packing tips

If you are planning to move on a tight budget, then you probably don’t want to spend money on moving boxes…especially when you can get those boxes for free.

But where can you find free cardboard boxes? Which stores actually give them away for free?

Most major department stores and “corporate chains”, like Walmart or Costco, have policies against giving away their empty cardboard boxes.

That’s why I have put together this helpful list of 21 places you can find free cardboard boxes for moving. 

1. Craigslist listings
For those of you unfamiliar with Craigslist, it is an online classifieds listing website where you can kind find almost everything, including free cardboard boxes in your area.

It’s all thanks to the classified site’s free section that allows users to list items they’re no longer in need of. Simply visit their site or download their app and search for cardboard boxes in the for sale, community, and “free stuff” section.

Pro Tip: If you want to take it up a notch, post an ad specifying your cardboard box needs and let the free moving boxes come to you.

2. Liquor stores
Your typical liquor store has an arsenal of cardboard boxes. They receive loads of boxes day in day out, so much that most of them have no idea what to do with their stashes.  Call ahead or drop by the nearest “spirits” store. Ask if you can relieve them of some boxes, fret not, you’re essentially doing them a favor

3. Recycling centers
Recycling centers are to cardboard boxes what gas stations are to gas – a mega depot. If you’re lucky to find one in your locality, expect to see more than enough boxes to tend to all your moving needs. Just pray they’re in tip-top shape.

4. Schools
Books and boxes always go together, so there’s a high probability your neighborhood middle, high or elementary school has in its possession a significant number of cardboard boxes. Ring the front desk office to see if they can help you with some and schedule a time to stop by and pick-up your fill.

5. Buy/Sell apps
There are a growing number of apps for phones and smart devices that are not only great for selling your unwanted stuff before you move, but also can easily be used to find free moving boxes.

Two apps I recommend are LetGo and OfferUp.

Download one of the apps, and search for “cardboard boxes”.  Depending on the amount of people in your area, you have great odds of finding what you need!

6. Bookstores and local libraries
If you’re searching for those teeny weeny boxes to stash your shoes, books, and other small items, bookshops and local libraries are the best places to start. They usually have loads of small, in perfect-condition-boxes; all you need do is ask.

Bonus: Most cardboard boxes found at libraries and book stores are thick and sturdy to accommodate the weight of the books, making them perfect potential moving boxes!

7. Dollar stores
With the truckload of deliveries that arrive stores like Dollar Tree and Dollar general, every Tuesdays and Wednesdays, also come huge stashes of boxes. Get there early enough, and you have a diverse collection of medium or large cardboard boxes all for your picking pleasure.

Caution: Many of the boxes you will find at stores like this are extra thin and flimsy due to the fact that the items inside are individually boxed as well.  These make very poor quality moving boxes and should not be used if protecting your stuff is important.

8. Home supply stores
If there’s one thing home improvement stores like IKEA, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Bath and Body Works have in common, it’s their consistent supply of boxes. Simply call in and ask if there are any lying around.

Pro Tip: Lesser known, “local” stores in this category are much better than well-known, nationwide stores like those named above.  Garden specialty stores are a great bet as well.

9. Gas station convenience stores
Gas stations usually pack a hand full of boxes every now and then. Their nearby locations make them an ideal spot to pick up a few boxes on short notice.

10. Auto lube & brake shops
Local oil change and brake shops regularly receive huge consignments of car parts and supplies. Guess what containers these come in? Yep, you guessed it: cardboard boxes.

Head off to the nearest one you can find, ask politely, and you get to walk out with a couple of large cardboard boxes in hand.  Watch out for grease!

11. Pet stores
Sometimes pet stores can have a surplus of boxes at their disposal. Because most people skip this cardboard box source, they can be a goldmine lying in plain sight. See a local pet store around the corner? Walk right in and ask; they just might have the box you need.

