What Size Moving Container Do You Need?

Kurt Manwaring
Researcher & Writer
Read More
April 21, 2022
8 min read

At a glance

Roughly speaking, you need anywhere from one to seven containers ranging from 6 to 16-feet long. Your container size depends on how many belongings you have and which company you select. For example, these moving container companies have nine different sizes between them. The best way to estimate container measurements is to ask your moving company. However, we’ve crunched the numbers behind the most popular options to give you an idea of what size you need.

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How do I quickly find my container size?

As an example, you typically need one 8-foot PODS container for a small apartment, one 16-foot PODS container for a two-to-three bedroom home, and two 16-foot PODS containers for a living space with five or more rooms. PODS also has a 12-foot option for mid-sized dwellings, but it’s available only for moves within the same city.

PODS container recommendations by home size

Home size
# of containers
Learn more
1 room1 container (8-ft)
2 rooms1 container (16-ft)
3 rooms1 container (16-ft)
5 rooms2 containers (16-ft)

Data as of 4/7/22. Customers should contact PODS to obtain move-specific recommendations.

There are several other companies you can choose from. Sizing gets a little more complicated when comparing containers across companies, but it still follows some general guidelines. We walk you through all of your options below so that you’re not limited to one moving container company.


The whole picture

What terms do I need to know?

  • Size. Moving container companies don’t refer to small, medium, and large sizes. Instead, they reference the container length or brand name (like a “16-foot container” or “U-Pack ReloCube”).
  • Portable storage. Moving containers are also called portable storage containers because you can use them for moving and storage. The company can transport your loaded belongings to a storage facility or store it in your yard.
  • Moving cube. Most moving containers are rectangular, but some of them are cube-shaped. As a result, you’ll sometimes see them called moving cubes.
  • PODS container. PODS refers to a company rather than a moving container. However, because PODS is so well-known, some websites illegally violate the PODS trademark by referring to containers as moving pods rather than moving containers.
  • Cargo. Household goods like boxes, furniture, and appliances make up your cargo (also called a container load).
  • Square footage and cubic capacity. Some companies post size limitations in square feet while others focus on cubic capacity. You can skip the math, though. Company representatives will recommend a size after asking questions about your move.
  • Storage facility. Moving container companies allow you to store belongings at your home or in a company storage facility. This is helpful if you don’t have a large yard or your home isn’t move-in ready.
  • Storage unit. Don’t confuse storing your belongings in a moving container storage facility with a brick-and-mortar storage unit. Shipping containers can double as moving containers and portable storage. Storage units are for storage only.

Note: Sometimes when people search for moving containers, Google confuses them with boat shipping containers, showing you irrelevant phrases like refrigerated containers, 20-foot containers, shipping containers, and dry containers. These terms typically don’t have anything to do with containers you use to move.

Info Box
Moving overseas?

Whether you’re moving to Italy or the UK, these international moving companies can transport your belongings in 20- and 40-foot shipping containers.

Can my moving company tell me what size I need?

The best way to estimate the size of your container is to ask your moving container company. It will request information about your household items and recommend a container size. Companies like Zippy Shell can also deliver your containers one at a time, so you don’t pay for unneeded space.

We’ll help you come up with an estimate. But you should talk to your container company when it’s time to decide.

How do I estimate my container size?

You can estimate container size by comparing tables, charts, and recommendations from moving container companies. We’ve done the legwork and put together an estimated size guide for the best moving container companies.

Number of containers needed by moving company

Company
1 room
2 rooms*
3 rooms
5 rooms
1 (8 ft.)1 (16 ft.)1 (16 ft.)2 (16 ft.)
1 (8 ft.)1 (16 ft.)1 (16 ft.)2 (16 ft.)
1 (15 ft.)1 (15 ft.)1 (15 ft.)2 (15 ft.)
1 (6 ft.)2 (6 ft.)3 (6 ft.)4 (6 ft.)
2 (7 ft.)3 (7 ft.)4 (7 ft.)7 (7 ft.)

