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Published: Mar 22, 2023 16 min read

Whether you're relocating to a neighboring city or a far-off state, there are several ways you can go about moving. If you're moving over a short distance, you could recruit a few friends, load up your car (or look into a moving truck rental company) and make a few trips from your hold home to the new one.

If you're moving a larger household or relocating across state lines, you may opt to hire a full-service moving company that can handle packing and furniture loading, among other tasks. However, these services can cost thousands of dollars, making them inaccessible to many.

If you don't have the budget to hire one of the best moving companies but don't want (or can't) drive your belongings to your new location, a moving container company can be a middle course between these options. This article will cover some of the best moving container companies in the country to help you decide which could be right for you.

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Best Moving Container Companies Reviews

Pros
  • Lowest cost for local moves
  • 30-day rentals
  • Content protection coverage from $5,000 to $300,000
Cons
  • Service can vary depending on your location
  • Poor online customer service ratings
  • Must reserve in advance during the summer
HIGHLIGHTS
Container Sizes
8, 12 and 16 feet
Rental Period
30 days
Fees & Charges
Monthly rental, transportation/shipping, delivery/pickup, re-delivery
Discounts
May waive delivery/pickup fees based on rental length, secure storage discounts

Why we chose it: According to our research, PODS tends to charge below-market prices for short-distance moves. PODS charged us around $3,810 for a 30-day container rental, about $60 less than other competitors. Of course, the actual cost of your move will depend on the size of your container, the distance to your new location and whether you purchase additional services, among other factors. Transportation and pickup/delivery fees may also apply.

PODS has been around since 1989 and is one of the pioneers in the moving container industry. It offers three weatherproof container options you can rent for 30-day periods. During that time, you can load the container at your own speed. If you need to keep the container longer, the company will charge you the monthly rental fee until you schedule a pick-up.

Once you've loaded your container, you can call the company to transport it to your new home or keep it for onsite storage. Yet another option is to pay for secure storage starting at $149 per month at one of the company's 230 locations nationwide.

While PODS' rates for local and long-distance moves are competitive, they may vary by location, so you could pay more depending on where you live. In addition, PODS doesn't have the best reputation for customer service based on online consumer reviews. Nevertheless, the company appears to respond to customer complaints on platforms like BBB.org, where has a 100% response rate.

Pros
  • All-steel containers with barn doors for easy access
  • $100 discount if you book a local move online
  • Can cancel up to two business days before the move
Cons
  • Fewer locations than other companies
  • May charge higher fees than other competitors
  • Contents protection plan options may be confusing
HIGHLIGHTS
Container Sizes
8, 12 and 16 feet
Rental Period
30 days
Fees & Charges
Monthly rental, transportation/shipping, delivery/pickup, fuel surcharge
Discounts
Long- and short-distance moving discounts, discounts for military members first responders, teachers, nurses and seniors

Why we chose it: While other competitors offer moving containers made of plywood and a waterproof outer shell, most of 1-800-Pack-Rat's moving containers feature all-steel walls, frames and doors. This makes them more durable and secure against extreme weather conditions and other threats. These containers aren't as breathable, however, so keep that in mind if you're planning to store items long-term and are worried about mold or mildew.

1-800-Pack-Rat offers three container sizes that feature barn-style doors for easy access, as your belongings are less likely to cause an obstruction if they move during transit. As with PODS, you can rent the container for 30-day periods and pack at your own speed. And if you're moving over a long distance, the company will give you a free lock for your unit.

Some downsides of working with 1-800-Pack-Rat are that the company may charge higher fees than other competitors (and may apply a fuel surcharge) and doesn't provide detailed descriptions of what its protection plans offer. Lastly, the company only operates in some states and has storage facilities in just over 30 states.

Pros
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Locations in all 50 states
  • Multiple delivery options, including self-delivery
  • Guaranteed shipping arrival dates
Cons
  • Plywood containers aren't as durable
  • Only one container size available
  • Doesn't refund you for unused containers
  • U- Box service not available in all locations
HIGHLIGHTS
Container Sizes
8 feet long, 5 feet wide and 7.5 feet high
Rental Period
30 days
Fees & Charges
Monthly rental, delivery/pickup, shipping
Discounts
Cut costs by loading/unloading at a U-Haul location

Why we chose it: U-Haul provides a range of solutions for DIY movers, including moving trucks, cargo and utility trailers and wooden shipping containers called U-Boxes. This last option provides a lot of flexibility with regard to shipping and delivery.

Customers can have their U-Box dropped off/picked up and delivered anywhere around the world, tow the box home themselves or keep it at a U-Haul storage facility. They can return unused boxes for a refund and contact customer service via phone, email, online chat or SMS at any time of day or night.

Besides 24/7 customer service, U-Haul provides a wealth of resources on its website, including helpful articles and a comprehensive FAQ that breaks down its services and fees. It's worth noting that not all companies in the industry are as transparent.

