5 Ways Moving Containers Can Save You Money and Stress

At a glance

Moving containers can be a great alternative to renting a moving truck, but not always. We point out the best ways you can use moving containers to save money and stress—and show you when it’s best to use other options like moving trucks. If you decide to do a container move, check out our list of the best moving container companies.

5 ways moving containers save you money and stress

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HEADS UP

HEADS UP

You may see “moving containers” referred to as “pods” when you research—but it’s important to know that there’s a container company by the name of PODS, and you’ll always see it listed in ALL CAPS.

5 ways moving containers can save you money and stress

#1: You don’t have to drive

Not everyone is as good a driver as Christian Bale in Ford v Ferrari, and that can complicate the decision to rent a moving truck.

Moving trucks are clunky and hard to operate even in good weather. Add in wind, icy roads, or bad traffic, and they’re even harder to manage.

Moving containers save you stress by eliminating everything associated with the rental truck:

  • Waiting in line to rent a truck
  • Reading fine print to understand moving truck insurance info
  • Navigating traffic in an oversized vehicle
  • Making sure the moving truck is secure when you’re not driving
  • Paying an arm and leg for fuel (moving trucks get bad gas mileage)
  • Waiting in line to return the truck when you’re exhausted from moving in

Another option that eliminates driving is hiring a full-service moving company. Professional movers might be worth it if you’re tight on time or hate loading and unloading boxes—but they’re expensive.

Check out our list of the best full-service moving companies to learn more.

Winner: Moving containers

Containers are an ideal solution for people who want to avoid the hassle of renting, driving, and returning a moving truck.

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WANT TO DRIVE YOURSELF?

WANT TO DRIVE YOURSELF?

If you’d enjoy driving a moving truck yourself, we can help you pick out the right size. The last thing you want is to rent a truck, fill it to the brim, and then realize you still have stuff to load.

#2: You save money over long distances

If you’re traveling a long distance, moving containers are generally more affordable than moving trucks.

We contacted every major moving container and moving truck rental company to see how much it would cost to move from Manchester Township, NJ, to Salt Lake City, UT (2,193 miles), and Las Vegas, NV, to Salt Lake City, UT (421 miles).

We averaged all the quotes and discovered the more miles you move, the more likely you are to save money using moving containers.

Moving pods vs. moving truck costs*

421 miles2,193 miles
Moving containers$1,960$4,250
Moving trucks$730$4,620
Moving containers
Moving trucks
421 miles 2,193 miles
$1,960 $4,250
$730 $4,620

*Data current as of 1/22/20. Averages include additional costs not included in quotes, like airfare, gas, and lodging during travels. All quotes based on a moderately furnished, 900 sq. ft., two-bedroom home.

It seems counterintuitive, but not only can you avoid driving a rental truck across the country—you can save money too!

Winner: Tie

Containers are less expensive and less hassle if you’re traveling long distances. On the other hand, a move of hundreds of miles (instead of thousands) will flip the cost upside down in favor of moving trucks.

If that’s the case, you may want to check out our best moving truck rental companies.

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BEST CONTAINER MOVING SERVICES

BEST CONTAINER MOVING SERVICES

Moving containers save time and money if you’re traveling long distances. Check out our list of the top moving container services.

#3: You can save money through price-matching

The moving container industry is hypercompetitive. Nearly every company will match its competitors’ prices—even if that means they knock hundreds of dollars off your initial estimate.

There are two exceptions: nobody really wants to price match U-Haul and U-Pack because both companies can usually offer prices significantly lower than everybody else.

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MOVING CONTAINER COSTS

MOVING CONTAINER COSTS

U-Haul and U-Pack often have the best prices. U-Haul keeps costs low by using wood containers (instead of metal), and U-Pack doesn’t build storage costs into its estimate (other companies typically charge you for a month of storage).

Consider using U-Haul or U-Pack if you don’t need storage or have super heavy loads.

What does that look like in real life?

In our case, we would have saved approximately $540 on a $4,100 move by asking a company to match a lower estimate. That’s enough to score two pairs of Powerbeats Pro earbuds and still have enough left over for a meal at a nice restaurant.

So ask about price matching. Moving is so much easier when you’re not paying an arm and leg.

Winner: Tie

It depends. Moving container companies aggressively price match, but you can find moving truck companies that do it too.

#4: You can save money using lower quality containers

Not all moving containers are constructed the same way—and that often affects your overall price. Container materials range from plywood to part-metal to nearly all metal.

As you’d expect, more metal generally means more money: a steel container from 1-800-PACK-RAT costs about 50% more per pound of your belongings than a wood U-Box from U-Haul—at least over short distances.

It’s tough to be cheaper than U-Haul.

