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How to recognize a lowball estimate from Movers or Brokers


Moving is quite an expensive affair, so when planning a relocation, you will certainly be looking for efficient ways to cut down the moving costs. And since cheap movers provide a great chance to save on your move, you will probably be hunting for affordable moving services.

So, when you get estimates from several moving companies and see an offer that is considerably lower than the others, you may be eager to accept it. Choosing a mover based on the price alone, however, can be a serious moving mistake.

There are movers out there who offer lower estimates to attract more customers and secure more jobs. Once they begin work though, the price starts to increase and ends up much higher than initially estimated. Or, the fraudulent movers don’t even show up on moving day and just disappear with the money from the deposit.

Fortunately, it is easy to avoid such nightmare moving scenarios – you just need to know how to spot lowball estimates and steer clear of potential moving frauds.

What is a lowball estimate?

A lowball estimate is an incredibly low quote from a moving company. Tempted by the affordable price (that is usually too good to be true), credulous people may accept the offer and hire the mover.

This is one of the most common types of moving scams – unethical movers make very low offers to lure unwary customers and then either vanish with the deposit or add extra charges for alleged accessorial services, unforeseen difficulties during the move, etc. The moving contract is already signed and it is too late to look for another moving company anyway, so the customers have no choice but to pay the exorbitant price (that could be double the original quote). 

In a different scenario, a low-ball estimate may signify incompetent movers – a moving company that offers unusually low quotes may not be properly licensed and/or adequately insured, may not have quality moving equipment, may not offer specialized moving services, etc. Cheap moving labor may also mean the movers are not really trained professionals and don’t have the experience and skill required to perform a safe and efficient relocation.

How to spot a lowball estimate?

To protect your move and avoid moving scams, you need to know how to recognize a lowball estimate. Here is what to look out for:

1) Moving companies that don’t request details about your move.

A moving company can never provide a realistic estimate without knowing all the specifics of the job. There are too many variables that can affect the final price – not just the relocation distance and the number of bedrooms you intend to move – so the movers need to know all the details of your move in order to give you an accurate quote (the number and type of items you have for moving, the peculiarities of the pick-up and delivery locations (layout of the property, stairs, elevators, parking rules, physical obstacles, etc.), any special requirements you may have, etc.).

If the movers are quick to give you a low quote without asking too many questions about your move, you should stay away from them.

2) Movers who don’t provide written binding estimates.

If the movers give you a non-binding estimate or if there is no written record of the estimate, then the quoted price can easily change by the end of your move – the movers can always say that the weight or CFT of your belongings exceeded their original estimate, that there were unforeseen circumstances and/or unexpected difficulties during the move, etc.

To avoid such unpleasant financial surprises, you’re advised to request either a binding estimate or a binding not-to-exceed estimate. That way, you’ll know the maximum amount of money you may need to pay for your move and will be able to budget accordingly.

3) Moving company estimates that don’t include extra services and their rates.

When comparing offers from different moving companies, you need to know what exactly the estimates cover – read the fine print to see what is included in the quote and what is left to be calculated in additional fees. An estimate from a reputable moving company should include all the services that your move requires and all the applicable fees – accessorial services (packing and unpacking, hoisting services, shuttle services, storage-in-transit, split pick-up and/or delivery, etc.) and their rates, fees for gas and transportation, labor costs, additional insurance, etc.

If any of these things are left out, the extra fees will be added to the initially quoted price at the end of your move and your final relocation cost will skyrocket. You should, therefore, avoid moving companies that try to hide extra fees and other additional charges.

