College students in and around the Washington, DC area know that there is competition for everything. It starts with getting admitted to the school you want, then continues with finding housing, being accepted by the field of study of your choice, even parking spaces are in demand in the metro area. And every year, you must move out of your on-or-off campus housing and find a new place or put things in storage till the next term starts. It’s a never-ending cycle.
College moves can be challenging for both parties to the transaction. As a consumer, if you are only moving a small amount of weight, you don’t want to pay too much because you don’t meet a moving company’s minimum requirement. If you have to move on a specific schedule assigned by your school, it can make things complicated when trying to arrange for a moving company. For the moving company, parking is usually tricky near dorms and student apartments, as is access to shared elevators and stairwells.
When you are looking for a mover, you can start by checking with the college student services office to see if they have recommendations for you. In many college towns, some DC movers develop a specialty in serving that segment of the community. The best providers may already be familiar to the college administrators or students who have already been through one or more move cycles. Those suggestions are an excellent place to start but don’t just take their word for it. Verify that the moving company has the necessary licenses to operate in whatever locality you are moving from and to before you agree to a contract. Shady operators take advantage of consumers who don’t take the time to check.
The licensing the mover needs depends on where it operates and how far it transports your shipment. For example, if the company is located within the District of Columbia, it needs a D.C. business license and general liability insurance. If the move is local, that is sufficient, but you should do some other checking for more information. But if the company is based in one of the states surrounding the D.C. jurisdiction, each has its own authority over moving vendors, so check with the individual state. Suppose you are moving across state lines, which is likely, given the proximity of state boundaries in the area. In that case, the moving company needs an interstate license, which means it must register with FMCSA (the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) and have a valid license from the DOT.
You can check on the FMCSA website to determine if the company you are considering has a valid license, and you will also find information about its safety record and complaint history there. FMCSA has resources and information to help you plan your move and avoid falling prey to moving company scams. Here are some red flags to be on the lookout for:
Another good way to get information about the companies you are considering is to check the Better Business Bureau website. Unlike the testimonials you may see on the companies’ own sites, the BBB collects actual reviews (positive and negative) from consumers. It would help if you also considered asking potential vendors for references so that you can speak directly to real customers about their experience.
Whether to buy the added insurance is one of the most asked questions about moving. Movers offer a basic level of protection for your interstate shipment, as required by the FMCSA. If the move is within one state, then that state’s regulations will govern what is required, so again, check with the appropriate consumer agency. The basic protection, also called released value, does not offer a robust level of coverage for your belongings if something happens to your goods while they are being loaded, moved, or unloaded. There is an excellent chance that the value of the item is higher than the coverage offered. As a result, consumer advocates and international moving experts encourage customers to look closely at the optional levels that the movers include. You have to pay more for the added protection, but you may find it worth the investment. Fortunately, most moves occur without incident, but it is unfortunate when an accident happens, and the consumer suffers a loss that insurance could have prevented.
When you accept the delivery of your goods, examine the shipment documentation that the mover gives you to sign. Sometimes there is wording that states that the shipment is complete and intact. You should not sign that until you have thoroughly examined all the contents, which you won’t have a chance to do instantly when you receive the delivery unless it is a minimal move. If the receipt says that, strike out the words and initial where you have made the correction before signing it. That way, you reserve the ability to file a claim for any loss that you may discover when you review the boxes later. For any interstate shipment, you have nine months to file a claim for anything that is missing or damaged. For a local move within the Commonwealth of Virginia, however, you need to file a claim within 30 days. In any event, you should file a claim as soon as you discover the need for it. File a claim with the mover and be very specific about what went wrong. Include photos, if possible, and receipts supporting the value of the item. FMCSA reports that most claims regarding damage are resolved amicably between the moving company and the customer.