A couple years ago, I moved to a new state and was floored at how much it cost — the average quote for my two-story, three bedroom house was $3,000.
Instead of hiring movers, I ended up renting a one-way U-Haul for just under $500. The rest, I paid for in sweat.
According to Moving.com,1 a comparison site for movers and sister site of Realtor.com, the average cost of a local move is $1,250, while the average cost of a long-distance move is $4,890.
You can always get a free moving quote to see what your full-pay options are.
Unfortunately, if you’re looking to move for free, there aren’t legitimate charity options unless you are in an emergency situation like homelessness or violence. However, there are ways to find affordable movers and moving services:
- Charities that help with moving
- Moving assistance for seniors
- Emergency relocation programs
- How to cut moving costs
- Common moving scams
Charities that help with moving expenses
If you meet certain income and other eligibility requirements, you may be able to get help from a charity organization with the cost of your move, especially if you are in a crisis (i.e. facing eviction or fleeing domestic violence).
Start by searching online for charities in your city or town, and contact them to ask if they offer moving assistance. You may be required to provide documents to verify your income and information about your move.
Here are some nationwide charities that may offer financial help with moving if you are navigating homelessness:
The Salvation Army is a global, faith-based organization that offers services to people in need.
Regional locations offer different community programs based on what’s needed in a particular area. For example, the Salvation Army Housing Now program in the Denver metro area provides homeless families with up to $150 for moving expenses.2
All locations may not offer moving assistance, so you’ll have to contact your local Salvation Army or visit your local branch’s website to see what they offer.
Some YWCA locations, like the one in Quincy, Ill., offer a Supportive Housing Program that provides one-time assistance with moving costs for individuals and families who are homeless.3
Contact your local YWCA to ask if there are options to help you with the cost of your move.
United Way 211
While the United Way does not directly provide money to help people move, they can connect you to resources in your community.
Dial 211 on your mobile or landline phone, or visit 211.org to ask about moving and financial assistance.
Churches and religious organizations often have programs and ministries to serve community needs. You can contact local churches and ask about one-time help with moving costs.
For example, Catholic Community Services of King County, Wash. offers move-in assistance once a year.10 Even if your church can’t offer financial help for your move, volunteers from your church community may be willing to offer you help in the form of unpaid labor.
If you can’t find a home right away, some organizations will help you pay to store your belongings. For example, Coalition for the Homeless in New York City helps pay for storage for people living in a shelter.4
Moving assistance for senior citizens
Though services vary by region, your state Department of Aging is a great place to look for information on free or low-cost moving assistance for seniors.
On a local level, you can reach out to senior centers and county or city departments of aging. The Administration for Community Living (ACL) Eldercare Locator is a helpful tool to find services that help seniors.
Most programs will require that you meet eligibility guidelines in regards to age, income, and assets. For example:
- Housing Opportunities & Maintenance for the Elderly (H.O.M.E.) in Chicago, Ill., offers free boxes and moving services on a sliding fee scale based on monthly income for seniors 62 and over (55 and over if disabled)5
- The United Way of King County, Wash., has a Mighty Movers program staffed with volunteers to help seniors move6
You can also look into organizations like the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). AARP members can get a $250 discount on moving costs when they use Shyft moving services7 and up to 20% off Budget truck rentals.8
If you decide to hire a moving company, ask if they offer a discount for seniors.
Crisis and emergency moving assistance
If you are in an emergency situation and need help moving because of a house fire, domestic violence situation, eviction, or natural disaster, these resources can help:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: This website provides resources to help you move from an abusive home, or you can call 800-799-SAFE
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): The FEMA Individuals and Households program provides financial assistance with moving and storage costs after a disaster
- Emergency Solutions Grant: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has funding for its Homelessness Prevention program that offers financial assistance for moving costs through Continuum of Care programs
- Nonprofits: Reach out to local nonprofits likeModest Needs,9 which offers a one-time grant of up to $1,000 to help low-income families handle an emergency situation like moving quickly from a home
Moving assistance for disabled
If you are disabled and need help moving, one of these organizations may be able to help or at least point you in the right direction:
- The Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL) connects people with resources that support independent living. Call 888-677-1199 to ask about resources in your area.
- Centers for Independent Living helps people with disabilities transition from nursing homes and other institutions to community-based residences.
