Binding vs Non-Binding Moving Estimates – What’s The Difference?

By: Harrison Gough Last Updated: Oct 19, 2023

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Binding estimates offer a fixed price based on initial weight, while non-binding estimates vary with actual weight on delivery day.

Binding vs Non-Binding Moving Estimates – What’s The Difference?

When facing a long-distance move, moving companies typically present two options: non-binding or binding estimates. What sets these estimates apart?

In a nutshell, a non-binding estimate provides a cost projection based on the moving company’s assessment, but it’s not a guarantee. On the other hand, a binding estimate means you pay precisely what the estimate states.

However, this fundamental difference only scratches the surface. Below, we delve deeper into the nuances of binding and non-binding moving estimates. If you’re interested in learning more about the cost to hire movers and want to find the best moving companies, read on.

What is a Binding Moving Estimate?

A binding moving estimate offers you a rock-solid promise from the moving company – a fixed price based on the weight of your belongings. When you opt for a binding estimate, you can rest assured that the amount you were originally quoted is the exact sum you’ll pay. There’s no room for surprises or unexpected hikes in the final bill.

However, it’s crucial to be aware that agreeing to a binding moving estimate comes with its own trade-offs. If your belongings weigh less than the original estimate, you won’t benefit from a cost reduction. You are still obligated to pay the agreed-upon cost, even if your belongings turn out to be lighter than anticipated.

Despite this potential downside, a binding estimate does offer some distinct advantages.

One of the most significant benefits is the peace of mind it provides. By opting for a binding estimate, you won’t have to worry about last-minute overcharges or unexpected expenses creeping into the picture. The fixed price ensures you can plan your budget confidently and know exactly what to expect on moving day.

Another perk of a binding estimate is that even if your belongings end up weighing more than the initial estimate, you won’t be subject to additional charges. The agreed-upon cost remains unchanged, protecting you from potential cost overruns and offering a sense of financial security.

When exploring moving quotes or using a moving cost calculator to assess how much long distance movers cost, understanding binding moving estimates will help you make informed decisions. It allows you to select the best moving company that fits your budget and requirements, ensuring a smooth and successful move.

What is a Non-Binding Moving Estimate?

Similar to its binding counterpart, a non-binding moving estimate is a quote provided by the moving company based on the weight of your belongings. However, there’s a crucial distinction – the term “non-binding” indicates that this estimate is not set in stone, and the final price may vary based on the actual weight of your belongings during the move.

Non-binding estimates are more common, especially in the case of long-distance moves, as most movers cannot guarantee an exact quote for extended trips. Several factors influence this estimate, including the tariff, weight of your possessions, gas costs, and the individual movers themselves. As a result, the price can fluctuate at any point during the move.

While non-binding estimates offer flexibility, they aren’t the most ideal option for some. Agreeing to a non-binding estimate might lead you to pay more than initially anticipated. For instance, if your movers provide a lowball estimate at first and the final bill turns out much higher due to unforeseen weight increases, you’ll have to pay the original price plus an additional 10 percent at the time of delivery.

To protect yourself when presented with a non-binding estimate, exercise caution before accepting it. Avoid signing or accepting any bill of lading or order for service unless the moving company enters the amount estimated on each form prepared. This step ensures transparency and clarity throughout the process, safeguarding you from potential disputes or unexpected financial burdens later on.

A Closer Look: What’s Inside the Estimate?

When you receive a contract from the moving company, clarity is key. The type of estimate they provide should be explicitly stated, leaving no room for confusion. Ideally, the estimate should be attached to your Bill of Lading contract, providing a comprehensive overview of the moving costs.

For long-distance moves, the contract should include essential details that directly impact the overall cost. You can expect to find the mover’s name and address, the tariff cost, the minimum weight, and the estimated weight of your belongings. Additional information, such as the miles to be traveled, applicable discounts, packing and unpacking fees, transportation charges, storage costs, insurance surcharges, fuel expenses, and accessorial services, should also be outlined.

