From the outside, it may seem like professional movers simply show up, carry everything to the moving truck, and drive to your new home. But there’s far more to the big picture.
In this guide, we’ll cover all you need to know about the different types of movers: from full-service moving companies to truck rentals. We’ll walk through the quote and contract process, how to figure out your moving cost, and which moving services are best for your big day.
Categories of Moving Companies
There is more than one way to get your household goods from point A to point B. Professional moving companies know that most customers prefer to handle some services on their own and leave others to the experts.
Moving companies also have varying levels of types of moves depending on how far you plan to travel. For a stress-free moving process, you need to find the company right for your unique relocation. Let’s dive in.
The definition of a local move typically comes down to where you live and how the movers divide their contracts. Local moves often constitute relocating less than 100 miles or within state lines.
It’s important to determine the difference since local movers often charge by the house and the number of people on the moving crew. Call on these companies when you’re headed across town.
Expect a local move to take anywhere between two and 10 hours, depending on the size of your home and how far you need to travel between spaces.
Long-distance movers do more than travel the extra mileage for you. They often have larger trucks equipped to make the journey and offer special relocation services.
When you’re headed more than 100 miles, be sure to hire a company with years of experience in the long-distance moving industry. These packers and movers understand how to properly load the truck and protect your items from a long, hot trip that may take several days.
You are also more likely to find a long list of moving and packing services that can take a lot of heavy lifting off your shoulders.
Within each of the two categories below, you’ll find three varieties of movers. Full-service movers are often the most popular for those looking to leave each step to the pros. A full-service move is also particularly popular when it comes to long-distance moves since you’ll often need the company for help with fragile items, storage services, and tracking your truck as it drives cross-country.
Moving Container Rentals
If you’d like to save money on hiring movers, moving container companies like PODS or UPack work a bit differently. These teams will drop a storage pod or truck container in front of your home two to three days before your moving date.
The company will then send a driver on the day of your move to pick up the container and drive it to your new house. This option is ideal for those looking to handle the lifting on their own, but don’t feel comfortable driving a large truck to a new location.
The most cost-friendly way to move is by working with a moving truck rental company. This is the ultimate DIY option, especially last minute. Rent the truck at your origin location, fill it up yourself, and drive it to your new town. Be sure that there is a drop-off location where you’re headed to avoid extra driving or an additional fee.
Moving Company Services
Moving companies offer a long list of additional services that many customers are not even initially aware of. These extra services can cut the time and energy down on your move so you can focus on all the other details of this big transition.
Full-service companies are the most likely to offer these perks, moving container and truck rental occasionally offer them as well. They include:
- Moving boxes and packing materials (tape, bubble wrap, etc.)
- Packing and unpacking
- Storage service
- Piano moving
- Car, motorcycle, and boat shipping
- Assembly and disassembly of furniture
- Cleaning and debris removal
- Specialty crating
- Art and fragile item packaging
- International relocation services
A Note About Carrier Coverage
Your state likely requires that each moving company offers basic liability coverage for your move. This is one of the top reasons why it is safer to hire a moving team over doing it yourself.
However, if you have fragile items or are moving a great distance, we recommend adding more extensive carrier liability coverage in the event that something is dropped or damaged on the journey. Some of the larger van lines in the US will include upgraded liability insurance in their initial moving quote.
Moving Company Quotes and Pricing
To avoid moving scams and choosing a company out of your budget, reach out to between two and three movers before making a decision.
Each should provide a moving estimate either online, on the phone, or in person. Online estimates are often less accurate but you can get a better sense of the cost of your move upfront.
If you opt for an in-person walkthrough, however, the company may offer what is known as a binding estimate. This is your best bet to protect against the price going up on moving day. As long as you don’t change your inventory list or add services, you can expect to pay the estimated price.
