So, you’re moving to a new place in Washington, DC! Congrats. Now that the hard work of finding your new home is done, it’s time to plan your move for a minimum of stress and DC-style moving drama.

Before researching DC moving services or truck rentals, it will help to think through these factors:

  • How much stuff do you have to move?
  • What’s your budget and timing?
  • How much work are you willing and able to do yourself? Do you have friends or family who can help?
  • Do you need storage or scheduling flexibility?
  • Are you moving in an urban area that has parking restrictions?

What are your options for moving in DC?

Unless you’ve adopted an ultra-minimalist lifestyle, you’ll probably need more than a car to haul your stuff. When choosing your moving options, keep in mind that the district presents special challenges, between its notoriously dreadful traffic and limited city parking, which both can be nerve-wracking if you’re driving a huge rental truck. That said, you still have four main options for moving:

  1. Traditional full-service mover
  2. Moving container service
  3. Boutique city moving service
  4. Rental truck

Let’s take a look at each choice and its pros and cons.

Moving truck filled with furniture and boxes

Traditional Movers: Working with DC Moving Companies or Long-Distance Movers

If you prefer to have as little to do with the moving process as possible, hiring pro movers to do it all may be the best choice for you. That being said, it’s also usually the most expensive. Full-service movers will do all the truck driving, loading and unloading. For an added fee, they’ll also take care of the packing and unpacking, and even furniture disassembly and reassembly.

When you’re checking out Washington, DC moving companies, start by asking for referrals from friends, family, realtors, and rental agents – and get three estimates in writing. When you’re comparing estimates, be wary of unusually low bids, as it could be a scam.

How to get estimates:

  • For local moves: You can get an estimate by phone (ask for a written copy via email) or sometimes online, based on an hourly rate per moving professional.
  • For long-distance moves: An in-home visit is usually required, and the estimate is based on estimated weight of your belongings and distance.

Here are some key points to cover with moving companies:

  • Check their licensing and online reviews.
  • Ask if they’ll be using subcontractors.
  • Find out how their scheduling works and how they handle date changes.
  • Ask about the deposit, cancellation, and refund policy.
  • Find out if there are any extra fees for stairs, extra-heavy items, or other factors.
  • If you need storage, ask if it’s available, and get details on costs and access.

Full-Service Moving Companies: Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
No heavy lifting Expensive
No driving a huge truck Schedules can be rigid
Less hassle if it’s a good company In-home estimates often required
Extra services available Potential for extra fees
Moving PODS container during delivery

Moving PODS Containers

If you’d rather not pay the hefty price for full-service movers, but you’re not inclined to maneuver a truck through those narrow DC streets and insane traffic circles (they’re scary enough in a car!), then a moving container service may be just the right solution. Portable container services like PODS offer an affordable option — especially if you need storage, more flexibility, or just prefer to take more time than the usual moving day fire drill. The built-in storage can also come in super handy for decluttering and home staging to increase sales appeal.

How to get estimates:

  • For local moves: You can get a detailed quote online or by phone (followed in writing via email) seven days a week, day or night
  • For long-distance moves: You can get a detailed quote by phone (followed in writing via email) seven days a week, day or night

How PODS standard service works:

  • The container is delivered to you.
  • You take your time loading it up to the brim.
  • PODS picks it up and takes your container to your new place.
  • When you’re done unloading, PODS picks up your container.
  • Take a full 30 days to move or pay a monthly rental fee for more time.
  • If needed, PODS can keep your loaded container at a secure storage center

The process is pretty simple. While it’s ideal to have a driveway or apartment complex parking lot where you can keep the container, DC’s transportation department offers special container parking permits with advance purchase if your location doesn’t have rush hour or street sweeping restrictions. 

Moving and Storage Container Services: Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Less expensive than full-service moversUsually more expensive than rental trucks
No driving a huge truckParking space required
Flexibility to set your own pace
Option to hire hourly labor to help with loading and unloading You take care of your own loading and unloading
Built-in storage options  
Unloading a PODS City Service container

Boutique City Moving Service

If you’re moving to or from a location where you can’t leave a container overnight, you may want to consider an option like PODS City Service. You get the same built-in storage as with PODS standard service and don’t have to deal with driving or parking a truck yourself. The only difference is the container is kept on the PODS truck and taken away on the same day to ease the stress of moving in a busy urban city like DC. You can also combine City Service with PODS standard service, depending on the parking availability in each location. For example, you might be moving from a city apartment to a home in the suburbs.

