How Do Moving Companies Determine Cost?

Moving is exciting, but it’s also stressful given its costs. Whether you’re moving locally or long-distance, the finances can always get complex. Having a good idea of the fees can help you manage your move better.

Costs are usually higher for cross-country moves. Moreover, if you have furniture or other bulky items, the costs can be thousands of dollars.

In general, moving companies calculate costs based on several factors such as shipment volume, the type of move, etc. Let’s discuss these cost factors in detail and understand how moving companies use them to calculate costs.

How are Moving Costs Calculated?

Multiple factors go into the estimates of movers when they calculate moving costs.

Types of Moves Determine Cost of Moving

The moving method you choose is the most significant factor in your average costs. For instance, getting a rental truck and driving it yourself is always cheaper. Similarly, having moving containers instead of hiring full-time movers is more affordable.

However, moving long-distance is a different story, where moving containers are even cheaper than rental trucks.

A local full-service move of fewer than 100 miles can cost you $500 to $2000. On the other hand, on a moving container, it will cost you from $500 to $1500.

A full-service move of above 100 miles costs from $2000 to $7500, while the moving container charges are $1500 to $5000.

Shipment Weight

The total weight of your shipment delivered to you is another important factor contributing to moving costs. The best way to reduce it is to eliminate as much inventory as possible and reduce the total shipment weight.

Moving companies often provide you with a cost calculator where you put your inventory and have a rough cost estimate. Some companies also ask you for a picture of your home to have a rough idea about the inventory it might contain.

However, these are rough estimates and don’t represent the final cost. To be sure about it, let a company representative visit you and record all of the equipment and items you want to move. Once the inspection is complete, you will get a more accurate idea of the total costs.

Routes & Distance 

The distance a moving company covers to shift your inventory is a major factor in your moving charges. But, besides the distance, the route your movers take is also a crucial element in the final cost.

Sometimes the mover might cover a larger distance but charge you less than if they traveled less. For example, if both the locations are on the highway, it is easier for the mover to take your inventory from your old home to the new one.

The reason behind it is that there might be someone else whose inventory has to travel in the same direction as yours on a major highway. If both customers hire the same company, the company will put both loads in the same truck. It will reduce the charges for both customers because it saves time & fuel.

You can cut costs even if you’re not moving through a highway. To do that, opt for port-to-port rather than door-to-door delivery. The moving company will take your shipment from one of its ports and deliver it to the port closest to your new location in port-to-port delivery.

However, you have to bring your inventory to the first port and then take it from the second port to your new location. You can rent a moving truck, and the overall costs would still be less than the door-to-door delivery.


Moving rates also vary from season to season. Most people move during the peak season from April to September, so the rates are naturally higher than in other months, which come down in fall & winter.

It is not always possible to plan and avoid peak times, as you sometimes have to move on short notice. However, try your best to plan and look for the off-peak seasons. Also, try to book a mover as advanced as possible. The earlier you book, the better rate you will get.

Labor Rates

Moving is a labor-intensive task and involves tiresome loading and unloading. The crew loads the inventory on the truck, takes it to the destination, and unloads it too. You can do the loading and emptying yourself but getting it done by the crew is always more convenient.

Some full-time movers determine the labor costs by looking at your inventory and estimating how much time it would take them to load and unload it. These are often the interstate movers, and they charge you beforehand. On the other hand, local movers usually calculate the total cost based on hourly charges after the move is complete.

Coverage of Inventory

Moving coverage works like insurance and protects your fragile items while they’re being shifted. Usually, inventory coverage is offered in two ways:

  • Basic Liability Coverage
  • Full Value Protection

Moving companies, by law, need to provide basic liability services to their customers. However, the basic liability service isn’t of much value to the customers because it offers a per pound rate of just 0.60

For instance, if an armoire of 40 pounds costs $300 and is damaged during the journey, the customer will only get $24 in damages. It is better than nothing but certainly not adequate coverage to buy another armoire.

Full value protection offers you additional coverage rates at the market value of your item. Companies handle full value protection differently, so talk to a representative and get an idea about the process and the price.

What About Add-on Services & Extra Fees?

Movers have a base package that doesn’t have any special features. If you want extra services, you will need to pay more. These additional services include trash removal, packing, piano transport, auto shipping, apartment theater set-up, hot tub shipping, etc.

Let’s discuss them in detail and see how they affect your total bill.

Packing Services Cost

Movers charge extra for packing your valuable items. Local movers usually calculate the extra time it takes to pack your items and add them to the total bill. 

