How to Keep Moving Quotes From Spiraling Out of Control

Long before you start packing, the monumental task of moving to a new home all starts with your going online or picking up the phone to get some moving quotes. These estimates give you a ballpark figure of how much you’ll pay to safely transport all of your prized possessions, but like all estimates, they can be off base. Waaayyyy off base.

To help you keep a lid on your moving costs, we called on moving experts to share how you can get the most accurate estimates so you don’t have to worry about last-minute surprises on your bill.

Types of moving quotes

When it comes to moving, there are binding and nonbinding estimates. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, movers who provide a binding estimate can’t require consumers to pay any more than the estimated amount at delivery. However, getting a binding estimate upfront may incur an initial fee, and full payment will be due immediately upon delivery.

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A nonbinding estimate is free. But FMCSA advises that “you should expect the final cost to be more than the estimate,” usually about 10%.

No matter which type of estimate you get, the most important thing is to get everything in writing, meaning a list of every service included in the price.

What are moving quotes based on?

Estimates are initially based on how big your items are and the amount of square footage they will take up in the moving truck, according to Lior Rachmany, founder and CEO of Brooklyn-based Dumbo Moving + Storage. The distance between your current and new home is another factor that has a huge impact on an estimate. If you plan on having the movers pack and unpack your belongings, that will normally tack on more than a few extra dollars as well.

How can estimates be so wrong?

Estimates that go off the rails—and into the red—can usually be blamed on people incorrectly guessing the amount of boxes they will have.

“Everyone has more items than they realize,” says Rachmany. As a result, people underestimate just how many items they’ll need help moving when they initially get a quote online or over the phone. So when the movers arrive and see all the extra stuff piled by the curb—stuff that wasn’t listed on the estimate—it can lead to a price increase on moving day.

Remember, movers cannot legally change the price after the items are moved. The new price must be agreed upon before the moving truck leaves your old home. Also, beware of popular moving scams, including one that involves holding your possessions hostage.

Ways to keep a moving cost estimate on track

Instead of trying to figure out on your own just how many boxes it will take to safely transport your furniture, Rachmany advises you have a moving company do an in-home estimate where it actually comes to your home to make its assessment.

“They’ll do a survey of all your items and give you an accurate moving quote,” he says.

Other money-saving tips? Avoid paying for overtime by doing your own packing and making sure your moving company charges you by the job and not by the hour. Inconveniences like traffic or endless flights of stairs will quickly jack up the price.

“With a binding price, you don’t have to keep an eye on the clock,” says Ross Sapir, CEO and founder of Roadway Moving. “You will receive a guaranteed price so that there are no surprises on moving day.”

Always research the moving company

Sapir also advises you to do your research.

“Make sure you are dealing with a reputable moving company,” he says. All moving companies are required to be licensed with the Department of Transportation and to renew that license annually. “Ask for their U.S. DOT number and check online reviews from real clients.”

You can also search the FMCSA website for complaints using the DOT number. It’s a good idea to ask whether the company hires third parties to complete its long distance moves; if it does, always research the outside company as well.

Keep moving costs low

As with everything in life, you can never be too prepared (unless, of course, you’re prepping for doomsday). Keep your costs down by planning ahead and booking your moving company well in advance. Be specific with the moving company about your requirements for extra-care handling, which may entail an additional cost. Adjusting your move-out date by a couple of days could earn you a significant discount, so try to be flexible. And always make sure to have the proper materials—bubble wrap or newspaper—for packing fragile items like flat-screen TVs. If that Iron Throne replica statue needs to be repacked on moving day to prevent damage, you could incur additional fees.

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