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Binding vs. Non-binding Moving Estimates: What’s the Difference?

Moving estimates play a vital role in shaping your moving budget. Understand the key aspects of binding and non-binding estimates for a budget-friendly relocation.
Binding vs Non-binding Moving Estimates

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Whether you are relocating across the city or to an entirely different country, having a clear understanding of moving estimates can save you from financial surprises and provide a seamless moving experience.

Knowing the difference between binding and non-binding estimates will help you choose the best long distance movers for you, especially when moving interstate or cross-country.

What Are Moving Estimates?

Moving estimates are documents that provide an estimation of the total cost of your move. They are an approximate calculation of the cost to hire long distance movers. This estimate is a crucial tool to plan and budget your relocation effectively.

What Are the Types of Moving Estimates?

It’s important to understand the two types of estimations offered by cross country moving companies to understand what you’re getting into. These include:

  • Binding moving estimates
  • Non-binding moving estimates.

What Are Binding Estimates?

A binding moving estimate is a fixed and guaranteed price based on the approximate weight of your belongings for the move.

Binding moving agreements must be in writing, and the binding estimates should clearly describe the shipment and all services the mover will provide. Long distance movers must give you a copy of the agreement before you move.

The quote a moving company gives in the binding estimate is legally binding, and a mover cannot charge you any more than that. If you agree to a binding estimate, neither your mover nor you can change the price later on.

Additional services than those included in the estimate will be charged when the shipment is delivered.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Binding Estimates?

Pros of Binding Estimates

1. Binding estimates give you a fixed price for moving costs, eliminating the risk of unexpected cost increases.

2. They let you plan your finances more effectively as you know how much movers cost.

3. Binding estimates can protect customers from price inflation as movers are legally obligated to stick to quoted price, even if market conditions change during the project.

Cons of Binding Estimates

1. Once you accept a binding moving estimate, you are locked into that price, even if the actual weight of your belongings is lower than the estimated weight.

2. You may get an inaccurate estimate if you fail to provide an accurate list of the items you plan to move. That’s why requests for binding estimates have to be very accurate in detail. Otherwise, the binding estimate won’t be so binding after all.

What Are Non-binding Moving Estimates?

These are the most popular types of moving quotes. They are based on the mover’s educated guess of the total cost, considering the weight of your household items, the distance to be covered, and any additional moving services you might need.

However, the final cost may vary from the moving estimate in non-binding estimates. The estimates are not a guaranteed final moving price.

It is a ballpark estimate generally based on the average cost of similar relocations the company has performed in the past.

What Are The Pros and Cons of Non-Binding Estimates?

Pros of Non-Binding Estimates

1. They may provide an opportunity for saving money if the final bill ends up being lower than the estimated amount.

2. Since you aren’t locked into a specific price, you can easily change your moving plan or the services required.

Cons of Non-binding Estimates

1. Since the final cost of the move can vary from the initial estimate, budgeting your move will be more challenging. This can be pretty stressful, especially when on a strict moving budget.

2. Cross-country movers can demand full payment on delivery if the bill is 110% or less. If you fail to make payment, the moving company can withhold your belongings.

The Differences Between Binding and Non-binding Estimates

Understanding the difference between these two different moving estimates is essential for choosing a moving agreement and planning your move. Here are the main differences between the two:

1. Price Guarantee

Binding estimates provide a fixed and guaranteed price for the move. The long distance moving company cannot charge you more than the agreed-upon amount.

In non-binding estimates, the moving company gives you an approximate calculation of the moving cost based on their assessment of your belongings, distance to be covered and additional service. However, the final cost may vary on the basis of the actual weight of your belongings and any added services taken during the move.

2. Enforceability

In binding estimates, the mover is legally obligated to deliver the goods at the agreed-upon price. Moreover, any deviations from the estimate without the customer’s consent could lead to legal consequences.

A non-binding estimate is not legally binding. The final cost may vary from the estimate.

3. Payment Charges

If you agree to a binding estimate, you must pay the mover the estimated amount in cash, money order, certified check, or cashier’s check at delivery time.

However, if your mover has agreed beforehand to accept payment via a designated charge card, like American Express™ or a specific credit card, such as Visa™, then you’ll have alternative payment options.

However, if you cannot pay at the time of delivery, the moving company may place your shipment in storage at your expense until you pay the charges.

In the non-binding estimate, the moving company can demand full payment upon delivery if the total bill is 110% or less of the non-binding quote.

If the final bill exceeds 110% of the non-binding estimate, the moving company must release your belongings to you upon payment of 110% of the estimated amount. The company must then wait at least 30 days before billing you for the remaining charges.

Which Type of Moving Estimate Should You Choose?

If you are moving interstate or cross country, you should prefer a binding estimate. They will help you know the exact cost of the move, and you will not face any surprise charges. However, if you’re moving locally, you can choose any of the two options.


How can I ensure an accurate non-binding estimate for my move?

To obtain a more accurate non-binding estimate, you should provide the moving company with a detailed list of items you plan to move.

Are there any advantages to choosing a binding estimate for a cross-country move?

Yes, a binding estimate will provide you with price certainty and protection from unexpected cost increases.

Are there any additional fees that might not be included in the moving estimate types?

While a moving estimate typically covers the primary services and costs, there might be additional fees for stairs or elevators, long carries, or special handling of delicate items. Clarifying the factors affecting moving estimates with the movers is essential to avoid unexpected charges.

Can I request an in-home inspection to get a more accurate moving estimate?

You can certainly request an in-home inspection for a more accurate estimate. If possible, it’s the preferred way to get a quote.

Are there any hidden costs associated with moving estimates?

Hidden costs are generally discouraged in the moving industry. Choose a reputable moving company as they are more transparent about their pricing and any potential additional charges. However, you must read the moving regulations and estimate carefully and ask for explanations if anything needs clarification.

Joey Sasson

Joey Sasson

Joey Sasson is an executive and author with over 30 years of experience in the moving industry. As president of sales and logistics at Moving APT, Joey’s been a driving force behind our company’s success. He’s known around the office for his expertise and dedication, and he’s probably working on another article right this moment. Joey has a lot to say about the moving industry, but he also writes about other elements of business, leadership, self-improvement, and more.
Green Group

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