As you certainly know, proper planning is the key to success. As you probably also know, planning a residential move is not a simple task – you need to properly organize all the aspects of the relocation process, complete all the moving tasks with great care, provide for all the related expenses, and pay meticulous attention to every single detail if you’re to have any chance of success. In other words, you have to plan your course of action, your time, and your money really well or you risk a nightmarish moving experience.
To accomplish all this planning you need: 1) a moving checklist; 2) a moving calendar and 3) a moving budget. To be able to set up an efficient moving budget, however, you need to know the cost of your move. Now, that’s the tricky part – how to estimate the cost of moving?
If you’ve decided on a DIY move, you’ll have to consider all the related moving expenses and figure out the final cost by yourself. (Useful information: How much does a self-move cost; What are the most commonly forgotten moving expenses)
If you’re going to use professional moving services, your movers will provide you with a price estimate, so that you know how much you’ll have to pay for your relocation. It is often the case, however, that the final price differs a lot from the initial estimate, much to the dismay and chagrin of the home movers.
So, how can you avoid unpleasant financial surprises when moving? How can you be sure that you know the actual moving cost, so that you can plan your budget accordingly?
Getting an accurate moving estimate requires some time and effort on your part, but it’s really worth it. Here is how to obtain a realistic and precise estimation of the moving costs:
Make sure you’re dealing with licensed and insured movers
It is no secret that there are some dishonest movers who offer unrealistically low quotes in order to allure more customers and trounce the competition. Once they’ve secured the job, however, they keep adding extra charges and fees for alleged additional services or unforeseen circumstances, so that the final cost rises dramatically and the clients are forced to pay much more than they expected.
To avoid such fraudulent extortion schemes, you need to research the movers you consider working with and make sure they’re trustworthy professionals – properly licensed, fully insured and bonded, with a history of excellent customer service and a proven track record of quality, efficiency, and safety. You can rest assured that such reputable movers will give you an accurate moving estimate.
Unless you have reliable recommendations from a trusted person who has recently moved and remained happy with the services of their chosen movers, you need to find a good moving company yourself. Fill out a free online moving quote to get in touch with several reputable movers in your area and get a rough idea of how much your move is going to cost. Narrow down your choice to four or five moving companies that seem to offer the best deal for your circumstances and find out some more information about them – check their USDOT numbers, review their websites, read online reviews left by clients who have used their services in the past, check the companies’ ratings with the BBB, etc.
Once you’ve selected three or four affordable, trustworthy movers, ask them for on-site estimates.
Request an on-site estimate
Estimates given online or over the phone can give you an approximate idea of your moving costs, but can never be accurate – the movers need to look at your home and the items you want to relocate in order to determine
- the weight of your shipment and the necessary extra services (in the event of a cross-country move); or
- the time it will take to relocate your belongings, as well as how many movers will be needed (in the event of a local move).
It is imperative that the movers see first-hand how many and what type of items you have for moving, as well as any obstacles in your home (such as stairs) that might raise the estimate. Only then will they be able to make a realistic estimate and tell you the actual cost of your move.
SEE ALSO: Types of moving estimates
Bonus tip: If possible, schedule all the estimates for the same day. An in-home estimate should take about an hour, so you can have three or four estimates done in one day (make sure you leave about two hours between the appointments, so that you have enough time to make notes and review the received offers). This way, all the discussions and all the impressions you get from the moving representatives will be fresh in your mind and it will be easier to compare the offers and make an informed decision.
Give the estimators all the necessary information
To get an accurate estimate, you need to inform the company of all the items that will be moved, any special handling requirements you may have, and any obstacles that you know of:
Provide the movers with full and clear information:
- Show the representatives everything you intend to move to your new home – not only the large furniture and appliances, but all kinds of small items and personal belongings as well. Do not forget the stuff in attics, basements and garages and the contents of closets and cabinets – if anything is left out of the estimate, the final cost will be higher than anticipated;
- Be clear and specific during the walk through – let the estimator know exactly what you’re taking to your new home. Do not use ambiguous words or expressions and leave no room for misinterpretation or confusion;
- Make an inventory of the items you have for moving before the estimators come to your home. Once the survey is over, ask for a copy of the inventory from each company and compare it to your own to make sure nothing has been missed and everything is correct. It is a good idea to make a list of the items not to be moved, as well – some moving companies even require one to avoid misunderstandings and fraudulent claims;
- Make sure all the people who have a say in what will be relocated and what will be left behind (your spouse or any other decision-making members of the household) are present. If that is not possible, discuss the matter in advance and create together a final list of all the things that will be moved to your new home, so that nothing is added after the estimates have been made.
Pay attention to items that need special handling or special packing materials
Inform the estimator of any unusually large or heavy items (pool tables, hot tubs, etc.), extremely delicate items (pianos, grandfather clocks, electronics, artwork, etc.), or very valuable items (antiques, family heirlooms, collectibles, etc.) you want to relocate. State your handling requirements and discuss your options with the movers – appropriate packing materials, specialized services, etc.
Good to remember: During a visual survey, the mover may suggest special handling or specialized packing materials for an item that you didn’t think needed extra care. The professionals know from experience which articles are prone to damage and how to best handle them. Special handling results in higher estimates, but it is well worth it in the end.
Discuss the required extra services and decide if you’ll do any of the work yourself
Discuss with the estimators everything that needs to be done in preparation for loading your items onto the moving truck (packing, disassembly of furniture, etc.) and decide what you’re going to do yourself and what you’re going to need assistance with. Ask for a packing and unpacking estimate, as well as for the cost of each additional service, so that you can determine if it will be financially logical to use the professional services of your experienced movers or to prepare your items for shipment yourself.
Make sure every extra service that will be performed by the movers – crating, hoisting, shuttle services, etc. – is explicitly stated in the moving estimate, together with its corresponding rate.
Consider the peculiarities of the pick-up and delivery locations
In order to give you an accurate moving quote, the movers need to know in advance about any possible obstacles or special conditions at both your old home and your new one – lots of stairs, small doorways, sharp corners, long distance between the front door and the nearest available parking place for the moving van, narrow streets or other physical constraints that prevent the access of a large moving truck to either property, etc. Such hindrances will require extra time and effort when moving your belongings and will result in a higher final cost.
All this information will help the estimators determine how much time, how many workers and what size trucks they will need to complete the job. The movers will be able to provide you with an accurate estimate and prepare properly for the job.
Consider your moving date
Keep in mind that your moving costs will depend on the date of your move. If you need to move during the peak moving season, or on a weekend or holiday, the movers will likely charge you a premium for accommodating your preferred moving date during such a busy period. If you’re looking for a lower price, you need to be flexible with dates.
Ask all the right questions
Once you have a written estimate, read it carefully and ask about anything that concerns you – from the reasons for a charge that is higher when compared to other estimates to what will happen if you need to change the moving schedule.
What’s more, use the chance to ask the representatives all kinds of questions about their company and learn as much about it as you can. Many companies will offer similar prices for your move, but it will be the small details (attitude, transparency, insurance policy, way of settling disputes, etc.) that will help you decide which one is right for you.
As a result, you’ll have an accurate moving estimate and will have found the best movers for you. From then on, your relocation is a guaranteed success.
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