Best Packing and Moving Companies

On DIY moves, lugging triple dressers and bulky refrigerators up and downstairs and into and out of moving trucks can be a huge hassle.

In addition, inexperience, frustration, and exhaustion can lead to injuries and damaged furniture, both of which can ruin the thrill of moving into a new home.

That said, packing loose household goods into moving boxes isn’t a walk in the park either.

In fact, it’s tedious, time-consuming, and physically exhausting.

Having a professional moving company handle the packing isn’t cheap, but as we’ll point out in this post, the pros far outweigh the cons.

Before reading on, take a few minutes to check out these helpful pre-move resources –

  • Best interstate movers – The moving industry is full of shady players. With so much at stake, hiring a top-rated, full-service moving company with verified customer reviews is imperative
  • Moving cost calculator – Talk about a great budgeting tool. 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

When doing the packing yourself makes sense

We’ve already established that packing can be an epic undertaking.

Doing your own packing is generally only feasible when

  • You’ve got the time, energy, and know-how
  • You don’t mind shelling out a few hundred bucks (or more) for packing material
  • Friends and family members are willing to help
  • You don’t have lots of irreplaceable or fragile items
  • Your home or apartment is minimally furnished

If one or all of these apply to you, packing yourself is a great way to save money.

In addition, it’ll give you ample opportunity to declutter, donate and downsize before your move.

Remember, the less you move the less you’ll pay.

When to let professionals handle the packing

Between full-time jobs, raising kids, and keeping households running, most of us have exceptionally busy lives.

If this sounds like you, hiring professional packers may be the way to go when –

  • You don’t have enough time to dedicate to packing
  • You’re elderly, sick, or not physically fit
  • You have to move at the last minute
  • You don’t have any packing experience
  • Your home or apartment is full of breakables and high-value items
  • You’re willing and able to pay extra for this service
  • You’re using professional movers and want their valuation (“moving insurance”) to cover the contents of your boxes

The pros of hiring professional packers far outweigh the cons, but on the downside, it can be prohibitively expensive.

As a rule of thumb, you can expect a full-packing service to double the cost of your move, though this isn’t always the case.

Partial packing – the best of both worlds

Partial packing is when a customer has their moving company pack only a portion of their belongings – usually awkward, fragile, and expensive items like electronics, glassware, lamps, and artwork.

Anyone can fill boxes with non-breakables like shoes, clothes, bedding, and Tupperware, but the aforementioned items require high-quality materials and experienced packers.

By having these items packed by professionals and doing the rest yourself, you’ll save money, free up more of your time and get the best possible protection for the things you care about most.

Professional packers aren’t all the same

Packing isn’t rocket science, and in many respects the services provided by professional packers are similar.

That said, what separates the true pros from “the rest” is –

  • Addressing items of concern early in the moving process
  • The care and experience of their crews
  • Attention to detail
  • The quality of the packing material they use

Remember, having your items packed correctly is every bit as important as having them moved safely.

How professional packing services work

Regardless of whether you get in-home estimates or video, app, or phone quotes, it’s imperative to point out the items you’re most concerned about and those you want the crew to pack.

Also, let your representative know which items you plan on packing yourself, but avoid biting off more than you can chew.

Packing always takes longer than expected, so it’s wise to err on the side of caution.

If you’re not sure about specialty items or how much you can or cannot do, ask your relocation consultant for his or her suggestions during the walk-through.

When your representative has a good idea of what you have, what services you’ll need, and how much packing is required, he or she should provide you with an itemized written estimate.

Even better, ask for two estimates – one with full packing and one with partial packing.

Since everything else should be the same, seeing them side by side will help you decide which option makes the most sense.

Then once you’ve booked your move, they’ll schedule the packers to arrive a day or two before your pick-up date depending on how long it’ll take the crew to pack everything.

If you don’t get around to packing everything you thought you would, let your mover know as soon as possible.

How much does professional packing cost?

Since no two moves are alike, generalizing packing cost is nearly impossible.

On small 1-bedroom apartment moves, packing can cost as little as $200.

On the other hand, having professionals provide full packing service for a 4-bedroom home with an attic, garage and basement can cost $5,000, or in some cases much more.

For most families, however, packing charges generally range between $1,000 and $2,500.

How is the cost for professional packing calculated?

On most local and interstate moves, customers are charged two flat rates per box packed.

The first covers the cost of the carton (including packing paper and tape), while the second covers the labor to pack it.

Of course, cartons come in all different shapes and sizes, and some are much more expensive than others.

Dish boxes (dish packs) and mirror cartons are generally the most expensive because they’re thicker and stronger, and because it takes longer to pack them.

Some local movers offer hourly rate packing (plus the cost of boxes), and if they have them in stock, they may give you the option of saving money by utilizing used boxes.

Now without further ado…the best packing and moving companies

American Van Lines – tops for overall packing and moving value

Way back in 1995 when a dozen eggs cost less than $1, American Van Lines operated out of one location and had just two trucks.

Fast forward more than two decades, and their 70+ moving trucks service all 48 states.

As a truly full-service mover, American handles everything from loading and unloading to packing, unpacking, and storage, and they get consistently high marks for customer service.

American Van Lines’ have a lot of moving experience and their crews can provide full or partial packing services, and if you plan on doing the packing yourself they’ll gladly handle the moving only.

On small moves, partial packing can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, while on big moves the charge for full packing service can be $2,000 or more.

Just remember, your packing charges may be more or less depending on the scope of your move.

