Moving Costs: How Much Does it Cost to Hire Movers?
To say moving can be stressful is a bit of an understatement. It’s not just that it requires a lot of organization and commitment– it’s time-consuming, complicated to organize, and often involves back-breaking work.
So while you may save money by packing and moving everything yourself, hiring movers to do the heavy lifting for you could save you a lot of stress during the whole process—despite the added moving costs.
Hiring professional movers is a good idea because you can customize the service to fit your needs. Do you want them to pack all of your stuff, load the truck, drive, and unload the truck at your new place? Or would you rather take care of the packing and unpacking yourself?
Answering these questions is part of what makes using movers complicated—there are a lot of factors involved in moving that can affect how much hiring professionals will actually cost. The purpose of this article is to simplify and explain some of the primary considerations that will likely affect your moving costs.
Are you moving locally or long distance?
The first factor to consider is the distance of your move. As you’ll surely have assumed already, moving from one state to another is going to be considerably more expensive than moving down the street. Likewise, moving a studio apartment is cheaper than moving a four bedroom house.
But you might not have realized that, if you’re moving between large cities, the cost of hiring movers can vary greatly depending on relocation trends to and from your current and future hometowns. Logic dictates that moving between San Francisco and Austin, Texas, should cost the same amount regardless of which direction you’re heading in. If only things were so simple. It turns out a lot of people have been moving from San Francisco to Austin, while Austinites aren’t moving to San Fran in quite the same numbers. Thus, that whole “supply and demand” thing dictates that the cost of moving your possessions the 1,800 miles between these two cities could vary by hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars depending on which way you’re going.
As a general rule, expect to spend about twice as much for a long distance move as you would for a local one. Per the American Moving and Storage Association, the average cost of an interstate household move—with an average distance of 1,225 miles and 7,400 pounds of goods—was about $4,300, which includes packing and ancillary services. An intrastate move, on the other hand, averaged about $2,300 for the same amount of materials.
For some general estimate ranges of cost to hire movers between popular cities, check out this handy moving calculator.
Estimating the cost to hire movers
In the world of moving companies, most moves will fall into one of two categories: Intrastate and Interstate. There are different sets of regulations and oversight agencies governing the two types. You’ll need to keep this in mind when considering the company you hire and the costs involved.
Local or long-distance, the cost of hiring a moving company is going to vary based on a wide variety of factors. Here are some general stats to help you get a ballpark range on what your costs may be depending on the size of your home:
- Studio/1 Bedroom Apartment: $200 – $500
- 2 Bedroom Apartment: $400 – $700
- 3 Bedroom House: $560 – $1000
- 4 Bedroom House: $800 – $2,000+
LONG DISTANCE MOVE
On average, the cost for a long distance move is about $0.70 per 1 lb. of goods per 1000 miles (before any additional costs). You can calculate using average weight of household goods by varying size:
- Studio apartment: around 1800 lbs.
- 1 Bedroom Apartment: around 2200 – 3200 lbs.
- 2 Bedroom House: around 5000 – 6000 lbs.
- 3 Bedroom House: 9000 lbs.
Other moving-related fees
That being said, there are a number of additional fees you’ll want to be aware of when budgeting for a moving company or evaluating a moving quote. The most commonly encountered additional costs/fees are listed below. Be aware that these are by no means the only ones you may be charged, depending on the particulars of your move. When evaluating a quote, you may want to ask about any additional fees – you may be able to lower your costs if you’re willing to be flexible or move your boxes upstairs yourself.
- Additional men (local moves)
If you’re moving a fair amount of stuff, your local mover may need more than 2 men to move everything. In this case, you’ll probably pay an average of $25-$50 per additional moving man.
- Expedited service/guaranteed date of arrival (long distance moves)
Moving contracts with many long distance/interstate moving companies frequently stipulate that your belongings will arrive at your new home within a window of time that could be up to month. If you’d like a guarantee that your stuff will arrive by a specific, usually expedited date, you should expect to pay more to your moving company. One way to avoid this is to be flexible with the delivery date by packing your essentials yourself so you can live without your household items for a couple of days.
- Flight charge
When movers have to carry items up or down a flight of stairs, expect to pay an additional fee for each flight. And yes, this means the stairs between each floor so if you’re on a fourth floor walkup you could be looking at some extra expense.
- Elevator charge
Think you’re in the clear if you’ve got a freight elevator in your apartment building? Think again. In that case, you may be forking over for elevator fees.
- Appliance charges
If you’re moving large appliances like washers, dryers, refrigerators or dishwashers you may need to pay a fee for movers to remove them and install them in your new home.
- Long carry fee
When the distance from your front door to the moving truck is longer than normal, requiring the movers to haul your goods further than usual. If you anticipate this being an issue, either measure the distance yourself and inform the movers or have them come in person for an interview before signing a contract.
- Storage in Transit (SIT)
If your stuff arrives but your house isn’t ready, you can expect to pay a SIT fee to have the moving company store your items before moving them into your new home.
Full-service moving costs
Time is money and most of us will shell out to make the already-stressful occasion of moving as easy as we can make it. For some of us, that might mean renting a truck instead of borrowing a friend’s pickup; for others of us it will mean paying a moving company.
