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What to know about moving quotes

Learn how to get started when hiring movers

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Written by Jessica Render
Edited by Cassidy McCants

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    Professional help can make moving a lot easier, but it can be tough to know where to begin if you’ve never hired movers before. Movers can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the company you hire, how far you’re going and what packing and moving services you select. Gathering moving quotes gets you started and helps avoid any surprises on your bill.

    Key insights

    • Quotes based on in-person surveys tend to be more accurate.
    • You should get at least three quotes before you choose a mover.
    • Only binding estimates guarantee your price.
    • Watch out for additional moving fees.
    • Make sure moving insurance is factored into your quote.

    How to get a moving company quote

    To get a moving estimate, start by finding movers near you. Different moving companies have varying quote processes, so see what’s available from the movers you’re interested in.

    Often, movers provide a simple estimate online and then schedule an in-person follow-up where they can survey your belongings and give you a more detailed quote. Quotes are generally free, but it’s worth checking this to make sure.

    Moving quotes vs. instant ballpark estimates

    While many moving companies provide instant quotes on their websites, these are really only useful for establishing a ballpark figure of what you’ll spend. Every move is different, so an estimate based on how many rooms your home has can be misleading.

    A reviewer from North Carolina mentioned to us that their original ballpark quote for moving their parents’ belongings was “way off” due to a full attic they didn’t know about.

    This uncertainty is why most companies prefer to see your home in person at some point before the move. As a general rule, you’ll receive more accurate quotes from movers who inspect your home in person.

    As a general rule, you’ll receive more accurate quotes from movers who inspect your home in person.”

    If you’re moving across state lines, your mover must rules established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These rules say interstate movers must provide written estimates and that if you’re moving from within 50 miles of the mover’s (or broker’s) location, they have to base the estimate on a physical survey of your belongings unless you waive the requirement in writing.

    How many moving quotes should I get?

    We recommend you gather quotes from at least three moving companies in your area. Three quotes are just enough to give some context to the prices you’re seeing and help you spot potential red flags, like a price that’s drastically higher or lower than the competition offers. Gathering more quotes can arm you with even more information, however.

    Types of moving estimates

    You may hear some unfamiliar terms thrown around regarding moving quotes and estimates. It’s important to understand which type of estimate a company provides — and which type you want.

    • Nonbinding moving estimate: A nonbinding moving quote is a document with the mover’s best guess of your moving expenses. Although the actual bill may run much higher than the nonbinding estimate, your mover can only require you to pay up to 110% of the written quote at the time of delivery. You’ll be billed for any remaining charges later.
    • Binding moving estimate: If the mover gives you a binding quote, the company is required to honor the price it provides you as long as nothing changes. If you only move the items listed on the inventory sheet, the final price should match what appears on the binding estimate.
    • Binding-not-to-exceed moving estimate: A binding-not-to-exceed estimate is the same as a binding estimate, except you'll pay less than the quoted price if your items weigh less than what's estimated.

    How do movers calculate cost?

    Moving costs are usually calculated differently based on the type of move you’re undertaking:

    • Local moves: Local movers typically charge by the hour, though the number of movers needed is also a factor. Additional services and specialized needs in the moving process add to the cost, but you can still expect to get a per-hour estimate.
    • Long-distance moves: If you’re moving across the country, your quote will primarily be based on the weight of your belongings rather than an hourly rate.

    However, many factors still play into the total cost you’ll pay for a move, even if they’re not listed on your written estimate. These include:

    • The size of your home
    • Your location
    • The distance you’re moving
    • Any extra stops you need
    • The time of year
    staircase in home

    Moving fees and additional costs

    In addition to the most common factors that affect moving costs, moving companies charge for extra services or certain conditions that make moving more difficult. Talk to your mover about all the services it charges extra for, and ensure the mover includes everything you need in the quote and on your written estimate.

    If movers have to carry items up or down any stairs, they’ll likely charge an additional fee. One flight is typically included, but this isn’t always the case. If either your old or new house has stairs, ask if the company charges a stair fee and make sure this fee is included in the written estimate.
    If movers have to carry furniture and boxes a long way from your house to the truck, you can expect them to charge a long-carry (or long-haul) fee. The written estimate should specify the maximum distance the movers will carry before this fee applies. If it doesn’t, ask the movers to specify this distance in writing.
    If a large moving truck or semitruck can’t park close to your house, the moving company will need to use a smaller truck or van to shuttle items from the house to the truck or vice versa.

