How to Estimate Moving Cost: A Better Way

This article shows how to estimate moving cost. Generally, “you pack, we move” companies offer the best bang for the buck. They cost only a little more than a moving truck rental and provide more time for loading and unloading. They also take away the hassle of driving a big rented truck, and they cost a lot less than a full service moving company.

We compared the cost of moving a three bedroom house from West Virginia to Maine and came up with the following three prices:

  • Moving truck rental cost estimate: $1,875
  • Moving company cost estimate: $5,300
  • You Pack, We Move company cost estimate: $2,000

How to Estimate Moving Cost

how to estimate moving costs abf freight

ABF freight has a “you pack, we move” option for people moving a house or family.

To estimate moving cost accurately, we looked at the three main methods:

  • Moving yourself with a rental truck like Uhaul or Budget.
  • Hiring a full service moving company to do the job.
  • Using a hybrid “you pack, we move” moving company like ABF or PODS.

Figuring moving cost for each method can be difficult because estimates depend on hours, gas, days, volume, packing difficulty and other factors that are very hard to decipher in advance. Also, most moving cost estimates require over-the-phone and in-person interviews so it’s best to start early.

Below, we’ll show some tips for how to estimate moving cost using each moving method.

Also see: Money Tips: 4 Ways to Save Money on Child Care Costs

1. Method One: Estimate Moving Cost for a Rental Truck

how to estimate moving costs uhaul truck rental

Like most moving truck rental companies, U-Haul has a handy cost estimator on their website.

Here’s how to estimate moving cost for a simple truck rental. Let’s say we’re moving a three bedroom house from West Virginia to Maine. We’re also towing one car. In that case, our moving truck rental will cost about $1,875 including gas.

Most moving truck rental companies have a handy estimator tool to help movers figure their costs. However, the estimators don’t add gas money. Here are links to a few moving truck rental cost estimators:

U-Haul gives the following guidelines for truck sizes:

  • Studio apartment: 10′ truck.
  • 2 bedroom apartment: 15′ truck.
  • 2 bedroom house: 17′ truck.
  • 3 bedroom house: 20′ truck.
  • 4 bedroom house: 24′ truck.
  • 5 bedroom house: 26′ truck.

According to the info above, we’ll need a 20′ truck. Let’s assume we’ll be towing one car. U-Haul’s handy moving cost estimator tool says we’ll pay $1,552 for the truck and the car trailer.

how to estimate moving costs uhaul calculator

U-Haul estimated our moving costs at $1,552 for a three bedroom house and car trailer from West Virginia to Maine.

Also see: How to Avoid an Audit on Home Office Tax Deductions

Gas Money

The next step to estimate moving cost is figuring gas money. A quick check of Google Maps shows we’re traveling 932 miles. AAA’s current national average gas price report as of 11/24/16 says we’ll pay about $2.78 per gallon. U-Haul says their 20 foot truck gets 10 mpg. That’s $259 in gas. However, we probably would have paid about half that if we weren’t trailering the car. So let’s say we’ll pay $130 extra in gas.

how to estimate moving costs mileage

932 miles at 10 miles per gallon is 93.2 gallons of gas. At $2.78 a gallon, that adds $259 to our moving costs.

Sales Tax

Sales tax for a moving rental truck will vary depending on the state, but let’s assume we’ll pay West Virginia’s state sales tax of 6%. That’ll tack on $93 in sales tax to our moving cost estimate.

Additional Moving Costs

We’ll also need to estimate moving cost for things like hand trucks ($10) and furniture pads ($5 each). Let’s figure on $100 for extras.

Adding up all the expenses above, we’ll pay about $1,875 for doing the move ourselves with a rental truck. Remember that this is our figure from Maine to West Virginia. All the details shown above will have to be tweaked for each individual move.

Estimate Moving Cost (rental truck moving a 3-br house 930 miles)
Rental Truck
U-Haul truck rental $1,552
Gas money $130
Sales tax $93
Supplies $100
Total Moving Cost Estimate $1,875

2. Method 2: Estimate Moving Cost with a Moving Company

The example below shows how to estimate moving cost for a full service moving company. In our example, relocating a three bedroom house from West Virginia to Maine with a moving company will cost about $5,300.

It’s nearly impossible for someone to estimate moving company costs exactly on their own. To get a good estimate, it’s usually necessary to contact a moving company. In most cases they’ll even have to come to your house.

Here’s a list of popular U.S. moving companies. Click any company’s name to visit their website:

All U.S. moving companies are required by law to survey the customer’s home in person in order to provide a final estimate. However, most will provide ballpark estimates over the phone.

Atlas Van Lines, for example, has an online form for providing a rough estimate for moving costs. We used our example of a three bedroom house and told Atlas we also had a living room, dining room and basement storage to move. Atlas gave us an instant quote of $5,300 for the move.

how to estimate moving costs moving companies quote

Mayflower and United Van lines also have online forms for providing moving cost quotes. However, at the end of the form, these companies say they’ll have a representative call to continue the quote.

Even after providing a ballpark estimate, all moving companies will have to come to the house to conduct a physical survey. The physical survey is required by law and it’s the only way to estimate moving costs accurately. That’s because the movers need to know exactly how much packing they’ll have to do and how hard it’ll be to move things out of the house.

Also see: How Much House Does $100K Buy in Your City?

Moving Companies: Other Factors to Consider

how to figure moving company costs

Most moving companies have an online quote form but then call to zero in on a figure.

When thinking about hiring a moving company, the question of how to estimate moving cost is only one issue. Movers will also want to consider:

  • Prices for moving companies often exceed estimates.
  • Moving companies don’t tend to get high marks from customers. Most get about 1.5 stars on the review site. (Atlas is rated highest with three stars.) Also, 20% of all moving company customers file legal claims after the fact.
  • Get insurance. Moving companies aren’t historically great about reimbursing for the full value of broken objects. One smashed heirloom can drive up moving costs fast.

3. Method 3: Estimate Moving Cost for “You Pack, We Move” Companies

The example below demonstrates how to estimate moving cost for a “you pack, we move” company. In our example, moving a three bedroom house from West Virginia to Maine would cost about $1,900.

“You pack, we move” companies offer the best bang for the buck when moving. The big downside of these companies is the extra work of packing everything up.

how to estimate moving costs you pack we drive

These moving companies drop a trailer off in front of the house and leave it for a few days. Customers load the trailer themselves, then the company picks up the trailer and drop it in front of the destination. They leave the trailer there another few days for unloading. To estimate moving cost for one of these companies, it’s best to call for a quote.

Some well known “You Pack, We Move” companies include:

All three services provide free quotes over the phone.

how to estimate moving costs podsABF and U-Pack are different branches of the same company. They charge by the amount of space used in their trailers. For example, U-Pack charges $100 per linear foot. That means if a customer uses 15 feet of trailer space, U-Pack will charge $1,500. That’s for a trailer 10 feet wide stacked as high as you can get it. When you’re done loading, you put up a partition. The company may then drop the trailer at someone else’s house along the way to load in more belongings.

My wife and I chose to move with ABF when we moved from Maine to West Virginia. We paid $1,700 to move a three bedroom house in 2011. The experience was smooth and easy and ABF’s quote was dead on. Figuring for inflation, the same move might cost around $1,900 in 2016. Add in $100 for furniture pads and hand truck rental and you’re up to $2,000.

PODS is another great company, but the drawback is that pickup and delivery must be in a relatively large metropolitan area. ABF and U-Pack will pick up and deliver literally anywhere in the U.S.