Container Moving Guide

Is container moving right for me?

Container moving companies continue to be a popular “do-it-yourself” option especially for moves that require storage. With no driving required and the option for open-ended storage, portable containers are the perfect solution if you are waiting on a lease to start or staging a home.

The concept of moving with a container was originally created by the company PODS® in the late 90s. Container moving has continued to flourish since then, with over 30 companies now offering different containerized moving solutions.

Containers are usually most cost effective for 1-2 bedroom local moves, but they can still make sense for large or long distance moves if storage is required. Prices can range from $150 for a small local move container up to $6,000 or more for a larger long distance move.

Deciding whether or not a PODS® style moving company is the right option for your move can be tricky. You’ll need to consider things like parking access, delivery time frame, access to labor, insurance and more to determine if renting a container is the best way to move.

Luckily, we put together this container moving guide to provide all the answers you’ll need to determine if containers are the right moving solution for you. And if you don’t feel like reading, use our moving calculator to get instant guidance on the best way to move.

Learn all about container moving

Quick Snapshot

Container Moving Pros

  • No driving
  • Fast delivery
  • Great for storage
  • No double handling

Container Moving Cons

  • Limited available sizes
  • Parking can be challenging
  • Insurance is limited
  • Labor not included

How Container Moving Works

Moving containers are basically like a portable storage unit. The unit is delivered to your house and you can take as long as you want to load it. When ready, the container company will come pick up the container and either store it or ship it to your new location. Most container companies offer open-ended storage at a set monthly rate.

What’s Included

There are over 30+ moving container companies nationwide and each company is slightly different. Here's typically what is included in the basic moving container package.

  • Door-to-door transportation
  • Fuel & tolls
  • 1 month storage
  • Security lock for container door
  • Option for long term storage (monthly rate applies)
  • Help loading or unloading (Hire Moving Labor)
  • Parking permits (if necessary)
  • Pads, straps, or blankets
  • Dolly or hand-truck (sometimes available to rent)
  • Insurance (coverage varies per company)
  • Packing supplies such as boxes, bubble, wrap, etc.
  • Weekend pickup/delivery (sometimes available)

Container Moving Company Pricing

Container companies charge on a per container basis. Most companies usually offer 3 different size options with container sizes ranging from 7 to 16 feet long. The smaller, 7-foot containers typically hold about a room worth of furniture while the larger 16-foot containers can hold up to 3-4 rooms.

Typically, containers are most affordable for smaller, local moves. Although, if you’re moving long distance and require storage, containers allow you to avoid the expense of moving everything in and out of a storage unit which can save you a good bit on labor costs.

One disadvantage to container moving is it can get expensive for larger moves. Each additional container usually increases the price by quite a bit. We often have customers get sticker shock when their move cost increases 70-80% when adding an additional container. Sometimes you can negotiate discounts, but often containers become too expensive an option for larger moves, especially long distance.

Monthly storage rates can range anywhere from $70 to $350 per month per container depending on the size of the container. Storage rates are about the same if not a little cheaper than regular storage facilities.

To get a general idea on pricing, check out the table below.

1 Bedroom 2-3 Bedroom 4-5 Bedroom
<50 miles $100 - $300 $300 - $550 $800 - $1,100
250 miles $1,000 - $1,400 $1,500 - $2,000 $1,800 - $2,500
1000 miles $1,700 - $2,300 $2,500 - $3,500 $3,200 - $4,300
2500 miles $2,500 - $3,200 $3,900 - $4,900 $5,000 - $6,700

Container Moving vs Other Options

Compare moving containers to professional movers, freight trailers, and moving truck rentals.

