The Cost of Moves: Is Weight or Cubic Feet a Better Option?
Posted Dec 15th 2021
The Cost of Moving: Is Weight or Cubic Feet a Better Option to Go With?
Movers use a number of factors to provide accurate written estimates. The estimated cost of your move is influenced by things like the time of year, the distance it’ll take to ship your household goods, and the size of the entire shipment.
Then, on moving day, movers will either get the shipment's weight or its cubic feet to determine the actual size.
This moving day measurement may affect the final price or it may not. For more information on how shipment size on move day may cause changes to written estimates, check out our article which explores the topic more in depth.
Pounds vs. Cubic Feet
When customers receive their initial written estimate, the numbers and values can seem confusing. Moving is complex, and the pricing assigned to those moves is no different.
However, an easy-to-identify pricing component is the itemized inventory or cube sheet. This is drawn up after your initial walkthrough with an estimator and summarizes everything the movers will end up transporting for your move.
This document is important because it tells you two essentials:
- What your movers will handle on moving day. If you notice something is missing from your inventory or cube sheet, make sure to get in contact with your estimator. This will ensure your written estimate accurately tells you what you'll pay after the move.
- How your moving company will measure the size of your shipment. So, if you’ve got an itemized inventory your shipment is likely to be measured according to weight. In contrast, cube sheets indicate the shipment will be measured by cubic feet.
Measuring a shipment’s weight is a decades-old method for accurately calculating the cost of transporting household goods. It’s also the only method that can be verified by the Department of Transportation (DOT).
Moving companies will first obtain a base weight for their trucks before loading the shipment. After weighing the truck at a weigh station, movers will then load the truck and weigh it again. The difference between the empty and loaded truck's weights is your shipment’s actual weight.
As this process is run through a third party (the DOT), it's easy for customers to verify shipment weights and obtain weight tickets from the weigh stations. It also makes it easy for movers and customers to resolve disputes.
However, unreputable movers can manipulate this system to increase prices. For example, they can forge weight tickets or weigh down trucks with items not part of the customer’s shipment.
Other reputable movers choose to calculate shipment size using cubic feet. By multiplying the length, width, and height of the loaded shipment together, they calculate or estimate the cost of transportation. Some trucks are even marked with measurement indicators so movers can quickly assign shipment values.
Cubic feet measurements are not backed by the DOT and shipments are assigned value by the movers themselves. It’s also difficult for customers to verify the process the movers used to obtain their shipment’s size.
And there are cases of unreputable movers packing boxes poorly and loading trucks in a way that increases the shipment’s size.
Focus on Reputation and Accuracy
When it comes down to it, your focus should be on working with movers you can trust. Make sure to go for a company with a reputation you can feel reassured by.
When you first meet with movers, make sure you conduct an initial walkthrough with an estimator. This ideally is done in-person but can also be done virtually. During this initial walkthrough, make sure to ask questions to get a feel for that particular moving company. Ask questions like the following:
- How long have you been in business?
- What kind of moves do you specialize in?
- What kind of valuation coverage do you offer on my belongings? Is that included in the base price?
- On average, what’s your customer satisfaction rate? (This can be compared to reviews online)
- What’s the number one reason people choose not to use you as movers?
- What kind of equipment do you use for loading, transportation, and unloading? How often is that equipment checked?
- How do you train your movers? How often are they trained?
The initial walkthrough is your opportunity to meet with and better understand how that mover operates. Their reputation should speak for itself, and their equipment should be up to industry standards.
As a General Rule of Thumb…
Though the moving company’s standards and practices are more important than how they assess shipment size, you can use these tips as a general guide to follow:
- Shipment weight is more verifiable than cubic feet measurements. You can obtain weight tickets through the DOT and movers must work with a third party to get your shipment’s value.
- If your movers are using cubic feet as a standard of measurement, do some thorough research. Look at reviews and try to find someone you know who has worked with them in the past. Make sure they’re reputable movers you can trust to obtain your shipment size fairly.
- Get some face-to-face contact before your move date if you can. Meeting with representatives of the company usually gives you a good idea of the standards the movers hold themselves to.
- Don’t sign anything until you feel confident about the specifics of your move. Reputable movers ensure you know everything that’s happening before anything does. So, if you’ve got someone trying to have you sign paperwork before you even know when they’re loading your shipment, it may be a sign to walk away.
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