It seems like you can get an online quote for practically anything these days. You’ll find sites all over the internet willing to give you an instant estimate for things like car insurance, health insurance, redoing the siding on your house, ending the termite infestation you discovered in your attic, buying a color copier, ordering a case of pitted dates from Pakistan or even booking an Elvis impersonator for your next party.

So when it comes to getting a quote for moving to or from Hawaii, you might wonder:

Why does my moving company need to come to my house to give me a quote?

We’ll show you five solid reasons why. We’ll also explain why any moving company who refuses to do an in-person survey of your home might be one to avoid.

Let’s get started!

Reason #1: It’s the Law

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has put a number of regulations in place to protect your rights as a consumer when you move, namely:

If you are moving from a location within a 50-mile radius of your mover’s place of business, their estimate must be based on a physical survey of your household goods—unless you waive this requirement in writing.

So when your moving company tells you that they need to come to your house to do their survey, they’re complying with the law, first and foremost. Note that for moves in remote areas, some companies will offer video surveys in place of in-home surveys. This is a fairly standard industry practice that shouldn’t raise your suspicion.

However, what if a mover flat-out refuses to complete an in-home estimate? The American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA) suggests that you might want to consider choosing another company for your move. (And while we’re on that topic, you might also want to review our checklist for choosing a reputable mover.)

Rules and regulations aside, there’s a very practical reason that your movers want to perform an in-home survey.

Reason #2: There’s No Such Thing as a “Standard” Move

After doing tens of thousands of surveys, our Certified Moving Consultants will tell you that no two moves are alike.

Typically—and we say this with a grain of salt—the belongings of a two-bedroom condo could fit into a 20′ container. However, we’ve seen two-bedroom condos stuffed to the gills with books, knickknacks, décor, art, etc. that required a 40′ container. Similarly, we’ve seen people living in minimalist three-bedroom homes that fit their possessions easily into a 20′ container.

Here’s the bottom line: Everyone lives differently, and everyone moves differently. So even with our Certified Moving Consultants’ high level of experience, we really can’t gauge things like 1) what kind of container you’ll need or 2) how much your move might cost until we can actually lay eyes on your things.

Another thing that’s important to realize is that the final cost of your move is based on weight. So someone with an extensive book collection and a houseful of heavy wooden furniture is will receive a higher quote for their move. If your movers can come to your house and see the items you want to move, they’ll get a better ballpark in terms of the weight—and ultimate cost—of your move.

An in-person survey also gives your mover an opportunity to gauge another important factor that can change your cost significantly.

Reason #3: The Experts Can Spot “Extras” Up Front

While the final cost of your move will ultimately be based on weight, the cost per pound that you’re quoted will take a few additional factors into account, such as:

  • Stairs, especially if your house has several flights or very narrow stairs that might make it difficult to move larger pieces.
  • Access issues, such as low-hanging branches, parking restrictions or small driveways that might make it difficult to park a truck near your house. In these cases, your movers may need to use a smaller van to shuttle items from your house to the truck.
  • Elevators, particularly if there isn’t a dedicated elevator your movers can use on the day of, which means your move will likely take longer.
  • Fragile items that might require special handling, including items like artwork, large flat-screen TVs, musical instruments and other delicates that might be better protected in a crate.

When you have an in-person survey, an expert will arrive ready to spot any of these potential scenarios. That way, these can get factored into your quote from the start, eliminating any surprises on Moving Day.

However, an online moving calculator might not make provisions for any of these. In this case, your movers may not recognize them until Moving Day, which might result in additional charges on the day of.

Moving Day is stressful enough without extra costs thrown in the mix. An in-person survey will reduce this possibility significantly, making for a smoother moving experience.

Reason #4: You’ll Get a Full Explanation of All of Your Options

While an online quote or a moving calculator offers the convenience of an immediate result, it’s missing one thing: the human touch.

When you have an expert come to your house to do a survey, you’ll get the chance to ask all the questions you need to fully understand your options. For example:

Do I really need a full container? Or are there other options that might be more cost-effective for me? For example, if budget is a big consideration, you might be able to downsize your move. A surveyor can look at what you’re thinking of leaving behind and let you know whether that’s a viable option for you.

What about “moving insurance?” How can I protect my move? You’ll have a few options presented to protect your personal possessions in case of loss or damage. If you want to know more about these options, your expert can walk you through it, using some of your actual items as an example.

Is this a binding estimate or a non-binding estimate? In other words, is my price guaranteed on Moving Day? In brief, most moving quotes fall into two categories:

  • Binding moving estimate: Your moving company will prepare an inventory sheet of the items you’ve indicated you want to move. As long as nothing changes, your final price should match the estimate.
  • Non-binding moving estimate: Your moving company will make an expert estimate of your moving cost, with the ultimate cost reflecting the weight of your items and the services they provide. Your bill may ultimately be higher than this estimate, but that’s where the in-person survey comes into play. As long as you don’t make changes after your survey, your estimate will likely be on target. Additionally, your moving company can’t require you to pay more than 110% of this estimate before releasing your items to you.

The person who comes to your house can walk you through which kind of estimate you’ll receive. Ask as many questions as you need to make sure you understand it thoroughly.

After all, that’s one of the prime benefits of your in-person walkthrough. And, as a bonus, consider our final reason.

Reason #5: It Probably Won’t Cost You a Dime

Most moving companies will offer you a complimentary in-home or video survey. Given all these benefits, why not take an hour out of your day to get a more accurate quote that practically eliminates any surprises on Moving Day?

In this age of instant everything, it might seem old-fashioned, but, at the end of the day, getting your in-person survey done upfront will save you a lot of hassle in the long run.

Before we wrap up, we have just one more recommendation: Take the time to get in-person surveys from three independent moving companies. While it does require a small investment of your time, it will give you a more accurate lay of the land on the going rate for your move. It will give you a sense of how each company operates so you can choose the right one for you.

Taking the Surprise Out of Moving Day

Moving to a new home already comes with a certain level of uncertainty. Will your new space feel as homey as your old one? Will you get along with your neighbors? Will your kids or pets adjust easily to the new environment?

When you layer on the idea that you’ll be turning over all of your personal possessions to a virtual stranger, a big move can create some serious stress. Anything you can do to reduce uncertainty will make your move that much more pleasant.

That’s why we strongly recommend getting an in-person survey. By giving your mover a chance to develop an accurate quote, you’ll reduce the risk of surprises on Moving Day, opening the door for a simple, stress-free move for your family.



Ready to schedule an in-person survey of your home? We’d be happy to send out one of our Certified Moving Consultants to give you an estimate. Just get in touch with us to schedule your complimentary survey.

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