Most major life-changing events are expensive. Everything from weddings to home remodels can carry sizable price tags. But few are as deceptively costly as moving. Bit by bit, expenses eventually pile up when moving. No matter how hard you try, it feels like there are monetary land mines around every corner, and by the end, you’re out far more than you were expecting.
For first-time movers, a complete relocation can be a complex process as hidden fees, add-ons, and unclear billing structures are too common. To help make this process more transparent, we’ve outlined the typical billing process used by most moving companies.
How Moving Companies Calculate Cost
Calculating the cost of a move is complicated. First off, there are two different types of moves, local and long-distance, each with different pricing models. Then, additional factors will increase the move’s total cost on top of its baseline rate. These factors include add-ons, services, fees, and seasonal rates.
If you want to calculate your move’s overall cost before hiring a company, you need to know how far you’re traveling. Your total distance will determine which type of mover you’ll use. Then you need to account for your total cargo by counting the number of bedrooms. This measurement will also determine how many movers you will need and give a rough idea of how long it will take these movers to handle your cargo. Lastly, you will need to account for what services the company will provide and what other fees might affect your bill.
That’s a lot to consider, so we will break these factors into different categories and elaborate on them.
How Much Do Local and Long-distance Movers Cost?
The first thing to consider when determining the cost of any relocation is your choice of moving service. Movers can have a wide price range, usually sitting anywhere between $35 an hour to over $350 an hour. Overall, local movers run on the lower end of the spectrum, while long-distance movers are typically more costly. Local moves constitute any relocation within the same state or anything under 50 miles. For local relocations, movers charge between $45 and $250. Any relocation beyond a city is considered a long-distance or interstate move. Long-distance movers average around $100 an hour for packing, with shipping costs entirely dependent on how much cargo is shipped and how far.
How Much Are Local Movers?
Local moves have a flat rate multiplied by the number of movers. This hourly rate can vary from state to state, with some companies adding additional charges based on factors like weight and truck size. Simply put, the larger your home, or the more possessions you need to move, the more expensive the move will be. Currently, the baseline cost for local movers ranges anywhere from $35 an hour on the lower end and up to over $50, with the national average sitting at around $40 – this does not include tax or other fees like add-ons, travel, gas, etc.
Local Mover Cost by Room
This table uses the national average, standard tax rates, and typical fees to estimate the expected cost range for local movers. Keep in mind that local movers can vary widely, even within these parameters, as seasonality and availability are direct pricing determiners. Because of this, we always recommend shopping around and comparing free quotes when looking for local moving companies.
|Number of Movers||Number of Rooms||Cost Per Hour||Hours||Total (Including Other Charges)|
|5+||5 Bedrooms or more||$200 or more||12||$2,500 – $4,000|
How Much Are Long Distance Movers?
Long-distance moves are more complex to estimate than local moves, as more elements outside your control can affect the price, such as toll stations, gas, etc. At the beginning of the process, your moving company will perform a walkthrough of your home, estimate the cost, and generate a moving quote. This quote will give you an idea of what you will be dealing with, but more often than not, the final cost will change by the time the move is over. The baseline cost of a long-distance move is calculated based upon the amount, or more precisely the weight, of goods hauled combined with the move’s distance. For example, a single bedroom house or single bedroom apartment, with a travel distance of around 500 miles, averages out to just under $1,000 to about $2,500.
Long Distance Mover Cost by Miles
Let’s take a look at some more examples of long-distance moving costs. Once again, like the local moving table, this is a national average, and moving estimates can vary based upon the factors of your move.
|Distance in Miles||Studio||2 Bedrooms||3 Bedrooms|
|250 or less||$800-$2500||$1,500-$4,500||$2,500-$7,500|
Consolidated Movers vs. Direct Transport Movers
When choosing a long-distance moving service, you will have the option of utilizing consolidated movers or exclusive direct transport movers. These are two different services that most long-distance moving companies offer. While most homeowners opt to go with direct transport moves, consolidated moving services can be a great way to save some money if you’re not strapped for time and don’t mind your household goods sharing a truck.
Exclusive direct transport services are the costlier of the two, as a moving company will exclusively haul your goods to your destination. When choosing this service, a truck (or freight container) will arrive at your property, your cargo is loaded by the company or you, and is then driven directly to your chosen destination. You can also decide when it departs and arrives, and you may also have to pay additional fees for storage if your arrival time is way down the road. These features offer you a great deal of personalization and customization of your experience.
For consolidated services, your cargo is added to that of other customers inside a truck or cargo container, after which all the items are shipped together. Of the two, consolidation is far cheaper but carries several downsides. Besides your cargo coming into contact with that of other people, you also have less control over the time frame of arrival, as the truck will be picking up and delivering the other cargo along the way.
Direct transport is the most popular service, as homeowners prefer the customization, convenience, and exclusivity it provides. The downside to this service is that you alone are footing the bill for the gas, labor, and other fees associated with the move. While consolidated moves might be less convenient, they’re a great cost-saving option, as the overall service cost of transportation and storage is divided between all customers.
