13 Surprising Ways to Save on Moving Costs

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By Shannon Whyte Updated May 12, 2023


Moving can be an exciting time but also stressful, requiring a lot of coordination, time, and planning.

Hiring professional movers is one way to save you time and effort. But it can also come with a hefty price tag.

Typically, the cost of a move varies depending on the distance, how much you have to move (or the total weight of your items), and any add-on services you select — lick packing and unpacking or furniture disassembly and reassembly.

Consumer Affairs reports the average cost of a local move as $80 to $100 per hour for a team of two movers. And the average price of a long-distance move that is more than 1,000 miles is around $5,000.

Fortunately, you can customize moving services, so you get the help you need while staying on budget.

Here are 13 simple ways you can save money while using professional movers.

»MORE: Find professional movers in your area and get your move on the road!

13 surprising ways to save on moving costs

1. Downsize your belongings

The less you need to move, the lower your moving costs. So one of the best ways to cut down on moving costs is to get rid of items you no longer need or use.

Decluttering before moving lets you reduce the movers’ workload and use fewer packing materials.

As you pack, create a "sell," "donate," and "trash" area so everyone knows where to put items they no longer need. Aim to get rid of a third of your belongings.

When moving long distances, you may also want to determine whether any inexpensive yet heavy furniture is worth taking with you. Sometimes, it can be cheaper to buy something new at your new location instead.

2. Use your own packing materials

Save money on packing costs by using your own materials instead of buying new ones. You can use items you already have, like suitcases, bags, and reusable storage containers. Consider using towels, linens, and blankets to wrap and protect fragile belongings, and use old newspapers as packing paper.

Additionally, ask friends, neighbors, or local stores if they have boxes and other materials that you can use.

"Check out your local Facebook Marketplace page or Craigslist for free or discounted used boxes," suggests Laura Gunn, a real estate expert with US Insurance Agents. "You’ll save a bundle."

3. Ask about discounts and special deals

Don’t be afraid to negotiate the price or ask about discounts or special deals.

"Many moving companies offer discounts for seniors, students, military personnel, and AAA members," states Charlene Strain, the founder of Cedar and Smoke Candle Company. "So be sure to ask about any discounts available to you."

4. Research and compare companies early

Prices are often higher for last-minute bookings, so you’ll want to start researching movers well in advance of your move date to lock in the best rate.

When researching, ask friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors for recommendations on who to use or avoid. Stephanie Deininger, the founder of The Organized Flamingo, also recommends searching through your local Chambers of Commerce, professional organizers, and real estate agents. "They may have a discount for you and a referral bonus to your favorite local business."

You’ll also want to review recent online reviews, ideally looking for companies with an average rating of four or five stars. Review recent comments for any red flags, and check for official complaints on the Better Business Bureau.

"Take time to gather quotes from at least three different companies," recommends Barry Gray, founder of The Tool Square. "Compare the services and costs to determine the best option for your budget."

When comparing companies, Kerry Sherin, a consumer advocate at Ownerly, recommends you:

  • Review their policies on damage, delays, and cancellations
  • Make sure they’re insured and licensed, including having a valid U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) number
  • Read the fine print so you know what’s included, what’s not, and any extra fees or charges

5. Opt for a partial or small load move

Not all moves require a full-service move. For instance, you may qualify for a small load or mini-move if you’re:

  • Only moving a few items, such as a single room like a college dorm
  • Moving temporarily and don’t need to take everything with you
  • Only moving some furniture or a single specialty item

If you qualify as a small load move, look for moving companies that offer this or a partial service. You’ll save money because these companies typically charge only for the actual shipment weight you’re moving without charging a minimum weight fee.

6. Consider a binding estimate

Some moving companies offer binding estimates, agreeing only to charge the estimated amount. This can help ensure you know exactly what you’ll owe without worrying about extra charges on moving day.

However, keep in mind that you’ll have to pay that price even if the weight of your items ends up being less than the estimate.

Another option some companies offer is a binding-not-to-exceed estimate. Like a binding estimate, you won’t be charged more if the actual weight of your move exceeds the estimate. But in this option, you’ll pay a reduced price if the weight ends up lower than the estimate.

7. Request a quick wrap of low-quality furniture

Many movers will wrap your furniture with pads and stretch wrap on moving day to protect it — no matter the item’s quality.

If you have inexpensive or already dinged-up furniture, you can ask them to only do a quick wrap. This saves them time, which can cut down on your costs.

However, be aware that those items are slightly more likely to be damaged.

8. Choose a company that offers a flat rate

Some moving companies offer a flat or fixed rate for their services. Depending on your situation, this may save you money compared to an hourly rate.

However, carefully review the terms of the fixed rate. You’ll want to make sure it covers all the services you need. Plus, you’ll need an accurate, agreed on inventory list, so you don’t break the fixed rate or get charged additional fees.

» MORE: Compare the top 10 movers in your area to find the best fit for you!

9. Move during an off-peak time

If possible, schedule your move for an off-season or off-peak time when the movers are less busy to get a better deal. For instance, May through August are often the busiest months for moving companies.

"They also often charge more for moves that take place on weekends or during peak hours," states Charlene Strain, the founder of Cedar and Smoke Candle Company. "If possible, schedule your move for a midweek day or during off-peak hours like early morning or late evening to get a better rate."

If you’re moving from or to a college town, try to avoid peak moving periods like move-in and move-out week.

10. Be specific about what you need

Most professional movers charge by the hour and the size of the move. So communicate clearly about what you have to move and what services you need to get an accurate quote.

"If you have lots of heavy or oddly shaped items that will require extra time and effort to move, be sure to let the mover know in advance so they can factor that into their quote," suggests Barry Gray.

Also, be specific about packing, loading, and unloading instructions to avoid unexpected fees. "There could be fees for taking apart furniture, carrying things down the stairs, and whether items require special packing," states Kris Lippi, a licensed real estate broker and owner of the website I Sold My House.

"Make sure to communicate any changes in plans ahead of time to avoid delays or additional costs," recommends Thomas Curry, a content management specialist at Moving Feedback.

11. Be organized and prepared

The more organized you are, the faster the move will be — helping you save money on hourly rates.

To help the movers work efficiently, you’ll want to:

  • Pack and box up items beforehand, making sure everything is securely taped and ready to load
  • Label all boxes clearly so the movers can unload them easily
  • Maintain a clear path throughout your space, especially so movers can easily move any furniture
  • Create an inventory list of your items to make it easy to ensure everything was moved

12. Help with the loading and unloading process

Consider asking the movers if you can help them load and unload the truck. "This will reduce the time required by the professional movers and help you save money on labor costs," suggests Thomas Curry.

You can also ask friends and family to help, saving even more time.

13. Organize the moving boxes by size

"When using hourly movers, organizing boxes by size can save the movers’ time and save you money because the truck can be packed more quickly and easily," recommends Dave Chester, the owner of Custom Controls.

Check with your mover in advance to make sure this step will save them time. If so, stack boxes of similar sizes together, such as putting small boxes on top of other similar-sized boxes, medium boxes on top of medium ones, and so on.

» MORE: Do You Need to Tip a Moving Company?

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