Good service is only part of the equation—you also want a good price. You’ll find tremendous price differences from equally reliable moving companies.

Local Moves

For local moves, almost all companies base their prices on the number of workers and the amount of time needed for the job. If you get help packing, the price will also include a charge for any company-supplied containers.

The only way to get a good price is to shop around. Ask several movers to provide written estimates.

For customers who do the packing themselves, most companies are willing to offer an estimate with a cap—you won’t pay more than the cap, and you’ll pay less if it takes less time than the estimate. But many companies offer only nonbinding estimates, and we found that few companies will commit to a binding estimate for the packing portion of moving jobs.

Montgomery County law stipulates that movers cannot charge consumers more than 25 percent above a written estimate. If you’re moving to or from an address in Montgomery County, any written estimate in effect includes a not-to-exceed price.

If you are moving over 30 road miles within Virginia, movers can offer only nonbinding estimates based on tariffs they must file with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

For all other moves, we strongly recommend that you get an estimate with a cap. Otherwise, the company may work slowly, and you’ll pay more than estimated. Also, without a binding price from each company, you lack a sound basis for comparing companies’ prices.

Some companies argue that binding estimates have to be inflated to cover contingencies, and that nonbinding estimates usually mean less-costly moves. We doubt it. If a company knows it is competing with several other bidders, its binding estimate will be its best guess of the true (non-inflated) cost, taking all contingencies into account.

Make sure your quote details services to be performed and goods to be transported. Otherwise, on moving day you may find yourself in a dispute with a mover who wants to charge you extra for work you thought was included. Prepare a written inventory describing the rooms and major items to be moved; then have the estimate refer to this list, with an attached copy.

Maryland’s Household Goods Movers Act protects consumers from moving companies holding customers’ belongings hostage until they pay charges higher than previously agreed. For moves within Maryland, movers must deliver your goods once it has loaded them onto its truck, even if you have a dispute over the final bill. But this law doesn’t completely protect you from excessive charges: If the moving company estimates your move will take 10 hours and it takes 15, and you insist on paying for only 10 hours, the moving company can still sue for the cost of the extra five hours of labor.

To illustrate the range of bid prices you can expect, the table below shows illustrative prices for five local moves. As you can see, our shoppers collected widely divergent prices.

Prices Quoted
for Sample Local Moves

Move a four-
bedroom house
from McLean
to Annandale
Pack and move a
two-bedroom
townhouse from
Greenbelt to
Silver Spring
Move a two-
bedroom
house
from Laurel to
Gaithersburg
Pack and move
a two-bedroom
house from
Silver Spring to
Rockville
Pack and move
a four-
bedroom house
from McLean
to McLean
Able Moving & Storage $2,340-$2,520 $620-$930     $5,408
All Star Movers $2,683 $1,120-$1,232      
Beltway Movers Associates $2,275-$2,496 $780-$858 $1,901-$2,073   $6,703-$6,858
Blake & Sons Moving & Storage $1,995 $960-$1,056 $1,785 $2,185  
Bookstore Movers $2,430-$3,150 $1,093-$1,323      
Campbell Moving and Storage $1,800-$2,025 $1,110-$1,221      
Commonwealth Movers $1,520-$1,900 $1,000-$1,100   $2,891  
Craig Van Lines $1,800-$2,200 $840-$924      
Fairfax Transfer & Storage $1,782-$1,960 $1,036-$1,302     $3,671-$4,097
Georgetown Moving & Storage $2,319-$2,523 $672-$910     $3,956-$4,461
Germantown Moving & Storage $1,600-$2,000 $1,280-$1,408   $2,230-$2,410  
Great Scott Moving $3,105 $1,110-$1,295 $1,480-$1,850 $1,650-$1,975  
Gulliver’s Movers $2,232-$2,728 $888-$1,362 $1,154-$1,450 $1,416-$1,928  
JK Moving Services $3,558 $1,140-$1,663 $2,225   $4,867
Joe Moholland Moving $3,328 $1,129      
Knicely Movers $1,925 $900     $4,300
Majestic Moving & Storage $1,320-$1,650 $910-$1,180      
Manassas Transfer $2,700 $1,160-$1,305      
Mighty Men Moving $2,000-$2,400 $825-$1,000     $3,125-$3,525
Moyer & Sons Moving & Storage $2,750 $1,260-$1,575   $3,125-$3,290  
My Guys Moving & Storage   $1,183     $3,931
Olympia Moving & Storage   $1,260     $4,445
Quality Services Moving $1,902 $993-$1,245      
Reputation Movers $2,070-$2,277 $1,050-$1,225     $6,165-$6,540
Ron’s Moving   $900-$990     $4,800-$6,000
Signature Movers $3,225-$3,548 $1,020-$1,122      
Suddath Relocation $3,500-$4,400 $840-$980      
Titan Moving & Storage $2,000        
Town & Country Movers $2,750 $1,075-$1,183      
Two Marines Moving   $1,363-$1,600      

Our Ratings for Movers report hourly peak-season labor rates for three-, four-, five-, and six-person crews for local moves. The hourly rates varied substantially.

