Jacob Beckstead
April 1, 2021
Article type:
Understanding Documents
Applies to:
All Moving

Here's What You Need to Know About Getting a Move Price Estimate

How much will you pay to move? Let us stress that every move is unique. Any moving company that tells you that every move is the same is not being truthful. Different items, different homes, different regions, and different times of the year all create complications for the "standard move price.”

There are a number of intangibles that affect your price, such as:  

  • What you have (not every sofa is the same)
  • Where you live
  • Where you're going
  • The time of year
  • The area of town
  • The interior of your home (tight corners, small doorways, etc.)

So, you need to get pricing from a moving company. You'll find a couple of different ways to get pricing for your move. Some companies will want you to shop and book online. Some will want you to do a virtual estimate, and others want an estimator to visit you for a physical in-home estimate.

But when it comes to requesting and receiving an estimate for your move, which option is best for you? Below we've prepared a detailed comparison of each pricing style's advantages and disadvantages to help you decide.

Online Moving Estimate

The Advantage

You Receive an Estimate Instantaneously

Online quotes are the fastest way to receive an estimate for your move. Moving companies have online tools to help you get a quote instantly. Since they’re calculated based on historical averages, online moving estimates don’t factor in the intangibles that will affect the price. The quote isn’t as accurate, but it appears instantaneously.

The Disadvantage

The Estimate Is Created with Limited Information

Many people think that moving pricing will be like auto insurance quotes: Pop in some details and out pops a price you can book. However, moves are unique. As such, most moving company online quotes equate to a rough ballpark estimate; they're not an exact quote.  

Online estimates are the least accurate because you receive a price based on a formula rather than what you have in your home. Unlike auto insurance, there isn't a magic formula online forms use to calculate a move price. They can get close, but in the end, someone still needs to see the home (remember those intangibles?).  

Most moving companies use online estimates to provide you with a ballpark figure instead of an official quote, even if they ask you to book online. Suppose this is the last price you see before booking your move. Keep in mind that you are likely either over-paying or underpaying what your move will end up costing.

Virtual Moving Estimate

The Advantages

No One Needs to Come into Your Home

A virtual moving estimate is a great way to connect with a moving expert via video call or pre-recorded walkthrough without having someone enter your home. Unlike an estimate provided online, you can allow the moving company to see your home and the intangibles.  

A virtual estimate helps movers prepare for your move; they can see your home's layout, the entry/access options, and gain context on your household items. The ability to see and hear what you want to move allows movers to note any critical areas or belongings that require extra attention. Come moving day, they can arrive with the correct packing and home protection materials.

You Can Enjoy Flexible Timelines

When scheduling a video call, you'll have more choice to schedule a time with a representative since they don't need to drive to your home. Or, if you opt for the pre-recorded walkthrough route, you can complete the estimate when it’s convenient for you.  

The way it works is the moving company typically sends a link for you to either record the video on your own time or open a real-time video call. They will do many of the same things that would occur in a physical in-home estimate.

The Disadvantages

It’s Less Personal

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it's that virtual meetings have limitations. Primarily, the conversation will likely feel less personal. Virtual estimates tend to be more procedural, even if it's a video call. It's harder to see the other person's body language. It’s also more difficult for the estimator to see all the detail they might otherwise in a face-to-face meeting. If you're doing a pre-recorded call, these pain points can feel even more prominent. In fact, you may not ever actually see the person who’s working on your quote.  

The Quotes Aren’t as Accurate

Videos are fantastic for allowing us to remotely bridge large distances right away. However, even video calls have their limitations.  

When you’re physically in someone's home, you see details often missed in a video call. The estimator might misunderstand how tight that corner really is or might even miss an entire room because the video angle never showed it. As a result, virtual surveys tend to be less accurate, but that doesn't mean they aren't a valuable tool.

Physical Moving Estimate

The Advantages

Physical Quotes Are Customizable and Accurate

Every home is different, and each move is different. You get the most detailed and accurate moving price by having a trained estimator walk through your home. Seeing every item ensures your estimate is as precise as possible. It will have context. Remember those intangibles?  

For example, knowing there is a piano in your home may not be enough. Knowing there is a piano in a room with a tight turn is essential. Moving that piano will take more time and potentially more equipment. An estimator might miss such detail on a virtual call, and it would undoubtedly be underestimated in an online estimate.

They’re Interactive and Informative

When an estimator arrives at your home, you have their undivided attention. You can sit down and speak with your estimator face-to-face, discussing any concerns you may have about your move. It’s a great time to ask questions and gain understanding. Discuss your plans and get feedback!  

Having a face-to-face conversation provides you with the opportunity to review any obstacles that might arise during your move. You can also cover move options you might want to consider, such as packing and storage.  

The Disadvantages

It’s the Most Time Consuming

Walking someone through your entire home and discussing all your items will require some time out of your day. Because in-home estimates are the most detailed, they often require the most time. Walkthroughs can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on your home's size.

You Won’t Receive the Quote Instantly

Like with any physical meeting, scheduling it won’t typically happen instantly. Scheduling an in-home estimate requires both you and the move specialist to find an appropriate time. You can generally call the moving company or visit their website to schedule the appointment.  

Sometimes, they can get someone out the same or next day. Still, depending on the time of year, it might take up to a week before an estimator has an opening to come out and do a walkthrough of your home. Fortunately, the estimator often gives you your quote before they leave your home. In cases where they can't, they probably need to take a deeper look at the particulars of your move.  

So, Which Is Best?

The short answer is that it depends on the move.

Online moving estimates are generally best for customers who:

  • Are just starting to shop and need pricing to budget.
  • Aren’t entirely sure if they are moving yet but want to be prepared for when/if the time comes.
  • Want an instantaneous idea of what their move will cost but aren’t ready for an official quote.

Virtual moving estimates are best for customers who:

  • Want more freedom to do the estimate on their own time.
  • Live far away from their moving company, so an in-home walkthrough isn't possible.
  • Do not want someone coming to their home but still need a quote.
  • Have a small home, such as an apartment or loft (or might not be moving the entire home)
  • Have some specific questions regarding their move and want to speak with an expert quickly.
  • Who are moving close by.

In-home moving estimates are generally best for customers who:

  • Need the most accurate estimate of their moving costs.
  • Have specific questions regarding their move and want to speak with an expert.
  • Want personal interaction and service.
  • Have a single-family home or a lot of furniture/items.
  • Who are moving farther away.

A Few Notes to Consider

A few notes of warning:

  1. Moving companies who book moves based on hourly rates over the phone will almost always cost you more than you think. The "over-the-phone" quote is aimed at customers who have no idea how much they'll pay. It sounds good as a customer to hear $X/hr when you think your move will take 4 hours. In reality, most people severely underestimate the time it takes to move (that 4-hour move is probably a 10-hour move). Think about this: how many goods or services do you buy without knowing the final cost before paying?
  1. Moving companies who won't commit to spending personal time with you (virtual or in-home) are almost always understaffed or unprepared. It doesn't always mean problems will occur, but they are more likely. It can be a red flag.
  1. Not all rates are the same. Just because one moving company charges less doesn't mean that it's a better deal. Remember the age-old advice: you get what you pay for. Find a reputable moving company that gives you a price that you can afford - don't shop for the cheapest mover. The lowest price is the most affordable for a reason.