Somewhere between the excitement of moving and the dread of realizing I have to pack up everything I own — again!? — is when I start thinking about collecting quotes for moving. During my last cross-country move, I forgot to tell the movers about two large pieces of furniture that would be on the truck and I paid the price — literally. Boring story short, I learned the hard way that a moving quote, even a guaranteed quote, is just that — a quote, not a contract. 

No one likes getting a final bill for their move that’s hundreds or thousands more than the quote. The best way to prevent this from happening is to know how to get an accurate moving cost estimate. It requires a little homework, a bit of comparison shopping, a good look at what you’re moving, and a whole lot of questions. Don’t even think about trying to get a moving quote before you read this.

Here’s everything you need to know — and ask! — to get accurate moving cost estimates. 

1. VET YOUR MOVING COMPANY PROSPECTS

Just as with any moving help you hire, before you start calling around willy-nilly, do your homework and look for reputable companies. Check reviews and talk to friends and family for recommendations. And, just in case it doesn’t go without saying: Make sure the companies you’re requesting moving quotes from are licensed and insured. 

2. GET MORE THAN ONE MOVING COST ESTIMATE 

Once you’ve got a shortlist, call them up or fill out an online form for a moving cost estimate. You should always get at least three moving estimates to compare, otherwise you won’t know if you’re getting a good deal or paying too much. Know that most local movers charge hourly, while most long-distance and cross-country movers charge by distance plus cubic feet and/or weight, which can take a day or more, as it may require an in-person home visit.  Moving container services like PODS charge by container size and distance, making it faster and easier to get moving quotes online or by phone — and leaving less guesswork and chance for surprises between your moving quote and final bill. 

Tight on time? Get local moving quotes with PODS online and long-distance moving quotes by calling 877-350-7637.

3. KNOW WHAT YOU’RE MOVING

If you’re just guessing, then that’s all the person who’s giving you the quote can do, too. Always be as detailed as possible. At the very least, be able to tell them how big a space and how many rooms they’ll be moving. Even better? Rattle off how many of each size box you have to move, plus any large pieces of furniture, TVs, etc. Many professional movers, as well as customers, request in-person quotes so there are no surprises on either end, while I’ve found sending videos or pictures of my things has done the trick.  

Not sure how to size up your move? These two resources can help you figure it out and get one step closer to a more accurate moving quote:

Essential Moving And Packing Supplies You Should Never Move Without: Find out how many moving boxes you’ll need for the size of your move so you can get a more accurate quote. 

PODS Moving And Storage Moving Calculator Tool: This is best for estimating which size and quantity PODS containers you need for your move, but it can also be used to estimate how much space your things might take up on a long-distance moving truck.

Again, always be sure to flag any extra-bulky, extra-heavy, or fragile items since they may require special handling — and an upcharge.

Want quick ballpark moving costs for early planning and budgeting? These long-distance moving cost estimates for popular routes and distances will help you compare general pricing for traditional movers, moving containers, and rental trucks. Just remember that there’s no substitute for getting your own detailed quotes for your specific move.  

4. CALL ATTENTION TO STAIRS OR OTHER LOCATION FACTORS THAT ADD DIFFICULTY

To help movers give you an accurate cost estimate, you need to tell them if they’ll need to navigate stairs (and how many), tight corners, doors and openings. If you don’t have an adequate driveway or parking for the moving van or container, how far will they need to lug your belongings from your door to the nearest parking space? Such factors will add difficulty, time, and may require more helpers, all of which will lead to a higher cost. You want these factored in ahead of time, so you know what the movers will charge and can compare apples-to-apples estimates, rather than leaving room for upcharges when you get your final bill. 

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5. ASK A TON OF QUESTIONS

What’s the best way to avoid surprise charges? Ask about them beforehand. Many movers anticipate questions and will answer them as they explain what their quote covers, but it’s always good to keep a handy list of questions ready to fire off. 

Here are a few questions you might not think to ask when getting a moving quote — but should: 

  • Do they have a minimum number of hours? Most local moving services charge by the hour. And a lot of times these hourly rates sound deceptively reasonable — until you realize they require a four-hour minimum. 
  • When does the clock start and end? Movers will either charge you from the time they arrive at your house to the time they unload the last item — or they will start charging you from the time they start heading to your location and don’t stop until they’ve reached their next job. The difference may seem minor but the cost difference can be significant, especially if you live in a big city or your move is scheduled during rush hour. 
  • How many movers are included in the quote? Always ask how many helping hands the quote includes — and don’t automatically shy away from a higher rate with more movers. The more people you have to help, the faster the move goes,  which is important when you’re talking hourly rates. It’s worth asking how much adding an extra mover to the job will cost since it can sometimes be worth having the extra manpower. 
  • What are the available insurance options? Full-service moving companies are required by law to include a basic level of insurance for your items called valuation coverage — for free. If this sounds too good to be true, it kind of is: valuation coverage insures your items in bulk, paying $0.60 per pound, which is a paltry fraction of the real value of your belongings.  Find out if they offer other insurance options with extended coverage and how much extra that’ll cost, and then add it to your overall estimated moving costs. (And it may be worth checking out my handy hack on how to get moving insurance for almost free.)
  • What if you need to change your moving dates? Traditional movers tend to be very rigid on scheduling, to the point where you can be charged hundreds for changing your moving dates. Yet the process of moving is notorious for last-minute scheduling snafus like closing, construction, and repair delays — and even unanticipated issues like a global pandemic. Moving container companies like PODS are a lot more flexible when it comes to handling moving hiccups, with built-in storage options and no charges for scheduling changes (and even full refunds for cancellations up to 24 hours before the first scheduled container delivery).
       
  • What additional charges might you find at the end of your move? You may feel weird asking this, but unless you’re a moving pro, you might not realize that things like tolls, parking tickets, or even gas taxes or auto-gratuities may be added to the final bill. 

If you’re thinking all this will take a good chunk of time, you’re right. Believe me, after making more than 20 moves in my life, getting moving cost estimates is not my idea of fun. But it’s important, and well worth the time you take now to avoid getting hit with hefty surprise charges after your move. By doing the due diligence, you’ll not only protect your budget, your move will likely be smoother and less stressful. That way, you can get off to a positive start in your new home!

Ready to get started on your moving quotes? Get a detailed PODS quote online for local moves or call 877-350-7637 for a long-distance moving quote.