    Ask the moving company about the size of its pickup and delivery trucks. If power lines or lack of parking will prevent the truck from getting to your home, ask about the fee for a shuttle service and factor that into your final cost. A company with a slightly higher rate per pound might be cheaper in the long run if it uses a smaller truck to pick up and deliver shipments.

    Most moving companies offer packing services. You’ll pay a premium for this option, but it may be worth the price if you have limited mobility or you’re looking for a low-stress move. All fees for packing services and materials should be clearly listed on the estimate. You can have the company box everything or only specific items. Some moving companies charge per item, while others charge per hour.
    If you need to move a piano, a large safe or any other especially heavy items, discuss this with the moving company in advance. Not all companies are capable of handling these items, and those that are will likely charge an additional fee. These items should be listed on your moving inventory with a special note if there’ll be an extra charge for moving them.
    If you have to change the date of your move or you decide to take more items than you originally planned, you might incur additional fees. Though most companies can accommodate last-minute changes, these adjustments might mean a company has to replan or provide more staff.
    It’s often appropriate to tip the moving crew, and a standard tip is about $20 to $40 per day per mover. Adjust this amount based on the quality of the service provided and the time spent at your house.

    If the moving company says not to tip the moving crew, honor that request. Tipping the movers anyway could cause problems for them with their supervisors.

    Limited-value vs. full-value protection moving insurance

    Insurance costs can also make up a large portion of your moving budget.

    Movers must accept liability for your items while they have the shipment, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be reimbursed the cost of replacing an item if it’s damaged during the move. Your written moving estimate should specify the type of moving insurance coverage the mover will provide.

    • Full-value protection moving insurance: With full-value protection moving insurance, movers are typically required to pay for a damaged item, repair it or replace it. The exact cost of this insurance will vary by mover.
    • Limited-value moving insurance: Limited-value coverage, also called released value coverage, is based solely on the weight of your items. For interstate moves, the moving company must legally accept liability at 60 cents per pound per item. So, if the movers drop your new 42-inch TV that weighs 30 pounds, the company will only reimburse you $18. Talk to your mover and read the fine print on your written estimate and other paperwork to understand your protection.
    • Third-party insurance: Several third-party companies offer moving insurance. Like purchasing full-value coverage from your mover, this option costs extra, but it might be worth it in the long run. For these policies, you typically declare an overall value and select a deductible amount. Read the policies carefully and check online reviews to choose an insurer with a good reputation.

    Remember: Different laws and regulations come into play with long-distance moves across state lines. For local moves or moves within a single state, contact your state attorney general’s office for specific information on liability and insurance. For information about interstate moves, visit the U.S. Department of Transportation FMCSA website on moving.

    4 quick tips for getting moving quotes

    Keep the following in mind as you review quotes and choose a moving company:

    1. Do not sign blank documents

    Don’t sign blank or incomplete estimates, and don’t use any moving company that asks you to do so. The FMCSA advises that the only pieces of info that might not appear in legitimate paperwork are the weight of your belongings (on a nonbinding estimate) and unforeseen charges from transit.

    If the mover asks you to sign incomplete documents the day of the move, tell them you need to reschedule and then use a different moving company. A mover can scam you by having you sign an incomplete estimate and then adding charges you never agreed to.

    2. Choose interstate movers that charge based on weight

    Most legitimate long-distance movers charge based on the shipment’s weight. A few moving companies charge based on the volume of your cargo measured in cubic feet, but it’s much easier for a moving company to overcharge you this way. Your best bet is to ask how the company figures its rates and to only get complete quotes from ones that charge per pound.

    3. Get an accurate inventory list

    When you get the written estimate, the moving company should also provide a full inventory list of everything it will move. The inventory is sometimes called a cube sheet or a table of measurements. Get a copy and check it carefully for accuracy. Make sure each piece of furniture is on the list, including smaller items like end tables. It should also include an approximate number of boxes.

    4. Consider your moving date

    The time of year significantly affects moving costs, with higher charges more common during the summer. When you get your quote, ask whether the price would change if you adjusted the date by a few days or weeks.

    Also, ask how long the quote is good for. If you wait too long to book the move, you may need to get a new quote.

    woman signing paperwork

    Bottom line

    Getting a moving quote is often the first step of hiring a mover, and comparing multiple quotes can help you find a good deal. Examine all your moving paperwork carefully, including your estimate. Reading all the fine print can potentially help you avoid a moving scam or an unexpected expense.

    If anything on your estimate is unclear, ask the moving company to provide specifics in writing. If charges seem unreasonable, get a quote from another company. Only sign an estimate and officially hire the mover if you feel confident in its trustworthiness.

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