Containers Professional Movers
Storage Container companies have very competitive storage rates and the container can be delivered to your residence multiple times. Moving companies only offer storage-in-transit and it can get expensive if you need storage more than a few months.
Delivery Container companies tend to have much faster and more accurate delivery windows than professional movers. Moving companies tend to have less accurate delivery windows.
Prep Time Containers offer open-ended load time so you have more time to pack loose items. With movers you'll need to be fully prepared before they arrive.
Pricing Container companies offer flat rates based on container sizes. Moving companies usually require in-home estimates and variable costs since their service offerings are more complex.
Labor Included Containers provide no labor although it's not hard to hire some help. Movers will load and unload the truck including basic furniture assembly.
Insurance Container companies usually don't offer more than basic valuation coverage. Moving companies tend to have more insurance options and better overall coverage for damages.
Materials Containers provide limited moving equipment. Professional movers will bring pads, blankets, dollies, and straps to make sure all items are properly secured.
Containers Freight
Load/Unload Time Containers offer open-ended loading and unloading. Freight typically allows 3 days at loading and 3 days at unloading
Off-Site Storage Containers offer affordable, long-term storage with on demand access to items. Freight storage is costly, short-term and not easily accessible.
Loading Containers rest on the ground and tend to have lower ceilings making loading a little easier. Freight trailers require a loading ramp and have 9 foot ceilings making loading more difficult.
Partial Move Containers make it easy to leave half your items in storage. Freight trailers need to be fully unloaded at your destination.
Parking Containers are smaller and tend to be easier to fit in the driveway or on a city block. Freight trailers require around 40' of parking space, clear of low hanging tree or power lines. Urban areas can be a challenge.
Space If you need more than 16' of space you'll need to get a second container. A single freight trailer can hold roughly the same as two and a half, 16' storage containers.
Pay for What You Use With containers you are limited to two or three different sizes. With freight you only pay for the space you need.
Pricing Container companies usually require calling for quotes. Freight websites offer instant & transparent online pricing.
Containers Rental Trucks
Driving Container companies offer door-to-door delivery so you can avoid doing any driving. Rental trucks require you do all the driving yourself.
Built-In Costs Containers include mileage, tolls, gas, etc. in their base price. With rental trucks you'll need to estimate costs such as mileage, tolls, gas, etc.
Storage Containers offer great long-term storage options. With rental trucks you'll have to unload into a storage unit.
Delivery You are reliant on the container company to deliver on time. With rental trucks you have complete control over delivery times since you're driving.
Car Containers have no option for towing or shipping a car. With rental trucks you can typically rent a car hitch.
Parking Some areas have restrictions on leaving containers for extended periods. Rental trucks are generally street legal everywhere.

Using Containers Efficiently

Save Money by Controlling Costs

When it comes to container moving you need to be aware of the associated costs.

Use the storage location

You can eliminate expensive container delivery fees by dropping your items off at the container company’s location and then have them ship it to another location. Sometimes this can result in significant savings. You’ll need to weigh the savings against the added cost of getting everything to their location. This can make a lot of sense for smaller shipments where a cheap van could be used to shuttle items.

Local only

The closer a container company’s storage facility is to your residence the better pricing you can expect. If the company has to travel far to deliver your container your price will increase. If you're moving long distance, you'll need to make sure there is a location nearby at your destination as well. Use our moving cost calculator to find moving container companies with locations nearby.

Move mid-month

Rental leases typically turnover at the end of the month causing spikes in demand on those last few days. Avoiding the rush by moving in the middle of the month can often result in better pricing.

Avoid Hidden Fees

Learn how to reduce your overall costs and avoid hidden fees.

Parking permits

Containers can require multiple parking spaces. Some municipalities require parking permits to place containers on the street. Check your city's website for more details.

Sell, donate, trash items

Since you pay by the container, keeping your move to as few containers as possible will result in significant savings. However, there’s no price breaks if you don’t fill up the entire container so make sure to not get rid of too much.

Moving equipment

Hand trucks and dollies are typically available to rent. Prices and availability vary.

Weekend pickup & delivery

Drivers don't like to work weekends. Most container companies prefer to operate within Mon-Fri and charge extra for weekend drop offs.

Storage

Portable storage containers are a great option for long term storage. Rates are usually competitive with regular storage units and because the container is portable, you can avoid having to pay for an additional move when you're ready for everything to be delivered.

Additional valuation coverage

Most companies offer options to increase coverage levels in the event of an accident at an additional cost. Note, damage due to the loading or unloading of items won't be covered.

Container cleaning fee

Be sure to sweep clean the container before final pickup to avoid a cleaning fee.

Live load & unload

If you can’t leave an unattended container on your street, you may need to coordinate for the driver to stay during the loading. The driver is simply staying with the truck, he won't provide any help loading. The first hour or two is usually free and then an hourly rate will apply. New York City and other urban areas typically require live loading.

Weight tickets

Military PPM(DITY) move? You can request weight tickets for an additional fee.

Blankets, straps, pads

Some container companies offer free moving blankets and pads to sweeten the deal. Always ask to see if discounts or any free supplies are available.

Guaranteed delivery

Want your container delivered on a certain day at your destination? Most providers are willing to offer guaranteed delivery at an additional cost.

Instantly compare prices on moving containers!

Just like major travel sites, we compare moving rates and services to help you move.

  • Get instant pricing for your move
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Save an average of $400 by using our moving cost calculator for your move!