What your moving company needs to know to give you an accurate moving estimate

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways we may not know for a long time, but thanks to technology, moving companies and customers have both embraced the idea of a virtual moving estimate.

Not only does a virtual moving estimate help keep your family safe from viral infections such as COVID, but it’s also far more convenient than a traditional in-person moving company estimate. Still, there are a few things you should prepare to help ensure an accurate moving estimate from your moving company.

How does a moving estimate work?

A moving estimate is rather simple on the surface. Local moves and long distance moves are billed a differently, but the basics of the estimate is the same. In each case, moving companies’ estimates are built around your inventory, or more accurately the volume (a.k.a. cubic footage) of the shipment.

Your estimator will jot down every item that needs to be moved on what is called a cube sheet. Most furniture falls under standard measurements. For example, a typical tall bookcase is about 20 cubic feet. A sofa is about 30. Moving boxes range in size from 1.5 for a book box to 15 for a wardrobe box. The estimator will determine your final movers cost based on a few parameters:

How do local moving quotes work?

Local moving estimates are fairly straightforward. The vast majority of moving companies tally up the moving costs by measuring cubic footage and they charge based on the number of movers needed, whether your shipment needs just one moving truck, and the number of hours.

Most studio apartments and one bedrooms need just two movers and one moving truck. Most large one bedroom and two bedroom homes need three movers and one moving truck, etc. In most cases, it’s not cheaper to have fewer movers since the move will take a lot longer.

If you need help packing, most moving companies will charge you by the hour and for the amount of packing material needed for your local move. Moving costs can vary based on the date you’re moving. Summers have higher moving costs than winters, the ends of the months are usually more expensive than middles of months, weekends are often more expensive than weekdays, etc.

How is a long distance move calculated by moving companies?

Ace Moving is a local moving company. That said, we can move you anywhere within the State of California and to our neighboring states of Arizona, Nevada and Oregon.

Long distance moving estimates are a bit different because it would be unfair to charge customers by the hour if they’re moving hundreds of miles away.

Still, the estimating process for a long distance move is nearly identical. Your estimator will ask to see every item. As with local moves, they will note the total cubic footage of your move. Some long distance movers charge by volume and others translate the cubic footage to a weight estimate (seven pounds per cubic foot).

All licensed movers need to submit a rate tariff (pricing scale) to state and federal regulating agencies. They can discount the tariff but they can’t arbitrarily raise their rates whenever they feel like it. Summer is generally more costly, as are the ends of weeks and months.

What are moving companies’ binding estimates, binding not to exceed and non-binding estimates?

There are three types of moving estimates for both local moves and long distance moves. Here is a breakdown on what each means for both customers and movers.

What are non-binding moving estimates?

The majority of quotes are non-binding moving estimates, which means that your estimate is really a guesstimate by the mover. In other words, a non-binding estimate doesn’t come with any guarantees from the moving company. With a reputable moving company, that usually isn’t too much of a problem. They rely on happy customers for referrals and repeat business, so it’s not in movers’ best interest to intentionally under-estimate.

A phone estimate is almost always non-binding because the movers can’t actually see what’s being moved. You can turn a phone estimate into a more accurate estimate by allowing the movers’ estimator to do a visual survey to determine the final cost of your move.

What is a binding estimate?

A binding moving estimate is a firm movers’ estimate. It is your final cost as agreed upon by you and the moving company. If the parameters of the move, such as what is being moved, the distance and the amount of packing the movers are doing, match the binding moving estimate agreement, that’s what you’ll pay whether the move ends up being bigger or smaller.

Binding estimates, though, are only as good as the paper they’re printed on, which means you should check your very thoroughly to make sure nothing was left out of your moving quote on your binding moving estimate.

What is a binding not to exceed estimate?

A binding not to exceed estimate is similar to a binding estimate from your movers, but the final cost of your move is based on how much the company actually moves for you, up to your moving quote. Again, you want to check your moving quote thoroughly to ensure nothing was left out of the estimate by your moving company.

What your movers need to know to give you an accurate estimate

Perhaps the biggest complaint a moving company might receive is about inaccurate moving quotes. We get that. At Ace Moving, we take great care to be as detailed as possible while giving a moving estimate. With virtual moving estimates, though, it’s critical that moving customers are thorough as well.

Why some virtual moving quotes are inaccurate

You’ve probably heard the expression “nose blind.” Nose blindness refers to the phenomenon of getting so used to the smells in your house that you stop noticing them, or stop smelling them altogether.

It’s similar to a work commute. Your daily drive to work can become such an ingrained habit that by the time you get to the office or back home, you can’t remember a single detail about your drive. How about when you think you forgot your cell phone when you’re talking on it, or the sunglasses perched at the top of your head?

It’s the same with pretty much everything we’re surrounded with every day. It can be easy to forget all about that closet at the end of the hallway or sometimes even the garage when it’s part of your daily routine. Of course, there are those parts of your home you use only for storage and you’ve rarely even opened the doors other than to put things inside.

This is hardly a new phenomenon. One of my grandmother’s favorite expressions was “out of sight, out of mind.” Unfortunately, out of sight, out of mind is the surest way to derail an accurate moving estimate.

How to prepare for moving company estimates

Whether the moving company estimators are coming to your home or you’re having a virtual estimate, there are some things you should do to prepare yourself.

Does the house need to be clean?

We totally get it. Sometimes there’s a fine line between “lived in” and downright messy, and it can cross that line in a matter of minutes, especially if you have children or pets. Also, we know that people have had to put off professional cleanings because of COVID.

Bottom line, we aren’t snobs. A moving company estimator doesn’t care if you have a sink full of dishes or a layer of dust on your furniture. That won’t affect your moving estimate at all. What can affect the accuracy of your moving estimate, though, is an inability to see what’s underneath the clutter.

What does the moving company estimator needs to see to give an accurate moving estimate?

Most moving company estimators are not nosy. After nearly 40 years of providing moving estimates, at Ace Moving, we’ve seen everything. We don’t need to look inside your drawers. We will just assume they are full.

To a certain extent, it’s the same with closets, although it’s really helpful to see inside closets. While taking inventory for a moving estimate, some, but not all estimators will ask to see inside your kitchen cabinets.

Be sure to point out all areas that aren’t obvious, such as your garage, your basement if you have one, attic storage and all closets. If you have outdoor furniture, an outdoor grill or a portable fire pit, the estimator will need to see those as well.

*Note: A moving company cannot move propane tanks, so you should either move them yourself or return them to the store.*

What else does the moving estimator need to see to provide an accurate estimate?

To get an accurate moving estimate, your estimator will also need to see where the truck can park, whether there are stairs and how far they need to travel to get to your front door. If you have large or bulky pieces, such as a piano or large safe, it’s critical your estimator sees them as well.

In some instances, furniture needs to be “hoisted” in and out of the home. It’s rare and mostly only seen in old buildings in the city, but if you have a piece of furniture that was too big to come into your home in normal ways, let your estimator know.

It’s the same if any of your furniture needed complex disassembly and reassembly. While Ace Moving is happy to remove the legs of your sofa, if the assembly required an instruction sheet half the size of the room, you might want to disassemble it yourself or hire a handy person.

Should you always get a virtual site estimate?

While a virtual site estimate is great when there are a lot of uncertainties, such as when the move is relatively large or complicated, or when there’s a lot of packing, it isn’t always necessary. Small, relatively simple moves, such as apartments with two or fewer bedrooms generally fare just fine with a phone estimate.