How Much Will Your Move Cost? Here’s How to Figure it Out

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So how much does a move cost? It all depends. Years of moving experience shows that customers typically fall into one of three categories:

  • Gazillionaire
  • Employee relocating on the company’s dime
  • Confused soul wondering aloud, “Good gosh, how much is this going to cost me?”

As you probably guessed, most of us are the third one. AMSA, the American Moving and Storage Association, tells us the average in-state move costs $1,170, while interstate moves average $5,630. But take that with a grain of salt, because the real answer lies is in the details of your specific move—from off-base estimates to logistical issues, from slower-than-syrup movers to incidental expenses, all big and small.

So how is it possible to even come close to predicting the final number so we don’t go into shock when we’re handed the bill?

Some things are out of our control, but there are definitely things you can do and look out for to make the moment we get that final bill pleasantly unsurprising.

The Baseline Cost of Moves

These are the basic questions you need to ask ahead of a move:

  • Are you getting a Full-Service moving company to handle everything?
  • Are you renting your own truck, then hiring moving labor separately?
  • Are you doing everything yourself?

These are known as the three basic ways to move: A Hybrid Move, a Full-Service Move, and a DIY Move.

How much do movers cost?

Getting a Full-Service Move? That means the movers load, unload, and drive the vehicle all on their own. The estimate? Though it will largely depend on the distance traveled and volume of the move, Full-Service Moves run north of $1,500-$2,000, on average, and sometimes can be more expensive if it’s a really big move.

Hybrid Moves, on the other hand, separate moving labor from moving vehicle. That means you hire a mover to load and/or unload your stuff, then rent the moving truck on your own, saving you a lot of money. Roughly, the cost can run anywhere between $300-$1,000 for a truck and movers, occasionally more.

What’s the cost difference between a long distance and local move?

Local or state move? You’re looking at roughly anywhere between $100 to $300 for the moving truck, depending on the size needed and after accounting for mileage and insurance fees.

Moving long distance? Like, across the country? This will likely cost around $1,000 after gas and fees, plus potentially lodging and food.

As for local movers, prices vary dramatically based on scheduling and location. Moving during a busy summer is just going to cost more than during the dead of winter. Movers’ hourly rates also vary, depending on the size and distance of your move.

Here are some generalized queries on price ranges for “2 Helpers for 2 hours”, taken straight from HireAHelper.com:

  • Boston, Massachusetts: $250-$350
  • Austin, Texas: $200-$300
  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana.: $300-$400
  • Los Angeles, California: $250-$400

Of course, some movers do charge more, or sometimes less. Check out our movers’ reviews, give a few of them a call, get some estimates, and then go with who you feel best about.

You might love our:

Moving Cost Calculator

If the quote from your movers felt expensive …
Make sure it lines up with the costs reported by other Americans.

Finally, there’s the DIY Move, which hides plenty of hidden costs, such as:

  • Gasoline
  • Power tools
  • Moving supplies
  • Pizza and beer
  • Heavy stress

Not to mention what it does to close friendships and schedules. You can get away with casually moving a bedroom with some friends, but let’s just say that in the past, I wish I had spent a couple hundred bucks to have had total peace of mind for those really stressful moves. As a mover, I recognize I am biased, but I am also just a person who has moved many, many times—just like you.

Why do random internet searches for movers cost more?

Moving estimations are rarely conservative. That’s because it’s dreadful to be ill-equipped and strapped for time, versus the other way around.

No matter which one you choose, having someone come out and do a thorough visual of your place and all your belongings can be an extra useful way to get the most reliable estimate of how much your move will cost, as it’s an estimate based on time needed.

Getting an estimate over the phone? That’s cool, but keep these two things in mind:

First, if someone can’t see all the things you want moved, no matter how pure their intentions, it is ultimately a guesstimate.

Why should I avoid “move brokers”?

Secondly, unfortunately, it’s a very real possibility that the “moving company” you quickly searched for on the internet is actually just a move broker.

That’s another term for a middleman who will assure you that they can give you an accurate quote – which will sound too good to be true – then sell your move to the highest bidder. That person will then come out (most likely in a rental truck) and load up your stuff … before telling you that your final bill will be a lot higher than you were originally told.

It happens every single day. Don’t let it happen to you.