Packing Materials Price from Movers

Moving companies don’t include the price of packing materials in moving costs. If you want your items to be secure, you will have to pay more for materials like shrink wrap, bubble wrap, boxes, tape, etc.

Blanket-wrapping Service During Move

Packing your goods is a great idea, but it doesn’t always work. The furniture is at significant risk of incurring damages from scratches, dents, etc. However, the moving company can offer adequate coverage by wrapping it in secure and durable blankets by charging extra.

Furniture Assembling/Disassembling

Everybody has some furniture in their home that needs to be disassembled or assembled when moving, such as an entertainment center, bed, etc. The moving company can do that for you if you pay them the additional charges.

Stair Carries

Stairs can burden you with additional costs as the crew needs to climb them to bring down the items, spending their time & energy.

For instance, if you live on the 4th story, the crew needs to safely go up and bring everything to the ground floor. It requires a lot of effort and time. Usually, they charge per step, per flight, or turn. Some companies offer this service for free, but most ask for stair charges.

Long Carries

Some people own expansive properties where the moving crew faces problems such as long driveways. The crew moving your inventory over long-distance moves can burden you with additional transportation charges.

Shuttle Services

Sometimes the customer’s property doesn’t have a proper parking mechanism. In that situation, the moving crew has to park at a distance from the apartment building and use shuttles to transfer the items to the truck. 

Cost of Storage 

Sometimes, you cannot offload your items from the truck and want to keep them there. Moving companies offer storage facilities, requiring extra cost with guaranteed protection of your valuable household items. The rates for this storage are calculated as monthly rates.

Specialty Items

Valuable items such as pianos, artwork, antiques, etc., require special attention and care during moving. Always ask the mover if they have any experience handling delicate items before. They usually charge extra fees for them, which is worth paying.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) When Planning a Move

Here are a few most frequently asked questions about how moving companies determine costs.

How much do most moving companies charge?

If the moving distance is less than 100 miles, a team of 2 movers can cost you anything from $800 to $2,500. On the other hand, long-distance moves have an average price range of $2,200 & $5,700. The costs can be lower or higher, depending upon different factors such as insurance, labor rates, seasonality, etc.

How to calculate the moving charges?

To have accurate price estimates of local movers, just multiply the number of hours it will take by their hourly rate. Make sure you also add the costs of extras such as shuttle service, stair carry fees, etc.

Why is estimating moving charges important?

Calculating moving charges is more than just knowing the amount you ought to pay. It helps you compare different moving companies, their customer services, and transparency. Make sure you estimate the moving costs of different companies and choose one that fits your budget.

Do moving companies calculate the rate by weight or volume?

Moving companies usually don’t determine the costs by weight and volume exclusively. However, if it is freight shipping, companies include both weight and volume costs.

Do you pay the movers before or after the move?

The general rule is to pay for your move after it has been completed. All trustworthy companies have a reputation for completing the move and then asking for money. An honest mover will always ask for charges after they have finished their work.

Should you pay a deposit to your moving company?

No, you shouldn’t pay any deposits to your moving company, as there are no. An honest mover would never even ask you for Advanced Charges before they have finished the job. Also, remember that the deposit isn’t an extra charge but something that goes into the final cost.

On what day of the week should you move house?

Usually, most people prefer to move house on Friday because it doesn’t disrupt their work week, and they can spend the weekend organizing their new home. However, Friday is also a popular time to move, so the rates are up due to high demand.

Moreover, if there is a sudden problem in your old home, you might have to wait till Monday to have it fixed. Finally, if you have financial constraints, try moving on Sunday, the least busy day out of all weekdays. People don’t like driving on Sunday because it is too close to the start of their workweek.

What’s the best time of the year to move house?

The best time of the year to move house is the late Spring or summer holidays because moving companies are the least busy at that time. Also, avoid moving near major holidays such as Christmas, when the roads are slippery, and there is a higher chance of damage. 

Is it mandatory to tip movers?

No, it is not mandatory to tip your movers, but it’s a gesture of gratitude for their hard work and customer service. The usual rule is to list them at around $4 or $5 per hour per crew member or give them 5 to 10% of the total moving costs.


Make sure you hire a moving company with a stellar reputation to entrust them with your specialty items. If you have a lot of delicate items, it is better to get full insurance. Compare the best moving companies on Best of the Web and choose the one that fits your circumstances the best. 

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest

Leave a comment