By Lou Carlozo, dealnews contributor The activity of moving is so physical, so strenuous — what with all of that lifting, carrying, loading, and boxing up stuff — that it's easy to dismiss any digital moving aid as a gimmick, or a complete waste of time. After all, who needs a website when what you really need are 37 rolls of duct tape and some best friends? While it's easy to succumb to the perils of packing, the purveyors of online moving websites have other ideas, which at first blush appear to be great ones. Unpakt and Moveline rank among the web portals getting attention in places like the New York Times for their promise of streamlining the moving process and making it more cost effective. Here's an overview of how the sites can help get you packed and ready to go without burning a hole in your wallet. How Online Moving Services Work Online moving services are based on the idea of getting customers to think about their moves in a more organized way, and getting movers to compete for people's business. A key element to both Unpakt and Moveline is that folks have to enter inventories online before getting not just a quote, but a guaranteed price, from a variety of movers. Moveline goes a step further by giving people the option to make a video log of their stuff (or use video chat) via Moveline's iPhone app to provide movers an even more accurate way to appraise the cost of each unique move. The Cost of Online Moving Services By offering guaranteed pricing, Unpakt and Moveline claim to have solved the problem of unstable estimates. By eliminating ballpark rates and hourly costs, the cost of a move will only change if a customer adds or removes items or services. Statistics from an Unpakt survey conducted with Harris Interactive show that many Americans paid more for their last move than anticipated; 57% of people who moved paid upwards of $175 — all the way through $1,000 — more than their original move estimate. Planning to Move Neither Moveline nor Unpakt charge potential customers to prepare for their move using either website. Moveline makes its money after the moving company is paid; even then, Moveline makes such small percentage of the cost of a customer's move — less than the commission they'd pay a salesperson — that Moveline users pay the same price (often less) for the move than they would hiring the company on their own. Unpakt operates on a similar model and does not charge users any fees for its services. Time Moveline claims that once users submit a video (which takes about 15 minutes), they're just three business days away from a booked and price-locked move. While the process differs a bit at Unpakt, Moveline is equally painless. With an inventory submitted, quotes are then generated instantaneously from a list of pre-screened movers; Unpakt uses an algorithm that determines a price based on inventory selected, distance traveled, additional services, and more. Services With Unpakt, the quoted moving price includes movers, a truck, moving equipment, furniture protection, and a certificate of insurance for the mover. Additional services include a free in-home consultation, storage, extra pick-up or drop-off, special handling for art and antiques, and additional insurance. Moveline's prices also include basic moving services, and are based on Moveline's estimates of weight and cubic feet, but are generated by the moving companies as flat prices. Folks can also add services like professional packing, and arrange for storage. Some items (like pianos) require special handling to move safely, but the cost of such services are clearly detailed in advance. Both Moveline and Unpakt also feature blogs with lots of great moving advice and entertaining entries such as Nashville Movers Recommend Must-Visit Mansions (on Unpakt) and 10 things to do with your last 24 hours in NYC (Moveline). In the end, the big advantage to online moving services lies in their leverage to bring transparency and competition to a business that, strangely, has been mostly non-competitive. Prior to Moveline or Unpakt, most moving companies have historically made estimates based on pre-move inspections. Instead of enduring that process many times, over many visits, consumers can submit to it just once online, proving that the successful move of 1,000 miles might just begin with the move of a mouse. Front page photo credit: Cheap Removals London Related dealnews Features: What to Expect from Presidents' Day Sales Stores Can Now Charge Credit Card Transaction Fees, But Will They? Should the USA Be More Like Canada and Ditch the Penny? Lou Carlozo is a dealnews contributing writer. He covers personal finance for Reuters Wealth. Prior to that he was the managing editor of WalletPop.com, and a veteran columnist at the Chicago Tribune. Follow @dealnews on Twitter for the latest roundups, price trend info, and stories. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.