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Updated 2/19/2019 8:56:46 AM
1-800-PACK-RAT is a member of the “you pack, they drive” gang. It offers clients a portable storage container to snugly fit all their stuff. Clients can then use the container for just storage (on their own property or in a facility) or have a driver move it to their new home or apartment. Like PODS®, 1-800-PACK-RAT allows customers to take as long as they’d like to pack and unpack. Because the company is so small, you might have a hard time finding a location in your area, which can ratchet up the price of your move. The website has room for improvement in customer service and quotes for long-distance moves. But the all-steel containers promise to be the toughest in the industry, which could mean extra protection for your stuff.
For the purposes of this guide, I am planning a long distance move (1,100 miles) of a 3-bedroom home from Fort Lee, N.J. (New York City area) to Kissimmee, Fla. (Orlando area) because those are two destinations with which I’m familiar. I order the rental about two weeks before the invented move date. I try to reserve the rental for a Saturday, which is a popular moving day. I complete the order and later cancel it. By keeping the particulars of the move about the same for each order, I make it possible for you to more easily compare companies and services.
Here’s the particulars of my move: I live in a 3-bedroom home with two large flights of stairs. In addition to the bedrooms, there are two and a half bathrooms, a finished basement (which includes a bar and living area featuring a sofa that turns into a queen-sized bed), a laundry room (with storage under the staircase that includes boxes of holiday decorations), a kitchen, living room (with two sofas, including another one that converts to a queen-sized bed), formal dining room (with a very large and heavy china closet filled with delicate china and glasses for entertaining), and an attic (with some pieces that will eventually be used to convert my son's toddler bed to a queen-sized bed and my wedding dress packed in a special box for preservation). The quotes I received are based on this information.
Of course, prices vary depending on the size of the home you’re moving and the distance of the move. Although 1–800-PACK-RAT is cheaper than its main competitor PODS ®, it’s still on the expensive side, compared to other DIY options. The good news is that you have wiggle room to negotiate a better price. To move my three-bedroom home from northern New Jersey to central Florida, I originally was going to be charged $4,967. When I heard this, I mentioned to the customer service representative on the phone that when the Web site prompted me to call for my quote it mentioned that my move to Orlando was eligible for a special discount that was available only today. She explained that the fact that the driver would have to travel 50 miles from the nearest facility to my New Jersey home to drop off the two 16-foot containers was driving up the price. However, she asked if I was a customer of 1–800-PACK-RAT’s partner Lowe’s® (which I am), and offered me 10 percent off. The price dropped to $4,450. This included the two containers, delivery and transport fees, two locks, blankets (20 per container for a total of 40), and coverage of any damage to the container and up to $25,000 on my stuff. The agent also gave me the chance to “unbundle,” which meant lowering my included protection plan to coverage up to $10,000 and using my own locks and blankets (for protecting my stuff) to get another $100 knocked off the price, which would have made the total $4,350. The rep also assured me that if I decided I needed to keep my stuff in storage for another month, she would give me the discounted price of $169 per month per container as opposed to the full price of $199 per month per container. Clearly, there was room for negotiation and a willingness to work with me to get the price down.
A local move of a smaller place is significantly more affordable. To move from Fort Lee, N.J. to the next town over, Englewood Cliffs, it would cost $474.10 with one 12-foot container or $506.20 with one 16-foot container. And I was able to get this quote online in seconds simply by inputting a bit of info. It was a very different experience than the one I had for the long-distance move.
The cancellation policy isn’t bad but you have to follow the rules. You have until 48 hours before the delivery of the empty containers to cancel without getting charged. After that, however, you’ll be paying a rather large sum if you cancel. I would be paying around $250 plus that extra mileage because I live so far away from a facility, which would come out to nearly $500 per container, said the customer service representative I asked. Good thing I canceled well before the 48 hours!
You are a good fit for this company if you happen to live near one of 1-800-PACK-RAT’s facilities (which would help to keep the cost down), don’t want to drive, and want a lot of hand holding during the moving process. In general, those who are moving locally or have smaller homes to pack up are better suited to portable storage container companies in general and this one is no exception.