12. Auto part stores
Auto Zone, O’Reilly’s Napa, Checker, Advance, and similiar shops are potential cardboard box havens waiting to be discovered. Talk to the manager, and you just might get everything you need in one stop.

13. Auto repair stores
Like auto part shops, auto repair service and collision repair shops usually possess a stockpile of cardboard boxes. Make sure to see if they are up for grabs before heading over and watch out for oil and grease.

14. Grocery stores
Aside from your favorite grocery supplies, one other thing virtually every other grocery store maintains a massive stockpile of are cardboard boxes.

Caution: Like the dollar store option above, there are many boxes here that are much too thin for your moving needs. Also, avoid wet or sticky boxes; these are notorious for housing or attracting bugs and can greatly reduce the integrity of your boxes.

15. Facebook marketplace and groups
Facebook marketplace is an awesome place to meet new people and their unique collection of cardboard boxes. If that proves insufficient, you can always scout free groups where members actively dispel what is for them useless possessions. They are a lot of freecycle, buy/sell/trade, & local help groups on Facebook in every city.

Pro Tip: Join and post in as many local groups as you can.  This will increase the chances of you finding that person with the mother-load of free moving boxes ready to contain your stuff.

16. Shoe stores
Like books, most shoes come in boxes. And these smaller boxes, in turn, get stacked into bigger boxes, the kind that’s exactly fitting to your current moving needs. Head off to the nearest Shoe Carnival, Footlocker, Champs, DSW, Finish Line, and Rack Room to snag up either of the two box categories. As with everything on this list, start with local mom & pop shops before the megastores for your best chances of finding a large, free supply of boxes.

17. Music supply stores
Music supply stores are one of the best places to get a load of large-sized, high quality, sturdy boxes. If you’re looking for something that can bear extra stress and strain, great place to start. Check out the next Guitar Center, Musician’s Friend or Sam Ash store, and you just might find a box that’s big and sturdy enough to contain your stuff.

18. Arts, Crafts, and Hobbies
Your local art center is also a center for obtaining free cardboard boxes. If you want some more, try locating the nearest Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Jo-Ann, or Ultrecht shop.

19. Car audio installation centers
Provided they have some in stock, cardboard boxes from car audio speaker and installation centers are great.  The speakers, speaker boxes, amps, etc all come in very large boxes that can be repurposed into wonderful boxes for moving.  If the store sells the equipment and does the installation as well, that makes it a perfect place to find TONS of empty boxes that need a new home.

20. Sporting goods stores
The best sporting goods stores usually have a slew of cardboard boxes lying about with no place to call home. Have a sizeable sporting goods store in your area?  Now’s the time to adopt a lonely cardboard box.

21. U-Haul customer connect
U-haul customer connect hub is like Facebook but this time exclusively for people moving. The platform helps in connecting individuals from every part of the country, each with their own peculiar moving needs.

How do you find boxes here?

Just specify your location and enter the search phrase, ‘Free boxes’ on the websites search box. That should pull a list of everyone offering free boxes in your locality.

Comb through two-three of these places, and you should get all the free cardboard boxes you need.

Pro Tip: When you are done moving, list them for free for the next person who needs some moving boxes.

More Tips For Getting Free Moving Boxes

Remember, as a rule of thumb, the more local the store, the more likely they are to help you out with some free boxes.
Large megastores like Walmart, Costco, Staples, OfficeMax, Sams Club, Target, Kmart, Home Depot, Lowes etc do not give boxes away for free.  They all have strict corporate policies that forbid employees from giving them away and should be avoided.
Before just stopping by to ask for free-handouts, its a good idea to call ahead and ask an employee or manager if they would be able to help you out.   Ask about the best time to come in as well.
All boxes are NOT made the same.   Many stock inventory boxes from stores are extra thin cardboard and are not even close to the quality of actual moving boxes.  Make sure you are aware of the quality and strength of the boxes you choose!  Check for holes, tears, cuts, rips, wet/soft spots, etc.