With flat rate pricing, you get a binding quote from your moving company that locks in the price of your move. To get this binding quote, you first have to fully inventory everything you’re moving and tell your moving company all about your move:
- How much stuff are you moving?
- How far are you moving?
- How many flights of stairs will there be?
- Do you have any specialty items like pianos or billiard tables?
- Will you need the crew to move any high-value collectibles?
- How much moving coverage will you want?
To ensure quote accuracy, many companies will send an in-home appraiser to inspect everything you’re moving before sending you a moving quote.
After you provide all this information, your flat rate movers will calculate the total cost and send you your binding quote and your contract. After you sign, your price will not go up as long as you don’t add anything to your move. If your movers show up and you have an extra piano or sofa you didn’t tell them about, expect your price to increase.
With an hourly rate, you’ll still give your mover an inventory and tell them everything about your move, but the final price is a lot more loosey-goosey. Instead of agreeing to one set price that won’t increase, you agree to an hourly rate. For every hour your movers are packing, loading, and driving, this rate will be added to your bill.
This means your final price can (and probably will) go up from whatever moving estimate the company gives you when you sign your contract. Because of this, flat-rate pricing is the only way to know exactly what your move will cost. It does have its downsides, though.
The biggest downside of flat rate moving is that it comes with a lot of up-front costs factored in. Since flat rate movers don’t charge extra if your move takes longer than expected, they set their prices to account for potential inconveniences like this.
Think of it kind of like insurance. Instead of paying a lot of extra money if your move takes extra time, you’re paying a little extra in case it does. This also covers the company’s overhead when someone else’s move inevitably goes long.
Another downside is that your move won’t get cheaper, even if it goes more quickly than anticipated.
With an hourly company, you might save some money if your move goes quickly, but with a flat-rate mover, you pay the price you agreed to no matter how long your move takes (within reason—delays of several days may accrue additional storage and handling fees, but that will be spelled out in your contract).
There are two circumstances where a flat-rate mover is probably the best option for your budget:
- If you’re moving a large home’s worth of stuff
- If you’re moving long distance (over 100 miles)
In these two circumstances, you should expect your move to take a lot of time. The more time it takes, the more money you’ll spend if you go with an hourly rate. Also, the more stuff you move and the farther you have to move, the more that can go wrong and cause costly delays en route.
These factors make timing for these moves hard to predict and budget for if you’re going with an hourly mover. That’s why we recommend hiring a flat-rate mover in both of these circumstances.
Luckily, most interstate moving companies use flat-rate models anyway.
Some companies like American Van Lines, for example, offer flat-rate pricing and won't charge you extra for premium services like bulky item expertise, piano moving, and crating.