Many movers offer three types of estimates, binding, non-binding, and not-to-exceed. It’s important to know what the differences are.
A binding estimate means that you are obligated to pay just the stated price, even if the shipment weighs more than or less than the estimate. But if you add items later to be moved, or request additional services, the mover may revise the original estimate before your shipment is loaded.
Many movers also offer a not-to-exceed estimate. This type of estimate is called various things by various movers, such as “guaranteed price “ or “price protection, “ but the result is the same - an estimate based on a binding estimate or on actual cost, whichever is lower. Like a binding estimate, a not-to-exceed estimate must be provided to you in writing and is binding on the carrier.
Not-to-exceed estimates differ, though, in that the binding estimate amount becomes the maximum amount that you will be obligated to pay for the services on the estimate. This maximum amount alternates with the tariff charges applicable based on the actual weight of the shipment, with the customer paying the lesser of the two amounts. When you accept a not-to-exceed estimate, the move is performed at actual weight based on the tariff rate levels, with the binding estimate representing the maximum charge that you will have to pay.
A third type of estimate, a non-binding estimate, has increasingly become less common. It’s an approximation of the cost based on the mover’s survey of the items to be moved, with the final cost determined after the shipment is weighed. Since a non-binding estimate is based on the actual rather than the estimated weight, the price will often be lower than a binding estimate.
When you receive a non-binding estimate, however, there is no assurance the final cost will not be more than the estimate. The mover, however, cannot require you to pay more than the amount of the estimate, plus 10 percent (or 110 percent of the estimate amount), at the time of delivery. You must pay any remaining charges for any additional services that you requested or that were required to accomplish your move that are over this 110 percent amount, 30 days after your shipment is delivered, if the services or quantities were not included in your estimate.
The mover may also collect for any services you requested that were not included in the final estimate, such as an extra pickup or delivery.
Finally, the mover may also collect for any “shuttle service “ that may be required at delivery (when a smaller vehicle shuttles your goods from the moving van) if it’s not possible to get the van close to your new home - but only if the shuttle charges don't exceed 15 percent of the total charges due at delivery.
This type of estimate has become increasingly less-common.
IMPORTANT: Be sure to check over the estimates you received for accuracy, in case the estimator may have missed anything. Any items not on the initial estimate which you want included in your shipment that turn up on moving day may increase the cost, so to be sure you and the mover are 100 percent on the same page (literally) about every item you have.
Movers are also required by federal law to give you a brochure with your writtem estimate for an interstate move titled Ready to Move?