Should you pack and move all on your own? Should you hire a full-service mover or should you split the difference with a moving container company? If you’re planning an upcoming move, you’ve probably looked at a few options.
With moving containers, you book and schedule your move with the company of your choice. The company drops off your moving container(s) at your home when you request it. You then load your belongings into the container(s) within the time frame provided. Once your belongings are loaded, you will notify the company to pick up your containers and transport them to your new home.
The This Old House Reviews team has researched and ranked some of the best moving companies on the market to help you figure out which company is right for you and your family. We found the moving container companies on this list particularly impressive due to their cost, services, and additional benefits.
5 Best Moving Container Companies
Using our rigorous methodology paired with in-depth research, we found the following moving container companies to be the best in the industry:
1-800-PACK-RAT: Best Overall Self-Service Mover
1-800-PACK-RAT is our top pick for a moving container company thanks to its competitive pricing, high-quality portable storage units, and partnership with Hire-A-Helper. The company handles local and long-distance moves, sells moving supplies, and offers short- and long-term storage.
Pros & Cons
✔ Includes $10,000 moving protection for long-distance moves
✔ Portable storage units are weather-proof, sturdy, and well-protected
✔ Offers a price-matching policy for PODS
✘ Only has locations in 30 states
✘ No online booking option
Like the other moving companies on this list, 1-800-PACK-RAT delivers portable storage units to your home. A move with 1-800-PACK-RAT includes 30 days worth of rental, but if you need more time for loading and unloading, you can extend the rental for another 30 days for an additional cost.
1-800-PACK-RAT offers three rental container sizes: 8 feet (suitable for 1–2 rooms), 12 feet (2–3 rooms), and 16 feet (3–4 rooms). Each of the company’s containers are high-quality, sturdy, and weatherproof. In fact, 1-800-PACK-RAT is the only portable storage company with all-steel containers.
In addition to its self-service moving service, 1-800-PACK-RAT offers a variety of other useful services. The company offers assistance with loading and unloading or packing and unpacking through Hire-A-Helper. The company offers long-term and short-term storage solutions at one of its many storage facilities.
Cost of 1-800-PACK-RAT
We received a moving quote from 1-800-PACK-RAT for a three-bedroom home moving from Tampa, Florida, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, using a 16-foot container for $3,678.68. This quote includes two 16-foot rental containers, a no-cut security lock, all transportation, delivery, and pickup, and $10,000 in contents protection.
1-800-PACK-RAT offers two different plans for contents protection. Its Basic Plan acts as a damage waiver plan that covers damage to the container when it’s in your possession. This means you are not responsible for any damage to the container itself, but it does not protect your belongings. This plan costs $9.99.
Its second plan, The Silver Plan, combines the Basic Plan with protection on your belongings within the container. Customers can have up to $75,000 of protection on their household goods and personal effects while their container is in 1-800-PACK-RAT’s possession or at their home. There is a $100 deductible for all losses.*
We suggest you get a more accurate idea of what 1-800-PACK-RAT moving container costs by filling out this online survey.
*There is a $2,500 deductible for losses caused by Names Storms, such as hurricanes
1-800-PACK-RAT easily offers its services in Washington, D.C., and the following 30 states:
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Learn More: 1-800-PACK-RAT Review
U-Pack: Most Affordable
U-Pack functions in a similar manner to 1-800-PACK-RAT and PODS, but it focuses exclusively on long-distance moving. If you’re move is less than 150 miles away, you should look to another moving container company.
The company has fewer size options for its moving containers, but it offers a unique pay-for-what-you-use policy for moving trailers. This policy allows you to adjust space used according to your budget. In fact, we found that U-Pack can be as much as 60% cheaper than other moving container companies.
Pros & Cons
✔ Affordable rates compared to competitors
✔ Pay-for-what-you-use policy provides flexibility in pricing and space
✔ Available in all 50 states
✘ 150-mile minimum for moves
✘ No access to on-site storage
✘ Customers must purchase additional services to receive U-Pack’s service guarantee
Like other moving container companies, U-Pack drops off either its shipping containers or a moving trailer at your original home when you request it. U-Pack’s ReloCubes come in only one size, a 70” x 82” x 93” container. You then have three business days to pack the container with your belongings. This window is shorter than both PODS and 1-800-PACK-RAT’s 30 days for loading.
U-Pack offers customers the option to purchase Guaranteed Delivery, which gives access to U-Pack’s 100% Customer Satisfaction Guarantee. This guarantee states that if your shipment doesn’t arrive on the guaranteed date, U-Pack reduces your transportation charges by up to 100%.
A standout feature of the company is its pay-for-what-you-use policy. This allows customers to pay per footage of a moving trailer from ABF Freights. This feature is useful if you’re uncertain about how much space you require for your belongings.
