TOP 12 Things to Think About When Moving (including what to tip movers!)

Moving can be a stressful time. But if you take steps to familiarize yourself with the way it is regulated and what rights and responsibilities you have, you'll likely have a much smoother move. Here are some things to think about as you prepare for your move.

Need some tips for making the transition with kids run more smoothly?  Check out our Moving with Kids article.  

Image by Nicolas Huk


1 Read The Summary of Information for Shippers of Household Goods.

Licensed movers are required to give you a copy of the Summary of Information for Shippers of Household Goods at or before the time you get a quote which includes information about cost of services, claims, and do's and don'ts of moving. Read this before you start.


2 Read reviews.

Check online and on the Park Slope Parents website for reviews. Look up movers on the Better Business Bureau which rates movers on lots of different factors. If there is a negative review, feel free to ask the company to fill you in on the story. All companies will have an occasional nightmare job; you just want to make sure that the company itself isn't a nightmare.

3 Check licenses

Make sure that the movers you are interested in are licensed.  The New York State Department of Transportation can help you check licensing (and claims) when you're considering a mover.  All licensed movers are required to give you a copy of the Summary of Information for Shippers of Household Goods at or before the time you get a quote. If you are doing an interstate move make sure they have both a US Department of Transportation as well as a Motor Carrier number (or they aren't licensed to cross state lines).

4 Get estimates

You'll need to call folks and have them come out to give you estimates. If they are good they will scour the place in order to give you the most accurate estimage. If a company tries to give you a phone estimate based on apartment size, move on. Spend extra time on your prised antique screen or collection of priceless paper cranes if those need extra TLC. Get a detailed list of what you should transport (e.g., photo albums, medical files) and what they will transport (e.g., some won't transport alcohol or plants). They should give you a Your Rights and Responsibilities when you move flyer. If you can donate items (see here for a list of places to donate) before the estimate it could save you money. If you don't love it or use it, don't move it!

5 Pick the time of your move-- if possible. 

June, July and August are the busiest months so you'll be more likely to get inexperienced, overworked seasonal workers. Moving between the 5th – 13th and 18th - 25th are less busy than beginning, mid and end-of-month. Workers are better rested, less hurried, and able to give the sort of service you expect.

6 Book so you're the first job of the day-- if possible.

If you can book the first job of the day, it will mean that movers aren't coming from a different site, haven't already been working for six hours, and can start fresh on your move. If a mover offers you a better rate to start in the afternoon, seriously consider the downside. The last thing you need is movers who are two hours late to your job with you completely stressed out because the late start means you'll be moving into your new apartment at 9:00pm and your babysitter leaves at 6:30pm. You don't want to be juggling movers with tired, over stimulated, unsettled children.

7 Smaller moves beg different movers.

Residential moving is very heavily regulated and if you choose a "moving company" you end up being low on the list of priorities unless you're willing to pay a premium for your service. Find a local business who isn't trying to cultivate a larger operation. However, if you choose a man with a van or an unlicensed mover, be ready to assume responsibility for any damage to your belongings, to your building, or the movers.

8 Moving requires a great deal of skill

Good balance, keen spatial reasoning skills, good judgment, the ability to create rapport are key in turning a stressful transition into a successful and happy move. Recognize that moving takes more than brute strength and actively engage your foreman. This increases the likelihood that your move will go smoothly with less stress and more happiness all around.Be present and pleasant around the movers; one company that packed us tried to box up the garbage in the trash can (many are paid by the box). 

9 Check insurance and buy extra REPLACEMENT/3rd party insurance

Damage is unpredictable and it's really important to protect yourself by buying replacement insurance. Federal regulations (via the FMCSA) value things on price per pound. This means a $2,000 laptop that weighs under 6 pounds is valued under $4, regardless of its replacement cost. Therefore, regular insurance isn’t enough. Also check with your own home owner's insurance to see if it covers moves (and covers more than the mover's coverage).

10 Treat special items with kid gloves.

You cannot repair the damage done when sentimental items get broken. Either pack and ship things separately or move them in your own vehicle. If you have special items like a piano or delicate artwork, spend the extra money to ensure they are moved by a company with those special skills.

11 What to Tip your Mover

We’ve asked a bunch of movers and business owners about tipping movers with little consensus on what’s the “right” tip. We've also been told that the industry standard is 18-20%. In our mind here’s what tipping depends on:    
--- size of move (1 bedroom apartment vs. brownstone = different tips) 
--- type of move (up a 4 floor walkup vs. garden apartment) 
--- how long it takes to do the moving 
--- are the workers packing as well as moving? 
--- extra heavy or bulky items? 
--- working conditions  (heat, cold, rain)    

As one parent writes, "I had three guys bring and unpack to a third-floor walk-up on a day that was 106-degrees. They worked about five hours in sweltering heat, strapping boxes on their backs with a long flat strap. It was brutal. They deserved much more than someone in an elevator building on a cool spring day. (We gave them each $60.00). What I’ve heard is that a very acceptable tip would be $10.00/hour per person. And I know that they also appreciate having bottles of water and if you want to be really nice…go out and buy them lunch."

12 Pay it forward by giving feedback to the movers and to groups like PSP when your move is over.

Give feedback to the movers and to groups like PSP when your move is over.Most businesses will try to do right by their clients but they cannot address complaints unless they know about them. It's also disappointing for a business to find out someone was unhappy with their move for the first time through a bad review posted online.

Further Resources

New York State Department of Transportation’s Dos and Don’ts

US Department of Transportation’s Protect Your Move website

Read more moving advice from PSP HERE and get Tips & Recommendations from PSP Members HERE