Data as of 4/7/22. Customers should contact moving container companies to obtain move-specific recommendations.

* PODS and 1-800-PACK-RAT 12-foot containers are available for in-town moves only.

Note: This is an estimated size guide. You should contact your moving container company for a recommendation specific to your situation.

Many moving container companies offer multiple sizes of containers to match different home sizes. For example, 1-800-PACK-RAT has three container sizes (8, 12, and 16 feet). That means you can pick a container that matches the size of your home. The end result is that you don’t pay for unused space or extra containers.

Why does availability matter?

Company availability matters almost as much as container size, and that’s because most companies aren’t available in all 50 states. In other words, you could pick the perfect size for your move and then discover that there isn’t a location near you.

Your options fall into three categories of availability:

  1. All states. U-Pack and U-Haul are the only moving container companies available in all 50 states. Both come with caveats since U-Pack is more expensive than other options and U-Haul has poor customer service.
  2. Most states. PODS is available in 44 states. The six states it doesn’t serve are Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
  3. Some states. 1-800-PACK-RAT and Zippy Shell are sister companies available in only about half of the country. Each is worth considering since 1-800-PACK-RAT has the strongest containers, and Zippy Shell has the lowest prices.

What are the container sizes for each company?

Every company has different container sizes. For example, PODS can often move your belongings into one container, while a company like U-Haul might need four. Plus, some companies have more than one size. We suggest picking a container size from one of five companies: PODS, 1-800-PACK-RAT, Zippy Shell, U-Pack, or U-Haul.

Bridget-and-Aaron-PODS

PODS has three container sizes ranging from 8 to 16 feet in length. Its largest container can often fit belongings from a three-to-five bedroom home.

PODS

PODS has three container sizes ranging in length from 8 to 16 feet. Its smallest container can usually accommodate a small apartment. The largest option can fit belongings for up to a three-bedroom house. PODS’s medium-sized option is a 12-foot long container available for in-town moves only. You can also order more containers if you need additional space.

PODS moving container sizes
Container size
Moving container dimensions
Similar to
Learn more
8-foot8’ x 7’ x 8’Walk-in closet
12-foot12’ x 8’ x 8’15-foot moving truck
16-foot16’ x 8’ x 8’Parking space

Data as of 4/7/22. Customers should contact PODS to obtain move-specific recommendations.

1-800-PACK-RAT

1-800-PACK-RAT has three sizes to choose from that are nearly identical to PODS. Both companies have 8, 12, and 16-foot options and restrict the 12-foot container to local moves. However, 1-800-PACK-RAT claims that its eight-foot container is slightly larger than the PODS version. That means you may be able to fit more belongings and potentially save money by not needing to order a larger option.

1-800-PACK-RAT moving container sizes
Container size
Moving container dimensions
Similar to
Learn more
8-foot8’ x 7’ x 8’8’ x 8’ storage unit
12-foot12’ x 8’ x 8’10’ x 10’ storage unit
16-foot16’ x 8’ x 8’10’ x 15’ storage unit

Data as of 4/7/22. Customers should contact 1-800-PACK-RAT to obtain move-specific recommendations.

A 1-800-PACK-RAT moving container is dropped off at a customer's home in West Hartford, CT.

1-800-PACK-RAT’s largest container is 16 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8 feet tall. It can often fit belongings from a three, four, or five bedroom home.

Zippy Shell

Zippy Shell has only one container size: a 15-foot long portable storage container measuring 7 feet tall and 7 feet wide. Zippy Shell costs more than most for small moves since it has only one large container. However, the savings add up so fast for all other home sizes that Zippy Shell is our pick for the cheapest moving container company.

Zippy Shell containers cost nearly $400 below average

U-Pack

U-Pack technically has only one moving container: a “ReloCube” six feet long, seven feet tall, and eight feet wide. It’s on the small side and can usually fit about one room’s worth of belongings. A three-bedroom home requires around three U-Pack ReloCubes, while a five-bedroom house calls for seven.

