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ReloCubes are one of two options for regular Joes looking to move house and home with the help of U-Pack Moving, whose parent company is ABF Freight Systems, Inc., a grandfather of the shipping industry. The other option is renting out space in a 28-foot trailer that is driven by a professional (here’s the low down on the U-Pack trailer option). The major difference between the trailer and the ReloCube is in the packaging. Instead of sending a trailer to your place, U-Pack sends a ReloCube, a steel container that measures 6’D x 7’W x 8’H externally and 70D x 82W x 93H internally. You or your hired help load it up with your stuff and call the company to have a driver pick it up for delivery at your final destination. You can use the container for storage by paying a monthly rate, but only upon availability. Unlike PODS ® and 1-800-PACK-RAT ®, ABF ® does not allow for customers to take as long as they want packing up their portable containers. Still, there’s a convenience factor in loading an on-the-ground container and having someone else do the driving.
Long-distance and cross-country moves are their specialties; in fact, an attempt to get a quote for a move from Fort Lee, N.J. to nearby Northvale, N.J. resulted in a recommendation for PODS because ReloCubes and U-Pack trailers are not available for in-state moves anywhere.
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 based on the distance of your move, the size of your home or apartment, and the equipment you need. But I can give you an idea of how much it would have cost for my fictitious move. For the purposes of these guides, I’ve been “moving” my 3-bedroom New Jersey home. But I had already profiled and canceled a move of that home, replete with a trailer from ABF’s U-Pack Moving. Also, a three-bedroom house requires at least two - maybe three - ReloCubes, so the trailer would have come up as the best recommendation anyway. So, I created another “move.” This time my sister would be moving from Fort Lee, N.J. to Kissimmee, Fla., and hers is a much smaller studio apartment (at least for this report).
The total for one Relocube including the standard free protection of your stuff, driver, taxes, and fuel was $2,494. I saved $25 by booking online. There are discounts for students and military to boot, but I am not part of either group. You could pay with credit card, cashier’s check, or money order at time of delivery. Your shipment will not be released until you’ve paid in full. Any additional charges will be made to the credit card you filed at the time of reservation. You can pay extra for guaranteed service, which insures the date of arrival of your shipment. For instance, I - on behalf of my sister - was planning a move with delivery of the container to my sister’s New Jersey apartment for May 13. We could have opted to pay an extra $205 for delivery to her Florida address by May 16 or an additional $235 for delivery by May 15. Unless there’s some all-important reason you need to get your stuff by a certain date, I would not bother with guaranteed delivery. It’s an easy way to end up spending more and when you read the fine print of your Bill of Lading, you’ll notice that it’s not really guaranteed: “Guaranteed delivery dates do not apply in the event of inclement weather.” Also, delivery or pick up of cubes only happens Monday through Friday anyway, so forget about it if you need a weekend.
You may drive up the price if you want to pay for additional coverage of your stuff or if you make the shipment too heavy. An e-mail from the company after I made my reservation revealed that shipments exceeding the weight limit of 2,500 pounds per container will be subject to additional charges. I’m not quite sure how you can track that, by the way. But you might want to think twice about piling in heavy items, such as huge china closets, treadmills, and all those boulders from your old backyard.
Anyone who might need additional storage and has a smaller place to move a long distance could consider ReloCubes. This is not the greatest option for those moving in-state or with big homes to move. Those with larger places, however, could consider U-Pack Moving, which offers trailer space, and is also part of ABF’s household services. Like other options in this category, a ReloCube® or a U-Pack® trailer are great options for those looking for a Hybrid™ move where they don’t have to do the driving.
Despite its flaws, ReloCube has a lot going for it. The price seems decent. Someone else is driving my stuff across the East Coast, which is a big perk for a driving coward like me. The company, which has lots of experience in the shipping industry, promises the steel container is tough, so it will protect your stuff and stand up well to inclement weather and the like. And, if you need it, you can always opt to store your stuff in the container for additional time. Here’s the scoop on how ReloCube will have you smiling:
I must preface this by writing that it’s hard to make straight comparisons between ReloCube and other portable storage units or other DIY moving options, such as truck rentals, because I had to use a smaller apartment, as opposed to a large home, for the ReloCube quote. But, when you consider, how far the move is (which was the same for pretty much all the estimates) and that it includes fuel, a driver, etc., then it seems reasonable. Of course, this is the case only if you manage to avoid those additional charges mentioned earlier. The point is that I wasn’t flabbergasted or even taken aback by the price tag. It seemed to be in the ballpark of all the others even though it was for a studio apartment and the others were for a 3-bedroom house.
