Best Moving Containers of 2018

Eli McCormick ·
Finance Senior Writer
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We spent several days gathering prices, time tables and other information from the best nationwide moving company. After comparing our results, we found U-Haul is the best option for moving containers. It has the lowest prices of any service we reviewed, and it lets you further lower yours costs by letting you pick up the containers yourself. You can also find movers through U-Haul to load and unload your containers. If you’re doing a local move, U-Haul is ideal, but for longer moves it does take longer on average to ship your containers.  

Best Overall
U-Haul
U-Haul has the best prices of any moving container company. It’s especially good for short term moves within the same city.
View on U-Haul
Best Value
PODS
With some of the best prices and multiple container sizes, PODS offers the best value for moves of all sizes.
View on PODS
Best For Quick Moves
U-Pack
With small containers and relatively fast shipping times, U-Pack is a good choice if you need to move quickly.
View on U-Pack
Product
Price
Overall Rating
Pricing
Storage & Transport
Moving Assistance
In-City Move Sample Price Quote
In-State Move Sample Price Quote
Cross Country Sample Price Quote
Storage Fee
Short Move Transit Time
Long Move Transit Time
Container Size Options
Loading & Unloading Assistance
Packing Supplies
Online Tracking
$0.00
9.4 10 9.5 8.3
$387*
$1,096*
$2,278*
$90
1-2 Days
12 Days
1
Third Party
-
$0.00 CJ
9.1 7.8 10 10
$831*
$1,220*
$4,230*
$105
2-4 Days
7-9 Days
1
Third Party
$0.00
8.9 8.3 10 8.3
$417
$1,895
$3,668
$130
2-4 days
9-11 Days
3
Third Party
-
$0.00
8 7.5 10 5.8
$499
$2,395
$3,863
$159
1-2 Days
10-14 Days
2
-
-
$0.00
7.9 8.8 8.5 5.8
$368.25*
$1,981.17*
$2,915.36*
$118
2-5 Days
10 Days
1
-
-
$0.00
7.9 7.8 10 5
$418
$2,248
$3,392
$273
2-4 Days
10 Days
3
Third Party
-
-
$0.00
6.7 5.5 7 8.3
$405
Local Only
Local Only
$179
3 Days
Local Only
3
Third Party
-
Best Overall
U-Haul is well known for its moving trucks, but it also offers moving containers, called U-Boxes. U-Boxes are helpful if you want to save money on a move and don’t feel inclined to drive a huge truck to your destination. We got quotes for three different moves: a short local move, a move a couple hundred miles away and a cross-country move. U-Haul gave us some of the lowest rates for each move, sometimes 50 percent cheaper than other companies. Our quotes include delivery of the containers to your home, but you can save more if you pick up and transport the containers yourself.
For local moves, U-Haul is one of the quickest companies. Usually one or two days is all it takes for your containers to get from point A to point B, and if you opted to transport the containers yourself, you have even more control over how fast you move. For longer moves, it takes about 12 days for your containers to ship. This is a little longer than most other container companies. Each U-Box is 95 inches long, 83.5 inches high and 56 inches wide. This is big enough to fit a king size bed and many common household appliances like washers and dryers. For a one-bedroom home or apartment, we recommend getting two containers.
Pros
  • Low prices
  • Option to transport the containers yourself
  • Containers big enough for a king-size bed
Cons
  • Long shipping times
  • Can’t track shipments
  • Need multiple containers for large moves
Visit SiteU-Haul
Read the full review
Best Value
We quoted three different moves – local, mid-distance and long-distance – and PODS’ pricing was more competitive than the other moving companies we reviewed. The quotes for local moves were especially low. With three different container sizes, PODS offers the best value, giving you large storage containers for what many other companies charge for smaller options.
PODS has 7-foot, 12-foot and 16-foot container options. Our quotes were for a 16-foot container, which is well suited for three to four bedrooms. Other moving companies gave us quotes for smaller containers, which were very comparable to what PODS gave us for a larger size. If you’re moving from a small apartment, you’ll be able to use a smaller container and get an even lower price. With PODS, it takes longer to ship the containers than other companies. Short moves take two to four days, while longer moves can take up to 11 days to reach the destination. If you want assistance unloading or loading your container, you can find referrals for movers through the PODS website. Doing the heavy lifting yourself can save you a lot of money.
Pros
  • Multiple container sizes
  • Inexpensive pricing
  • Especially good for local moves
Cons
  • Long transit times
  • Can’t track shipments
  • Doesn't offer load assistance
Visit SitePODS
Read the full review
Best For Quick Moves
U-Pack’s efficiency stood out the most during our evaluation, especially for long-distance moves. Our estimated long-distance time frame of seven to nine days easily beat all other quoted time frames. For a shorter move, we were quoted two to four days, which is more in line with the other companies. With its quick turnaround times, U-Pack may be the best option for you if you need to move on an accelerated time table.
Another thing we like about U-Pack is the shipment tracking feature through its website. You can use the supplied tracking number to see the progress of your containers. U-Pack’s containers are about 8 feet tall, 6 feet long and 7 feet wide, smaller than containers from other companies. These containers are a good choice if you’re moving to or from a small apartment. For a one or two-bedroom home, we recommend two or more containers. Especially for local moves, U-Pack was one of the more expensive options we evaluated. For faraway moves, it was closer to the competition, but still several hundred dollars more expensive. Our quotes were for two containers, so if you only plan on using one container, it’s more cost effective.
Pros
  • Fast transit times
  • Container tracking
  • Containers suited for small apartments
Cons
  • Multiple containers required for large homes
  • Local moves especially expensive
  • Third party loading assistance.
Visit SiteU-Pack
Read the full review
Best Moving Help

