“Any tips for long-distance movers who have experience with urban moves?”

by Prince Of Petworth May 3, 2016 at 2:00 pm 47 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Lorie Shaull

“Dear PoPville,

I am looking for recommendations for long-distance movers. My husband and I are moving from DC to Chicago. We got a few good quotes, but the movers we spoke to said they want to use a full tractor-trailer and I think that would be a logistical nightmare based on where our apartment is located in Adams Morgan. Any tips for long-distance movers who have experience with urban moves would be appreciated!

Otherwise I think we will hire movers on both ends to pack and unpack and then drive a U-Haul truck ourselves. If anyone has tips on that method that would be helpful too.

(I saw this was a topic in the forum a few years ago but didn’t see a lot of advice posted there.)”

  • ParkViewRes

    JK Movers are great. I’ve only used them locally, but I am pretty sure they do long distance.

    • kaj

      I used JK for a move between Dupont Circle and Durham NC and found them to be great.

    • Urban_Architect

      Have used JK for residential and commercial. I third the recommendation.

    • DCitizen

      Sorry to spoil the chorus, but I used JK for a move from DC to Pittsburgh a few years ago. Never again. Their facilitator or contact person or whatever JK calls it was a giggly summer employee whose stint was just about to end and who couldn’t care less about my move. JK was late to arrive at my Arlington pickup, calling about an hour after the scheduled start time for directions. Seriously? GPS, anyone? (Or even that quaint relic, a map?). JK took a wrong turn onto a busway in Pittsburgh and its drivers were detained because their immigration papers were not in order. Whatever you think of this method of immigration enforcement, it’s JK’s responsibility to work around it. I lost an elevator reservation at my new building and my move was significantly delayed. No apology, no compensation. I’d push my stuff to Chicago in a shopping cart before using JK again.

  • former dc resident

    I used town and country for a x-country move from Shaw. They brought a smaller truck to my apartment, and then reloaded my stuff onto a huge trailer for the actual long-haul. I was really happy with their service, although it was pretty expensive.

    • AWS

      Very helpful! Just curious, how much is pretty expensive?

      • former dc resident

        my move was about $5,000 from DC to the west coast. But I moved a 2 bedroom apartment with lots of stuff — I think they base their price on weight, so if you have less stuff it will cost less. I should have gone through my crap and thrown stuff out but I was so disorganized that in the end I paid to have random stuff I don’t really need moved.

        They were very professional, ontime, etc.

        • CP

          My move from SF to DC cost about that much and the people I used sucked…So, I would totally pay 5K and have them be good :).

    • anonymouse_dianne

      I also used Town & Country for a local move. They packed for me and moved me from a one BR I had accumulated over 20 years of stuff. Total was about $2K. One reason they are more expensive is they actually pay a living wage. Of the four guys working for them all had been with them over 10 years.They were excellent.

  • CoHi

    My friends used, I think, Two Marines Moving, to load their truck before a city-to-city move, and did the U-Haul thing. I am also partial to Bookstore Movers, who I am sure would load your U-Haul for you.

  • Pixie

    We did the U-Haul move a few years ago and hired movers on both ends of the trip, but it was a shorter distance (NYC to DC) and we moved from a tiny apartment so we didn’t have a lot of stuff. Overall it wasn’t too bad, although it is more work than hiring a moving company. We just hired movers that were advertised on the U-Haul site.

  • missingMTP

    I just completed a Mt. Pleasant to KCMO move and highly recommend getting a Penske truck and hiring Bookstore Movers to load it up. It was cheaper than long-distance movers and worked out well. Don’t forget you will have to get a parking permit and put it up 7 (check that number) days in advance.

  • Priti

    My company has to move employees in and out of DC all the time, we use: Relogistix, Secor Group, Unigroup, and Logenix. You can contact any of them and they should be able to assist. They are all local companies and provide great customer service.

  • ajr

    Huge fan of Two Marines Moving.

    • anon

      Same… They were reasonably priced, professional, on time, careful with antiques, and overall pleasant to work with on a HOT summer day. I will definitely use them again.

  • ghouledcheese

    I would highly recommend Steve and Grasshopper Movers. They have years of experience doing moves in the DC area as well as long haul moves. Steve is a great guy, very honest and fair. You can’t go wrong with Grasshopper!

  • PetworthMom

    We moved in the opposite direction from Chicago to DC and had great luck with Grabel. They boxed and loaded in Chicago, drove here, unloaded, and we did the unpacking.

