While all moves present their own particular challenges, moving to, from, or within a major city like San Francisco can be especially complicated. San Francisco is pricier than other parts of the country, and a move involving the Golden City might require a new resident to obtain permits just to park a moving truck or haul heavy furniture up several flights of stairs.
Fortunately, there are many professional moving companies that can make the process of moving in the City by the Bay easier. These companies have experience navigating the challenges of moving in the Bay Area. They also offer transparent quotes and know how to pack for a move so the home’s belongings arrive at Point B unscathed. The top moving companies in San Francisco are excellent choices for most moving to or from the Northern California area, but the best choice for any individual will ultimately depend on personal preferences and circumstances.
- BEST OVERALL: United Van Lines
- RUNNER-UP: International Van Lines
- BEST MOVING CONTAINER: PODS
- BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE: Two Men and a Truck
- ALSO CONSIDER: Hauling Moses Moving & Storage
What to Consider When Choosing One of the Best Moving Companies in San Francisco
While many people focus on how much movers cost when planning a move, there are other factors to consider, including pricing, licensing, and moving specialty items. Ahead, readers can learn more about these and other important things to consider when moving to or from the City by the Bay.
Local, Interstate, or International Moves
Finding a moving company that can provide services that match the type of move is key to selecting the right one. Moves fall into one of three categories: local, interstate, or international. Local moves are generally those that are within a 50-mile radius of the original location. An interstate move is a move that crosses over state lines, and an international move crosses a country’s borders. A small moving company in San Francisco may only facilitate local moves and long-distance moves within California, whereas larger long-distance moving companies offer cross-country or international moves. More experienced companies know how to move to another state without running into any issues along the way.
Moving is stressful enough without surprise fees tacked on at the end of the move. The top moving companies in San Francisco will provide their customers with a detailed quote that lays out what the move will cost and how the company arrived at that amount. Customers can also expect that these top companies will stay very close to this quoted price.
Customers will want to prepare for the quote process by providing the moving company with detailed and accurate information about their belongings as well as the origin and destination of the move. Failing to tell a moving company about extra flights of stairs or a grandfather clock can lead to unexpected expenses.
License and Insurance
When choosing the best moving company for their needs in San Francisco, customers will want to make sure they find one that is licensed and insured. Any moving company that conducts interstate moves in the U.S. is required to have a Department of Transportation (DOT) number, which customers can verify through the U.S. DOT website. This is also a good way to verify whether a moving company is insured, as the DOT requires all interstate moving companies to have the proper insurance. Along with national licensing, the State of California’s Bureau of Household Goods and Services requires all moving companies to be licensed, local movers included. Customers can determine whether a moving company has the proper state licensing by visiting the California Public Utilities Commission website. Customers will want to avoid the temptation to go with an unlicensed moving service to save money, as these companies are not obligated to protect their clients’ property.
One of the most complicated parts of moving has nothing to do with the items in a house but rather with the cars and trucks parked in the driveway. Getting a vehicle from Point A to Point B, especially if there is more than one and it’s over a long distance, can be a real hassle. While many of the larger moving companies offer vehicle transportation as part of their suite of moving services, they often farm out this part of their services to companies that specialize in vehicle moving. While using a single company for all of one’s moving needs may be convenient, customers stand to save hundreds of dollars by cutting out the middleman and hiring a vehicle moving company along with a separate moving company for their other belongings.
Those who are moving specialty items, including grandfather clocks, fine artwork, antique furniture, and pianos, will want to make sure they hire a company that provides services to meet the unique packing and moving needs for these often irreplaceable belongings. Customers will want to find out what measures the moving company takes to protect these items and how its insurance covers any damage. Given that specialty-item moving typically adds to the price of the overall move, customers will need to list these items during the quote process so that they receive an accurate quote.
Moving plans can sometimes change due to unforeseen circumstances, forcing a customer to reschedule or even cancel their move. As such, customers will want to pay careful attention to a moving company’s cancellation policy before signing a contract. These policies can vary significantly from company to company. Some San Francisco moving companies allow their customers to cancel for free right up to the point that the movers pull up to the property. Other moving companies require their customers to provide at least 36 hours’ notice to avoid losing their deposit.
In most cases, customers can expect to pay some sort of deposit to reserve a moving service for a specific date. These fees protect the moving company from incurring a total loss in the event a client cancels at the last minute. While some moving companies require no deposit at all, others ask their customers to put down 25 percent of the quoted price of the move. Customers will want to be wary of any company that requires them to put down more than 25 percent, as this can be a sign of a scam. A moving company should never ask its customers to pay a deposit as a separate fee; the deposit should always go toward the total cost of the move.
