Weight vs. Cubic Feet Moving Estimates

When making a big move, whether interstate, long-distance, or local, you may receive moving estimates based on shipment weight and cubic feet. This can be confusing as you collect moving quotes. After all, many of us can’t picture what cubic footage looks like, and it’s not easy to estimate the weight of all your belongings and household goods on your own.

Not to worry! We’ll break down everything you should know about weight vs. cubic feet moving estimates and which one will be best for you.

Weight-based Estimates

Weight-based estimates are the moving industry standard for several reasons. Firstly, most people are more familiar with weight, making it a less confusing number to discuss with customers.

Secondly, weight-based estimates are verified by a third-party company, which gives many customers peace of mind that they’re getting an accurate estimate and aren’t being ripped off. Unlike cubic feet estimates, weight-based estimates are performed by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The truck will be weighed before it’s loaded, then weighed after all of your belongings are loaded. The difference between these figures that make up the weight of your shipments is what the movers will use to determine your free quote.

Having a third-party responsible for calculating the weight of your belongings is ideal because a shady moving company can’t take advantage of you. If the movers try to dispute the weight, you’ll have a DOT-certified weight ticket that clearly states the weight of your belongings.

A shady moving company that doesn’t go through the DOT should be avoided at all costs. Common moving scams include forging the weight ticket, loading other moves into the truck before weighing your belongings, or filling up the gas tank to throw off the weight estimate.

So, how much does the type of estimate actually matter?

If you have a binding estimate with an accurate inventory list, the weight of your belongings will matter less because the company’s final price is based on the inventory list and a flat rate rather than the weight.

However, if you have a nonbinding estimate, then your belongings’ weight matters greatly and can significantly impact the final cost. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to estimate how much your belongings will weigh just by looking at them in your home.

The bottom line is you’ll want to ask the company to prepare a binding estimate with an agreed-upon final price. You’ll better understand how much the move will cost and won’t have to rely on variable cost estimates.

Cubic Feet Estimates

So, what exactly is a cubic foot? A cubic foot is calculated by multiplying the length, width, and height of your belongings.

It’s completely legal to charge by cubic feet estimates. However, many customers dislike this practice because the DOT can’t verify the calculation.

Shady moving companies often calculate their fees based on cubic feet so that they can pull one over on their customers. Less honest movers may pack the moving truck loosely so that the cubic feet estimate is larger or make generous measurements to add extra charges to the cost of your move.

However, it’s unfair to assume that all companies that base their estimates on cubic feet are shady. Many reputable moving companies use cubic feet estimates and won’t use this to overcharge you. All in all, we recommend thoroughly vetting your professional movers, particularly if they charge based on cubic feet since you can’t verify this figure on your own.

Which is Best? Weight vs. Cubic Feet Moving Estimates

Still confused about what kind of estimate is best? Here are some general rules of thumb and moving tips we recommend:

  • A reputable mover is the most crucial step. Look up customer reviews and the company’s BBB rating. Ask your friends and family if they have recommendations for local movers. Steer clear of any companies they warn you against.
  • Shipment weight is verified by a third-party company in most cases. If you’re concerned about being ripped off, go with a company with weight-based moving estimates. The DOT will verify and weigh your belongings, ensuring that no shady practices are used to throw off the estimate. The certified DOT weight ticket will also help protect you if the mover tries to dispute the weight of your belongings later on.
  • Meet with the moving company face-to-face. Online reviews are an excellent step in verifying a company’s ethics, but nothing beats face-to-face contact with company representatives. Take the time to meet with them in person before your move. Ask questions and listen to what your gut is telling you about the company and how it operates.
  • Don’t sign anything until you’re positive about your move date and the company. A reputable company won’t try to rush you into signing anything quickly. Take time to ask questions and gather all the details about when, how, and where the movers will be loading your shipment and making the estimate. This is a red flag if the company representative tries to rush you. Find a different company to go with. It’s not worth the risk to your belongings.

Final Thoughts

In short, we recommend going with a moving company that operates with weight-based estimates because the weight will almost always be verified and calculated by a neutral third party, like the Department of Transportation. However, shady moving companies can also find ways to alter weight-based estimates, although these estimates are more difficult to adjust than cubic-foot-based estimates.

Your best bet is to research moving services extensively, ask trusted friends and family members for referrals, and speak to a representative about the estimate process to weed out shady companies.

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