The Best Moving Companies in California of 2023

The best moving companies in California are ideal picks for anyone moving to or from the Golden State.

By Tony Carrick | Published Jun 30, 2023 1:57 PM

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The Best Moving Companies in California Options

Photo: istockphoto.com

Finding the right full-service moving company for the job is crucial when planning a relocation, and moves to and from the Golden State are no exception. Those who hire the wrong moving can find themselves dealing with broken or missing items, surprise moving day fees, delivery delays, and other headaches that add stress to an already stressful process. Luckily, California has no shortage of top-notch moving companies to choose from. Whether a homeowner or renter is planning to take on the move themselves by renting a truck or shipping container or they’re looking to farm out their move to a company that offers a full slate of services, these are some of the best moving companies in California to choose from.

  1. BEST OVERALL: United Van Lines
  2. RUNNER-UP: International Van Lines
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: American Van Lines
  4. BEST MOVING PACKAGES: Mayflower Transit
  5. BEST MOVING TRUCK RENTAL: U-Haul
  6. BEST MOVING CONTAINER: PODS
The Best Moving Companies in California Options

Photo: istockphoto.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Moving Company in California

The best moving companies provide transparent pricing, have the services that meet the customer’s moving needs, and boast a lost list of glowing recommendations from their former clients. Customers can find out more about what to look for in the best moving companies in California below.

Up-Front Pricing

When shopping for a moving company in California, customers will want to look for those that offer a detailed quote for their services. Most moving companies will either send a representative out to the customer’s property to assess their belongings or they’ll ask customers to provide information on their move, such as how many large and irregularly shaped items they have, how many boxes they’ll need to move, and whether they have any valuable items such as a grandfather clock, antiques, or expensive artwork.

After assessing the customer’s belongings, a reputable moving company will be able to come up with a quote that is very close to the actual price of the move. By hiring a company that offers detailed quotes up front, customers can avoid surprise additional fees come moving day.

Auto Transportation

A long-distance move can be especially complicated when a family owns more cars than they can drive from point A to point B. Luckily, there are auto transportation services for these situations. Many of the larger national moving companies in the country, including those in California, include auto transportation as part of their services. While sticking with the same company to handle the house move plus the vehicle move may be convenient, it’s not the most economical option.

Most moving companies contract out this service to a company that specializes in vehicle moving and charge their customers an additional fee to do so. Customers can save hundreds of dollars by hiring a mover that specializes in moving vehicles directly instead of going through the moving company.

Specialty Item Moving

Those who own pianos, artwork, or oversize items that are difficult to move can look for a moving company that offers specialty item moving. These movers will know how to wrap, crate, and transport these priceless items to prevent damaging them. Though adding specialty items to one’s list of items to move will add to the move’s overall cost, it’s worth it for customers who want to be sure items that are hard or impossible to replace will arrive at their new home unscathed. Some companies will even offer additional insurance protection for specialty items in addition to the basic carrier liability coverage they are required to have.

Cancellation Policy

Cancellation policies for moving companies in California can vary significantly, so it’s crucial for customers to choose a moving company that meets their needs, especially if there’s a chance they may need to delay their move late in the process. While some moving companies require their customers to cancel at least 7 days in advance to avoid incurring charges, others allow their customers to cancel at no charge right up to the point where service begins. Given these differences, customers will want to ask about the company’s cancellation policy before hiring it to do the job.

Deposit

As with cancellation policies, moving companies also vary in how much money they ask their clients to put down to reserve their moving date. Moving companies use this money to protect themselves from financial loss should a customer cancel at the last minute. Some moving companies don’t require customers to make any security deposit at all, while others require their customers to pay as much as 50 percent of the quoted price of the service. If a full-service company asks for more than 25 percent of the total cost of the service as a deposit, a customer will want to make sure the company is reputable to avoid being the victim of a scam. Customers can check reviews to see if any complaints have been filed.

Reviews and Complaints

Moving is already high on the list of stressful life events, so finding a moving company that won’t add stress is crucial. One of the best ways to vet a moving company is to look at online reviews written by customers who have used the service before. Since many moving companies in California have a national presence and therefore many locations throughout the country, customers will want to look at company reviews for the specific location they’re considering hiring.

While reading customer reviews will help customers minimize the odds of having a bad moving experience, it doesn’t eliminate them. Fraud is unfortunately a possibility when hiring a moving service. There are moving companies out there that will deliberately give a customer a low quote to win their business, then hold their possessions hostage unless they pay significantly more money. Some unscrupulous moving companies will also deliberately inflate the weight of the load to make more money off their customers. Luckily, customers aren’t powerless to fight back if they encounter moving fraud. They can file a complaint with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which can result in a federal investigation against the moving company.