PODS vs. 1-800-PACK-RAT vs. U-Haul pricing

PODS1-800-PACK-RATU-Haul
Short-distance cost*$1,980$1,990$1,110
Long-distance cost$3,730$4,090$4,260
Container materialSteel frameSteel frames, walls, and doorsPlywood
Weight limit (lbs.)4,2006,0002,000
Number of containers224
Cost per pound (short-distance move)$0.25$0.25$0.14
Cost per pound (long-distance move)$0.47$0.51$0.53
Short-distance cost*
Long-distance cost
Container material
Weight limit (lbs.)
Number of containers
Cost per pound (short-distance move)
Cost per pound (long-distance move)
PODS 1-800-PACK-RAT U-Haul
$1,980 $1,990 $1,110
$3,730 $4,090 $4,260
Steel frame Steel frames, walls, and doors Plywood
4,200 6,000 2,000
2 2 4
$0.25 $0.25 $0.14
$0.47 $0.51 $0.53

*Data current as of 1/23/20. Calculated by averaging quotes for a two-bedroom, 900 sq. ft. home and rounding to the nearest $10. Short distance based on a load of 8,000 lbs. transported 421 miles. Long distance based on a load of 8,000 lbs. transported 2,193 miles.

Of course, wood containers also tend to be less durable—and less weatherproof—than metal ones. If you’re shipping your belongings during extreme weather or have breakable items, the savings may not be worthwhile.

Winner: Moving containers

Containers differ in quality (and therefore price) far more than moving trucks, so this is a cost advantage in favor of moving containers.

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SMARTBOX: ANOTHER COST-EFFECTIVE OPTION

SMARTBOX: ANOTHER COST-EFFECTIVE OPTION

SMARTBOX is another company that offers wood moving containers. We didn’t get quotes from SMARTBOX because it is available in only 23 states, but its prices are comparable to U-Haul—and it has a price-match guarantee. Learn more in our SMARTBOX Review.

#5: You can use moving containers as portable storage

Let’s face it—not everyone is ready to move in as soon as their belongings arrive. Sometimes you have to wait for another occupant to move out. At other times, you can’t get away from work long enough to unload everything at once without hiring full-service movers.

Moving containers give you the option to leave everything packed in the containers for a few days, weeks, or even months (though most companies include only up to a month in their original quotes).

U-Pack is the notable exception—it builds only three days of storage into your price, and if you need more time, you’ll pay more money.

Winner: Moving containers

Containers are the least expensive option for portable storage. If you don’t need storage, you may want to consider a moving truck instead.

Containers vs. self-storage

If you need storage but aren’t keen on the idea of portable storage, check out our recommendations of the best storage companies.

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FINISH YOUR MOVE WITH A GOOD TV SHOW

FINISH YOUR MOVE WITH A GOOD TV SHOW

There’s no better way to celebrate a successful move than watching your favorite show in your new home. We’ve put together guides that explain whether to use cable, satellite, or streaming TV services.

FAQs about moving containers

What are moving containers?

Moving containers are like the moving truck—minus the actual truck. You pack your belongings and move them into the container, and then a company transports the container(s) to your new home. When they arrive, you unload everything. If needed, you can also use your container(s) as a temporary storage option.

How are moving containers different from moving trucks?

Moving containers are different from moving trucks in two ways: cost and convenience. In some situations, containers are actually less expensive than moving trucks, but moving containers are almost always more convenient than moving trucks.

Are moving containers less expensive than moving trucks for cross-country moves?

In general, yes. You always want to get several quotes to compare, but our research showed that moving containers are several hundred dollars cheaper than moving trucks for cross-country moves—even after including hidden costs such as flights, food, and gas.

Are moving containers less expensive than moving trucks for short distances?

No. Moving trucks are more affordable than moving containers for short distances.

Do you load boxes into moving containers by yourself?

It’s entirely up to you. You can either load and unload on your own or hire hourly help from companies like Hire-A-Helper, Dolly.com, and TaskRabbit.

Can you put furniture in moving containers?

Yes, but the odd shapes can make it challenging to know what fits. We’ve created a guide to help you pick the right-sized moving container. We also have a tutorial that shows you how to pack your moving container.

Are moving containers the least expensive way to move?

It depends on your situation. Moving containers are one of the most cost-effective options for cross-country moving. We’ve put together a moving costs guide to help you.

Recommended resources

Don’t forget packing supplies. We’ve put together several packing tips to help with your pre-move prep:

About Kurt Manwaring

Kurt Manwaring
Kurt Manwaring brings nearly a decade’s worth of research experience as a business consultant to the Move.org team. He specializes in taking complicated issues (like moving) and presenting them in a way that everyone can understand. His writing has been featured in hundreds of publications, including USA Today, Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Heavy, Slate, and Yahoo! Lifestyle. He would love to hear about your moving experiences and questions at kurt@move.org.