What is a Cubic Metre?

Moving houses and confused by the cubic metre jargon from your movers? Don't worry! Cubic metres simply measure your belongings and play a crucial role in the cost and logistics of your move. Ready to unlock the secret? Let's dive into the world of cubic metres and become the master of your move.

12 min read

What is a Cubic Metre?

Key takeaways

  • A cubic metre is the space within a cube where each side measures one metre, crucial for understanding the space required for a move.
  • Cubic metres impact everything from the size of the truck you'll need to how much you'll pay.
  • Most countries use cubic metres as the standard volume unit in moving, but the U.S. and a few others use cubic feet.
  • Accurate measurement of items in cubic metres is essential for planning space in moving trucks and storage.
  • The total cubic metres of belongings significantly influence moving costs and truck size selection.
  • Strategies like decluttering and efficient packing can effectively reduce the cubic metre requirements, saving costs.
  • Clear communication about cubic metre estimates with moving companies ensures accurate planning and smooth relocation.

Welcome to the world of cubic metres - a dimension that might seem mundane but is incredibly powerful in the realm of moving homes. Get ready for a journey, not just any journey, but one where every square meter of space in a moving truck matters. Have you ever packed a suitcase and realised you need to optimise every corner? That's what we're doing here but on a much grander scale. Understanding cubic metres is like holding the key to a puzzle; it can make the difference between a smooth move and a logistical headache. So, sit back, relax, and let's unravel the mystery of cubic metres together. You're not just moving houses; you're mastering the art of efficient space management!

How big is a cubic metre?

The cubic metre formula is L (length in metres) x W (width in metres) x H (height in metres).

A cubic metre (m³) also known as CBM is the base unit of volume measurement. It's the space inside a cube with each side measuring one metre. That's 1m(length) x 1m(width) x 1m(height) It's what you'll hear about when you're moving. Removalists use cubic metres to figure out how much stuff you've got, which is important for planning the logistics of your move. Understanding cubic metres helps you picture how much space your things will take up in a moving truck. So, if you know the cubic metre measurement of your furniture and boxes, the movers can estimate the right truck size and plan how to fit everything in for a smooth transport.

1 cubic meter of furniture


Which country uses cubic metres?

Most countries use cubic metres as the standard unit of measurement for volume, it's simply the international system, especially in situations like moving, logistics, and shipping. This is because cubic metres are part of the metric system, which is widely used across the world. However, there are a few exceptions in countries where the imperial system is still in use. In these countries, volume is often measured in cubic feet. So, depending on where you are, you might come across different units when it comes to measuring volume.

Here's a brief overview:

  1. Metric system countries (cubic metres): In most countries, like Canada (except in some specific industries), most of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and many others, we all go with cubic metres. It's pretty much the norm!
  2. Imperial system countries (cubic feet): The United States is the most notable country that predominantly uses inches and cubic feet for volume measurements, especially in industries like real estate, construction, and moving.
  3. Hybrid usage: In some countries, like the UK, you'll find there's a mix of both systems. While the metric system is officially used, many people and industries still use imperial measurements (like cubic feet) out of habit or tradition.

Conversion of cubic metre to feet

1 cubic metre is equivalent to approximately 35.3 cubic feet.

How to measure your cubic metres

When you're getting ready for a move, it's important to measure your belongings in CBM. This helps you figure out how much space your items will take up in a moving truck or even inside temporary storage. So here's how you measure it:

  1. List your items: Start by making a list of all the things you're planning to move.
  2. Measure dimensions: For each item or furniture item, grab a tape measure and measure the length, width, and height. Write down these measurements in metres. If your item is in millimetres(mm), convert 1000mm for every 1 metre and if in centimetres(cm), convert 100cm for every 1 metre.
  3. Calculate the volume: Multiply the length x width x and height of each item to find its volume in cubic metres. For example, let's say you have a bookshelf that's 2m long, 0.5m wide, and 1m high. Its volume would be 1 cubic metre (2m x 0.5m x 1m = 1m³).
How to measure an item


Tips for accurate measurement

  • Sometimes the width or length can be referred to as depth, so don't worry just multiply the three measurements together and you will get the same measurement in CBM.
  • Make sure you measure the item at its widest, tallest, and deepest points. You wouldn't want any surprises.
  • If you're dealing with odd shape items, try to approximate them as closely as possible to regular shapes, like an imaginary box. It'll make things easier.
  • Oh, and don't forget to take into account the space needed for packing materials or protective blanket wraps around furniture. It all takes up space!

Why cubic metres matter in house moves

When it comes to moving house, cubic metres are more than just a measurement; they are the cornerstone of planning a successful move. It'll give you a good idea of how much space you'll need in a moving truck. This helps you choose the right size truck, so your stuff fits comfortably and securely. Plus, many moving companies base their prices on the total volume of your belongings, measured in CBM. So, more CBM might mean a bigger truck and potentially higher moving costs.

