Washington DC Cheap Moving Companies
If you are looking for a cheap mover in Washington, D.C., whether for a local or a long-distance move, you may be concerned since D.C. is such an expensive city for most goods and services. Fortunately, there is wide competition due to the high level of mobility among area residents, and finding an affordable moving vendor isn’t as difficult as you might think.
How do I find a cheap mover in the Washington, D.C., area?
Finding the right mover for your project involves balancing cost and quality. The cheapest offer may not be the right one to select because it could end up costing you more in the long run. It’s essential to identify a moving company that is a legitimate business to avoid becoming the victim of a scam. That doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money, but it does mean if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You will be better off if you put in some time to understand how movers operate and how they are regulated in order to make the best choice and find the best deal.
How do I start my search for a cheap D.C. area moving company?
It’s fine to start with an internet search. It helps if you know how the industry works and how to look for above-board companies. Companies that cross state lines in their work are known as interstate moving companies or long-haul movers. In D.C., even a local move will probably be completed by an interstate mover because of the particular area. The lines between Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. are such that every company needs an interstate license. That means they are regulated by FMCSA, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is part of the Department of Transportation. Check the FMCSA website to verify that the movers you are considering have a current DOT license and review their safety record and customer complaint history.
When you search online for moving companies, you will probably get responses from several, including moving brokers. Moving brokers do not transfer your stuff. What they do is try to match you up with a moving company that can perform the move, and they get a fee from the moving company for brokering the deal. Like movers, brokers must register with FMCSA. Because brokers have been responsible for a lot of fraud in the industry, consumer advocates warn that you should be cautious if you are dealing with one. They can save you time and money, but they may also cause you trouble and set you up for a scam.
What does a moving broker do?
Like an insurance broker or a mortgage broker, moving brokers make money by working as a liaison between the service provider (moving company) and the customer (you). The broker talks to you and gets the specifics of your project. Then they find a moving company that can do the job for the best price. The problems arise when the broker is dishonest from the start or cannot find a mover willing to perform the work at the price promised to the consumer. In the first instance, the broker may submit an incredibly low bid for the move, knowing that while the offer is attractive, it is unreasonable. When the moving company arrives to begin the work, the mover will (either with or without collaboration) demand a higher payment from the consumer, claiming that the shipment is bigger than expected. As the customer, you may have already paid a large deposit to the broker, and now the mover is telling you that you must pay more than you agreed on to get the job done. Or, with a long-distance move, the mover refuses to deliver the shipment until you pay much more than the estimate. These are known as hostage shipments.
In the second scenario, the broker provides the consumer with a bid to have the work done at a specific rate but cannot contract a moving company for the same price. So, the broker hires some local unskilled laborers, rents a truck, and sends the “crew” to the customer’s home to complete the move. This situation can be hazardous for the customer. There is potential for damage to your possessions, damage to your residence, and liability if an unskilled worker is injured while performing the move without proper insurance.
How can I avoid these scams?
If you are using a moving broker, double-check that the broker is offering you estimates from movers with which it has a written agreement. The broker needs to be licensed with FMCSA, and either the broker or the mover must come to the residence and complete a visual survey of the household goods you want to move. If the broker is reluctant to do this, pass on their services. They may try to tell you that a verbal description or an online form is sufficient, but it isn’t as good, and the in-person visit is a requirement.
Always get a written estimate and take note of whether it is binding or nonbinding. A binding estimate is a firm price that won’t go up or down. A nonbinding estimate is an approximation. There are limits to how much the mover can increase a nonbinding estimate on delivery day, but ultimately, they can raise the price exponentially if you haven’t read the fine print.
Never sign a blank or incomplete document. A shady operator may say something like, “just sign here, and I will fill the figures in back at the warehouse.” Don’t fall for it. The company can insert whatever they want to above your signature, and you are legally obligated to pay it. That is a bright red flag.
Don’t pay a large or cash deposit. Most moving services are paid for when the shipment is delivered. If a deposit is required, it is generally minimal and can be paid via credit card. If you have paid most of the charges up front, you have surrendered your leverage over the vendor. If you have paid in cash, you can no longer dispute the transaction as you could if you used a credit card. In either case, the moving company has less incentive to complete the work.
Be suspicious if the broker or mover doesn’t have a local address. If the moving company address isn’t an office or warehouse location (it’s a P.O. Box or a residence), that is a bad sign. If the phone is answered with a generic greeting like “moving company” instead of the specific company name, that is reason to be wary. They could be one step ahead of law enforcement or changing their identity frequently.
Check with the Better Business Bureau for unbiased reviews of the company. The reviews the mover or broker posts on its website may be manufactured or paid for. Also, before you hire a vendor, ask for references. Call a couple of their recent customers and talk to them about their experiences with the company. The customer can tell you how good a job they did for the price, and if they would recommend them. If the mover is unable or unwilling to share customer info, then move on and choose a different company.