How Do Movers Calculate Moving Costs? | moveBuddha (2023)

How do movers calculate the cost of your move?

It’s a great question and one that requires some in-depth analysis.

That said –

  • Local move charges depend on the size of your crew and how long it takes them to finish the job.
  • On interstate moves, movers determine transportation charges based on the weight of your items and the distance between your old and new homes.

Of course, regardless of where you’re moving, you’ll also need to factor in additional charges for everything from packing and unpacking to crating, insurance, and automobile transportation when calculating your moving costs.

If you’re making an intrastate (long-distance in-state) move, your mover will most likely charge you in one of the ways mentioned above.

In this article, we’ll break down the charges associated with local and interstate moves, but before we do check out these helpful posts.

  • Best interstate movers – The moving industry is full of shady players. With so much at stake, it’s worth hiring a top-rated long-distance mover with verified customer reviews.
  • How much will your move cost? – Our moving cost calculator is a great resource. Just enter your move dates, origin and destination cities, and the estimated size of your move, and the magic algorithms will do the rest
  • Best moving container companies – It’s simple. You load and unload, they drive, and you save big bucks.

Labor is the largest expense on local moves

To recap, on local moves labor and transportation charges depend on the number of movers in your crew and how long it takes them to finish your job.

For example, your local move charges may look like this –

3 movers & 1 van at $120 per hour x 7 hours = $840

But remember, you’ll probably be charged for travel time and possibly a surcharge to cover fuel costs too.

Travel time is typically a one-hour flat rate, which means that in the previous example, your full-service movers would tack another $120 onto the bill.

Interstate move charges are based on weight and mileage

On long-distance moves, movers determine transportation charges referred to as “linehaul” by the weight of your items and the distance between your old and new homes.


For example, if you’re moving 7,500 pounds of household goods from Baltimore, Maryland to Miami, Florida (about 1,100 miles), your linehaul charges maybe $5,100.

On top of this base rate, you’ll pay additional fees that we’ll cover next.

Additional charges apply on both local and interstate moves

Packing and unpacking services aren’t cheap

After labor and transportation, the charges for packing services are usually the next biggest line item.

Customers generally pay a flat-rate per box that includes the carton, packing material like paper and tape, and the labor to pack it.

Basic valuation provides minimal coverage

Professional moving companies are required to provide customers with basic free valuation (moving insurance) called released value protection, which is usually .60 cents per pound per item.

With this coverage, customers will receive .60 cents back for each pound of a damaged item’s weight.

As in – $48 for an 80-pound flat-screen television, regardless of its value.

On the other hand, with full-value replacement coverage, the same customer would be reimbursed what it would cost to replace the television with a similar or identical one.

Storage charges can add up quickly

Adding a few days of storage at the last minute may seem harmless enough, but first-day charges can be huge.

This is because unloading the moving truck and reloading your items into storage containers involves lots of time and labor.

After the first day, the daily rate will be significantly lower, but you’ll need to pay for additional warehouse handling charges on the back end as well as an extra delivery charge.

(Video) How to Estimate Moving Costs

All told, even short-term storage can add hundreds or thousands of dollars to your overall move cost.

For more information on why storage is so expensive, check out this post.

Don’t forget about bulky article charges

Especially on interstate relocations, van line tariffs generally include additional costs for these bulky items

  • Pianos
  • Hot tubs
  • Motorcycles and ATVs

Remember, even if your movers tell you that your triple dresser is “bulky,” there shouldn’t be an extra charge to move it because it’s not technically a bulky article.

Accessorial services increase move cost

Accessorial services include everything from shuttles and long carries to hoisting, custom crating, and appliance disconnects/reconnects.

However, there aren’t generally charges for disassembling and reassembling standard furniture like beds and tables.

Seasonal rate increases can add 10 or 20% to your bill

Some movers do 50 or 60% of their annual business in the peak season between mid-May and mid-September.

Many moving companies have more business than they can handle during the summer, and rates usually increase to reflect this spike in demand.

Moving in the fall or winter is a great way to save money if your schedule is flexible.

Costs go up when you don’t live up to your commitments

Just because your final cost exceeds your move estimate by 40% doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve been scammed.

If you originally told your surveyor that you’d do all the packing but only managed to get half of it done by move day, your final charges will reflect the added cost of labor and packing materials to get it done.

