The Best Moving Companies of 2021

Learn everything you need to know about choosing one of the best moving companies to safely transport your belongings.

By Brie Greenhalgh | Published Oct 28, 2021 6:32 PM

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The Best Moving Companies Options

Photo: istockphoto.com

Looking at a cross-country move? Or just a move across town? No matter how big your upcoming move is, there’s a fair amount of stress and hassle that comes with packing up, hauling, and unpacking your belongings. And while many people have great friends and family members who can help with local moves (if you’re comfortable asking), moving can be easier with the help of one of the best moving companies. It’s helpful to let professional movers take on the big job of transporting your items using their labor, equipment, and trucks. And it certainly saves your back!

Choosing the best moving company can feel daunting since you’re entrusting your money—and valuables—to someone else. But there are plenty of ways to ensure you hire the right company at the right price. The distance you’re moving will be a key factor in choosing a moving company since a 50- to 100-mile move is typically considered local, though you’ll need to call and ask about their specific policy. Transporting goods across state lines, even within the local radius, might require a different company who is licensed to haul goods to different states. Beyond that, you’ll need to consider factors like specialty items, timing, deposits, insurance, and more. The best moving companies are equipped to handle moves of all types and have great customer service and realistic pricing.

  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. ALSO CONSIDER: U-Pack
The Best Moving Companies Options

Photo: istockphoto.com

What to Consider When Choosing One of the Best Moving Companies

Moving a household is a complex process, but as you narrow down the specifics that apply to your situation, you can quickly identify the best moving company for you. Whether you need a local moving company or an out-of-state moving company, the following considerations will help guide your decision-making process.

Local, Interstate, or International Moves

Moving within a 50- to 100-mile radius typically only requires the help of a local mover. Depending on your area, local companies might be able to move you fairly quickly, which is helpful if your move was unexpected or your help fell through. If you’re moving to a new state, you’ll need to find an interstate moving company. Federal regulations require that companies transporting goods across state lines be licensed to do so. Since local companies might not specialize in this kind of transport, you’ll need to find a larger company who can.

Then there are international moves to consider when the origin or destination is a country other than the U.S. This is a much more complex process that involves extensive paperwork, brokerage or port fees, customs fees, and scheduling shipping or air freight. Moving your goods internationally can take weeks to months due to scheduling and transit times. An international moving company is your best option since this is a special kind of move that requires the right licenses and connections to the most reputable companies.

Up-front Pricing

Pricing a move isn’t a cut-and-dried process. Moving a 1-bedroom apartment is much easier and less costly than moving a 4-bedroom house. The size, weight, quantity, and type of items you have will influence your total cost. However, there should be transparency about the pricing once you’ve discussed what you’re planning to move and where. Any extras like auto transport or navigating stairs should have a fixed price that’s discussed ahead of time. While it’s not impossible for a fee to be added at the time of the move, it should be clear and fair. For instance, if you forget to mention there is no elevator at your three-story apartment complex, then you’ll likely be charged a fee for the extra labor to use the stairs when they arrive.

Also, it’s best to avoid going with the rate that is much cheaper than everyone else’s rates. That’s a red flag that the company is running a scam to move your goods to a storage unit and charge you again to remove them. Obtaining multiple quotes and going with the most reputable company is your safest bet to avoid being scammed.

License and Insurance

Always book with a company who can show you their license and insurance papers. Every moving company should carry basic liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. Without these, you have no legal recourse should the worst happen. Beyond basic liability insurance, it’s also helpful if your moving company offers you full-service insurance to insure your valuables at a higher rate if you own expensive items. If they don’t, you can always ask your own insurance company about moving insurance.

Interstate movers must be registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation. You can search their DOT number in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration database. The American Trucking Associations also has a comprehensive list of licensed interstate movers you can review.

Auto Transportation

Many homeowners have more than one car, but they don’t always have a driver for every car. In this case, you’ll need to look for a moving company that can do auto transportation. Many of the bigger moving companies offer household moving and auto transportation, or you can search for a company that specializes in moving cars. If your car is exotic or antique, you’ll want to ask about covered transport to keep it protected during the move.

