Premier Van Lines International
Of all the different aspects of overseas moving, pre-move surveys and non-binding estimates are probably the most confusing to many customers; insurance options are also complicated. For someone that has never done an overseas move before, we will try to explain the survey process and its concept and clearly as possible. If a customer is doing a self-load move, most of the time the transportation cost is fixed, so they basically fill up whatever size container they have and know what the bill will be beforehand. Some larger self-load moves (2-4 bedroom homes or 10' x 10'+ storage units) also may have surveys done. When there is any loading/unloading help performed, often including packing, then our company will usually schedule a pre-move survey for the customer, in order to accurately quote the customer. Why? Because full-service moves are usually not a fixed cost, and the estimate is non-binding. Therefore the more accurate the pre-move estimate is, the better. Before we get into the details of how the results of a pre-move estimate determine the total cost of the move, we should first explain how transportation costs are calculated.
Why is a full-service move not a fixed cost? The loading (and any packing) & unloading help costs money for the labor and fuel. The more that is loaded and unloaded, the more the labor and fuel cost is. There needs to be some type of measurement of how much labor and fuel will be compensated for. The three main ways for measuring this compensation are: hourly rates, weight-based rates, and cubic foot-based rates. Hourly rates are usually for local moves. Sometimes there will be an hourly rate for loading a 20' or 40' steel container, if the customer has already packed their own boxes. Most of the time however, the loading and unloading of the shipment is based on the net weight of the shipment itself. In addition, packing is included in almost all of the full-service quotes, whether the customer packs their own boxes or not.
Why is that? Let's compare an international move to a domestic move. For a local or interstate move, the shipment is loaded 'loose' into a truck or 53' trailer, and reusable moving blankets are used. It's a simple and cheap way to move a customer. An overseas move is different. Moving blankets will not come back to the warehouse that originally used them, so brown export wrapping paper is used instead. Different countries have different rules about packed boxes and inventory lists, so for simplicity almost all warehouses have set weight-based rates for packing, loading, inventory of the shipment, and then crating/containerizing the shipment. These weight-based pack and load rates are not cheap; they are often 2-10 times more expensive than the cheap truck/trailer loading moves for local or interstate shipments. This fact, along with the ocean transport cost (which is often based on cubic feet), is why overseas moves seem so much more expensive than interstate moves.
Now that we've described much of what constitutes the transportation costs for an overseas move, let's discuss what exactly how the pre-move estimate is used to calculate the estimated transportation costs of the shipment. Many customers think that the estimator who comes out to their residence or storage unit will immediately be able to give them a door to door price for their move. That's actually not the job of the estimator; their job is to simply mark down the furniture moving, mark down any boxes the customer has packed, and mark down how many boxes they think the customer will need. That's all they are there to do. They then send the information to our company, and with the estimated weight and cubic feet on the survey, our company then calculates the estimated door to door cost of the move for the customer. Again, the estimator does not estimate the cost of your move, they only estimate the weight and size of the shipment. They could guess on the door to door price, and they could also be very off in their guess. They often have no idea how a company like ours actually prices out the different transportation costs involved in the shipment (pickup, trucking, ocean, and delivery). They can however be asked about certain accessory charges, note the truck/container access to your residence or storage unit, note any large fragile items that may need custom crating, etc. The pre-move estimate is very important for a decent-sized move, but it is only a tool for helping to calculate multiple different transportation costs of the move, and those calculations are done in our office, not in the estimator's office.
Now that we have explained what a pre-move estimate is and is not, let's now explain how weight and cubic feet (size or volume) are related to each other. Most surveys first mark down how large a box or piece of furniture is, and assign a certain number of cubic feet to that item or group of items. The survey then usually will multiply that cubic foot number by seven to get the estimated weight. Based on experience, most moves average out to seven pounds per cubic foot. However, most furniture is only around four pounds per cubic foot, and boxes can often range from 10-30 pounds per cubic foot. So, if someone is moving mostly boxes or all boxes, their shipment's density (pounds per cubic foot) will tend to be significantly higher than someone who is moving a good mix of boxes and furniture. As you will read later, this will have an important effect on the transportation cost, especially if the shipment's cost is based 100% by weight.
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