM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

We moved in 2012 and used an ABF u-pack pod, I think it was about $1300 for a one-bedroom apt worth of stuff, including furniture. This was cheaper than the quote I got from Pods.

In 2008 I shipped most of my belongings (no furniture) cross-country with UPS and that cost about $300 at the time. This was about 15-20 boxes, some pretty large. A couple of dishes got broken. Even with increased fuel rates, I think UPS might be your cheaper option.
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:23 AM on June 26, 2014

How are you getting yourself there? If you're flying, pay to check the two hugest suitcases you can find. I can fit my entire wardrobe in two big suitcases, and I'm not any kind of a crazy minimalist. I mean, you probably won't be able to take everything that way. But you can take a lot. Ship the books media mail (and weed them RUTHLESSLY before you go).
posted by mskyle at 6:42 AM on June 26, 2014

It's been 12 years since I moved across country but when I did I was calling around to moving companies to figure out the best way and a local moving company offered to hold onto my stuff until they were on their way out here. I don't remember the price but it seemed very reasonable at the time, much less than shipping it any other way I had looked into, although I didn't look at the greyhouse/amtrack option.

In hindsight it's kind of amazing it all worked moving help fell through and everything was rushed and instead of delivering my stuff to their warehouse I ended up leaving it next to their truck at a house we drove by. I remember thinking I'm probably never going to see that stuff again. They said it could be 2 months before they made it out my way but it really was only a couple of weeks. I received every box but 1 which they then found and mailed to me. That was the only box that had anything damaged in it, 1 broken dish, I hadn't pack it well.
posted by snowymorninblues at 9:51 AM on June 26, 2014

I used Amtrak for a cross-country move about 2 years ago and it was the best thing ever, I can't recommend it enough. My relevant AskMe is here. And sell as much as you can on Craigslist first! Last time we moved, we kept all the money we made from Craigslist sales in an envelope, and it was enough to mostly furnish our new place when we got to town (off Craigslist, of course!).
posted by jabes at 10:54 AM on June 26, 2014

I used to get bids and the cheapest guy packed up our house into his horse trailer and drove it that week. He said he gets jobs all along the route so that he makes money both ways. It was really cheap, 400 for a two bedroom apartment and there were no problems.
posted by yodelingisfun at 11:52 AM on June 26, 2014

books, clothing, and some kitchen stuff

You are so way ahead of 99% of people who move. (My friends and I used to say we all moved sticks across the country -- and passed each other each way.)

If you really need to cut costs: Cull your books, clothes, and kitchen stuff -- which of that stuff can you not replace cheap? (for me it would be the books, but that's me)

What's left, pile it in your living room. Then you have a real number: height x length x breadth. Whether it's a boxful, a trunkful, a palletful, a podful (I doubt you'll need a pod), just call shippers for a price.

Seriously, from what I read: You can do this in a car. If you don't own one, rent one -- or better yet, get paid to drive one. It's a nice mode of travel.
posted by LonnieK at 7:47 PM on June 26, 2014

We got rid of all our furniture but still had a lot of *stuff* to move cross-country, maybe more than you do. Also my car is small and most of it was taken up by dog kennels. Based on AskMe recommendations, we did ABF U-Pack (not the pods). My SO did all the heavy lifting and I think he had to rent a truck to bring the stuff to and from the ABF locations, but it was the cheapest option.
posted by radioamy at 11:45 AM on June 27, 2014

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