While it’d be tempting to schedule the first moving company that pops up in Google just to save yourself one more hassle, any smart customer knows that comparison shopping will lead you to the best deal on shoes, hair dryers…and yes, moving companies.
When the pricing ranges between $25-$100 per mover, per hour, shaving a few dollars off the rate could save you a nice chunk of change. Follow these tips for how to collect accurate moving quotes so that the movers arrive on time with a plan of attack—and you don’t walk away with sticker shock.
Tip #1: Start collecting moving quotes as soon as possible
Moving.Tips, a comprehensive site driven by moving professionals that has helped more than 300,000 people organize their move, says that sooner is far preferable to later when it comes to starting the process of collecting quotes for your move for a few reasons:
- Early birds snag the moving discounts
- Choose from a wider selection because fewer companies will be booked for your moving date. You’ll be able to confirm and reserve the moving day you want, letting you focus on other parts of the move.
If you’ve got the flexibility to coordinate a move during offseason, you could save big on moving expenses. However, sellers with a set closing date don’t usually have the luxury to change their move time. In the event that you’re locked into a summer move, it’s especially important that you start the moving quote inquiry process early. Of the approximately 40 million Americans who relocate annually, most do so between May and September.
Tip #2: Collect no fewer than 3 moving quotes
Plan to get at least three or four moving companies to give you an estimate for the purposes of price comparison. You’ll kick yourself down the road if you realize you went with the most expensive mover in town simply because you didn’t do the homework.
You won’t have trouble finding moving companies, according to American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) research, the moving industry consists of 7,000 companies operating at just shy of 14,000 locations providing mostly moving and storage services for household and office goods.
A few questions you should expect to ask potential movers when getting estimates, according to My Moving Reviews, a decade-old online consumer resource:
- Are you willing to provide an on-site binding written estimate? An in-home estimate is your only chance at getting an accurate price quote, and even then, you should budget for the move to cost more.
- Can you offer any discounts or promotions? It never hurts to ask.
- How long will the move take? You need to know this not only for purposes of pricing, but so that you can fit the physical move into your already-packed schedule.
Don’t be afraid to ask your real estate agent for suggestions and guidance on local movers. “We’re certainly happy to refer them to vendors,” says Kimberly Plourde, a Virginia-based agent with 21 years of experience. “I’m a full-service agent … you build a pretty good network. We’re problem-solvers, and if you’ve got a good Realtor on your side, they’ll help you find solutions.”
Tip #3: Understand the moving estimate terminology
As defined by Consumer Affairs, a Better Business Bureau-accredited online consumer resource center, the different types of estimates you can expect to receive include:
- A binding moving estimate, which holds the mover to the price that they quote you so long as there are no changes in the job itself.
- Non-binding moving estimate, which is simply a statement of a mover’s best guess of your total cost. The final price will likely differ depending on your shipment’s weight and the services you choose. By law, you need only be required to pay 110% of your written estimate at the time of delivery, with the balance billed at a later date.
- Binding-not-to-exceed moving estimate, which is similar to a binding estimate but holds that you’ll pay less than the quote if your items turn out to weigh less than the estimate.
Tip #4: Get in-home rather than over-the phone estimates
Move.org, an online consumer resource center founded to offer practical solutions to the difficulties of relocation, breaks down the difference between an in-home estimate and an over-the-phone estimate:
- An in-home estimate requires that a moving agent will come to your home to assess the cost in person. This is considered the most comprehensive way to get an accurate quote since the agent will be able to evaluate what you’ve got with his or her own eyes.
- An over-the-phone estimate may be considered less of a hassle—but is also typically less accurate, especially if you’re not home at the time of the call and must recount from memory what needs to be moved. If you go this route, Move.org recommends that you get ready for your phone call by creating a list of the inventory you wish to move so that you don’t have to rely on recollection should you be away from your house when you make the call.
So what makes the in-house estimate a better bet? Simply the fact that it is the most accurate option and therefore will save you trouble in the long run.
Think of it this way: it may require a little more effort upfront given that you’ll need to be home to meet the estimator, but you will also walk away with a more accurate picture of what you should plan to spend on your move rather than confront a nasty surprise down the road. Whichever way you choose to receive it, you should expect the estimate to take 45 minutes to calculate.
Tip #5: Know the limits of your insurance
Let’s face it: accidents happen. Regardless of how carefully you may pack and the amount of caution used by your professional movers, there is always the risk that your favorite vase or your prized big-screen television could end up in pieces on the ground.
That’s where moving insurance comes in. While the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association mandates that all transport firms are liable for the value of whatever goods they transport, don’t mistake this for insurance. Angie’s List breaks down the two types of basic liability that must be offered by any moving company:
- Full value
- Released value
Only the former means that the mover is financially responsible for your shipment’s entire value—and it comes at an extra cost. With released value, the company must only pay no more than 60 cents per pound per item, a significant reduction from the true value.
You should know that homeowners’ insurance has limitations on how much it will cover in the event of damage during a move. Make certain that your policy comes with comprehensive perils coverage, which as opposed to named perils includes coverage for collision or upset and the resultant damage.
Also, remember that you will still have to pay your deductible, which may range between $500 and $2,000 or more, in order to take advantage of this coverage.
Tip #6: Don’t be fooled by quotes far out of range from others
When you get a quote that seems far lower than the rest, there may be something wrong there. Lowball quotes are described by UnPakt, a comprehensive online moving-resource engine, as follows:
- Phone estimates with nothing in writing
- Too-good-to-be-true prices that don’t include essentials such as gas or labor fees
- A no-questions-asked quote that doesn’t take into account the particulars of your individual situation
You can avoid this situation by getting multiple quotes from well-regarded companies—referrals are best! Make sure you get an in-home consultation as well as a quote in writing. Also, be sure to check for different payment models. Local moves typically are paid per-hour, while long-distance hauls are charged by weight.
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