Specialty Item Moving

Do you own a piano? Or an antique grandfather clock? Unusual, valuable, oversize, or delicate items will require specialty moving. If you’re using a local moving company, don’t trust that they are sure they can lift the piano into the truck. It’s not about the weight; it’s about keeping the piano steady to avoid irreparably damaging the instrument. Using a piano moving company for any piano move is a critical option to prevent catastrophe.

For other items that are large, odd sizes (oversize flat-screen TVs) or have intrinsic value, you’ll also want to make sure the movers are capable of properly packing them and securing them in a way that they will not be damaged during transport. Other examples to consider are things like jet skis, hot tubs, or safes. All speciality items typically cost more to move since they require more packing material, equipment, care, or space.

Cancellation Policy

Be sure to ask each company for their cancellation policy when you call for a customized quote. You need to know how close to the expected move date you can cancel if necessary, and how much money you’ll get back on your deposit. Unexpected things happen, so it’s best to be aware of their policy and choose the company that offers a lot of flexibility if possible. You also need to ask about their side of the cancellation policy. They likely have a clause about the circumstances under which they can cancel or change your move (it’s rare but can happen).

Deposit

Moving company deposits have a tendency to feel like the precursor to a scam—and for good reason. Deposits are one way that companies have been known to scam people, but even reputable companies require deposits. It’s not illegal, nor should it prevent you from hiring a moving company. A small deposit is basically held as a warranty to secure your moving dates, as the company schedules their labor and trucks around your move. If you back out of the move, a portion of that deposit offsets the company’s lost earnings on your canceled move.

The key to knowing whether a deposit is a red flag or not is the deposit amount. If you have a multi-thousand-dollar move coming up, your deposit should be around 20 percent. Large deposits or full deposits are a red flag that the company is not legitimate.

Reviews and Complaints

Reviews and complaints are your most valuable research tool when researching the best moving companies. Great reviews will share details about up-front pricing, ease of booking, safe handling of valuables, great customer service, etc. Some reviews will complain about lost deposits, making it sound like the money was stolen, but it’s possible those customers were simply unhappy that they missed the cancellation window. While there are plenty of negative reviews for just about everything (that should be taken with a grain of salt), a company with a repeated history of unethical business practices should be avoided at all costs.

Look at reviews on more than one website (Google, Moving.com, Better Business Bureau, etc.) to get a well-rounded picture about the company—good and bad. No company is perfect, but many try their best. If you know someone who recently used a moving company, ask them about their experience. References are a great way to find a company you feel comfortable with.

At-a-Glance Comparison

Type of MoveCustomer ServiceAuto TransportFree CancellationDeposit Required
United Van LinesLocal, long-distance, internationalPhone, email, live chatYesYesNo
International Van LinesLocal, long-distance, internationalPhone, email, live chatYesUp to 48 hours before the move25% of quoted price
American Van LinesLocal, long-distance, internationalPhone, emailYesUp to 7 days before the move<10 to 50%
Mayflower TransitLocal, long-distance, internationalPhone, email, live chatYesUp to 24 hours before the moveNo
U-PackLong-distance onlyPhone, email, Facebook MessengerNoUp to 7 days before the moveNo

Our Top Picks

The decision to hand over the move of your personal belongings can be daunting. Choosing the right company to handle packing and hauling your goods safely builds confidence and ensures a smooth transaction.

Best Overall

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

Why It Made the Cut: We chose United Van Lines as the best overall moving company since they can handle any moving distance, they don’t require a deposit, and they have a great online portal for customers to access details about their move and contract.

United Van Lines’ tagline is they “take care of it all,” and that seems to be true. They have locations throughout the country to help with local moves, interstate moves, and can even handle international moves. Additionally, they offer auto transport and a number of helpful add-on services like packing and unpacking, cleaning, or Wi-Fi disassembly. Some customers will like that they offer discounts for small apartments and tiny homes since there are fewer belongings to handle. A surprising benefit is that no deposit is required to book with United Van Lines.

