Moving in 2020 and looking for the best portable container solution?
About 32 million Americans moved in 2018 according to the latest available data from the US Census.
That means about 1/10 people moved last year!
The most cited reasons for moving are:
- 16.4% of movers cite wanting a better home or apartment as the reason for their move.
- 12.6% of movers cite wanting to establish their own household as the reason for their move.
- 10.3% of movers cite a new job or transfer as the reason for the move.
- 7.9% of movers wanted more affordable housing.
- 7.3% of movers wanted to own instead of rent!
Of these 32 million Americans moving in 2018 only 19% hired professional movers.
34% of American movers rented a truck for their move, while 47% moved without any assistance.
Moving is extremely stressful!
That same research also shows that each move brings with it about 3 months and 3 days of moving-related stress!
One way to alleviate some of that stress without breaking the bank is to rent a portable storage container.
Portable storage containers are a great compromise between the full service of professional movers and the ruggedness of doing it yourself.
Here’s how portable storage containers work:
With a portable container service, the container is dropped off at your doorstep.
You don’t have to rent a truck or do your own driving, that’s all taken care of for you as part of the service.
Once the portable container is dropped off, you pack the container up with all your stuff.
Then when you’re ready a driver will pick up your portable storage container and take it to your destination.
But what about if you have some time between when you pack your stuff up and when it needs to be delivered?
Not a problem!
You can keep your loaded container at your house, or you can have the portable container stored at a secure facility.
If you are thinking about renting a portable storage container for your move, you might be confused about which portable storage container service is best for you.
In this article we will compare the 15 most popular Portable Storage Container Services, so you can find the perfect container at the perfect price.
We will rank portable storage container services based on affordability, types of portable containers offered, types of moves offered, and customer service.
Let’s get into the comparisons.
The 15 Best Portable Container Services for Moving in 2020!
1. Southwest Mobile Storage
About Southwest Mobile Storage: Southwest Mobile Storage was founded in 1995 and focuses entirely on the Southwest United States. SW Mobile Storage has branch offices in California, Arizona, and Colorado. In addition to providing portable storage containers, SW Mobile Storage operates its own fabrication department which can provide up to 22 different customizations to your portable storage unit. Southwest Mobile Storage uses ISO shipping containers which are made of 14-gauge corrugated steel.
Affordability: Southwest Mobile Storage is one of the most affordable portable storage providers out there and often runs specials on delivery or rentals.
Types of Containers offered: SW Mobile Storage offers 2 standard sizes of ISO containers, they are 8’ x 20’ and 8’ x 40’. The standard height is 8′ 6” however there are some 40’ high cubes containers that are 9′ 6″ tall. Southwest Mobile Storage has the ability to modify and cut down to nearly any size. containers.
Types of Moves Offered: Southwest Mobile Storage offers both local and nationwide moves from the 3 states they operate in.
Customer Service: Customer service is where Southwest Mobile Storage really shines! Southwest mobile consistently receives some of the highest ratings for customer service of all portable storage container services. As you can see from the reviews.
Pros of using Southwest Mobile Storage:
- Customer Service. The dedicated storage experts at Southwest Mobile Storage go above and beyond for their clients which is why SW Mobile has one of the highest loyalty rates in the entire industry.
- Affordability. When compared with other portable storage container services, Southwest Mobile is consistently more affordable than other services like Pods or COWs.
- Flexibility. Because Southwest Mobile has its own fabrication facility, they can provide any size shipping container you need with up to 22 different customizations. If you need a non-standard portable shipping container, Southwest Mobile Storage is one of the few portable storage providers who can accommodate you.
Cons of using Southwest Mobile Storage:
- Limited service area. Because Southwest Mobile Storage only operates in 3 states in the southwest united states, they are not an option for movers on the east coast of the country.
- Larger Standard Container Sizes. Unlike Pods and Relocube, the standard Southwest Mobile Storage container is 8 x 20. Smaller container sizes can be accommodated, but it may take longer since they would need to be cut down from larger units.
