How to Save Money on Your Container Move

At a glance

Moving containers are more affordable than hiring professional full-service movers. But if you really want to save money moving, there are things you can do to drive the cost of your container rental even lower.

Move.org is constantly researching the moving container industry. We’ve identified specific ways for you to save hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars on your container move.

How to save on your container move

Moving containers are more affordable than hiring professional full-service movers. But if you really want to save money moving, there are things you can do to drive the cost of your container rental even lower.

Move.org is constantly researching the moving container industry. We’ve identified specific ways for you to save hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars on your container move.

Whether it’s something as basic as asking for a discount or as advanced as knowing precisely which moving company to pick, these tips can help you save money on your moving containers:

  1. Ask for discounts
  2. Take advantage of price matching
  3. Watch out for undisclosed fees
  4. Don’t forget about taxes
  5. Look for COVID-19 deals
  6. Pay for only what you use
  7. Stagger your moving containers
  8. Get rid of stuff
  9. Go with low-quality construction
  10. Don’t pay for extra storage
  11. Skimp on damage protection
  12. Hire packing and loading help
  13. Pick the right company

1. Ask for discounts

Think of moving containers like vehicles at a used car dealership: the initial price tag isn’t always the lowest amount you can negotiate.

Some companies (like 1-800-PACK-RAT) come right out and offer you discounts on the phone. We love that! But just because a company doesn’t volunteer a discount doesn’t mean you can’t get one.

We recommend you ask one simple question after getting your initial quote: Do you have any discounts?

Worst case: You’re out 10 seconds. That’s not even enough time to grab an apple from your refrigerator.

Best case: You could save hundreds of dollars.

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SAVE ON MOVING TRUCK EXPENSES

SAVE ON MOVING TRUCK EXPENSES

Moving trucks take more work (you have to do all the driving), but they can typically save you even more money than moving containers. Learn more about how to find the least expensive truck rental.

2. Take advantage of price matching

The moving container industry is competitive. In many cases, you can get moving container companies to match the best price you can find—and some even do this proactively.

For example, 1-800-PACK-RAT often offers to match or beat PODS’ price (its closest competitor), while SMARTBOX comes right out and offers a price-match guarantee.

It pays to take a little extra time to get quotes from the best moving container companies. You may end up with a sturdier container at the same price as the flimsier models (more on the difference below).

In many cases, you’re looking at a savings of hundreds of dollars.

3. Watch out for undisclosed fees

How would you feel if your favorite burger joint charged an extra per-fry fee on top of the base price?

U-Haul doesn’t sell fries, but it does tack on an undisclosed fee of $99 per U-Box container. If you’re moving a five-bedroom home (that requires seven U-Boxes), that’s an extra $700 that isn’t part of the regular price.

To avoid sticker shock, always ask moving companies if their quotes are final prices.

4. Don’t forget about taxes

Nobody gets too upset when they have to pay taxes on a candy bar. You’re only out a dime or so. But what if the taxes totaled hundreds of dollars?

That’s a situation you run into with moving containers. The more expensive the move, the more you pay in taxes.

Unfortunately, many moving container companies don’t include taxes in their estimates. Always ask if prices include taxes.

Bullhorn

WHAT IF A COMPANY CAN’T GIVE TAX INFO?

WHAT IF A COMPANY CAN’T GIVE TAX INFO?

Many companies say they can’t give tax info. What they really mean is they can’t give exact amounts. In most cases, the company will provide you with a tax estimate that makes it much easier to compare prices.

5. Look for COVID-19 deals

There are tons of ways to save money when moving—even if you’re relocating during a pandemic.

If you have to move during the COVID-19 outbreak, be sure to check for special COVID-19 discounts. Check out our reviews for up-to-date discount information:

6. Pay for only what you use

Wouldn’t it be great if you could order five desserts at your favorite restaurant, but only pay for how many you actually eat?

Believe it or not, there’s a moving container company that has a similar feature: U-Pack.

U-Pack will deliver as many ReloCubes as you need, but you have to pay for only the ones you use.

The only catch? If you use any space in a single ReloCube, you pay for the whole thing.

7. Stagger your moving containers

It can be tricky to figure out precisely what size moving container (and how many) you need—especially since each company’s containers have different dimensions. But you may be able to stagger the delivery of your moving containers so that you don’t order more containers than you need.

How does it work?

Once you confirm staggered delivery is available, the company will deliver a container to your home one day, and then check to see if you need another the next day. If you don’t need it, they don’t deliver it, and you don’t pay for it.

We like PODS because it comes right out and offers this as a way to save money.

You could save over $1,000 with staggered delivery (assuming you don’t need the extra containers) if you’re moving a big home across the country.

8. Get rid of stuff

If you don’t want to spend the extra time to stagger your moving container delivery, there’s another way to cut down on how many containers you need: get rid of stuff.

A pre-move garage sale (online or in person) is double-dipping heaven: you get money for the stuff you sell and save money on the containers you don’t book.

Price tag

HOW TO SAVE MONEY WHILE MOVING

HOW TO SAVE MONEY WHILE MOVING

This article shows you ways to save money when moving with moving containers, but there are ways to save using other methods too! Don’t forget to find free moving boxes or grab the latest moving discounts.

9. Go with low-quality construction

Shipping container construction ranges from wood and canvas to steel frames to all-steel. The better the materials, the safer your belongings—but the more you pay.

If you opt for lesser-quality materials, you can save over $350 on an average move.

Moving container costs by construction type

WoodSteel frameAll steel
Average cost$2,930$3,160$3,290
Average cost
Wood Steel frame All steel
$2,930 $3,160 $3,290

Data current as of 5/4/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Average cost calculated by comparing moving costs for four home sizes across six distances.