So when it comes to providing an accurate cubic volume calculation to your removalists. You'll want to make sure you've included everything, this is because:

  • A proper understanding of cubic metre calculations helps movers to efficiently load the truck, maximising space and minimising the risk of damage.
  • When you know the total cubic metres of your move, it's easier to get accurate quotes from moving companies. This can really help you budget effectively and avoid any surprises along the way!
  • This allows the moving company you hire to send the perfect-sized truck for your move. We can all imagine the frustration and stress of receiving a moving truck that's way too small for all your belongings. So let's make sure we avoid that, shall we?

Estimating cubic metres for moving

When it comes to estimating cubic metres, a near-accurate estimation of the cubic metres for your move is crucial for getting precise quotes and ensuring a smooth moving day.

On average, here are some general volumes of bedrooms when moving home.

House Size Cubic Metre Volume(m³)
1-bedroom Apartment 8.5m³
2-bedroom home 17m³
3-bedroom home 28m³
4-bedroom home 42m³
5-bedroom home 56.5m³

Tips for estimating

To help you with estimating the volume of your move you can:

  1. Take it room by room: Break down your estimation process room by room to make it more manageable and accurate. Create a detailed inventory of items and categorise them by size.
  2. Try a cubic metre calculator: You can use Find a Mover's handy cubic metre calculator, and many moving companies also offer similar tools to help you estimate the total volume of your belongings. Just keep in mind that different calculators may vary in terms of accuracy.
  3. Don't forget the little things: Remember to include all the smaller items and personal belongings that will be packed in boxes. If you're using standard moving boxes, simply measure the cubic metre volume of one box and multiply it by the number of boxes you have.
  4. Avoid surprises: Accurate estimates help avoid last-minute surprises in terms of additional costs or space shortages.
  5. Better planning: It enables you to plan for the right number of moving trucks and the amount of packing materials needed.

How cubic metres affect costs

The connection between cubic metres and moving costs is direct and significant. Understanding this relationship is essential for anyone planning a move.

  • Volume-based pricing: Many moving companies price their services based on the total cubic metres of items to be moved. The more cubic metres, the higher the cost.
  • Truck size selection: The cubic metre calculation helps in choosing the right truck size. A larger truck, needed for more cubic metres, will generally cost more to hire.
  • Exact volume vs. packed volume: There will always be a discrepancy between the exact volume and packed volume or actual volume when the belongings are moved into the truck. The reason for this is the dead or unused space left over in the truck. Some items cannot be stacked and some items such as tables may have unused volume between the legs. Movers, will typically charge for the packed volume.

Budgeting for your move

  • Accurate estimates lead to accurate budgets: Knowing the cubic metre volume of your move allows for more precise budgeting. It helps avoid surprises in costs and ensures you're comparing apples to apples when getting quotes from different movers and interstate removal services.
  • Moving cost per item: When you're moving, it's important to consider the value of each item you're taking with you. Every item comes with a cost to move, which we call its "moving value." Let's say you bought a pedestal fan for $100, and it takes up 1 cubic metre of space on the truck. If the removalist charges $90 for every cubic metre, then the moving value of your fan is $90. Now, the question is: is it really worth moving the fan? Sometimes, it's more cost-effective to donate or sell unwanted items and buy new ones when you arrive. It's all about finding the best options for you.
  • Cost-saving strategies: By understanding how much space your items take up, you can identify ways to reduce volume, such as selling, donating, or discarding unnecessary items.


For instance, a move requiring a truck of 20 cubic metres might cost significantly less than one requiring 40 cubic metres. This difference is crucial for budget planning.

Common household items and their average volume

  • Standard Sofa: A typical three-seater sofa might measure around 2 cubic metres.
  • Refrigerator: An average-sized refrigerator usually occupies about 1 cubic metre.
  • Washing Machine: Around 0.5 cubic metres is the average space a washing machine occupies
  • Packing Boxes: Standard moving boxes (like a book box) often have a volume of about 0.1 cubic metre.
  • Car Boot Space: The average car boot might hold about 0.4 to 0.5 cubic metres, useful for visualizing smaller moves.

Room size estimations

  • Bedrooms: A small bedroom's furniture and belongings might total around 5-7 cubic metres, while a larger bedroom could be around 10-12 cubic metres.
  • Living Room: Depending on the furniture, a living room can range from 10 to 20 cubic metres.

Tips for reducing cubic metre requirements

By reducing the cubic metre requirements of your move, you not only save on moving costs but also make the process more efficient. A little planning and thoughtful packing can go a long way in achieving a streamlined move. Here are some tips to help you reduce:

Declutter before you pack

  • Sort and donate: Go through your belongings and decide what you can donate or sell. Less stuff means fewer cubic metres to move.
  • Recycle or dispose: Responsibly dispose of items that are no longer usable.

