For the past month, Sumu has helped Bostonians find the most affordable, best rated, and most valuable moving companies. Amidst our research, we found that the average cost of a moving company in the Boston area surges just before September 1st. This may not come as a huge surprise to many Boston residents as we all know that September 1st is the most popular day of the year to move, however we wanted to shine a spotlight on exactly how much prices surge, and who are the biggest culprits.

We received quotes from eleven local moving companies for moving at different times of the year. More than half of the moving companies charged higher rates to move on September 1st as opposed to July 1st. The largest increase in price was A-Plus Movers’ with a 127% increase in their rates for a September 1st move.

Holly Masek, Boston-based urban planner, points to Boston’s huge student population for this price surge. “There are over fifty colleges in the Greater Boston area, making us a very transient and student-centered city”. She continues, “Most students hold a lease for 1-3 years, keeping turnover frequent and moving companies busy. Leasing and moving schedules then logically follow the academic year. September 1 always seems to be the biggest crush”.

A chart from Census.gov showing that moving days are mostly between June and SeptemberSource: U.S. Bureau of the Census, SIPP, 19931

According to the US News & World Report, and rather unsurprisingly, the national trend is to move homes during the summer. Niccole Schreck notes: “During the spring, recent college graduates are moving out of their apartments near campus… Depending on where you live, the weather is also generally more accommodating to move during the warmer months. All of these factors result in a dynamic rental market with more turnover during this time of the year as compared to most other months.”2 Student’s schedules and warm weather has moved peak moving time to September. These conditions create too much demand for moving services which drives them to increase their prices so that they make more money during each of their moves.

Gerald Autler, city planner at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, notes that the surge is “…a simple case of supply and demand. So much of Boston’s rental housing stock turns over September 1st that there are just a lot more people looking to hire movers, which means the movers can increase their prices”

Clearly, this is a simple case of low supply and high demand, an increase in prices seems reasonable. A classic example is Uber’s infamous rideshare surging: increasing the price of rides during times of high rider demand and low driver supply. Many point out that increasing ride prices incentivizes more drivers to the platform, allowing supply to reach demand. “Uber has real-time data on demand, nudges supply to meet it and makes it vastly easier for drivers and riders to connect.”3 This return to balance brings pricing back down much to the delight of Uber’s customers.

Unfortunately supply manipulation isn’t an option for moving companies. Moving companies can’t incentivize others to join the economy, permitting themselves to hike up their rates, taking advantage and exploiting this period of the high demand. Focusing on the already cost-burdened group of students is appalling, especially since the price-tag of tuition is already burning a hole in families’ pockets. A surge in the price of moving on September 1st is unfair for everyone.

More apartments are moving to a standard September 1st start date, which will next impact young professionals and eventually all new movers. With housing prices already on a seemingly never ending increase, are we ready to be nickeled and dimed for every part of the move?

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  1. https://www.census.gov/sipp/p70s/p70-66.pdf

  2. http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2013/09/11/the-best-time-to-move-for-renters

  3. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/12/magazine/is-ubers-surge-pricing-an-example-of-high-tech-gouging.html