Cost of U-Pack
We received an estimate from U-Pack for two ReloCubes going from Tampa, Florida, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in roughly a month for $2,713. This quote is all-inclusive and features no hidden fees.
For a better idea of what U-Pack might cost you, get an instant quote by completing this online form.
U-Pack helps long-distance moves in all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico. However, U-Pack requires a minimum mileage of 150 miles to provide its services. Make sure your overall distance is 150 miles or more if you want U-Pack’s help.
Learn More: U-Pack Review
PODS: Most Convenient
We think PODS offers some of the most convenient time frames for moving when compared to other moving container companies. PODS also features top-tier storage facilities with features like climate-controlled storage units. The company also features the largest number of storage facilities compared to other companies on this list.
Pros & Cons
✔ Available in 46 states
✔ Transparent about pricing during its detailed quote process
✔ Offers a variety of insurance options
✘ Bookings must be finalized over the phone
✘ Bookings are required far in advance as time slots fill up often
✘ Quote process may be long for some customers
PODS differentiates itself from other moving container companies by giving customers a generous 30-day window to load and unload their belongings from their containers. Extending your PODS rental for an additional 30 days is roughly $100 cheaper than 1-800-PACK-RAT, making the units great for both moving and short-term or long-term storage.
Similar to 1-800-PACK-RAT, PODS offers three sizes of moving containers: eight feet, 12 feet, and 16 feet. These weather-resistant containers feature roll-up doors that don’t require as much space to open in your driveway, as well as ramp-free loading.
Cost of PODS
PODS provided a quote for moving a three-bedroom home going from Tampa, Florida, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, using two 16-foot rental containers for $4,301. This quote includes taxes, gas, mileage, and $10,000 in contents protection. PODS is also a pay-as-you-go service, so this cost is not due all at once.
PODS calculates the value of your belongings when you place an order with the company. When you book with PODS, you can increase or lower the amount of coverage or remove it entirely. Often, PODS includes $10,000 in contents protection in your quote. Each contents protection plan has a $100 deductible.
The company also offers its Container Only Option. This option would be significantly cheaper according to the amount of containers you order, and it covers any loss or damage to your PODS container. It does not cover any damage to your belongings.
PODS helps with both local moves and cross-country moves in 46 states. However, the company does not have a location in every state.
PODS does not feature branches in Alaska, Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.
Learn More: PODS Review
Owned by the same company as 1-800-PACK-RAT, Zippy Shell provides portable storage container moves with a unique container that features tie-downs every few inches. This container design allows for ample opportunity to secure your boxes and items to minimize shifting during transport.
Pros & Cons
✔ All-steel container design that helps with tie-downs
✔ Allows customer to stagger multiple container deliveries over time
✔ Allows you to check your order’s status online
✘ No online quote option
✘ Available in only 28 states
Zippy Shell follows the same service model as other providers on this list. However, it offers only 10-foot and 15-foot containers. The larger containers are 7 feet high, 7 feet wide and 15 feet long with 105 square feet of space. They can comfortably hold up to 4,500 pounds worth of belongings, or 2-3 furnished rooms of furniture and boxes.
You are also only able to request one of their containers at a time. This allows you to stagger out the delivery of containers, so you are able to manage how many boxes and items are on your property more easily.
Zippy Shell also offers additional storage services with facilities that are equipped with climate control and security. However, this option appears to only be available for short-term storage for the period of time you require a Zippy Shell container.
The company offers help with loading and unloading services, but it partners with local companies to offer these services. This means pricing and availability will vary according to location.
Cost of Zippy Shell
Zippy Shell quoted us to move a three-bedroom home from Tampa, Florida, to Philadelphia using two of its 16-foot units for a total of $3,839. This includes a month’s rental time, eight to 10 business days of transportation, a no-cut security lock, $10,000 in contents protection, and taxes. This provides three days to load per container (six days total) and two hours to unload per container (four hours total).
Zippy Shell features its own locations in only 28 states, but the company partners with 1-800-PACK-RAT to provide a larger service area. Zippy Shell has locations in the following states:
Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin
Smartbox is another great moving container company for those concerned about affordability and transparency. Similar to U-Pack, the company provides all-inclusive quotes free of hidden fees. Smartbox provides its containers for both local and long-distance moves.
Pros & Cons
✔ No hidden fees in quotes
✔ Offers discounts for college students
✔ Does not include fuel surcharges
✘ Bookings must be completed over the phone
✘ Containers are made of wood rather than metal
✘ Only in 21 states
Smartbox offers a single container size, 8’x7’x5’. You order Smartbox’s containers one at a time.
Cost of Smartbox
Smartbox estimated that we would need three of its containers to transport a three-bedroom home from Miami* to Philadelphia and quoted us $3,811 door-to-door.
