With the high cost often associated with moving, it can be easy to be scared off of the entire prospect of hiring movers, and go for a DIY move.
This may ultimately be the way to go for you, but you deserve to be fully informed as to why professional movers tend to cost so much. After vetting all possible options for your upcoming relocation, you may reconsider.
Luckily for you, we have done all of the necessary research into this area. In this article, you will find out why movers cost what they do, why you hear so many stories of moving costs getting out of control, and whether hiring movers is worth it for you.
Should I Hire Movers?
The answer to this question depends mainly on two things: your budget and the scope of your move. The end goal here, no matter your decision, is to make your move into a stress-free endeavor, or as close as it can be to one.
Local moves are billed at an hourly rate. The average cost of local moves in today’s market sits at around $2,000. Before you get discouraged, you should note that this average figure is from moves across the spectrum – from cross-country studio apartment moves to a five-bedroom home with full packing going across town.
For these moves, moving companies charge around $100 per hour, for two movers and a truck across all markets – $35 to $40 per hour for each extra mover beyond that. If you have a relatively average two-bedroom apartment and are moving to the next town (10 miles,) you can expect to pay for around five to six hours. That equates to around $500 to $600, before tipping, and without any add-on services.
If you have a fair amount of bulky items, and the hassle of moving your own belongings doesn’t appeal to you, you should consider hiring movers to help.
If you require packing services, you can expect them to be billed at a similar hourly rate.
Long-distance moves are billed primarily by the shipping weight and distance traveled. Average costs typically end up around $5,000 for these kinds of relocations. No matter how you slice it, these moves are a lot of work. Depending on the length of the move, you may not even have the same moving crew on the pickup and the unload. For interstate and cross-country moves, the peace of mind clients get when hiring full-service movers can be well worth the extra cost. However, if you run into budgetary issues, this is just one of a few moving options to choose from. It is also the most expensive.
Why Are Moving Companies’ Rates So High?
Internal & Recurring Costs
- Insurance: All moving companies have to carry liability coverage, and workers’ compensation insurance in order to stay in business. Aside from this, any trucks which they lease or own must be insured. Policies on these large moving trucks can be extremely costly – between $4,000 and $10,000 per year. If your moving company owns multiple trucks, that price can increase rapidly.
- Advertising costs: Advertising comes in many forms nowadays. Social media is accounting for more and more of that, through promoted posts on Instagram and Facebook. That said, Google AdWords is still one of the most prominent ways many moving companies market themselves. Use of this service is what gets certain companies to the top of Google search results. Even local moving companies can spend thousands per month on being the most-searched company in their geographical area.
- Truck costs: Whether leasing or owning, moving truck costs can run into the thousands of dollars per month as well.
- Office space: Speaking strictly on local companies with one office location, storefronts that have enough space to park multiple trucks – or a fleet of them – are difficult to find. Moving companies pursue these office fronts, and will pay high premiums to get them.
- Packing: When additional services are mentioned in conjunction with moving, people automatically think of packing. Most moving companies will offer this service as at a separate fee. It will either be billed at an hourly rate, or according to the number of packing materials used. You should know that smaller movers may bill you on both fronts. This is a vital part of the moving process, but it can inflate your move cost by a prohibitively large amount if you aren’t careful. Most movers will also offer unpacking services along with this.
- Piano or safe moving: Most movers charge flat fees for items like these. Upright pianos, baby grand pianos, and full grand pianos will each have set prices, at least when you book with a larger moving company, and include this as a part of your move.
- Decluttering and debris removal: Nearly all moving companies offer this as a standalone service. When folded into a larger move, however, it can be a contributing factor if you feel like your cost is spiraling out of control. For this service, it’s worth asking whether or not your movers will charge a dump fee aside from their hourly rate. Given how much it can cost to dispose of certain household goods, there is a good chance that they do charge clients for that.
- Full value protection: This extra tier of third-party insurance beyond what your moving company offers will cover the full value of your belongings, up to a pre-selected set value. Released liability insurance from your mover will only ever cover up to $0.60 per pound, per item in the event of severe damage. If you have a fair number of valuable or fragile items, you should ask your representative about purchasing more protection.
