Free Moving Boxes: Is There A Catch?

If you’re planning a move, you’ll want to save money wherever you can. That’s why free moving boxes may seem like a perfect solution. But before you load your possessions into boxes you got for free, consider this: All boxes are not alike.

Not only can it be a hassle to locate enough free boxes for your move, but it also can be a headache to use them. If the boxes are flimsy, moldy or damaged, it won’t matter that they’re free because you’ll regret using them. To save yourself the frustration of free boxes you’ll wished you had skipped, here’s a guide to finding good second-hand boxes that will stand up to a move.

How to Find Reliable Moving Boxes

Whether you’re getting free boxes from a family member who recently moved or a stranger who offers them on Craigslist, you should always check them for certain characteristics. The boxes worth grabbing are the ones with these qualities:

  • Strength — Good boxes are strong boxes, the kind that will secure your possessions and protect them from the elements. Always look for boxes with resilient, well-made bottoms and working flaps that close completely.
  • No damage — A damaged box will compromise its contents. This is why you should always skip boxes that have holes, tears, rips or weak spots. When a box is damaged, it’s no longer a reliable way to package your goods.
  • Cleanliness — Most of the time, free boxes have been previously used. As such, they may bear the effects of whatever they held, whether food, chemicals, toiletries or something else. Likewise, they may come from a smoker’s home or a place with pets. Contaminated boxes will contaminate your possessions, so skip boxes that carry signs of dirt, debris or odors.
  • Dryness — Cardboard boxes are only functional if they’re dry. If you encounter free boxes that are damp, moldy or riddled with watermarks, don’t use them. Dealing with water damage isn’t worth the trouble.

Where to Find Free Moving Boxes Near You

As long as you’re willing to check the quality of each box you find, there’s nothing wrong with using free boxes for your move. Here are several places to find them:

  • Friends and family members who have recently moved
  • Recycling centers
  • Supermarkets
  • Liquor stores
  • Bars and restaurants
  • Home electronics stores
  • Office supply stores
  • Bookstores
  • Big-box stores
  • Craigslist, Nextdoor or Facebook Marketplace

If you hunt for free boxes and hit a dead end, it might be faster and easier to buy new boxes. You usually can find sturdy boxes at moving or storage companies, UPS stores or online. Whatever the case, always prioritize box quality. When you’re unpacking clean, undamaged possessions in your new home, you’ll be glad you did.