D.C. Metro Area Moving Companies
The DC metro area is the 6th largest metropolitan area in the U.S., with nearly 6.3 million people. It is unique in that it straddles parts of three states (Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia) as well as the federally designated District of Columbia. It also has the distinction of being one of the most educated and affluent metro areas in the country. Residents are mobile, which supports a thriving moving industry.
How do I choose the right mover for my job in the D.C. metro area?
You can start your search for a local moving company by asking for referrals from friends and coworkers. The chances are that you know a few people who have relocated recently, so ask them if they would recommend the company they used. Make a list of the ones that get good marks, and you can do more research on those. If you do an internet search, you will find lots of options, and most likely, you will get some unsolicited calls, text, and emails from movers and brokers asking for your business. That’s not a bad thing if you are careful.
What’s the difference between a mover and a broker?
A moving company is the one that actually performs the move—shows up with labor and a truck, packs and loads your furniture and boxes, and transports it to your new house. A broker does not move anything, but they bring movers and consumers together. You may have worked with a broker to find the best deal on car insurance or to get a mortgage. Moving brokers work similarly to those kinds of brokers. The broker will book your move and then subcontract or sell it to an actual moving company. The reason for suggesting caution is that there is growing fraud among move brokers (and unfortunately moving companies as well), so you have to watch out. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, referred to as FMCSA, regulates movers and brokers.
The upside of using a broker is that it can save you time if you only have to talk to the broker and not to several moving companies to get moving price estimates. You might save money if you find a reputable broker that has contractual relationships with a variety of moving companies and can find one that can complete your move for a reasonable price. The problems arise if you are taken advantage of by a shady or even just a lazy broker. FMCSA recommends the following steps if you are working with a broker:
- Check to ensure that the broker has registered with FMCSA. All interstate brokers must register, and they can only work with movers that also register. You can search FMCSA’s database at protectyourmove.gov.
- Ask for a list of moving companies the broker works with. The broker can only sell your move to movers that it maintains a written agreement with, and it must be able to provide you with a copy of the mover’s tariff. If the broker can’t supply this list, that is a suspicious sign. Again, those movers must also register with FMCSA.
- Ensure that the broker supplies you with a copy of the document called Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move. This FMCSA publication contains detailed information about consumer’s rights during the move process.
- Only accept a written estimate based on an in-person survey of the household goods, conducted either by the broker or the mover. FMCSA requires that moving companies or brokers complete the visual survey of your planned shipment in order to craft an accurate estimate of the shipment’s weight (or the time it will take to move it, in the case of a local move). If the broker or its contracted mover is reluctant to perform the survey and prefers to have you describe the contents of your home, be suspicious.
Sometimes when an unscrupulous broker is involved in making the arrangements for your move, they try to give the impression that they are a local company. A broker doesn’t have to be physically located in the D.C. Metro area, but if they are in a distant city, that increases the risk of fraud. If they provide a local address that is a P.O. Box or even a residential address, they may be trying to mislead you.
Shady operators who have been unable to contract your move out to a moving company at the price they promised you might send unskilled day workers in a rented truck to complete the project. If the people who arrive to complete your move show up in a truck that is not branded with a moving company name and seem unfamiliar with the move process, you may want to reconsider using them.
A common and more significant scam involves the deposit. In general, moving company services are paid for when the shipment is delivered. If a company does require a deposit for booking, it is typically modest and paid by credit card. If a broker requests a large deposit and specifically cash, this is a red flag for a scam. The broker may not send a mover at all once you have paid the large deposit. If you paid in cash, you have no leverage to dispute the charge as you would with a credit card transaction.
Alternatively, when the moving company does arrive, the driver or lead worker begins the loading process and then tells you that the quote is too low, that you have a lot more stuff than they counted on, and you will have to pay more. You may face a tough decision if that occurs since some of your goods are already in the truck, and the mover demands more money. Hopefully, you have a written agreement. Either way, your best move is to refuse to pay more. If necessary, have them unload and find a new company to do the job because if you consent, they may continue to raise the price.
How do I know if a mover is legitimate?
Most moving companies are honest and want to do a good job. The company will provide you with a written estimate, a copy of their tariff (which explains all the fees you could be asked to pay), and answer all your questions. A legitimate mover won’t ask you to pay in advance and will never ask you to sign a blank or incomplete document. That is another red flag that could indicate a scam. If the company is registered with FMCSA, as required, check out the safety record and any customer complaints on file. Also, do a search online using the company name plus the word “scams” to see if anything comes up. Next, go to the Better Business Bureau website and look for reviews, both positive and negative, about the company. Once you have narrowed your search down to a couple of possibilities, ask for references. The mover should be happy to give you the names of some recent customers in the D.C. Metro area that they have worked with. Call these customers and ask about their experience with the mover. Ask if they would use them again and recommend them to a friend.