How PODS City Service works:

  • A PODS driver brings your container at your scheduled time and stays for loading, helping to defend against tickets, thieves, and any other potential threats to your belongings.
  • While your container remains on the truck, a lift carries you, your helpers, and your belongings to and from your container.
  • You load and unload at ground level – no carrying heavy items up and down a ramp.
  • When your container is loaded and ready to go, your PODS driver can take it to a secure PODS Storage Center and keep it there as long as you need, or you can have it delivered to your new place.

How to get estimates:

  • For local and long-distance moves: You can get a detailed quote by phone seven days a week, day or night (followed in writing via email)

PODS City Service: Pros and Cons 

Pros Cons
Usually costs less than full-service moversUsually costs more than rental trucks
No driving a huge truck in DCAvailable only in select DC locations — call to check
Built-in storage options
Option to hire hourly labor to help with loading and unloadingYou take care of your own loading and unloading
Less stress about limited DC parking  
Heavy DC traffic

Rental Trucks

When budgets are tight, the cheapest way to make a local move might be to rent a truck or trailer and do all the work yourself. It’s also the most stressful method, especially in DC. The costs vary, depending on the truck size, the distance you’re driving, and how long you keep it. You may also need to enlist friends on each end to help load and unload your belongings. For long-distance moves, the cost equation between rental trucks and moving containers can be a toss-up, especially when you factor in costs for transporting a vehicle while you’re driving the rental truck, as well as gas, mileage, and other expenses.

Before you rent a truck for your move, make sure you’re comfortable with driving and parking a truck in DC. Research the parking situation in both locations and plan ahead to order a special parking permit for moving trucks. This isn’t something you leave to chance or the last minute.

How to get estimates:

  • For local and long-distance moves: You can get a detailed quote online or by phone (followed in writing via email)

Rental Trucks: Pros and Cons   

Pros Cons
Usually cheapest option for local moves Subject to high late fees
Easy online pricing and reservations Most stressful option
You set the scheduleDriving and parking a huge truck in DC
Wide availabilityNo storage available

DC STORAGE UNITS

When you’re moving, it can be really tricky getting all the dates and stars aligned just right. It’s not unusual to have a few days, weeks or even months between when you’ve got to be out of the old place and you get the keys to your new home. If you’re moving in DC, one of those addresses may even be outside the U.S. You might also be downsizing, especially if you’re leaving the DC area after retirement. If any of these situations sound familiar, you probably need temporary storage as part of your move.

Alternatives to self-storage

While there are thousands of DC storage units around the metro area, remember that with self-storage, you’ll have to transport your stuff to and from the facility. That could mean renting a truck and loading and unloading your stuff multiple times. Ugh. Moving is hard enough. You can give yourself a break and make it easier to organize your move with a portable storage container that comes to you and involves loading and unloading just one time, only steps away. With PODS, you can have it moved to a secure Storage Center if needed – and then have it delivered to your new place when you’re ready.

More Tips for Moving in DC

  • Plan ahead. As moving companies, portable container services, and truck rentals often get booked up at busy times, it’s a good idea to set your moving date as far in advance as you can. If you need help from friends and family, don’t forget to check your moving dates with them, too.
  • Check with building managers. You probably need to reserve parking spaces and elevators in advance. For garages, ask about height restrictions for trucks. If your building is a walk-up, make sure large items will fit through tight spaces.
  • Make a test run. If you’re driving a truck, DC traffic is notoriously awful, and rush “hour” lasts more like three to four hours. Avoid driving Monday through Friday from 7-10 a.m. and 3-7 p.m. The roads can also be gridlocked during big weekend events. Check traffic reports on moving day to see if you can avoid the worst congestion.
  • Watch out for major events. Even if you’re using movers, DC’s massive rallies and events can wreak havoc with a move. Before scheduling your moving date, find out what’s going on in the city and your neighborhood. Try to plan around anything that may complicate your move.
  • Keep a moving checklist. You don’t need to start from scratch. Stay on track of all the many tasks involved with our Moving Checklist, which you can download and print out.

We’re not going to pretend moving to a new place is easy. But if you’re prepared and pick the right options for your situation, it can be over and done without too much fuss. Besides, Washington, DC is a city of transplants, so you’re in good company.