5 Best Moving Container Companies of 2018: Is PODS Really the Best?

Each moving container company—sometimes referred to as moving pods companies—operates just a bit differently from the rest, so we’ve researched and ranked the most popular providers to help you decide which is right for you.

The best moving container and storage companies

Overall ranking1st2nd3rd
Moving storage company
WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit Website
Overall ranking
Moving storage company
Website

#1: U-Pack

Although U-Pack is our number one pick, you should be aware it services only long-distance moves. If you need a moving container for a local move, skip down to number two on our list!

Overall rating

4.8 / 5

U-Pack offers nationwide, out-of-state moving services for those looking to avoid the costs of a full-service moving company while still maintaining some of the same convenience. We love its “pay for what you use” policy and the fact that you don’t need a deposit to schedule your move.

U-Pack containersReloCubeMoving trailer
Dimensions6′3″ x 7′ x 8′4″28′ x 8′ x 9′
ConstructionMetalMetal
Capacity (rooms of furniture)14+
Weight limits (lbs.)2,50022,500
Interior space (cu. ft.)3051,944
U-Pack containers
Dimensions
Construction
Capacity (rooms of furniture)
Weight limits (lbs.)
Interior space (cu. ft.)
ReloCube Moving trailer
6′3″ x 7′ x 8′4″ 28′ x 8′ x 9′
Metal Metal
1 4+
2,500 22,500
305 1,944

Pros

  • Instant online quotes
  • High-quality metal moving containers
  • Pay-for-what-you-use pricing
  • No required deposit

Cons

  • No local moves
  • No free lock for your containers

Why U-Pack earns our #1 spot

Reason #1: You don’t need to pay a deposit

u-pack moving containerWe love the fact that U-Pack doesn’t require you to pay a deposit when you schedule your move. Even though it asks for your card information when you confirm your reservation, you won’t be charged until after U-Pack picks up your ReloCubes or moving trailer.

Other companies require you to pay for your entire reservation up front or make you put a certain amount down before they will deliver the moving containers to your home.

Skipping the deposit allows you to free up a little bit of cash for more immediate moving needs—like paying for all of that take-out since you’ve packed up all of your pots and pans.

Reason #2: You pay for only the space you need—no refunds required

When you confirm your reservation with U-Pack online, you’ll see how many ReloCubes it will deliver or an estimate of how many linear feet of trailer space you’ll need.

Lucky for you, you’re not held to these original estimates when it’s time to pay.

Let’s say U-Pack delivers four ReloCubes to your home and you use only three (all those years of playing Tetris finally paid off). Even though your original quote was for four ReloCubes, you would be responsible for paying for only the three you used.

The same applies if you use one of U-Pack’s moving trailers. If you were quoted fifteen feet and you use twelve, U-Pack charges you for only twelve feet once its driver comes to pick up your trailer.

If you need more trailer space than what you were originally quoted, U-Pack simply multiplies the extra space you use by your quoted cost per linear foot, so you can easily calculate your final cost before the driver comes to pick up your trailer.

The best part of all of this is that you’ll never have to wait for a refund to reimburse you for space that you don’t use. Since U-Pack doesn’t require a deposit and doesn’t charge you for your move up front, you pay for only what you use once U-Pack’s driver comes to pick up your belongings.

Reason #3: You aren’t forced to pay for storage

U-Pack doesn’t include storage in its moving quotes. While some may enjoy how other companies include thirty days of storage in your quote, we like how U-Pack doesn’t force you to pay for storage you may not need.

You can always add storage to your quote if you’d like, but if you don’t need the storage time or more than three days to pack up your container, then you can save your money.

Reason #4: U-Pack is available nationally

No matter what state you live in, U-Pack can help you complete your long-distance move. In fact, U-Pack is one of only two moving storage container companies on our list that’s available in all fifty states.

U-Pack is also available in Puerto Rico and parts of Canada, in case your long-distance move requires you to exit the continental United States.

#2: PODS (Portable On Demand Storage)

Overall rating

4.5 / 5

Portable On Demand Storage, more commonly known as PODS, is one of the most well-known companies in the moving container and storage industry. Prominence aside, PODS has the most variety in its container options—allowing you to choose the container that best fits your move.

