Cheapest Ways to Move Across Canada

Packing yourself, renting a vehicle, and unpacking yourself at your new location is almost always the least expensive way to get your belongings to your new home.

Even if you pay for moving supplies, gas, insurance, and rental fees, it is cheaper than paying someone else to do the work for you.

How to Move Across Canada

You have many options when you’re planning a move.

However, the cost is often the biggest consideration.

Nonetheless, the cheapest option isn’t always the best choice or the most convenient.

If you plan and/or you aren’t afraid of a little work, you could save thousands of dollars.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll compare the cost of moving the contents of a one-bedroom apartment or condo from St.

John’s Newfoundland to Surrey, British Columbia.

That’s around 7,000 km.

Our move date is April 1st, 2022.

Of course, prices will vary depending on what you own, where you start your move and where it ends.

However, this should give you a brief overview of what to expect.

1. Rent a Truck, Trailer, or Van

In almost all cases, renting a truck, trailer, or van is your cheapest option. 

However, costs vary drastically between rental companies.

If you need storage during the move, it will cost you more.

Luckily, some rental and moving companies offer discounts on storage units.

The time you choose for your move affects your rate too.

For instance, moving during warmer months may cost you more than if you move in the fall or winter.

Moving at month-end will probably cost you more than if you move a few days before or after.

For this example, we’re estimating the cost of renting a 20-foot truck through U-Haul.

This truck allows ample space for all belongings.

The estimate includes the vehicle rental, insurance for accidental damage and theft of the truck and your belongings, as well as some medical/life protection for you and your passenger.

It does not include moving materials, roadside assistance, storage, or helpers.

The cost is $2,565, plus applicable taxes.

Don’t forget, you must add the cost of actually getting to your destination.

You’ll need to pay for plane tickets or fuel, meals, and hotels along the way.

We’ve tacked on $2,000 to cover these costs.

Approximate Cost: $4,565.00, plus applicable taxes

Pros
  • Least expensive method since you do everything yourself
  • You set the timeline for the move
  • No hourly fees
  • Convenience – everything you need usually offered under one roof & online booking
Cons
  • Labour intensive & time-consuming – you pack, load, drive, and unpack – a reasonable estimate for a cross-country move is 6-days
  • Fuel, mileage, hotels, and meals can increase costs dramatically
  • May need to buy more insurance coverage for your belongings and third-party liability
  • Road risks – you’re doing the driving and must deal with weather conditions, vehicle breakdowns and more
Driving across Canada

2. Hybrid Move

This method combines the services of a moving company with your own efforts.

For instance, you could do the packing and loading and the mover could transport your belongings to your new home.

It is difficult to estimate how much this would cost as it depends on the mover and how much effort you’re willing to put into your move.

However, any labour you shave off should result in savings.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll use the amount quoted for a rental truck above, plus 10 hours labour at $65 per hour for 2 people.

Then we’ll tack on another 20 percent for the mover’s expenses such as fuel, insurance, and travel time.

This amounts to $4,326, plus applicable taxes.

However, you will also need to factor in your expenses for travelling across the country.

Whether you fly or drive, this could increase this amount by as much as $2,000, or more.

Approximate Cost: $6,326.00, plus applicable taxes

Pros
  • May cut down on overall costs
  • No driving
  • Fuel costs and other expenses included
  • Movers have proper equipment
  • May offer some liability insurance
Cons
  • You pack, load, and unload
  • Takes more time to organize
  • Self-packed items may not qualify under mover’s insurance coverage
  • Items damaged due to your actions wouldn’t be covered

3. Purge & Rebuy

Having moved across the country and the world several times, I can attest to this method.

Unless something has sentimental value or it’s a priceless heirloom, you’re almost always better off selling it before you move.

The reasons for this are simple. 

First, no matter which moving method you choose your costs revolve around either the size of the container or vehicle and/or the weight of your belongings.

If you own fewer things, you will normally pay less.

Second, we often overvalue what we own and forget about that dreaded word “depreciation”.

Furniture and vehicles can depreciate significantly and quickly. 

