The Best Moving Container Companies

PODS reigns supreme thanks to its versatile units and competitive rates.

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more.

Hiring a traditional moving company can set you back thousands of dollars, but there are other options. Booking a moving container typically costs a fraction of what full-service movers charge. You save money by doing the packing, loading, and unloading yourself, and the company takes care of transporting your belongings to your new home or storing them in a secure facility. Like the sound of that? These are the nationwide moving container services we recommend.

Best Moving Container Companies of 2023

Best Overall : PODS

Pods Moving logo

Pods Moving

Key Specs
  • Nationwide Availability: 44 states and Washington, D.C.
  • Tracking Option? No
  • Available Sizes: 3
Pros & Cons
  • Transparent pricing

  • Add-on services include moving supplies, labor, and vehicle shipping

  • No deposit required to book

  • Must call for quote

  • Not available in all states

  • PODS City Service only grants four free hours to load/unload

Why We Chose It

PODS stands out thanks to its clear and transparent pricing, some of the most affordable rates of the companies in this roundup, and its variety of container sizes. Its three options (8 feet, 12 feet, and 16 feet) can accommodate the contents of a dorm room or a studio all the way up to a two-bedroom home, and you can always book more than one container if you need to. PODS handles both local and long-distance moves in 44 states, so as long as you live in one of them it should get your stuff where it needs to go. It also lets you book add-ons like short- or long-term storage, third-party moving labor, and vehicle shipping services through its website. 

To learn how much a move with PODS will cost, you may be able to get a quote using its online chat feature, but you’ll likely have to speak to a representative by phone. You’ll need to provide them with the ZIP codes of your current and future addresses, the size of your home, and the date you want to get the container. Your initial quote will include a one-month container rental and a $10,000 content protection policy, which is meant to cover the container and its contents from burglary, fires, and other incidents. You can increase or decrease the coverage if you want. Payment is broken up into three installments: one before you receive the container, one during transit, and one when the container is delivered.

Unless otherwise noted, containers are rented on a monthly basis. This works out great if you live in a house with a driveway where the PODS team can drop off the container and leave you to pack at your own leisurely pace. If you live in an apartment building in a busy city like New York, though, you’ll probably need to use the PODS City Service, in which case you’ll only have four free hours to load your container and will be charged per hour for extra time.

Best for Storage : 1-800-Pack-Rat

1-800-Pack-Rat logo


Key Specs
  • Nationwide Availability: 30 states and Washington, D.C.
  • Tracking Option? No
  • Available Sizes: 3
Pros & Cons
  • Climate-controlled storage facilities

  • Offers moving supplies and third-party labor services

  • Willing to price-match competitors

  • Limited availability

  • Need to call for quote

  • $500 deposit for long-distance moves

Why We Chose It

When it comes to moving containers, size matters, and 1-800-Pack-Rat, like PODS, is one of the few in the industry that offers a variety of options: 8 feet, 12 feet, and 16 feet. It will also let you store your belongings in the container you’re using for your move and then store that in one of its climate-controlled facilities, meaning you don’t need to transfer your belongings to a separate storage container should your plans change at any point in your moving process. If you need to access your container while it’s in storage, simply provide 1-800-Pack-Rat with 24-hour notice, which gives its team time to place your container in a well-lit staging area for a more comfortable experience.

To get a detailed quote for 1-800-Pack-Rat’s services, you must call the company. Be aware that you’ll have to go through several automated menus before you can speak to an actual representative. The salesperson will ask you some basic details about your move, including your current and future ZIP codes, the size of your home, and your preferred container delivery date. If you have a better quote from a competitor, the company is not shy about price-matching to get your business. It will also probably take that as a cue to hype its containers’ barn-style doors, which are meant to allow for more storage room than its competitors’ containers.

You can book a delivery date with 1-800-Pack-Rat without a deposit, but if your move is considered long-distance, you’ll have to make a $500 deposit five days before your container arrives, and you’ll also need to provide full payment before the driver can commence delivery to your final destination. If your move is local, you’ll need to make three payments: one the day before your container is delivered, a second while it’s in transit, and a final payment upon delivery to your new address. You won't have access to GPS tracking to keep tabs on your container in real time, but you do get updates through your My PackRat online account telling you if the container is in transit or in a particular city or facility. 

Keep in mind that 1-800-Pack-Rat is only available in 30 states and Washington, D.C. The company’s online quote tool will let you know if your requested locations are outside the company’s coverage area.