Reviews and Complaints
One of the best ways customers can vet a moving company is by looking through reviews and ratings given by its former clients. User reviews for both national and local moving companies are easy to find online on such sites as Google and Move.org. Individual reviews from former clients can provide customers with a picture of the service they can expect. Customers will also want to look at a company’s average star rating to get an overall idea of how the moving company’s past clients feel about its services. Finally, customers will want to keep in mind that many moving companies have multiple locations, so they will want to make sure they find the reviews that match the location they are considering.
Our Top Picks
Our list includes some of the best-known names in local, national, and international moving companies that serve Northern California. These companies are well-reviewed by their customers, offer transparent pricing, and can handle various types of moves.
Why It Made the Cut: Its end-to-end moving services, national presence, and liberal cancellation policy make United Van Lines a top moving option in the City by the Bay.
With its broad range of services and excellent reputation, United Van Lines (UVL) is a top moving company in the country, and California is no exception to that rule. The company has special packaging for fragile items, which can be beneficial for customers moving to or from an apartment or condo with stairs that increase the likelihood of damage to these items. UVL also offers helpful additional services, such as setup and takedown of Wi-Fi networks, post- move cleaning, and vehicle moving. This makes customers’ lives easier, as they can work with one company for all these services rather than dealing with several separate companies.
When getting a quote, customers aren’t assigned a specific estimator, which could result in going back and forth with several company representatives. This could be frustrating to some customers, though many will find that UVL’s benefits outweigh any potential inconvenience during the quote phase. For example, UVL offers perks for apartment dwellers, including discounts for residents of smaller studio apartments who have few belongings, through its Snapmoves program. UVL requires no deposit and offers a very liberal cancellation policy—customers can cancel for free right up to before the move begins, as long as no services have been provided to the customer. On moving day, UVL customers can use the company’s convenient online portal to access checklists and contact numbers for the personnel handling the move, and to track the location of the moving truck so they can stay abreast of the entire moving process easily.
- Type of move: Local, long-distance, international
- Customer support: Phone, email, live chat
- Auto transport: Yes
- Free cancellation: Yes
- Deposit required: No
- Custom crating for specialty and fragile items
- Free cancellation as long as no services have been provided
- Add-on options like 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
- Somewhat challenging customer service experience
Why It Made the Cut: International Van Lines offers a transparent quote process by providing a detailed breakdown of how it charges its customers.
Customers who find themselves worrying about how much their move will cost will like the transparent pricing that International Van Lines (IVL) offers. The company provides a free estimate complete with a detailed breakdown of how it determines its pricing, so customers can understand exactly how the company comes up with its prices and where their money is going. Once the customer has accepted the quote, they will need to put down a 25 percent deposit. Although this can seem high, it can help customers feel confident that their chosen move date is reserved.
By visiting the IVL site, customers can use the company’s handy calculator to help them determine how much their move will cost so they can budget accordingly. The calculator allows customers to input information such as their current and future location, their home size, and their move date. This tool allows customers to come up with a realistic budget before requesting a quote. Once the customer has accepted the quote and paid their deposit, they will need to use IVL’s online inventory tool, which can seem cumbersome but includes an extensive list of potential items. IVL offers competitive pricing and discounts to those who are willing to move on off-peak dates—customers could save 15 to 20 percent by being flexible with their move date.
- Type of move: Local, long-distance, international
- Customer support: Phone, email, live chat
- Auto transport: Yes
- Free cancellation: Up to 48 hours before the move
- Deposit required: 25 percent of quoted price
- Free estimate breakdown readily available
- Helpful moving cost and budgeting calculator
- Discounts available for customers with flexible moving dates
- Somewhat user-unfriendly online inventory system
- 25 percent deposit required at booking
Why It Made the Cut: PODS offers multiple container sizes and special services for those moving inside the city.
San Franciscans willing to handle the loading and unloading part of the move themselves can save hundreds or more on their moving costs by using a PODS shipping container to facilitate their move. With container sizes that include 8-, 12-, and 16-foot options, customers have flexibility to choose a size that works for their needs without paying for a moving container that’s larger than they need. Although customers may find that PODS shipping containers have relatively high costs compared with those of other moving container companies, the company offers additional perks that could make that potential higher cost worth it. For example, PODS offers generous protection plans to insure a customer’s belongings. Since security is key when using a moving container in a major city, it’s also nice to know that PODS will cover its clients’ belongings with protection plans that can cover belongings ranging in value from as little as $5,000 to as much as $300,000.
Customers can also choose to upgrade to PODS City Service, which is available in parts of the Bay Area. With City Service, the PODS driver will monitor the moving container while the customer is loading it and unloading it to protect against thieves. Before signing a contract with PODS, customers will want to check with their local municipality or homeowners association to see if there are any restrictions on where they can place a moving container and how long it can remain in place. As long as there are no restrictions, PODS can facilitate most kinds of moves, including local, interstate, and international moves to select countries.