U-Boxes only come in one size, which should be large enough to accommodate about one room's worth of furniture. But while U-Boxes can be shipped anywhere across the U.S. and internationally, the service isn't available in all U-Haul locations. Similarly, only select locations allow you to save on delivery and pickup fees by loading your boxes in-store.

Prospective customers should remember that while U-Boxes are affordable and provide shipping flexibility, they aren't as weatherproof and durable as metal shipping containers, so they may not be the best alternative for long-term storage on-site.

Pros
  • Lowest cost for long-distance moves
  • Service available all across the US and in Canada
  • Unused cubes can be refunded
  • Guaranteed 1- or 2-hour delivery window
Cons
  • Not available for local moves
  • Only three days to load and unload
  • No middle-sized containers for medium-sized houses
HIGHLIGHTS
Container Sizes
7 feet wide, 6 feet long and 8 feet high
Rental Period
30 days
Discounts
Reserve online, senior, military and student discounts

Why we chose it: If you're moving across state lines, U-Pack is an excellent choice. The company, which only offers its services to customers moving over 200 miles or more, claims its prices are on par with truck rental companies. U-Pack quoted us the lowest price for a metal shipping container rental, making it our top choice for interstate and cross-country moves.

The company has only one container size, which is an eight-foot Relocube. The bigger 27 ft moving trailer might be a better choice if you're moving a big household. If you have a two- or three-bedroom home, you may have to book several containers, but you won't be charged for the ones you don't use.

You should also be aware that whether you get one or more of the smaller cubes or a bigger moving trailer, you’re only given three days to load and three more to unload. This can be too short for some people, leading to undue stress before and after a move.

Pros
  • Transparent pricing
  • 30 days of storage
  • Offers price matching
Cons
  • Containers are made of wood
  • Available only in 21 states
  • Doesn't offer liability coverage for local moves
HIGHLIGHTS
Container Sizes
8, 12 and 16 feet
Rental Period
30 days
Discounts
College student discounts

Why we chose it: Smart Box is out top moving container company for local moves because of its uncomplicated moving process and fee transparency.

Smart Box offers both long-distance and local moves for most types of customers, from students and military members to corporations. It also offers storage services and contactless pickup. The service is standard and comparable to companies like U-Haul's U-Box in that the container is made of vinyl-covered plywood and has a wide swing door for easy access.

Smart Box only charges for the space you use and claims competitive and transparent pricing. Besides a price-match guarantee, the company also offers discounts for students and military personnel and, unlike other companies on this list, doesn't apply a fuel surcharge.

Things to keep in mind about moving with Smart Box is that the service is only available in 21 states and only offers one container size. On the plus side, you can order as many containers as you need and have them all delivered to your preferred location in one trip.

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Other moving container companies we considered

Here are a few other moving container alternatives that are still worthy of consideration but didn't quite make the cut.

United Van Lines

Pros
  • Long list of add-on services available
  • Offers two levels of liability coverage, as required by law
Cons
  • Doesn't offer details about its moving container service

United Van Lines is a full-service moving company specializing in long-distance, interstate and international moves. As such, it offers packing and unpacking services storage, car shipping, moving debris pickup (not junk removal) and even a moving container alternative marketed as Snapmoves Services.

Snapmoves is an option for commercial and residential customers moving to or from small homes or apartments. Customers moving larger households will have to look into United's regular moving services, which can be pricier than other alternatives.

Moving an apartment with United Van Lines can cost you between $2,100 and $6,200 while moving home can cost you as much as $11,400. Of course, the price will depend on the size and distance of your move, the services you purchase and the type of liability coverage you select.

Go Mini's Moving and Portable Storage

Pros
  • Three container sizes to choose from
  • Great customer service
Cons
  • Doesn't offer long-distance moves
  • Available in few locations

Go Mini's storage containers come in three lengths, 12, 16, and 20 feet, and feature steel-welded frames, galvanized steel siding and padded wheels. The exterior of the containers is coated with factory-baked paint, which keeps them from sweating due to temperature changes, and the flooring is pressure-treated and sealed to make it moisture-resistant.

These features make Go Mini an option worth considering for anyone looking to protect their furniture from temperature fluctuations. The downside is that the service isn't available everywhere and doesn't offer the same level of service as the others, such as packing and unpacking services and long-distance moves.

Moving Container Companies Guide

The following guide will provide you with all the information you need to know about moving containers and how to rent one.

What is a moving container?

A moving container is a mobile storage unit you can rent when moving to a new location. The moving container company will drop the containers off at your home, pick them up (at your request) once you're done packing and deliver them to your destination.

Moving containers are generally a more cost-effective alternative to hiring a full-service moving company and give you the added benefit of not having to drive your belongings yourself.

