We’ve talked about getting bids from moving services. Let’s now get more specific. First, one bid by itself isn’t competitive. You don’t really know if the bid is high, low, unreasonable, or a bargain without comparing companies, so get more than one bid on your moving services. But remember to provide the same moving information to each moving counselor so you’re comparing costs for the same services. Compare apples with apples.
So-called bids are really estimates. There are two kinds of estimates of moving costs: binding and nonbinding. A binding estimate holds the shipper to the figure given to you, the consumer. You cannot be required to pay more than the amount of the estimate. A mover may charge you for giving a binding estimate, which describes the goods to be shipped and the services to be provided.
A binding estimate must be in writing and you must have a copy before you move. If you receive a binding estimate, you must pay by cash, certified check, or money order at the time of delivery unless the shipper agrees to other arrangements. If the charges are not paid at the time of delivery, the mover may hold your goods, with storage charges, until the bill is paid in full. Got that?
A binding estimate is a written, guaranteed price based on an itemized list of items to be moved, the distance to be traveled, and services to be performed.
A nonbinding estimate does not bind the fees and services. When you receive a nonbinding estimate, you have no guarantee that the final cost will not exceed the estimate. The mover is not permitted to charge for nonbinding estimates. However, these also must be in writing and describe the shipment and all services provided. The estimate must be entered on the order for service and bill of lading relating to your shipment.
A non-binding estimate is a price given to you before the move that does not guarantee the final bill. The final bill will be calculated on the weight of the shipment, the distance to be traveled, and the services to be performed. The bill of lading is the contract between you and the moving company. It also serves as your receipt for your belongings.
If you accept a nonbinding estimate, the mover cannot charge more than the amount of the original estimate plus ten percent at the time of delivery. You will then have at least 30 days after delivery to pay any remaining charges.
If, however, you ask the mover to provide more services than those included in the estimate, the mover may charge for those added services and demand full payment on delivery.
If you are given a nonbinding estimate, don’t sign or accept the order for service or bill of lading unless the same estimate is entered on each form.
You will probably have to wait until the moving company representative returns to the office and computes all the information before getting a final estimate. After you have received three or four estimates, you can decide on a mover. You need to consider some other things when reviewing moving estimates:
- Which company offers the services you need?
- Which company made you feel that your belongings would be cared for properly?
If one estimate is significantly lower than the others, ask yourself why. Did they forget to include something in the estimate? Unless you have a binding estimate, you might be unpleasantly surprised at the discrepancy between their estimate and your final bill. If it sounds like a lot of work to select the best mover, just remember that you are selecting the people who will be in charge of moving all the things you cherish either across town or across the country.
Of course, make sure that you understand the kind of estimate you have as well as what’s included—and not included.
- Does the estimate include packing?
- Does the estimate include preparing appliances?
- Does it include disassembly of beds and similar pieces of furniture?
- Will the movers take things off the walls, or will you need to do this step yourself?
- Is storage or other services included?
Also, there are a few items that moving companies cannot or will not transport. Your mover will most likely ask that you keep your valuable jewelry, furs, convertible documents (checks, stocks, and so on), insurance policies, and cash with you. And they will give you a complete list of other items they cannot carry. Making a smart decision about your mover means not only saving money, but also saving worry.