Many homebuyers and sellers wonder how to ship their boxes for the least amount of money. If you're moving from one home to another and you have a lot of possessions, hiring movers to do the job is the obvious choice. But what if you only have a few boxes to move? Even if you're moving across the country, hiring movers isn't one of the cheapest ways to ship boxes.
You could use the post office, but their charges scale-up rapidly when you want to ship a large box. A box containing some of your belongings could cost you several hundred dollars with the USPS, so they're not the best choice for shipping boxes for the lowest cost. Here are some tips to ship boxes cheaply to save you money on a smaller move:
Greyhound Package Express
Greyhound buses are well-known for transporting people across the country, but they also have a shipping service. The unused space in the luggage compartments of their buses is used to offer their Package Express service. Shipping will cost you around a dollar per pound, keeping your costs down if you only have a few boxes to move. While you usually drop off and collect your boxes from their depot, they'll collect and deliver to your address for an additional fee.
Since your boxes will be packed in the luggage section at the bottom of the bus, there are restrictions on the size of the box you can use. You cannot use boxes bigger than 30" x 47" x 82", and you need to remember that the contents of the box could be in for a more rough ride. You need to be sure that fragile items are packed very well to avoid damage during the journey.
If something does get damaged in transit, you may be compensated for the declared value of the items. This declaration has to be made in writing when the box is handed over to Greyhound. There's no additional charge for items up to the value of $100, but there are charges above that value. They will not carry boxes containing items above $1,000 in declared value. Take a look at this guide on moving boxes for information on sizing and usage.
All boxes will need to be inspected before being accepted. This means that you shouldn't tape them up before dropping them off or having them collected. There's a long list of prohibited items that cannot be sent on a Greyhound bus, so check their site for details.
The Busfreighter business is partnered with Greyhound, offering the same service as the bus company. They're able to offer slightly better prices on shipping, however, with a cost of around 85 cents per pound.
The rules for Busfreighter are very similar to Greyhound. The cheapest way to ship boxes with Busfreighter is to drop them off at the Greyhound station unsealed. Expect delivery to take two days for shorter journeys, and up to four days for transportation over 500 miles.
Much like Greyhound, Amtrak makes use of unused cargo space on their train carriages for shipping. Individual boxes can't weigh more than 50 pounds and be larger than 36" x 36" x 36". Your total shipment can't weigh more than 500 pounds, and costs start at $40. However, starting Oct. 1, 2020, Amtrak is suspending this service until further notice. You can take advantage of shipping your boxes cheaply before then.
uShip is a different kind of service than the ones already mentioned. They offer a marketplace for truck drivers to bid for boxes to take on journeys they're already making. This allows a trucker to fill any unused space and earn the driver more money for not much extra work.
It can also mean very low prices for the customer, though this depends on how many trucks take the route and the bids you receive as a result. The more bids you get, the lower the price will be, but the prices might not be better than other options if it isn't a popular route for truckers.
You can check the feedback of drivers before you agree to use them, and all truckers have been verified by uShip. There's more leeway on the size of the box you can have shipped, and you can purchase insurance through the site. They don't have restrictions on what you can have shipped either; it depends on what the driver is willing to take.
Moving Yourself vs. Hiring Professionals
One of the most significant debates when moving is whether to do it yourself or hire professional movers. Both of these options have pros and cons, including the moving costs and the ease of getting the job done.
In either case, you may decide that shipping some of your boxes via one of the above methods makes more sense, especially if you've had your boxes in self-storage and don't have other large pieces of furniture or household goods to move. Weigh your options carefully, and you could end up saving a significant amount of money!
Bill Gassett is a nationally recognized real estate leader who has been helping people buy and sell MetroWest Massachusetts real estate for the past 33 years. He has been one of the top RE/MAX REALTORS® in New England for the past decade. Gassett works for RE/MAX Executive Realty in Hopkinton, Mass. In 2018, he was the No. 1 RE/MAX real estate agent in Massachusetts.