Moving? Here's Where to Find Free Cardboard Boxes

Save some money on your next move and avoid the extra cost of cardboard boxes by finding them for free.

Nina Raemont Writer
A recent graduate of the University of Minnesota, Nina started at CNET writing breaking news stories before shifting to covering Security Security and other government benefit programs. In her spare time, she's in her kitchen, trying a new baking recipe.
Nina Raemont
3 min read
Cardboard boxes

Scouting free boxes should be part of your next move. 

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It might seem like less of a hassle to buy cardboard boxes in bulk for your move rather than finding them for free at bookstores or grocery stores. But if you're packing up a big apartment or home, every moving expense -- yes, even the seemingly small cost of cardboard boxes -- quickly adds up. Whether you're packing up kitchen utensils or your wardrobe, you need to secure those items in boxes before loading them into a moving truck, and moving requires a lot of them (unless you decide to spring for renting plastic crates). And free cardboard boxes are everywhere. All you need to know is where to look for them.

With all the expenses of moving -- renting a moving truckhiring movers, taking time off work, shelling out for tape, bubble wrap and other packing materials -- why spend money on something you can get for nothing?

Read more: Best Moving Companies of 2023

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There are tons of places where you can find free cardboard boxes as you prep for your move. Most retailers, if you call in advance or visit the store to ask, are more than willing to give you old cardboard boxes -- you're helping them by lessening their trash load.

Read on to find the best places to scout for free boxes. And for more moving tips, here's how to lift heavy furniture and how to best clean your new home before you move in

How much do cardboard boxes cost? 

Depending on the size of the cardboard box you're purchasing, you'll probably spend around $1 to $3 per box at The Home Depot, Lowe's or U-Haul. That isn't too expensive if you need a couple of boxes in a pinch, but if you're packing up all your belongings and paying for each box, it adds up quickly.

Where can I get cardboard moving boxes for free? 

Liquor stores: Reddit users recommend using boxes from liquor stores for your move, because those are some of the sturdiest boxes, and they may come with useful dividers for packing glasses and fragile items. 

U-Haul Customer Connect: U-Haul offers customers a tool to exchange their boxes with each other through Customer Connect. Through this U-Haul Box Exchange, you can see postings from people who need boxes or need to get rid of them. 

This service may work for you, but you'll need some luck. If you can find someone in your area giving away boxes right as you need them, that's fantastic, but it may be easier to visit a local retailer or check other community apps. 

Big box stores: Retailers like Walmart and Target receive loads of cardboard boxes every day as they constantly stock and restock merchandise. 

It's a little-known secret that if you visit Walmart after 10 p.m., you can get loads of broken-down boxes. For your local big box stores, try to call in advance or check when the right time to pick up boxes will be, as the time when stores receive merchandise varies. 

Grocery stores: Your local grocery store receives new produce and merchandise every day, so it's bound to have extra boxes. 

Office stores: Outlets like Staples, Office Depot or OfficeMax are great stores to check when you're scouting for boxes. For stores that sell paper, you can snag boxes that come with those handy lids -- great for books and other personal items. 

Bookstores: Check your local Barnes and Noble or independent bookstore to see if they have some boxes they need to get rid of. 

Your social circle: Your friends, family and neighbors all probably have at least a few empty cardboard boxes hanging around. Check to see if they have any they'd be willing to give you ahead of your move. 

Recycling centers: Visit your local recycling center to find broken-down cardboard boxes.

Surprising places to find free moving boxes 

Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, NextDoor and BuyNothing: Community apps for giving away or selling stuff are other great options for free cardboard moving boxes. Community members who recently moved into your neighborhood may be giving away their boxes. You can also post a friendly request for free cardboard boxes. 

And don't forget to use any and all cardboard boxes you've got around the house. Yes, those Amazon boxes will work -- finally, those impulsive online shopping orders are coming in handy. 

Need more moving tips? Here are the best moving companies, and here's how to pack your kitchen knives.