Best for Long-Distance Moves : Zippy Shell

Zippy Shell, Inc

 Zippy Shell, Inc

Key Specs
  • Nationwide Availability: 32 states
  • Tracking Option? No
  • Available Sizes: 2
Pros & Cons
  • Will price-match competing offers

  • Storage available

  • Clear payment structure

  • Third-party moving labor

  • Need to call for quote

  • Containers are metal cages

  • Only two sizes available

Why We Chose It

When you’re moving across the country, Zippy Shell can reliably keep your things secure throughout the trip. Zippy Shell offers two container sizes: 10 feet and 15 feet, the larger of which can store the contents of two or three rooms, depending on how much furniture and possessions you own. Unlike typical weatherproof steel containers, these are cage-like structures, but they’re transported inside a trailer, ensuring your belongings are shielded from the elements and prying eyes. Notably, the design makes it easier to tie things down.

To get a quote you have to call the company, and an agent will ask you a few simple questions about your current and future ZIP code, your home size, how many boxes and pieces of large furniture you’re moving, and the date you need the container. Pricing depends on the size and number of containers you request, the distance you’re traveling, and your preferred dates; summer is typically more expensive than winter, as it’s a busier season for moving companies. Like its sister company, 1-800-Pack-Rat, Zippy Shell will price-match any rival offers. Quotes expire after seven days, so keep that in mind when researching.

Payment is pretty straightforward. You pay half your bill shortly before the container is delivered and the other half when it arrives at your destination. Be advised that if your move takes longer than a month, you may incur additional storage and rental fees. If you want to hire movers to help you load and unload your belongings, Zippy Shell can refer you to third-party vendors. It’s important to note that the company does not offer a real-time tracking tool for your container while it’s on the road. However, it does let you check its general status (en route or at a facility, for example) on its website. If you’re not moving but need storage solutions, the company’s got them. Just be aware that its cage-like containers aren’t stored in trailers at the warehouse; instead, they’re covered with plastic tarps.

Best on a Budget : U-Haul

U-Haul logo


Key Specs
  • Nationwide Availability: 50 states
  • Tracking Option? No
  • Available Sizes: 1
Pros & Cons
  • More than 21,000 locations across U.S. and Canada

  • Lets you schedule your move online

  • Offers moving supplies, labor, and storage

  • Convenient delivery options

  • Containers are smaller than competitors’ smallest containers

  • Containers aren’t made out of steel

  • Partial online quotes for local moves

Why We Chose It

U-Haul has spent nearly 80 years providing moving services and supplies. It has more than 21,000 locations across the U.S. and Canada, the most out of any company in this roundup, and it offers very competitive prices. On top of that, U-Haul provides a range of container delivery options. It can deliver a container to your home, of course, but it also gives you the option of hiring a local moving company to do it, usually for a lower price. Alternatively, you can pick your container up from one of U-Haul’s locations or load/unload your belongings directly in one of its facilities. Neither of these two options incurs any charges, helping you keep your overall bill down.

U-Haul provides instant quotes on its website. You’ll need to provide the exact addresses of your current and future homes to get an accurate delivery fee added to your estimate. If you don’t have the address of your new home yet, you can still book the service, and U-Haul will ship the container to the destination city and store it in one of its facilities. You need a credit card to secure your date, but you don’t have to pay immediately or put down a deposit unless you choose to hire a local moving company to deliver the container to your home, in which case you’ll need to pay those fees when you book. Otherwise, the first part of your payment, covering delivery and one month’s rent for the container, will be charged on the morning of delivery. Five days before your container is set to arrive at its destination you’ll be charged the shipping fees, and the remaining delivery fees will be charged on the morning of final delivery. U-Haul offers a guaranteed delivery date and will pay you $50 for every day your container is late. Note that if your move takes longer than 30 days, you’ll incur additional rental fees. Strangely, you can only get a partial quote for local moves, as U-Haul’s online tool doesn’t provide an option to add final delivery.

Called U-Boxes, U-Haul’s moving containers are made of wood and covered with bright orange water-resistant vinyl. They’re less than 8 feet long and can only hold up to 2,000 pounds, which is about half of what rival companies’ smallest containers are equipped to withstand. This means that you’ll probably need multiple containers if you’re moving more than one room or if you have a large, well-stocked studio apartment. For other U-Haul services, the company offers a live chat option for customer service questions, but for anything related to U-Boxes, you’ll have to call.

