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Moving companies are often wrong when it comes to estimating the weight and value of your household goods shipment. Some estimators do a pretty good job, but there is such high turnover in the industry that you never know how experienced your estimator really is. If you make your contract decision based on price, you may be in for a big surprise when the driver hands you the final bill at your destination.
There are a few simple steps you can take to estimate the weight on your own. Following these steps will keep you in charge of the process and protect your rights in case you need to make a claim.
You want to start by sorting and inventorying your belongings. If this sounds like more work than you want to do, there are companies you can hire to inventory and value the contents of your home. No matter who does your inventory, you need to have an inventory done. Without it, you are at a disadvantage from the start. With it, you have a foundational document that can be used throughout your dealings with the moving companies.
Start by separating the valuable stuff from the ordinary stuff, the heavy stuff from the light stuff, and eliminate anything that the movers won’t be moving. As you go, simply list what you have. The list will help you determine the weight and value of your shipment. The best way to proceed is to start upstairs and work your way down, or start down then up if you prefer. Move around each room in a clockwise direction and write down everything you see. Write down items on the floor first, and then items on the wall, and then items in cabinets. Stay consistent from room to room so you don’t miss anything. Collections can be listed as collections, rather than individual pieces. When you are done with the house, inventory the shed and the garage in the same fashion.
You probably won’t take everything in your house. Items that won’t be moved fall into two categories: things you can’t take, and things you won’t want to take. The things you can’t take include anything that could explode, start a fire, rot, or give off toxic fumes. Such items cannot be transported or placed into storage. These are the items that are most troublesome to deal with. You can’t just throw them in the trash. Call your county department of the environment; they will tell you how to dispose of them. Have a plan for getting rid of these items. You don’t want to leave a bunch of hazardous waste in your house. Realtors frown on that. Makes the house harder to sell. Items you don’t want to take should be donated to charity, sold, or consigned to auction. Have the items picked up before you get your estimates. If it’s not in the house, it won’t contribute to an estimating mistake.
Once you know what you are going to move, there are three approaches to estimating the weight of your shipment. The first way is to take an educated guess. Add up the individual weights of the items on your inventory. For reference, I have provided a downloadable table of household weights on my website. If you are moving an item that is not on my list, find an item of similar heft and use the weight of that item. Remember, you are looking for a god estimate, not an exact number. Add up all the individual items for your total weight.
The second way to estimate the weight of your shipment is to take a wild guess. I’m not kidding; this method actually works. I’m told that the average shipment of household goods will weigh about 40 pounds per item. Remember that some items will be boxes of small goods. Total the number of items on your inventory (including boxes) and multiply by 40. If you have 150 items on your inventory, your weight will be somewhere in the 6,000 pound range. Not impressed with this method? That’s why I call it a wild guess. Still, if your wild guess came in at 6,000 pounds and your estimator gave you an estimate of 3,000 pounds, wouldn’t you want to know why?
The third way is illegal, so use it at your own risk. There are household goods weight calculators online. Most of them are on government owned websites, military and G.S.A.. They are supposed to be for authorized users. If you decide to use one, be sure to read the warnings and use good judgment. I only include this information here because I know that some of you will look online for your weights.
Beware if your estimator wants to give you an estimate based on cubic feet; i.e., how much space your shipment will take up in the truck. This is a useless number for billing purposes, since interstate carriers have to charge you based on weight and distance. Figuring cubic feet is useful, however, in determining whether you will be sharing a truck with another shipper, get a whole truck to yourself, or need two trucks. The chart on my website also lists the sizes of household items in cubic feet.
With your inventory done and your weight figured, the next thing you need to know is how to determine the value of your shipment for insurance purposes. That consideration will be the subject of my next article.