After you determine your type of mover, the number of rooms, labor hours, and baseline cost, the next major factor to consider is the additional services offered by the moving company. Most moving companies have a host of services to choose from, allowing you to tailor your experiences to suit your needs. These services can be as simple as temporary storage, if you have a wait time before your new home is ready, to full-service moving, including packing, unpacking, and shuttling. Most of these services are à la carte and offered at the beginning of the appraisal process and applied during your quote’s creation.
Storage is one of the most commonly purchased additional services from moving companies. Movers frequently offer free 30-day storage in their service packages or will offer free storage as an incentive to close a deal. However, long-term storage through a moving company can get expensive, charging around 30-50 cents per cubic foot. These prices aren’t terrible in the short term, but if you need storage for more than a month, you’re usually better off going with a personal storage unit or a moving container.
A full-service moving package might be the best option if you’re low on time or are too busy to handle the heavy lifting, packing, and other strenuous elements of moving. For standard moving services, a truck with a few professional movers will show up at the arrival time, and you will have all your boxes, furniture, and assorted cargo ready to move. Depending on the other services you choose, these movers may or may not help you load your items. But full-service movers take care of everything for you. Typically, the movers will arrive as a small team, with a truck, boxes, and packing materials. They will sort, pack, and load all your cargo and furniture. Furthermore, depending on the extent of your service package, the movers will even handle large, specialty items like pianos or hot tubs.
As you can imagine, full services moves are significantly more expensive than standard moving services. You can expect to pay 50%-150% more for a full-service package on average.
Most moving companies offer packing services for those homeowners who still need help packing their belongings but have their own trucks or transportation. In these situations, going with a packing service can save you time and will cost significantly less than a full-service move. When signing up for a packing service, you will receive an estimation of the overall cost and a rough quote. Moving companies will charge by the box or per hour alongside packing material costs. Packing service boxes are designed for specific types of cargo. They have different corresponding costs, with simple, smaller boxes costing less compared to large or complex containers, like those for linen or glassware. Generally, larger, more fragile, and more difficult cargo will result in more expensive boxes and a higher price tag. The national average for packing services ranges from $350-$1,500, with smaller studio apartments sitting on the lower end and larger multiple-bedroom homes at the higher end.
In the case of large, intricate pieces of furniture, such as glass cabinets or shelving, it can be easier and safer to have moving companies handle them for you. Moving companies offer special furniture assembly and disassembly services for these cases. Furniture disassembly is available as a part of moving packages or sold independently, similar to packing services. When included in a moving package, furniture disassembly is usually requested as a part of the quote process or during the move. Full-service moving packages typically include furniture disassembly, or companies will offer it for free to help close deals. When included alongside standard moving services, the movers will disassemble all requested furniture before loading it into the truck and then assemble it at the arrival destination. When purchased as a separate service, the movers will come to the property, disassemble the furniture, and potentially load it, depending on their level of service.
The national average cost of furniture disassembly as a separate service is between $30-$50 per mover per hour. Like other moving services, this cost factor can vary depending on location and season. The price for furniture disassembly as an additional service to an existing package varies greatly, depending on the size of the home, the amount of furniture, and the nature of the offered package.
Specialty Item Handling
This service is necessary if you possess large, delicate, or bulky items that require special handling, packing, or additional space in the truck. Movers will have to be more careful when handling these objects and take special precautions and arrangements to accommodate them when loading. Because of these factors, professional moving companies will require an additional charge to carry, load, and transport specialty items.
Here is a list of the most common specialty items you will get charged extra for in a move:
- Grandfather clocks
- Pianos, or other large musical instruments
- Large mirrors
- Pool tables
- Large safes
- Oversized furniture
- Hot tub or jacuzzi
- Large paintings or fine art
- Riding lawn mowers
- Large pieces of exercise equipment such as treadmills, benches, or workout bikes
- Kitchen equipment like fridges or stoves
- Large general appliances such as washers and dryers
Additional Packing Supplies
Occasionally the movers will have to utilize additional supplies like bubble wrap, packing paper, straps, ties, mattress covers, or TV covers to pack your cargo correctly. For full-service moves and packing services, the cost of these materials is taken into consideration and included in the invoice. However, for standard service moves, they will charge you for these supplies. While convenient, the cost of these materials is much higher than purchasing them from a retailer. Because of this upcharge, if you’re not using a packing service or full-service move, it’s always best to have your cargo fully packed and prepared beforehand.
Other Add-ons and Valuations
While not as commonly purchased, there are numerous other add-on services you can opt in to that moving companies offer. These add-ons are usually available upon request or might be suggested by the moving company during the evaluation and quote process.
- Unpacking service: Occasionally, a customer might request a moving company to unpack and set up various cargo. This service is included in full-service packages but can also be purchased separately at the end of a relocation.