Best for Students : SmartBox

Key Specs
  • Nationwide Availability: 23 states and Washington, D.C.
  • Tracking Option? No
  • Available Sizes: 1
Pros & Cons
  • Instant online quotes

  • Price-matching and student discounts

  • Storage available

  • Offers moving supplies and labor

  • Limited availability

  • Only one container size

  • Frequent complaints of delivery delays

Why We Chose It

SmartBox is at the head of the class for student moving services. The company has a discount program specifically designed for college students, and it offers storage deals to sororities and fraternities that need to free up space and to students moving abroad for a semester who need somewhere to keep their belongings safe. It earns extra credit for providing $20 off delivery services to faculty members and college staff.

Getting a quote is relatively painless. Enter your current and future ZIP codes and the date you wish to receive a container, and SmartBox’s website will provide an instant estimate. As you go through the quote process, you’ll have the option of adding labor services to help with loading and unloading. Just be aware that labor costs vary by city and that SmartBox’s options may be more expensive than labor you hire on your own. When you’re done getting your quote, you can book your move on the spot.

SmartBox quotes are valid for 30 days, giving you ample time to research a range of companies. Local and short-distance moves are generally cheaper with SmartBox than with its competitors. Its long-distance services are on the pricier end of the spectrum, but it will price-match any other offers, and if you pay a 15-percent deposit, your rate will be locked in for 60 days. Containers are billed on a monthly basis, so if it takes you 10 days to travel from point A to point B, you’ll have 20 days to pack and unpack at your own pace.

SmartBox containers are made of wood, covered with a waterproof canvas, and allow for ground-level loading. They only come in one size, 8 feet, which can fit the contents of a room or room and a half, which will be sufficient for most students. The containers can hold up to 3,000 pounds and can fit a king-size mattress as well as couches less than 7.5 feet long. SmartBox provides a “space estimation” document on its website that lists how many containers you’ll need depending on the size of your home.

Unfortunately, SmartBox only operates in 23 states and Washington, D.C., and you may need to call customer service a few times to speak to a representative that can answer your questions. Late delivery seems to happen more frequently with SmartBox than with other companies in this roundup, so keep that in mind as you evaluate your options.

Final Verdict

When you’re looking for the best moving container company, you want one that is widely available, has competitive rates, and offers a range of container sizes to accommodate your belongings. That’s why PODS is the company at the top of this list. It combines affordability with versatility, great customer service, and nearly nationwide service.

Compare the Best Moving Container Companies

Company Nationwide Availability Average Price per Container* Tracking Option? No. of Container Sizes  Storage Option?
Best Overall
44 states and Washington, D.C. $2,200 No 3 Yes
Best for Storage
30 states and Washington, D.C. $3,900 No 3 Yes
Best for Long-Distance Moves
Zippy Shell
32 states $3,600 No 2 Yes
Best on a Budget
50 states $2,000 No 1 Yes
Best for Students
23 states and Washington, D.C. $3,900 No 1 Yes

*Prices listed are for one small container holding the contents of a studio apartment and traveling from Boston to Miami.

How to Choose the Best Moving Container Company

With so many options available, it’s important to go with a company that caters to your needs, fits your budget, and gives you peace of mind. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Availability: Is the company available in the areas you need it? A lot of moving container companies operate in limited regions, so it’s important to make sure the company can service your move in its entirety.
  • Pricing: Affordability is a big factor to consider, but it’s not the only one. You want to make sure the company you choose has transparent pricing. Sometimes, certain fees aren’t clearly advertised, which can make getting your final bill an unpleasant experience. Ask your sales agent how much money you need to pay upfront, how the payment is split, when your card is going to be charged, and in which, if any, situations your final bill could increase.
  • Container sizes: Some companies offer several container sizes, and others offer just one. Usually, the smallest containers can fit the contents of a studio apartment, and the largest can fit those of a two-bedroom home. Go with a company that can realistically accommodate all your belongings in a safe and secure manner at a price that won’t break the bank.
  • Customer service: It’s important to work with a company that’s reliable, and your customer service experience is usually a telltale sign of this. Ask questions, call, or use the live chat options, and see if this is a company that cares about understanding your needs and addressing your doubts. Go with one that puts the customer first.
  • Insurance options: Some container moving companies offer content protection policies that are worth thousands of dollars and cost you less than $20. In some cases, you can increase or decrease the coverage amount, while in others the company only offers one option. Make sure that any company you choose has an insurance option that covers your belongings and protects you against any damage to the container so that you don’t have to pay for a new one yourself. Always read the fine print, since damage is typically only covered in the case of fire, theft, or some kind of road accident and not when it could be attributed to “poor packing.”

What Impacts the Cost of a Moving Container?

