The Different Types of Moving Companies

Moving is an exciting time for most people — a time to welcome new changes and a new chapter in their lives, like starting a business, starting a new job, starting a family, or moving to college.

But beyond the excitement, there is some amount of stress and confusion that comes with moving. Some of it has to do with finding the right mover, and some has to do with preparing for the move. After all, there are different types of moves for different occasions. Do you know what the different types of moving companies are and which one is right for your move?

Depending on if you want to DIY your move or hire professional movers, there are several different options you can choose from. In this article, we’ll break down the different types of moving companies available so you can make the right pick for your move.

What are the different types of moving companies?

When most people think of moving companies, they think of professionals who transport furniture and other belongings from point A to point B. However, different professional movers handle different niches of the market. One thing these providers do share in common, though, is that they handle the heavy lifting for you, greatly reducing the hassle of your move.

The different types of moving companies are:

    • Local moving companies
    • Long-distance and interstate moving companies
    • International moving companies
    • Moving brokers
    • Full-service movers
    • Packing services
    • Truck rental
    • Moving containers
    • Freight companies


Local moving companies

Local movers (also called intrastate moving companies) help people move short distances. As the name suggests, they handle localized moves within a single state, often within a given city or county. For example, metro movers only handle moves within a given metropolitan area.

In industry terms, local movers handle relocations that cover less than 100 miles. Hiring for a local move is not complicated since there are usually several local moving companies to choose from in your area. Their rates are usually lower compared to other movers, and many focus exclusively on residential moving. Keep in mind that local movers typically charge by the hour, and the average rate can vary greatly depending on where you live.

If you want to work with a company near you, check out our guides on the best local movers.

Long-distance and interstate moving companies

Long-distance movers handle moves that go over 400 miles. However, companies that help with long-distance moves that cross state borders are typically called interstate moving companies or cross-country movers. Long-distance moves can be described as city to city, state to state, region to region, or coast to coast.

Long-distance and interstate movers charge based on the volume of goods you need to transport. Additional moving costs, such as packing or unpacking, may apply. These moves can take days or weeks to complete depending on the distance covered. Many of these moving companies also provide commercial moving and corporate relocation services. A lot of local and interstate moving companies also offer storage services at their company’s storage facilities for an additional fee.

Interstate moving companies have to abide by strict federal regulations, and tend to be more complex than local moves. Make sure your movers are experienced in such moves, are well insured, and have a good reputation.

International moving companies

If you are looking to relocate from the USA to another country, you’ll need to work with international movers. International movers handle relocations by air, sea, rail, road, or a combination of these modes. Air transport is the most expensive, followed by road, rail, and sea.

International moving companies are heavily regulated due to the risks and protocols that international relocations must abide by. But luckily, most international moving companies are well-versed in all these formalities, helping to streamline this process for you.

If you’re moving across an ocean, be sure to check out our guide on the best international moving companies.

Moving brokers

Moving brokers are a bit different from other moving companies because they don’t carry out moves themselves. They don’t employ movers, nor do they own fleets of moving trucks. Instead, moving brokers “sell” your move to actual movers who own trucks and other freight transportation equipment.

Moving brokers are intermediaries between the client and freight companies or movers. They bridge the gap by bringing the two together.

While some might think brokers aren’t necessary, they actually do help. Thanks to their large network of movers, they help link clients with special, urgent, or complicated moving needs. Most moving brokers deal with freight and are often paid a negotiated commission for the move.

Full-service movers

These are movers that handle every aspect of the move for you. They will pack, load, transport, unpack, and even install or arrange your furniture for you. Some full-service moving companies go the extra mile and offer post-moving cleaning services, pet moving, and even car transportation.

Full-service movers give you the utmost convenience when it comes to moves. You just have to show up at your new address and let them handle everything else. But all this comes at a cost. A full-service move can cost you several thousand dollars extra, depending on the type of package you sign up for.

Other types of moving services

The moving industry has evolved quite a bit over the last few decades. Today you can choose which aspects of a move you want to handle by yourself and which ones you need professional help with. And that is where these different types of moving services come in:

Packing services

Overwhelmed at the thought of packing up all your belongings? No problem. With professional packing services, you are good to go. Packing services providers typically charge per hour, with an average rate of around $75/hour. Many full-service moving companies also offer packing services as an additional option.

