The Wheaton Blog

How to Read a Moving Contract

April 3, 2020 | Moving Guides & Tips

Hiring a professional moving company means entering into a contract with them. This contract will be a document that lists all the terms you both agree upon for services rendered and received. You sign, the company signs and everybody’s happy. Right? Well… usually. It’s easy to agree to terms without reading them thoroughly. Even if the company you’re working with has no ill will, signing papers you don’t understand can still end up causing trouble.

The easy way to avoid signing papers you don’t understand is learning to understand them. Luckily, moving contracts aren’t as complicated as they may seem. These are the common sections found in these agreements and what they mean, point by point. Look for each of the following sections in your next contract:

A Description of the Scope of Services

This can be organized in a number of different ways, but its intention is to let you know what they’ll be doing for you and when. Most companies list this section as a timeline that’s broken down into numbered steps. Each of those steps will have their individual directions and sub-plots. Commonly listed points of interest are: when they’ll load and unload the truck, how they’ll manage and organize your boxes, how long they estimate the move-in will take, and more.

Payment Terms

This section lays out how much you’re paying and for what. It’ll also list when you’re expected to make your payments and what will happen if you don’t. Depending on how you made arrangements with your movers, they might state the price as a fixed rate or an hourly one.

One important rule to keep in mind during any contract arrangement is “110 percent” rule. The 110 percent rule was established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and states that movers can only charge 110 percent of a non-binding estimate when they deliver household goods. Your final quote cannot be more than 110 percent of what your initial quote was, or the company can lose accreditation.


This is a standard of all contracts, not just moving contracts. This portion of the agreement specifies in writing that the moving company cannot and will not share any of your personal information. This can include your name, address and any other related records, documents, and notes. Protect your personal information by including a confidentiality agreement in all contractual negotiations!

Additional Helpful Terms

Every contract will include each of the sections covered so far, but the way they’re included will differ from contract to contract. No two moving companies write their contracts quite the same way, and sometimes the differences can be important. Some moving companies use specialized terminology that you might want to be familiar with before you sign. A few of the most commonly-applied industry terms used in moving contracts include:

  • Bill of Lading. The Bill of Lading is a physical copy of your moving contract. Your movers will present you with your Bill of Lading on the day of your move. In most cases, this also acts as a proof of service, or a receipt. Hold onto it for your records.
  • Binding. If an estimate is ‘binding” that means the moving company cannot change the amount you’ll pay for their services. If they want to, they’ll have to officially submit an amendment and have both parties sign in agreement.
  • Line haul. Line haul charges are the important numerical details involving your move. They will include the number of miles the movers will transport your items and the gross weight of the entire moving load.

This guide will help you feel more prepared the next time you’re reading and signing a moving contract. If you’d like to make sure your next contract comes from a quality, reputable company, give Wheaton a call. Our moving and packing services, international and domestic, are thorough, efficient and guaranteed.

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