How Do Movers Decide What To Charge?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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