How to calculate the True Cost of your Relocation

Moving takes its toll – emotional, physical, and financial. But while there is little you can do about the powerful emotions that are certain to flood your heart and mind during the relocation process, you can greatly alleviate both the physical and financial strain of moving.

Hiring professional movers to help you relocate will lift most of the physical burden off your shoulders – the experts will do all the laborious work for you and will ensure the safety and success of your relocation adventure. (Especially so if you opt for full service moving – your belongings will seem to magically disappear from your old home and then just reappear at your new residence without any effort on your part.) However, the more you rely on professional assistance, the higher your moving expenses will be.

There are many different tricks you can use to cut the moving costs, but most of them require you to complete some (or all) of the moving tasks yourself. The more you do on your own, the less you’ll have to pay for professional moving services, but the more laborious your relocation endeavor will become.

For all that this seems like a vicious circle, there’s an easy way out of it. All you need to do is calculate the cost of your move, so that you can plan your finances and figure out what moving services you can afford and what you need to do by yourself in order to keep some more money in your wallet.
But how can you estimate your relocation expenses? Calculating moving costs is fairly simple, as long as you input the right parameters in the right formulas. Here is what you need to know:

How to Calculate Moving CostsYour actual moving costs will depend on a number of factors, but the weight of your shipment and the distance between your old home and your final destination will play the most crucial role in determining the final price of your move.
Relocation DistanceIt is only logical that the greater the distance between the pick-up and delivery locations, the higher the transportation costs will be – it will take more time and more fuel to transport a shipment over a longer distance (not to mention that there will be more road tolls to pay, as well as extra parking fees if the truck needs to stop for the night, etc.).

But that’s not all – it’s the relocation distance that determines the type of a move:

  • If you are moving in a 50-mile radius or less, your move is considered to be local and the moving costs will be based on the time required to complete it;
  • If you’re moving more than 50 miles away from your old home, yours is a long distance move and the moving costs will be based the weight of your shipment.

Size of Move / Load WeightQuite naturally, the final moving costs will increase in direct proportion to the number of items you have for moving. The greater the amount of household goods you’re moving:

  • the more space they will occupy and the heavier the shipment will be – which will result in higher long distance moving costs (a larger moving truck will be necessary to accommodate your items, so more fuel will be used for the transportation);
  • the longer they will take to load and unload and more people will be needed to complete the job in a safe and efficient manner – which will increase the cost of a local move (it is determined by the time it takes to perform a move and the number of movers who work on the task);
  • the more packing materials will be necessary, so you’ll need to spend more on moving supplies.

Bonus tip: A detailed moving inventory will help you estimate your moving expenses – when you can see all the items you have for moving listed on the inventory sheet, you will be able to assess their weight and determine the type and amount of packing supplies you’re going to need to ensure their safety.

Complexity of the JobThe complexity of a move is the third most important factor that determines the final relocation cost. Regardless of the distance and size of your move, any special handling requirements, necessary extra services, existing obstacles, etc. make the moving process slower, riskier, and more difficult. The work takes much more time and effort to complete, so the moving costs increase.

Bonus tip: To get a better idea of the complexity of your move (and the ensuing extra moving costs), you’re advised to:

1.Make a list of any unusually large and heavy items (pool tables, safes, hot tubs, etc.) and extremely delicate items (antiques, pianos, works of art, sensitive electronics, family heirlooms, etc.) you have for moving and find out what will be necessary to ensure their safety during the relocation and how much the required specialized packing materials and accessorial services will cost you;

2.Consider the peculiarities of the pick-up and delivery locations to know what obstacles you can expect during your move (small doorways, lots of stairs, narrow streets or other physical constraints that prevent the access of a large moving truck to your property, etc.) and to be able to determine what extra services will be necessary to overcome the difficulties (disassembly of furniture, hoisting services, shuttle services, etc.) and how much you will be charged for them (long-carry fee, flight charge, etc.).

Good to remember: There are several other factors you need to take into account in addition to the three major cost determinants listed above in order to accurately estimate moving costs:

  • The time of your move – Many people choose to move in the summer (the weather is nice, children are not at school, people have more free time, etc.), so moving companies are very busy in the months from May to September and charge more to accommodate a moving date in this period. The same applies to weekends and national holidays, as well as to the first and last days of a month, which is when most residential moves take place. So, if you’re moving in peak times, you’ll have to allow for higher relocation costs;
  • The liability coverage you want for your items – When signing a moving contract, you get basic liability coverage for free. It, however, covers only $0.60 per pound per item. If you wish to, you can get full value protection for your items, but it comes at an extra cost. So, the liability plan you choose will also affect your moving costs;
  • Your special needs and requirements – As already mentioned above, every extra service you use will incur an extra cost. It may be the circumstances that necessitate some additional moving services, but others are optional and it’s up to you to decide if you want to use them or not. You can make your move easier and less stressful by taking advantage of the packing and unpacking services, furniture disassembly and reassembly, split pickup or delivery, storage in transit or any other additional services the movers offer, but you’ll have to provide for the extra costs they will incur. On the other hand, if you don’t have any specialty items to relocate, make all the moving preparations yourself, and don’t mind your shipment being consolidated with other people’s goods, your moving costs will be much lower.

