Moving container companies, one of the "you pack, they drive" moving options, are the babies of the D.I.Y. moving industry, but they're also one of the most popular options for a Hybrid™ Move. These newcomers have revolutionized the process by allowing people an easy, convenient way to pack, store, and move their stuff. Clients reserve a date for the delivery of a shipping container (or two for larger homes), and then they pack up their stuff - on their own or with hired help - at their convenience. You lock up the container and you alone hang onto the key. Finally, you call the container company to send a driver, who will drive a truck out, pick up the container, and bring your stuff to a storage facility or your spiffy new address.
You can move locally or long distance, but moving containers are more affordably suited to local moves of small houses or apartments. But that's mostly because you need to rent out more than one container for larger homes, which raises the fee. And the costs associated with the company driving the container long distance (read: paying the driver, fuel, insurance, etc.) all piles onto your bill, but then again you're not driving that massive truck 2000 miles in 110 degree heat. Trade offs. Prices range from just under $500 for a local move (with the largest container) to more than $5,000 for a long-distance move (with two of the largest containers). In the rest of this guide, you can see average prices for each type of move, as well as get a quick intro to the companies who offer these moving services, learn the best tips for making a portable storage container move successful, and figure out what size container you might need using our container size guide.
Website super simple to navigate, giant online presence.
Requires lengthy scheduling notice for best results.
Quick and easy booking, great customer service.
Delivery and pickup times are broadly assigned, not specific.
Knowledgable and responsive customer service.
Limited scheduling window for packing and unloading containers.
Delivery options offered, affordable pricing.
Wood containers are less sturdy, cancellation process a headache.
Unparalleled customer service, lots of different container options.
Fewer long distance move options, total cost obscured until after move.
Flexible billing based on actual containers used, online tracking.
Costliest option for large homes, container quality not as good as the competition.
Smaller company gives you a more intimate, direct feel.
Billing is rigid and strictly tied to a monthly billing cycle.
PODS ® and 1-800-PACK-RAT ® are the most popular moving container options. These companies offer storage either on your property (you keep the container locked up in your driveway, for example) or at one of the company's facilities. Some people use the storage containers to store their stuff while completing a renovation project. Of course, you pay for the moving container rental by the month, so the more months you keep them, the more money you will spend.
You can usually purchase moving supplies, such as boxes, from the company's Web site. But you are limited and there are no supply rentals, which means you are on your own when it comes to getting hand trucks and furniture blankets, unless you want to buy them. In other words, you are better off seeking out supplies elsewhere, where they are gentler on your wallet. Still, the extra costs associated with moving container rental might just be worth it if you don't want to make like a truck driver.
After 4 million moves that cover over 85% of North America, there's no question that PODS is the leader - and self-proclaimed founder - of the "you pack, they drive" moving options. The "Portable On-Demand Self-Storage" units, otherwise known as "PODS containers" (which are 7, 12, or 16-feet long) have a reputation for being durable. Their containers are composed of aluminum skin and steel frames, have a translucent top to let in light, and a lightweight steel, roll-up door that's designed to make them easy to open and close.
But PODS can also be among the most expensive ways to hack a move, especially if you're hauling a larger home from a long distance. The convenience factor, however, can definitely make it worth it, considering their many locations. Plus, they have their operation nailed down, compared to a lot of the competition, which is reflected in their customer reviews. You can keep the moving containers for packing, unpacking and storage for as long as you want to pay for them, while someone else delivers them to your destination. You really call the shots when it comes to scheduling. However, this becomes a challenge in the busy summer season, as you might have a difficult time getting access to the containers you need. Plan far in advance. Again, however, PODS has more facilities across the country than 1-800-PACK-RAT, which gives consumers in most regions a better shot at getting what they need, when they need it.
For more information on PODS, visit its profile page.
The major differences between 1-800-PACK-RAT and PODS are the sizes of their containers (as well as maybe the sizes of the companies). 1-800-PACK-RAT offers a great selection of containers. Both also have about the same number of facilities, but PODS wins out by being geographically spread out more, which means you are more likely to have a facility near you. This matters because a delivery driver is more likely to drop off and pick up moving containers much more quickly, thus, lowering the cost.
But on the other hand, your stuff might be considerably more secure and protected with this option. 1-800-PACK-RAT's containers are made entirely of steel, which makes them among the toughest containers around. Not to mention the company's partnership with Lowe's® means you can snag discounts on all sorts of stuff you might need as you move into a new home. Also, you can talk to a customer representative on the phone about their many discounts before committing.
For more information on the 1-800-PACK-RAT moving alternative, visit its profile page.
ReloCubes® are a little different from the others in the portable storage containers category. These all-steel containers are brought to us by U-Pack® Moving, which is part of ABF® Freight Systems, Inc., a grandfather in the shipping industry. Unlike its competitors, ReloCubes come in one size, are offered for long-distance moves, and cannot be loaded or unloaded at the client's convenience. (You have 3 business days on either end for loading and unloading.) The price - at $2,494 for moving a studio apartment from New Jersey to Florida - is decent. And ABF has lots of experience - more than PODS or 1-800-PACK-RAT - hauling delicate stuff a lengthy distance. For more information on ReloCubes, visit its profile page.
