How to estimate your moving costs
In an increasingly competitive moving industry, access to professional and well priced movers is easier than ever before.
Some operators provide flat price guarantees with no hidden surprises, while others scope your relocation based on distance and volume.
After reading this article, you’ll be armed with all the know how of a seasoned pro when approaching companies for estimates and quotes.
How far are you moving? The distance between pick up and drop off location
What’s fair and best practice comes down to a few factors that depend on the type of your move. That means either:
- Long distance (international)
- Cross country (national)
- Regional (tri-state area)
- Cross city (local)
Some companies specialize in one of these areas and will be more competitively priced depending on the geographic scope of your relocation.
How big is your household? The volume of your items that you are moving
The next biggest variable in pricing comes down to the volume of the items that you intend to move. How many items are you moving, and whether any particularly challenging pieces of furniture like a piano or heavy marble table top are part of that item inventory list.
The 2 pricing formulas
There are two main approaches to pricing a move. One of your first questions in speaking to movers for quotes is to ask them which of these they use. Volume vs Hourly. Moving companies that use a volume pricing formula protects you from any hourly guessing estimates and hourly extra fee charges that are out of your control on the day of the move such as traffic and more time required to move items.
Companies that calculate their fee with the volume of furniture in cubic feet to be moved instead of charging an hourly rate are more likely to be able to offer you a flat price that isn’t impacted by traffic, parking issues or storage check in delays.
Volume of goods + mileage + any special complexities = estimate
Your moving company will have their per cubic foot price on your quote.
Long distance moves are charged either by cubic feet or weight depending on the pricing model which you mover deploys. Keep in mind long distance moves can also include a storage fee if delivery is delayed and an extra stop charge. Ask your movers upfront for all additional possible fees.
Other movers will price your relocation based on the time movers and the truck will be needed. Travel fees between destinations may also apply but this is something you can negotiate with your moving company directly.
Hourly cost + travel fees = estimate
Be sure to familiarize yourself with which formula your company uses before you lock them in. We prefer flat quoting based on volume for our clients so time does not become a variable and they are not going to be surprised with any additional charges.
One important point to add here is also the timing of your move. The day of the week and time of year can incur higher rates of up to 20% more due to demand, poor weather or holiday disruptions.
When you’re negotiating price, ask you mover about discounts for a lower demand day of the week and the quietest time of the month move, if you have some flexibility in your schedule. As a rule of thumb, May to September are the busiest months of the year to move. As well as the first and land days of the month as people’s leases expire.
The complexity of your move
Movers love to hear there is a service elevator booked for them on the day of your move but it’s not always possible in a city of so many pre-war buildings like New York. This applies double if you’re moving oversized or heavy items that need to be navigated through narrow stairwells.
A pool table, antiques and pianos are good examples of specialty items that carry their own risks due to their weight and size.
Specialty items will add more time to the overall move and are usually itemised separately and in detail. Ask your movers how they will manage any valuables and what their insurance arrangements are.
While most movers are well prepared for any disassembling and have additional equipment for rolling and lifting your items, if you have any challenges specific to your move, be sure to book a mover that can provide a genuine quote and discuss their additional handling fees for those items.
Professional moving companies are well versed in navigating any challenge and will provide you with the peace of mind that your complex move is in good hands.
What you might save in price with a less experienced mover, could end up costing you more than heartache in the end without the appropriate insurance and claims process regarding your family heirloom. Balance their standard of service with a competitive quote.
The cost of moving & packing supplies
Some of the materials you will need for your move include boxes, packing paper and tape. Good moving companies provide pack and provide supplies such as blankets, mattress protective plastic, TV boxes and wardrobe boxes as a part of their flat fee when they arrive on your move day to pack and move your big items. They will usually pack your larger items in these boxes and material and unpack your items at the drop off location and take these materials back.
You will need boxes for your kitchen, books and general households items. Depending on your time and budget you can try and source durable moving boxes and materials for free, or buy boxes from your mover or moving supplies company. The second option takes less time and will guarantee that you get the appropriate supplies to pack your belongings safely. It also means also means that your moving supplies will be delivered to your door. You may end up spending a lot of time researching free boxes when you could have bought them for a reasonable price.
There are custom moving kits available from movers and retailers. Kits from movers come with free delivery if you are using them for your relocation as well. How much time you have to source these boxes and be ready in time for moving day may also impact how much flexibility you have. Be sure to read our guide to finding free boxes for more tips on finding them fast.
There is also the newest packaging option in the moving industry, which is to rent plastic moving bins from your moving company. These studier and water resistant options also reduce waste as no packing tape is required and they negate the need to dispose of them afterwards, as your movers collect them when you are done. These boxes can be rented on a weekly basis.
When time or a fixed deadline is a factor
If you have a life event that has prompted your move like a new baby, an ill family member or a job change, adding to your total moving cost to have a professional pack most of your home and unpack it at the other end is a valid question.
It is an added cost that increases your budget but is often considered by people for whom the logistics of a move just won’t work without an extra few pairs of hands.
Many moving companies today provide competitive packaging and unpacking quotes as part of a bundle for also providing the transportation.
To help reduce costs further if you have to put your things into storage, find a moving company that also owns secure storage facilities which can provide a discount for handling all aspects of your move.
Costs at the end of your move
At the end of it all, factor in a tip for your movers of between 15-20% depending on the size of your move, and whether you were happy with the crew.
The best way to remove any awkwardness or stress is to be prepared with either cash on hand, before the movers arrive.
Then you can gauge on the day if your expectations were met and their hard work deserves recognition.
Tips are not compulsory but always much appreciated.. We have a more detailed guide on tipping here if you want to read some more on this final cost of the move.
Wrapping things up, to summarize
When all is said and done, as much as you want to keep moving costs down any company that offers you a widely lower rate than the rest of its competitors should raise concerns for you.
You can see from the above that your moving quote from a professional company factors in a lot of variables, and as much as you would love to move for free, it’s not possible.
The Federal regulatory body the Motor Carrier Safety Administration has also put out a useful guide to detecting fraud in the industry, to help you guard against unscrupulous operators. You can take a look at that here.
Now, with our price estimates on the size of your move, supplies needed, the cost per hour of professional packers and the rule of thumb on tipping, you have a reliable way to calculate your overall costs and the right questions to ask when you’re looking for quotes.
If you have any follow up questions from any of the material in this article, feel free to reach out to us here. And good luck with your upcoming move, we hope this guide has helped take some of the stress and hassle out of planning your relocation.