    • [rrrrr]

      Completely anecdotal, but when my family moved with Graebel we had an absolutely horrid experience. The movers were rude, somehow the truck wasn’t weatherproofed and things were damaged during a storm, lot’s of things broken from the shoddy pack job, it was a mess. This was years ago going FL to OH, so grain of salt. I hadn’t even thought of that move since until I saw the name again.

  • AnotherBdaleResident

    Alexander’s Mobility Service/Atlas Van Lines is another option. I just started working with them on a similar move, and so far they’ve been good coming over and taking a survey of everything we’re moving in order to give us a better idea of what we’re dealing with. Obviously, I can’t say much about the actual move since we haven’t gotten there yet, but the relocation firm we’re working with uses them all the time apparently so I figure it can’t be a total cluster. Worth a look.

  • DC1

    We have used two great companies in the past (moving up to NYC and moving back to DC several times).
    1. Flat Rate Movers (flatrate.com?) It was fantastic (and extremely competitive pricing) and our stuff arrived to NYC the same day.
    2. You Move Me (youmoveme.com). Pretty much a broker, but guarantees pricing (which is something that movers usually don’t, specially long distance). You can do your own inventory to get a quote or I believe you can also have someone come to your house and inventory everything to avoid any overages.

    Companies to avoid (from personal experience):
    -Compass Van Lines: They took 7 weeks to deliver some furniture we had stored in Texas, and charged us with tons of fees because they had to “re-pack” some items because they were not packed properly (untrue because it was done professionally by a moving company that moved all the stuff to the storage unit). Of course all the stuff they “re-packed” arrived damaged.
    -Graebel Companies: Not much we could do here since this was a company hired directly by the employer, but they were horrendous. They took about a week to deliver from NYC to DC. Then they decided to bring a tractor-trailer to deliver the items (which we specifically told them was impossible due to our street being so narrow) so it took them another day to “shuttle” a smaller truck. I am not sure how much they ended charging our employer, but I know it was in the ballpark of $20k, for a 2 bedroom apt which is insane!

    Sorry, this turned into a “Rant and/or Revel” post, but I hope it helps :p

    • ECD

      I used FlatRate as well from NYC to DC, and had a great experience. They were really efficient and quick but also careful — there was only one very minor (and easily fixed with glue) breakage. They had a 3 story walk-up on both sides in August heat and handled it like champs.

    • kolinr

      Yikes on waiting so long for your stuff! Hearing about bad experiences is just as helpful so thanks :)

  • ABDC

    Just used Roadway Van Lines to move from DC to NYC, though they do long distance moves too. They arrived during the one hour window, no nickel and diming for extra boxes, tape, etc. on moving day, wrapped everything well and I ended up paying less than the estimate which was already the lowest of all the estimates. Tasha in their office was incrediblely helpful to work with.

  • fka Shawess

    We used Graebel for a cross-country move and were very happy with them. They somehow managed to work in our very narrow Shaw street and did all of the packing and some unpacking, Although they were the vendor that was hired for our corporate move, we will probably use them again next time we move on our own, too.

  • kolinr

    OP here – thanks for the recommendations!

  • Glen

    We’ve done both the U-haul/hire-own-movers method and the all-inclusive movers method. For the U-haul method, we picked the highest rated movers at each location (over 2000 reviews totaling 5 stars, so we figured we could trust that) through the U-haul website. It turned out great. They were quick, careful and even helped disassemble a dresser that wouldn’t fit into an elevator. We underestimated the amount of stuff we had, so for the second time, we got a bigger truck size than before.

    For the all-inclusive method, Bookstore Movers, (they load onto their truck, drive, then unload), it also worked out well. I think they used a 24 ft truck.

    Be sure to get the emergency no-parking permits posted 72 hours in advance. For all three times, we didn’t have any issues.

  • womp

    both of my mid-haul moves (~1,500 miles) have been U-Haul or ReloCube with hiring movers to load/unload on each end. these options worked for me because i had the time to pack up my stuff and wanted to do it myself (control freak), it kept the total costs tolerable, AND i didn’t have to wait 3+ weeks at my destination for the truck to arrive with my stuff. the timing was actual the deal breaker/maker for me because i was working on a tight schedule on the destination end of things.
    that said, i don’t have any recs on movers for loading/unloading here. best of luck!

  • neighbor

    Not a movers recommendation, but I wouldn’t worry about what size truck they use. I’ve seen all size trucks in pretty much every neighborhood in DC. Just figure out where you want to park it, get temporary no parking signs from the city and there you go.

    • DC1

      Try parking a tractor-trailer in the 1600 block of Swann St NW, it is IMPOSSIBLE even when reserving the spots on one side of the street.

