What Goes Into a Moving Estimate?

The lowdown

Hiring full-service movers is the most expensive option available in the moving process, but by using a moving service you save on time and effort while avoiding potential new grey hairs. Once you’ve found a full-service moving company you’re willing to spend money on, getting an estimate can help you know how much to prepare for.

A moving estimate helps moving companies determine how many crew members and how much equipment to provide for the move. It’s also a chance to identify challenging logistics like how mover-friendly your current home is and how to arrange furniture in the moving truck.

Lucky for you, there are two ways you can get your quote: an in-house estimate or an over-the-phone estimate.

The details

What’s the difference between an in-home estimate and an over-the-phone estimate?

An in-home moving estimate means a moving agent will come to your home and assess how much your move will cost. This is the most accurate estimate type for providing prospective movers with quotes on how much the whole shebang will cost.

An over-the-phone moving estimate is the easier, lower-hassle version of its in-home counterpart. That said, it’s usually a less accurate estimate than an in-home estimate. You’ll still work closely with a moving coordinator by walking them through everything you need moved, but if you’re away from home when you make the call, you run the risk of relying on recollection.

We recommend preparing for your phone call by making a list of all the inventory you want to move so you can use it as a guide during your phone call.

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Virtual estimates are coming

Virtual estimates are coming

Some moving companies are beginning to use apps that allow you to get moving estimates virtually by walking your phone through your home and taking pictures or recording video of your inventory.

What factors affect a moving quote?

Factors that influence your moving cost range anywhere from how much space the moving van has in the driveway to the number of stairs movers have to hustle up. Here’s a full list of other things that will determine how much moola you end up spending in total.

  • The amount of furniture you have and how much space it’ll take up in a moving truck
  • How well your items fit into a moving truck
  • How easily movers are able to transport inventory in and out (for example, whether your sectional won’t make it through the front door)
  • The total weight of your inventory
  • The distance you’ll be moving
  • The number of stairs or use of elevators movers have to account for when moving goods to and fro (also known as 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, custom crafting, etc.

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 moving costs.

What can I expect from an in-home estimate?

An in-home moving estimate is the more common option of estimate types—and that’s because it’s the most accurate. Allowing moving companies in your home to calculate the cost of your move lets the agent see all your inventory and include things you may have forgotten otherwise.

A moving coordinator will poke their heads in any cabinets, closets, and other areas that aren’t visible—like underneath beds. So if you have a cabinet that things tend to disappear into, now’s the time to clean it out.

A lot of people wonder if they need to be home during an in-home moving estimate—and the answer is yes. You do have to be there to walk them through each room. A phone estimate, however, means you can be wherever your heart desires.

What can I expect from an over-the-phone estimate?

With an over-the-phone estimate you skip out on having to take time off work and walking a stranger through your house.

The consultant you’ll speak with will ask about the logistics of your move (e.g., beginning and end locations, move date, etc.). From here, you’ll list the items you want to move room by room to a rep—and this is where you can forget things on your inventory if you’re not careful.

In an in-home estimate, you can walk from room to room and make sure you’re including everything, whereas in an over-the-phone estimate, you may not be at home, and could potentially forget certain things like wall decor or your knockoff Turkish rug.

While good moving companies know this and will remind you of these things, you should create a thorough list of your inventory before you call— just to be safe.

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Pro tip

Pro tip

Generally, if your home is bigger than a two-bedroom apartment your best bet is to go with an in-home moving estimate.

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

In a binding moving estimate, movers can’t change the quote price on moving day. Basically, you’ll pay the set price you and your agent planned for, even if you added or took out items included in your moving estimate.

So even if you decided last minute to throw out your ratty college futon, you’d still have to pay the price you were originally quoted.

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FYI

FYI

In a binding estimate, movers are obligated to move your goods for the price they quoted. But it must be clearly stated in writing that your estimate is binding.

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

Don’t fret, though: the mover can’t make you pay more than 110% of your quote.

If numbers are your thing and you want to know exactly how much your move is going to cost you, you’re probably better off using a binding estimate.

How much time will it take to get an estimate?

The event of receiving an estimate is roughly the same for both options—on average it takes around forty-five minutes. That said, every estimate comes down to how big your current crib is and how much you need to move.

Ultimately, though, in-home estimates require more prep time when you factor in how long it’ll take you to get home if you’re leaving work to meet the consultant plus how long it’ll take to clean and prepare the house for the evaluation.

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

You can schedule either estimate by filling out a form online or by 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.

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 giving 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. And, as you now know, over-the-phone estimates make that easy if you’re strapped for time.

Ready to get your moving estimate?

Use our Find-a-Mover tool to see which companies would fit the bill for you.