How to avoid lowball estimates?
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to avoid getting overcharged on your move:

Get recommendations and references – The best way to find a reputable mover is to get word-of-the-mouth recommendations. So, ask around – reach out to family and friends for advice or use the social networks and local forums to get opinions and feedbacks from people who have recently moved. You can also check reputable sites like Angi Leads and Yelp for verified reviews from previous customers of different moving companies – a mover who has overpromised and/or overcharged will have plenty of negative reviews and low-star ratings;
Research movers well – Be sure to research all moving companies you’re considering to hire – look at their online profiles (websites, media pages, etc.), verify their licensing information, check their BBB ratings and complaint histories, etc. Watch out for red flags of moving fraud – no specific information about the company, bad reviews and low ratings, invalid USDOT number or MC license and no questions about your move, unusually low estimates, large deposits, incomplete or inaccurate paperwork, insurance issues, etc.

Receiving an unreliability cheap estimate.

Why this is a red flag


There is no such thing as a free lunch. If you receive an insanely cheap estimate compared to a lot of actual moving company there are high chances you are being lowballed. They want you to reserve with them and pay the deposit and lock you with their estimate. If they are an actual moving company but you are still receiving a cheap estimate make sure you have done your inventory list with them and everything you mentioned to them is written on your estimate. If you tell a company all your inventory but you do not find them on your estimate, you will be scammed on the day of your moving.


Why they give low estimates and get away with it and when does it increase?


They want to give you a low estimate so you think you are getting the best deal that you should not miss and you don’t want to even check other estimates anymore. These companies will call you few days prior to your move and add majority of your items to your estimate and increase the estimate dramatically. Some companies may still not add all your items you mention to them to your inventory so they could increase your estimate again on the day of your move.


 The estimate is “non-binding”


Did the mover give you a “non-binding” estimate? If so, run (don’t walk) away from this lowball quote. A non-binding estimate means that the quote isn’t set in stone and will most likely change (read: increase) depending on the actual weight or CFT of your belongings. Chances are good that the mover gives you a low-ball, non-binding quote only to surprise you at the end with a final bill that is much higher than originally estimated. To avoid rogue movers, we recommend only accepting either a binding estimate or a binding not-to-exceed estimate. This way, you know the absolute max amount that you could end up having to pay and can budget accordingly. With both types of estimates, you can be assured that even if the weight of your belongings exceeds the original estimate, you won’t be charged anything extra. In a binding not-to-exceed estimate, you may even end up paying less than originally quoted (assuming that the actual weight or CFT of your shipment is less than originally estimated).

What do I do if the mover gives me a lowball estimate?

Obtain quotes from other movers – Whether the quote was given over the phone in a matter of minutes or the estimate simply seems too-good-to-be-true, we recommend looking elsewhere for a mover. By obtaining quotes from at least three different moving companies, you should be able to get a good idea of how much the move is actually going to cost you.

Ask questions – If a mover presents you with (what you’re pretty sure is) a lowball estimate, then make sure to ask lots of questions. Examples of important questions to ask: 1) does this estimate include all additional services, add-ons and transportation fees? 2) do you offer binding not-to-exceed moving estimates? 3) do you have customer references I can check? If a mover’s answers leave much to be desired, move on.

What other red flags should I look out for?

Lowball estimates are just one of many red flags to be aware of when hiring a moving company. Other common red flags to watch out for include:

The moving company isn’t properly licensed or insured.

The mover demands to be paid up-front.

The moving company seems unprofessional. They may lack a business address, online presence, business moving company truck and/or business cards. They may also show up late to your home and exhibit other rude behavior.

The moving contract (i.e., the bill of lading) doesn’t look official.

The mover refuses to put anything in writing.

How do I find a reputable moving company?

To avoid lowball estimates, it’s important to get quotes from reputable moving companies. Fortunately, our website makes it easy to get a quote from an actual moving company Get a Genuine Moving Estimate


The bottom line: If a mover presents you with an estimate that seems too good to be true, you should raise your guard – something is probably off. You may want to look elsewhere – to ensure your safe, smooth, and successful relocation experience, you need to consider not only the price, but also the trustworthiness of the mover and the quality of service they provide. A higher estimate by a licensed, insured, and reliable moving company may, in fact, save you money in the end (as well as plenty of time and headaches). Choose smartly and protect your move!


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