      • neighbor

        protip: move on a street cleaning day

    • CP

      hahaha. No. had a tractor trailer arrive for a move on to 17th St NW @ Kalorama…the stuff of nightmares.

  • Tsar of Truxton

    My advice is save your money on the stupid signs because no one will obey them anyway (especially if you are moving on a weekend).

    • womp

      then you (giddily) call and have them towed?
      i had no shame in having a comcast truck towed last summer.

      • Tsar of Truxton

        Maybe on the weekdays it is not so bad, but on weekends, it is pretty much impossible to get a tow. The last time I moved, I got a bunch of people ticketed, but my movers still had to block the street to do the move because I couldn’t get a tow in time.

        • womp

          ah, fair point. i’m sorry you had such problems!! dumb people who don’t follow the rules -__-

  • navyard

    I used United Van Lines for 3 or 4 cross-country moves including packing services and storage (one year). I always worked with the same rep because she was so responsive. Absolutely no trouble when anything gets broken getting a check cut for the replacement value.
    On my last move, i finally used a different mover — JK Movers. I was absolutely thrilled with them because NOTHING was broken and they did a great job. But that was a local move — still, I’d rather have nothing broken than an easy process to get checks cut for damages.

    • kaj

      JK also does long distance moves. I used them for long distance and they were great.

  • Formerly ParkViewRes

    Are you sure they actually bring the tractor-trailer on your street? When we moved we received multiple quotes and a few mentioned that they load the stuff into a smaller truck and then take it to the warehouse to load it on the tractor-trailer. In fact, when we moved a moderately sized truck loaded all our stuff, but when it was delivered it came in on a tractor-trailer.

    Anyhow, I was so beyond scared to hire a long distance moving company because you just hear nightmare after nightmare story. With that said, we had absolutely no issues with our move, which included going through customs and having to go to the customs office to sign off on our stuff. We also received our stuff, nothing lost or broken, a week after we moved here. Phew. We used McWilliams Moving & Storage, which is a Mayflower company.

    We also received quotes from Graebel and Town and Country…both were really expensive. I think the total cost of our move was around $3500.

    • womp

      out of curiousity, what was the moving distance for the $3500 quotes? it seems decent for mid- to long-haul from the numbers i was quoted.

      • Formerly ParkViewRes

        It was decent…definitely one of the best quotes. I think Town & Country and Graebel were both around $7200. Distance was DC to Toronto so 476 miles. This also included packing…and unpacking although they didn’t quite unpack everything.

        • womp

          wowza that is a big difference. thanks for the info!!

        • kolinr

          It’s very possible the person giving us a quote didn’t know what they were talking about regarding the truck size, so that’s good to know.

          Our building has a back alley entrance where people load/unload for moves. I know a garbage truck and medium U-Haul can fit in the alley but didn’t want to deal with figuring where a huge truck could park.

  • anon

    we used Apartment Movers to load our Uhaul at one end (Florida) then drove the Uhaul here and used Apartment Movers here to unload. it was so easy and simple and we had control of when our things were delivered and it was cheap! their web site is ugly but they were fabulous: http://www.apartmentmoversatlanta.net/move_calculator/free_moving_quote.php?City=Washington&State=DC

  • anon

    I can’t recommend the right thing to do, but DO NOT use Move Builder or UPACK, no matter what they quote you. Don’t do it!

  • Runner

    I used Allied to move from Arizona to DC a few years back. They brought a smaller U-Haul size truck to pick up and drop off, and they loaded it into a big rig to take across the country. I was very happy with them and would definitely call again should I need to do a big move. Around $2k for a 1-bedroom amount of stuff.

  • anon

    It really depends on how much you want to work and manage stuff v. spend money, and how much stuff you have, and how much you value your stuff. It also depends on the kind of buildings you are moving out of and into – issues with what times you are allowed to move in and out in apartment and condo buildings, and how large a truck can access the loading and unloading areas of the buildings.

    My last few moves have been with the full-service moving companies that make the process easier on you – including a corporate relocation move from NYC. It is worth it for me to pay for them (luckily didn’t have to pay for the corporate move), as I have much more stuff, and much less stamina, now.

