Giving extra money to your moving pros is a personal choice, but there are some standards you should know.
Everyone knows how much you should tip for a meal or a cup of coffee. But what about when someone loads your entire home onto a truck and takes it somewhere new?
"No one ever wants to mention, 'Hey, if you'd like to add a tip, here's how you can do it,'" Adrian Hawtree of Adam's Moving Service in Seattle told me. "Everyone knows tipping is common, but it's sort of an unspoken thing. People who have never hired a mover don't really know."
It can be an awkward conversation to have with your moving company. So I did it for you. To find out how much folks should tip, I called five moving companies and asked them what an average tip looks like, what percentage of customers leave a tip, and the best way to do it.
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Tip your movers between 10% and 20% of the final bill for both local and long-distance moves. If your move costs $2,500 and you want to tip 20% for excellent service, be prepared to pay $500 total in tips.
That said, tipping is highly personal and there's no clear rule for the dollar amount. When I asked five movers what an average tip looks like, I got five different answers:
"There really is no hard-and-fast rule," said David Cox, president of JK Moving. "There's no expectation, so people shouldn't feel pressured or obligated to tip. But it's always appreciated when it does happen."
On some moves, you'll be paying for a few different services. If you have one crew coming in to pack your stuff and another to load it onto the truck, you'll want to tip both crews. Similarly, if you're moving long-distance and have different crews loading and unloading, tip each of them separately.
Most of the movers I spoke with said cash is king when it comes to the tip. Before moving day kicks off, you should have some estimate of how much you're going to tip the movers. Make a trip to the ATM beforehand and take out smaller bills if you plan on tipping each crew member individually.
Most of the movers I spoke with said it's always appreciated when snacks and drinks are offered -- especially in the peak summer moving months. But they aren't a substitute for a cash tip.
"It is appreciated, but honestly, we're generally prepared to work with what we need to get the day done," said Hawtree. "A little bit of cash goes a lot farther than anything else."
Tipping your movers is similar to tipping anyone else. Weigh how much you can afford with the quality of the service they provide.
"As a mover, if people see you work really hard and they see the skill and you provide them kind service, most people are going to want to tip well," said Kyle from Easy Company Moving. "If you break stuff or you're late, you're probably not going to get tipped out."
Here are some factors you can take into consideration:
Heavy items: Some moving companies charge an extra fee for items over 300 pounds, but it doesn't always go to the people doing the heavy lifting. If they aren't getting paid extra, it's a good idea to factor that into your tip.
Movers going the extra mile: If your movers are particularly friendly or conscientious with belongings, you can say thank you with a larger tip.
Timeliness: Your movers should give you a schedule of when they'll arrive and how long you can expect the move to take. You might consider lowering your tip if they deviate from this timeline substantially.
Difficult conditions: It isn't easy to move heavy furniture around tight staircases or in the pouring rain. If there are circumstances that make the move more challenging, think about factoring them into your tip.
Care with your belongings: The number one priority for movers is to safely transport your stuff from point A to point B. If you notice movers handling your items carelessly, you may decide to reduce your tip.
Most of the movers I spoke with emphasized that they don't expect a tip automatically. However, the majority of customers do tip their movers.
"It's a pretty high percentage of people who tip, maybe 80% to 90%," Kyle from Easy Company Moving told me. Another mover put the percentage at 75% or higher.
For context, that's about the same as the percentage of people who tip their waiter or waitress (78%), but more than Uber and Lyft drivers (25%), counter service restaurant workers (21%) or baristas (13%).
Either option is fine. If one crew member went above and beyond, it's fine to tip them personally. You can also give the entire tip to the foreman, and they'll divide it up with their team.
You don't need to provide lunch to your movers. Moving companies plan to have enough to drink and eat during the day for their workers. It's nice to offer something -- especially during hot summer months -- but it isn't a substitute for a cash tip.
Most of the movers I spoke with said tipping isn't an expectation, but it does happen in about 80% of moves. Unless there are issues like a late start time or damaged items, adding a tip is a nice way to say thank you for a job well done.