Ask LH: How Can I Move Interstate Cheaply?

Ask LH: How Can I Move Interstate Cheaply?

Dear Lifehacker, Any hacks on moving interstate? Truck rental and removalists are very expensive. Any other options? Especially for a student with minimal furniture. Cheers, Busted By Border Budget

Picture by Meathead Movers

Dear BBBB,

While I spend a lot of time on the road, the last time I moved house more than one suburb was after I left university (in Armidale, NSW) and shifted to Sydney. A mate was moving at the same time, so initially we just threw the absolute essentials into his car and stored everything else with his mother. A month later and having scored jobs and permanent places to live, we hired a truck (which was much cheaper in Sydney), drove it down and picked up everything else. It worked pretty well, but I was lucky to have free storage options and to know someone else doing the same thing.

Because I can’t claim to have undertaken that kind of move more recently, I’m trusting that readers might kick in with some more specific suggestions. But given your description, I’m rather tempted to suggest: sell most everything you own and start again. One suitcase can hold plenty of clothes, and a notebook computer gives you work, study and entertainment options. You won’t always be at a point in your life when you have “minimal furniture”, so this could be a great way to keep your life as clutter-free as possible.

If you own a car, you can obviously take a little more stuff: just set aside a day or two to drive to your new location. If you don’t, ditching everything will be the simplest option, letting you jump on a plane (or, given the student budget, a coach). If you do fly, make sure to check out the excess baggage fees carefully, as you could end up paying more than you expect if you don’t plan well.

Presuming you do want to keep stuff and don’t plan on storing it, a standard bit of advice in this context is to try backloading: getting your items put into the back of a removal truck that’s already going to your destination but which isn’t full. (Google for ‘backloading’ and you’ll find plenty of companies offering the service.) That does depend on someone making that move, however — not a challenge if you’re going Sydney-Melbourne (for instance), but more difficult if you’re heading from Lightning Ridge to Townsville.

Other advice, readers? Share your best cheapskate moving tricks in the comments.


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  • I moved from Melbourne to Perth a few years ago and the cheapest way worked out to be a backload removalist.

    They consolidated my furniture and boxes with other peoples in a large container and shipped it over once it was full. My stuff took up about 1/4 of the container and it cost me around $1400 from memory.

    The only down side is that they don’t guarantee how long it will take for your stuff to get to your destination because they won’t send the container until it’s full. I was lucky in that it took me three days to drive over and then my furniture turned up the next day. Other people I know of have had to wait over a month for their stuff to be delivered though.

  • I’ll second backload removalists, they’re

    And, of course: Strip down your possessions to what you need or has real sentimental value. If your table costs $50 to move, it’ll often be cheaper to sell yours before you go and buy a second hand one when you get there.

    It involves a bit more work, but you generally won’t replace all the stuff you never use. It’s amazing how you accumulate weirdly specific kitchen items and books you never wanted to own.

  • For those who live in a house with a bit of land, you can have a container dropped at your place, taking your time to fill it up (I did it in a week) and then the truck comes, lifts the container and takes it to your new place. Just great and no hurries.

  • A friend of mine moved used Greyhound buses to ship some things when he moved from Brisbane to Melbourne a few years ago. I can’t recall the exact cost, but he said it was a lot cheaper than other options. Obviously there would be size limits – but I remember seeing TVs and pushbikes waiting for pick-up when I went with him to the warehouse to collect his stuff.

  • Probably not feasable unless you’re moving from Canberra to Melb or Syd, or only just across the border on the East Coast somewhere, but my sister hired a Budget rentals truck with lifter on a Tuesday at 50% off (apparently standard Tuesday rates).

  • I moved from Melb to Syd 5 years ago. I estimated the amount of space required to move my stuff, then boxed it up and rented a small truck from Budget.

    The drive was fun. Had my Dad, my wife and me all in the front like the old isuzu adds – not so squeezy.

    It was a rough trip though as I rented the truck in an afternoon, shoved everything in the next morning, slugged it to Sydney, unpacked the next morning, then took the truck back.

    Anyway, my two cents.

  • For the record, I’m in the industry, but I won’t be pimping specific companies.

    Watch the hire trucks if you’re moving a long distance – they charge about 30 cents/kilometre after 150k’s, so don’t get stung by driving Brisbane-Sydney and expecting a cheap truck hire.

    Couple of options – Backloading will be by far the cheapest, but as previously mentioned, there is no guarantee of when your goods we be delivered, which could be annoying. Also keep in mind that back loaders will usually just send 1 driver, and hire labour wherever they are delivering. This might mean you get inexperienced or dodgy guys.

    Which leads me to my next point: Insurance!

    Get. Insurance. I can’t put it any plainer than that. Most companies will say something like “Fully Insured”, or tell you that they have “Transit Insurance”. This means that if the truck rolls over, or hits your house, you might be covered. But it has nothing to do with the items in the truck.

    Get separate insurance, either through your current contents insurer, or a third party like This could save a lot of heartache.

  • We did a backload between Adl and Syd – cost < $1500 for a house full of furniture. Had to stay in a motel for a few extra nights as the truck was filled with other things after we loaded and that had to be unloaded first. Still worked out cheaper.

    • Hi, we r taking a job in Adelaide and need to move our 2 bedroom house. We live in Sydney. Who do I contact in regards to backloading? Cheers for the info.

