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.
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, 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 is also 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.
PODS was the best solution for me as I was selling my house and moving cross country. It was nice to have my belongings in storage during this process and then everything arrived on time and as promised.
We ordered a 16’ POD for a 2 bedroom apartment, cross-country move. Everything went very smoothly. When I called to order the POD, I was on the phone setting up the move for over an hour; but this is because the fellow who was helping me was very thorough in making sure where we could place the POD at both apartments and arranging around a time constraint on the delivery side (we could not have the POD in our garage for over 24 hours). When the POD arrived at first apartment, we had an issue with a tree branch blocking the truck’s ability to drop the container; but the driver was super accommodating and hopped up onto the container to move the branch aside. For the delivery, since we had a short window to unload the POD, the delivery driver came at 8am and then told us to give him a call when we were done unloading so he would come pick it up. We had a very pleasant experience with everyone we encountered with POD and I would definitely use this service again.
Pods company was super easy to work with. Every time I called they took their time with me on the phone and were very pleasant to work with. They helped coordinate a long distance move for me and were very knowledgeable about the whole process. They called and emailed confirmation of everything which was very helpful during a busy move. POD was delivered and picked up in the time frame given to me and the drivers were all friendly. I would definitely use this company again.
The service was as described by the company. They met all my needs. Almost everything unpacked to date is in original condition. The one claim we have for a damaged washing machine is being handled professionally.
One issue, there is lack of communication when delivery or pickup of the container. One person gives you one time and another gives you something entirely different.
This was a good choice for me. Start to finish has been a good experience. My long distance move was made a little easier with this method. I am grateful.
Kevin George was the driver for 1800PACKRAT who brought the empty 16' unit to us and picked it back up when it was loaded. He arrived and picked the unit back up as I had scheduled it. He was really professional but yet personable. He reminded me of a young Darryl from The Walking Dead :) It was interesting to see him hook the unit up and move it up on his truck. We he drove off, he was slow going out of the driveway and up the street. They will be storing it for a month until our house is ready. This process also went smoothly which made the hectic job of moving, not as hectic.
Although I am at the start of my POD rental, to date I am pleased with the service received thus far from 1 800 PACK-RAT. Everyone has been very professional, helpful, and customer service has been great.
ABF drivers were friendly and flexible on both ends. When I called in the morning to tell them the container would be ready for pick up in the afternoon, they came and took it that day.
David at Go Mini was the most accommodating service provider I have used. I was moving across town and he facilitated the transfer of storage unit almost to the minute! Will definitely refer him to my other friends...
They are good but took 8 days instead of 5 business days ,otherwise they were good, also I had confusion while talking because they transfer call to 7 people to get detail about my container.
This is the second time I have moved with ABF. The first time, I rented a partial trailer for a NYC-Denver move, and this time I used a Relocube for a Denver-Baltimore move. Everyone has been terrific to work with, from the origin and destination centers to the cube pick-up/delivery people to the customer service staff. The price is unbeatable; I compared them to PODS and U-Haul cubes, to self-driving with Penske, U-Haul, Budget, and to moving companies Broadway and Mayflower. My move was unusual in that I required one month's storage in Baltimore--ABF's low price was due to their competitiveness on the cost of both the cube and the storage. When I moved with the partial trailer in 2012, I found that multiple items were cracked or broken. This was entirely my own fault for (a) not packing well and (b) not supervising the people I'd hired to load. So if you rent a partial trailer, make sure you follow tips on packing and also get movers familiar with packing freight trailers and tying down stuff. In the cube, nothing got damaged; it was packed full and I used copious amounts of newsprint and bubblewrap. Two minor things--the size of a Relocube is smaller than that of other cubes I looked at, so with my very full one-bedroom apartment it was unclear whether I would need two cubes. A slightly larger cube would have been helpful and allowed me to take a few more things (which I ended up giving away instead--such as a mattress filing cabinet, and shelving unit). ABF will deliver two cubes for you but only charge you for one if that's all you use, which is great--no additional delivery or pick-up charge. A small issue--though I had called to let the origin site know that I used only one cube, both ended up getting shipped and charged. Customer service was really great about tracking down the extra and refunding the charge. Because of my great experience with them before, I was not anxious about getting this sorted out. I am very pleased with ABF.
Fantastic. On time delivery and pickup in Texas, early delivery (!!), and quick pick up in Virginia. Overnights in ABF secured facilities and online tracking. They beat us to VA!
It was a little difficult to work around the company's M-F container delivery window. But, in both pick-up and drop-off instances the delivery drivers were friendly and very quick.
The individual who delivered my container was courteous, caring, professional and skilled. I can say the same for the person who helped me with my rental. I would (will) use them again.
Door to Door has been good (although I don't take delivery of the containers for a month or two). One wrinkle was that they had a breakdown of the hydraulic system on their truck when dropping off empties, and were backed up/delayed by about 3-4 hrs. They were a bit tardy on calling me, but offered to refund the $100 or so delivery cost as an apology (still waiting on this, but expect it will come soon.)
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.