- Type of move: Local, long-distance, international to United Kingdom and Australia
- Customer support: Phone
- Auto transport: Through third party
- Free cancellation: Until 4 p.m. on the day before the move
- Deposit required: Varies by service
- Wide container size range with options of 8, 12, and 16 feet
- Flexible content protection plans ranging from $5,000 to $300,000 in value
- Prices may be relatively high
- Storage container placement may be limited by local regulations
Why It Made the Cut: Two Men and a Truck’s 96 percent referral rate can provide customers with great peace of mind.
Two Men and a Truck is a company that is likely to offer a positive moving experience. This national moving company has a stellar customer service rating with its 96 percent referral rate, giving potential customers the confidence that former customers’ experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. Customers will want to be sure to read reviews of their local Two Men and a Truck franchise, as the customer experience and rates can vary from location to location. Two Men and a Truck is also well regarded for its quote process. With Two Men and a Truck, customers can obtain an accurate and tailored quote by text, phone, or through the company’s online portal; the text quote process appears to be a unique feature within the moving company industry.
Along with moving, Two Men and a Truck also offers other useful services, including junk removal (which includes furniture disposal and cleaning services). This makes it easier for the customer to get rid of clutter before or after a move without needing to hire several different companies. Other additional services the company offers include packing and storage, and it also sells moving supplies. Vehicle transport services are not available, so customers who need this service will need to hire a separate company to relocate their vehicle. However, this will not be a concern for customers who do not need auto transport services. Two Men and a Truck also allows customers to cancel up to 36 hours before the move, which provides added flexibility.
- Type of move: Local, long-distance
- Customer support: Phone, email, live chat
- Auto transport: No
- Free cancellation: Up to 36 hours before the move
- Deposit required: Not specified
- High 96 percent customer referral rate
- 3 convenient ways to get a quote, including a comprehensive online process
- Junk removal services available
- Pricing, policies, and customer experience may vary by location
- No auto transport services
Why It Made the Cut: Hauling Moses Moving & Storage is a local moving company that offers competitive rates and knows the ropes when it comes to moving in the Bay Area.
Customers planning a local move who want a company that knows the area will want to consider Hauling Moses Moving & Storage. Since this company is based locally in San Francisco, it knows the ins and outs of moving in this city, including parking regulations and permit requirements. Customers who prefer working with smaller, local businesses will find this a particular benefit. The company also offers competitive flat-rate pricing for its services and includes a “guaranteed not to exceed” limit on its quote that ensures customers won’t run into a surprise bill at the end of the move. The company’s prices are also the same on all days of the week, including weekends.
Hauling Moses Moving & Storage also offers some nice perks that include free wardrobe boxes and furniture padding for packing. Wardrobe boxes are designed to transport hanging clothes from one closet to another without needing to fold and pack them, which means they’ll arrive in the same condition as when they were packed and can simply be rehung in the new closet. Customers will want to be aware that the company does not offer auto transport services and is only available for moves within the state of California, though it does offer long-distance moves to such cities as San Diego, Los Angeles, and Sacramento.
- Type of move: Local, long-distance (within the state of California)
- Customer support: Phone, email
- Auto transport: No
- Free cancellation: Not specified
- Deposit required: $100
- Local to the San Francisco area
- Free wardrobe boxes and furniture padding
- Guaranteed flat prices
- No out-of-state moves
- No auto transport services
Our Best Overall choice, United Van Lines, offers a comprehensive set of services that includes vehicles and specialty items and competitive pricing for those who may be moving from a small downtown apartment. International Van Lines was chosen as the Runner-Up because of its handy cost calculator and discounts for flexible moving dates.
How We Chose the Best Moving Companies in San Francisco
We kept several factors in mind when choosing the top moving companies in San Francisco. Since reliability and customer satisfaction are key to any successful move, we went with companies that have a well-established reputation for providing good service. As with any other major city, moving to or from San Francisco comes with unique challenges. With that in mind, we chose companies that understand the complexities of moving in a big city, including how to navigate permits and parking regulations. The price of a move shouldn’t be a mystery, so all the companies we chose have transparent quote processes that eliminate or limit post-move surprises. Since circumstances can arise that cause one to have to reschedule their move, all of our selections have liberal cancellation policies.
Before You Hire One of the Best Moving Companies in San Francisco
Along with finding a licensed and insured moving company that has a solid reputation and provides thorough quotes, there are other factors customers will want to consider before hiring a moving company. Customers who own antique furniture, expensive works of art, pianos, or other such items will want to hire a mover that’s qualified to handle these specialty items to ensure they aren’t damaged during the move. When looking for a moving company to handle an interstate or long-distance move, customers will want to make sure the service they hire is equipped and licensed to handle such a move. If a customer lives in the heart of San Francisco or another urban part of the Bay Area, they’ll want to hire a company that understands how to navigate parking restrictions, permits, and apartment-building moving policies.
