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Where to find moving boxes

Save money and reduce waste by upcycling boxes for your move

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Written by Sally Jones
Edited by Justin Martino

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    close up of labeled cardboard boxes with belongings stacked in new house

    Let’s face it: Moving is expensive.

    “Not only do you have to worry about the cost of hiring a moving company or renting a truck, you have to factor in the price of packing materials,” said Meyr Aviv, founder and CEO of moving resource site iMoving.

    But no need to buy boxes when you can get them for free—and it’s the greener way to go. Here’s where you can find moving boxes.


    Key insights

    • A cardboard box can be recycled five to seven times.
    • Look for “curb alerts” on local listings sites.
    • Connect with neighbors giving away boxes on social groups and apps.
    • Check storage facilities on the last Saturday of the month, which is prime moving time.

    6 places to check for free or cheap boxes

    Many stores sell boxes, but you can save a significant amount of money if you know how to find free boxes that you can reuse. Here are five places to check if you’re trying to save money on packing supplies.

    1. Local listings sites

    “Websites like Craigslist and Freecycle are great resources for finding free or cheap moving boxes,” Aviv, the founder of iMoving, said.

    On Craigslist, locate your local area’s “For Sale” section, then look under the “Free Stuff” category. You’ll see “curb alerts” posted by neighbors who have just moved and are giving away boxes.

    These bundles often include bubble wrap and packing paper too. Sign up for Craigslist notifications, and you’ll be one of the first to know as soon as a new curb alert hits.

    Freecycle, a listing site dedicated to preventing reusable items from going to landfills, is another good source for used moving boxes. You can join your local neighborhood group, which means you won’t have to go far to collect your boxes.

    2. Social groups and apps

    “With the power of social media, you can reach a lot of people quickly and easily,” Aviv said. “Put up a post on your local Facebook group or Nextdoor app and see if anyone has any boxes they're looking to get rid of. You may be surprised at how many people are happy to help out.”

    Social media networks like Facebook and Nextdoor often have listings for people giving away boxes.

    If you’re not familiar with Facebook’s “Buy Nothing” groups, you’re missing out on a world of free stuff. On Facebook, search “Groups” for the name of your neighborhood and sign up to join.

    You can also download the Buy Nothing Project app, but prepare to wade past a lot of fascinating giveaways — from never-used pots and pans to leftover birthday cake. Because you’re probably in paring-down mode in preparation for moving, you may want to search directly for “moving boxes” and avoid temptation.

    The Nextdoor app, designed to connect you with people in your neighborhood, is another way to locate moving boxes nearby. You can read through your neighbors’ posts looking for giveaways or make one of your own requesting cardboard boxes.

    3. Storage facilities

    Some moving and storage places sell boxes and packing supplies, but you can also find them for free.

    “Storage units often have a lot of boxes that people have left behind after they move out,” Aviv said. “Ask the manager if you can take some of them off their hands.”

    The most popular moving days are at the end of the month, which is when most leases start and end — facilities are often teeming with people moving goods out of their units on the last weekend of the month. If you time it just right on a Saturday, you’ll catch people unloading who might be happy to have you take used boxes off their hands.

    U-Haul, which rents trucks and has storage facilities, operates U-Haul Customer Connect, a message board where you can find box giveaways. Plug your ZIP code and the keyword “boxes” into the search bar.

    4. Stores

    “Many businesses receive shipments on a regular basis and have to break down the boxes to recycle them,” Aviv said. “See if they would be willing to give them to you for your move.”

    He suggests starting with grocery stores, bookstores and electronics stores — bookstores may also give you the wrapping paper used in the box.

    Liquor stores, bookstores and grocery stores are great places to ask for spare boxes.

    Liquor stores are a dependable source for heavy-duty cardboard boxes, and the dividers used to separate glass bottles are useful when packing glassware. Liquor store boxes also tend to be on the smaller side, just right for packing books — book boxes can get too heavy to carry if they’re too big.

    Big-box stores like Sam’s Club and Costco are also gold mines for box hunters. But not all of them welcome phone calls, and just paying a visit can be hit or miss.

    5. Schools

    Schools may not be the first place you’d think of when looking for used cardboard boxes, but schools receive many deliveries — from books to paper supplies to canned goods for the cafeteria. If you know the administrator at your child’s school, ask about recycled boxes. School custodians may be more than happy to let you take them off their hands.

    6. Recycling centers

    And where’s the No.1 place you always see used cardboard boxes? Your local recycling center.

     “Most cities have recycling centers where people can drop off old cardboard boxes,” Aviv said. “They usually have a section where you can take whatever you need.”

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      FAQ

      How many times can you recycle a cardboard box?

      Cardboard boxes and packaging can be recycled five to seven times, according to the American Forest & Paper Association.

      What can I use instead of boxes when moving?

      Some companies rent reusable plastic bins for moving. They will drop off the bins at a scheduled date and pick them up when you’re done. Other alternatives might be found right in your own closet, basement or attic. Tote bags, suitcases, buckets and even wastebaskets make good moving receptacles.

      What do I do with all my moving boxes when I’m done?

      You can use the same local listing sites and social apps you used to find boxes to give them away again. Post a curb alert on Craigslist or in your new neighborhood’s Facebook Buy Nothing group. You can also post on the U-Haul message board to let others know you have free moving boxes available.

      Bottom line

      Reusing moving boxes is economical and environmentally friendly. There are many places to find moving boxes, from “curb alerts” on local listings sites to social group apps. Recycling centers usually have an area where they’ve broken down boxes and stacked the cardboard by size — these facilities are more than happy to see cardboard boxes get reused.

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