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Types of Moving Estimates

To help you avoid unexpected moving costs, we’ve explained the different types of moving estimates and how they can change on moving day.

Default Author Icon Written by Shane Sentelle Updated 03/11/2024

Many people booking a move don’t understand the key differences between each type of moving estimate. Even the best moving companies can be vague in their descriptions, and you have to turn to the fine print to fully grasp what to expect. In the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) complaint database, a common theme of complaints relates to estimates and the final bill. Customer reviews across the web paint a clearer picture, with recurring mentions of moving costs exceeding the original estimate.

To help you avoid this frustrating scenario, we at the This Old House Reviews Team have broken down the different types of moving estimates. We’ve also included details on how and why those estimates can change during the moving process.

Types of Moving Estimates

Most interstate movers offer two basic types of estimates that must be attached to the bill of lading. This can be a non-binding moving estimate or a binding estimate. Below, we’ve highlighted the key differences between the two main types of estimates and included a section for the less common binding not-to-exceed estimate.




A non-binding estimate provides a rough idea of what a move will cost but does not lock in a price. This means that the cost of the move can increase drastically after your inventory is weighed and the company tacks on extra charges for any additional services. Some movers only offer non-binding estimates, and you should proceed with the expectation that the price may change on your moving date.
A binding estimate locks in a flat rate for moving services and will be based on specific details about the inventory of your household goods. For an accurate estimate, it’s critical to have a survey of your inventory.
Some professional movers will allow you to self-report the items you need moved, but the best strategy is to have the company perform an in-home consultation. The in-home consultation helps avoid overlooking items that will be part of your shipment. If nothing changes with your inventory or selected services, your initial moving quote will be your final price.
A relatively low percentage of long-distance moving companies offer not-to-exceed estimates, but it’s the best option when available. This type of cost estimate is a binding option based on the total weight of your shipment.
It differs from a standard binding estimate in that the final cost of your move will not increase from the quoted amount, even if the company assesses your inventory incorrectly. In fact, if the actual weight of your inventory is less than predicted on your written estimate, your total cost will decrease on the day of your move.

How Moving Estimates Can Change

As mentioned above, non-binding estimates are educated guesses about the details of your shipment. The actual cost can often be as much as double after the moving company loads your shipment onto the moving truck and determines the true weight.

Binding estimates are typically based on the weight and volume of your inventory and use a flat rate determined by the mover.

However, it is critical to remember that the amount you pay may still be greater than the estimated price if your final inventory includes more items than reported. A higher inventory weight will result in additional charges. You should also expect additional costs if you add services or packing materials or if you change other previously agreed-upon details.

Our Conclusion

As a general rule of thumb, we recommend requesting a binding or not-to-exceed estimate when possible to help prevent a last-minute increase in your moving costs. You should consider asking for an in-home visual survey of your home and inventory for the most accurate estimate. This also allows you to walk through your home with the move coordinator, ensuring that no items are overlooked.

Make sure that the moving company includes a copy of your estimate and inventory sheet with the bill of lading. Look over the inventory sheet to identify any potential inaccuracies that need to be brought to the mover’s attention.

We recommend that you get quotes from at least three moving companies to compare rates and to review the exact language of each estimate.

To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews Team at reviews@thisoldhousereviews.com.