- Elderly Disabled Living (EDL) is a charity that offers financial help to low-income seniors and disabled persons to pay for utilities, health care, transportation, housing, and other expenses on a case-by-case basis. Each month, EDL accepts applications for assistance and chooses winners based on need.
Moving assistance for veterans and disabled veterans
If you are a veteran or disabled veteran, here are some resources to find help with moving to a new home:
- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a Relocation Assistance Program for veterans transitioning out of the military that includes services to help you plan and budget your move
- If you live in a rural area with six or less people per square mile, the Post-9/11 GI Bill offers a one-time payment for veterans, service member or qualified dependent children to move from that area to attend school
- The National Resource Directory helps connects veterans and service members to resources that support transitioning to civilian life
- The Wounded Warrior Project forms community partnerships to help wounded, injured, or ill veterans get the support they need. For example, Operation We Are Here offers multiple resources for military moves.
Also, reach out to military service and relief organizations to ask about moving assistance (some of them may require membership):
- Army Emergency Relief: This is the Army’s nonprofit that provides financial help to soldiers and their families as they relocate
- Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society: Offers Quick Assist interest-free loans of up to $1,000 for urgent financial needs
- Air Force Aid Society: Provides emergency financial assistance for basic living expenses like gasoline and vehicle repairs which are helpful during a move
- Coast Guard Mutual Assistance: Has a General Assistance program that provides help with moving expenses when a move is necessary for the overall health of the family
- Veterans of Foreign Wars: Offers an Unmet Needs grant that provides up to $2,500 for expenses that you cannot pay due to financial hardship
More emergency fund resources
Emergency fund resources often require proof of financial hardship and can provide money to address immediate needs. There are also lots of ways to earn extra cash to build your moving fund.
Here are some helpful posts:
- 20+ ways to get free money in 2023 to help pay bills
- 8+ legit grants for single moms for hardships and more in 2023
- Need money now? 15 ways to get free money instantly
- What can I sell to make money (or resell)? 41 ideas for 2023
- How to prepare for a recession and survive in 2023 — 9 things to do now
Other relocation help, relocation assistance programs
Some businesses offer grants specifically for moving. For example, Move.org offers a $500 grant to people living in the U.S. who are planning to move in the next six months. The application is open in the summer and fall, based on availability.
If you are being displaced from your home by the government, you are entitled to relocation assistance under the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970. It’s important not to move until you receive communication about your rights and options from the government.
Your state human services agency may offer a relocation program. For example, Michigan’s MI Bridges program offers up to $1,040 in relocation funds based on household income and size.11
If you get a new job in another city or state, ask your employer about reimbursement for moving expenses.
If you are a member of a church, service organization, fraternity, or sorority, you may be able to get a need-based grant or find volunteers to help you move.
Typically, you’ll need to provide identification and proof of income and assets at a minimum to get help for a need-based grant.
How to cut moving costs
You’ll have to do a lot of digging to find resources or people who are willing to move you for free. However, if you can’t get the help you need for a free move, here are some tips for cutting costs:
- Recruit friends and family: Bribe people with pizza and beverages to help you pack and move items from your home
- Seek volunteers: Ask for help from volunteer organizations and churches in your community to see if you can get help moving small items for free
- Start a GoFundMe page: You can tell your story (just like Heather, a single mom from Denver facing eviction) and get financial support from people who care by sharing your link on social media
- Find an affordable moving solution: Opt for storage pods or one-way truck rentals to cut costs
- Membership perks: If you belong to AAA or warehouse clubs like Costco, ask about membership discounts on moving expenses
- Freecycle: Use Freecycle.org to find free packing supplies like boxes, bubble wrap, and packing tape
- Use apps to sell stuff: Make extra money by using apps to sell items you no longer need
- Move during off-peak times: The busiest time to move is May through September, so move during the off-season when moving companies are more likely to have specials and discount deals
- Use what you have: Instead of buying packing materials like bubble wrap use what you have around the house, like newspapers, towels and linens to wrap fragile items
- Ask stores about free boxes: Go to your local grocery and big box stores and ask if they are willing to give you unwanted boxes
- Donate unwanted items: Cut down on what you have to take with you by donating furniture and other household goods to charity
