If you’re thinking about renting a storage container for your move, you may be wondering how it stacks up to traditional moving trucks. Is it more cost-efficient? Will it save you time? The short answer is that renting a moving container does tend to be more affordable.
In this article, we explore the ins and outs of storage containers; how they work, what the sizing means for you and your belongings and what to look for when searching for a storage container.
What is a moving container and how does it work?
A moving container is a crate usually made of aluminum, steel, wood, polymers or a combination of these materials. This makes it sturdy, weather-resistant and secure against impact.
Storage containers come in various sizes. And if one is too small, it’s easy enough to add an additional one for a larger move. If you get an additional container and don’t end up using it, many companies will pick it up–without charging you.
You can access your moving container via a front door that features a lock or locking mechanism at any time you need it, making these containers a convenient choice for many people.
Once you pack the box up, it’s collected and moved to wherever you need it.
You are responsible for packing and unpacking the storage cube. The moving company drives and delivers it to your destination, then picks it up when you’ve unpacked everything.
How long can you store a moving container?
Some companies allow you to keep the box for 1-3 days, but many offer monthly rentals in 30-day increments. Check with the storage company you’re looking at before making your decision to make sure it will work with your time constraints.
Some companies also allow you to rent the container for a longer period of time—by the month—so you can keep your items in the box until you’ve unloaded everything.
You may even have the option to either store it on your property or at a company’s warehouse.
How long does it take to pack for a move?
That largely depends on how many rooms you have and whether you’ve got a lot of boxes and furniture.
When we asked frequent movers this question, we received various responses from two hours to load and four to unload, to six to eight hours to pack everything by themselves.
One of the major benefits of a storage cube rental is that you can have it for weeks before your move, which allows you to pack and load at a steady, unrushed pace. If this is the route you choose, we recommend at least two weeks, but preferably four weeks.
If you’re moving last-minute, you should give yourself at least a full day to pack everything up before shipping the container to your new home, so a minimum of one day to load and one day to unload.
What costs are associated with moving?
It’s important to create a budget before moving, so you know how much you’ll need. We’ve compiled a list of things you should consider before, during and after the move.
Before the move:
When moving, you’ll want to investigate the costs associated with the move. This may include some or a few of the following:
Purchasing moving boxes or other moving containers.
Buying all the supplies that come with a move, from markers and tape to bubble wrap and a furniture dolly.
Hiring a professional cleaner.
Renting storage space.
Moving utility payments to your new property.
During the move:
You should factor in any day-of costs, too. Make sure that when you’re hiring movers, you ask them questions about what kind of additional fees they may charge—and always get these fees in writing if they’re not mentioned on their website.
Here are a few things you might spend money on around the day of your move:
Hiring a babysitter or pet sitter.
Moving Large or cumbersome objects may also incur an additional fee from your movers.
Tipping your movers (a tip of $4-5 per hour, per mover, is customary; or tipping 5-10% of the total moving cost, then dividing that between all movers).
Obtaining a moving permit If your city requires one.
Depending on how far you’re moving, you may need to consider the cost of a plane ticket, hotel, gas, tolls, and/or food to get to your new destination.
After the move:
You’ve likely already paid any moving expenses, from rent and a security deposit to pet fees, but there may be other costs that start adding up as you move about your new home.
Since you got rid of your refrigerated foods, you’ll want to buy new food.
You’ll need new bathroom cleaning supplies, like a plunger or toilet brush.
New furniture to fill up your space.
Now that you’ve moved in, you may find there are some areas that you want to renovate like a new kitchen backsplash or upgraded appliances.
If you decide to keep your storage cube for a few more weeks, you’ll want to consider how much that will be.
If you’re moving out of state, you’ll need to get a new license and car registration.
What should you look for in a moving company?
When you’re looking for a moving company, there are a few questions you should ask yourself.
What type of mover or moving company are you looking for?
Do they have good reviews? A lot of complaints?
Are they licensed and accredited?
Do they have some kind of dedicated customer support?
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, it’s a good idea to chat with them and make sure they answer any questions you might have.
Will they disassemble your furniture and put it back together in your new home? Are there any hidden fees or additional charges you should look out for? Some movers will charge a fee if they have to wait for an elevator and some will charge a fee if they have to navigate any stairways.
You’ll want the movers to come to your home for an in-person inspection of your items since moving services are often based not only on how many items you have but also on how long it will take to move your belongings. An in-person survey will give you the most accurate estimate for how much it will end up costing to move all your furniture and boxes.
And remember, the moving company shouldn’t request a large upfront payment before the goods are delivered. It’s common for companies to request a small deposit, but it’s a red flag if they ask you to pay everything upfront.
What companies have portable storage containers?
More and more companies are becoming interested in renting out portable storage containers for individuals to use, but there are a few main ones that offer portable containers.
What size moving container do you need?