(Video) How to Calculate Moving Costs: Find out the True Cost of Your Move

If you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, let your movers know well before your move date.

Things that shouldn’t affect the cost of your move

The route the movers take shouldn’t matter

Some websites claim that the route movers take to your new home will affect move costs.

This may be true on local moves if your crew decides to take a joy ride because the longer the move takes the more you’ll pay.

On the flip side, the route should never affect the cost of an interstate move.

Don’t fret over bad weather and traffic delays

Shady movers are adept at coming up with unique ways to bilk unsuspecting customers out of their hard-earned dough.

However, neither bad weather nor highway construction should inflate your move costs on interstate moves.

These issues may cause delays, but if your driver needs to layover in Colorado while a winter storm passes, you’re not required to pay for his or her additional expenses.

Estimates should be based on time or weight and mileage, not volume

One of the oldest “debates” in the moving industry is whether long-distance move charges should be based on volume or weight.

But here’s a tip – move charges should rarely be based on volume.

The exact weight of household goods can be determined when drivers get tare (empty) and gross (heavy) weights on certified truck scales.

Subtracting the former from the latter yields the “net,” or total shipment weight.

(Video) How Do Moving Companies Calculate Costs?

On the other hand, volume can vary based on how efficiently the moving truck is loaded.

In essence, if you’re being charged by volume, the less efficiently the truck is packed the more the mover will charge you.

Talk about a scam.

Don’t accept estimates based on the square footage of your home

If your mover provides an estimate based solely on the size of your home, it’s a good sign that –

  • They can’t be bothered to provide you with an accurate estimate
  • They don’t know what they’re doing
  • They’re out to scam you

This is because it’s the contents inside your home or apartment that matter, not the size of the residence itself.

In many cases, small 2-bedroom apartments inhabited by hoarders contain way more “stuff” than larger single-family homes inhabited by minimalists.

This is why thorough in-home or “virtual” estimates are so important.

Frequently asked questions (faqs)

Do movers charge by weight or volume?

Most reputable movers charge strictly by weight and miles on domestic long-distance moves.

How do movers charge for stairs?

Most movers don’t charge extra for stairs inside homes and apartment buildings. However, additional charges may apply if they need to carry everything up or down three or more flights of stairs, especially outside ones.

How much does the average move cost?

Because there are so many variables, there’s no such thing as an average move cost. Local moves can cost less than $400 or more than $5,000, while long-distance moves can range from under $1,000 to well over $20,000.

How much do movers charge per hour?

Most professional movers charge between $25 and $50 per mover per hour on local moves. Rates can vary significantly based on city, time of year, and whether you’re moving on a weekend or holiday.

(Video) Moving Company Rates and Standards

What’s a non-binding estimate?

With non-binding estimates, your actual move charges will be more or less than the estimate depending on various factors like the weight of your items, how much packing the crew does, or how long it takes them to load and unload your items on local moves.


How Do Movers Calculate Moving Costs? | moveBuddha? ›

Ordinarily, to estimate the relocation costs, you take the estimated time to complete the move and multiply it by the moving company's hourly rate. Then, add the charge for other things like packing material, travel time, and tips if you work with movers.

How do you calculate how much it will cost to move? ›

Ordinarily, to estimate the relocation costs, you take the estimated time to complete the move and multiply it by the moving company's hourly rate. Then, add the charge for other things like packing material, travel time, and tips if you work with movers.

What is a reasonable amount for moving expenses? ›

Cost of Movers Per Hour
Home Size# of MoversAverage Total Cost
2 more rows
Aug 18, 2022

What is the pricing structure for a moving company? ›

Average Cost of Movers Per Hour

On average, movers charge between $25 to $50 per mover, per hour for local moves. So, a two-person team working for four hours will cost a minimum of $200 to $400, just for labor. But keep in mind that other expenses will be incurred as well, like transportation fees, materials and gas.

Why do movers charge so much? ›

Why do moving companies charge so much? Moving companies seem to charge a lot of money because they have a lot of expenses to cover: from labor for packing and loading the moving truck in any circumstance to fuel costs and equipment fees, you can be sure your money is being well spent.

What are the biggest expenses when moving? ›

Besides the mortgage, there's homeowners insurance, property taxes, maintenance and repairs and more. Like most people, you've likely budgeted for the typical costs of moving, such as movers and packing supplies. However, it's the less obvious costs that tend to take new homeowners by surprise once they relocate.