However, it’s essential to remember that the estimate isn’t the sole factor determining your move’s cost. Several other expenses can add up, affecting the final bill.

For example, if you plan to purchase moving supplies and cardboard boxes, these costs must be taken into account. Moreover, the timing of your move can significantly impact expenses. Moves during the “peak moving season” (Summer/June to September) may incur higher costs, as do relocations scheduled on holidays, weekends, or the beginnings and endings of months.

To optimize your budget, consider planning your move during weekdays in less busy months. By avoiding peak periods, you may find that the moving process becomes more cost-effective, allowing you to focus on a smooth and successful transition to your new home.

Choosing Between a Binding and Non-Binding Moving Estimate: Factors to Consider

Now that you know more about binding and non-binding estimates, the time has come to make a decision that suits your moving needs.

If you’re still unsure about which option to choose, consider the following factors that can play a crucial role in shaping your choice.

1. Budget

Your budget plays a major role when deciding between a binding and non-binding estimate. A binding estimate provides you with a fixed price, offering financial predictability and peace of mind. With a binding estimate, you can plan your budget confidently, knowing the cost won’t fluctuate. However, it’s important to ensure the binding estimate aligns with your budget constraints.

A non-binding estimate might be suitable if you’re looking for more flexibility in pricing and are willing to accommodate potential cost fluctuations. Keep in mind that the final cost of a non-binding estimate can vary based on the actual weight of your belongings, which could impact your budget.

2. Accuracy

When relocating, you want to opt for an accurate cost estimation to experience a smooth and stress-free move. If you have a comprehensive inventory of your belongings and prefer a precise quote, a binding estimate can provide the certainty you need.

The moving company will assess your inventory and provide you with a fixed price based on that information. Keep in mind that a binding estimate relies heavily on the accuracy of the provided inventory.

If you’re unsure about the weight or volume of your belongings, a non-binding estimate might be a more realistic option.

The moving company will give you an estimated price based on the information you provide, but the final cost will be determined on moving day, depending on the actual weight of your items. This option could be preferable if you’re uncertain about the specifics of your move.

3. Flexibility

When evaluating estimates, consider the level of flexibility you require. A non-binding estimate offers more leeway for adjustments since the final price isn’t fixed.

If you’re uncertain about the specific services you’ll need or anticipate potential changes in your moving plan, a non-binding estimate can accommodate these uncertainties. This flexibility can be beneficial for those who value options and expect unforeseen circumstances during the move.

Remember that while a non-binding estimate offers flexibility, it also means that the final cost can fluctuate.

4. Trust in Moving Company

Your trust in the moving company is an essential factor to weigh. If you are genuinely confident in the company’s reputation, expertise, and honesty, a binding estimate can provide reassurance, knowing that they will deliver on their quoted price. You can be confident that the final cost will align with the initial estimate, and there won’t be any surprises.

If you have any reservations about the moving company or their pricing practices, a non-binding estimate may grant you more room for negotiation and safeguard you from potential overcharging. If you’re unsure about the company’s credibility, a non-binding estimate can protect you from unexpected price hikes.

5. Special Services and Needs

Consider any special services or unique requirements you might have during your move.

If your relocation demands additional services, such as packing, storage, or handling valuable items, a binding estimate may not accurately encompass all these aspects. In such cases, a non-binding estimate could better adapt to your personalized needs and ensure the final cost adequately reflects the comprehensive scope of services.

Don’t forget that with a non-binding estimate, the final cost can still vary based on the additional services you use. Make sure to communicate all your requirements clearly to the moving company to receive the most accurate estimate.

Which Estimate Should You Go For?

The decision between a binding and non-binding moving estimate depends on your unique circumstances and priorities.

A binding estimate offers fixed pricing, providing budget certainty and peace of mind, but may require accurate inventory details. On the other hand, a non-binding estimate grants flexibility but could result in cost fluctuations.

Whichever you opt for, clear communication with the movers is key to a successful and stress-free relocation.