Avoid Being Scammed by Online Moving Quotes

Christa Baxter
Researcher & Writer
Read More
October 23, 2015
3 min read

At a glance

Moving companies seem pretty straightforward. You tell them what needs to be moved and they give you a quote you can count on. That’s not always how it works, though, particularly when you get an online moving quote.

According to Fox Business, unscrupulous moving companies bank on you not being empowered, not knowing the rules, and not feeling in charge.

Online moving quotes are rarely accurate

Online quotes can be particularly treacherous because they assume that you have listed every possession you will need to have moved. Online quotes also make it easy for a mover to offer a “guesstimate” under the guise of offering an estimate.

Some movers will “spitball” a number hoping to get you to sign a contract, only to hit you with the real price after everything you own is loaded onto their truck.

This is a huge red flag.

There are plenty of good movers out there, but dealing with just one unethical company can drain you emotionally and financially.

The trick is to be savvy, better educated than any moving company would like. Rogue movers have a bit of a pattern. They ask you to fill out a form online, giving them an idea of what you will be moving, then offer a lowball estimate without coming out to see your belongings.

The truth about online moving quotes

The truth is, no moving company can offer a dependable estimate of costs without visiting your home and seeing first-hand what will be moved.

Online quotes certainly have their place. Not only do they offer a good way to make contact with several different moving companies, but online quotes can help fast-track the in-home visit needed for a moving company to offer a legitimate estimate.

Know how to protect yourself

Prepare to be a stronger consumer by knowing what will happen shortly after you place your request for an online quote:

1. Follow up over the phone

Expect a follow-up call. This phone call gives you an opportunity to get a sense of how professional a moving company appears to be. If they want you to commit to a moving date without making an in-home visit, you know to say, “thanks, but no thanks.”

2. Beware of upfront deposits

If, after receiving your request for an online quote, a moving company tells you that they will need a deposit to “hold your place,” you know you’re being scammed. According to Today Money, reputable moving companies never ask for an upfront deposit.

3. Perform an in-house inventory

While an online estimate is a great way to be introduced, there are several things that need to happen following the initial estimate. First and foremost, companies need to send an estimator to your home to take inventory of your belongings and offer a moving estimate you can bank on. If you want to check a company out prior to allowing an estimator into the house, begin by visiting Movingscam.com

4. Binding vs. non-binding estimates

It is important to understand the difference between the two types of estimates, binding and nonbinding. A binding estimate guarantees the total cost of the move, while a non-binding estimate approximates what it will cost. If you hate surprises, opt for a company that offers a binding estimate. The only way a company is going to offer you a binding estimate is if they have a very strong idea of what the job will entail.

5. Choose estimates by weight

Make certain that your final estimate is based on weight and not on cubic feet. When a moving company charges by weight they are obligated by law to provide proof of weight. They have no such obligation to provide proof of how many cubic feet they are transporting.

Know that not every company offering online estimates is licensed. It is up to you to find out if the company in consideration is. You can do so by searching for the company at protectyourmove.gov.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that most of us will move 11.7 times during our lifetimes. All that moving offers plenty of opportunity for dishonest companies who will use their online quote systems as a lure for naïve consumers.

But now you can go into this move with your eyes open and an action plan in place to protect your belongings.

Christa Baxter
Written by
Christa Baxter
Christa Baxter has worked as an editor for more than eight years and specialized in moving content for the last three. She leads the Move.org content team in producing whip-smart moving tips and recs. After relocating four times in the last calendar year, she’s got strong opinions about moving best practices. (Just don’t ever pull a Marie Kondo and suggest she whittle down her personal library.) She earned a BA and MA in English with a minor in editing.