Customer Support

Good customer support can help reduce the stress that comes with a move. A good moving company will provide its customers with a list of contacts they can reach for support on moving day. Some moving companies have apps that allow their customers to track the location of the moving truck via smartphone, giving peace of mind about where their belongings are. Sometimes customers will need to contact the moving company after a move to report damage or other issues. Some moving companies have customer support that’s only available via phone, while others are reachable via phone, live chat, or email.

Our Top Picks

The list below features some of the most reputable moving companies in the state of California and throughout the U.S. It includes both full-service moving companies and container and truck rental companies for self-service moves.

Best Overall

The Best Moving Companies in California Option United Van Lines
Photo: unitedvanlines.com

Why It Made the Cut: United Van Lines offers a broad range of moving services, a customer-friendly cancellation policy, and discounts for smaller homes.

The largest moving company in the country is also the best option for Californians. United Van Lines (UVL) boasts one of the most comprehensive services of any moving company. Among its services are customer crating for specialty items such as artwork, pianos, and antiques. There is also a broad range of add-on services that customers will find useful, including post-move cleaning, and Wi-Fi network disassembly and setup. Those moving from smaller homes will like UVL’s discounts for tiny homes and studio apartment moves.

UVL also offers features that will give those who are moving peace of mind on moving day, including a checklist, mover contacts, and the ability to track the moving truck via the MyUnited online portal. That said, some customers report that getting in touch with UVL post-move can be challenging. However, UVL also has one of the best cancellation policies out there. The company requires no deposit and allows its customers to cancel services right up to the point that the move begins.

 

Specs

  • Free cancellation: Yes
  • Deposit required: No
  • Auto transport: Yes
  • Customer support: Phone, email, live chat

Pros

  • Specialty and fragile items protected with custom crating
  • Free cancellation as long as no services have been provided
  • Add-on options such as cleaning services or Wi-Fi network disassembly available
  • Discounts for small long-distance moving jobs for studio apartments or tiny homes
  • Checklists, mover contacts, and tracking conveniently located in MyUnited online portal

Cons

  • Somewhat challenging customer service experience

Runner-Up

The Best Moving Companies in California Option International Van Lines
Photo: internationalvanlines.com

Why It Made the Cut: Clear pricing and discounts for moving on flexible dates put International Van Lines among the top movers in California.

One of the most challenging parts of moving is calculating just how much it’s going to cost. International Van Lines (IVL) offers customers pricing clarity by being transparent with the costs and fees of its professional moving services, eliminating the unwelcome surprise of additional fees on moving day. Customers can access a moving cost calculator on the company’s website to help them keep their move on budget (though its online inventory system is outdated and not very user-friendly, so it requires some patience to navigate).

In addition to clearly laying out how it comes up with its pricing, IVL also offers discounts to customers willing to move on off-peak days. Customers will want to keep in mind the company does ask for a high deposit to secure a date, requiring 25 percent of the quoted cost of the move at the time of booking. However, IVL has some 180 locations worldwide, making the company a great choice for Californians who are moving internationally.

 

Specs

  • Free cancellation: Up to 48 hours before the move
  • Deposit required: 25 percent of quoted price
  • Auto transport: Yes
  • Customer support: Phone, email, live chat

Pros

  • Readily available fee and estimate breakdown information
  • Discounts available for customers with flexible moving dates
  • Services available in over 180 countries

Cons

  • Somewhat user-unfriendly online inventory system
  • 25 percent deposit required at booking

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Moving Companies in California Option American Van Lines
Photo: americanvanlines.com

Why It Made the Cut: With its fixed-rate services and discounts for moves between major cities, American Van Lines offers the best deal for bargain hunters.

American Van Lines (AVL) differentiates itself from the other national moving companies out there with its competitive fees. With its discounts for full-service moves between major cities and flat-rate pricing for standard items and specialty services, American Van Lines makes it easy for customers to determine how much they’ll pay for their move. However, customers will want to be aware that AVL requires a large deposit of as much as 50 percent of the move up front, and cancellations must be made at least 7 days prior to the move.

The company also has perhaps the most comprehensive sustainability initiative of any national moving company. American Van Lines works mainly with vendors that meet its sustainability guidelines. The company’s trucks are digitally programmed to maximize fuel efficiency, drivers are encouraged to minimize the use of air conditioning to save on fuel consumption, and AVL uses route planning to keep mileage down.