Zippy Shell

If you need help loading or unloading your moving container, Zippy Shell is the best choice.
Other companies connect you with third-party moving help, but Zippy Shell provides the service itself. There are advantages to having the container supplied and loading done by the same company: It saves you the headache of planning around two different schedules, and you don’t have to worry about the loaders arriving on time. Zippy Shell quoted us $350 for help loading or unloading, though it often offers discounts. One of Zippy Shell’s drawbacks is it has longer transit times than other container services.
Pros
  • Moving help provided through the company, not a third party
Cons
  • Long transit times
$0.00Zippy Shell
Best for Small Moves

SmartBox

If your move is small, a one-room apartment for example, SmartBox is the best choice for you.
Its containers are about 8 x 7 x 5 feet, which is only big enough to fit one room. This is ideal if you’re moving from a dorm or a shared-room situation. You could also fit the contents of a studio apartment inside. SmartBox isn’t a good choice for larger moves because you need to rent multiple containers to fit everything, which ups the price significantly. SmartBox was one of the more affordable options we saw, with an in-city move costing around $360.
Pros
  • Small containers and low costs
Cons
  • Only one size option
$0.00SmartBox

Why Trust Us

Many of our writers have personal experience with moving containers. After assessing some of the mistakes reviewers made in past moves and lessons learned, we made our recommendations to help you avoid fees and other headaches typical with a move.

To learn more about choosing the best way to move and what advantages moving containers offer, we spoke to Michael Keaton of the American Moving and Storage Association. He said that when choosing how to move, you need to look at how much you want to spend and the risk to your belongings you are willing to tolerate.

Do it yourself rental trucks and moving containers are cheaper, but require you to pack everything yourself. This means the responsibility for your belonging’s safekeeping falls to you. A full-service moving company is more expensive, but all the packing, loading and unloading is done by professionals.

How We Tested

Cost is an important factor in moving. Moving containers tend to be cheaper than full-service moving companies and more convenient than rental trucks. To get a good sense of pricing, we got three quotes from each container company – one for an in-city move, one for a move of a few hundred miles, and finally a quote for a move of a thousand miles or more. We also looked at storage costs. Many of these container companies have storage facilities and can store the containers you rent. The first month’s storage in included in the moving cost, but if you need to store for longer, there’s an additional monthly cost.

Container shipping time is another important factor, especially if you’re moving a long distance. Our estimates from each company covered moving time frames, with most taking around 10 days to ship on long moves.

Our quotes reflect the cost of moving a one-bedroom home or apartment. Depending on the company, this may require one or two containers. Many of the companies offer different size options, including containers up to 20 feet long. There are advantages to smaller sizes as well, especially if you’re moving from a studio or smaller place or just need to store a few items during a remodel.

One company we attempted to review, COWs, didn’t respond to repeated requests for a quote. We chose not to include them in our lineup, and we cannot recommend them due to inconsistent customer service.

How Much Does a Moving Container Cost?

The cost to rent and ship a moving container depends a lot on how far you’re moving. For an in-city move, we saw prices around $400 to $800, but you can save money by towing the container yourself. In-state and cross-country moves can run you between $1,000 and $4,000, depending on how far you’re moving and how many containers you rent.

Moving Tips

Book far in advance: Peak moving season is from May to September, and moving container companies can run low on inventory during that time. Make sure you book far in advance, sometimes as much as two months out. By scheduling further in advance, you’re also likely to get a better price.

Shop around: Don’t go with the first quote you get. Some companies offer price matching, and some are willing to negotiate, so don’t be afraid to haggle to get a great price.

Lock in Quotes: If you find an affordable price, lock it in as soon as you can. The quotes are valid for seven to 30 days, depending on the company. When you get a quote, you tentatively reserve the containers you need, so making a decision quickly ensures you’re not out-of-luck when it comes time to move.

Evaluate Your Options: There are many moving options. A lot depends on how much you want to spend and how much work you’re willing to do yourself. A rental truck is the cheapest option, but it requires you to load it yourself and drive to the destination where you also have to unload. Full-service movers, who pack, load and transport, are the most expensive and often add charges for stairs and the distance to the curb. Moving containers fit into the middle ground; you load them yourself, but transportation and storage are handled by the moving company.

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