Relocating from Washington, D.C to Baltimore is not a long-distance move, but it is a significant change. Any household move requires careful planning and coordination, so naturally, you want the best support you can find. Identifying the best mover for your transition from D.C. to Baltimore is time well spent.
Moving the short distance between D.C and Baltimore is an interstate move, although it is considered a local job, and can efficiently be completed in a day. Interstate moving companies are regulated by the Department of Transportation, specifically by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA. FMCSA’s primary mission is improving interstate highway safety, but it also plays an essential role in helping consumers avoid moving fraud. To that end, the agency requires all interstate movers to maintain current licensing, and it collects data on their safety records and customer complaint history. Consumers can access this information about moving companies they are considering.
Besides the registration and performance information about movers, FMCSA has created some helpful resources for consumers. They issued a publication titled Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move, and the mover will provide you with a copy (or a link) when they submit an estimate for your job. If you take the time to read it before you start gathering estimates, you will be more familiar with the terms the movers use and be more comfortable in the conversation. The brochure explains all the elements of the assessment, the insurance, and what a mover is required to do.
Consumer advocates suggest that you compare at least three estimates before you select a moving company to award the work to. There are a couple of good reasons for this recommendation. First, it’s always a good idea to compare prices. Most of us don’t move that frequently, so we have no good idea of how long it should take for a mover to load up the contents of our three-bedroom house. If one mover estimates 5 hours and another estimates 10 hours, that is a puzzling discrepancy. Most likely, one vendor has overlooked items, or one company has included a service (such as packing) that the other did not. With three estimates, you have a better chance of determining which is more likely to be accurate.
However, you do need to ensure that you are comparing the same type of quote. Some estimates are binding (which means the price is firm, even if the move requires more time than was estimated). Some are nonbinding, so you would pay more if the work takes more time than predicted. Also, one company might be quoting a price based on two workers, while another is planning to use four. That would make a difference in how many hours the job takes and what they charge per hour. It is up to you to carefully review the bids and ask questions to be sure that you understand where the differences are.
Many moving companies have a minimum charge. If you have a tiny home, you may want to look for a vendor with a two-hour minimum rather than a four-hour minimum, so you don’t end up paying for the time that you don’t need. Ask when the time starts (whether it includes the drive to your home from their warehouse or office and back from the destination?) and ends. Some movers will charge less per hour for packing labor than for loading and unloading, so if you are interested in having the movers handle the packing, ask about that.
It’s a good idea to ask the movers to come to your home for the estimate. The exception is if you have a minimal number of boxes and little furniture, with no complicated logistics. For most moves, it’s helpful for the movers to see what you have so they can accurately assess how much time will be necessary for the work. In addition to the hourly charge, movers will add a fee for certain services you usually can’t control. These items include stairs and elevators, for example. Added costs may consist of bulky items like pianos, pool tables, exercise equipment, and outdoor items. The mover will itemize these charges on the quote, but if they don’t come to your residence to do the initial survey, they might miss something and have to add it later. When it comes to moving costs, no one likes surprises.
The estimate is also a good opportunity for you to decide whether they are professional and trustworthy. Most moving companies are honest and hard-working, but there are some shady operators out there, and the in-home survey request is often an excellent tactic to weed them out. The visit with the mover’s representative gives you the chance to review the terms of the quote with the mover and ask questions. You will likely find it a fair use of your time.
While there are no guarantees, there are some signs you can look for that indicate a shady company before you hire them:
These are all suspicious indications, and you should avoid these companies. In addition to looking on the FMCSA site to determine that the company you are hiring has the appropriate registration and a good record, check the Better Business Bureau to see what consumers have to say about the firm. Then ask for references. The moving company should be eager to connect you to you some recent customers to discuss their experience with the company and its’ services. Take the time to do this before you make a final choice, and if the mover is hesitant to provide the information, be wary of hiring them for your project.
Once you have chosen a moving company, make sure that you keep a copy of all the paperwork you receive, whether it is hardcopy or electronic. The mover will provide you with various forms and agreements, which will help you if anything goes wrong during the move. Do pay attention to the mover’s dispute resolution program. Each company is required to have one and to offer you information about how it works. Hopefully, it won’t be necessary, but it is always better to be prepared.