Jacob Beckstead
January 9, 2024
Article type:
Applies to:
All Moving

Mastering Moving Quotes: Uncover Unexpected Costs

Meet the Johnson family: John, Lisa, and their two vibrant kids. They’re an average suburban family living comfortably in Austin, Texas.

When John received an irresistible job offer in Seattle, they decided to embrace the exciting new chapter. They chose "AB Movers," a reputable moving company, for their big move. They were drawn by their affordable quote and promising testimonials.

The move went smoothly, but there were some last-minute surprises along the way. The Johnson family’s belongings arrived intact, and the whole family started to settle into their new life. However, their tranquility was short-lived. When they received the final bill from AB Movers, it was almost double the initial quote!

The invoice included unexpected charges like long-carry fees, shuttle service, and additional pickup charges. These were all terms the Johnsons were unfamiliar with. John tried negotiating, but the contract left them with little room to argue. In the end, they had no choice but to pay, leaving them frustrated and wondering if a DIY move would have been better.

Now, let's delve into another tale. Meet the Anderson Family: Jeff, Laura, and their two children, live in an ordinary suburban household in Austin, Texas. Jeff receives the same job offer that John Johnson did, and Jeff decides to also engage the services of AB Movers to relocate to Seattle. The prospect of this new chapter fills Jeff and Laura with excitement!

The move goes smoothly, though there were also some last-minute surprises along the way. The Anderson family’s belongings arrive unscathed, and they settle into their new life. When the final bill arrives, Jeff and Laura are not taken aback. The bill has long-carry fees, shuttle service, and additional pickup charges; the Andersons were well-informed of the costs by AB Movers and prepared for these changes every step of the way.

Remember, these families find themselves in similar cross-country moving scenarios, but experience different outcomes when the moving bill comes. These stories illustrate the contrasting experiences customers of full-service moving companies often encounter. In this article, we will explore how you can emulate the Andersons and avoid the pitfalls faced by the Johnsons.

Understanding Moving Quotes: The Basics

A moving quote is an estimate of the total cost of a move. Moving companies typically calculate quotes by considering several factors:

  • The size and weight of the items being moved
  • The distance between the pickup and drop-off locations
  • Any additional services required (such as packing or loading assistance)
  • The process of gaining access to the property

In the moving and transportation industry, we refer to the factors that affect moving costs as "scope.” Essentially, scope means the sum of all the details that will be performed by movers.

Moving companies will calculate their prices differently, but the goal is always to provide the customer with an estimate of the total cost of moving based on its scope. However, it's important to note that there are different types of estimates, such as binding and non-binding estimates or time-and-materials-based estimates.

Binding vs Non-Binding Estimates

In summary, a binding estimate won't change based on the inventory and scope of services, provided that the origin and destinations remain the same. That doesn't mean it's unchangeable. If you add items to your move or add services after signing the moving estimate, these changes can incur more charges.

For a non-binding estimate, the variation between written estimate and final bill is even greater. The estimate, in this case, is only meant to serve as an estimate. You'll pay the actual cost once it's been calculated after the move, regardless of what the estimate said. Again, these are more common relating to interstate moving costs.

We explain in high detail what the differences are between binding and non-binding estimates in this article.

Hourly Estimates for Moving

Hourly rates, or time and materials estimates, are typically the loosest estimates that exist in the moving industry. These move estimates are used more commonly for local moving costs.

In essence, the moving company is saying, "Based on our experience, we think it'll take this long and these materials (like moving boxes or equipment) to do this."

However, the reality on move day might be quite different. In this situation, these bids are not firm, and they're not meant to be taken as such. It's essentially an educated guess provided from an experienced moving company.

As a customer, it's best to be prepared for that going into the move. You'll be billed on whatever time and materials were required after everything was completed.

What Are the Reasons for Discrepancies Between Moving Quotes and Final Charges?

There are a lot of individual reasons why moving quotes can differ from what is billed at the end of a move. Some movers use this as a way to scam customers, but legitimate changes in moving company charges typically come down to two reasons:

  1. The estimator didn't properly estimate the scope of the move. If you have a binding estimate, this typically won't make a difference in your final bill. If you have a non-binding estimate, this will create differences in your final bill.
  2. You changed the scope of the move after the estimate was completed. These changes could involve changing loading or unloading dates, adding services like packing or extra stops, or changing the number of household items to be moved. If you don’t bring up something that will affect the scope of your move (like forgetting to mention that a truck can't fit in your driveway, or an elevator that has to be used at your destination) it will be treated as if you changed the scope of the move. This is because the scope must be changed to complete the move.

How to Minimize Moving Quote Discrepancies as a Consumer

One of the best ways to avoid additional charges and ensure an accurate moving quote is to finalize your household inventory before requesting a quote. Moving companies typically calculate quotes based on the size, weight, and number of items being moved, so having an accurate list of what is going to be moved will help you get an accurate estimate.

Show every mover the same items to be moved. If you can get a binding estimate, this eliminates some of the burden of making sure the scope is accurately estimated by the moving estimator. If you receive a non-binding estimate, compare them against other bids to make sure the scope of the move looks similar. Eliminate any outliers before you proceed with a moving company.

It's also important to understand exactly what services are included in each quote so that you don't end up paying more than necessary. Some services, such as packing or loading assistance, may be included in some estimates but not others. If these services are not listed in the quote but requested on move day, they can incur additional charges on your final bill. Be sure to ask if all services you want or require are included in the quoted price when getting estimates.

Here are some examples of good questions to ask:

  • Are all extra fees like long-carry fees, shuttle service (a smaller truck), or additional pickup charges included in the quoted price?
  • Are there any extra fees associated with packing, loading, or unloading services, not included here?
  • If the quote is based on estimated weight, what happens if the actual weight is higher than estimated?
  • If I change the date of my move, what will the impact on the price be?
  • What other charges could I possibly be subject to that aren't currently planned?
  • Are you quoting me a binding or non-binding price?
  • For time-based estimates: Your estimated time to complete this move is greatly different [if true] from bids from other movers. Why?
  • For weight or inventory-based estimates: Your estimated inventory of items to be moved is greatly different [if true] from bids from other movers. Why?

Negotiating moving costs on your interstate or local move can be done by removing unnecessary services or possibly by changing the moving dates. Before signing a contract, take a close look at the services that are included in your quote and ask if there are any additional fees associated with them that you could remove. Additionally, if you can plan your move during off-peak times of the year, such as the winter months, you may be able to get a better deal on your move than you would during peak moving season. Many companies offer discounts during off-peak months or weeks, so planning your move well in advance and understanding when peak season starts can also help you save money.

In Conclusion: Revisiting the Johnsons and the Andersons

Let's go back to the Johnsons and the Andersons. It should be easy to see that the Andersons put the requisite time into understanding their move estimate, the factors that could change it, and what that final price would be.

The Johnsons did not. Perhaps they stopped looking at prices after using an online moving cost calculator or didn't ask enough questions. In the end, the Johnsons signed a moving contract and didn't understand how the changes during the move would change the price.

For a seamless moving experience, it’s important to be more like the Andersons. Moving can be a stressful experience, and unexpected costs only add to the stress. Taking the time to do thorough research and ask questions about your move will help you avoid additional moving fees.

You can learn more valuable tips and advice on our blog to make your transition as smooth as possible. Ready to make a move and need an estimate? Visit for a quick, reliable, and competitively-priced quote. We're here to make your move effortless and worry-free!