Here’s How Much To Tip Your Movers

The question is not whether to tip your movers, but rather how much. Here's the final word from moving industry and etiquette experts.

With months of lost income, health risks on the job and customers who’ve grown surlier during these long months of the pandemic, service workers have had a tough time of it. But there’s one bright spot for service workers: Many customers are tipping more generously, perhaps showing appreciation for workers who keep showing up in spite of all the stress.

If you’re planning a house move in the near future, you may wonder if the broad category of “service workers” includes movers. And if it does, should you tip them, and how much should you tip?

“Tipping your movers has been a source of confusion for many people because they are not technically classified as working in the ‘hospitality industry,’ ” says Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert with The Protocol School of Texas. “But they are in the ‘service’ industry.” According to Gottsman and other experts, that means they should be tipped.

Are You Supposed to Tip Your Movers?

When it comes to household moves, to tip or not to tip is not the question. “They (movers) are paid an hourly wage,” Gottsman says, “but do appreciate gratuity as a part of their overall service.”

Movers take care of your precious belongings, making sure your stuff makes it from Point A to Point B without loss or damage. “There is no doubt,” Gottsman says, “that movers spend countless hours lifting and moving heavy boxes and furniture up multiple stairs, and should be recognized for their courteous service, professional demeanor and hard work.”

How To Determine the Proper Tip for Movers

close up of person taking cash out of walletJose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

“Tipping depends on several factors,” says Mitch Levine, CEO of Chicago-based Safeway Moving Systems. These include how many movers, how long and how well they worked, and how courteous they were.

For local moves, James Burati, senior vice president for sales and marketing at 1-800-PACK-RAT moving and storage, says about $5 per hour per mover is the accepted standard, assuming the movers did a good job and were careful with your belongings.

For a long-distance move, count on the tip as a significant expense, Burati says. “If you have the same crew from start to finish, then it is recommended to tip around 15 percent of the total moving cost,” he says. If a cross-country move costs $4,000, that means a tip of $600, divided among the crew.

If you have different crews on each end of the move — and clarify this in advance when you negotiate with the company — then plan on splitting that tip amount between them.

A few other factors to consider when tipping movers:

  • Tip extra for extra effort. This includes handling especially large or fragile items such as pianos, costly works of art or large glass objects. Also consider if the team goes above and beyond with packing and unpacking your items, disassembling and reassembling large furniture, and distributing boxes and items to each room of your new home. “Anything else you feel showed that they put extra effort and care into their service,” Burati says. And Mallory Micetich, a home care expert at Angi, a home maintenance and repair referral service, says safely hauling your items in bracing cold, sweltering heat and rain or snow is a lot more difficult. Keep that in mind as well.
  • Tipping amount doesn’t change based on location. “Tipping will vary solely on the quality of the work, how the company is handling the move, any unique issues that may arise, and, of course, the quality of the crew on the day of the move,” Levine says.
  • Be considerate. “Offer them gestures of kindness, such as bottled water,” Gottsman says. Even something as simple as offering a shady spot in the backyard for them to eat lunch will be appreciated. Burati says to even consider offering a pizza or sandwiches if it’s a full-day event.
  • Be prepared. Have enough cash on hand, Levine says, and tip each worker individually, rather than leaving a lump sum to be divided among the crew. Micetich suggests you clarify their cash policy beforehand. Some may prefer using digital payment apps such as Venmo, Zelle or the Cash app.

Do Some Moving Companies Include a Gratuity in the Contract?

“In general, tips are not included as a line item in your moving quote, but it’s always best to review your quote prior to your move so you understand all the charges,” Burati says.

Some moving companies have started including gratuity in their final cost of the move if it reaches a certain amount, much like some restaurants do with large parties.

The bottom line? Ask up front whether gratuity is included. In most cases, you’ll find that companies — and certainly the movers themselves — prefer cash in pocket.

Moving Is Getting More Costly

Even before the pandemic, the cost of moving was rising every year, says Levine. That’s due to higher costs for the companies themselves, including insurance, the cost of owning and maintaining moving trucks and increased labor costs.

“Materials have gone up in cost because of the supply chain being disrupted,” Levine says, “and gas prices have been going up every month.” Those factors make interstate moves especially expensive.

But even if the move itself causes some sticker shock, that’s no reason to skimp on tips for your movers. “The bottom line is it’s really about the service you receive when you are face-to-face with the movers,” Gottsman says. “Gratuity is about the service the homeowner receives, so I always recommend more rather than less.”

Elizabeth Heath
Elizabeth Heath is a travel, culinary and lifestyle writer based in rural Umbria, Italy. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, HuffPost, Frommers.com, TripSavvy and many other publications. Her guidebook, An Architecture Lover's Guide to Rome, was released in 2019. Liz's husband is a stonemason and together they are passionate about the great outdoors, endless home improvement projects, dogs, their unruly garden and their slightly less unruly 8-year-old.