Efficient packing strategies

  • Disassemble large items: Take apart bulky furniture like bed frames and tables. This reduces their volume and makes them easier to transport.
  • Use space wisely: Fill empty spaces inside furniture with smaller items. For example, pack clothes or linens inside drawers.

Choose the right packing materials

  • Use appropriate box sizes: Avoid oversized boxes for small items. Choose boxes that fit your items well to avoid wasting space and more importantly ones that stack.
  • Utilise vacuum bags: For soft items like bedding and clothes, vacuum bags can significantly reduce volume.

Rethink what you really need

  • Essentials only: Especially for long-distance moves, consider if large, bulky items are worth the cost and effort to move. It might be more economical to sell some items and buy new ones at your destination.

Communicating with movers

Having a good chat with your moving company about cubic metres is super important. It helps them give accurate estimates and plan things efficiently. Remember, the more details you share, the smoother your move will be.

Before reaching out to your moving company, make sure you've got your cubic metre calculations sorted. Also, know the specifics like move-out and move-in dates, any special handling needs, and if there are any accessibility challenges.

Key questions to ask

  1. What are the volume-based charges? Ask how the company charges for moves based on cubic metres and if there are any minimum volume requirements.
  2. What size trucks do you have? Inquire about the size of the truck they plan to use and if it aligns with your estimated volume.
  3. What are the additional costs if I go over? Clarify if there are any additional costs associated with volume, such as threshold limits or oversized items.
  4. Do you have an inventory list with a cubic meter calculator? Ask if they can provide a calculator so you can check if your calculations line up with the movers.

Discussing your inventory

  • Itemised list: Provide an itemised list of your belongings, with measurements, if possible, to help the movers visualise the volume.
  • Special items: Highlight any special or bulky items that might require additional space or care.

Common misconceptions about cubic metres in moving

When it comes to moving and cubic metre calculations, several misconceptions can lead to confusion or misjudgments. Let's clear up some of these common myths.

Myth #1: Cubic metres are only about size

  • Fact: When it comes to calculating cubic metre, it's not just about the physical size of items. The way they're packed and their shape can make a big difference too. You see, bulky, non-stackable, and oddly shaped items might actually take up more space than you'd expect based on their dimensions. So, it's something to keep in mind!

Myth#2: Small Items don't affect overall volume much

  • Fact: It's funny how many small things can really take up space when you're moving. It's easy to overlook them, but trust me, it's important to consider the cumulative size of those little belongings, especially when they're all packed up in boxes. You don't want any surprises when the removalist shows up and the extra space they take ends up costing you more. So, make sure to let them know about all those small items, alright? It'll save you some hassle in the end!

Myth#3: Estimations can be done visually

  •  When it comes to estimating cubic metres visually, it's easy to end up with inaccurate results. That's why it's important toFact: measure and calculate precisely, so you don't end up underestimating the space you need.

Myth#4: All moving companies calculate volume the same way

  • Fact: Different movers might have a varying cubic metre formula for calculating the actual cubic metres. It's crucial to understand how your chosen company makes its calculations and provides quotes.

Myth#5: Cubic metres directly translate to truck size

  • Fact: While cubic metres give you a good idea of the exact volume of your items, the actual truck size needed to fit your items might vary, in fact, 99% of the time it will require more space. Factors like the shape of items, their stackability, and the efficiency of packing play a significant role.

Myth#6: Any empty space doesn’t count in volume estimations

  • Fact: When calculating cubic metres, it’s not just the space that your belongings occupy, but also the unused or what we call 'dead space' that you're paying for. Efficient packing minimises this dead space, but movers often account for some empty space in their calculations.

Myth#7: Heavier items mean more cubic metres

  • Fact: Weight and volume are different measurements. A heavy item doesn't necessarily take up more cubic metres. For instance, a heavy metal safe may have less volume than a lightweight but bulky tear-drop hanging chair.

Myth#8: Cubic metres is the only thing that matters

  • Fact: While knowing the volume is important, it is not the only value movers look at in terms of calculating the cost of a move. Movers will want to know the distance of the move, whether it's a local move or a long-distance move and the time taken to carry out the move.

Wrapping Up

So, we've talked about cubic metres and how they play a big role in planning a successful home move. It's not just a simple measurement, it's a key factor in choosing the right truck size and budgeting accurately. By understanding how to calculate and use cubic metres, you can make a real difference.

Getting your cubic metre calculations right leads to more efficient moves, cost savings, and less stress on moving day. Whether you're downsizing or upgrading, knowing your cubic metre requirements is crucial.

We hope this guide has made the concept of cubic metres less confusing and given you the knowledge to plan your move more effectively. Remember, a well-planned move is a well-executed move.

Moving can be tough, but with the right tools and understanding, it can also be a smooth and rewarding journey. Keep these insights about cubic metres in mind, and you'll be well on your way to a successful relocation!

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