Cost of Hiring One of the Best Moving Companies in San Francisco
Whether a customer is planning a local or a long-distance move, they’ll want to budget carefully for this expense. A moving company costs between $500 and $5,000 for a local move in San Francisco, depending on the size of the home. For an out-of-state move, customers can expect to pay anywhere from $2,600 to $7,000 for the cost to move, depending on the size of the home and the distance of the move. Other factors that impact cost include specialty items and additional services, such as hiring one of the best move-out cleaning services or adding packing services to a move. Move-out cleaning costs around $360 on average, but costs can be higher or lower depending on the size and condition of the home. Customers can also save money by DIY-ing all or part of the move, either by renting a moving container or a moving truck.
The Advantages of Using One of the Best Moving Companies in San Francisco
There are many good reasons to hire one of the best moving companies in San Francisco, even if doing so ends up costing a customer more money. The top full-service moving companies will know how to pack a customer’s items so they arrive intact from Point A to Point B, reducing the odds that they’ll suffer moving-day casualties. These companies are also more likely than a budget moving company to reimburse customers in the event there is damage. The top moving companies know how to deal with the challenges of moving in a major city, including dealing with parking and multistory walk-ups. When hiring one of the best moving companies, customers can be confident that their movers and a truck will show up on time and provide them with contact information and updates during the move. Additionally, the best moving companies offer the following benefits.
- Knowledge of how to pack a customer’s belongings so they arrive safely;
- Reimbursement in the event there is damage during the move;
- Understanding of how to deal with the complexities of a big-city move; and
- On-time arrival and updates during the move.
Customers wondering how to save money on moving costs or whether they can negotiate with a moving company after receiving a quote will want to read the following answers to these and other questions about moving companies.
Q. What do most movers charge per hour?
While rates vary depending on location, customers can expect most movers to charge between $25 and $50 per mover per hour. That said, the best moving companies in California will provide customers with a quote for the entire cost of the move ahead of time, so they don’t need to take note of how fast the movers are moving.
Q. How can I save money on moving costs?
The best way to save money on moving costs is to handle part of the move on your own. You can DIY the move and save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by opting for one of the best moving truck rental companies and handling the loading, unloading, and driving on your own. Another option is to opt for one of the best moving container companies that allow you to load and unload, while the company provides transport of the moving pod. If you’re set on using a moving company, you can move on off-peak days to save money. If you rent a small apartment, look for a company that offers reduced rates for studio apartments.
Q. Are moving costs negotiable?
Customers can often negotiate the cost of their move with many companies. One of the best ways to do this is to have them compete for the customer’s business by collecting multiple quotes. Customers will want to tell higher-priced companies if they receive a lower quote from another company and see if they’re willing to match or beat that quote.
Q. What day is best to hire movers?
Since most people plan their moves to take place on the weekend, the best time to hire a moving company is Monday through Thursday. Many moving companies will offer cheaper rates for midweek moves in order to drive business during those off-peak times.
Q. How much do you tip movers?
How much you tip your mover depends on the size of the move. Tip each mover at least $10 for a half-day move (about 4 hours). For longer full-day moves, tip each mover $20. You can adjust this tip amount based on the quality of the move.
Q. What items are not worth moving?
Before moving, it’s a good idea to go through and eliminate items that are not worth moving. These items include clothes you no longer wear, outdated documents that no longer have value, expired items in your bathroom cabinets, and perishable food items. Some appliances may also not be worth moving, especially if there are new ones waiting for you at your destination.
Q. What should I consider when choosing a moving company?
There are several things you will want to consider when choosing a moving company. First, make sure the company is equipped to handle the type of move, whether it’s local, interstate, or international. The company should also be able to pack and ship any speciality items you might have. Finally, make sure to vet the company by reading user reviews and checking to make sure it is properly licensed and insured.
Q. How many movers will I need?
It’s always a good idea to ask how many movers the moving company will send to your home to help determine how long the move will take. If you’re moving from a small apartment, you’ll need two movers. Two- or 3-bedroom homes require three movers, while larger homes will need four or more movers.
Q. How many hours should I plan for my move?
The amount of time it takes to load and haul your belongings from Point A to Point B can vary significantly depending on the size and distance of the move. Generally speaking, you can expect a studio or 1-bedroom apartment move to take 2 to 3 hours, not including transportation time. A 3- or 4-bedroom home might take 7 hours, while a move involving a larger home can take 8 to 10 hours.