What really sets United Van Lines above the rest is their MyUnited online portal that customers can use to see the status of their move and contact the mover without having to go through customer service first. This convenience could be why their customer service support is known to be slow and difficult to get ahold of, so having the online portal is a helpful perk.

Specs

  • Type of move: Local, long-distance, international
  • Customer service: Phone, email, live chat
  • Auto transport: Yes
  • Free cancellation: Yes
  • Deposit required: No

Pros

  • Small moving jobs for studio apartments or tiny homes available at a discounted rate
  • Add-on options like cleaning services or Wi-Fi network disassembly available
  • MyUnited online portal puts checklists, mover contacts, and tracking in one convenient place

Cons

  • Customer support is challenging to get in touch with

Runner-Up

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

Why It Made the Cut: Our runner-up is International Van Lines, as they can help move people almost any distance, allow cancellation up to 48 hours before the move, and offer discounts.

International Van Lines is a reputable company that’s primarily based on the East Coast, but they frequently help people move nationally and internationally, too, even if they need to work with a trusted partner to get the job done. If your moving dates are flexible, you might receive a discount since it makes their scheduling a little easier. We like that they offer transparent pricing, specialty moving, and itemized billing. Having the option to cancel for free as close as 48 hours before the scheduled move is also helpful.

They do have an online inventory system for customers, but it’s not as user-friendly as it could be. Also, you’ll need to pay a 25 percent deposit to reserve your moving appointment. Overall, this company works hard to maintain a great reputation as a top moving company.

Specs

  • Type of move: Local, long-distance, international
  • Customer service: Phone, email, live chat
  • Auto transport: Yes
  • Free cancellation: Up to 48 hours before the move
  • Deposit required: 25% of quoted price

Pros

  • Discounts available for customers with flexible moving dates
  • Additional fees and estimate breakdowns are easily accessible on website so clients can budget appropriately
  • Cancellation available up to 48 hours before the move

Cons

  • Online inventory system is not user-friendly and time-consuming to use
  • 25 percent deposit required at booking

Best Bang for the Buck

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

Why It Made the Cut: With over 25 years in business, American Van Lines has the experience to move apartments, homes, and commercial businesses with the advantage of fixed-rate service fees.

American Van Lines has a long history in the moving business, so you’ll find that they offer almost any moving service you need whether local or international. They do specialize in antiques and pianos, which is helpful so you don’t have to find a separate company to handle those items. You can get a discount for moving between major cities since there’s higher demand there, and you can also feel good about their sustainability initiative to help reduce the impact on the environment as they move your items.

Two drawbacks to using American Van Lines are that they require a 10 to 50 percent deposit, and free cancellation is limited to 7 days prior to the move. However, these factors haven’t prevented them from helping many happy customers who appreciate their fixed-rate services that allow for more transparent pricing.

Specs

  • Type of move: Local, long-distance, international
  • Customer service: Phone, email
  • Auto transport: Yes
  • Free cancellation: Up to 7 days before the move
  • Deposit required: 10 to 50% of the estimate

Pros

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

Cons

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

Best Moving Packages

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

Why It Made the Cut: Mayflower Transit is a reputable company that specializes in customizing moving packages to meet your specific moving needs domestically and internationally.

Not only does Mayflower Transit offer traditional household moving, but they also offer military and government relocations, which means they have a large coverage area and an experienced service offering. One of the things that sets them apart is their flexibility in creating customized moving service bundles from full-service to limited item relocation. It’s also helpful that they do not require a deposit up front, and they allow cancellations up to 24 hours prior to the move. One drawback is that they do not offer any tracking, so you’ll need to keep in touch with the mover yourself. As an added bonus, their partnership with Move for Hunger means they can donate any qualifying food to a local shelter so you don’t have to pay to move it (or pack it).