Narrowing Down the Best Moving Companies
The moving quote process gives you time to do some extra research on each company. Always begin by ensuring that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) lists the mover’s:
- US DOT number
- License, certification, and insurance data
- Company phone number and address
- Years of experience
- Whether the company is a broker or a carrier
Next, head over to check out the customer reviews on sites like the Better Business Bureau. Here you can check out whether the movers have followed up with recent complaints and if there are patterns in what past customers have come up against.
Once you find the company right for you, always sign a contract will the details filled in, including:
- Number of movers in your contract
- Payment schedule
- Accepted payment methods
- Whether this is a binding or non-binding contract
- How to file a claim if there is an issue
- Your delivery window (for long-distance moves)
Moving Day Tips
Working with a moving company on the big day can be intimidating if you don’t know what to expect. But the best companies should put you at ease from the moving quote process to the final item is out of the truck. Here’s what you can expect from your move.
Your company should provide an estimated time that they will arrive to start packing your home items into the truck. Be sure that you are fully packed and ready to hand off your items before they arrive.
You may also need to sequester pets or hire a sitter so that the movers have all the room they need to move quickly and safely.
Let the Movers Do Their Thing
It might be very tempting to help movers get things to the truck. In most cases, the team will ask that you simply stay available for questions but to not help carry items. In addition to avoiding the heavy lifting, the team may have a predetermined plan for getting the items into the truck.
However, you can help make sure there is a clear path through your home and that your movers have everything they need.
Long-distance movers can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to arrive at your new home. You should have received a delivery window in your contract that the movers must attempt. Many will offer a percentage of your fee in return if they do not arrive on time.
Once the movers leave your home, you may receive updates via the phone or through a tracking app. You can also call the moving office if you have questions during their journey.
The best movers will call 24-48 hours before arriving so you can get ready to receive them.
Paying for Your Move
The majority of your payment is likely due when you movers deliver your items. You may have been required to put a deposit down to hold the date as well as pay a portion before pickup. However, you must pay the remainder before the movers leave, or they may be required to hold your items.
Legally, the company cannot ask you to pay more than 100% of a binding estimate or more than 110% of a non-binding one if the weight of your items and services have not changed.
How to Tip Movers
Unless otherwise noted in your contract, it is the customer to tip movers between 5% and 20% of the cost of your move. Remember to break up tips between the loading and unloading teams if they are different. Tips are often preferred paid in cash, but you can talk to your movers before the day to be sure.
If something, unfortunately, goes wrong on moving day—such as a broken item or a missed delivery window—the company website should provide clear instructions on how to file a claim.
You typically have a window of 30 or 60 days to file. Remember, adding extra carrier liability coverage before your move can ensure a smoother process if you need reimbursement.
While this may seem like a lot of information to take in before an already busy day, the right moving company will help you each step of the way. When you find the right team of professionals, you’ll have far more time and energy to focus on this next big step of your life.
FAQs About How a Moving Company Works
How does hiring a moving company work?
Once you choose the right type of moving company for you, research customer reviews, their federal licensing information, and their free quote process. The company will then:
- Offer a free estimate of your move
- Provide a detailed contract to sign the moving date
- Set up a payment schedule
How do moving companies charge?
Local moving companies traditionally charge by the hour and by the number of people on your moving crew.
Long-distance moves work a bit differently. They will charge a flat fee based on:
- The weight of your items
- The distance of your move
- Unique details about your home (stairs, elevators, etc.)
- Distance from the moving truck to your door
- Tools and fuel
- Time of the year
How far in advance should I hire movers?
For long-distance moves, try to book at least eight weeks ahead of your big day whenever possible. Local moves have a little more flexibility depending on whether you’re moving at the peak of the busy season in the summer.
If you need to hire movers with only a week or two week’s notice, look for companies with last-minute moving services.
Do movers disassemble furniture?
Check your contract and speak with your movers to ensure that they disassemble and assemble furniture on moving day. The majority of companies will take care of basic furniture items like beds, dining room tables, and large kitchen carts.