Despite having to talk to people, something I’m not keen on, 1-800-PACK-RAT has some assets worth mentioning. For starters, the ability to negotiate is always welcome because, let’s face it, nobody wants to pay full price if they don’t have to. You’re more in control of the schedule - drop-off and pick-up dates - than at most places, which takes off a bit of pressure during a chaotic time. While I didn’t get to actually use a container, they are made entirely of steel, which makes them seem as durable and weatherproof as promised. I’ve written it before, and I’ll write it again - the fact that these portable storage companies move your stuff for you is like a cold glass of sweet tea on a hot day. You don’t even know how much you want it until someone offers it to you. Here are the benefits of going with 1-800-PACK-RAT:
After providing the quote to me, the phone representative said that the price was a little high and she was willing to work with me to get it lower. I mentioned that some things seemed too steep and she would try to help. She clearly wanted to make the sale and managed to bring down the price for me by implementing some available discounts. The idea that the quote was not set in stone was really appealing, especially since most of us are living (and moving) on a budget.
Much like PODS, this service allows customers to load and unload their items at their leisure. You pay for every month you keep the containers. Unlike PODS, the customer service reps encourage you to set dates for delivery and pick-up when you make your reservation. This was good because I could better plan my move with the set dates. There was one setback. I had hoped to schedule the delivery of the empty containers for a Saturday. It would actually have to arrive the day before on a Friday because there are no deliveries or pick-ups on Saturdays and Sundays in New Jersey, the agent informed me. It was a minor glitch. Who can complain about getting the containers a day earlier? It would mean, after all, that I could get up early on Saturday and already start loading the containers to take full advantage of the sunlight and my day off from work. Then again, I could hire movers through HireAHelper and watch them load while I sipped my early morning coffee.
Made entirely of steel, the containers seem to be durable and weatherproof, which is really valuable if you are packing your entire house in it. Yes, the things you pack in there are material items that can be replaced if necessary. But we grow attachments to our stuff and nobody wants their treasures to get ruined. Steel seems like the strongest material you can use to protect your precious cargo. Again, I didn’t actually see or use it myself, but the info on the construction made me feel confident that it was the Superman of storage containers.
Do I really need to write more? I think not.
Even though the customer service rep kindly did all she could to lower my fee, the price was higher than other DIY options. Northern New Jersey, where I live and would be the starting point of my fictitious move, has few 1-800-PACK-RAT facilities nearby, which meant the driver would have to go 50 miles out of his way to deliver my containers and pick them up, which drove up the cost. In addition, the Web site could use some improvement. While I’m all for hand holding when necessary, I found the process of being pushed off from a salesperson to someone called a “moving coordinator” to be overkill. Here’s what you should know:
Sure, you have the opportunity to negotiate. The company wants your business, and therefore is willing to offer you discounts. But these services are still going to fall into the higher-end DIY moving options. Those who don’t want to drive a big rental truck or need storage might find it worth it. That’s for you to decide. But you should know that going with 1–800-PACK-RAT, while cheaper than PODS, is going to be more expensive than some of your other options, such as rental trucks (even if you factor in the cost of fuel and other extras that might come up when you’re driving). For instance, I would be paying in the $2,000 range (not including fuel) for a rental truck for the same move. However, if you were already looking at hiring full-service movers, you might consider a Hybrid™ move with a 1-800-PACK-RAT storage container and HireAHelper instead. By using this full-service hack, you could end up saving a bundle.
I should preface this by writing that with 200 or so terminals, you may be able to find one closer to your original destination, so it might not be an issue for everyone. Still, because the nearest 1–800-PACK-RAT facility to my New Jersey home was 50 miles away I was going to have to pay more for the mileage drivers would garner when dropping off and picking up my containers. From the “locations,” page on the Web site, I learned that there isn’t even a facility in Manhattan, which is about 15 minutes away from my New Jersey home without traffic. If I did need to store my stuff (off property), it would be far away. Many other companies that help DIY movers have locations closer to me, so I could avoid these extra charges and inconveniences. Now, it could be that 1-800-PACK-RAT® has a facility near your home and this doesn’t apply to you.
