Kayla Coco-Stotts
December 1, 2021
Article type:
Applies to:
All Moving

How Do Moving Companies Estimate What It'll Cost to Move My Shipment?

Moving is a complex affair, and there are quite a few factors that influence what movers will end up charging you on moving day. Most notably, moving companies consider where your shipment’s headed, when you want to move, and the amount of stuff that’ll be transported.

But how do movers accurately estimate what your shipment is going to cost to transport before they’ve even loaded it on the truck? Well, there’s usually a bit of experience sharpening an estimator’s eye, but they start with an itemized inventory.

The Estimate Is the Key

The written estimate is your key to understanding everything you’ll have to pay for your upcoming move. Included in it are key factors that affect pricing. Namely, the estimate lists your moving date, where your shipment is headed, and any deposits or applicable fees that need to be paid.

Additionally, your written estimate will contain your projected costs for transporting your household goods. After your initial walkthrough with an estimator, they’ll create an itemized list of everything that’ll be moved. This inventory is then used to project how much it’ll cost to transport your things. It notates large items, estimated packing materials needed, and quantifies how much stuff is going to be shipped.

Then, come moving day, your shipment will either be weighed or measured in cubic feet. This happens after everything has been loaded and is ready for transport.

Both the inventory and actual shipment size are important for movers to determine how much it’ll cost to accomplish your move. However, when it comes to charging you for the move, they’ll use either the inventory or shipment size. It all depends on the type of written estimate you’ve been assigned: binding or non-binding.

Binding Estimates and Itemized Inventories

Binding estimates guarantee the total price of your move in your written estimate. So, the value assigned to your move when you receive your estimate is what you’ll end up paying on your move day, as long as the itemized inventory is accurate.

Binding estimates are the most common written estimate used by movers. It’s why reputable movers conduct in-person or virtual walkthroughs beforehand; it’s not only a chance for you to meet, but their opportunity to accurately size up the move.

Here, the itemized inventory is especially important. During your walkthrough with an estimator, they notate everything you’re requesting be transported. Your binding estimate’s final price will be determined by this detailed list, not the shipment weight or size.

Both you and your mover will sign the itemized inventory once it’s been completed. So make sure to review the inventory sheet carefully and note any discrepancies before you give it a signature.

Non-Binding Estimates and Actual Weight or Size

Though less common, non-binding estimates are used by reputable movers and calculate a final price based on factors influenced by the actual move day. The non-binding estimate provides you with a reasonable quoted price that may be more than or less than what you’ll pay for the move after shipment delivery. In total, however, you’ll be asked to pay no more than 110% of the total estimate upon completion of the move, with any additional charges being billed later.

The total cost all comes down to shipment weight (in pounds) or size (in cubic feet) and the number of packing materials your movers use for your household goods.

If your movers are calculating your final price using the shipment’s weight, they’ll subtract the truck’s weight from the weight of the items they’re transporting. Before loading the truck, your moving company weighs the truck, then they weigh it again once the shipment’s been put on the truck. As a standard, most movers will calculate shipment size by its weight.

On the other hand, your movers use cubic feet to determine the final price, they’ll calculate it by multiplying the height, length, and width together.

Though estimates that use size calculations are used by plenty of fair and honest movers, they can’t be verified by the Department of Transportation. Additionally, the process is easier to manipulate, and poor measurements or loose packing can raise prices unnecessarily. So, if you’re working with movers who are using size as the standard for their shipment measurement, make sure you know you’re getting an estimate from reputable, trusted movers.

Go With Whatever Makes the Most Sense for You and Your Move

From the type of estimate to weighing your household goods on moving day, it can be hard to truly grasp how the movers determine what it’ll cost to move everything. Beyond keeping in communication with your estimator and asking plenty of questions, you can go into your upcoming move informed on what you want from it.

Take a moment to learn more about the differences between binding and non-binding estimates. Also, you can read up on the documents you’ll be signing and what they all mean in the grand scheme of the moving process.