PODS containers7 foot12 foot (local moves only)16 foot
Dimensions7′ x 7′ x 8′12′ x 8′ x 8′16′ x 8′ x 8′
ConstructionMetalMetalMetal
Capacity (rooms of furniture)12-33-4
Weight limit (lbs.)5,2004,7004,200
Interior space (cu. ft.)385689857
PODS containers
Dimensions
Construction
Capacity (rooms of furniture)
Weight limit (lbs.)
Interior space (cu. ft.)
7 foot 12 foot (local moves only) 16 foot
7′ x 7′ x 8′ 12′ x 8′ x 8′ 16′ x 8′ x 8′
Metal Metal Metal
1 2-3 3-4
5,200 4,700 4,200
385 689 857

Pros

  • Local and long-distance moves
  • Multiple container sizes
  • Weatherproof moving containers
  • Availability in almost every state

Cons

  • Requirement of a phone call to finalize quotes

Why PODS sits at #2 on our list

Reason #1: It has different container sizes to suit different moves

While some of the other companies on our list offer only one container size, PODS has three sizes to choose from when planning your move:

  • A seven-foot container
  • A twelve-foot container
  • A sixteen-foot container

The availability of multiple container sizes provides a distinct advantage that some of the other companies simply can’t match—the ability to fit all of your belongings into a single container.

While larger households may need to reserve multiple PODS containers to complete their moves, the average household will likely need to reserve only a single twelve- or sixteen-foot container.

We love the convenience this offers in both packing and unpacking your belongings. If you have to load and unload only a single container, you know exactly where all of your belongings are. If you have to divide your belongings between multiple small containers, finding anything in a hurry while you’re unpacking is pretty impossible.

Reason #2: PODS is widely available in the US and abroad

PODS is one of the most widely available moving storage container companies on our list, trailing only behind U-Pack and U-Haul.

You can find PODS moving containers in forty-four states (sorry, Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming) and several locations in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

Reason #3: It comes with 30 days of storage

Wait, didn’t we just say we liked U-Pack because it doesn’t include storage in your quote? Yes. Yes we did. But that’s not the whole story.

If you don’t need storage or extra time to pack or unpack your belongings, then yes, U-Pack is definitely the company for you.

PODS, on the other hand, benefits those on the other end of that spectrum. Packing your home and loading a moving trailer can sometimes take longer than you initially plan. But if you move with PODS, you can take as much time as you need.

Each PODS rental comes with thirty days of storage. This includes any time your PODS container spends at your old or new home or at a PODS storage center. Although you’ll notice the price difference between PODS and U-Pack in the final quote, PODS’ included thirty days of storage allows you to load and unload your container at a leisurely pace.

#3: 1-800-PACK-RAT

Overall rating

4.2 / 5

1-800-PACK-RAT is a moving and storage container company with numerous locations throughout the United States and Canada. Although it doesn’t have as many facilities as either U-Pack or PODS, its well-constructed moving containers and additional perks for long-distance moves make it well worth considering.

1-800-PACK-RAT containers8 foot12 foot16 foot
Dimensions8′6″ x 8′ x 8′12′ x 8′ x 8′16′ x 8′ x 8′
ConstructionMetalMetalMetal
Capacity (rooms of furniture)1–22–33–4
Weight limit (lbs.)4,0006,0006,000
Interior space (cu. ft.)404620830
1-800-PACK-RAT containers
Dimensions
Construction
Capacity (rooms of furniture)
Weight limit (lbs.)
Interior space (cu. ft.)
8 foot 12 foot 16 foot
8′6″ x 8′ x 8′ 12′ x 8′ x 8′ 16′ x 8′ x 8′
Metal Metal Metal
1–2 2–3 3–4
4,000 6,000 6,000
404 620 830

Pros

  • Local and long-distance moving services
  • Multiple container sizes
  • Weatherproof moving containers
  • Free lock with long-distance moves
  • $10,000 in moving protection on long-distance moves

Cons

  • Requirement for a phone call to finalize quotes
  • Limited availability compared to U-Pack or PODS

Why 1-800-PACK-RAT is #3 on our list

Reason #1: It uses steel-constructed containers

1-800-PACK-RAT moving container
Image Source: www.1800packrat.com

As far as moving containers go, 1-800-PACK-RAT has some of the best. Each container is constructed from steel frames, walls, and doors to protect your belongings from harsh weather conditions and anything else that might arise as your container travels to your new home.

1-800-PACK-RAT’s containers also come in three sizes, similar to the PODS moving containers. Unlike any of PODS’ options, however, 1-800-PACK-RAT’s containers feature barn-style doors instead of the roll-up doors used by PODS.

It may not seem like a huge difference to have one style of door over another, but barn-style doors have a couple advantages over their roll-up counterparts.

  • Barn-style container doors don’t take up any interior space when they’re open, while roll-up doors take up space along the ceiling in the open position.
  • Roll-up doors are prone to jamming if items shift inside the container during transit. There’s no risk of pinning barn-style doors shut since they open away from the interior of the container.