 

Specs

  • Free cancellation: Up to 7 days before the move
  • Deposit required: 10 to 50 percent of quoted price
  • Auto transport: Yes
  • Customer support: Phone, email

Pros

  • Discounts for moving between major cities
  • Sustainability initiatives that aim to reduce the environmental impact of moving
  • Fixed-rate services, even for moving specialty items

Cons

  • 10 to 50 percent deposit required
  • Cancellation limited to 7 days before the move

Best Moving Packages

The Best Moving Companies in California Option Mayflower Transit
Photo: mayflower.com

Why It Made the Cut: Mayflower Transit’s moving bundles are ideal for customers who need additional services with their move.

With its bundles, liberal cancellation policy, and excellent customer service, Mayflower checks all the boxes when it comes to meeting Californians (or soon-to-be Californians) long-distance moving needs. The company won’t just move its clients’ belongings; it also offers packaging services for those who require end-to-end help with their move, as well as storage services for customers who need to stow their belongings until their new home is ready to receive them. (Though the company does require customers to purchase moving supplies separately.)

Mayflower also offers services that take some of the stress out of moving day, including checklists, contacts for the movers, and a feature on its website that allows customers to track the moving truck. The company is also involved in charitable work. It partners with Move For Hunger, a program that allows clients to donate unwanted food when they move.

 

Specs

  • Free cancellation: Up to 24 hours before the move
  • Deposit required: No
  • Auto transport: Yes
  • Customer support: Phone, email, live chat

Pros

  • Customizable long-distance moving service bundles available
  • Free cancellation up to 24 hours before the move
  • Checklists, mover contacts, and tracking conveniently located in MyMayflower online portal
  • Move For Hunger partnership helps customers donate food before a move

Cons

  • Customers are required to separately purchase moving supplies

Best Moving Truck Rental

The Best Moving Companies in California Option U-Haul
Photo: uhaul.com

Why It Made the Cut: U-Haul boasts hundreds of locations, 24/7 pickup and drop-off, and excellent pricing for moves under 100 miles.

With some 1,500 locations throughout the Golden State, competitive pricing, and round-the-clock availability, U-Haul is the best option for California residents planning to DIY their move. It’s easy to find nearby pickup and drop-off locations, U-Haul doesn’t require its customers to put down deposits if they pay by credit card, and it offers free cancellations up to a day ahead of time. U-Haul also has very affordable rates for moves that fall under 100 miles. That said, customers should note that U-Haul charges by the mile, which may not make it the most economical option for moves that go beyond the 100-mile threshold.

Customers can also pick up trucks 24 hours, 7 days a week through its smartphone-based system. And if a customer happens to run into trouble while making their automated pickup, U-Haul also offers three easy ways to get in touch with a customer service representative, including phone, email and live chat.

 

Specs

  • Free cancellation: Up to 24 hours before the move
  • Deposit required: Not for credit card payments
  • Auto transport: Vehicle towing equipment available
  • Customer support: Phone, email, live chat

Pros

  • Convenient Truck Share 24/7 self-service available to all U-Haul customers
  • Nearly 1,500 locations in California
  • Relatively affordable cost for moves under 100 miles
  • No deposits required for credit card payments
  • Free cancellation up to 24 hours before the move

Cons

  • Per-mile payment structure may not be cost-effective for moves over 100 miles

Best Moving Container

The Best Moving Companies in California Option PODS
Photo: pods.com

Why It Made the Cut: PODS features a range of container size options for customers looking to move or store their belongings.

With its broad range of size options, services tailored to city dwellers, and excellent protection plans for belongings, PODS is the best all-around option for Californians looking for a storage container moving option. PODS containers come in three sizes (8, 12, and 16 feet), making it easier for customers to select a container that suits the size of their move and their budget. PODs is also a great choice for those moving to or from Los Angeles and San Francisco, as the company will help clients moving to these major cities navigate local parking regulations for their pod. PODS takes care of the client’s belongings by offering insurance plans to cover up to $300,000 in property. While its prices can be high, PODS offers an all-around excellent service for those looking for a moving container service.

 

Specs

  • Free cancellation: Until 4 p.m. on the day before the move
  • Deposit required: Varies by service
  • Auto transport: Through third party
  • Customer support: Phone

Pros

  • Wide container size range with 3 options of 8, 12, and 16 feet
  • Relatively low 2 percent damage rate
  • Flexible contents protection plans ranging from $5,000 to $300,000 in value
  • Specialized services for city dwellers

Cons

  • Prices may be relatively high

Our Verdict

With its generous cancellation policy, useful additional services, and features that keep customers in the loop on moving day, United Van Lines offers the most comprehensive moving service for residents or soon-to-be residents of California. Those concerned about the cost of their move will want to consider American Van Lines, which offers competitive rates and frequent discounts.