- Shuttle service: On rare occasions, a moving company may have to use a smaller truck to transport cargo to a larger truck. This shuttling occurs when the customer’s home is unreachable with the primary moving truck. For example, if a home is at the end of a tight city street or down a steep hill with a narrow road. Since a shuttle service is a niche occurrence, it’s not normally included in full-service packages and can be highly expensive. The average cost for a shuttle service is anywhere from $200 to over $1,500 on top of the cost of the move.
- Expedited delivery: A moving company can expedite delivery for an additional charge. This service sees the most use in an emergency or last-minute move, like when the homeowner has to relocate for work. The cost of expedited delivery can vary wildly depending on the distance traveled, delivery time frame, season, and availability of the moving company.
What Fees Can Affect My Moving Cost?
The final major determiner of your additional costs is the service fees that can get tacked on to your bill. These service fees can vary greatly in cost, and not all companies are transparent about them. In general, it’s a good idea to shop for several quotes beforehand, ask questions about your potential fees during the quote process, and do your best to eliminate possible fees before they become a problem during the move.
Stair fees occur when you have multiple flights of stairs within or leading to your property that movers will have to utilize when moving your cargo. Most moving companies won’t charge you for one set of stairs, as most American homes contain two floors, but with two or more sets, you will be looking at an average charge of $50 per set beyond the first.
This fee normally only applies to residences within large apartment complexes. If there are one or more long elevator rides to your home, your moving company may tack on this additional fee. Long elevator rides can greatly increase the time to remove and transport your possessions and increase the difficulty of moving large or cumbersome objects like furniture. What’s worse is that most apartment complexes have freight elevators that moving companies are required to use. These elevators can require reserving beforehand or have long wait times. The average cost of an elevator fee amongst moving companies is between $50 to $100.
Long Carry Fees
This fee commonly arises for homes located along crowded city streets. If a mover has to park the truck more than 100 feet away, they will stick you with a long carry fee. The cost of this fee is determined by the distance from your front door to the truck and varies greatly depending on the company.
Additional stop fees occur when a moving truck has to make more stops on its route to or from your home. These stops might include secondary properties for split moves or local storage facilities for drop-offs. You can expect to pay around $80 or more per additional stop.
One of the sneakiest tactics moving companies use to get the most out of their clientele is seasonal price adjustments. This adjustment reflects the time of year that moving companies are the busiest, with peak seasons seeing a massive increase in relative costs. The most active season for moving companies is in the middle of summer, as kids are off school, and the weather is more easily manageable than that of the winter. If you plan to move during the summer months, be prepared for increased prices and more restrictive availability, with prices rising by up to 30%.
As with all service industries, canceling at the last minute can bring a hefty fee or even the loss of a security deposit. If a moving company has a job booked for a certain date and time, and that job drops at the last minute, it may not be able to get it filled, resulting in a serious loss of cash. If you have to cancel, you shouldn’t incur a cancellation fee as long as you’re more than a week away from the move date. However, if you are within the week of your move and cancel, you can expect a minimum $100 cancellation fee, with that amount increasing in cost the closer you get to the move date, up to the loss of your security deposit.
While gratuity, or tipping, isn’t strictly a fee, it’s commonplace and greatly appreciated. The standard rate for tips for movers is around $8-$12 per mover per hour, with additional consideration given for excellent customer service, hauling large or heavy objects, and promptness.
How to Reduce Moving Costs and Saving Tips
Now that you know how moving companies charge and all the additional fees that can inflate your bill, we can go over some of the best ways to reduce that bill.
Downsize and Reduce Unnecessary Items
This one’s pretty straightforward; if you don’t need it, don’t haul it. We recommend carefully taking stock of your possessions well before packing and taking the time to downsize appropriately. You can either dispose of unwanted items through a junk hauling company or donate them to local charities.
Book Seasonally and Early
As we mentioned above, booking by season can reduce your moving cost by up to 30%. Furthermore, you can guarantee the best times and potentially get the moving company to offer special rates if you book early.
Pack Your Own Boxes
Packing services can be costly, vastly increasing your price tag if you’re not careful. If you pack your boxes and prep them correctly, your service fees and hourly costs will decrease.
Shop Around, and Compare Quotes
As we mentioned above, we recommend comparing quotes when preparing for your move. Quote comparing does two things: it will give you the lowest base cost possible. And it can also give you an idea of the different fees you could be facing, as some sly moving companies may neglect to mention them during the quote process.
Take Heavy Items With You
If you’re driving to your new home, we recommend bringing small but heavy items along for the ride. Since moving companies use weight as one of the primary factors for determining their baseline cost, you can shave off your total cost by transporting objects like hand weights, files, and dishware inside your car.
Moving is an incredibly complex process, with a cost calculation system to match. If you are looking to move, you will need to consider your distance, the total number of rooms, what services you want, and any appropriate fees to fully understand your bill. Thankfully there are plenty of online moving cost calculators you can use to estimate your next move. Or, if you are looking to cut costs as much as possible, you can always do a full DIY move.