Most moving container companies offer several container sizes to choose from. And while these can be made from different materials, they are meant to be weather-proof and weather-resistant.

The smallest moving containers can store about a room's worth of furniture, while the largest can store about three room's worth of items. Of course, this will depend on the number and size of the furniture in your home and how well you pack.

How do moving container companies work?

Again, moving container companies generally deliver the containers to your home and allow you to pack them at your leisure. Most companies will rent the containers for 30-day periods, so if you need additional time to pack you can just keep the container and get charged for another month.

Depending on the company, you may have the option to pack the container yourself or hire movers to do the packing for you. Once the containers are loaded, you can notify the company to have the containers picked up and delivered to your new home. After reaching your destination, you can unpack on your own time and then call the company to pick up the empty containers.

Besides the monthly container rental, you’ll likely have to pay transportation or pickup fees. Some companies may also apply a fuel surcharge.

How to choose the best moving container company

When choosing a moving container company, consider the following:

Fees and costs

A lot of moving container companies offer similar services, but rental costs and other fees may vary considerably. Some companies offer price-match guarantees as well as discounts that can help you cut down on costs. Shop around and get quotes from multiple companies to get the best deal for the services you need.

Moving container estimates will consider the size and number of containers you're looking to rent, your moving dates, the distance of the move and additional services you purchase, among other factors.

The quote should also include rental costs, fees for services such as container delivery and pickup, insurance and taxes. Read the rental agreement carefully before signing it.

Container sizes

Some moving container providers allow you to request as many containers as you think you'll need and only pay for the ones you use. But this isn't always the case. With that in mind, carefully consider how much space you need.

Here’s a rough guide to help you pick the right number of containers:

  • Less than one room of items – seven-foot container
  • Items in 400 to 600 square feet room – seven-foot container
  • Items in 800 to 1,000 square feet home (one bedroom) – 12-foot container
  • Items in 1,000 to 1,500 square feet home (two bedrooms) – 12-foot container
  • Items in 1,500 to 2,000 square feet home (three bedrooms) – 16-foot container
  • Items in 2,000 to 3,000 square feet home (four bedrooms) – 16-foot container + one additional container (seven to 12-foot), or a single 20-foot container
  • Items in 3,500 square feet home and above (five bedrooms or more) – two 16-foot containers or two 20-foot containers, depending on the number of items you have

Not all moving container companies offer all of these sizes. In fact, while most offer up to three options, many only have one size available. Read the container description before renting one and verify whether the company issues refunds on unused containers.

Determine if you'll need additional services

Many, if not most, moving container companies provide storage services, allowing you to keep your container in a secure warehouse while you work out the details of your move. Some of them also offer storage discounts, but prices may increase over time, so make sure to read the fine print.

Most moving container companies don’t offer packing and loading services but can refer you to companies that do. Opting for these services can considerably increase the cost of your move, so do the math.

Moving Container Companies FAQ

How much do moving containers cost?

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According to our research, moving container rentals can cost between $2,700 and $6,000. But actual prices will depend on the type and size of the moving container, any additional services you purchase and the time of year.

Do moving container companies require insurance?

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Moving container companies don't require insurance but should provide content and container protection plans you can add to the container rental for a fee.

Content protection covers a portion of the value of your belongings in the event of damage or loss. In contrast, container protection insures the storage box against unintentional damage and weather events.

However, remember that protection plans may not apply while the container is in transit or stored in the company's secure warehouse, so make sure you understand what you're purchasing.

What's the difference between moving containers and full-service movers?

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Moving container companies provide containers to transport your belongings to a new location or keep them safe outside your home during a renovation. These companies generally don't offer packing or loading services but can connect you to companies that do.

On the other hand, full-service movers provide all the services a homeowner might need during a move, from packing and loading to debris removal and sometimes appliance installation. They may also offer international relocation and car transportation services.

What items shouldn't be transported in a moving container?

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You cannot pack a few things in your moving container. These include hazardous materials like poisons, propane tanks, paints, fertilizers and other volatile substances.

Plants and live animals should not be transported separately in a moving container but separately in your vehicle. For more information, read our article on how to keep your plants safe during a move.

How We Chose the Best Moving Container Companies

To find the best moving container companies in the U.S., we considered the following factors:

  • Container size options
  • Cost and discounts
  • Move distance and options
  • Protection plansCancellation policies
  • Additional services
  • Service area
  • Customer service ratings and reviews

While any of the companies on this list could be a great fit for you, services may vary by location, so we advise you to conduct your research to find the best options in your area.

Summary of Money’s Best Moving Container Companies

PODS — Best for Affordable Prices
1-800-Pack-Rat — Best for All-Steel Containers
U-Box by U-Haul — Best for Customer Service
U-Pack — Best for Long-Distance Moves
Smartbox — Best for Local Moves