If you’re worried about the cost of moving to a new home or apartments, it’s understandable that you might find a full-service move to be too pricy. Many families don’t have big enough budgets to hire professional movers. Of course, renting a moving truck and going the DIY route isn’t for everyone, either.
Thankfully, the moving industry has another option – moving containers.
With portable moving containers, you load and unload the containers yourself, while professional movers then handle the driving.
Translation – the best moving container companies offer the ideal balance between DIY and full-service moves. With so many portable storage container providers, knowing which container option is best will help you prepare for your move.
In this article, we’ll compare U-Pack and Zippy Shell, two of the biggest moving container providers currently available. Both U-Pack and Zippy Shell are worth considering for your next move, but in most categories, U-Pack is the clear winner.
But remember, with so many variables, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Here’s an in-depth look at both companies so you can find the best option for your move.
U-Pack at a glance
U-Pack has moved more than a million families since 1997.
As a division of ABF (one of the country’s largest trucking companies), U-Pack has the experience, facilities, and equipment to move shipments of all sizes quickly, efficiently, and affordably.
It’s hard to beat U-Pack, as long as you’re moving over 100 miles — the company doesn’t provide service for local moves.
Customers can choose from U-Pack ReloCube containers or freight trailers, so their services work well on moves of all sizes.
If a trailer makes the most sense but you’re not sure how much space you’ll need, fear not, because you’ll only pay for what you use. Similarly, if you order more ReloCubes than you actually need, the company will take away the unused containers and you won’t be charged for them. This flexibility can help make your move more affordable than it would be with another provider.
With trailers and containers, you’ll have three days to load and another three to unload. Labor can be added if you’d rather not do the heavy lifting yourself.
If you need storage, you can keep your items at one of U-Pack’s secure climate-controlled facilities for as long as you like, but rates and availability vary by location. However, storage solutions are generally available on all long-distance moves.
Zippy Shell at a glance
Though Zippy Shell was founded in Australia, the company entered the US market in 2010 when the moving container business was growing by leaps and bounds.
A few years later they formed an alliance with 1-800-PACK-RAT, which allowed the former competitors to streamline operations and offer more services while keeping prices low.
Zippy Shell offers both moving and storage services. Customers can load their belongings at their home or apartment. You can also save money by loading at one of the company’s terminals or storage facilities instead of using door-to-door pick-up and delivery.
It’s important to note that you may only be able to request one Zippy Shell container at a time, though they’ll deliver another if you need more space. Labor can be added if you’d rather not load and unload yourself, but rates vary by location, since this is contracted with a third party.
Once your container is loaded, Zippy Shell will have it shipped to your new residence, after which you’ll have up to three days to unload it. Zippy Shell also offers short and long-term storage at its secured, climate-controlled facilities if you won’t be moving into your new home right away. The company also offers on-site storage in some areas.
However, the availability of these storage options will vary by location. In addition, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have access to your items when they’re in the company’s possession. This can be a deal-breaker for some families, in which case it’s probably better to rent a storage unit from a local storage company and move your items in yourself.
Storage for local moves can be added for an additional charge. The average cost for Zippy Shell storage is typically about $189 per container per month, but for storage over 45 days you may need to make an upfront payment.
Zippy Shell and U-Pack – features, and benefits comparison
|Usually more affordable than full-service movers||Usually more affordable than full-service movers|
|Good option for family consolidations, young professionals moving between cities, and minimalists moving cross-country||Straightforward pricing with no hidden fees (easy-to-use website provides instant quotes)|
|Third-party labor for loading and unloading available||Moving Staffers can coordinate loading and unloading assistance|
|Containers are transported by professional drivers||Containers are transported by professional drivers|
|Equipment options include 10 and 15-foot containers||Equipment options include ReloCube moving containers and freight trailers|
|Zippy Shell containers fit in standard parking spaces, which means special permits generally aren’t required||Customers only pay for the number of containers and actual trailer space used|
|Services are available in nearly 30 states||Large national coverage areas including many rural areas and shipments can be tracked online|
|Three days each for loading and unloading||Three days each for loading and unloading|
What we’re not crazy about
|Business hours and delivery options vary by location||No local moving services (moves over 100 miles only)|
|No online quotes – you have to call and speak with an agent to get an estimate||Parking for moving trailers can be an issue due to their size and height|
|You pay 50% of your move balance 2 days before your container is delivered||Due to deck height, trailers are more difficult and dangerous to load and unload|
|Availability of supplies like blankets and boxes varies by location||Spring-ride suspensions on moving trailers can damage fragile household goods|
|Limited 10-foot container availability and smaller national coverage area||Due to deck height, trailers can be more difficult to load and unload|
|Changing dates and services once your move is booked can be a hassle||Canceling within a week of your move means you’ll have to pay a fee|
|They may limit the number of containers customers can order at one time||Equipment availability can be spotty during peak summer months|
Zippy Shell and U-Pack container size chart
|Equipment specs||U-Pack ReloCube||U-Pack 27-foot trailer||Zippy Shell 10-foot container||Zippy Shell 15-foot container|
|Internal Dimensions (L x W x H)||5’10″ x 6’10″ x 7’9″||27’ x 8’ x 9′||9’7″ x 6’4″ x 6’4″||15’7″ x 6’4″ x 6’4″|
|Volume (cubic feet)||308||1,800||420||680|
|Good for||College students, studio and 1-bedroom apartments||Single-family homes||1-2 furnished rooms and boxes||2-3 furnished rooms and boxes|
|Types of moves||Long-distance only||Long-distance only||Local only||Local and long-distance|
|Weight limit (pounds)||2,500||22,000||3,500||5,500|
|Container||Metal||Metal||Galvanized steel mesh container||Galvanized steel mesh container|
Check out this post for more detailed information on ReloCubes.
