5 types of moving companies

Which is right for your next relocation?

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Even though moving rates have been low in recent years, according to our 2023 survey, 35% of American adults think their current cost of living might push them to move to a different state. Hiring a moving company can relieve some of the stress of relocating, but not all movers operate in the same way or provide the same services.

When you hire a moving company, you’ll work with either a carrier or a broker. A carrier owns a fleet of trucks and handles the actual moving process; a broker books services and hires carriers to complete the move. Both carriers and brokers tend to specialize in one or more of the following: long-distance moves, local moves, corporate relocations, international moves and full-service moves.

Key insights

  • When hiring a moving company, it’s good to be able to distinguish between moving brokers (i.e., intermediaries) and moving carriers.
  • To move you across state lines, a mover must be registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation.
  • Moving services range from DIY (you pack, load and drive) to full-service (the company takes care of packing, loading, transporting, unloading and unpacking).
  • The type of mover you choose largely depends on the distance of the move and the purpose (e.g., corporate, personal).

What are the different types of moving companies?

Most moving companies perform similar services —  typically, the most notable difference is the distance of moves they handle. A local moving company may not be equipped to handle an international move, for instance, and a corporate mover will have expertise in issues that arise when moving businesses but not residential households.

1. Long-distance/interstate movers

Long-distance moving companies usually help you relocate from one state to another (depending on where you live, however, your long-distance move may not cross state lines).

Most U.S. movers consider a move long-distance if it exceeds a specific number of miles — typically 100 to 400. Each long-distance mover is required to be registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Long-distance movers customarily charge based on the size of your home, the distance of your move, what types of belongings you’re moving and whether you need to make any extra stops — like to a storage facility — along the way.

2. Local movers

Some moving companies only operate inside a defined local area, like within a specific city or state. They may be required to register with the DOT or local authorities.

Local movers often charge by the hour — typically around $80 to $100 hourly for two crew members. The biggest factor in your cost for a local move is how many items you’re moving; the more time and hands you require from the company, the more you’ll have to pay. You can also expect to pay more for heavy, fragile or oddly shaped items, like pianos or hot tubs.

3. Corporate/military movers

Corporate relocation companies specialize in moving entire businesses. They can move a large number of belongings, and they have relatively quick turnaround times to make sure the business being moved is back up and running as soon as possible. They also typically provide more packing material and organizational help, like furniture assembly and disassembly, than other types of movers.

Both corporate and military movers may provide additional services for an easy transition. They may help familiarize your company or crew with the new area, aid in softening culture shock and assist with relocation paperwork.

Corporate and military moving companies that operate across state lines are required to register with the DOT and obtain a USDOT number, and military movers must register with the Department of Defense's Defense Personal Property Program (DP3) to move military members' personal property.

4. International movers

International moving companies help individuals, families and corporations move their belongings to a new country. They’re experienced in international moving logistics, including shipping by air and sea, handling customs and tracking items. These movers are required to register with the DOT to operate legally in the U.S.

Any moving company that transports personal belongings overseas must also register with the Federal Maritime Commission.

5. Full-service movers

Full-service movers handle pretty much every aspect of a move. A full-service move is a good option for busy professionals who don’t have enough hours in the day to get all aspects of a move done, including:

  • Packing: Full-service movers pack your home and provide all the materials you need to safely and securely relocate your belongings. This includes handling any large items that need to be disassembled.
  • Labor and transport: Full-service movers load your packed belongings and transport them to your new home.
  • Unpacking: This type of mover can both unload and reassemble your furniture. They can also unpack your belongings and dispose of all packing supplies before they go.

What about DIY moves?

If you're looking for a more budget-friendly option, you might consider do-it-yourself moving options, like moving containers and moving truck rentals.

Moving containers allow you to pack and load your belongings at your own pace. Once the company drops off a portable container at your home, you'll have a set amount of time to load it up before it returns to transport it to your new destination. Many of these companies also offer long- or short-term storage solutions, so this option might be ideal if you’ll be in limbo for a few weeks between houses.

You can also rent a moving truck. If you go this route, you'll be responsible for loading, driving and unloading the truck yourself. It can be a lot of work, but it's a great way to save money, especially if you don’t have a ton of belongings. 

Keep in mind that you'll be responsible for all aspects of a DIY move, from packing and loading to driving and unloading. You'll want a good understanding of the logistics of your move and to be comfortable driving a larger vehicle if you choose to rent a moving truck, for instance.

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