Top Rated Local Moving Companies In Washington DC
Finding the best company for your local move in the Washington D.C area shouldn’t be stressful. There are plenty of great companies to assist you with your moving needs. You can choose the one that is right for you and avoid getting tangled up with a shady operator by following some commonsense guidelines.
The first step is to read through a quick tutorial on how D.C area moving companies are regulated.
- Any move that crosses over a state line is an interstate move, subject to the Department of Transportation jurisdiction, specifically the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. FMCSA regulates movers and other trucks as they engage in interstate activities. The primary goal is to reduce injuries and fatalities on highways, but FMCSA also has a strong interest in helping consumers avoid fraud. In the D.C. area, even a very short move may cross from the District into a nearby state like Virginia or Maryland and thus be considered interstate.
- If the local move you are preparing for does not cross a state line, then the movers you consider may be subject only to the local regulatory agency. In the City of Washington, D.C., that means the company only needs a business license and liability insurance. In Virginia, moves of less than 30 miles are considered local, and the movers can bill the consumer for such jobs by the hour. For distances over 30 miles but still intrastate, Virginia moving companies must provide their tariffs and an estimate based on the shipment’s weight. Maryland does not currently regulate moving companies. A new law requiring them to register with the DMV is now on the books but has not been implemented.
If you are planning an interstate move, head over to the FMCSA site for some information about those regulations. One of the most significant is that movers are required to provide you with a written estimate of the move’s cost based on an in-person survey of what you are moving. If you are planning a small relocation, you may be tempted to skip this step, but it’s valuable to get the best possible estimate and also to take the time to get to know your potential service provider. The mover should be thorough as they walk through your house or apartment, examining your furnishings, storage, and closets to determine the extent of the move. The estimate can be binding or nonbinding.
What’s the difference between binding and nonbinding estimates?
A binding estimate is a guaranteed price, as long as nothing changes. The mover will create an inventory of your household goods based on the walkthrough. The inventory is a comprehensive list of everything that you are moving. From that, they will estimate the shipment’s weight or the time that they need to complete the move. If you obtain a binding moving cost estimate, that is the price you will pay, even if the weight is higher or the work takes longer. The exception is if you ask for more service (for example, if you ask the mover to do the packing, but that wasn’t in the original estimate) or add goods to the shipment.
A nonbinding estimate is not a firm price. It should be close, but it can go up or down, depending on whether the weight or time is higher or lower than the vendor forecast. As the consumer, having a nonbinding estimate leaves you with uncertainty concerning the final cost, so if you accept this type of price quote, be sure that you have confidence in the honesty of your mover.
How do I know I have an honest moving company?
There are some simple ways to investigate a DC moving company before you decide to engage one. The FMCSA site mentioned earlier maintains information on interstate movers’ safety records and customer complaints and claims filed, as well as whether they have an up-to-date license. For local companies, you should check the Better Business Bureau, which collects reviews from consumers about their experiences with all kinds of companies, including movers. In fact, the BBB recently released a comprehensive report about moving fraud and how to avoid shady operators. Don’t put too much trust into the testimonials you read on a company’s website because you don’t know if they fabricated those or possibly paid for them. But one good idea is to ask a company for references. A mover should be able to give you the name and contact information for a few recent customers who are willing to discuss their performance.
What are the red flags for a shady operation?
Remember that the lowest estimate might not indicate a scam, but if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Here are some other signs to look out for:
- Unprofessional team members. If the company sends someone to your home who doesn’t seem to know what they are doing, that isn’t a good indicator that you should trust them with your household goods, even for a short move. If the movers seem unfamiliar with the area and lack a local office, don’t hire them. Some unscrupulous companies run call center operations from a distant city and hire local unskilled labor with rented equipment to fulfill the business they obtain. The crews might not be licensed or insured, and you could end up with a liability issue if something goes wrong.
- If the mover balks at conducting a visual survey of the household goods, that is a tip that they are not reliable. The mover might be planning to give you a low estimate and then raise the price during the loading process when you are committed to their business. If the mover wants to quote a price based on your verbal description of the job or an online form, be wary.
- If the mover asks you to sign a blank or incomplete document (like an inventory, an estimate, or receipt), don’t do it, and move on to the next potential moving company. If you sign your name on a blank paper, the company can write anything over that signature, and legally you are obligated to pay it. This ploy is a surprisingly common scam that people fall for when a mover’s representative says he will finish filling out the paperwork “back at the office.” Always review documents before you sign them. Also, when you receive your shipment, check that the delivery receipt isn’t attesting that the load is complete and intact. If you haven’t had the chance to examine every carton (which you likely have not), strike through any language that says you have, and initial where you deleted.
- If the mover asks for a large deposit upfront or insists on being paid in cash, be suspicious. Most moving services are paid for when delivery is made. If you pay cash in advance, you have surrendered your leverage over the company to perform as agreed.
The good news is that there are plenty of honest, hardworking movers available for your local relocation needs in and around Washington, D.C. With a little research and planning, you will find the one that is right for your move and be on your way to your new home.