If you’ve ever received a quote for a full-service move, you know how expensive it can be—especially if you’re planning for a long-distance relocation. Don’t worry: we’re here to help you avoid the unexpected costs of moving when you hire a professional moving company. Here are some ways you can keep that bottom line as low as possible:
How to Avoid Extra Fees from Your Moving Company
Get the right kind of estimate
Professional moving companies can offer different types of estimates (or quotes), and your final move costs can vary depending on the one you choose. While binding-not-to-exceed estimates are the best for saving money, there are three types of estimates you can receive:
Non-binding estimates are an estimate of the overall moving cost based on the weight of all your items, and the services being provided. It’s not ideal for the customer because it does not hold the mover to final costs—which may end up being higher (or in some unlikely cases, lower) than the original estimate.
Binding estimates guarantee a fixed cost within a certain time frame (usually 30 days). These estimates are also based on weight, so that means you will still have to pay the entire cost even if the shipment comes in under-weight. Note: You will also have to pay more if you add items at the last minute.
Binding-not-to-exceed estimates are similar to binding estimates, but they are the most ideal option because you’re not required to pay additional money if the overall weight is greater than originally quoted. Plus, you may end up paying less than your original estimate if your shipment comes in underweight—because with these types of estimates, you are charged for the actual (or final) weight of the shipment.
Your home inventory is probably the most important part of your move because it’s what all your moving services will be based on. So knowing exactly how to perform one is important in order to make sure your pricing is accurate. Make sure to check your inventory multiple times, and immediately inform your mover if you plan to add or remove anything from your inventory before move day.
Check for the services you actually need
Professional movers should never try to intentionally deceive you, but it’s always a good idea to make sure these additional services are included in your estimate if you need them—otherwise you may be unpleasantly surprised if final bill includes:
- Extra pickup or delivery stops
- Packing, unpacking, and accurate loading labor
- Packing materials and moving supplies
- Travel fee/trip charge (for laborers to travel to and from location)
- Fuel costs
- Equipment fees (for trucks, dollies, ratchet straps, etc)
- Long haul (or long-carry) fees
- Disconnecting fees (for gas and water lines)
- Stair carry or elevator fees
- Bulky (heavy) or large item fees
- Shuttle fee
- Additional moving insurance
- Moving cancellation fee
- Furniture disassembly or reassembly
- Expedited or guaranteed delivery
- Storage (or delayed delivery) fees
- Hoisting fees
- Waiting fee (if the movers have to wait on you)
- Disposal fee (also called an environmental fee)
Moving companies are exempt from sales tax in most states which means that if they offer any services that involve the relocation of personal property, (like packing, loading, and unloading, for example), they don’t have to pay tax. So that means you won’t have to pay for it either! (Moving companies may still charge sales tax on moving supplies, though.)
Make sure your estimate is accurate
- Get multiple quotes and avoid under-quoting. It can be tempting to underestimate what services you’ll need to save money, but it’ll just end up costing you in the long run. Make sure to get quotes from multiple movers—and remember it’s always better to overestimate instead.
- Make sure your estimate is based on the full inventory of items you plan to move. This means you should receive an estimate after you’ve already gotten rid of the things you don’t want to move, and purchased everything you do want to move—otherwise your price could change. This is especially important if you plan to pay for packing!
- Read your quote carefully to make sure nothing is missing. Missing items or services can lead to big last-minute charges on move day, so make sure to read your estimate before your moving crew arrives.
- Make sure you understand what your estimate says. If there is anything you do not understand, it is your responsibility to ask your mover about it in advance. Not knowing what you’re signing up for can be a costly mistake.
Avoid moving scams. You are entitled to ask a moving company whether or not they are licensed by the FMCSA, or Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. If they aren’t, it’s best to move on to another company to avoid potential hidden costs or unethical business practices that could end up costing you thousands.
What should be included at no additional cost
Reputable movers should still offer a few basic services (outside loading and transportation) at no additional cost to you:
- A free initial survey and estimate
- Protection for your home from moving crews (think: floor coverings)
- Disposal of all packing materials (referred to as a debris removal)
- Released value protection, or basic transit insurance
- GPS tracking (if available)
Other ways to cut moving costs
There are several factors that can affect the overall cost of your move: distance, home size, location, and timing. Most of these factors are nonnegotiable, but if you’re serious about cutting costs, here are some additional ways to save:
- Location: If the place that you’re moving from (or the place you’re moving to) is hard to access, plan on some added fees for the movers to be able to reach you. If you’re still in the early planning stages of your move, consider a new home with easy moving truck access. It may save you some extra money.
- Timing: “Peak Season” (spring and summer months) will be more expensive, while “Off Season” (fall and winter months) will be cheaper, and costs can vary depending on whether your move is emergency/last minute, at the beginning or end of the month, or on a weekday versus a weekend. Your savings will be higher if you’re willing to move in the winter simply because most people aren’t.
- Distance: Whether you’re moving locally or going long distance will impact the cost of your move because most transportation costs are calculated by the number of miles traveled. If your final destination is flexible, staying local will save you a lot of cash.
- Home size: You can expect a two-bedroom apartment move to cost significantly less than a five-bedroom family home. Not necessarily because of the size of your home, but because of the number of things you’ll probably own to fill it. So if you’re budget conscious, see what you can sell, donate, or dump before you move.
Avoiding unnecessary fees during a professional move is easy as long as you play close attention to the type of estimate you receive from your moving company. You’ll also want to make sure your estimate is accurate and includes all the services you need for a successful move. Finally, always communicate closely with your move team to make sure you understand what to expect during your move.
How to avoid hidden fees FAQ
What are some unforeseen moving costs?
Some unforeseen moving costs include (but are not limited to): fees for extra pickup or delivery stops, fuel and travel fees, delayed delivery fees, and additional insurance. These are just a few areas that may not be included in your estimate and could cause your final bill to be much higher. And don’t forget your travel and new cost of living expenses!
Why do moving companies charge so much?
Moving companies seem to charge a lot of money because they have a lot of expenses to cover: from labor for packing and loading the moving truck in any circumstance to fuel costs and equipment fees, you can be sure your money is being well spent. You can always ask your moving company to itemize (or break down) everything you’re being charged for.
Do movers charge tax?
No, most moving companies will not charge sales tax on the cost of their moves. There is no tax on services like packing, loading, and transportation. That said—moving companies will probably charge sales tax on any packing materials (like boxes and tape).
Do moving companies charge extra for stairs?
They sure do. Along with elevators, difficult-to-access locations, and heavy or bulky items. And that’s not it, there’s a long list of services you should make sure are included in your estimate (if you need them) before you sign on the dotted line.