Preparing to move to a new community can be nerve-wracking. There is a lot to plan, a lot to organize and decide. Sure, it’s exciting to move to a new place, but there are so many questions. Where should I live? Are the schools any good? Will I find a friendly neighborhood with fun things to do? Oh, and how do I find a reputable moving company to move my stuff from here to there.
Take a deep breath and try to relax. Moving seems daunting, but you can get through it with some research and a good plan. Finding movers you trust will go a long way toward taking the stress out of the relocation process, and they aren’t hard to find. As with most things, it helps if you understand what they are talking about, so here are some helpful definitions that will let you decipher what might at first sound like a foreign language.
Binding vs. non-binding estimate. In any long-distance (interstate, and often intrastate as well) move, the moving company must conduct a visual inspection of the things you want moved to give you an estimate. There are some exceptions, and the customer is allowed to waive the requirement. Still, the rule is there for your protection, and any reputable mover would want to see the household goods before providing you with a price anyway. The company should be basing the estimate on its detailed inventory (sometimes called a cube sheet or table of measurement) that shows what is included. A binding estimate is the mover’s price to move that inventory, based on the weight that the mover assesses for what is there. The price does not change unless the actual list changes on moving day, or unless you add services or there are unforeseen issues requiring the completion of additional services (whether you agree or not) to finish the move.
A non-binding estimate, still based on that visual inspection, is not a commitment, but an accurate approximation of the cost, with the final price determined by the actual weight of the goods loaded into the truck. While there are some circumstances in which this might be a better option for you (if you haven’t finished your sorting process, for example, and expect to have more or less to move by the relocation date), it leaves you with the potential for an unpleasant surprise. It may increase the incentive for the mover to lowball the estimate. An unscrupulous operator may tell you that you can only be required to pay as much as 110% of the non-binding estimate to receive delivery of your shipment, and that is true. However, what they may leave out is that if the amount of the bill based on weight is much higher, they can still invoice you for the full amount, whatever that is, and pursue you for payment once you have received the delivery. The 110% is not a ceiling.
A binding-not-to-exceed estimate provides a safety net for the customer in that the price cannot go up (again, assuming no additions to the inventory or services). Still, it can go down, if the actual weight is less than what the mover has estimated.
Impracticable operations. One of the unforeseen situations that can result in higher charges to your bill, regardless of which estimate you choose, is the existence of impracticable operations. Such circumstances generally occur at the destination since the mover has usually not seen the conditions there. If there is a long, steep driveway, or trees blocking the way, or perhaps narrow doorways, those constitute impracticable operations that will result in additional charges. A common one in urban areas is the inability to park the moving truck immediately adjacent to the residence, resulting in the need to shuttle the goods in a smaller vehicle, which adds to the labor and time. These charges can be added to your bill, although only payment of an amount equal to 15% of the total invoice will be required at delivery. Nonetheless, the balance will be billed to you later.
Mover’s tariff. Every mover has a tariff, which is a contract between their company and you, the customer. It contains their rules and their charges for services. It should have things like what they charge for a long carry (remember that steep driveway) or stairs and storage. They should automatically include the tariff with your estimate if they are a reputable mover, so think twice if they are reluctant to share it with you.
Now that you can speak the language, here are some essential things to do when evaluating moving companies.