Moving Estimates: What You Need to Know

How do moving companies determine rates?

Moving company pricing can be like cooking. The ingredients may be the same, but the final dish depends on how they’re combined and what you do with them. When building an estimate, most companies take similar factors into account: how much stuff you’re moving, when the move occurs, and the origin and destinations. But the way they put all those things together can result in very different prices.

The more you know about moving estimates, the more prepared and protected you’ll be when comparing costs. A solid estimate can help with sticking to a budget and ensure no surprises in the final costs. But prices can vary widely, so it’s essential to know what you’re getting when comparing rates from a full-service mover to a self-moving company, like U-Pack®. 

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The different types of estimates

Most moving companies determine rates based on the weight of the items. We’ll go more into how they do that below, but first, take a look at the different types of pricing. If you’re not sure which kind a company provides, be sure to ask.

One other note before you get started: getting a quote should always be free. If a company is asking for payment to complete an in-home visit or a deposit before agreeing to the rates, you’ll want to steer clear.

  • A binding estimate guarantees the cost of the move based on the projected weight of the customer’s belongings. If you agree to the price, that’s what you’ll pay (no more, but also no less if the movers overestimated).
  • Non-binding. A non-binding estimate considers the weight of your items, but the actual price could change if things end up weighing more or less than expected.
  • Guaranteed not to exceed. This type of estimate may also be called a “binding not-to-exceed,” meaning that if your belongings are heavier than estimated, the price won’t go up. But if the items weigh less than predicted, the price will decrease.
  • A moving quote can give an accurate idea of what your move will cost, but instead of being based on weight or labor, it’s based on the equipment. For example, a quote would be for a specific size rental truck or a certain number of moving containers. This is the type of pricing that U-Pack® provides.

How moving companies create estimates

Most moving companies will need to assess your items and see how mover-friendly the home is. They’ll want to account for everywhere stuff is stored (attics, basements, storage units, all closets, etc.) and evaluate spaces like stairs and doorways. There are several ways they can go about this:

In-home visits

Most binding estimates require an in-home visit for an agent to see everything firsthand. While an in-home visit typically allows for the most accurate price since a mover can lay hands and eyes on items, it does require someone looking in all your cabinets and storage areas, so make sure you’re comfortable with that. It can also take several hours to complete.

Virtual (or video)

It used to be rarer to find virtual estimates, but because everything moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic, more companies are allowing video calls or recordings to serve as home tours for non-binding estimates.


Typically, an over-the-phone estimate is non-binding since the movers are relying on you to give them an accurate inventory of the items. Since no one has to see your stuff, it offers more privacy than a visit or video call. However, it can take a while to account for an entire home verbally. 

Space estimators

Most moving quotes utilize a space estimator that determines equipment based on the size of the home. For example, a U-Pack moving quote is based on space, not weight, so you can figure out how much space is needed online. It’s much easier to measure the size of household items rather than how heavy they are.

When to begin checking rates

In-home or virtual estimates need to be scheduled in advance to ensure an agent is available, so start as soon as possible. However, online or phone quotes can happen in just a few minutes as long as you have all the information about the move (dates, home size/inventory, zip codes, etc.). Make sure to get the quote in plenty of time to reserve equipment. U-Pack recommends getting a quote at least 4-8 weeks before the move, if possible.

Questions to ask during the process

When speaking to a moving company representative, make sure you know how they handle things like fees and upcharges.

What’s included?

After getting the price, make sure to go over what it covers. Ask about things like fees, taxes and liability coverage — they could be extra. U-Pack quotes are simple because they include everything: the equipment, delivery and transportation, fuel and liability coverage.

What could change?

Moving companies might adjust your rate if you make changes (like moving to a different address or on a different day), but some price adjustments may be out of your control. For example, companies might add fuel surcharges, increase costs for distance from the home to the truck, impose fees for moving in bad weather, or upcharge because of differences in the estimated weight vs. the actual weight of the items.

To avoid surprises on your end, be as accurate as possible when giving details about the number of belongings and the final delivery address. If any specifics might change, talk to the moving company to find out how those changes might affect the final price.

With U-Pack, the most common difference from quote to final price happens when you use more space than originally quoted. But the good news is you’ll know ahead of time what to expect. The initial quote includes a price per linear foot or options for using more (or fewer) containers, and if the space used increases or decreases, the final price will reflect that.

Find out how to read your U-Pack quote to easily locate the price per foot or quotes for a different number of containers.

Start with an online quote from U-Pack

Don’t worry about scheduling an estimate; instead, get an online quote from U-Pack. Tell us a few details about the move for an instant quote. Or, if you prefer to speak with someone, a helpful moving consultant can walk you through the details and provide the most accurate pricing over the phone. Call us at 844-362-5303844-594-3077 for help.

Have more questions about determining move costs? Get answers to common moving price FAQs, or leave us a comment below.