Reason #2: You get great perks for moving long distance

Many moving storage container companies advertise how secure their moving containers are by touting the fact that you own the only key to get you in. What they don’t tell you, however, is you often have to buy the lock and key yourself.

When you schedule a long-distance move with 1-800-PACK-RAT, you receive a complimentary no-cut lock to secure your moving container.

Not only that, but your long-distance move also includes $10,000 of container contents protection—most other movers charge extra.

Reason #3: Its containers come with 30 days of storage

Much like PODS, 1-800-PACK-RAT’s containers also come with thirty days for storage included in your quote. Although it’s included in your quote whether or not you need storage, it comes in handy if you do, or if you want to take your time to pack or unpack your container.

#4: U-Box by U-Haul

Overall rating

3.8 / 5

U-Haul is a household name in the moving truck rental industry, but did you know it also offers portable moving containers? Its wooden containers aren’t quite as sturdy or large as some of the metal containers on our list, but U-Haul’s nationwide availability makes it a good option if you aren’t near one of our top three companies.

U-Haul containerU-Box
Dimensions8′ x 5′ x 7′6″
ConstructionWood
Capacity (rooms of furniture)1
Weight limit (lbs.)2,000
Interior space (cu. ft.)257
U-Haul container
Dimensions
Construction
Capacity (rooms of furniture)
Weight limit (lbs.)
Interior space (cu. ft.)
U-Box
8′ x 5′ x 7′6″
Wood
1
2,000
257

Pros

  • Nationwide availability
  • Online container reservation
  • Variable insurance options

Cons

  • Wood-constructed containers
  • Requirement of up-front payment—so if you don’t use all the containers in your quote, you’ll need a refund

Why U-Haul’s U-Box landed at #4 on our list

Reason #1: It’s available in all 50 states for long-distance and local moves

Aside from U-Pack’s ReloCube, U-Haul’s U-Box is the only other portable moving container on our list that’s available in all fifty states. Not only that, but it’s also available in Puerto Rico and portions of Canada and Mexico.

Some of the other moving container companies on our list have somewhat limited availability, so if you aren’t near a PODS or 1-800-PACK-RAT location and you need a moving container for a local move, a U-Box may be your best bet.

Reason #2: It has a great online reservation process

All of the companies on our list have some sort of online tool to help you start your quote, but not all of them let you finish without making a call.

U-Haul allows you to walk through your entire quote online from beginning to end, and it supplies all of the pricing information you need along the way to select what options best fit your move and budget.

Reason #3: It offers variable insurance options

U-Haul makes selecting a level of insurance coverage for your U-Box easy.

As you make your reservation online, you simply select the level of coverage that you feel best suits your shipment. U-Haul advertises five levels of U-Box insurance coverage:

  • $1,000 in coverage for $48 per month
  • $5,000 in coverage for $72 per month
  • $10,000 in coverage for $100 per month
  • $15,000 in coverage for $128 per month
  • $20,000 in coverage for $160 per month

#5: Smartbox

Overall rating

3.5 / 5

SMARTBOX is the smallest moving and storage container company on our list, but it still has a lot to offer if you live in one of its markets. Its price-matching policy alone makes SMARTBOX worth considering if your moving budget is a top priority.

SMARTBOX container8 foot
Dimensions8′ x 5′ x 7′
ConstructionWood
Capacity (rooms of furniture)1
Weight limit (lbs.)3,000
Interior space (cu. ft.)229
SMARTBOX container
Dimensions
Construction
Capacity (rooms of furniture)
Weight limit (lbs.)
Interior space (cu. ft.)
8 foot
8′ x 5′ x 7′
Wood
1
3,000
229

Pros

  • No fuel surcharges
  • A price match guarantee
  • The ability to deliver up to 8 containers at once

Cons

  • Wood-constructed containers
  • Limited availability nationwide

Why SMARTBOX earns #5 on our list

Reason #1: Its price matching guarantee

SMARTBOX moving container
Image Source: SMARTBOX

Choosing a moving storage container can be a difficult decision—especially when the basic service is so similar between different companies. That’s why some movers base their choice so heavily on price.

We like SMARTBOX’s price match guarantee because it allows you to focus on which company offers the best service, not the best price.

Although SMARTBOX is currently available in only 23 states and Washington, DC, we think its price matching and comparable service options might steer you in its direction if there’s a location in your area.

Reason #2: It can deliver up to 8 moving containers at once

If you need a lot of moving storage containers and you don’t want to wait for the driver to make multiple trips, SMARTBOX may be for you.

SMARTBOX can deliver up to eight moving containers in a single trip. According to its website, that can comfortably move a five-bedroom home—so an average home should have no trouble getting all its containers in one trip.