Specs

  • Type of move: Local, long-distance, international
  • Customer support: Phone, email, live chat
  • Auto transport: Yes
  • Free cancellation: Up to 24 hours before the move
  • Deposit required: No

Pros

  • Customizable moving service bundles available
  • Cancellation up to 24 hours before the move
  • Move for Hunger partnership lets homeowners donate food before a move

Cons

  • No tracking services available, so homeowners will need to keep in touch with movers directly
  • Moving supplies need to be purchased separately for self-service moves

Also Consider

The Best Moving Companies Option: U-Pack
Photo: upack.com

Why It Made the Cut: U-Pack is a flexible option for people who prefer to save a little money by doing the packing themselves while leaving the long-haul transport to a pro.

The concept behind U-Pack is that they’ll bring a trailer or container to your house and park it and you’ll have 3 days to load it with all of your belongings. When it’s ready, they’ll pick it up and haul it to your long-distance destination. You then have 3 days to unload it. They don’t offer local moves within 50 miles, but it’s a great option for hiring someone to legally transport your goods across state lines. The system is built to make transit time more predictable and avoid hidden fees since it’s a straightforward pickup and drop-off transaction. In many areas, U-Pack does offer the option to hire staff to load or unload the trailer if needed. You can cancel for free up to 7 days prior to the trailer drop-off, and no deposit is required.

Specs

  • Type of move: Long-distance only
  • Customer service: Phone, email, Facebook Messenger
  • Auto transport: No
  • Free cancellation: Up to 7 days before the move
  • Deposit required: No

Pros

  • Customers have up to 3 days to load their belongings
  • Moving staffers for packing and unpacking are available for hire
  • Instant online quote available upon request

Cons

  • U-Pack does not facilitate moves less than 50 miles away from starting location
  • Cancellation is limited to 7 days before the move

Our Verdict

Great customer service, transparent pricing, adequately covered territory, special services, and a reliable reputation are the key components of the best moving companies. That’s why we selected United Van Lines as our top choice since they have a large service area, plenty of options, a helpful customer portal, and they don’t require a deposit. However, if you’re looking for a little more control and a little less cost, using U-Pack is another great option if you just want to hire a transport company to haul your belongings.

How We Chose the Best Moving Companies

While much depends on the location of your move and the quantity and type of goods you need to move, there are a few elements that stood out to us when reviewing the best moving companies. We evaluated companies that have local, statewide, nationwide, and international moving options to provide the coverage needed for any homeowner. We evaluated the websites of each company and took the overall customer reviews and experiences into account to make sure most customers enjoyed a satisfactory or pleasant experience. We also reviewed factors such as cancellation policies and deposits, as well as the ability to track and monitor your shipments. All the companies on our list are nationally known and have been in business for several years with an overall reliable reputation.

Before You Hire One of the Best Moving Companies

Before you hire a moving company, you need to know if you’re moving locally, within the state, across state lines, or even internationally. Some companies cannot offer some moving services if they aren’t licensed to transport across state lines. Local companies are great for local moves as long as they have a solid reputation, but you’ll need to find at least a national moving company you trust to move greater distances.

Most importantly, hiring a moving company is best for people who are willing to entrust their goods to other people. It’s a helpful service that can help people who are unable to pack, carry, and transport their items, but it does come at a price you need to be willing to pay. Make sure to choose a company that is licensed and qualified to handle your specific needs whether it’s extra services or distance. Don’t hesitate to ask movers lots of questions and get a written estimate so you can compare details. And always do your research to evaluate reviews from several sources.

Cost of Hiring One of the Best Moving Companies

Moving costs are a moving target since no two moves are the same. For moves traveling less than 100 miles, the average cost is $1,535 with a range of $835 to $2,248, but moving out of state could cost up to $5,700 on average. Many moving companies offer an online estimate or calculator that can help estimate the cost, but you’ll also need to do a walk-through in person or virtually to have the most accurate assessment and avoid unexpected costs.

Moving companies calculate costs based on weight, but that’s determined by the size, volume, and type of items being moved. There are basic average estimates for the number of rooms being moved that can be used initially, but any specialty items like pianos, cars, safes, hot tubs, etc., will require extra consideration and cost. Additionally, the distance you need to move will affect the total price since you’ll be charged for the driver’s time, fuel, and mileage.