For others of us still, there is full-service moving. In a full-service move, the movers will pack up your household items into boxes, put these boxes and your furniture safely in the truck, and move them into your new home. As you can imagine, packing up all that stuff takes some time so you can expect the move to take longer and cost you more. If you want them to unpack your boxes and put the items away in your new house, you can pay for that as well. The unpacking service is typically charged by the hour (on average $20-$40 but check with your mover for an accurate cost).
Packing supplies add up fast
As you’re planning for the cost of hiring movers, don’t forget that you’ll also need to buy moving boxes, paper/bubble wrap, and packing tape. Some moving companies sell these supplies but you might be able to get them cheaper if you buy them yourself. If you’ve decided to spring for full-service moving, the company will typically provide all needed packing materials.
When it comes to buying packing supplies, do yourself a serious favor: do not buy the super cheap moving tape. The epic frustration involved in wrestling with tape that sticks to everything but the box you’re trying to close is worth the extra cash. Decent moving tape will prevent your boxes from bottoming out when you lift them, which is also a good thing.
For the super budget-conscious, it’s usually possible to get free boxes you can use to move. Check out neighborhood message boards and apps like Nextdoor. If you ask early in the week, liquor stores are usually getting rid of medium sized boxes. Newspapers work well to cushion and protect fragile items if you have some laying around. If not, moving paper is pretty inexpensive.
Boxes, moving tape, labels, sharpies, bubble wrap, and moving paper can all be purchased online or found at your local UPS, office supply, or hardware store. A clipboard also comes in handy if you’ve got a packing checklist or want to make notes about what you’ve packed in each box. Most movers will provide the moving blankets to protect furniture but confirm this with them before moving day. The calculator below will give you an idea of the supply costs:
Timing is everything
The timing of your move can also make a big difference in how much you’ll pay for a moving company. Time your move to avoid these times, and you’ll save yourself some money.
- The most popular time of year to move is between May-September.
- The most popular times of the month to move are the at the very beginning and end.
- The most popular days of the week to move are Saturday and Sunday.
The last thing you need to factor in to your moving costs is whether or not you have any items that are going to need specialty movers. Items that are extra-large and/or extra fragile like pianos, swing sets, cars, motorcycles, etc. require specialty movers. Some moving companies can provide specialty moving services. Others may not be able to accommodate it and you’ll have to hire a separate specialty moving company to transport these items.
The good news: Interstate moving companies are required by federal law to provide basic liability insurance for every out-of-state move.
The bad news: the moving company is only has to pay you up to $0.60 for every pound of your stuff they move and damage. For context, if they spilled water on your Macbook Air, that three lb. laptop is only insured for $1.80 and your favorite armchair would only get you a roughly $75. In short, if all your stuff is damaged this basic liability coverage isn’t going cover the cost of replacement.
If you decide you’d like to consider moving insurance, make sure you do your research and really think about what your needs are. If you have an home insurance company you like working with, you may be able to get moving insurance from the same company. Some moving companies will encourage you to buy moving insurance from an affiliate, third party company and we would encourage you to research what you’re paying for before you sign on the dotted line for any level or type of moving insurance. Also keep in mind that this type of moving insurance is regulated on a state by state basis rather than the federal level.
Tipping the movers
Hopefully everything arrives safely and in a timely manner, whether you’re moving 10 or 10,000 miles. It’s not required but if the moving company you hired does a good job, it’s common to tip them 15%-20% so keep some cash on you on moving day.
Hidden costs of moving
Beyond the costs mentioned above, you’ll want to remember that moving comes with a number of hidden costs that may seem small at first blush, but can add up fast. Expenses you’ll want to budget for may include:
- Travel costs – may include food, gas, hotels, and airfare for the whole family
- Replacement items – you’re bound to lose some stuff along the way
- Damage in transit – insurance may not cover everything
- Lost security deposit – don’t forget to account for any money owed to your current landlord
- Long-term storage – anything that doesn’t fit into your new home needs to go somewhere (see table below)
4 tips for hiring movers:
- Ask For Recommendations
There are a few ways you can make sure you’re getting the best deal when you hire movers. The first is to ask your friends for recommendations on who they’ve used to move in the past. They’ll be able to tell you first hand about the moving costs and the quality of the move overall. A neighborhood message board is another good place to get recommendations.
- Get Several Quotes
Don’t jump right into a contract with the first company you find. Make sure you look into several different moving companies, and get quotes from three or four. Then, compare the quotes and decide which one makes the most sense for you.
Remember that the price shouldn’t be your only consideration when choosing a moving company, but if one charges astronomically more than another, you could save quite a bit by going for the less-expensive option.
- Check for Hidden Fees
Some companies charge extra under certain circumstances, like say, if an elevator isn’t working or if the moving van won’t fit down your street. Ask each of the companies you’re considering about these extra fees so you can be prepared to pay a bit more.
- Get Everything in Writing
Signing a moving contract before even loading the first box is crucial– this will ensure you don’t get charged an exorbitant amount above the company’s estimate. There are three main types of contracts, but if you can, find a company with a non-binding to exceed agreement. With this, the company can’t charge you any more than their original estimate, even if the move ends up taking longer than expected.
Moving costs are hard to estimate because they’re often decided on a case-by-case basis. That’s why it’s so important to get several different quotes and choose your moving company carefully.