We get this question a lot.
Which type of estimate should I trust? Weight or cubic feet based?
Customers are usually caught in the middle of two moving company salespeople.
One claiming weight based estimates are a scam.
The other claiming cubic footage based estimates are a scam.
Guess what, it doesn’t matter which type of estimate you get.
Here’s the deal:
For interstate moves, a scammy moving company will find ways to overcharge you regardless of whether your estimate is weight or volume based.
Like we always say, your focus should be on hiring a reputable moving company!
And yes, we made a list of the most reputable nationwide moving companies.
Back to the point, a good mover will make sure the move is properly quoted and make you aware of any scenarios where your moving estimate could increase.
And another thing.
Most customers are getting a binding estimate anyway and in that case, the weight vs cubes issue truly doesn’t matter.
If you’re getting a Binding Estimate you’ll want to pay closer attention to the items list (aka “Table of Measurements” or “Cube Sheet”). The actual list of household goods is how your price is being calculated.
Your binding estimate final price is based on the actual number of items you have, not on the total cubic feet or weight.
So if you have 250 items listed on your “Cube Sheet” and end up having 300 items on moving day, your price will likely be increased regardless of weight or volume.
Again, a good long distance mover will set the estimate up correctly so that moving day doesn’t have any hidden surprises.
You should still understand the difference between the two types move size measurements, so let’s take a look at both.
Enlightened moving companies will guide you
Weight based estimates
Quoting moves in terms of weight is the moving industry standard and you’ll see most major van lines will, by default, offer quotes based on the weight of your shipment.
While moving company weight estimates can vary, the major benefit to weight based estimates is they can be verified by the Department of Transportation (DOT).
This is a very important distinction between weight and volume based estimates. The DOT can actually weigh your shipment and verify the weight vs the estimate.
Confused by how they actually weigh all your stuff? Let me explain…
The truck is weighed prior to loading. Then after everything is loaded they reweigh the truck. The difference between the two is the weight of your move.
And since the DOT does the weighing, you have a trustworthy 3rd party to verify the weights.
This is especially nice because if you do have a dispute with your mover you can request the DOT certified weight tickets to verify everything.
But like I mentioned earlier, shady movers can take advantage of the weighing system.
Loading other moves before weighing, filling up the gas tank, and forging weight tickets are common scams if you hire a shady mover.
Does the weight estimate matter?
Yes and no. If you have a binding estimate and the inventory list is accurate then the actual weight shouldn’t matter. The final price will be based on the inventory list.
But what if the inventory list isn’t accurate, what happens then?
At this point, you will need to have a discussion with your mover. Let’s say a moving company shows up and an entire garage worth of stuff was missing from the estimate.
Yes, this happens.
The moving company isn’t going to move this stuff for free. Assuming they can fit it all on the moving truck, they’ll likely give you 2 options.
Option 1: Rewrite the quote and calculate a new binding price for the move. Or…
Option 2: Change the estimate from binding to non-binding (i.e. weight based).
The first option is pretty straightforward. You just rewrite the binding estimate and you’ll pay whatever flat rate both parties agree on.
The second option is where the weight comes into play. A non-binding or “weight based” estimate means the truck will be weighed and the final cost will be the total weight multiplied by the cost-per-pound.
So, if your garage full of stuff that was missing on the original estimate weighs 1000lbs, and the rate per pound is $1/lb, you’ll owe an extra $1,000 to cover the cost of the additional items.
The big risk with non-binding estimates is it’s hard to estimate how much the extra garage items will weigh. And you won’t know until after they’ve picked everything up and gone to the scales.
The garage could weigh an extra 300lbs or an extra 5,000lbs. And that can mean an extra $300 or $5,000 depending.
In most cases, it makes sense to just rewrite the binding estimate and agree on a final price.
And again, if you hire a shady mover none of this matters. They’ll do whatever they want to ensure you end up paying more regardless of the paperwork.
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Cubic footage estimates
Cubic foot = length(1ft) x width(1ft) x height(1ft)
Cubic footage estimates are perfectly legal but are generally frowned upon because they can’t be verified by the DOT.
We also see scammy movers often quoting in terms of cubic feet because it’s easier to game.
Packing the truck poorly or generous measurements can quickly add to the total cubic footage of a move.
But some of the best movers we work with provide quotes in terms of cubic footage with no problems.
As a general rule of thumb, if you haven’t worked with the mover before or weren’t referred by a trusted party then it’s best to avoid cubic footage estimates.
Consider more than weight or volume to avoid moving scams
Whether you’re moving locally or long distance there are plenty of other ways movers can tack on extra charges outside of the weight or volume.
Charging for excessive packing materials is a very common tactic to get more money out of a customer.
While there are legitimate reasons for companies to have to pack items on moving day, always get a packing cost list upfront, prior to moving day.
Shuttle truck charges is another area movers can add major costs. If you’re moving out of a major city like New York, be sure to discuss whether or not a shuttle truck will be required to do the move.
And again, hire a good mover and you won’t need to worry too much about all this.
Learn more about the different types of moving estimates.