However, U-Pack now uses trailers for most of its moves. The moving trailer size seems to vary depending on what’s available when you place your order. The good news is that U-Pack can recommend a size based on the specifics of your move. And thanks to its 50-state availability, U-Pack is easy to find.

U-Pack ReloCube traveling on truck

The U-Pack Relocube is a cube-shaped container measuring six feet long, seven feet tall, and eight feet wide.

U-Haul U-Box

U-Haul has only one container: a U-Box measuring approximately seven feet long, five feet wide, and seven feet tall. Those dimensions make the U-Box container the smallest option on the market. While that can be a nightmare for large homes requiring seven or more containers, small moves can be cheaper.

Just beware that U-Haul charges a $99 hidden fee for every moving container. So, that seven-container move will set you back seven extra big ones.

What container size do I need for my home?

What size moving container do I need for a one-room apartment?

You need two U-Haul U-Box containers for one-bedroom apartments. The company’s average price of $2,240 is about $460 below average, and you can find locations in every state.

Other size options range from seven to eight feet depending on the company:

What size moving container do I need for a two-room apartment?

You need one 15-foot Zippy Shell container for a two-bedroom apartment. The portable storage container company charges around $2,950 for the average two-room move—or about $310 below average.

Containers from other companies range from three 7-foot U-Box containers to one 16-foot Zippy Shell container:

  • PODS: One 16-foot moving container (or one 12-foot container for local moves)
  • 1-800-PACK-RAT: One 16-foot moving container (or one 12-foot container for local moves)
  • U-Pack: Two six-foot ReloCubes
  • U-Haul: Three seven-foot U-Box containers

What size moving container do I need for a three-room home?

You need one 15-foot 1-800-PACK-RAT container for a three-bedroom home. The all-steel containers are the strongest option on the market, so your belongings stay extra safe during transport.

Additional options range from one similar-sized PODS container to four U-Box cubes:

  • PODS: One 16-foot moving container
  • Zippy Shell: One 15-foot moving container
  • U-Pack: Three six-foot ReloCubes
  • U-Haul: Four seven-foot U-Box containers

What size moving container do I need for a five-room home?

You need two 16-foot PODS containers for a five-bedroom home. PODS is the top-rated moving container company and includes a 10% discount for Move.org readers. For five-room houses, the average PODS discount shakes out to more than $600.

Other container companies recommend anywhere from two 16-foot containers to seven 7-foot moving cubes:


Recap

There’s no such thing as a standard container size. Options vary depending on which portable storage company you select and how large your home is. For example, a studio apartment calls for an 8-foot container from PODS or 1-800-PACK-RAT, a 15-foot container from Zippy Shell, a 7-foot ReloCube from U-Pack, or two 7-foot U-Box containers from U-Haul. Don’t worry about calculating square footage (the moving company does that for you). Just be sure that the container company is available in your area.

PODS is our #1 moving container company


Moving container size FAQ

How many container sizes does PODS have?

PODS has three different container sizes that range in length from 8 to 16 feet. The company offers steel-framed container types to protect your belongings during shipment.

What is the biggest portable storage container?

The biggest portable storage container is a 16-foot long option offered by PODS, 1-800-PACK-RAT, and Zippy Shell. The 20-foot options you see on the internet are for shipping containers for boats.

What moving services have portable storage units?

Moving services like 1-800-PACK-RAT have portable storage units (also called moving containers). You can keep the storage containers at your home or a company storage facility for a monthly fee.

How much does a 16-foot moving container hold?

A 16-foot moving container can often hold two to three rooms’ worth of belongings. The needed storage space varies depending on the precise container dimensions and the specifics of your home.


Kurt Manwaring
Written by
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, Martha Stewart Living, Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Heavy, Slate, and Yahoo! Lifestyle. He brings a BS in sociology and an MPA (masters of public administration) to the Move team. He would love to hear about your moving experiences and questions at kurt@move.org.