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 First Rule: Estimates should be free
Moving companies can issue three different types--the (Non-Binding) Estimate, the Binding Estimate and the Not-to-Exceed Binding Estimate. 

The (Non-Binding) Estimate, which is all you can get in some intrastate situations, is not guaranteed. You do not know the real cost until after the truck is loaded and weighed. Although the van lines industry reports that Non-Binding Estimates are still the most common, we don't recommend this method. 

Our moving survey respondents reported that charges above the estimate could run more than 20 percent. There may be a significant difference between what you estimate your things will weigh from our Furniture Check List, and what a moving company estimator gives you. 

 If all the estimators come up with about the same amounts, you probably have non-standard items. If you live in a state where it's illegal to give Binding Estimates on intrastate moves, or a location where you can't find a moving company that will give them, be sure to attend both before and after weighings, as is your legal right. You need to know how much the truck weighs before your things are loaded in order to calculate your household's weight.

 We recommend using a Binding Estimate. With this method, estimators list all the items to be shipped and all the services you require on the estimate form, then mark it as a binding price. Have them itemize each charge, so that if you want to delete or add something, it's easy for you to know the cost. Changes go on a written Addendum, i.e., the change order they must fill out and you both sign prior to the move. 

 The estimators must also write down how long the price is in effect, usually 60 days. If they are due for a tariff increase, be sure that you either move before then, or that they'll guarantee in writing to hold the price till you move. 

There is a third type of estimate that gives you the best of all worlds. It's called a Not-to-Exceed Estimate. The movers give you a Binding Estimate, then weigh the vehicle and reduce the price if the weight is less than anticipated. Ask all movers you interview if they offer this service. 

Remember, it may be cheaper to buy some new furniture from an on-line store and have them ship it to your new home.

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