You can expect to pay $25 to $50 per hour per mover, but the amount of belongings will determine how many employees the company will send to your house. For instance, a small apartment usually needs two employees who work for 2 to 3 hours. Additionally, you might be charged extra if access is difficult, there are numerous stairs, or you have lots of heavy items. Moving in the summer or on weekends or holidays is always more expensive and can be hard to schedule, so opt to move in the middle of the week if possible.

The Advantages of Using One of the Best Moving Companies

Moving is a hassle, even though relocating to a new city can be an adventure. Relieving the stress and strain of moving are popular reasons for using a moving company, even though it can feel like an expensive venture. But the benefits to using a moving company help offset the costs.

  • Relieves stress. Worrying about loading, transporting, and unloading your items within a short period is stressful, so leaving that to the pros can reduce unnecessary and unhealthy stress.
  • Avoids injury. You might already have a bad back, or you might cause a hernia, smash fingers, or worse if a serious accident happens while moving heavy, unwieldy furniture.
  • Saves time. If you don’t have time to pack up and move, you can hand over the entire job to a moving company.
  • Keeps belongings secure. Sometimes you have a period of time in between homes. In this case, the moving company can safely store your goods until they’re ready to be moved in.
  • Insures your valuables. If you accidentally break a priceless heirloom during a move, you might not have any recourse if it wasn’t insured. However, moving companies must have liability insurance and often offer full coverage for an extra fee.
  • Cost-effective. When you factor in your time, labor, mental health, and packing supplies, the cost of moving yourself can add up quickly. Your sweat equity is worth trading for help from a reliable moving company.
  • Proper packing. Professional movers are adept at carefully packing and securing belongings, both small and large. They can carefully load the trailer in a way that will keep all your goods secure for a long move for more peace of mind, whereas that might not be as natural and easy for you.

FAQs

Don’t let a lack of information prevent you from finding the best moving company. With the information above, you’re in a good position to start getting quotes from companies that can handle your situation. However, there are a few other frequently asked questions that we have answered below. These can also help guide your decision-making process.

Q. How much do moving companies charge?

There’s no set rate that moving companies charge for a move. Moving costs are made up of several factors like distance, time, weight, and type of items. Local movers might charge a flat rate based on the number of rooms being moved, but long-distance moves typically need customized quotes that may include fixed-rate fees. You can get initial estimates online from many major moving companies, but always talk to someone about your needs to get an accurate quote. On average, local moves cost $1,535, but national moves can cost between $2,200 and $5,700.

Q. Do you tip moving companies?

Tipping is not required, but it’s considered polite. Yes, the moving company is already charging you to do the job, but in reality, the movers are doing you a huge favor and potentially saving you from injury, too. Offering movers a tip is a way to express your gratitude for their manual labor on your behalf, especially if they do a great job, show up on time, are friendly, and handle your items with care. The recommended amount to tip movers is to estimate 5 to 10 percent of the total cost or to tip $4 to $5 per mover per hour. Some people consider tipping movers as they do tipping waiters, so you could also tip 10 to 20 percent of the total cost.

Q. Do moving companies provide boxes?

It depends on what you’re hiring them to do. If you’re only paying for them to load, haul, and unload your belongings, then they won’t be doing any packing, which means they won’t provide you with boxes. If you’re hiring them to pack your items or do a full-service move, then the cost of all boxes, tape, bubble wrap, etc., will be included in the price.

Some moving companies do offer boxes for purchase if needed, and many will also bring some moving supplies in case your items aren’t properly secured. You will be charged for whatever they use that was not in the original contract, such as moving blankets for a TV or furniture bags or protective sheets.

Q. Do moving companies assemble furniture?

Some moving companies offer this as an extra service if you ask ahead of time. They usually charge the same hourly labor rate as for moving. Disassembling and assembling furniture can be extremely helpful to add on to your moving costs if you have children or if the task is beyond your physical capacity.