How do you negotiate moving expenses? ›

The following advice should help you handle this negotiation as effectively as possible.
  1. Focus on your interests. Think of relocating for work as a massive opportunity to make improvements in your life. ...
  2. Find out what assistance is typical. ...
  3. Develop ideas that benefit both sides. ...
  4. Get it in writing. ...
  5. Maintain your sanity.

What is a fair relocation package? ›

A typical relocation package usually covers the costs of moving and storing furnishings, household goods, assistance with selling an existing home, costs incurred with house-hunting, temporary housing, and all travel costs by the employee and family to the new location.

What should be included in a moving quote? ›

What should a moving estimate include?
  • Total weight of your inventory.
  • Amount and size of furniture you have.
  • Number of movers needed on moving day.
  • How easily movers can transport inventory (for example, whether your sectional won't make it through the front door)
  • Distance you're moving.
Sep 27, 2022

Are moving costs based on weight? ›

Most long-distance movers charge by weight and mileage, so the cost of your move will depend on how large and heavy your shipment is, as well as the distance between pickup and delivery locations.

What is the average profit of a moving company? ›

As a reference, movers make on average $35,000 per year. In addition to movers, you will need a support and administration staff (HR, finance) especially if you create have many employees.

Is it rude not to tip movers? ›

Remember that tipping movers is not mandatory. It may be customary and polite, but if you have a bad experience, there's nothing wrong with not tipping. You can consider adjusting how much to tip movers or not tipping if they: Show up late.

Do you tip expensive movers? ›

Are You Required to Tip Movers? In short, no. There is no industry standard for tipping. “Tipping is not required, but greatly appreciated by the movers,” says Hilary Reynolds with All My Sons Moving and Storage.

Do you tip movers equally? ›

Be sure to tip each team separately, with each getting half the amount. In the case of the $3,000 move, you should tip the movers $225 to $300 at your old home and the same amount at the new place. And be sure your tip is in cash.

Should a company pay for moving expenses? ›

Yes, an employer can pay for relocation expenses, but they don't have to! Companies will sometimes offer to pay for moving expenses via a “relocation package”—which could be given to an employee in the form of a lump sum payment, reimbursed at the end of the move, or handled directly by their chosen moving company.

Is 5000 a good relocation package? ›

While $5,000 upfront might seem like a generous amount, when you consider everything that goes into the cost of relocating, it may fall short and leave your employees frustrated and paying out of pocket.

How do you answer a relocation question? ›

I'm happy to consider relocating if the job's a good fit. If there's also an opportunity to work remotely or out of the office in [current location] I'd love to discuss that as well, as that would work best for my current situation because [reason].”

How do I ask for more money for a relocation package? ›

How to negotiate relocation assistance
  1. Research typical relocation packages. The first step is to find out what kinds of relocation assistance are typical for someone in your particular situation. ...
  2. Assess your own needs. Ask yourself what you might need from a relocation package. ...
  3. Emphasize mutual benefits.
Mar 29, 2023

What is the first movers quotation? ›

The existence of a prime mover- nothing can move itself; there must be a first mover. The first mover is called God.” ― Thomas Aquinas St.

How should I prepare for a moving estimate? ›

Prepare your questions
  1. Are packing services included?
  2. How do you determine cost? Do you charge by the hour or weight?
  3. Are there any extra fees I should know about, such as for flights of stairs or distance the moving truck is parked from the door?
  4. Is this a binding estimate? ...
  5. Is your moving company licensed and insured?
Jul 20, 2016

What to ask for in a moving package? ›

Typical relocation packages usually include temporary lodging expenses, the cost of moving, job assistance for your spouse, traveling costs, and assistance in selling your home.

What factors affect moving cost? ›

5 Important Factors That Affect Your Moving Price
  • Distance will definitely be a factor. The main factor which decides the price is distance. ...
  • Origin and destination will also impact the price. ...
  • What type of goods and vehicle you have? ...
  • Type of transport you want. ...
  • Timing is also another factor.
Jan 15, 2019

How do movers calculate weight? ›

Moving companies will first obtain a base weight for their trucks before loading the shipment. After weighing the truck at a weigh station, movers will then load the truck and weigh it again. The difference between the empty and loaded truck's weights is your shipment's actual weight.