That’s why after 20 plus years of experience moving people, I write for HireAHelper, a moving labor marketplace. All the movers are real movers with real reviews, which means absolutely zero of them are move brokers. Everyone here is the real deal.

Get a Quote

See prices for local moving labor. Read real customer reviews. Easily book your help online.

Still, marketplace or not, keep in mind that the more stuff you have, the more important it is to get an in-person estimate so your movers can give you a good idea of how many people you’ll need for how many hours.

Extra, Hidden Mover Costs

How much stuff you have isn’t the only thing that determines the cost of your move. Here are some other important factors that some moving companies take into consideration when giving quotes:

  • If the path from your door to the truck involves stairs or an elevator
  • If the distance from your door to where the truck will be parked is particularly long (meaning 75 feet or more)
  • If your movers can’t get their tractor-trailer anywhere near your place and they have to use a smaller truck to shuttle your stuff from your driveway to the big rig
  • If you have any (or a lot of) heavy, bulky or unusual items, like pool tables or gun safes

All or some combination of these will likely bring your quote up. This is another reason an in-person estimate is important. But if you do find yourself having to give movers a run-down of your stuff over the phone, be sure to let them know the lay of the land so no one ends up surprised. Also, don’t forget to potentially tip your movers.

Total: 

Local Hybrid Move: ~$350+

Local Full-Service Move: ~$700+

Long Distance Hybrid Move: ~$1,300+

Long Distance Full Service Move: ~$2,000+

Optional, Accidental and Potentially Hefty Costs

There are some potentially optional costs that can add up quickly.

Packing Costs

Doing your own packing? Be aware that boxes can get expensivea couple of bucks a pop on average.

Meanwhile, packing paper goes for around $30 per 25-pound bundle, and box tape runs at minimum a dollar per roll.

Thinking of using bubble wrap? Plan on dropping anywhere from $20-$50 a shot.

You’ll save some cash by doing your own packing, but your packing supplies can run you a couple hundred bucks, at least.

Total:

Moving boxes: ~$0-25

Packing supplies: ~$35-75

Packing help: ~$75-100

Rental Trucks

Renting a truck? You may find one for $20 or $30 or $50 a day, but gas, tolls, equipment rental, liability insurance, mileage charges and any fees included in the fine print of your rental agreement add up fast. Plus, obviously, the bigger the truck you need, the more it’ll cost. Not to mention, some days are busier than others (e.g., holidays, weekends, etc.), and you’ll get charged more for a last second rental. (Read this rental truck guide for more info.)

If you are moving long-distance, you also need to factor in food and lodging. And by the way, if you’re driving that truck, how are you going to get your car to your new home? All of this basically means one thing: get a quote on a moving truck early

Total: 

Local (or daily) moving truck: ~$75-300+

Long distance moving truck: ~$1,000-5,000+

How much does insurance cost?

Planning on getting your stuff insured? Full-service moving companies offer free basic coverage against loss or damage, equaling 60 cents per pound for any lost or damaged item. If you are okay with getting fifteen bucks in return for your newly-smashed flat screen TV, then this is the plan for you. That’s called valuation, not insurance.

If you want to be actually insured, you’ll want to consider paying for coverage that actually means something—which will cost you a percentage of what your stuff is worth in total.

 

What Moving Insurance Actually Does

(And why it might not help you!)

Total:

Insurance cost is completely relative to the item you insure (as well as how far you take it). Taken from MovingInsurance.com FAQ:

The cost of the insurance, or premium, is based on a proportional rate, relevant to the declared value of your shipment and the level of deductible you have chosen, and includes an administrative fee. Rates vary depending on your insurance type as well as based on your household goods’ final destination, whether be locally, out of state or internationally.

Storage and Lodging

And if your new home isn’t ready when you are? This unfortunate possibility comes with having to shell out more cash for the extra time your stuff has to sit on the moving truck, the extra time you have to hold onto your rental truck, or the storage space you have to rent until your home is finally ready for you. You might not include such expenses in your moving budget, but be aware of the potential for things to go wrong. There’s even the hotel cost if you’re moving for more than a day.

And what if you don’t get your life all packed up on time? You’ll have to hire packers last-minute. Obviously, this situation is entirely avoidable. All you have to do is make a careful and calculated estimate as to how long it will take you to pack everything. Then whatever time frame you come up with, multiply by two and a half. (Seriously.)

