The non-binding estimate
happens to be the most common type of estimates used by moving companies. By definition, a non-binding estimate is one that is provided simply as a ball-park approximation of what your move may cost based on an initial assessment of your belongings and your total shipment.
This initial estimate can and often will change during the course of the move and you may often be asked to pay a different amount at the end of your move than the one you were originally quoted during the estimate process. Because these estimates can change and fluctuate throughout the moving process based on different factors like weight of shipment, different services rendered and other things, non-binding estimates are not a guarantee and do not serve as a contract.
Rules of Non-Binding Estimates
Much like binding estimates, the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) also has several rules and regulations regarding non-binding estimates and how they are carried out by professional moving companies. As always, these rules serve as ways to protect the customer during the implementation of the estimate and also as ways to make sure the estimates are carried out in the most efficient and fair way possible.
- Rule #1: While moving companies may charge you for providing you with binding estimates because they are essentially a fixed estimate or a form of moving contract, companies are not allowed to charge customers to provide them with non-binding estimates or quotes. This is because the price initially quoted in a non-binding estimate may change and thus it does not serve as a contract. More often than not, you will end up being required to pay more than what the initial estimate is, and your mover is not required to honor the original quote. A non-binding estimate a simply that: an estimate.
- Rule #2: As with binding estimates, movers must accurately describe the shipment in writing when providing the customer with a copy of the non-binding estimate and a copy must also be attached to the bill of lading. The non-binding estimate, although subject to change, must be provided as a reasonable approximation of costs based directly on the goods assessed in your shipment as well as a close approximation of the total weight of the shipment. In other words, the moving company cannot purposely quote you a low figure that is unreasonably below what your total moving costs will be, only to hit you with a much higher total when the move is completed. Some moving companies may do this however, and it is a common moving scam that you should be cautious of and avoid at all costs.
- Rule #3: The non-binding estimate must include a written statement provided by the moving company that explains that the estimate is not binding and that the costs outlined in the initial quote are only approximate figures that may change depending on certain extenuating factors during the course of the move.
- Rule #4: Once the move begins, if the moving company notices any additional items or add-ons in your shipment that were not included and described in the original estimate, the mover has the right to refuse service and also has the right to create a revised binding estimate with the new items added to your shipment, which will often result in being charged a higher price.
- Rule #5: Perhaps one of the most important rules of the non-binding estimate, it states that a moving company must notify the customer beforehand if the movers believe that any extra services not included in the original estimate are required to complete the move. The customers then have up to one hour to make a decision on whether or not they would like to have these extra services included.
- Rule #6: Moving companies may not collect more than 110 percent of the total amount of their initial estimate upon arrival.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Non-Binding Estimates
The advantages and disadvantages of receiving non-binding estimate are less pronounced than those that come with receiving binding estimates or binding-not-to-exceed estimates. Because a non-binding estimate is simply an approximate charge and may change during the move, it often leaves the customer potentially vulnerable to fall victim to one of the prevalent moving scams that unfortunately exist in the moving industry today, such as companies low-balling their customers and providing intentionally low estimates only to gouge them with an outrageously high price in the end.
On the other hand, the non-binding estimate is one of the most commonly used estimates in the moving industry and is very easy for most moving companies to provide free of charge, unlike other estimates, making it ideal for people who are moving with light shipments on short notice and need quick and easy over-the-phone estimates.