We live in an ever-increasingly more mobile society, with tens of millions of Americans moving every couple of years or so. Your move could be for a number of reasons. A job change, rent hike, new relationship, or a simple need for a change of scenery could have inspired it. Whatever the reason, you are not alone. Local movers and long-distance moving companies alike are increasingly more common.
Relocating using professionals is expensive. That’s the bottom line. Moving is going to take a fair amount out of your wallet no matter how far you’re going, or how much you have. However, we have done our best to tell you why companies charge what they do. Your moving process will be the smoothest if you decide to book with professionals on the big day. Some sticker shock at the price is totally normal if you’re new to hiring a professional moving company. If you’re willing and able to pay, movers are well worth it.
Your Local and Long-Distance Moving Options
The primary determining factor – at least the first determining factor – in the final cost is your moving method. Luckily, more options exist outside of simply booking a full-service operator for your upcoming move.
Moving Truck Rental
If your price range is decidedly low, or if you have fairly little to move, then a DIY move may be your best option. If you have enough friends or family to help, then you can move a home of any size this way. That said, this kind of moving is best reserved for smaller one or two-bedroom houses and apartments, traveling a short distance. Companies like UHaul are some of the most widely used moving companies, because most relocations still do fall into this category.
If you opt for a truck rental, then you can still hire labor help at either end of the job, while keeping the cost of your move down. This kind of help, for especially heavy items, packing, or loading and unloading, is billed at an hourly rate (much as local moves are). These rates typically range from $80 to $130 per hour for two movers, with $25 to $40 added for each additional mover. Expect to pay a two or three-hour minimum charge for these services.
Moving Container Provider
Moving container companies provide moving clients with a nice in-between option for transporting their household goods. This presents an intermediate moving price. The nice bonus here is clients not having to assume total liability of their goods or the moving vessel for the entirety of the move – only during loading and unloading.
Most of these companies act as brokers and contract out labor help as an add-on as well. A potential downside to using this method is the limited availability of company locations with certain providers. If you’re moving to or from a rural or remote area, you should choose your container company carefully. Industry leaders like U-Pack and PODS are always a good place to start when looking to book these services.
Full-service movers, as their designation implies, can handle any moving-related task that you would need. They serve as a one-stop shop for all of your moving needs. From supplying packing materials, to moving pianos, they can quite literally do it all.
That said, this convenience and know-how comes with an elevated price. The cost of moving with one of these providers can run into the thousands. Some of the longest, most involved cross-country moves can even cost $10,000 and up. These moving prices are determined using a combination of move distance and shipment weight. These line hauling fees will be fairly consistent with a given provider across different regions. That said, you should always field multiple moving quotes before booking.
How Much Do Movers Cost?
|Moving Method||Average Cost of Local Moves||Average Cost of Long-Distance Moves|
|Moving Truck Rental/ DIY||$200 – $1,000||$1,500 – $2,500|
|Moving Container||$500 – $2,000||$2,500 – $3,500|
|Full-Service Moving Company||$500 – $3,000||$3,000 – $10,000+|
Keep in mind that these are all average costs, across a great number of moves. Depending on the services you decide to add on with your particular move package, the day on which you book, and your region, your final figure could be far removed from the ones listed here.
Moving Services Which Add to Average Costs
Of all of the most common add-ons, packing services are the most likely to inflate your price by a high percentage. Full-service packing, which can involve your professional movers providing packing materials as well, can cost thousands of dollars extra. This all depends on the size of your home, and the complexity of your job. If you have a full office and library, with floor-to-ceiling bookcases, or multiple full china hutches, you can expect your packing price to be at the higher end if you hire movers to pack for you.
Moving companies offer different ranges of packing and unpacking for those who aren’t interested in paying this much. Fragile-only packing, and partial packing are both available from all moving companies who provide this add-on. If you elect to do it all yourself, then there are plenty of helpful guides out there for you to use. If you’re trying to save money on this part of the move, you should purchase packing supplies through a third party retailer, like UHaul or Home Depot.
Custom Crating/ Specialty Item Moving
Do you have fine art, large mirrors, or special antiques in your home? This service may be perfect for you. The additional cost of this particular task can be fairly steep on a per-item basis. It’s labor intensive, tailored to your specific goods, and will likely require special space on a moving truck during your relocation.
You should inform your movers of this required task, along with measurements of whatever needs to be crated, well ahead of your moving date.
Auto shipping is something that full-service movers can do, but it will usually cost far more than it would a dedicated auto shipping company. Depending on your mover, they may offer to take your vehicle on their moving van. Or, just as many shipping companies do, they will act as a broker, and contract your car shipping needs out to another carrier. Shipping your car for shorter moves can cost upwards of $2 per mile, and as little as $0.60 per mile for the longest interstate moves.
These prices are reflective of most auto shipper rates, not the price you would pay for a moving company to move your vehicle.
When people think of “heavy furniture,” pianos immediately come to mind. At least, they do for movers. Pianos are among the heaviest, most valuable items movers handle. This additional service typically comes with a flat fee attached to it. Some movers, even those who market themselves as long-distance carriers, may not move pianos at all. When discussing your move during an estimate, you should bring pianos and other similarly bulky pieces up first-thing. Movers can handle a lot of heavy lifting but, even for them, pianos are taxing. It may require that an extra mover be assigned to your job.
Furniture Assembly and Disassembly
This depends on the mover you ultimately go with. Some (especially local movers) will just bill you hourly for the time spent on assembly and disassembly. Other companies will charge a fee for both. You’ll find that many adhere to this rule; “If we took it apart, we’ll put it back together.”
If you have a boxed, new IKEA piece that you’d like put together, it will almost always incur an added fee.