To add loading help in Miami, it would cost an extra $372–$446 for two helpers for two hours. To add unloading assistance in Philadelphia it would cost $372–$1,231 for two helpers for two hours.
*Smartbox does not have a location in Tampa.
Smartbox is in 18 states and Washington D.C. Smartbox features locations in major metropolitan areas in the following states:
Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington
What Impacts a Moving Containers Cost
Most moving container companies have the same factors that affect the overall cost. Here are some of the major factors that impact the cost of renting a moving container:
- Origin of your move
- Date and time of your move
- Overall distance of the move
- Number of moving containers used
- Overall size/weight of your move
- Parking and drop-off access
- Additional protection plans you purchase
- Additional services you purchase
Moving Container Moves vs. Full-Service Moves
Moving Container Moves
A moving container company can add more affordability, flexibility, and control over your move. Though you can save money by packing and loading on your own, a moving container company will handle the transportation for you, allowing you to avoid driving a rental truck. In short, a moving container company can be a happy medium for the moving experience.
Often, a moving container company can hold your belongings at a local storage facility until you request it to deliver them to your new home. This allows you to prepare the new house for your belongings. You then unload the container(s) at your own pace.
A full-service moving company can handle every aspect of your move for you. This includes furniture disassembly, wrapping, packing, loading, transportation, unloading, unpacking, and reassembly.
If this hands-free approach interests you, check out some of our top suggestions for full-service movers below.
International Van Lines
We find International Van Lines to be the ‘Best Overall Full-Service Mover.’ The company provides industry-standard full-service options like disassembly and reassembly, packing and unpacking, and loading and unloading services. International Van Lines also supplies specialty services for difficult items like pianos and antiques. If you require help with transporting a recreational vehicle or one of your cars, International Van Lines supplies car shipping services.
The estimated cost for moving a three-bedroom home from Tampa to Philadelphia with International Van Lines is $4,200–$6,150.
We suggest you get more details on how International Van Lines can make your move more stress-free by completing this short questionnaire.
American Van Lines
If you’re concerned about fluctuating pricing, then American Van Lines is a great choice for you. American Van Lines offers fixed rates at the end of its quote process. This means no matter what happens during your move, you pay the price quoted to you.
The company is also a great option if you have challenging or difficult items that you are worried about having handled. This is because American Van Lines provides full-time employees, as opposed to contract workers, that hold on average 10 years of moving experience. This means you receive knowledgeable and consistent moving labor with American Van Lines
American Van Lines estimates that a move from Miami to New York City for a three-bedroom home (or 10,000 pounds) would cost around $8,182. This is the average cost of previous conducted for this move, so this would include a collection of services like packing and loading.
We suggest you get a better understanding of what fixed-price American Van Lines can give you by filling out this short survey.
How To Prepare for a Move
It can be a challenge to keep everything in order leading up to moving day. There are many important steps to take when going through a move of any size or distance. To help you keep in mind some major steps, we’ve listed some in detail below:
1. Determine Which Type of Move You Need
Though you are researching moving container companies, you want to consider if a self-service or full-service move appeals to you more. If you have plenty of help from friends and family, want to save money, and prefer doing things from a DIY approach, then a self-service moving company might be better for you.
2. Cut Down Your Inventory
Moving is a great moment to get rid of any underused or unwanted belongings. To do so efficiently, we suggest you create two piles of items as you pack and organize for the move. You should create one pile for items to donate and one pile of items to throw away. A few days before moving day, take some time to take these piles to their respective drop-off locations.
3. Tell People Who Need to Know About It
You are most likely telling your friends and family about your move, but there are some other significant individuals and organizations you need to notify. Inform insurance companies, tax agencies, utility companies, the post office, the Social Security administration, and your Internet service provider about your move.
4. Check That Your Moving Company Is Licensed and Insured
All of our recommended moving container companies listed above are licensed, bonded, and insured. However, if you decide to use another moving company, you might want to make sure they are properly licensed and insured. To do so, you obtain the company’s USDOT number and visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website to search for them.
5. Create a Detailed Inventory
Many moving companies can help with this step. Some companies will provide a tool to help create an inventory of your belongings. When you create an inventory, make note of the condition of your items and take pictures of them. These photos and notes will come in handy if you have to file a damage claim for reimbursement.
Frequently Asked Questions
Our Rating Methodology
The This Old House Reviews Team backs up our moving company ratings and recommendations with a detailed rating methodology to objectively score each company. We conduct research by reading through the company websites, analyzing customer reviews, conducting consumer surveys, requesting quotes, and speaking with customer representatives. We then score each moving company against our review standards for services, contents coverage, scheduling, trailer and container options, additional benefits, and reputation to arrive at a final score out of 100.
To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.