It depends on what company you choose to rent a container from. Some companies offer multiple sizes, while others have a single cube you should get two or more of.
|Recommended Container Size By Number of Boxes|
Approx. # of Boxes*[RL2]
|8’ Container – Small apartment or Studio (1 room)||
Up to 404 cu ft.
Up to 134 medium boxes; one queen mattress, one 3-seater sofa, one nightstand, one large chest of drawers
12’ Container – Studio to 1-bedroom apartment (2 to 3 rooms)
Up to 689 cu. ft.
Up to 151 medium boxes; two queen mattresses, one 3-seater sofa, four nightstands, one large chest of drawers, one small chest of drawers
15’ Container - 1 to 2 bedrooms (2 to 3 rooms)
Up to 735 cu. ft.
Up to 155 medium boxes; one queen mattress, one full mattress, one sectional, two nightstands, one large chest of drawers, one small chest of drawers
16’ Container - 1 to 2 bedrooms (3 to 4 rooms)16’ Container - 1 to 2 bedrooms (3 to 4 rooms)
|Up to 835 cu. ft.||
Up to 215 medium boxes; one queen mattress, two nightstands, one sectional, washer and dryer, office desk and chair
What should you avoid putting in a portable moving container?
You can put most of your items in a portable moving container, but there are some things you should never add. Furthermore, you should make sure you read your moving container’s liability waiver (what they may or may not cover) and contract since they should also go into what you can and cannot store in more specifics.
Valuables. Think currency, jewelry, credit cards, furs, collectibles.
Delicate items. Like heirlooms or china.
Firearms and ammunition.
Electronics. Computers, laptops, cameras and smartphones.
Prescriptions or medicines.
Important documents. Like your taxes, financial documents, medical records, school records, checkbooks or your car title.
Anything alive. Like your plants, and especially cats, dogs or other pets.
Flammable or combustible items. Aerosol cans, oil-based paints, propane, charcoal, batteries, chemical cleaners, matches, fireworks, motor oil; really anything labeled as either flammable or combustible, acetone (yes, the kind found in some nail polish removers).
Toxic or hazardous materials. Pesticides, acids, ammonia, fertilizer, paint thinner.
Things you should know about moving containers
Always ask the moving company ahead of time for any potential hidden moving costs. Many will charge fees from walking up and downstairs, to waiting for an elevator.
Consider wrapping your items in plastic, especially furniture or other expensive items. The plastic will protect your furniture from rain, dust and snow.
Consider bug bombing the moving container before putting any of your items inside, since you don’t know where it was last.
Pod placement is important. Be mindful that you don’t put it at the bottom of a hill or other place where rain could potentially collect.
It’s also worth noting that you should check your city to see if you need a moving container permit. For example, Seattle requires that you pay a permit fee and also submit a Right of Way Impact Site Plan before renting a storage container.
If you live in an apartment, you should check with the leasing office or management to see if there are any additional requirements you should be aware of. They may have regulations regarding how long you can have a container and where you should place it.
Get the best insurance you can afford. If there is damage or your container is stolen, flooded or anything else, having adequate insurance will make the difference between being able to purchase new items and having to start over from scratch.
Six alternatives to shipping containers and moving companies:
If you don’t have a ton of stuff to mail out, there are a few alternatives you can look in to.
These methods work best if you have less than 20 or 30 boxes to move.
It’s worth noting that you should avoid using a service like Greyhound or Amtrak if you have valuable or delicate items like computers, vintage china or jewelry, as your packages go into the undercarriage and could potentially be damaged.
Shipping items via UPS, FedEx, USPS or DHL, especially if you want to purchase insurance or signature on delivery.
USPS Media Mail is good for shipping large quantities of media such as books, manuscripts and educational materials under 70 pounds.
Greyhound Package Express makes it easy to ship out various sizes and weights with a current maximum of five packages per shipment.
Rent a moving truck and do the packing and loading yourself or with friends.
Use Amtrak Express Shipping for items under 50 pounds and 3’ x 3’.
Check your bags on the way to your new home. For example, Southwest allows you to carry on two pieces of luggage and check two pieces of luggage under 50 pounds for free. Every additional piece of checked luggage is $75, up to 20 pieces.
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Frequently Asked Questions about Moving and Storage
How much does it cost to have a company move my stuff?
A local move could cost between $24-50 per hour, per mover. For a 2-bedroom home, you’ll want three movers for about six hours, so you’re looking at around $900.
A cross-country move will cost a good bit more than that, usually between $2,000-6000.
Can I ship my car in a storage container?
The short answer is that it depends. Many storage moving containers have size and weight requirements that your car may exceed. It’s important to discuss this with your chosen moving container company before
Do you pay movers upfront or after delivery?
You do not typically pay the movers in advance. The only exception is paying an initial deposit before the move, with the remainder paid at move completion.
How long can you rent a PODS container?
PODS rentals are rented month-to-month, with the flexibility to extend your rental if necessary.