Washington D.C. Small Moving Companies
If you are searching for a DC local moving company for a small project in the Washington, D.C. area, you have many options to choose from. Chances are you have already decided against bribing your buddies with pizza and beer since that didn’t end well last time. You want a professional mover, but you aren’t sure if they will take a job as small as the one you have. Don’t worry; some movers specialize in small moves, and you can get the work taken care of without owing anyone favors.
How do I find a mover for a small job in the D.C. area?
Whether the shipment is big or small, the priority is finding a reliable moving company to do the work. Moving companies must be licensed, insured, and registered with the Department of Transportation. The DOT manages interstate movers through FMCSA, which is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. In the D.C. area, nearly every moving company is going to need an interstate registration to do business, so be wary of any business that claims it doesn’t need one.
If you start your search on the internet, as most of us do, you will find many options. If you enter any information into a website, you will soon be receiving texts, calls, and emails from various sources offering you different services. This action is a handy way to investigate the possibilities, as long as you know what to look for and what to avoid.
Often, the online “quotes” you get in return for entering some basic information are not coming from a moving company at all but rather are sent by a moving broker. Brokers (also regulated by FMCSA) are unfortunately more likely to be the source of fraud in the moving industry. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider what they have to offer; it just means you should be cautious. Move brokers don’t move anything; they operate in the moving industry the same way that a mortgage broker or an insurance broker works in their industries—by bringing together the consumer with the actual service provider, for a fee. Using a broker can save you time, but it can also increase the potential for being taken advantage of.
Since you are looking for a company to do a small job, the broker may try to convince you that you don’t need an in-person estimate. This approach might make sense if your shipment is very straightforward, but you would be wise to ask for the mover to send a representative anyway. The reason is to be sure that there is a real company lined up for the move. One common problem that consumers report with brokers is that the broker agrees to perform the move for a specific moving cost, demands a deposit from the consumer, but subsequently can’t find a moving company to complete the work at the agreed-on price. When the date of the move arrives, either no mover arrives, or a mover does come and demands more money for the work.
To avoid this situation, always insist on an in-person survey from the vendor and a written estimate. Never sign a blank or incomplete estimate (or anything else) provided by the mover or broker. Double-check that the estimate indicates whether it is binding (a firm price that won’t change) or nonbinding (could change if the work takes longer than the company predicted.)
What are the red flags of a moving scam?
- If the estimate seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- If the moving company’s telephone number is not answered with the name of the business (but someone says “moving company” or some other generic greeting), that is suspicious.
- If the moving company doesn’t have a local address, or the address is a P.O. Box or a residence, they might not be a legitimate moving company.
- If the moving truck is a rental, and the workers are temps or unskilled laborers, be wary. The broker probably couldn’t find a licensed mover to do the work and sent a hastily assembled “crew” to substitute.
Can I save money by using an app-based helper service?
App-based handyman and assistant services are increasing in many metropolitan areas, including D.C. It’s like asking your buddies to help out, except your buddies have trucks and get paid. And you don’t know these guys. Experts remain cautious about recommending these services. It’s not the same as a meal or retail delivery, where you can limit interaction and access. The helper needs to come in, and there have been anecdotal reports of damage attributed to some services. Some have insurance, but it’s not clear how widespread or universal it is or what happens if one of the employees is injured or causes an injury while working for you. With a licensed, registered moving company, you know that you aren’t on the hook if something goes sideways.
How can I save money with a professional mover and still get a good one?
With a small move, the trick is to ask about the minimum charges. A DC moving company will often quote a local project based on the time that the work will take, based on how much stuff you need them to move. But they have a minimum charge—it might be two hours, or it might be four hours plus another one-hour charge for travel time. If your work is only going to take an hour, you don’t want to pay a five-hour minimum, so make sure that one of your first screening questions is about the minimum.
If your small move is long-distance, the company will base the quote on the shipment’s weight but will still have a minimum. Just keep in mind that different companies have different standards, so keep looking until you find one that offers what you need. Also, depending on your schedule, if you have some flexibility, you may find a mover to work with you on the minimum if you wait till the company has an opening.
The estimate will include an inventory, which is a list of everything you are moving. The mover should attach information about any other fees they may charge (for stairs, parking, waiting time, or other services) and about their liability protection in case something happens while your possessions are in their care and control. Whether this is a local or long-distance move, be sure that you are comfortable with the level of coverage for your goods. If you are spending the money to move your belongings, you may want to spend a little more to ensure that you have adequate coverage if something gets lost or damaged.
Don’t forget to check the company’s references. The FMCSA site has information on whether the mover is licensed and will provide data about the mover’s safety record and consumer complaints. Also, check the Better Business Bureau website. The BBB collects consumer reviews about all kinds of companies. Finally, ask the company you are considering to provide contact information for one or more recent customers. Call and ask about their experience with the mover to get a first-hand understanding of how they performed. A glowing review from a customer will help you make your final decision and move forward with confidence.