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 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.
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How much do you tip movers?
Moving companies don’t automatically include gratuity in their pricing, so tipping is always a nice gesture. As a guideline, you should tip your movers between 15–20 percent of the total cost of the move for large moves and 5–10 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.
Plan to tip your movers 15–20 percent each for a large move and 5–10 percent each for a small move
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. Tip each individual crew member directly instead of handing it all to the crew foreman to divvy up.
Do you have to tip your movers?
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. If an accident does 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.
How do you tip movers?
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. Large cash tips without documentation would be disallowed if you were to ever get audited by the IRS.
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.
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!