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Getting the Right Moving Estimate

How do you choose someone you can trust to handle the packing and moving of your precious belongings? What will it cost? What's the best way to compare figures on move estimates?

Even if you don't know exactly when or where you're moving, you can select a mover and get approximate costs. An excellent way to find good moving companies is to ask friends for referrals. Contact three or four professional moving companies to provide estimates well in advance.

Each moving company will send a representative to your home to review your needs and develop an estimate. Then you can compare the numbers and make your choice.

Before meeting with any representatives:

Get rid of any items you don't intend to move, or at least mark or set them aside.

Know your exact destination.

Set an approximate date for the move.

Decide whether you want an estimate for packing.

Determine whether you'll need a self-storage space, and for how long.

Prepare the questions you want to ask.

Meet with the Mover

Call to make an appointment for the movers to come to your home. Be sure to give each prospective moving company exactly the same information, and ask them exactly the same questions. That way you make a fair assessment of their qualifications and costs. It will also minimize confusion when you get ready to make a choice.

When the representative arrives, he or she will discuss the moving company's track record, services, and policies. You may also be given a set of packing and moving information.

Ask your questions. In effect, this is the job interview. In addition to experience and rates, find out how they handle special items, such as artwork, pianos, or vehicles. Also ask about packing supplies.

Specify which services you're considering: for example, packing, storage, or moving.

Walk the moving company representative through your home. He or she will figure the weight as well as the quantity and types of boxes needed. The representative will also note any items requiring special handling or crating. Indicate which items you intend to pack or move yourself. Also point out items that will not be moved. Go through all rooms of the house, including the attic, basement, garage, and any outbuildings.

Find out when to expect the estimate. Determine whether it will be binding or nonbinding. In a binding estimate, the total cost of the move is guaranteed based on estimated quantities and specified services. A nonbinding estimate is the company's approximation of the final cost, which will be recalculated with the actual weight, actual labor, and other figures when available.

Interpreting the Estimate

Although the moving companies will have different estimate forms, look for this key information:

An itemized list of boxes and other packing materials you'll need, along with their quantities and costs.

Rates for packing and unpacking services for the specified quantities and types of boxes (if applicable).

Weight, cubic feet, and mileage information, and their associated charges. Costs for storage, including weight, cubic feet, and length of time (if applicable).

Cost for additional services (crating, pianos, vehicles, appliance servicing, stairs, and so on).\

Insurance costs and coverage details.

Payment terms.

Carefully review the details of the estimate. Be sure all the information is there and find out how long the estimate is valid.

Analyzing the Bottom Line

When all the estimates are in, you can compare:

Weight amounts.

Packing material amounts.

Rates for hourly labor, volume, weight, and mileage.

Any free or discounted items, such as packing supplies or storage.

Moving companies have varying formulas for estimating move costs; don't hesitate to call for clarification on any details. Be sure you have the means for fair comparison among the moving companies. Negotiate to get the best price possible.

And the winner is...

When you finish comparing the figures of each moving estimate, you're ready to make a selection. You can base your choice solely on the lowest total cost, but also consider:

Personal referrals or experiences with the company.

Any discounts offered.

The company's professionalism and reputation.

Your dealings with them so far: Has the representative been responsive, communicative, and positive?

A word of caution: in many cases, signing the moving estimate indicates that you're ordering the work to be done as described. If you invest the energy into finding the right partnership, you will be well-rewarded on moving day.

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