The Web site is fine. It offers lots of information on how the service works, and all the basics, such as locations and company history. But there are no interactive dimensions other than the free quote. And that is really only for those who are seeking simple local moves. Those of us making a long-distance move are prompted to contact the toll free number to actually get the quote. In my case, a box appeared indicating that my move to the Orlando area made me eligible for a one-day only discount. The customer service rep didn’t know what I was talking about when I mentioned this, along with my quote account number. But she did all she could to accommodate a discount as I mentioned earlier. I really hated being unable to get a quote online. I like to be able to gather this kind of information ahead of a phone call, so I can ask more pointed questions when I’m talking to a person. Also, with a price in hand, I would be able to eliminate certain options from the start without having to reject a live human being, who will try to talk me out of my decision even if it’s far out of my budget. To top it off, there were not even online agents to answer general questions. You had to do everything on the phone. Once you made your initial reservation for a long-distance move you were passed off to a “moving coordinator” and had to get in touch with him or her for any further scheduling, concerns, or questions. So like I said, if you like having your hand held through this whole process, this service is great for you, but if you're like me and you prefer to do as much online yourself, you're actually going to find yourself out of luck here and with every portable storage container company, for now.
I had a great experience with the first representative with whom I spoke. After all, she helped me get discounts to lower the price. We scheduled the drop off of my empty containers and pick up of them once they were loaded. When I started asking about when I could expect the containers for unloading at my Florida address, I learned that I was going to have to do this with another agent known as a “moving coordinator.” From now on, I would have to deal with this new person, who would be getting in touch with me soon. Annoying. Now, I had to wait and deal with yet another person. I have so many other things to worry about - work, family, my kid. I didn’t need another round on the phone or via e-mail with someone else. The intention is good because the company wants you to have a specific person to whom you can turn for help. But I saw it as one more step in an already long process when I have no time as it is. Again, if you want your own personal portable storage concierge, then this method would actually be great for you.
There are two options: The Basic Plan and the Silver Plan. The Basic Plan, also known as the container damage waiver, prevents you from being liable for damage to the container and provides coverage of up to $25,000, according to the conversation I had with a phone agent. The Silver Plan is the same but you can purchase coverage of up to $75,000 while the container is in PACK RAT’s possession. This insurance does NOT cover any damage that happens to your goods during normal transit. It only covers your goods in transit if there’s an accident, like if the container were to get hit with by a tornado or broadsided by a semi-trailer. There’s good news though. If you book movers through HireAHelper to load and unload your container, your goods will be covered during normal transit by our $0.60/lb insurance, for free.
More than 200 (based on those listed on the Web site). Age, varies from truck to truck, said a telephone customer representative.
1-800-PACK-RAT was the brainchild of a North Carolina entrepreneur, who designed an all-steel, weatherproof portable storage container. He teamed up with a heavy-equipment manufacturer to build a system that can lift a container up to 8,500 pounds, according to the Web site. In 2003, the first three locations of the business were developed in North Carolina. By 2005, the company was set for growth. It hired Bob Poirier, former executive at 1-800-FLOWERS ® and FTD ®, as the new president and Joseph Grano, former U.S. CEO of UBS ® Paine Webber, as chairman of the board. Under their leadership, the company grew from three locations to 50 in two years. It was a result of this rapid development, according to the site, that 1-800-PACK-RAT could begin offering long-distance moving options.
To be honest, there’s not much info in the way of charity or efforts to be green. So, I called a phone rep and asked about what the company is doing to help the environment and offered the example of using alternative fuel. He put me on hold for a few minutes and returned to say that the company wasn’t doing anything. Oy.
The designer of the containers called them pack rats because you could fit so much stuff inside, and that is how the company name was born, according to the site.
Better than PODs for scheduling
The delivery/pickup driver was very careful about setting the container in just the right spot on the driveway.
Everett was our initial contact person, and was so helpful and knowledgeable about everything we needed for this long-distance move, even before we secured their services. I can't thank him enough for helping us muddle through this!
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