Is food a moving expense? ›

Deductible Moving Expenses - You can deduct expenses that are reasonable for the circumstances of your move. Your eligible moving expenses include household goods, personal effects, storage and traveling expenses (including lodging) to your new home. You can't deduct any expenses for meals.

What is the best business structure for a moving company? ›

As a startup moving company, a good way of structuring your business might be to form a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or a corporation. These structures may come with tax advantages and offer limited liability. Limited liability protects you from being personally liable if someone sues your business.

What is a good profit margin for a moving company? ›

5 Steps for Success and Profit

Most moving companies only profit about 10% when everything's said a done. Some are higher and some are lower obviously… But 10% is right about average for profit. If you're really good and you do everything that I mention below, you could see your profit reach close to 20%…

How do I plan a moving company? ›

How to Prepare for the Movers
  1. Properly box up your things. ...
  2. Let the movers know where to park. ...
  3. Prepare and protect your house. ...
  4. Make sure your furniture will fit through the door. ...
  5. Hire a babysitter for small children. ...
  6. Plan for your pets. ...
  7. Have cash on hand for tipping.
Mar 29, 2017

Where do movers make the most money? ›

Hourly rates for movers in the US typically range between $12 and $20 an hour. The average mover salary is $41,483 in Alaska, $41,139 in Washington, and $39,639 in Montana. These are the three highest-paying states for movers in the US.

What is the best day for moving company? ›

It turns out that the best days to move are between Monday and Thursday, despite Tuesdays being the least popular moving day. There is far less demand for movers making it a cinch to schedule your moving day, and taking the day the off work to get it done will pay off in big ways.

What are the 7 steps to choosing a moving company? ›

How to Choose a Moving Company in 7 Simple Steps
  1. Get Referrals. Start by getting free moving quotes. ...
  2. Follow the Rule of Threes. ...
  3. Watch Out for Red Flags. ...
  4. Make Sure the Mover Is Licensed and Insured. ...
  5. Check With the Better Business Bureau. ...
  6. Ask About Professional Accreditation. ...
  7. Verify the Address.
Jul 21, 2022

Is a 3% profit margin good? ›

As a rule of thumb, 5% is a low margin, 10% is a healthy margin, and 20% is a high margin. But a one-size-fits-all approach isn't the best way to set goals for your business profitability. First, some companies are inherently high-margin or low-margin ventures.

Is 7% a good profit margin? ›

But in general, a healthy profit margin for a small business tends to range anywhere between 7% to 10%. Keep in mind, though, that certain businesses may see lower margins, such as retail or food-related companies. That's because they tend to have higher overhead costs.

Is 90% a good profit margin? ›

But for other businesses, like financial institutions, legal firms or other service industry companies, a gross profit margin of 50% might be considered low. Law firms, banks, technology businesses and other service industry companies typically report gross profit margins in the high-90% range.

What should I do before the movers come? ›

You can best prepare your house for moving by doing the following:
  1. Donate or sell items you don't plan to move.
  2. Pack or hire packing help.
  3. Make a plan for high value items.
  4. Disconnect your appliances.
  5. Remove any artwork or shelving from walls.
  6. Dispose of hazardous materials.
  7. Clean each room and dust your furniture.
Aug 5, 2022

How far in advance should I plan a move? ›

Ideally, you'll want to reserve at least two months before your move date, but 12 weeks is recommended for moves during busier times (like around holidays). To be safe, go ahead and book as soon as you have most of the details figured out.

What is the cheapest day to hire a moving company? ›

The short answer to this question is that it's cheaper to move on a weekday — Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Simply put, most moving companies offer better rates during the week because they aren't as busy then.

How heavy is too heavy for movers? ›

The rule of thumb is that each box should not weigh more than 50 pounds. Even if you've hired movers, remember that you may have to move the boxes yourself, from one room to another, so make sure you're able to lift them. Some boxes, such as a wardrobe moving boxes or electronic boxes, may naturally be heavier.

What is 1000 lbs of furniture? ›

a queen size bed with headboard and foot-board, 2 night tables, 2 dressers and quite a few boxes for clothes and linens and a couple of pictures. The formula is quite simple 1000 lbs per full room.

How many pounds is a 3 bedroom house? ›

3 Bedroom - 7000 - 9000 LBS.


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