Total: 

Storage container costs depend on their size and distance driven. Taken from Moving101:

You can move locally or long distance, but moving containers are more affordably suited to local moves of small houses or apartments…mostly because you need to rent out more than one container for larger homes, which raises the fee. And the costs associated with the company driving the container long distance (read: paying the driver, fuel, insurance, etc.) all pile onto your bill, but then again, you’re not driving that massive truck 2,000 miles in 110-degree heat. Tradeoffs. Prices range from just under $500 for a local move (with the largest container) to more than $5,000 for a long-distance move (with two of the largest containers).

Incidental Costs

After moving people day in and day out for decades, I’ve heard everything under the sun when it comes to random moving costs the customers weren’t expecting. But the thing is, they almost are never random, just unexpected. The list of sometimes surprising incidental costs include:

  • Restocking your pantry/kitchen, and replacing items you got rid of
  • Paying deposits on utilities, cable, and public services at your new home
  • Sucking up any cancellation fees or broken contract penalties for things like cable, phone and health club membership
  • Repairing damage in your old home – or losing your security deposit if you don’t
  • Changing your driver’s license and car registration
  • Running a credit check to pass along to your new landlord and new utility companies
  • Picking up all the little things you need for your new home: light bulbs, shower curtain, shades/curtains for the windows, cleaning supplies because you used up and wore out everything cleaning your old place so you could get at least some of your security deposit back
  • Getting socked with penalties for being late paying bills because your mail didn’t get forwarded promptly, or you missed a bill altogether

Apartment Costs

Also, are you renting a new apartment? Obviously, don’t forget you have a security deposit as well as first and last months’ rent to shell out. Those can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to the value of the entire month’s rent. Buying a new home? That’s another topic altogether, but with that comes closing costs, realtor fees, appraisal costs, inspection fees, attorney fees and more. Yay!

Long-term Costs

There’s another part to this incidental list, which includes moving costs that are repeating or more long-term in nature.

  • Does parking cost where you live, and how much?
  • What are the average car and health insurance rates in your new state?
  • With your new home will you be subjected to building maintenance fees? Property fees? Homeowners’ association fees? Do you have to buy special trash and recycling bins?

That’s a lot of stuff to take into account, huh?

Figuring out what your own move will cost is all about specifics, not averages. So get that in-person estimate (more than one, if you are able). Use a moving cost calculator. Find a deal on a reliable rental truck (and remember to read the fine print). Check out rates for coverage against damage. Keep an eye on all those incidental charges and keep a list of things you’ll need at your new place.

And please, leave yourself plenty of time to pack!


Illustrations by Vicki Tsai

The Important Things to Take Pictures of While Moving (and Why)

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Getting ready for the big move? Don’t pack that camera away just yet!

Besides getting those great social media shots (“I’m driving a U-Haul, everybody get off the road!”), taking pictures before, during and after your move can help protect your stuff – not to mention your wallet.

The main reason for taking pictures when you move might be obvious, but it is worth iterating. No matter how skilled, experienced and careful your movers are, accidents do occasionally happen. And if you don’t prepare, you may not be properly reimbursed for damage that occurs.

So before your movers show up, go around and take pictures of anything and everything you deem valuable. This means furniture, electronics, breakables and anything else you think would be difficult and/or expensive to repair or replace. Then when your move is complete and you find that something has been damaged, you will have proof that the item was in fact damaged in transit.

 

What Moving Insurance Actually Does

(And why it might not help you!)

This also means taking pictures of existing damage: a scratch on your kitchen table, a dent in your dryer, or a small crack in the corner of your mirror. Why? Because if you suddenly find a bigger scratch, a deeper dent or a longer crack, your movers can say “That was already there.” “Yes, but it’s much worse now!” you will cry. And you will lose.

Knowing all that, here are some crucial tips for everything you’ll especially need to take pictures of.

Take photos of your cleaned-out apartment.

Believe it or not, there are some crafty landlords out there who would love to pocket your security deposit. Taking pictures of your old place before you leave for good can help you defend yourself against false claims of damage. And if you did damage something? Take a picture of that too, so that same unscrupulous landlord can’t charge you hundreds of dollars for fixing a couple of nail holes.

