What Goes Into a Moving Estimate?

Frank Lanigan
Sep 27, 2022
Icon Time To Read6 min read

At a glance

Before you decide whether or not to hire a full-service moving company for your move, it’s a great idea to receive a moving estimate from a few companies in your area. A moving estimate is a way for moving companies to see what items you have, how many movers will be needed, and discuss the logistics of your move. Moving estimates are often more reliable than an online moving cost calculator. With these free consultations, you can:

  • Get your moving cost and compare prices between companies
  • Take an inventory of which items you want to move
  • Get advice from professional moving coordinators on ways to save money

Learn more about which moving estimate method is best for you, factors that affect your quote, and the difference between binding and non-binding estimates.

Is a DIY move for you?

After gathering some estimates, did you decide to try to save money and move yourself? Start with performing a home inventory so that you know what’s going with you on moving day.

The debate: in-person, video chat, or phone moving estimates?

There are three ways that a moving company can give you an estimate: in-person, over the phone, or through video chat. While it can be more convenient to receive an assessment over the phone or through video chat, the accuracy of an in-person estimate is tough to beat.

When deciding which type of estimate to use, it’s best to focus on one thing above all else: the optimal method to get a complete and clear picture of your move from start to finish. This can be done through a phone or video chat estimate—especially if you’re moving from a small house or apartment. If you feel that a phone or video chat moving estimate can fully capture your needs, then either can be an excellent option.

Benefits of an in-person moving estimate

The in-person moving estimate is our pick for one big reason: accuracy. Often, some items may slip your mind on a video or phone call. It is even more likely that the moving coordinator may not see an item if they aren’t there in person. Of course, it can be a bit more hassle to schedule an in-person moving estimate, but you can be sure that you’re getting a moving coordinator's full attention and expertise.

Info Box
Are you moving locally?

If you’re moving across town or in-state, check out our list of the best local movers in your area.

Additionally, an in-person moving quote means you could save on your moving cost. Sometimes certain pieces can be disassembled or broken down to save space on the moving truck, and if the moving coordinator can see how it breaks down, you may be able to save a few dollars.

When you and the coordinator are on-location, you can ask questions as they come up regarding specific belongings, scope best locations for loading and unloading, and discuss other logistics for moving day. Talk with your estimator about your moving budget and ask if there are any ways to save on your moving costs. Self-packing or asking about available discounts are good ways to save on moving. They want your moving day to go as smoothly as possible, too!

Whichever option you choose, you must be at your property during the estimate. It’s mandatory to be there for an in-person or video chat assessment anyway, but it can be tempting to knock out a phone estimate while at work or on the go. If you’re relying only on memory of furniture dimensions or square footage, it can lead to a higher moving cost than anticipated.

Heads Up
Watch out for companies that charge by cubic foot

Reputable professional moving companies (especially interstate movers) don’t charge by each cubic foot of space your belongings take up. Instead, they charge you based on the weight of your shipment. Be sure to double-check your moving estimate to see what metric the company uses to calculate prices. When getting an estimate, pay attention to this and other moving scams you may encounter.

What should a moving estimate include?

For local moves, most of your moving costs will come down to a flat rate for the number of items you’re transporting, how much time it'll take to load your things, and how much space they take up in the moving truck.

Driving time and distance for long-distance or interstate moves, on the other hand, becomes a much more significant part of the equation.

Here are the common factors of a professional moving company quote:

  • Total weight of your inventory
  • Amount and size of furniture you have
  • Number of movers needed on moving day
  • How easily movers can transport inventory (for example, whether your sectional won’t make it through the front door)
  • Distance you’re moving. Travel costs account for fuel costs and the time it takes movers to get from old home to new home.
  • Route your movers take between your old and new home (some companies have different rates in different regions, and rural areas almost always cost more)
  • Number of stairs or elevators movers use to move belongings (also known as a flight charge)
  • Time of year (moving prices usually increase during the summer, for example, because it’s the most popular time to move)
  • Additional moving services like packing, disassembly of furniture, moving speciality items, custom crafting, etc.
  • Some moves require long-term or short-term storage.
  • Moving coverage. Most moving companies offer Basic Release Value Protection and Full Value Protection.

Because every move is unique, moving companies don’t have set prices—it’s all case-by-case. For a more in-depth review of overall pricing, check out our article on average moving costs.

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Tip: Get an itemized cost breakdown

In most cases, a moving company will give you a full itemized cost breakdown. You must get this to see where your money is going—if a company won’t provide it, it’s best to move on to a company that will so that you aren’t overcharged. Companies often keep a separate inventory for high-value items, so ask about specific pricing for your valuable furniture.

What’s the difference between binding and non-binding estimates?

In a binding moving estimate, a mover can’t change the quoted price on moving day. You’ll pay the price you and your moving coordinator set, even if you take out items included in your moving estimate. Sometime between your moving estimate and moving day, you may decide that you’d like to throw out or donate certain pieces of furniture.

Keep in mind that if you add something to your move after you’ve already gotten your binding estimate, your price can still go up on moving day. If your mover shows up and you have a sofa or desk that isn’t included in your estimate, you should plan to pay extra.

This is why it’s essential that you fully disclose everything you’re moving to your estimator and why an in-person estimate is recommended for larger properties. Knowing which of your belongings will be moved and an accurate estimate will give you the closest approximation of your total moving cost.

In a non-binding moving quote, a moving company can change the quoted price on moving day. The final breakdown of everything is flexible and will depend on the weight of your belongings, the labor and services provided, and any taxes.

The takeaway

Whether you choose an in-person, phone, or video chat estimate, be sure that you feel like your move is completely captured in your moving estimate. An accurate estimate and clear communication between you and your moving company will help to ensure an efficient moving day.

Moving estimate FAQ

How much time will it take to get an estimate?

The time needed to get your written estimate is roughly the same for all three options—on average, it takes around 45 minutes. That said, every estimate comes down to how big your current home is and how many household goods you need to move.

How should I prepare for a moving estimate?

Whichever option you choose for an estimate, make sure your house is clear of clutter and that furniture, especially large pieces, is accessible for your moving coordinator to see or measure.

How can I set up an appointment to get an estimate?

You can schedule either estimate by filling out a form online or simply giving your moving company a call. We recommend filling out the form—it takes all of two minutes, and a representative calls you back to set up a time for an estimate anyway, regardless of your method of choice.

When should I schedule an estimate?

The date of your move will likely affect whether or not your moving company of choice is available, so we recommend scheduling an appointment as soon as you decide to move or once you know when you’re moving. You can sometimes be charged extra for an expedited move, so be sure to give the moving company plenty of notice.

A good rule of thumb is to schedule your estimate at least four weeks before your preferred move date.

Does getting an estimate cost money?

No, moving companies are required to give no-cost estimates. But moving companies recognize the value in providing estimates—they establish rapport with customers and help those customers make informed decisions about booking.

How do I know if the estimate is legit?

To be on the safe side, we recommend scheduling three estimates with three different companies so you can compare prices, find trends between each estimate, and then pick the best option for you.  Please take a look at some of our top 5 moving companies to start your search.

Frank Lanigan
Written by
Frank Lanigan
Frank Lanigan is a writer and internationally-published journalist who has over a decade of experience in the moving industry. With thousands of completed moves under his belt, Frank hopes to bring years of experience to Move.org and help readers to navigate moving day with ease.