It’s worth noting that these are simply the most common services people will tack onto their otherwise basic moving package. Less common add-ons which most large moving companies offer include storage options, custom crating, auto relocation, and much more.
When going through costs with your customer service representative during your estimate, you should make it a point to procure a fixed number for what your move will cost. Either this or a “not to exceed” cost work just fine. Many companies offer this feature, as long as you don’t add services or goods to your move post-estimate. You can find out what your financial and customer rights are by looking through this.
Moving Is An Essential Service
Aside from all of the reasons for the high costs already listed, moving companies know that theirs is an essential service, which many people need. People will always be willing to pay a premium for convenience. Most moving companies are honest with their pricing practices and will charge a fair rate to clients. You will be able to find them by looking through customer reviews, and by comparing them to the competition.
The main problem most people run into with moving is disorganization. Forming checklists and keeping reliable inventories are great ways to keep costs within expectations, no matter how high they may end up being. Moving as a whole cost a great deal in the way of both time and money. Paying a moving company can certainly be a huge part of that cost, but it is not the only one. Closing on a new house, signing a new lease, getting a new driver’s license, buying new furniture, and many more costs will factor in. You need to be very organized and prepare for the overall cost when moving.
Moving Cost FAQ
How do I know if a certain moving company is giving me a fair price?
Nowadays, it is pretty much industry standard for professional moving companies to give free estimates to prospective clients. You should feel free to get as many of these estimates as you possibly can. Moving companies expect you to shop around, and any reputable business will not try to make you feel obligated to sign a contract. This video outlines how an estimate should go, and how thorough your moving company representative should be when giving one.
What can I do to mitigate extra fees and save money on my move?
Moving expenses can add up. Far more than the heavy lifting, smaller, loose items will increase the amount of time which your move will take. Beginning six to eight weeks out from your move, you should begin an extensive decluttering process. Anything that you know you will not need or want in your new home should be sold or thrown out. For the second option, you can either rent a dumpster or make car trips to your local dump if your items are small enough.
Most movers will not move small, loose items that haven’t been packed. If you only find this out on moving day, you could end up paying more for a cleaning service to come through and throw items away later. If it should happen to be the last day of your lease on an apartment or house, you may lose a fair portion of your security deposit as a result. Some moving companies will bring a small amount of packing supplies with them for just such an occurrence, but you should never bank on this being the case.
The simplest way to cut costs, however, is to do your own packing.
I received a super low moving quote from a new company in my area. How do I know if they are legit?
If the quote you received was a prohibitive amount below standard market pricing, you should absolutely be wary. In the wake of the most recent recessions, moving companies have cropped up in waves. For every legitimate operator, there will be a few shady “companies” who are just trying to fleece unsuspecting, first-time movers. You need to be careful here. Many of these rogue operators will ask for exorbitant deposits up-front, only to disappear before moving day. If they actually do your move for you, they could begin tacking on bogus expenses due to “unforeseen circumstances.”
You should do your due diligence here and ask for all relevant information during an estimate. Ask how long they have been in business, and try to find evidence of customer reviews or testimonials in some form. In addition, all moving companies should have a US DOT number, which is easy enough to look up on the FMCSA’s database. All movers should also carry workers’ compensation and general liability insurance.
What is my best option if I have a larger move, but don't want to hire a full-service company?
The two cheaper options are to go with a moving truck rental or moving container rental. U-Haul and U-Pack are great places to start when shopping around for these services. Large rented moving trucks have similar dimensions to the ones the pros use but come at a significantly lower cost. The most significant drawback, especially for long-distance moves, is having to drive your belongings all the way to your new home. You will also assume total liability for all things inside the truck, as well as the truck itself.
Moving containers involve none of that liability unless they are on your property. The drawback to using them is the limited amount of space. Most providers only have containers up to 16 feet in length. Though renting one container to ship cross-country costs less than a full-service move, renting multiple containers may not.
For both options, you can hire local movers to help load and unload.