      • I used Harvey Bay Removals which were recommended by friends who owned a furniture removal business but couldn’t move me themselves. They were bloody awesome and I coukdnt recommend them enough.

  • My (student) daughter researched a lot of options for moving interstate without a car or furniture and the cheapest option was a combination of excess baggage fees and Australia Post. Seriously, don’t discount mailing boxes of stuff to your address at the other end before you leave. Also, cull, cull, cull – most of us have way too much useless crap that we should never consider paying freight for.

  • Assuming you have friends in at least one of your States who will chip in and help out, there are movers who will allow reduced rates (dependant on hourly labour costs) if you can muster a couple of mates to load the truck and/or unload it.

    Part of their fee is hourly rate for local labour; ie, moving your boxes and furniture from the truck to the house. So if you’ve got mates to help then that can sa

  • We moved from Tassie to Ayers Rock. I booked a freight pallet with Toll. We packed all of our stuff into boxes, loaded the boxes into a ute and then drove to the freight yard and loaded the pallet ourselves. Total cost $650. Obviously this won’t work with larger stuff like furniture, but I thought it was a good deal.

  • Don’t forget to put the word out amongst your mates and family – someone might have a ute or large vehicle you can borrow.

    If you plan to pay someone to shift you get lots of quotes! My last move was 10 years ago and there was a lot of difference in prices. NB if you have a lot of stuff it is nice to pay someone to load and unload.

    If you hire a pan tech be bloody careful. Thankfully my wife and son both screamed at me before I drove it under the low bridge. If I had hit it would have wiped out any savings from hiring.

    My most interesting move was in 1976 when I moved from Sydney to Lismore. I hired a railway freight car for bugger all money. They parked it at a siding and I loaded all my rough gear aboard (tractor, implements, motorbikes, anything large and weatherproof). I have no idea whether rail do freight any more but once it was the cheapest way to send stuff. BTW NSW rail had a weird way of doing business – rail freight was cheap but normal parcel was expensive. You had to know there was a difference and ask for freight.

    BTW be careful when getting rid of the unnecessary junk. When you move quite often what was junk may suddenly become important and having to buy that ‘junk’ after you have chucked it is painful.

  • I made a student budget move 2 years ago, the Perth to Melbourne journey.
    Sell all your white goods and as much furniture as you can.
    Buy as many large storage tubs as needed and courier everything.
    I moved(posted?) all my belongings for under 500. Far cheaper and quicker that any so called ‘cheap’ backloaders or movers could offer me.
    The key is to pack it right,pack it tight and monitor the weight.Hopr iy helps.

  • I second the shipping container option (or similar). Interstate removalists and backloading are generally quite painful in that they don’t give you an exact time/day for pickup which makes it hard. Check out one such company I know of called TAXIBOX – url is or . I think they are only between Sydney and Melbourne but are growing pretty fast and might be in Brisbane as well.

  • We moved our stuff from Sydney To Brisbane late last year, only had a bedrooms worth of stuff
    Company we used was Moving Again. The picked up on the Monday then delivered Wednesday in Brisbane, driver called us a couple of hours earlier than he said but pretty good all in all
    The site we booked through was

  • I moved to Gold Coast from Melbourne last month, my boss paid, but i got the quotes we used Wemove. Pretty reasonable compared to others and no complaints from my wife, so that is always a bonus 🙂
    They also moved a car up for us, and that was delivered quickly too

  • My husband and I with children are moving from Townsville to perth any ideas we have a fair bit of stuff. Might look into the shipping container but any other ideas would be greatly appreciated.

  • I don’t know about you, but I love decluttering whenever I’m about to move. I try to keep only what’s really necessary so that I don’t spend too much on moving services, but at the same time try and be frugal and stop myself from buying everything new. It’s a hard balance, but you’ll get it!

  • A self pack shipping company is definitely a great option. The prices (especially between the main centers) are really competitive and you can usually get your household contents delivered door-to-door. A back-load removals is a better option if you only have a few things to move but if you are moving the contents of your house, it’s going to be much safer packed by you into your own shipping container. I work for a family run business in Perth and we move people all over Australia, if you’re looking for a reliable and cheap removalist, please contact me for a quote.

  • If you do your figures right, hiring a professional mover might actually save you a pretty penny. Especially if you’re not sure how to carry things out on your own. The other way is to make sure that you’ve packed right and well so that you minimise the amount of things that are going into storage to be shifted interstate.

  • I personally think , Its better to use a self pack removalist than using a full service mover! cause firstly we dont want some strangers to walk in to our house and touching our stuff ( at least i am not comfortable with that ) and secondly thats much expensive . Back last year November i moved from Tassie to Melbourne ( trust me it was really tough to find a right one ) we have had quotes from different companies and most of them were very pricey! And was going through forums and found self packing removal is much better option! We tried youpack and gave me competitive Quote! They also gave free balnkets and one of those girls were really helpful…

    Sorry for the long comment , i thought people should talk about these sort of options on a public platform ( so the needy will get right info )

  • It really depends on how much you’re moving and how far you’re moving. Self packing and DYI can be good options however a full service removalist will ease the stress significantly! John Ryan and Grace have a good reputation, in Melbourne anyway.

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