Don’t assume you’ll get a good price just because a company offers low hourly rates. The only reliable tactic is to have several companies bid. You’ll also learn a lot in the process.

Long-Distance Moves

For long-distance interstate moves, moving companies must operate under a tariff system that calculates the cost of moves using weight and mileage, not hours. Company tariffs also stipulate special charges for packing and exceptional matters, such as storage, extra stops, and waiting time.

However, a company’s specific tariff rate for a given move is somewhat irrelevant, because it can still impose exceptions to its filed tariff rates. Usually, a company simply agrees to discount its tariff rate, or portions of its tariff rate, by a specified percentage. It might, for example, agree to give you a 35 percent discount for the long-haul part of its charges and a 20 percent discount for packing.

If you wish to have your move governed by the tariff, less specified discounts, have the company give you a nonbinding estimate that shows its rates and the promised discount. Actual charges will be determined during the move itself. For example, the company’s estimate will include an estimated weight; the truck will be weighed before and after your load is added; and you will be charged for the actual, not estimated, weight of your load.

Alternatively, a mover can offer a binding estimate. You will pay no more and no less, as long as you make no changes in the job. If you add work after the estimate is prepared—additional furniture, for instance—your estimate will be refigured.

In preparing binding estimates, moving companies consider the same factors as when they prepare nonbinding estimates—weight, miles, special circumstances, etc. Having estimators follow similar guidelines ensures carriers that different agents will prepare similar bids. That’s important because the revenue of carriers, independent driver-operators, and destination-city agents are all affected by the price charged by the booking agent. But guidelines for binding bids are important only for the company’s internal purposes: You pay the bottom-line quoted price even if the load weighs far more or less, or packing takes far longer or shorter than expected.

Many companies offer a third option: estimates with a binding maximum, usually referred to as a “not-to-exceed price.” You won’t have to pay more than the maximum, but you’ll pay less if your load is lighter than expected.

The easiest way to compare movers is to get binding estimates or estimates with a binding maximum. If you don’t yet know which items you will move, you can use a nonbinding estimate for the long-haul charges. Get estimates in writing, and understand what each estimate does and does not include. Not getting a binding total price for the packing and packaging materials portion of the job is risky, however, because you’ll have no way to make sure the company packs efficiently.

The table below includes illustrative prices for three long-distance moves quoted to our mystery shoppers by phone. No packing is included (because estimates for packing can’t be given by phone). We for the most part found big price differences.

Prices Quoted for
Sample Long-
Distance Moves1

Move 8,000 pounds of
goods 435 miles from the
District to Boston
Move 9,000 pounds of
goods 700 miles from
Arlington to Chicago
Move 10,000 pounds of
goods 2,800 miles from
Rockville to Oakland
Company Move Insurance2 Move Insurance3 Move Insurance3
Able Moving & Storage $4,100 $425 $4,416 $495    
All Star Movers     $4,316 $560    
Beltway Movers Associates $4,706-$5,206 No quote        
Blake & Sons Moving & Storage $5,395 No quote $7,550 $630    
Campbell Moving & Storage $4,617 $464 $5,273 $537    
Commonwealth Movers $5,000 $464        
Craig Van Lines $3,706 $425 $5,352 $495    
Georgetown Moving & Storage     $3,245 No quote $11,000-$12,000 No quote
Gulliver’s Movers $5,888 No quote $6,928 No quote    
JK Moving Services, Gaithersburg     $4,888 $630 $8,052 $630
JK Moving Services, Sterling $4,100 $291 $4,616 $630 $8,500 $400
Joe Moholland Moving $3,800-$4,200 $400 $1,913 No quote $9,800 Included
Majestic Moving & Storage $5,018 $750 $6,402 No quote $11,500 No quote
Manassas Transfer $3,522 $340 $4,540 No quote $7,938 $394
Mighty Men Moving     $6,000 $500    
Moyer & Sons Moving & Storage $6,536 $523 $6,471 $602 $9,898 $602
My Guys Moving & Storage $5,001 $465 $5,056 $540 $7,269 $540
Olympia Moving & Storage $4,599 $495 $4,999 No quote $9,665 $570
Quality Services Moving $4,700 $483 $5,009 $558 $7,742 $558
Reputation Movers $5,746 $425        
Ron’s Moving $6,500-$7,000 $500 $8,800 $600    
Signature Movers $4,000-$4,500 Included $5,000 No quote $11,500 No quote
Suddath Relocation $4,250 $425 $4,900-$5,400 No quote $9,300-$10,300 No quote
Town & Country Movers $4,380 $464 $5,274 $537 $9,500 $580
1Prices were quoted via phone to Checkbook's mystery shoppers and are for moving only (customer will pick pack)
2$50,000 of full replacement value coverage with no deductible.
3$60,000 of full replacement valur coverage with no deductible.