When you use packing services, professional packers come shortly before moving day and prepare your furniture and other belongings for moving. Be sure to discuss if the packing rate includes the packing materials, or if you’ll need to provide your own packing supplies.

Some companies also help with other similar services, like furniture disassembly or moving specialty items like pianos.

Truck rental

If you are confident that you can pack and haul your belongings, then a rental truck could be the right fit for you. This is as DIY as it gets and is also one of the cheapest ways to move. But remember that transporting your household goods is a big job with many risks, especially when doing a long-distance move.

Rental trucks are usually offered at a flat daily or hourly rate, with additional per-mile fees added on top of that. You’ll also need to fill up the truck with gas before you return it. Many rental truck companies offer optional insurance packages that are well worth considering. You don’t want to be left financially responsible for damage to the truck or your items.

Moving containers

With this moving service, the moving container company delivers a secure container to your address on an agreed date. You then get to pack and load the provided container at your own pace. When you’re ready, call the company to collect and transport the storage container to the agreed location (either your new home or a storage unit). Many moving container companies also offer temporary storage at their own facilities if you can’t move into your new home right away.

Moving containers are an affordable, secure, and convenient way to move. You get the affordability of packing everything yourself, but with the convenience and peace of mind of letting someone else handle the driving.

Freight companies

These companies will transport your freight (bulk goods) via air, sea, rail, or road. The bulk goods can be transported in crates, containers, or pallets. Freight companies will either collect the goods from a specified location or provide a drop-off point.

Freight companies will rarely offer packing or loading services. You may need to engage another company for that. In most cases, freight companies are better suited for long-distance and international moves.

What is the most affordable way to move?

The rule of thumb is that the more you do on a move, the less you get to pay. A DIY move where you do everything is generally the cheapest option. With these self-service moves, you rent a truck, pack, load, transport, unload, and unpack by yourself. However, a full DIY move is not practical or possible for many Americans.

The next most affordable way to move is to have a moving company only handle the hauling part of the process. You pack, load, unload, and unpack a moving container or moving truck by yourself. The mover only drives to your residence and then hauls your belongings to your new home.

What affects your moving costs with a moving company?

How much moving companies charge really depends on how much stuff you have, how far you are moving, and the date of your move. Professional moving companies will generally provide an estimate based on the factors like the size of your home, the estimated weight of your household goods, or the number of boxes you have. Other factors can also come into play with different movers, so your best choice is to reach out and get quotes from multiple providers.

Comparing your moving options with a moving cost calculator can help you get a general idea of how much different types of moving companies would cost for your specific plans.

If cost is the biggest factor for you, which it is for many, check out our guide on the cheapest moving companies.

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Are moving companies reliable?

The truth is that there is no one size fits all answer to this question. For the most part, moving companies are reliable. But this is something that needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

As you research different moving companies, you will realize that there are both reliable and not-so-reliable movers in the industry. And this is not unique to the moving industry.

Obviously, you want to find a reliable moving company that will provide you with a smooth, stress-free move to your new location and gives you great value for your money. The trick is to carry out your due diligence when looking for one. To avoid scams, always make sure the company you’re working with has a registered USDOT number, is registered with The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and is a certified household goods mover. Be sure to check reviews, and ask for more details about their moving process and quotes when you speak to a representative.

How can I choose the right type of mover?

There are hundreds of moving companies in the USA. So how can you narrow down your options?

Start by determining what type of moving service you want. Do you need full-service movers, a truck rental, a moving container, or some kind of specialized help? Then, look for movers that can offer you the moving experience you want and are located in your city. Check that the mover can also transport your belongings to your final destination (as some only do local moves).

Next, you need to do some extra research to determine which are the best moving companies for your situation. Look at their customer reviews and ratings online. Do they have a good reputation? Check their website to see how many years of experience they have, and to get a better idea of the type of services they offer.

At this point, you should shortlist three to five companies and ask for free quotes. When requesting moving quotes, ask about licensing and insurance. Ask questions specific to the needs of your move. Gauge their level of concern, attentiveness, and customer service — not just their availability for your move date. Be wary of any quotes that are significantly lower or higher than the average cost for your move.

With all this information, you can select the right moving company for your needs with confidence.

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