If you want to avoid the hassle of loading a rental truck and driving it to your new home, there’s another moving option to consider: portable storage containers.

In addition to offering storage services, portable container companies will deliver units directly to your new home, said Kyle Taylor vice president of the MI-BOX of San Diego.

“Portable storage companies have the ability to ship your items where they need to go,” he said.

Using a container to transport your belongings allows for greater flexibility during a move, said Riaz Karim, program manager for the PODS portable storage container company. Customers “can take as long as they need to load and unload. They can also keep their container on their property for convenient temporary storage, or we can store it in one of our storage centers.”

Moving Truck vs Pods

So in the battle of moving trucks vs pods, which one is best? For some it may simply come down to cost.

While containers offer convenience, they aren’t for everyone, said Ryan Carrigan, founder of moveBuddha, a moving costs and services comparison website. That’s because it’s typically less expensive to rent a truck to take your possessions to your new home.

Still not sure whether a truck rental or portable moving container is best for you? Here is a list of pros and cons to consider when choosing between a rental truck and a portable storage container:

Container Pros

  • There’s no need to drive a large vehicle. You won’t have to maneuver a truck in heavy traffic and you won’t have to worry about breakdowns along the way, said Taylor.
  • There’s no refueling hassle. Rental truck outlets charge for the gas you use, making it necessary to refuel before turning them in to avoid extra costs, noted Amy Trager, a professional organizer from the Chicago area.
  • You can avoid steep loading ramps. Rental trucks typically have ramps that require you to move goods uphill. In contrast, containers are loaded at ground level. In some cases they can be placed right in front of your garage door to make loading even easier.
  • You can take your time. Unlike with a rental truck that you have to return quickly, or even a moving company that charges you hourly, moving pods usually allow you to take your time. Oftentimes 30 days of use is included in the price, which allows users to load at their own pace.
  • Good for both local moves and long-distance moves.  Once your moving container is packed up, it can be moved long distance or just across town. If you aren’t ready to move right away, most moving container companies will keep your packed belongings at a secure storage facility for a monthly fee. However, storing a pod is generally more expensive than renting a storage unit and keeping your items there until you are ready to move.

Container Cons

  • They’re generally more expensive. While all moves are different, Carrigan says an in-town move using a portable storage container generally costs between $200 and $300. In contrast, using a rental truck typically costs between $60 and $120, including gasoline. A cross-country move with a container typically costs about $3,000, compared to about $2,000 when using a rental truck, including fuel costs, he adds.
  • You may need a parking permit. PODS recommends that customers who want containers placed on streets near their homes first contact local governments and homeowner associations to make sure there are no restrictions regarding street parking.
  • There may be additional restrictions. Some homeowner associations have strict rules about where portable storage containers can be placed on properties. Lawns and driveways may be off limits, Taylor said.
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Rental Truck Pros

  • They’re usually cheaper. The benefit of planning a do-it-yourself move is that it’s usually less expensive.
  • You don’t need a permit. By using a rental truck, you can avoid the hassle of applying for a parking permit for a storage container, Carrigan said.
  • You’ll pay only for the time you use. Since rental trucks generally rent by the day, you can avoid the minimum one-month storage fee that may be required by portable container companies.

Rental Truck Cons

  • Someone must drive them. If you’re unaccustomed to driving a large vehicle, you may find a rental truck difficult to control. Driving a moving truck long-distance is slow, and often nerve-wracking.
  • You’ll pay for any damages. You’ll be responsible for damage that occurs to the rental vehicle while you’re making your move.
  • You may need to buy extra insurance. Depending on what your homeowner and auto policies cover, you may decide to buy supplemental insurance for your move, said Taylor.

Cost vs. Convenience

While containers often are easier to use than rental trucks, not everyone wants to pay the added cost, said Carrigan. The choice “almost always comes down to cost versus convenience.”

Keep in mind that whether you opt for the rental truck or a moving container, you can hire hourly moving labor to help with the heavy lifting.

Best Moving Container Companies

There are several moving container companies across the country worth considering. As you can see, there are more options than just PODS or U-Haul, even though they are the most well known options.

Here is a quick look at a few of the best shipping container companies for moving:

PODS

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PODS is the original drop off and pick up moving container service. Offering multiple container sizes and well-built containers, PODS operates in most parts of the country. To calculate pricing you’ll need to give them a call, as they do not provide online quotes.

U-Haul

While mostly known for their moving trucks and trailers, U-Haul launched their U-Box moving containers to compete with PODS several years ago. When it comes to comparing PODS vs U-Haul, the key difference to note is that the U-Box is made of wood and comes in one size. That means you may need multiple U-Boxes to pack all of your stuff.

U-Pack

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U-Pack provides metal moving containers (called ReloCubes) at an affordable price. Online quotes are readily available. One drawback is that U-Pack containers are only available for long distance moves.

1-800-PACK-RAT

​Offering both local and long distance delivery, 1-800-PACK-RAT features quality containers and they will price match with PODS. However, the company lacks transparent pricing, which starts high and can be reduced through a number of discounts.

Zippy Shell

Zippy Shell offers unique cage-like containers which allows you to securely tie down your household goods for transport. With competitive rates, Zippy Shell is worthy of your consideration. Unfortunately, the service is only available in about 28 states.

SMARTBOX

While SMARTBOX might be a bit pricier than its competitors, you can enjoy the peace of mind provided by its upfront and transparent pricing. The firm quotes you single final price upfront so you know what you will be paying. Another perk is that college students receive discounted rates.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is PODS cheaper than U-Haul?

While prices may vary from market to market, generally speaking PODS is more expensive than renting a U-Haul truck. Even U-Haul's U-Box container system is usually cheaper than PODS.

How much do PODS cost?

PODS does not offer online price quotes, so you'll need to contact them to calculate the exact cost of your move. Users report paying between $200 to $300 for local moves, and around $3,000 for a cross-country move.

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Emmet Pierce