U-Pack and Zippy Shell price comparison
You’ll need to contact U-Pack and Zippy Shell directly to get a free quote for your move, but this general pricing guide can give you a good idea of what to expect.
U-Pack pricing guide
|Local move||< 250 Miles||Cross country move|
|1 bedroom||Unavailable||$900 – $1,300||$1,500 – $2,500|
|2 or 3 bedrooms||Unavailable||$1,100 – $1,700||$2,400 – $3,900|
|4 or 5 bedrooms||Unavailable||$1,200 – $1,900||$3,500 – $6,600|
U-Pack isn’t always the cheapest game in town, but because you only pay for the space you actually use, it can often be cheaper than the competition. In addition, the company offers military, student, and corporate relocation discounts.
You can also potentially reduce your rates by loading and unloading at one of their service centers. U-Pack does not charge a deposit. You will be charged when your shipment is picked up. Remember, however, that U-Pack does not service local moves of less than 100 miles.
Zippy Shell pricing guide
|Local move||< 250 Miles||Cross country move|
|1 bedroom||$190 – $240||$500 – $920||$1,800 – $3,900|
|2 or 3 bedrooms||$300 – $630||$730 – $1,600||$2,800 – $4,500|
|4 or 5 bedrooms||$350 – $750||$1,100 – $3,100||$5,200 – $7,000|
The first credit card payment (50% of your total move cost) must be made two business days before your containers are delivered. Like U-Pack, you can potentially reduce your rates by loading and unloading at one of their service centers.
Final payment is generally due when your container arrives at its destination warehouse or 31 days after your initial delivery date (whichever is first).
Reputations and reviews – how Zippy Shell and U-Pack match up
U-Pack generally gets better customer reviews than Zippy Shell on websites like Consumer Affairs and TrustPilot.
This isn’t surprising since U-Pack has been around longer and has more experience.
However, while online reviews are great vetting resources, they should be taken with a grain of salt. Online reviews, especially for moving companies, tend to skew negative because people are more likely to go online to complain, rather than to comment on a move where everything went fine. You should also ask friends, family members, and coworkers for personal referrals before hiring a mover.
It may also be helpful to consider the insurance options available from both companies (though your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance may also provide some coverage). Zippy Shell’s Content Protection Plans include up to $50,000 of coverage for your belongings. A container damage waiver is also available to cover any damage that occurs to their container while it is on your property.
U-Pack offers carrier negligence coverage at 10 cents per pound per piece, as well as catastrophic coverage at $3 per pound per piece, with maximum coverage of $60,000 per trailer and $7,500 per ReloCube.
With both providers, it is best to speak to a representative to gain a full understanding of what types of damage or loss (such as fire, theft, and collisions) are covered by their plan, as well as how much this will add to your total moving quote.
The Zippy Shell vs U-Pack verdict – which company is better for your move?
If you’re not interested in using the best interstate movers, a portable moving container can be a great alternative for your move. While there’s no one size fits all solution, we feel that U-Pack is the clear winner in a number of key areas.
Booking a move is easier with U-Pack than with Zippy Shell, because it is easy to get quotes and schedule your move online.
- Customers can choose ReloCube containers or a 27-foot trailer
- Quotes automatically default to the most suitable equipment for the job
- Adding storage, labor, and other services is a snap
- Customers can order moving equipment and packing material like furniture pads, bubble wrap, shrink wrap, and tape
- U-Pack has a much wider service area, including rural areas
U-Pack pricing can be on the high side, but you only pay for the space you actually need. Their flexible pricing model is a big win, even though they don’t do local moves.
That being said, Zippy Shell is another viable option for families on the move. If you’re moving locally, from one major metropolitan area to another, or are just looking to save a few bucks, Zippy Shell can still be a good choice.
On the downside:
- Online quotes aren’t available
- Their website needs some improvement — detailed information regarding their cancellation policy and other info can be hard to find
- Services aren’t available in every state, and services can vary by location
- 10-foot containers are scarce in some areas
Is PODS more expensive than Zippy Shell?
PODS is generally more expensive than Zippy Shell, but their prices are usually still competitive.
Does U-Haul have portable moving and storage containers?
Yes, U-Haul U-Box portable storage and moving containers are available for customers who don’t want to drive a moving truck.
Are moving containers weatherproof?
Portable shipping containers use a sturdy steel frame to protect your items from the elements and invasive critters like bugs and rodents.
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