How We Chose the Best Moving Companies in California

We created our list of the top moving companies in California after conducting extensive research and considering crucial criteria. We looked at not only the rates these companies charge but also how transparent they are during the quote process. Our list also leans toward companies that offer additional services, such as the ability to pack speciality items, move vehicles, and provide cleaning and packing and unpacking services. We also scoured customer reviews to determine which moving companies have the best ratings from previous clients. All of the companies on our list are national companies that have excellent reputations in California and throughout the country.

Before You Hire One of the Best Moving Companies in California

Before hiring a mover in California, it’s important to do the necessary homework to make sure it’s the best option. Customers can look at the services the company offers and make sure they align with their needs, especially for those who are moving special items or vehicles, or who require packing services and cleaning service as part of their move. Next, customers will want to be sure to fully vet any moving company by discussing the move with a representative over the phone or in person, and by reading client reviews of the service. Once the customer has narrowed the field of moving companies to three or four reputable options, they can collect quotes from each one and go with the one that best meets the needs of the move and budget.

Cost of Hiring One of the Best Moving Companies in California

There are a lot of factors that come into play when calculating the cost of moving in California, including the distance of the move, size of the home, and whether the customer is renting a truck or hiring a full moving service. Time of year can also affect moving costs, as moving in the summer can cost 20 to 30 percent more than other times of the year. Generally speaking, customers will pay about $123 per hour. Moving a studio apartment can cost as little as $449, while moving a 5-plus bedroom home can cost over $4,000.

The Advantages of Using One of the Best Moving Companies in California

There are many good reasons for hiring a top California moving company. Moving companies know how to pack and transport belongings, including large items and specialty items, to minimize the odds that something gets damaged during the move. Since moving companies are experts in their field, they’ll also help customers cut down on the time it takes to move, allowing them to settle in and return to normal life more quickly. Customers also have the ability to track the movers so they can see exactly where their belongings are at all times. Hiring a moving company will also give customers the freedom to address other parts of their move, such as completing a new home purchase, setting up new utilities, and completing change-of-address forms. In summary, the best moving companies:

  • Know how to pack items to minimize damage;
  • Speed up the move;
  • Allow customers to track the move; and
  • Free up customers’ time to focus on other tasks.

FAQs

For those wondering how moving companies charge their customers and how it’s possible to save money on a move to or from the Golden State, read on for answers.

Q. How much does it cost to hire a moving company in California?

How much you’ll spend on a move in California depends mainly on the size of your home and the length of the move. That said, you can expect to pay about $123 per hour to move in California.

Q. What is the cheapest day to hire a moving company?

Whether moving to or from California or anywhere else in the country, the cheapest day to hire a moving company is typically Monday through Thursday. Many moving companies will offer cheaper rates during these off-peak times.

Q. What do most moving companies charge per hour?

How much a mover charges typically depends on the number of movers involved. While rates will vary from market to market, customers can expect to pay $123 per hour in California.

Q. How much do you tip a mover?

If you feel the movers did a good job, it’s customary to tip your movers. There are a couple of ways you can do it. You can tip about $5 per hour per mover. Alternatively, you can tip between 5 and 10 percent of the total cost of the move.

Q. How do you calculate relocation costs?

The simplest way to calculate the cost of a move is to estimate the amount of time the move will take and multiply it by the hourly rate your moving company charges. You can ask the moving company how many movers will be performing the move, what the rate is for each mover, and how many movers will be involved in the move.

Q. How can I make my moving cheaper?

The easiest way to make moving cheaper is to roll up your sleeves and take on this job yourself by renting a moving truck and handling the move on your own. If you don’t mind doing all the packing, loading, unloading, and driving on your own, you can cut hundreds or even thousands off the cost of your move. If you don’t like the idea of driving a moving truck, you can consider going with a PODS rental, which requires you to do the loading and unloading but not the driving; this is cheaper than a full moving service.

Q. What is the least expensive month to move?

The months of October through April are the cheapest months to move in California due to a number of factors, including weather, school schedules, and holidays. During this time, most moving companies will decrease their rates in order to attract business.

Q. Why is moving so expensive?

While moving has never been cheap, it’s become more expensive in recent years thanks to rising gas prices, overall inflation, and worker shortages that require moving companies to raise salaries. To cut moving costs, you can consider moving during non-peak periods, which include weekdays and the months of October through April.

Sources: MoveBuddha