Recapping our top 5 best moving container and storage companies

  1. U-Pack
  2. PODS
  3. 1-800-PACK-RAT
  4. U-Box by U-Haul
  5. SMARTBOX

What makes a good moving container and storage company?

For those who aren’t as familiar with how moving and storage container companies operate, the concept is fairly simple.

  • Step 1: The company delivers a shipping container to your home.
  • Step 2: You load your belongings into the container during the allotted loading time.
  • Step 3: The company picks up your container.
  • Step 4: The company delivers the container to your new house (or to a secure storage facility).
  • Step 5: You unload your belongings from the container.

Each of the storage companies on our list follow this general model, but there are a couple important factors you should consider when choosing one over another.

Quality storage containers

Some moving companies construct their storage containers out of high-strength steel and aluminum, while others rely on wooden containers covered in vinyl to protect your belongings.

We prefer the metal over the wooden options. Steel and aluminum containers often provide better weatherproofing and more convenient tie-down options to secure your items. They also tend to be able carry heavier loads than wooden containers.

Some providers offer different-sized containers, too. Keep this in mind if you need a lot of space to accommodate any large items you might be moving.

A timeline that suits your needs

Each company has a different timeline for how it handles your move. Some give you a set number of days to load and unload your container, while others give you a bit more flexibility by including storage time in your quote.

Transit time is also something that differs from mover to mover. Depending on the company you choose, it’ll either ship your container directly to your house or send your items to its storage facility first—slowing down your overall move time.

Let us know which moving storage container you choose!

Have you used one of the storage companies in our list for your moving and storage needs? If so, let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear about your experiences so we can offer the best recommendations to our readers.

About Colin Holmes

Colin Holmes
Colin is no stranger to moving, having done so five times in the last five years. As a former journalist and documentary interviewer, Colin brings a wealth of research experience to improving your move.
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  • Daquiris

    I ended going with 1800PackRat.com over PODS. I first called PODS for my cross country move, and they quoted me $2500 pre-tax and fees, and emailed me the quote. Then I called Pack Rats, and they quoted me $3600 with taxes and fees included. I pointed out that their price was a lot higher than PODS. They asked me to forward them the PODS quote email, and the next day they were able to provide a price lower than PODS. I also liked that the Pack Rats container was stronger and had a higher weight limit. Also, the Pack Rats rep that I spoke with on the phone was just generally nicer and wanting to help. The guy at PODS sounded tired and annoyed at me when I asked questions, and huffed at me when I said I was going to compare prices before committing.

    Moral here – If Pack Rats at first seems higher, work them to price match a lower quote you can find elsewhere, so then you’ll get the best container at the lowest price.

  • David Klein

    Read your article with interest, since I used a local company not on your list and subsequently opened my own portable storage company, iCanStorage.com. I’m happy to see that we check all the boxes on your “pros” list – from online quotes, to secure steel containers, to being weatherproof, to not requiring a deposit, to having multiple sizes and offering insurance options, and we don’t have the “cons” because we take the doors to a new level: not only are they the “barn” doors you prefer, they are on BOTH ends of the unit for maximum convenience. Though you list phone contact as a negative, we’ve actually found it to be a positive. Clients have questions, concern and trepidation, and the rapport you develop through problem solving makes the move easier on them. And while UPack doesn’t do local moves, that’s exactly what we do, so I think we can be right up there at the number one spot, at least if you live in the New York – New Jersey – Connecticut area.

  • Susa Miller

    My son chose UHaul UBox to move his studio sized belongings from NY State to Seattle. The packing up was great at a smaller location with friendly staff. It was ground level and outside but in a gated secure area. We were able to bring a few loads over a couple days of moving out as needed. We bought a good lock and took our time during the hours provided. It arrived in time period they said it would. We were not charged the final amount until delivery in Seattle. Our only complaint was the location where it was stored in Seattle did not have convenient hours to unload for someone who works days at a new job. It took him more days to unload because of that inconvenience. We would use them again but perhaps do more research on the unpack location hours.

  • Mattie Bamman

    Shopped around. UHaul had the best prices for my move.

  • Debbie Flory

    Called your top three for a move from Alexandria, VA to Dallas. Agreed with another poster that PODS customer service was horrible. They didn’t care and were not helpful. We wound up going with Pack Rat because they lowered their price after hearing they were most expensive. Had a unit on hold with UPack, and cancellation was super easy. Be careful of all the little charges, Pack Rat told us unless you paid a $50 premium to get a morning or afternoon 4 hr delivery slot, delivery could be anywhere from 8am to 11pm. And there’s also a possibility that it could be dropped off at 11pm and picked up at 8 am the next day! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to move overnight!