How Much to Tip Your Movers

Moving men unload furniture from truck

Yellow Dog Productions / Getty Images

If you've hired movers for your upcoming move, you may wonder if it's expected practice to offer these workers a monetary tip—and if so, how much should you pay them? After all, this profession involves very demanding physical work combined with a sensitivity to handling your most prized possessions. It is logical that you would want to reward good movers for their services.

Just keep in mind that while it is nice to tip exemplary movers, it is not obligatory to provide a cash gratuity for mediocre ones. Most movers do not usually expect a tip but they are very appreciative when they do receive a cash acknowledgment. Think of the tip as a way of conveying your recognition and gratitude for good effort. A mover who receives acknowledgment of their careful work from you will be likely to treat the next customer with consideration and care.

Should You Tip Movers?

Tipping should always be based on receiving good service from your movers—not poor or mediocre service. Just remember that the people doing the actual moving—the physical lifting—are the ones who should receive the tip, not the moving company. So if the company itself was difficult to work with and you weren't happy with the service you received, but the actual movers were good, make sure you tip them directly. In other words, always distinguish the moving company administration from the actual field workers who handle your belongings.

If you feel you didn't receive good service (such as if the movers weren't punctual, were rude, or were rough in your possessions), you should by no means feel compelled to tip. This industry is not like the restaurant service industry, in which cash tipping is generally expected. Tipping should be reserved only for movers who do their job well. If a mover goes out of their way to accommodate you, then tip accordingly. 

How Much to Tip Movers

The size of the tip you offer depends on how long the movers take and how difficult the move was: Were there stairs involved? Was there a steep yard or driveway to maneuver? Or did the movers handle awkward pieces that were time-consuming? For local moves, it's standard to offer 10 to 15 percent of the total cost, which is then divided between the workers involved. For example, industry statistics show that a local move of a two- or three-bedroom house costs, on average, about $1,250, which means $125 to $180 or $200 is an appropriate amount to divide among the workers—but again, only if you are quite satisfied or impressed with the service.

It's sometimes considered that a $4 or $5 tip per hour of work for each worker is customary for very good effort—which means a full day's worth of work for a good mover should be rewarded with a tip of perhaps $40. The average on-the-ground mover who is actually handling your possessions typically makes about $14 per hour from his company, so your $40 tip will be very much appreciated. For a short half-day local move, a per-person tip of $20 is considered quite adequate.

With long-distance, cross-country moves, it's not practical to tip based on a percentage of the total cost of the move, so it's customary to offer a flat $4 to $5 per hour tip to both the team that loads the truck and to the other team unpacking the truck at the destination.

Tipping percentages tend to follow regional patterns; for example, it may be more customary to offer larger tips in urban areas, while suburban or rural areas may have different expectations. You can check with local neighbors or friends who have recently moved to learn what standard practices have been in your area.

A Tip on Tipping

If you're dealing with more than one mover, don't give the lump sum to the driver or foreman. Instead, give each worker his tip individually. Not only does this show your appreciation for their job well done, but there can also be some immoral drivers or foremen who are known to keep the full amount for themselves. And you can, if you choose, reward the workers who have been more careful and more accommodating with a bigger tip, though it is best to do this privately, so as to avoid ill feelings between workers.

If you received amazing service with the movers who went above and beyond what was expected, tips can reach up to 20 percent, or increase the flat-fee tip by an extra $5 or $10. But the movers need to be really good, really helpful and do something outside of their normal duties—such as helping with last-minute packing and moving, taking the time to carefully wrap fragile items, or staying a bit longer to help you carefully unpack and set up your grandmother's dining table without scratching it or marring the floor. That's the sign of a really good and courteous mover.

Tipping Summary
  Percentage method Flat fee method Hourly method
Poor or mediocre service No tip No tip No tip
Good service 10 to 15 percent of total cost, divided between all workers $20 for up to 4 hrs;
$40 for 8 hrs;
$50 to $60 for 12 hours
$4 per hour
Excellent service 20%, divided between all workers Extra $5 or $10 per worker $5 per hour

When Not to Tip

To be worthy of your cash gratuity, a mover should arrive on time, treat your belonging with respect, and be well-organized. They should also follow your requests willingly and answer any questions that you have about the move. If something turns up missing at the destination, the mover needs to provide a way for you to follow up to retrieve the lost item. They should also take ownership of anything that they break and should help you through the insurance coverage process. Nothing should be broken or damaged when it arrives at your new house, but accidents do happen and it's how the movers deal with it that will determine if you tip or not.

If you have a bad experience with a moving crew, then you should feel no obligation to offer any kind of cash gratuity.

Refreshments and Food

Whether you end up tipping or not, it is always polite to provide cold bottled water, soda, coffee, or sports drinks to your movers. Remember, these movers are doing backbreaking, physical work and it is a nice token of your appreciation to offer cold beverages.

If the move extends over lunch and/or dinner, feel free to buy one of the two meals—or even both. Some people will purchase a meal in place of tipping, while others will provide both the meal and the tip. Either approach is acceptable.

If you do decide to provide a meal, the choice of the menu is up to you. Pizza is often the first thing that comes to mind since it is easy to order. But remember that it's likely these movers eat a lot of pizza for lunch. They will likely appreciate being asked what they want from several options you're willing to pay for. If you're not moving during the lunch or dinner hour, you can always have snacks on hand, such as chips, apples, pretzels, or cookies. 

It's best not to offer beer or any alcoholic beverage to movers at the end of the day. Most legitimate companies have policies against drinking on the job, and serving beer can open you up to liability issues. Reserve the cold ones for yourself, after the movers have left.