Protip: Take pictures of the bathroom and the shower. Yours truly got nailed for leaving the toilet “a filthy disgusting mess” after moving out of his Boulder, CO apartment, even though it was sparkling and sterile when I locked the door for the last time. I don’t even want to know.

Likewise, take pictures of your new place.

Again, don’t just photograph any existing damage you may find. Photograph everything! Why? Because walls, doors and light fixtures (and door jambs and floors and ceilings) can suffer damage during the move-in process. Your movers might be a great bunch of professionals, but you probably won’t want to have to pay for the gash they accidentally put in the kitchen floor.

Protip: Also take pictures of your rental truck! Get shots of any existing damage, inside and out, as well as the general condition of the interior of the cab and the back where all your stuff will be going – especially if these areas are less than pristine.

Take a picture of the back of your TV, for reference.

You know all those dusty wires back there? The ones to your surround sound system and your Blu-Ray player and your four different gaming consoles? It’s all going to have to be disconnected (and, probably, untangled). Having a photo of which wires go where can save a lot of time and aggravation when you are setting up your system at your new home.

Protip: Snapping a pic of the make, model and serial number of each of your electronic components can be a huge help in case you have to track something down – or, if something goes missing, to confirm that component’s age and value.

Take pictures of large, especially valuable or just unusual items.

This isn’t to highlight damage, but it’s simply a good idea to have pictures of things, from furniture to expensive décor to items that we’d rather not have to try to describe. Because if something goes missing, a picture helps A LOT in finding it. (Use your inventory sheets, people!)

True Story: A week or so after delivering a long-distance shipment we’d taken into our warehouse, I got a call from the customer. “I’m missing a chair,” she told me.

This was not very helpful.

We had literally hundreds of chairs on the 30-foot-high racks in our warehouse. Knowing that this chair was upholstered with a flowery fabric was only slightly better, and as the woman lived up in the mountains two hours away. She wasn’t about to come down and help me find the right one. “Let me fax you a picture of the chair,” she said. (Yes, this was a few years ago.) And even though the picture was black and white and a little blurry, I recognized it right away, saving me hours of searching during the already-hectic summer season and saving the customer from days, if not weeks, of inconvenience and uncertainty. (Not to mention a two-hour drive to our warehouse.)

Take photos of the water, electricity, and gas meters.

Do this both at your old place before you leave, then at your new one before you move in. Why? To protect against being charged wrongly for utilities. Not that the utility companies are out to scam you, but it’s quite common for them to charge based on usage estimates (which saves time and money on meter readers). If their baseline reading is off, then so is your estimated usage. There may also be a lag – or an overlap! – between customer accounts. Bottom line is, there are plenty of ways you can end up being charged for another resident’s utility usage. Taking photos of your meters can help immensely if such a situation comes your way.

Take a video of your electronics in action.

On their inventory sheets, movers describe anything electric, electronic or mechanical using the acronym “MCU” – mechanical condition unknown. This means they don’t know if something works. Which also means you can’t prove something was rendered inoperable during your move. Without proof, it’ll be difficult to get reimbursed for the flat screen that has suddenly gone to plasma heaven.

To guard against this, videotape your TV, stereo, air hockey table, pinball machine, lava lamp, or whatever to show that these things were indeed working properly before the movers showed up. 

And ALWAYS timestamp your photos!

Imagine having pictures showing that you left your old place in perfect condition, but then having your old landlord claim that you took them before you did the damage he is trying to charge you for. Or owning a picture of the damage the movers did to your new place, only to have them say “No, that was like that before we showed up.”

How do you answer that?

There are a few ways.

  • Set your camera so the time and date show up on your photos.
  • Email your photos to yourself as soon as you take them.
  • Make sure your time and date is correct on your phone’s camera roll.
  • Even print out the photos you take and snail-mail them to yourself.

Protip: It may be easy for someone to claim that you simply changed the time/date setting on your camera before you snapped those incriminatory photos. So keep them on your memory card, sandwiched in between other pictures you took along the moving process – or even in between photos from before and after the process – to prove your timeline if need be. Most people are reasonable.

Are we being too cautious?

After all, the majority of moves – and the vast majority of HireAHelper moves – are completed without a hitch. But remember: accidents happen. Taking pictures can save you a ton of time and aggravation – not to mention a bit of cash – if something does go wrong.

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