imove’s Quick Guide to Moving Estimates

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Just because you have the luxury of hiring a moving company instead of doing all the work yourself doesn’t mean you have money to burn. It’s essential to find a moving company you can trust, at a price you can afford, so you can feel good about this expense. This means understanding the three types of moving estimates.

1. Binding Estimate

When you request a binding estimate from a moving company, the movers visit your home to estimate the weight of all the items you need to move. Because movers charge based on the weight of goods to be moved, this is how they arrive at a price.

On moving day, if your goods weigh more or less than estimated, you still pay the quoted amount. Some people like the certainty of paying a definite price on moving day, while others feel like they will get a better deal if they pay based on the actual weight of their items.

Keep in mind that if you include additional items to be moved after receiving the binding estimate, the price may change. For instance, if you thought you were leaving your washer/dryer behind and then, on moving day, decide to take them, you’ll be charged for the weight of those appliances. Or if you have an attic full of boxes that you forgot to tell the moving company to include in the estimate, you’ll pay more to add these items.

The binding estimate only includes those items the moving company knows about when they write the estimate, which can sometimes lead to disputes. Read your binding estimate carefully to be sure the movers understand exactly what items they need to move.

2. Non-Binding Estimate

A non-binding estimate is the moving company’s “best guess” at the weight of your goods and the cost of the move. The bill you receive on moving day will reflect the actual cost per pound, so it could be much higher or, in rare cases, lower. By law, you have to pay everything up to 10 percent over the estimate on moving day. You then have 30 days to pay the balance. Cornell University Law School explains it this way to moving companies: “The estimate must clearly state that the shipper will not be required to pay more than 110 percent of the non-binding estimate at the time of delivery.”

Buyer beware: Some unscrupulous movers may low-ball a non-binding estimate to get your business.

3. Binding Estimate Not-to-Exceed

A binding estimate not-to-exceed is best for people who don’t want to gamble on their moving bill, but also don’t want to pay more than the actual price-per-pound of items to be moved.

In a binding estimate not-to-exceed, the moving company estimates the price of your move. If your goods weigh less on moving day, you pay less. But if the goods weigh more, you won’t pay more than the estimated amount. As with a binding estimate, if you add goods to be moved after receiving the estimate, the moving company can charge you extra to move those items.

Which Moving Estimate Is Best for You?

If a binding estimate not-to-exceed sounds like the least risky choice when you’re planning a move, you’re right. However, not every company offers this type of estimate. A binding estimate is usually your next best choice because you know how much you’re responsible to pay. This makes budgeting for a move easier.

If you choose a moving company that offers a non-binding estimate, read reviews of the moving company, check Google to see if they are named in any articles or reviews about moving scams, and check their Better Business Bureau listings to ensure you can trust the company and the accuracy of their estimate.

Whenever possible, get all moving estimates in person so the mover can see the actual goods to be moved and arrive at a more accurate price. Always be wary of any moving estimate, even a binding estimate, much lower than the other estimates you receive. The quality of service may not be what you hoped for. It’s not worth taking a chance on having your possessions damaged or – worse – lost.

Featured photo by Dan Moyle/Flickr

About the author

Dawn Allcot has moved six times and has written hundreds of articles about moving, including how to move on a budget, with kids, with pets, and without losing your mind. In her spare time, Dawn enjoys bicycling, shopping, and building memories with her husband and two children.