There are plenty of expenses associated with moving, including moving services or renting a storage unit (plus they’re all especially painful when you’re saving money for a new home). Cardboard moving boxes shouldn’t be one of those!
There are plenty of places to find affordable moving supplies, so let’s get started with Neighbor’s 2023 list of top 7 places to get free moving boxes!
1. Classifieds websites (Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp or Letgo)
Craigslist, the “original” classifieds website, likely has the biggest free section of any website. However, other classifieds competitors, such as Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp and Letgo, have also become valuable resources.
Head to the “free” section of these websites or mobile apps and search for “moving boxes”, “free boxes” or “cardboard boxes”. If you can’t find many options there, look in the “for sale” sections for people selling boxes for cheap (like $1).
Pro Tip: From my experience you will have the best of luck finding boxes at the beginning of the week, just after everyone else has completed their moves the previous weekend.
In addition to looking for people who have already listed their free boxes, take the time to also post that you are looking for free moving boxes.
2. Neighbors, friends and family
As our company name suggests, we’re all in favor of sharing with neighbors! And as our #2 best place to find free moving boxes, there’s a good chance you can find what you’re looking for.
Whether you ask friends down the street or nearby family members, chances are someone either recently moved or is still holding on to cardboard boxes they aren’t using. Take the opportunity to introduce yourself to a new move-in, spark a conversation with that second-cousin who lives down the street who you never talk to, or tell your family how much you love them before asking for a favor.
3. Local stores
Retailers regularly receive shipments and will often have plenty of cardboard boxes for moving or storage. While local businesses are typically more open to providing you with their extra boxes, anything from big box stores to local grocery stores are free game when it comes to finding free boxes. Check nearby locations of the following stores:
- Department stores
- Home improvement stores
- Home Depot
- Grocery stores
- Office supply stores
- Office Depot
- Rite Aid
- Dollar stores
- Dollar Tree
- Pet stores
- Book stores
- Barnes & Noble
- Liquor stores
- Coffee shops
Turning to social media, like Facebook community groups or your local Nextdoor neighborhood, are surprisingly helpful resources for finding empty boxes. Search in your city for groups providing free stuff, item exchanges/swaps, or even just moving boxes. Members of these groups are usually local so you don’t have to drive for hours to pick up the free moving boxes.
PRO TIP: Ask for the boxes that have lids. Typically these are ones that have printer and copier paper inside them. This could be your one stop shop for moving and storage boxes!
Join an online Freecycle group, then create a post about how many free moving boxes you need! If there are any available you will have many response within the hour. These are people who care about making the most use out of their boxes and the environment – they will be more than willing to pass the boxes on to you.
Local recycling centers may also be able to help, although their boxes may need a little more packing tape to fully bring them back to life.
Local elementary, middle, and high schools are frequently receiving shipments of school supplies and other orders. Plus, they’re often receiving sturdy boxes with a lid because of their paper needs. You can typically find free boxes if you drop by nearby schools, as well as community colleges, to see if they have extra ones that are going unused.
7. U-Haul Customer Connect
U-Haul has a location at each of their stores where customers can leave their extra boxes for other people to use for free! Through the U-Haul Box Exchange program, all you have to do is walk in and ask the store manager if they have free boxes available. Just enter in your zip and city and off you go!
While there are additional places to find free moving boxes, we haven’t found these to be reliable, consistent sources like those listed above. However, some more locations where you might be able to score free cardboard boxes include local recycling centers, auto shops, office buildings, college dorms, and public libraries.
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Other Moving Resources
Moving and packing guides
- How to Move a Couch
- How to Move a Mattress
- How to Move a Refrigerator
- How to Move a Piano
- How to Move a Pool Table
- How to Pack Shoes for Moving
- How to Pack Dishes and Glasses
Other moving resources
- Ultimate Moving Checklist
- Where to Find Free Moving Boxes
- Tips for Hiring Movers and Packers
- How Much to Tip Movers
- Should you Stage your Home When Selling?
- Change of Address Checklist
- Moving with Kids
- Moving with a Dog
- Ultimate Guide to Unpacking
Best Moving Box Sizes For Almost Anything
Most people automatically think that big boxes are the best for moving because you can fit more in a large box and then you don’t need to buy or move as many boxes. It’s a great idea, but it doesn’t work. Large boxes with lots of stuff means carrying something very large and sometimes awkwardly-shaped. It means fewer trips, but those trips are harder–sometimes impossible!–and eventually end up taking the same amount of time. Only get the amount of large boxes you need, and never fill them full of books.
Before going out to get cheap moving boxes, look around your house and evaluate how much stuff you have and how you plan on moving it.
Lamps, depending on their size, might be safer moved outside a box. Also look at the storage options you already have. You can pack a laundry basket full of clothes or a trash can full of cleaning supplies. This leads to fewer boxes you have to pack.
While you survey your home, look for the most weird shaped things, the things that gave you problems the last time you moved, or things that you are planning on moving but not packing (like a broom, for instance). This will help you figure out how many large or weird shaped boxes you will need. Remember that it is okay to have a lot of small and medium sized boxes and it actually makes it easier to pack the moving van.
Large boxes are for light bulky items, or items that literally can’t fit in any other box. Medium boxes are for the majority of your packing needs. These will be your go-to boxes for the most part. Small boxes are perfect for books, heavy objects, keepsakes, fragile china and other glass objects.
They are also good for the random drawer of knick-knacks that you have been telling yourself for years that you are going to sort and purge. There are also wardrobe boxes which let you transport hanging clothing still on the hanger, though it is also handy to simply fill up suitcases, duffel bags and laundry baskets with clothes. Another way to transport clothes is in their drawers.
Take the individual drawer out of your dresser and put a couple of strips of packaging tape across to create a loose grid. Voila! An instant box with no unpacking necessary. When moving day comes, simply pull all the drawers out, move the dresser into the van, and replace the drawers. Then you don’t have to deal with a heavy dresser or packing and unpacking clothes.
Protecting Boxes While Moving
First, start with good boxes. Good doesn’t have to mean new. A good box is corrugated (two pieces of cardboard with a zigzag of paper in the middle), without dents or weak spots. Second, use the right kind of tape.
Clear packaging tape is the best. You can use duct tape, but it takes off chunks off the box when removed, making repurposing or recycling hard. Third, use a lot of tape. Tape all seams of your box at least once, and tape the weak ones multiple times. Reinforce the bottom of the box by going over the main seam of the two flaps three times, once right down the middle and two on either side holding it in place. This will make sure the bottom of the box doesn’t give out while moving it.
If you are using banged up second-hand boxes, going around with sides of the box with tape can help the box keep its shape through the moving process.
Use good heavy-lifting techniques to protect the boxes and your back. It is best to hold the box underneath and give added support to the bottom of the box. Make sure, when carrying, you lift with your legs and not with your back.
As far as protecting your moving boxes (and your belongings), try and keep them away from water or snow, which can weaken the cardboard. If you need to put them on wet ground try putting them on plastic tarps, large black garbage bags, or a waterproof shower curtain.
The best way to protect your cheap free moving boxes while moving is to put the larger weight-bearing boxes on the bottom and build up to the medium and smaller boxes. Pack your moving van so nothing has room to move. This will prevent boxes from shifting, falling and breaking.
When packing the moving vehicle, channel your inner Tetris knowledge by trying to make every level complete and without holes. Holes mean something has the potential of breaking. Essentially, only stack things as high as you need to and keep things as close to the ground as possible.