When you factor in all these considerations, you’ll be able to estimate the cost of moving quite accurately.

How to Estimate Moving Costs When Moving Short DistanceTime is the most important factor when estimating the cost of a local move, as local movers usually charge by the hour. They tally up the time that the moving truck will need to get from the origin to the final destination and the number of work hours it will take the moving crew to load and unload the shipment. A travel fee (for the time the movers will spend to get to the pickup location) is typically added to the cost calculations as well.
Needless to say, any requested extra services and packing materials are also included in the final price.

So, if you know how many movers will be needed to perform your move and how much time it will take them to load, transport, and unload your belongings, you’ll be able to calculate the cost of your move. You can use a moving costs calculator or the following formula:

(Hourly rate) X (Number of movers) X (Number of hours to complete the move) + (Travel fee) + (Charges for additional services and packing materials you have requested)
Hourly rates depend on the area you live in, the time of your move, and the specific circumstances of your relocation and can be anywhere between $25 and $85 per mover per hour.
Good to know: Most local moving companies have a minimum charge of 2-4 hours. This means that even if your move takes less time, you’ll still be charged this minimum amount.

How to Estimate Moving Costs When Moving Long DistanceIf you’re moving across the country, the moving costs will be based on the total weight of your shipment and the actual distance to your final destination.

It will be easy enough to find the exact distance from your old home to your new one, but estimating the weight of your items will be a much greater challenge. A moving inventory will help you get a rough idea of the poundage you intend to relocate, but for a more realistic estimate, you’re going to need an in-house survey of your belongings.

So, request estimates from several reputable movers, see what they have to offer, check their credentials to make sure you’re dealing with licensed and trustworthy moving professionals, and ask two or three of them (the ones that seem to best suit your relocation needs and available budget) for on-site estimates. They will send their representatives to make a walk-through of your home and determine the approximate weight of your household items and personal belongings. Based on that information, the moving companies will prepare moving cost estimates and it will be up to you to compare the offers and choose the best movers for you (make sure you consider not only the price, but also the included extra services, requested deposits, cancellation policies, insurance options, time frames and any other relevant details and special conditions).

No matter how accurate the weight estimate may be though, your shipment might be physically weighed once again at the time of the move – the empty truck will be weighed before the move and your mover will give you an “empty weight” receipt or certificate, then the loaded moving vehicle will be weighed again and you will be provided with a weight ticket (moving vans are always weighed on certified scales).

The actual weight of the shipment, the exact distance to your new home, and the extra services you use will determine the final cost of your cross country move. You can calculate it with the help of the following formula (or use a moving cost estimator):

(Load weight) X (Rate per pound per mile) X (Relocation distance) + (Charges for accessorial services) + (Additional moving insurance)
Good to remember: When estimating your moving expenses, it won’t be only the movers cost you’ll have to think about – you need to figure in a number of other moving-related expenses as well (cost of packing materials, travel expenses, living expenses for the first month in your new home, etc.). Also, do not forget that moving day etiquette dictates that you tip your movers if you’re happy with their services, so you’ll most probably need some money for gratuities too.

How to Get an Accurate Moving Cost EstimateNow that you know how to calculate moving costs, you’ll be able to determine how much money you’re going to need for your relocation adventure and to plan your finances accordingly. Keep in mind though that you need to be extremely careful when estimating your moving expenses – if you overlook an important cost determinant (there are so many factors that need to be taken under consideration!) or don’t get it right, the actual price of your move will differ from your estimate. The chance of a mistake is smaller if you use a moving cost calculator provided by a reputable website. Yet, to be sure that you know the actual cost of your move, you need to get an on-site price estimate from a trustworthy mover.

What you need to do is request visual surveys of your home from two or three properly licensed, experienced, and reliable movers. When the moving company representatives come to your place, make sure you discuss all the details of your move with them, so that you get an accurate moving cost estimate:

  • Be clear and specific during the walk-through – show the movers everything you intend to relocate to your new home, paying extra attention to items that may need special handling or special packing materials;
  • Discuss the required extra services and any additional services you’d like to take advantage of – make sure every accessorial service you’re going to use is explicitly stated in the moving estimate, together with its corresponding rate;
  • Inform the movers of any possible obstacles or special conditions at both your old property and your new one;
  • Ask as many questions as necessary to make sure that every last detail of your move has been accounted for.