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How much should you tip movers?

Financially planning and preparing for moving day

Last Updated 7/14/17
by Jonathan Trout ConsumerAffairs Research Team
Woman signing off on moving documents

Introduction

Around 35 million people pack up their possessions and move each year in the United States, according to the United States Census Bureau. But not many people people think about tipping their movers. And if they do, they might not be sure how much to tip.

So how much should you tip your movers - you know, the hard-working humans that just hauled your dresser, couch, bed and all of your life’s possessions up three flights of stairs? Should you tip them in money? Food? Beer? If you ask Google, you’ll get multiple answers, from flat rates to percentages. Here’s a guideline on how much you should expect to tip your movers.

Woman writing check

How much should you tip?

Moving companies don’t automatically include gratuity in their pricing, so tipping is always a nice gesture. The general consensus when asking yourself how much you should tip your movers is 15 to 20 percent of the total cost of the move for large moves and 5 to 10 percent for smaller, cross-town moves. This lump sum is then split among the movers on the crew. For example, if your move costs $2,000, a $100-$200 (5 -10 percent) tip is appropriate for a move across town.

Always consider things like the difficulty of the move - were there stairs, multiple levels, a lot of awkward, heavy furniture? Did they take extra special care of your grandmother’s piano? Taking the time to add extra padding on fragile items or listening to special instructions about specific meaningful objects show your movers care. These factors should play into how much you tip. If your movers really blow you out of the water and go above and beyond, you should tip towards the upper percentage range (10 or 20 percent).

Some people say you should tip a flat rate as opposed to a percentage. Lauri Ward of Redecorate.com promotes the flat-rate tipping method. She says it's perfectly acceptable to give each crew member $20-$30 for smaller moves and up to $40 for complex, large moves. It’s good practice to tip each individual crew member rather than handing it all to the crew foreman to divvy up. Tipping a flat rate is perfectly acceptable.

Dropped box and broken plates

When is it OK not to tip?

Don’t feel obligated to tip just because a moving company moved your belongings from one place to another. Movers should be on time, treat your things like their own and be organized. They should be courteous, follow your requests and answer any questions that come up about the move. Most importantly, nothing should show up to your new home damaged or missing. But accidents happen. Your movers should take ownership of anything they damage and help you file a claim with the company.

If you have an awful experience with your movers, don’t feel like you owe them anything extra.

Person writing in checkbook

How do you tip movers?

Large cash tips without documentation would be disallowed if you were to ever get audited by the IRS.

Large national moving companies typically include a tip as a line item on your bill, meaning you can pay for the tip by credit card with the rest of the move. Using a credit card is the best way to document to the IRS that tips were part of your moving costs when it comes time to deduct moving costs on your tax return.

If you’re trying to document moving expenses, tip with a check. If you go the check route, it is acceptable to write one check and let the crew foreman distribute the tip among the crew.

Cup of water with lemon

What about food and drinks?

Providing refreshments for your movers, whether you're tipping or not, is the right thing to do. Make sure the drinks are weather appropriate: coffee for cold-morning moves, water and lemonade for hot days. Consider these points when deciding on food and drinks for moving day.

  • If your move crosses over the lunch hour or if it takes all day, ask your movers what they’d like to eat, rather than just ordering pizza. You can imagine how much pizza they get a month.

  • Snacks like apples, oranges, chips or cookies are great for half-day moves (4 hours).

  • Always have water available. Keep a jug of water and paper or plastic cups on hand.

  • A lot of people ask about tipping with beer. Beer is a nice gesture, but most moving companies don’t allow drinking on the job. You can always offer a six-pack to go though!

Happy couple watching movers

Conclusion

No matter the size of your move, it’s a good idea to tip your movers. Consider the complexity of the move: how far you’re moving and how much stuff you have. Ask yourself questions like: Did the movers do a great job? Did they go above and beyond? Would you recommend them to your mother? Do you care about documenting the tip amount? If your movers have done a great job for you, let them know with a little something extra.

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by Jonathan Trout ConsumerAffairs Research Team

As a member of the ConsumerAffairs Research Team, Jonathan Trout believes having access to free, comprehensive information on products and businesses is vital to making smart purchasing decisions. He focuses his efforts on researching and reviewing multiple brands across a variety of industries, with the goal of writing unbiased buyers guides to help inform consumers on impending purchases.

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