There are several factors involved in the cost of a moving container. In general, short moves tend to be cheaper than long-distance ones, but where you start and end the trip is also a factor. A move from New York to Miami is more expensive than one from Philadelphia to Phoenix, even though it’s shorter and takes fewer days. Parking availability, container size, and the number of containers also influence the price.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long can you use a moving container?

    As long as you’re willing to pay for it. Moving container companies typically charge you a rental fee for every month you have the container in your possession, so as long as you’re paying, you can use it. You can also ask the company to retrieve the container and store it in its facilities for as long as you need. Some people rent a container and pay storage fees for years.

  • Can I insure my shipping container?

    Yes, you can. Most if not all moving companies offer some type of coverage with their services. Usually, your quote includes either a $5,000 or $10,000 content protection policy, which pays you up to the insured amount in the event of theft, fire, or accident. It also insures the container so that you’re not on the hook to replace it if anything happens to it. It’s important that you pay attention to the fine print and read all the details, because some policies may not cover any damage that could be attributed to poor packing.

  • Is there anything you shouldn’t put into a moving container?

    You should always check with the company you hire for the details of its policy, but here are some common no-nos: Flammable and explosive chemicals such as paint, paint thinner, gasoline, or any similar substance should never be put in a moving container. Other hazardous materials, such as toxic chemicals, waste, or gas are also not allowed. In some instances, motorized vehicles like motorcycles or lawn mowers are forbidden. Crucially, using the container for human or animal habitation is strictly prohibited.

  • What size do moving containers come in?

    It depends on the company. The most common container size is 8 feet, which can fit the contents of a studio apartment or a room and a half, more or less. However, some companies have up to three different sizes, often 8 feet, 12 feet, and 16 feet. Other companies, like Zippy Shell, offer 10-foot and 15-foot containers. U-Haul’s U-Boxes are less than 8 feet. When researching companies, make sure you understand which container sizes are available from each company.

  • What is the smallest shipping container for moving?

    U-Haul’s U-Box is the smallest, at 7 feet 11 inches long. Most moving companies’ smallest container is 8 feet, which will comfortably fit the contents of a studio apartment or maybe a room and a half, depending on the size of your furniture and how much stuff you own.

  • How do I know what size moving container to get?

    Many moving companies have moving calculators on their websites that can tell you exactly how many containers you’ll need depending on the size of your home. Descriptions of the containers will also tell you how much can fit inside them or what type of furniture they can carry. You can use that information to assess your needs and then double-check with a company sales agent. Some companies let you book multiple containers and won’t charge you for the ones you didn’t end up using, so make sure to ask about the company’s policy.

  • What’s the best way to pack a moving container?

    The key is to distribute the weight evenly. You want to put your heaviest furniture or boxes on the floor of the container and use them as a base for lighter items. You also want to use plenty of ropes or straps to secure your items and minimize shifting. Each moving container company has packing guides tailored to its specific containers on its website, so when you choose a company, look up its packing guide and follow it for your move.

  • Can I store a moving container?

    Yes, you can store a moving container. Most moving container companies actually offer storage services and will ask you during the quote process if you want to add them to your estimate. When choosing a company, make sure you ask the sales agent if you can access your container while it’s in storage. Most companies let you do this, but each has its own policies about when you need to give notice and on which days you can visit the storage facility, so get all the details before you book.

  • Are shipping containers storm-proof?

    Most moving containers are made out of steel and are weatherproof, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to the occasional leak. Some containers are made out of plywood and only covered by waterproof or water-resistant canvas, meaning a storm could damage your possessions if the container is left outside. Always check your insurance options to understand what type of damage is covered and under what circumstances.

  • Is there a weight limit for moving containers?

    Yes, and it depends on the container’s size and materials. The smallest steel moving containers, usually about 8 feet, can typically hold up to 4,000 pounds. Containers made out of wood have lower weight limits. For example, SmartBox’s containers can only hold up to 3,000 pounds, even though they’re 8 feet long, and U-Haul’s containers can only hold about 2,000 pounds. The largest containers, which are around 16 feet, can typically hold up to 6,000 pounds. Each company has different regulations, so check directly with your preferred company to find out how much weight its containers can sustain.


To find the best moving container companies, our research team reviewed more than 20 nationwide services, collecting a total of 589 data points. Ratings were created by assigning weights to each of the 31 moving criteria we considered.

Our top picks received high scores in heavily weighted areas such as customer experience (23 percent), pricing structure (20 percent), location coverage (20 percent), and storage services (20 percent).

The information presented here was verified by at least two data collectors through customer service calls. For more details on our research process and scoring system, head to our complete moving methodology page.

best moving container companies

AlterYourReality / Getty Images

More from The Spruce