A fixture of college dorm move-ins for over two decades, Door to Door boasts high customer satisfaction in their tightly clustered network of locations. They also claim great affordability, as the college students who are a major component of their demographic can attest. Like much of the competition, there are also delivery options for your moving container, as well as readily available (but offline) customer service agents.
Door to Door gains a lot of their financial affordability from the fact that they offer one-size-fits all option (56"x 93"x 77"), which is about the size of one bedroom. Not to mention the fact that the container is made of wood, and the company offers no insurance options, unlike the competition. But if you're in a (mostly) west coast location and have a small scale move in mind, check out their site to see their options.
If you're in an area that is serviced by any of their 200+ locations, Go Mini's can be an attractive option. Like many of the more prolific storage container options on the market, Go Mini's offers delivery services and competitive storage pricing. Where this company vastly flexes their muscles is in unparalleled customer service. Because they deal in local moving, you are likely to be assigned a personal, friendly agent with lightning quick response times for any of your questions, which is the sure sign of a smaller, more nimble company. Go Mini's also lays claim to being the only company on the market that offers a 20-foot container, which fits about five to six rooms worth of stuff.
However, don't count on Go Mini's for long distance moves, as they yet do not offer long distance storage or deliveries. Upfront pricing is also a bit of an issue, as your grand total won't be shown to you until after your storage needs are completed. Check their site to see if Go Mini's is an option in your area.
Branching out from their famous (and orange) parent company, "U-Box" is the latest among U-Haul's relocation offerings. This time, the company is aiming to stake a claim in the container industry, claiming quick and affordable moving container options.
Positive features include a massive customer service presence, huge name recognition, and even live box tracking. In tandem with their online price estimator and the fact that they can deliver your container wherever you need it, U-Box can be an appealing option.
As with any large, corporate entity, however, there are issues. Unlike the competition, U-Box offers only a one-size-fits-all option for its containers (96" x 60" x 90"). The quality of this container is also a bit suspect, as they are made of plywood and come with a "weatherproof" cover, which depending on your location may not survive long stretches of storage. Plus, customer service is less than stellar, with potentially long wait periods between online and phone interactions, not to mention that all-too-familiar, cold reception to any issues you may encounter.
Check out U-Box's website to see if their prices are worth the potential downsides for your own move.
Like some other storage options, SMARTBOX is the closest thing you can get to a Full Service Move transportation experience, except with containers.
How it all works is you pack your SMARTBOX, then someone drives your stuff locally or long distance to their new location, or to one of their temperature controlled storage units. Afterwards, you pay for using SMARTBOX by the month, giving you flexibility. (This is provided you don’t go over by even one day, or else it’ll be a bill for two months.) If you’re in the market for a way to store your things while you move, it’s definitely worth checking out their rates if one of their 30+ locations are near you.
Check out SMARTBOX's Moving101 profile for more info.
Each company has its own positives and negatives, but there are some universal tips when renting portable storage containers. We've learned the in's and out's of booking, dropping off, storage and even delivery. So read below to be prepared for when you rent your next portable storage unit.
These containers are best suited to those who are moving and need storage. If that's you, then this could be a really convenient and affordable way to move. On the other hand, you'll pay more than you would with a rental truck for a long-distance move of a larger home, but then again you don't have to drive. If you need to store your stuff for long periods of time (especially if you can and prefer storing it on your own property), these are really a fantastic option.
Often these companies do seasonal promotions, so be on the lookout for those. Also, you might be able to do a bit of negotiating. PODS wasn't as willing to negotiate price for my imaginary move, but 1-800-PACK-RAT was. Simply by asking to make sure you're getting all the discounts which you are eligible can help you pay less. So, don't be shy.
Truck rental companies have thousands of facilities each. As a result, they have more rentals available, so you have more access to them when you need them. This is not the case with these newer and smaller portable storage units. This means you need to think about the future now. Weekends, for example, might need to be secured a year ahead of time, according to a PODS representative. If you need to move unexpectedly or within a quick time frame, then these containers might not be right for you, but check first. Then again, if you can plan your move months ahead of time, these units could be perfect.
The first month of storage is factored into the price for most companies, so you can feel free to take your time loading, getting the driver, and unloading. Once you pass that first month, however, you are going to have to pay a monthly fee for storage. While it's true that you can take all the time you need to load, have your stuff moved, and unload, you maximize the value of the service by doing it all within one month's time. Procrastinating will suck the dollars right out of your wallet.