American Van Lines services –

  • Long-distance moving
  • Corporate and military relocations
  • Storage
  • Packing and unpacking
  • Custom crating and uncrating
  • Appliance disconnects/reconnects

What we like about American Van Lines –

  • Excellent customer service
  • Plenty of positive customer reviews
  • Competitive pricing
  • Ability to handle last-minute moves
  • Experience packing and moving specialty items
  • Multiple valuation options are available

What we don’t like –

  • A pre-move deposit may be required

Hire-a-Helper – a great option for customized moves

As a unique online marketplace, Hire-a-Helper specializes in connecting families on the move with a vast network of relocation services providers.

For customers interested in keeping costs low and customizing their moves, Hire-a-Helper is definitely worth considering.

Since service providers bid on each move, prices tend to be competitive, and customers decide whether they want full or partial packing services.

That said since Hire-a-Helpers partners are independent contractors, the only way to get packing and moving quotes is on their website.

Hire-a-Helper services –

In addition to packing and moving services, Hire-a-Helper also offers –

  • Furniture assembly and disassembly
  • Day labor for rearranging items in your home or apartment
  • Specialty moving services for pianos and hot tubs
  • Comparative pricing for truck rental companies like Penske and U-Haul
  • Semi-trailer rentals
  • Corporate and military relocation services
  • Portable moving and storage containers from PODS, 1-800-PACK-RAT and U-Pack

What we like about Hire-a-Helper

  • Easy to use website
  • Lots of moving and packing services to choose from
  • Reasonable prices
  • Live US-based support 7 days a week
  • 50-state coverage area
  • No additional fee for moves canceled with at least 24-hours notice
  • Damage coverage for your belongings is included

What we don’t like –

  • Service providers are independent contractors, not employees
  • Service levels can be inconsistent

Air Van North American Van Lines – hard to beat for complex moves

Entrusting your move to a big national van line is a great way to minimize stress.

Van line agents are held to higher standards than most smaller movers, and they offer local moving, long-distance and international moving services.

As one of North American’s premier agents (they have more than 1,000), it’s no wonder that Air Van is the highest-rated nationwide moving company among moveBuddha customers.

Air Van services –

  • Local, long-distance, and interstate relocation services
  • Loading and unloading labor is always included
  • Packing and unpacking
  • Storage services are available at facilities across the country
  • Automobile moving
  • Various valuation options are available
  • Moving supplies and packing material for do-it-yourselfers
  • Online shipment tracking
  • Appliance disconnects/reconnects
  • Custom crating/uncrating

What we like about Air Van North American –

  • Solid reputation for quality service
  • In-home estimates on most moves
  • Offer binding and “not-to-exceed” estimates
  • In business for nearly 75 years
  • Storage in all 50 states
  • Long-term affiliation with North American Van Lines
  • Access to North American’s huge hauling fleet and agency network
  • Online shipment tracking

What we don’t like –

  • Prices tend to be on the high side
  • Their schedule fills up quickly during the peak season (so booking your move early is a must)

PODS – portable moving and storage containers and packing too

PODS (Portable On-Demand Storage) has been an industry leader in the portable container niche since 1998.

Since then, they’ve successfully handled millions of relocations, and unlike some of their biggest competitors, the company offers packing and labor services as well.

During the quote, the process makes sure to let your representative know how much packing you’ll need to have done.

Then PODS will find the packers with the highest ratings in your area and provide you with a packing quote.

Once you’ve booked your move they’ll schedule the packing crew to come to your home or apartment after your empty container has been dropped off.

PODS services (and equipment)

  • Local and long-distance moving
  • Optional labor for loading and unloading
  • Packing and unpacking
  • Storage on your property or at one of the company’s facilities
  • Three different container sizes – 7, 12, and 16-foot units
  • Locations in 46 states (including Hawaii) and Canada

What we like about PODS –

  • Lots of positive customer reviews
  • 30 days of storage is included on most moves
  • Unlimited loading/unloading time
  • Various storage options (your place or theirs)
  • Multiple coverage options
  • Durable well-maintained containers available in three sizes
  • Online shipment tracking
  • Easy online quotes
  • Military discounts

What we don’t like –

  • No online quotes for long-distance moves
  • Limited access to your items if they’ll be stored offsite
  • PODS pricing can be high
  • Containers need to be reserved well in advance of your move date
  • Container restrictions may apply on both local and long-distance moves

Frequently asked questions (faqs)

Is it worth paying for packing when moving?

Yes. Full-service packing isn’t cheap, but having professionals handle all or some of your packing will relieve stress, reduce the chance of getting injured, and free up more of your time to do other important things.

How much does packing cost on a move?

Though they’re just ballpark numbers, for most customers partial packing costs between $250 and $1,500, while full packing services generally cost between $2,500 and $5,000, and in some cases much more.

When should you start packing if you’re moving?

Since packing usually takes longer than expected, it’s wise to make a schedule and start packing items that rarely get used 3 or 4 weeks before your pick-up date. For the best results, break it up into small segments instead of doing it in a few grueling marathon sessions.

Where should I buy packing supplies?

Since full-service movers and truck rental companies markup packing material significantly, it’s best to buy boxes, packing paper, and tape from online retailers like Amazon, or at home improvement centers like Lowes and Home Depot.

Are moving estimates always free?

Yes, each company should give you a free quote, and in most cases, there won’t be any up-front costs. Be wary if you’re asked to pay for an estimate or make a big deposit.

Is packing more expensive in big cities like New York and Chicago?

Yes, because both labor and material costs are higher in metropolitan areas, packing prices tend to be higher than they are in rural parts of the country.

Are Allied Van Lines and North American Van Lines the same company?

Though the two van lines operate as separate entities, after a merger in 1991 they both became part of the global relocation company SIRVA.

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