At a glance
Most moving companies use one of two pricing models to charge their customers: flat-rate pricing and hourly pricing. If a company gives you a binding quote for the total cost of your move, it’s giving you a flat-rate price. Most van lines charge this way for long-distance moves.
With flat-rate pricing, you know exactly what your move is going to cost from the minute you get a binding quote from your moving company. While this sounds nice (because it is), it can be a little more pricey than paying an hourly rate, especially for small, short-distance moves.
It also depends on the trustworthiness of your moving company. A scammy company could claim to offer flat-rate pricing but still hit you with last-minute fees.
Keep reading to learn why hourly rates can be cheaper for some moves, how to know if you can trust a company’s quotes, and how to decide if flat-rate pricing is the best option for you.
When to do a flat-rate move
- If you’re moving out of a large home
- If you’re moving long-distance (over 100 miles)
When to do an hourly move
- If you’re moving out of a small home or apartment
- If you’re moving short-distance (under 100 miles)
What you should know about flat-rate movers
Flat-rate vs. hourly moves
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 quote.
After you provide all this information, your company 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 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.
Watch out for moving scams!
Watch out for moving scams!
Just because a company claims its quotes are binding doesn’t mean they are. A scammy company might say it has flat-rate prices and then charge you extra anyway. This isn’t legal, but moving scams often operate outside of the law. To ensure you hire a trustworthy company, check out our guide to spotting a moving scam.
The downsides of flat-rate moving
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).
Remember: Disclose everything
Remember: Disclose everything
At the risk of beating a dead horse, we want to reiterate that flat-rate pricing works only if you tell your moving company everything about your move. If you have furniture or a flight of stairs you didn’t disclose before signing your quote, your price will probably go up.
When to go with a flat-rate mover
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.
FAQ about flat-rate moving
Which companies offer flat-rate moving?
Flat-rate moving prices aren’t all that rare. They just don’t always go by that name. Of all the companies on our list of the best moving companies, only American Van Lines calls its pricing model “flat rate,” though several of the other companies price this way.
Essentially, any company that gives you a binding quote for the weight of your shipment, the time it should take, and any services you want (packing, furniture disassembly, etc.) is agreeing to a flat rate.
Is hourly moving or flat-rate moving cheaper?
It depends. Hourly moving services might be cheaper for short-distance moves and small loads, but you won’t know how much you’re going to pay until your move is finished. Flat-rate moving services can be more expensive for small moves, but they’re usually the most budget-friendly option for moving a lot of stuff or moving long-distance.