    I did move from Chicago to NYC with a roommate in a self-packed Uhaul – but I was 23 then, and we had friends around to help pack and unpack on both ends, not much stuff that was heavy, and not anything at all that was valuable Now, I have some heavy furniture that isn’t easy to move with friends, and furniture that is expensive. I’m not sure I would trust some of my nicer antique furniture to stay unharmed in a self-packed Uhaul these days, as things can shift in transit, and I know I don’t have the skill to pack a truck to the ceiling if needed, as my last movers did here, with everything secured so nothing would fall. Also, the biggest concern in the Uhaul move was hoping the padlock I put on the Uhaul wouldn’t be busted while it was parked on the street in NYC overnight and our stuff stolen, as we arrived in the evening and couldn’t unload into the apartment building until the next day. These sorts of logistics are handled well by professional movers for you (professional loading so stuff doesn’t shift, keeping your stuff safe from theft overnight, and sometimes parking issues – though it is always good to scope out parking situation yourself, and schedule your movers around that, communicating well with them, as local rules vary.)

    If you have the energy to self manage the move, even if you hire packers (hopefully ones who know how to load and tie stuff off properly for the ride), then you may save a lot, because you do have to pay for the cost of the hours for drivers to get from here to there and back again, as well as factor in lodging costs I suppose. But moving truck rental isn’t exactly cheap, either. It would be helpful to hire unpackers in your new location as well, though this can be tricker if you have no referrals there. (I learned the hard way once that you should never hire movers that aren’t highly recommended to you, preferably by actual people you know who have used them.) There’s a distance point at which local movers will do a long-distance move for you and it will still come out cheaper than hiring a moving company that uses tractor trailers (they are always more expensive, I think.) I just don’t know that that distance is.

    I had local DC movers do a NY-DC move of just some furniture items for me (the stuff I left behind to stage my place after the repo movers moved everything else out), and the cost was quite good, less than I expected. I used Great Scott – I’ve used them a few times, the other times for local moves, with good results. Their movers were really great, and the price is good.

    I suspect that the distance to Chicago may be such that the cost for travel of any local movers might be a more than the cost of hiring the Uhaul, truck packers and unpackers, but I’d still call some local moving companies to see if they do long distance moves in their own trucks with your stuff only, as you never know, the price could be not all that different. If you are considering using a moving van line affiliated company, which are the ones that use the tractor trailers, then I would definitely see if a local moving company will go that far themselves, as they may likely be much cheaper. Call the ones you get referrals for, and price them.

    If you can find a local company that will move you, I think that’s preferable to the kind that collect your stuff in a smaller truck, then move it into a tractor trailer with many other people’s stuff for the ride, and then put it into a smaller truck again for the delivery, if necessary, in another city neighborhood.

    The problem isn’t the big truck – it is likely that a tractor trailer won’t fit in whatever space is available to pack you up in in Adams Morgan – it is just that I think there is more cost associated with moving the stuff around into different trucks a few times, if needed, and more chances for your things to get damaged, lost, or misdelivered with other items on the truck, and I think it makes the move cost more. The moving company hired by my relocation company did the move this way – as the Adams Morgan building I was moving into could not fit a tractor-trailer truck behind it to get to the loading area by the freight elevator (they used a smaller truck to bring the stuff in). I can’t remember exactly, as it has been awhile, but I don’t think they even tried to bring the tractor-trailer into my Brooklyn neighborhood, even though I was loading directly from the front door to the street a few steps away, so loading wasn’t the issue there – I think they loaded up into a smaller truck, then transferred to the tractor trailer somewhere, and then had a DC moving co unload to a smaller truck to deliver here. Be sure to ask those tractor-trailer movers if your place/street has the capacity for a tractor-trailer to load. The streets are similar to my neighborhood in Brooklyn, where tractor trailers don’t fit well. My stuff was moved fine even with all the moving around – but then, they packed all my stuff too, very carefully, and wouldn’t insure the stuff from damage unless they packed it all themselves (luckily my company paid for that).

    If you don’t have a lot of stuff, this tractor-trailer sort of move might even be cost effective – I had a friend use this sort of move to move to the west coast, but she was moving a small apartment full of a grad student’s cheap and old furniture – so her stuff wasn’t a huge concern – she just needed all her stuff moved a very long distance.

    Also, when they put your stuff in the tractor trailer with other people’s stuff, there is a delay of some days before you get it delivered to you, as they load and unload other people’s stuff – which could be a good thing, or a bad thing, for you, depending on your moving circumstances.

    If I were you, I’d price all three options – a Uhaul/Penske with packers and unpackers, a local mover who does long distance, and the sort you called that uses a tractor trailer to travel but with the smaller truck you may need for packing and/or unpacking, depending on your streets and buildings. That will clarify things a bit – having prices attached to options tends to do that. Good luck with your move.

    • Tsar of Truxton

      Longest comment ever?


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