10. Don’t pay for extra storage

Rent a movie from Redbox, and you can keep it as long as you like. You just have to pay an extra fee after your initial rental period ends.

Moving container companies work the same way. You get the flexibility to store your belongings, and you don’t feel pressured to get everything moved in over a short period of time.

But what if you don’t need that flexibility?

U-Pack is the only moving container company we know of that doesn’t build storage fees into its prices. As a result, the U-Pack ReloCube has the lowest overall prices of any company we’ve seen.

Little pin

PORTABLE STORAGE VS. STORAGE UNITS

PORTABLE STORAGE VS. STORAGE UNITS

Moving containers double as both moving trucks and storage containers. If you’re looking to store your stuff longer term, check out our best storage unit companies.

11. Skimp on damage protection

Nobody wants their stuff to get damaged, but sometimes it happens. When it does, it’s nice to have protection to help cover your losses.

But extra coverage can also add quite a bit to your total moving cost.

In the case of U-Haul, there’s a difference of over $100 between the least and most expensive coverage options.

U-Haul U-Box coverage plans

Coverage amountPolicy cost
$1,000$48/mo.
$5,000$72/mo.
$10,000$100/mo.
$15,000$128/mo.
$20,000$160/mo.
Coverage amount
$1,000
$5,000
$10,000
$15,000
$20,000
Policy cost
$48/mo.
$72/mo.
$100/mo.
$128/mo.
$160/mo.

Data current as of 5/4/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Note: We don’t recommend this, but we like to show you all your options.

Bullhorn

GET FREE MOVING BOXES

GET FREE MOVING BOXES

One moving expense people often forget is moving boxes. Learn where to get free cardboard boxes (and packing supplies)—and where to buy the best boxes for your needs. We even have tips about boxes for kitchen glasses.

12. Hire packing and loading help

If Amazon’s Jeff Bezos dropped a $100 bill on the ground, he would lose money if he stopped to pick it up. Ah, the pain of being a multibillionaire.

Most of us aren’t making $2,500 a minute, but there are still some things that aren’t worth doing yourself.

If you can’t afford to take time off work (whether you need the money, don’t have vacation time, or just can’t risk it during the COVID-19 outbreak), you can hire people to help you with parts of your move, like packing boxes and loading your container.

Moving labor hourly costs

TaskRabbitHireAHelperDolly
Packing and unpacking$37$64Not offered
Loading and unloading$45$64$80
Packing and unpacking
Loading and unloading
TaskRabbit HireAHelper Dolly
$37 $64 Not offered
$45 $64 $80

Data as of 01/24/20. Offers and availability may vary and are subject to change.

Hourly labor is a great way to get a little bit of help without paying high costs associated with hiring a full-service mover.

Learn more about hourly moving expenses in our review of the best moving labor companies.

13. Pick the right company

How much does a moving container cost—and how much should it cost? The answers aren’t always the same.

There are so many things about the container industry that change from moving company to moving company. But your choice doesn’t have to be a crapshoot.

This is where Move.org comes in. We’ve narrowed down which moving container company is the cheapest for specific kinds of moves.

Use PODS for short distances

We haven’t found a cheaper moving container company than PODS for moves of under 100 miles. Not even U-Box, with its flimsier container construction, can match PODS’ prices.

Moving up to 500 miles? No problem. PODS is still one of your cheapest options (second only to U-Pack)—and it has more locations and better construction materials.

For anything under 500 miles (even if you have a five-bedroom home), PODS will save you about $150 compared to the rest of our best moving container companies.

PODS price for moves under 500 miles

PODSBest moving container companies
Average cost$2,050$2,200
Average cost
PODS Best moving container companies
$2,050 $2,200

Data current as of 5/4/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Average cost calculated by comparing moving costs for four home sizes across six distances.

Use 1-800-PACK-RAT for midsize homes

1-800-PACK-RAT is often on the pricier end because it uses high-quality all-steel construction. Even then, the company tries to price match PODS.

But sometimes it doesn’t have to match the price because it’s already the cheapest option.

We found that if you’re moving a three-bedroom home, 1-800-PACK-RAT is your best bet—it’s even less than famously low-priced companies like U-Pack and U-Box.

1-800-PACK-RAT price for three-bedroom homes

1-800-PACK-RATBest moving container companies
Average cost$2,800$3,220
Average cost
1-800-PACK-RAT Best moving container companies
$2,800 $3,220

Data current as of 5/4/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Average cost calculated by comparing moving costs for four home sizes across six distances.

1-800-PACK-RAT can save you over $400 for a three-bedroom home!

Use U-Pack for long-distance moves

U-Pack is our pick for overall cheapest prices, and it really shines when it comes to moves over 1,000 miles.

How much?

The U-Pack ReloCube is about $600 less expensive than the average for moves longer than 1,000 miles.

1-800-PACK-RAT price for three-bedroom homes

U-Pack ReloCubeBest moving container companies
Average cost$2,780$3,350
Average cost
U-Pack ReloCube Best moving container companies
$2,780 $3,350

Data current as of 5/4/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Average cost calculated by comparing moving costs for four home sizes across six distances.

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MONEY MONDAYS

MONEY MONDAYS

U-Pack charges you for storage by the day, but if you schedule your ReloCube pickup on a Monday, you get two free days of loading time. Weekends are freebies!

Use U-Box if you aren’t near a U-Pack location

U-Box is one of the least expensive companies on our list, but it rarely ranks as your absolute least expensive option.

But U-Box does have one thing going for it: it’s made by U-Haul—so it’s everywhere.

While U-Pack can generally give you a better price, it doesn’t offer local moving services and isn’t as easy to find as a U-Haul U-Box location. So if you are looking for the cheapest possible option but don’t live near a U-Pack service center, try U-Box.

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.