Avoid predatory moving scammers
Arm yourself with knowledge on how to spot red flags to avoid predatory moving scammers, including:
- Companies that quote you a low rate, then charge you more upon job completion or tack on additional fees
- Companies that request a large down payment then don’t complete the job
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General (US DOT OIG), here are some red flags to watch for on a moving company’s website12:
- No address or credentials: No web presence, physical address, or any information about their licensing, insurance, or registration as a business (such as a DOT number)
- Sketchy business details: Company uses a generic email address or someone answers the phone with a “hello” instead of using the company name
- Overly positive reviews: No matter how great the business, all reviews won't be five stars and glowing so read carefully and see if people sound genuine as some places hire people to make fake reviews or post their own
- Unproven claims: Moving business claims to be in business for decades but you can’t find a web presence, reviews, or anything to prove such claims
- No in-person inspection: The company agrees to move your belongings without seeing them in person (or using a video chat if you are in another state), yet gives you a verbal estimate instead of a written one
- Pushy salesperson: Salesperson makes statements like “this price is only good for today” or contacts you daily to get you to commit to the hire and make a deposit
- Poor communication: The moving company is hard to reach by email or phone or does not answer your questions
- Credit not accepted: Mover will not take a credit card as a form of payment and only accepts cash, wire transfers, or money orders
- Large deposit: The moving company asks for a large deposit or demands payment in full in advance of the move
- Blank contract: A moving representative shows up on moving day with a blank contract to sign
The Better Business Bureau also offers tips for avoiding moving scams:
To make sure you’re choosing a reputable mover, check out these resources and third-party review sites:
- Better Business Bureau (BBB): You can vet moving companies based on their BBB rating and consumer reviews
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA): Part of the DOT, the FMCSA has an in-depth online guide to help with your move, including a booklet you can download about your rights and responsibilities when you move
- Independent consumer review sites: Sites like Trustpilot and Consumer Advocate give you a glimpse of what other people think of the mover
- MovingScam.com: A site dedicated to finding reputable movers that includes reviews, forums, and a list of vetted movers
- Friends and family: Ask your network who they have used in the past
- Real estate agents: Your local real estate agent can likely refer you to reputable movers
Also, it’s a good idea to hire an actual moving company versus a moving broker. A moving broker doesn’t do any of the work, but rather hires a subcontractor to do the work. You may be charged extra fees just for involving a middle man.
Here’s what happened when one Reddit user hired a moving broker:
And here is more helpful information on moving brokers from Reddit:
Once you find reputable moving companies or solutions (such as renting a truck or using moving pods you pack yourself that are transported to your new home), budget out what it will cost to make your move a reality.
Good companies will give you a free estimate or quote. Get estimates from several moving companies so you can compare costs. If you find that you cannot afford the cost, look for low-cost moving alternatives, as well as financial assistance to cover your relocation costs.
Check out these housing resources and more help for low-income families:
- “Moving cost calculator for moving estimates” Moving.com https://www.moving.com/movers/moving-cost-calculator.asp
- “Housing Now – Meet Program Needs” The Salvation Army https://housingfirst.salvationarmy.org/housing_now_intermountain/program-needs/
- “Supportive Housing Program” YWCA https://www.ywcaquincy.org/what-were-doing/promoting-womens-wellness/
- “Do You Know of Any Cheap Or Free Storage Facilities For My Things While I Am In Shelter?” Coalition for the Homeless https://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/get-help/help-with-something-else/cheap-free-storage-facilities/
- “Moving Assistance” Housing Opportunities & Maintenance for the Elderly https://homeseniors.org/moving-assistance
- “Mighty Movers needed for older adults in King County” United Way https://volunteer.uwkc.org/need/detail/?need_id=576942
- “Shyft offers AARP Member Benefits” AARP https://www.aarpmovingservices.com/
- “Member Benefits Budget Truck Rental” AARP https://www.aarp.org/membership/benefits/carrental/budget-truck-rental/
- “Rental Assistance Programs – Seattle / King County.” Rental Housing Association of WA. https://thechurchcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Rental_Assistance_in_Seattle_King_County.pdf
- “Relocation Assistance” Michigan Health and Human Services MI Bridges https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/assistance-programs/emergency-relief/relocation
- “Household Goods Moving Fraud” U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General https://www.oig.dot.gov/investigations/household-goods-moving-fraud