This means that you must find out if it's legal to park the container on the street, and for how long. You should check with the local city hall for details on parking containers in your town (both where you're living now and where you're moving to). For example, in Seattle you need to get a permit that will allow you to leave the container on the street for 120 days. Keep in mind that you'll have to pay any parking violations incurred by the container while in your possession for loading and unloading. Most moving container companies will inform you of your city's regulations for parking containers at the time of booking as well. As a kind gesture, you should also inform your neighbors that this big boy is going to be visiting for a while.
Cities, such as New York City, require a live load/unload, which means that certain locations do not permit overnight parking of the container. So, you have to allow the driver to wait for you while you load or unload the truck. Each company has its own rules of live load/unloads. Another option is to rent a truck and shuttle your belongings to a portable storage container warehouse where you can unload them into a container, but at that point, a lot of the convenience has been lost unfortunately.
They were on-time both picking up and delivering, gave advice on packing and our items arrived in good shape. I would use them again, if , God forbid,we ever move again!
Jason and Rudy were hardworking, industrious, young men; polite, considerate and taking care with our possessions. I would hire them again in a heart beat and have no qualms recommending them to anyone else.
I had some bad information when getting quotes- the woman I had spoken to recommended waiting to place my reservation so it would be cheaper. It ended up costing us more than anticipated. Otherwise, it was a hassle-free experience. Some of the folks that I spoke with related to freight were kind of cranky, but the guy who dropped off the cube was super nice. Much cheaper than any other moving service we checked on, cube was as advertised.
Moved a small restaurant's equipment from Massachusetts to northern California. Much cheaper than replacing the gear, either used or new. Pack Rat's commercial container was the perfect size for doing this.
PODS has the best rate per cubic foot space moved. But if you are moving in stages with multiple containers, it is hard to know which unit they are telling you about. Really would help if they used the container ID.
We had a great experience overall. The only reason I'm not giving a five is there was a rather large change from wrote to actual cost. The pods came to both locations on time and with very friendly drivers. Pod held most of or stuff we were moving from a 2 bedroom townhome. A couple boxes shifted but nothing broke. Would recommend for a long distance move.
We picked Pack Rat because they had a cleaner pricing model with what appeared to be less add on expenses. The PODs were clean and the company is large enough to provide climate controlled storage in both our departure and destination city. Overall the experience was uneventful. Pack Rat showed up as requested and provided exceptional customer service.
I decided use a 1-800-Pack-Rat container for my move. I'm glad I did! Everyone (person scheduling & the driver) was courteous and professional. They even helped me find last minute movers to load my container when another company I had hired failed to show. 1-800-Pack-Rat did an excellent job transporting my furniture safely from one location to another. I would use this company again. I highly recommend them for your next move!
My move was an unplanned out of state move. A moving truck might have cost less than packrat, because the helpers would’ve been included. Packrat made it easy though. I could plan my furniture to be moved in a week.
ABF dropped off & picked up on time at source and destination loacations. Friendly, professional, and polite people. Easy website to use, excellent tracking and text updates.
Using the Uboxes was easy. Setting up the shipment and delivery was a breeze. The only mishap was that the Ubox numbers were not recorded correctly. I'm glad that I took pictures of the numbers on the boxes and followed up with the Uhaul site.
I didn’t want to have to drive a moving truck towing my car behind it, so the ReloCubes were an amazing option. I liked that you can track the cubes (none of the other cube/box/pod services offered this to my knowledge) and that ABF has a quick turnaround (my boxes arrived in 3 days - PODs quoted me a 9 day turnaround). My customer service experience in my original terminal (Birmingham, AL) was not great. They told me the empty cubes would be delivered late afternoon and then called at 9 am to say they were on their way. Since I was at work, I had to call my apartment manager to meet them and determine placement. I was surprised my 2BR apartment fit into 2 cubes (packed very tightly), but in future, I may use the freight space option because I don’t know that I could fit anymore in the cubes. Otherwise, I would use them again. Great experience!
ABF moved us to Texas and then back to Colorado. They always do exactly what they say they are going to. This is a very reliable company and quite accommodating. We would not hesitate to use them in the future.
The containers are made of plywood covered with some sort of canvas tarp. Not as good as PODS but adequate, and certainly a lot less expensive. They arrived I time. The service staff is a dream to work with.
Door to Door was great. They were very well organized, easy to work with, delivered the units on time, and everything that was transported arrived just as we had packed it.
Uhaul-U-Box has many good part - price for one. You have to pack VERY well. They and their transportation company can be pretty aggressive with the handling of the cubes. That said, the only things broken were because would have been avoided had I done a better job of packing and protecting. UHaul - U-Box does not have their lines of communication totally worked out so they weren't always clear on where my boxes were or when I needed access. But, all-in-all, for the price, it worked out OK. I would have been a LOT happier if U-Haul had their communications problems worked out, though.
PODS ® and the PODS ® logo are the registered trademarks of PODS Enterprises, Inc. (PEI). U-Pack ® is the registered trademark of Moving Solutions, Inc. ReloCube ® is a registered trademark of ABF, Freight System, Inc.