I can’t write this enough. I love this benefit of the you pack, they drive industry. It takes off a lot of pressure and gives me the chance to check out my new home in Kissimmee. Maybe I’ll sport my Mickey ears and head to a theme park while the driver is taking to the road with my things. Or maybe I’ll just learn where the nearest supermarket is and register my kid for school. Right? It’s like paying for the gift of time, which is something we all need more of.
Superman was the man of steel, and the only thing that could break him was kryptonite. Therefore steel containers have to have some heft to them or at least that is what my logic tells me. Now, I didn’t actually go through with the move, nor did I see the containers up close, so I can’t vouch for the promise of durability. But it sure seems like the equipment would be secure and give a layer of protection to my treasured things. So, I’m choosing to believe the company when it says this box is good and strong.
If you need to keep your stuff in storage, you can do so once it is in the container. Granted, it is subject to availability and this company prefers you request the storage ahead of your delivery date, as I’ve mentioned. But part of the convenience of these portable containers is that you can store stuff in them easily. This is something that people making long-distance moves often need, so it’s good to know the option is there.
ReloCube isn’t a bad deal really. The price for this long-distance move was decent relatively speaking, and the customer service representative was helpful and kind. But there were some negatives. For starters, you must read the Bill of Lading and any other communication from the company carefully to make sure you don’t make any missteps that will have you paying more than you planned. This was the same with U-Pack’s Moving’s trailer service. Also, unlike other portable storage container companies, you have a timeframe for loading and unloading that you must respect or you’ll pay more. A confusing online reservation process and lack of online customer service reps are frustrating. Finally, you are at the will of the availability of equipment, especially during the spring and summer, the hot seasons for moving. Here’s what you need to know:
The quote and the company’s Web site do not provide the detail about additional charges you might have to pay. But the communication sent to you within the first 24 hours of your reservation sure does. Reading the Bill of Lading and another e-mail from ReloCube revealed that I could incur additional charges for trying to load the container with more than 2,500 pounds, which I already mentioned. I also learned that ABF will hold the shipment for up to two business days for free if I can’t take immediate delivery of the shipment, but unless storage is pre-arranged, I’ll be paying detention fees of $50 per day per container after that. Also, if it takes me longer than three business days to load or unload the ReloCube, then I’ll be charged $50 per day per container. If you cancel the move within one week of your delivery date, then the fee is $50. If you cancel on the delivery date, then the fee is $150. Other companies have slightly more flexible cancellation policies, so this is worth noticing. Also, the fine print reveals that you must provide your own padlock (which will be an additional cost), and you have to call the origin terminal two days before loading to schedule delivery. It is also recommended that you have the container delivered one day ahead of the arrival of moving labor if you have hired professionals.
Initially, I input the necessary information for a free online quote for an in-state Jersey move and was told that the company does not conduct moves in my area, so I should check in with its competitor PODS ®. While I appreciated the recommendation, I was kind of surprised. Long-distance moves are the company’s specialty, so I went back to my original Fort Lee, N.J. to Kissimmee, Fla. move, but made it for a smaller space because I wanted a ReloCube this go around, as opposed to space in the U-Pack trailers. Despite my efforts, I was quoted for five feet in a trailer. The company estimated that I needed 5 feet of trailer space for this studio apartment. According to that same quote, I could subtract $87 per foot for each foot that went unused, but I had to use a minimum of 5 feet. Huh? (Just as an FYI, I could have also added $87 per foot for each additional foot used and that was subject to a maximum of $3,941.)
I later learned, by calling an agent on the phone, that I needed to click on the ReloCubes page to see that quote. The trailer one came up automatically, and I would have had no way of knowing that this is what I needed to do without the phone call. The agent also e-mailed me the quote for the portable container, which was helpful. If I didn’t make the call, I would have assumed my only option was the trailer (which was a couple hundred dollars cheaper mind you). Still, if I wanted a portable storage container, I probably would have left the site and the company in frustration without making a reservation.
