If you're hiring movers to move your stuff, you need to know the difference between estimates and which type is available for your type of move and which one is best for the kind of move you're making. Non-binding tend to be more common than binding estimates, in particular if you're moving long distance or conducting an intrastate move.
Learn more about non-binding estimates so you understand what the mover needs to provide and what you're signing before you agree to the price quoted.
Estimate is Based on Weight and Context
First, a non-binding estimate is based on how much the mover thinks your household stuff weighs. To get an accurate estimate, the mover needs to conduct an in-house review where they'll visit your home and note everything that needs to be moved. They'll also consider other factors such as stairs, parking, any large items and if there are any other issues that might impact the move for which they'd charge you an extra fee. This is a great time to ask questions.
Non-Binding is Not a Contract
A moving company cannot charge you for a non-binding estimate or quote. It is not a bid or contract. It is provided as an estimated cost of your move and does not bind your mover to this price. In most cases, your mover will provide a maximum price quote, noting that they won't charge you more than the price quoted unless the move circumstances change, such as adding in extra things to move that will significantly change how much your goods weigh. Make sure you ask the movers if the estimate is the top-end of the quote.
It Must be in Writing
Non-binding estimates must be in writing and must accurately describe the shipment and all the services provided. The charges must be on the service order and the bill of lading.
Before You Sign
Don't sign or accept the service order or bill of lading unless the mover indicates the amount estimated on each form.
The Estimate Should be Based on Several Factors
Your mover must provide reasonably accurate non-binding estimates based on an estimated weight of the shipment and any extra services you and the company think are required, such as flight charges, fuel charges and long haul carry charges.
Make Sure Documentation is in Order
The moving company must retain a copy of the non-binding estimate and attach it to the bill of lading. Your mover must indicate in the non-binding estimate that the estimate is not binding and that the costs shown are approximate charges. Your mover must clearly describe the entire shipment and all services they will provide, including anything extra they think will apply to your move.
Refusal of Service
Before loading your household goods, if the moving company thinks you have additional belongings not stated in the non-binding estimate, the mover can refuse you service. Make sure everything you need to move is clearly outlined in the estimate. If you need to add items, tell your mover so you can work out an agreement before they start to load your shipment.
Added Service Fees
If your mover thinks additional services are needed to properly complete your shipment, after your household goods have been loaded, they must tell you what the additional services are before they act on them. You must be given one hour to decide if you want the additional services. If these services do not appear on your mover's non-binding estimate, your mover must deliver your shipment and bill you later for the additional services.
After the Move
Your mover must retain a record of all estimates of charges for each move performed for at least one year from the date your mover made the estimate.