If a full-service moving company doesn’t have their own warehouse or storage facility, then you can bet that they have a partnership with a local storage unit provider of some kind. In this scenario, movers may give you a break on labor costs when loading and unloading a storage container. However, monthly fees can quickly add up and make storing your goods self-defeating. Make sure to inquire with your movers about storage rates, and to take your time in deciding what the best option for you may be.
Common Extra Fees
Aside from the above obvious services, there are quite a few other factors that many fail to consider in their potential moving price. Local movers and long-distance service providers will also bill these differently. Local moving companies will often just charge an hourly rate. Sources of inconvenience will equal more time spent on the job, which will come through in the bill. If you’re hiring long-distance movers, you can expect any such inconveniences to be folded into a higher flat rate.
Extra flights of stairs are the most common source of such fees. This will often be advertised on a mover’s website. One flight of stairs will be included in your base price, with each subsequent flight, you will incur an additional fee.
Similarly, long carry fees should be taken into account. Most movers will charge you if there is more than a 75-foot walk between the nearest parking space for the truck and the front door of your new home. You should always aim to secure parking ahead of time for your movers. Whether that means reserving spaces a week or more in advance, or blocking off parking spaces the morning of your move, this is an important part of the process.
Why Is Moving So Expensive?
Moving Company Overhead Costs
Moving companies incur a fair share of overhead costs, which is reflected in their pricing. More than labor costs, you are paying for the convenience of having all necessary labor and equipment for moving centralized in one place. For example, if you are paying $170 per hour for three movers and a truck, that $170 isn’t being split amongst the workers on your move. The money is going towards all of the company’s expenses, which are incurred even when a moving company has no customers.
Rent for an office or warehouse space is a huge expense. Movers store their equipment like moving boxes, furniture pads, dollies, and much more. This is part of why markups on moving supplies purchased through a moving company are marked up; aside from them being able to make a profit, you’re paying a convenience fee.
If a moving company leases or owns even one truck, then that is costing them money every day, whether it is out on a job, or sitting in the lot.
This mainly comes into play for long-distance moves, when figuring out line hauling fees. Fuel costs in a given region can greatly influence moving costs. In locations like California, where even unleaded fuel exceeds $4.00 per gallon, moving is far more expensive than it is in other states.
Local Cost of Living
Higher cost of living in a given area equates to higher base pay for workers in all industries. This includes household movers. Local moving prices fluctuate depending on location, and this is a key determining factor in that.
How Do I Properly Vet Professional Movers?
Again, moving is expensive. Going after the cheapest option may seem like a good idea at the time. However, things that seem too good to be true often are. Reputable movers may come with a much higher cost than the fly-by-night operations in any area, but this comes with peace of mind as well. This is due to the added safeguards and requirements that all such firms carry.
Basic Requirements for Movers
You should expect all movers to be properly insured and registered. This is a bare minimum requirement, and should be addressed while calling around to schedule estimates. Most movers will display such proof on their websites. Those that do not should have no trouble with producing hard copies of insurance policies and state and federal registrations.
All movers are required to carry multiple policies. The first of these is workers’ compensation insurance. This covers you in the event of a worker injuring themselves on the job or in your home. Moving expenses can add up quickly enough without having to worry about having to pay for bodily injury and lost wages.
Next, all movers should carry a form of general or released liability insurance. This covers your household goods during a move, in case they are lost or damaged. However, it is worth noting that this insurance coverage is incredibly basic, and will only provide limited reimbursement. The standard rate at which items are insured by this is $0.60 per pound, per item.
You may find it necessary to purchase more insurance – or full value protection – to fully protect your own goods in the event of damage or loss. Most moving companies offer this, at an increased price. However, if your mover doesn’t offer full valuation coverage on your goods, you have other options. Review your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policies for coverage possibilities, or go through a third party to insure everything. It may seem like a “pile-on” expense, but you’ll definitely be thankful if your movers damage something.
Next, most local movers must carry at least some state-level registration, if their state requires it. You can check for your state’s regulations on movers here. Any mover transporting household goods over state lines is also required to carry an active USDOT number and registration with the FMCSA. The USDOT number can be used to research a carrier’s complaint history here.
When used in conjunction with customer reviews from multiple platforms, this can give you valuable insight into a company’s trends in customer service.
Hiring Movers FAQ
How many moving estimates should I schedule?
You should try to schedule as many estimates as you possibly can. The best way to do this is to call every well-reviewed moving services provider in your area. Having a representative in your home, in person, gives you the best possible insight into how a company does things. Fielding multiple quotes and offers will help ensure that you ultimately get the best possible price.
Do I have to book with a provider after they give me a quote?
No. You should absolutely never feel obligated to book with a moving company after you get a free quote. The emphasis here is on the word “free.” These quotes are a no-obligation way for a company to pitch their services to you. In this way, it functions as the final phase of a sale. Similarly, be wary of deposits that amount to a substantial percentage of the final move bill. Solid companies won’t ask for these.
Should I pack on my own?
This all depends on what your moving budget is. However, for the sake of having a more stress-free moving experience, it’s worth doing as much of the packing as you can easily do on your own. Start well in advance, and do a little every day leading up to the move date.
What should my moving budget be? How do I set an accurate one?
Frankly, if you’re booking with a full-service mover or van line, moving costs what it costs. There is little room for haggling. So, average out the bottom line numbers of each quote, and set aside roughly 150% of that number as a budget. With any time-based service, budgeting for human error or unforeseen circumstances is a must.
Should I tip my movers?
Tipping is always a nice gesture, but is never expected. Keep in mind how personal of a service your movers are providing. If they work well, without complaints, and fulfill all of your requests, then they will be appreciative of the recognition. For local moves, the protocol is typically $5 per mover, per hour worked. For long-distance moves, $50 per day on the road per mover is about what you can expect to tip (if your moving crew travels with your shipment.)