This mamma was more perturbed when she realized there are no online customer service agents with whom I could chat and learn about things like this hidden ReloCube quote. I don’t have time to play hide-and-go-seek with your estimate when my kid is pulling on my leg to play the same game. Capeesh?
When I first phoned the agent, he thought I might not be seeing a quote for the container because May is the start of the high moving season, and I wasn’t giving them much time to book it. He said that there probably wasn’t a container available when I needed it. That was not the case; I just didn’t see the quote on the page that automatically appeared on my screen. The e-mails sent after I reserved the container, however, also indicated that additional storage might be a problem if I needed it because it was subject to availability. In other words, if other folks needed the container, I might have to give it up even sooner regardless of whether I was willing to pay the monthly storage fee of $105.
Unless you pre-arrange for additional storage time, you have three days on either end of your move to load and unload your stuff. This is fine. You know about it ahead of time. But one of the perks - not to mention justifications for the slightly higher prices in the portable container industry - is that you can take as much time as you need to load and unload (as long as you are willing to pay for each month past the first 30 days). That is not one of the benefits of ReloCube, which could be a dealbreaker for folks looking to take this route. Why go with ReloCube when they can hang onto the PODS container for as long as they want? Then again, you could certainly solve this problem by hiring a couple movers through HireAHelper. They'd get those cubes loaded and unloaded in hours, not days.
With your rental of the portable storage container comes some protection against loss or damage of your stuff. At no additional charge, you will have catastrophic liability, which covers items at $3 per pound per piece at a maximum of $7,500 but only in the cases of fire, theft, or trailer overturn or collision. You’ll also receive carrier negligence liability, which covers items at $.10 per pound per piece for loss or damage caused by the carrier (read: ReloCube and its employees). If you want to pay extra, you can get additional coverage. Here are your options:
There are more than 250 service locations, also known as terminals. Relocubes are “One of the newest, best-maintained fleets on the road,” according to the ABF website.
The backstory of U-Pack, of which ReloCubes is apart, gets a little complicated. Its parent company, ABF Freight System, Inc., is a whopping 85 years old, a grandparent of the trucking industry. But U-Pack, more like a great grandchild of ABF, launched on Oct. 1, 1997. ABF claims to have one of the best-maintained and newest fleets on the road, and it includes 1,600 tractors, 2,500 city tractors, and more than 17,000 trailers, according to the Web site. There are 13,000 employees, and service to all 50 United States, 9 Canadian provinces, Puerto Rico, and Guam.
The American Trucking Association frequently honors ABF, the parent company of U-Pack, for its safety, security, and freight handling standards, according to the company’s Web site. Of ABF’s 7,000 drivers, more than 2,600 of them have received the safe driving award for long-term, accident-free driving.
ReloCubes parent company ABF handles more than 23,000 freight shipments a day. Talk about moving!
The container was in good condition and items did not shift considerably during the move. Our delivery was a day later than our estimated window, which was frustrating, but otherwise we had a good experience.
Smooth experience, easy scheduling, all promised time windows on pickup and delivery met.
The cubes I ordered were dirty and I had to clean them out before I could load. The customer service agent I worked with gave me misleading information claiming that I had 3 business days to load the cubes at a shipping cargo site and could continue to load through the weekend as I would have access. Turns out that was not the case. I had access to the cubes on a thursday, loaded some boxes Friday and then was locked out of grounds through the weekend and the cubes were loaded first thing Monday morning!! I had to leave behind thousands of dollars worth of furniture and personal belongings because I was moving from Alaska to California. When I called the company they were unsympathetic, and implied I was lying about the agent telling me I would have access to the units to load through the weekend. I spent nearly $8,000 with UPACK to move my belongings and in return I was given a refund of $200 for my inconvenience. Upack is a joke. Don't use them. I should have listened to my friend when he told me they did a half-ass job moving his belongings from Alaska to Atlanta.
The ReloCube ® image above is used solely for identification purposes and serves as the primary means of visually identifying the subject of this article and provides an illustration of the entity that is represented.
ABF ®, U-Pack ®, ABF U-Pack Moving ®, ReloCube ® are registered trademarks of ABF Freight System, Inc. HireAHelper, LLC has no affiliation with ABF Freight System, Inc. and ABF Freight System, Inc. has not authorized the use of its trademarks.