boxes for moving

Where to Score Free Moving Boxes for Your Upcoming Move

Moving to a new home is exciting, but it can also be expensive. Between hiring movers, renting a truck, and all the other costs that pop up, the last thing you want to do is shell out more money for cardboard boxes. The good news is, with a little time and effort, you can round up plenty of free moving boxes. Let’s explore the best places to look.

Tap Into Online Networks

Your first stop should be online community groups and marketplaces. Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor, Freecycle, U-Haul Box Exchange – these are all great places to post that you’re on the hunt for moving boxes. Chances are, someone in your area just moved and would love to get those empty boxes out of their garage.

You can also use these sites proactively by searching for people giving away free boxes. Filter by location to find options near you. Don’t be shy about responding to posts and arranging to pick up boxes. Most folks are happy to help out a neighbor.

Check With Friends, Family and Coworkers

Before you go on a wild goose chase around town, ask the people closest to you. Send out a group text or email to friends and family letting them know you could use some boxes for your move. Post on your social media accounts too – a simple “Anyone have moving boxes they want to get rid of?” could yield great results.

If you work in an office, find out if they have a stash of empty printer paper or file boxes. And keep an eye out for any coworkers who may be moving too. They’ll probably be thrilled to pass along their boxes after unpacking.

Hit Up Local Retailers

Pretty much any store that sells physical products gets regular shipments, which means lots of leftover boxes. Some of the best places to score sturdy, clean boxes for free include:

  • Grocery stores
  • Liquor stores
  • Pharmacies like CVS or Walgreens
  • Big box stores like Costco, Sam’s Club or WalMart
  • Home improvement stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot
  • Bookstores
  • Office supply stores like Staples or Office Depot
  • Furniture stores like IKEA
  • Department stores
  • Dollar stores

Smaller local shops like coffee shops, toy stores, and clothing boutiques are also worth checking out. Basically anywhere that gets regular deliveries is a potential goldmine for free boxes.

The best approach is to call ahead and ask if they have any boxes they’re planning to recycle. Try to time it with their delivery schedule so you can swoop in and get the boxes before they’re broken down or taken away.

A moving checklist app is a great way to ensure you have everything packed up and ready to go by moving day. 

Look for Specialty Boxes

While standard cardboard boxes are great for most household goods, you may need specialty boxes for certain items. Happily, you can often find these for free too with a little clever searching.

  1. Liquor store boxes are perfect for packing and transporting glasses, mugs and stemware thanks to the built-in dividers.
  2. Apple boxes from grocery stores work well for kitchen items and other odds and ends.
  3. Printer paper boxes with lids are very sturdy and great for books and heavy items.
  4. Boxes from bookstores are also good for books and entertainment items like DVDs and video games.

For clothes, you can use suitcases and duffle bags you already own. If you need hanging wardrobe boxes, unfortunately those are harder to find for free. But for most other needs, a combination of standard and specialty boxes should do the trick.

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Try Grassroots Sourcing

If you strike out with retailers and you’re still wondering where to get free boxes for moving,  broaden your search to other local organizations and businesses. 

Schools, especially colleges with dorms, often have a surplus of boxes at the beginning and end of semesters. Apartment complexes and rental offices may have some left behind by previous tenants.

You can also swing by recycling drop-off points in your neighborhood. People often leave perfectly good boxes there that you can snag before they get hauled away. Just make sure to get permission before taking anything.

As a last resort, cruise around town the night before garbage pickup day. You’re likely to spot some usable boxes in your neighbors’ recycling bins. Again, always ask before taking them. No one wants to be accused of stealing garbage!

Be Discerning With Free Moving Boxes

Free doesn’t always mean good quality. As you’re collecting boxes, give them a once-over to make sure they’re clean and in decent shape. Avoid boxes that are torn, damp, musty smelling, or covered in mystery stains. You don’t want icky stuff transferred to your belongings.

Aim for a variety of box sizes – small, medium, and large. Printer paper boxes, file boxes, and book boxes are very versatile. Make sure you have more than you think you need. You can always return unused boxes to the recycling center after your move.

Some Assembly Required

With some dedication and detective work, you can amass an impressive moving box collection without spending a dime. But acquiring boxes is just the first step. Here are some bonus tips for making the most of your moving boxes:

  • Reinforce the bottom of boxes with packing tape, especially if they’ll be holding heavy items.
  • Line boxes with packing paper, newspaper, or old linens for extra protection.
  • Label boxes clearly with the contents and destination room.
  • Don’t make boxes too heavy to comfortably carry. Distribute weight evenly.
  • Stack books flat not standing up so the boxes aren’t too heavy.

Final Thoughts

Packing is time consuming, but having a stockpile of quality free moving boxes will make the job much easier. We highly recommend ensuring you have plenty of boxes because packing everything ahead of your move is a great way to save money

A lot of moving companies will charge you for packing your stuff and they’ll expect everything to be well boxed so don’t find yourself in a situation where the moving company won’t move your stuff because it isn’t packed right.

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Happy packing and here’s to a smooth, affordable move!

Bill Mulholland

Bill Mulholland is the owner of ARC Relocation, a company that relocates thousands of employees annually, to every state in the United States, and more than 90 foreign countries, for organizations like DHL,, GNC, and the U.S. Government. Bill also owns a real estate brokerage and title company in Virginia.