Finally, some of the items you own may not suit or fit into your new home.

If you’re paying hefty sums to ship bulky or heavy furniture or other items, consider selling them.

Then ship what’s remaining by ground transportation.

You will still need to add on your costs for travelling across the country, even if you ship some of your items.

Approximate Cost: Variable – get shipping quotes, tack on travel costs, and then decide

Pros
  • Less stuff – less headaches
  • Lower shipping and insurance costs
  • New items will suit your new home
Cons
  • Takes time to sell and rebuy belongings
  • Can be difficult to let go of items
  • New furniture could cost more than the cost of moving your existing items

4. Moving Containers

Whether you rent a pod, steel box, or a railway car, renting a moving container eliminates the driving.

However, you still need to pack and unpack the unit and these services aren’t available in all areas.

For the purposes of this article, we’re estimating the cost of renting two U-Box containers which should hold the contents of a one-bedroom apartment or condo.

This quote includes two containers for one month, 24 furniture pads, shipping, and fuel costs.

The estimated time for shipping is 17-days.

Delivery to your door is extra.

This amounts to $7,989.90, plus applicable taxes.

Costs vary greatly between companies and container types.

You may be able to reduce this amount considerably.

Don’t forget, you need to add on the estimated $2,000 for your travel costs too. 

Approximate Cost: $9,989.90, plus applicable taxes

Pros
  • No driving
  • Fuel costs included
  • May eliminate storage charges – can store in warehouse without additional fee for up to 30-days
  • More time for you to travel across the country
Cons
  • More expensive
  • May only include delivery to the company depot, unless you pay an additional fee
  • Must load and unload
  • Need additional insurance coverage – belongings are not insured for loss or damage while in transit or while stored at the warehouse
  • Plywood containers often unsuitable for valuable items

5. Hire a Full-Service Mover

Hiring a professional, full- service mover is usually, but not always, your most costly option.

It is convenient and if you want, you needn’t lift a finger.

Professional movers have experience and proper equipment too.

However, it is important you choose a reputable one.

Certification through the Canadian Association of Movers (CAM) is highly-recommended.

Also, ensure that the mover and subcontractors have workers’ compensation coverage.

It is difficult to estimate your costs as this depends on many factors.

These include:

  • Which moving company you choose
  • How many movers the company uses
  • Types of items
  • Total weight
  • Extra services
  • When you move

For the sake of this article, we’re estimating the cost based on online forums.

Most Canadians cited between $5,190 and $6,700, plus your travel expenses.

We’ve estimated those at $2,000.

If you’re travelling with a family, they could be even more.

Approximate Cost: Between $7,190 and $8,700.00, plus applicable taxes

Pros
  • Less mental and physical stress
  • No driving
  • Fuel costs and other expenses included
  • Movers have proper equipment
  • May be able to piggyback onto a half load for lower rates
Cons
  • Complex contracts
  • Less moving and delivery day flexibility
  • May use sub-contractors for services provided
  • Insurance coverage varies widely between moving companies
  • Liability may be based on weight, not item value

Did You Know?

If you have a flexible moving date, you might be able to hire a mover for much less money than you might expect.

Other Factors to Consider When Moving

  • Moving during the summer is the most expensive as is scheduling a move on a weekend.
  • Check whether your chosen method for moving includes mileage. If it is an extra expense, it can increase the cost of a cross-country move substantially.
  • Insurance is also an important consideration. You may have sufficient coverage through a combination of your household insurance and what the mover offers, but maybe not. 

Unless you buy replacement value coverage, the mover’s liability is often calculated by weight.

This is usually only around $1.32 per kg.

Talk to your insurance provider about proper coverage while your items are in transit.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does a cross Canada move cost?
  • How much does it cost to ship a container across Canada?
  • What is the cheapest way to move long distance?

Charlene Royston has written extensively for the private, public, and non-profit sectors for over ten years. Her experience working with a trust company led to a special interest in personal finance, including mortgages, investments, and retirement options. By simplifying the complex, she hopes to empower others to make more informed decisions.