Who Should Use Southwest Mobile Storage?
Anyone in the Southwest United States looking for an affordable portable storage container with amazing customer service from storage experts who will go above and beyond to make sure your move goes smoothly!
2. Mobile Mini.
About Mobile Mini: Founded in 1983, Mobile Mini is one of the oldest and most established portable storage services.
Mobile Mini has over 150 locations in the US, 15 locations in the UK and 2 locations in Canada.
In addition to providing portable storage, Mobile Mini also provides tanks and pump products across the country.
Like Southwest Mobile Storage, Mobile Mini can customize their portable storage containers to their customer’s needs.
Affordability: The main knock on Mobile Mini is that it is expensive. Mobile Mini consistently ranks with Pods and 1–800-Pack-Rat as the most expensive options for renting a portable storage unit.
Types of containers offered: Mobile mini offers a wide variety of types of portable storage units from their standard 10’ footer to their custom 23’ record storage unit.
Types of Moves Offered: Mobile Mini offers both local and nationwide moves.
Customer Service: Mobile Mini offers customer service both online through live chat and over the phone. You may want to take a look at some of Mobile Mini’s reviews though, as they seem to have some problems with customer service.
Pros of using Mobile Mini:
- Availability. With over 150 locations in the US plus locations abroad, Mobile Minis are widely available.
- Types of containers. Mobile Mini offers a wide variety of containers for various moving needs.
Cons of using Mobile Mini:
- Customer Service. There’s no way around it, Mobile Mini has a bad reputation for customer service.
- Reliability. As you can see from the reviews it’s not entirely uncommon for Mobile Mini to just not show up on the day of a pickup or drop off.
- Affordability. Mobile Minis are more expensive than 12 of the other options on this list.
Who Should Use Mobile Mini?
People who are looking for a specific type of portable storage container in a location without a lot of other options.
About Allied: With over 85 years of experience according to its website, Allied is one of the oldest and most experienced moving companies in the entire United States.
Allied is a full-service moving company that uses portable storage units, rather than a portable storage company.
What that means is that while Allied will rent you a portable storage unit, they also offer additional services like packing, unpacking, and even the removal of your moving boxes.
Affordability: Because Allied is a full-service moving company and not a portable storage company they are markedly more expensive than the other services offered. They do offer a do it yourself packing option which is still a bit more expensive than most of the other options on this list!
Types of containers offered: Allied does not list the sizes of their portable shipping containers on their website but does offer different packages based on the size of your move.
Types of Moves Offered: Allied offers both local and nationwide moves.
Customer Service: Allied’s website says it prides itself on offering great customer service but a quick look at their reviews on Yelp tells a different story.
Pros of using Allied Moving Company:
- Full Service Moving. Allied is one of the only full-service moving companies on this list.
- Availability. With locations across the US, Allied offers a lot of availability.
Cons of using Allied Moving Company:
- Affordability. Because Allied is a full-service moving company, their do it yourself options are more expensive than many other competitors on this list.
- Customer Service. Allied’s customer service seems to leave a lot to be desired.
- Inaccurate Pickup Windows. Allied gives a 3-day window for picking up your stuff and judging from the reviews they are not particularly accommodating for movers who need their stuff on a particular day.
Who Should Use Allied?
You should use Allied if you are looking for a full-service moving company, are comfortable spending thousands of dollars on your move and do not have a specific moving date.
4. Pro Box.
About Probox: Probox is an Arizona based on-site storage company. Probox is one of the newer entrants to the portable storage business and at the time of this writing only offers portable storage containers at two locations in Phoenix and Tucson.
Affordability: Because Probox only offers portable storage containers in Phoenix and Tucson they are one of the more affordable providers of portable storage containers on the list.
Types of containers offered: Probox offers 15 ft, 20 ft, 25 ft, and 40 ft containers as well as add ons like shelving, pipe racks and ramps.
Types of Moves Offered: Probox only offers local moves in the Phoenix and Tucson areas.
Customer Service: Probox has great reviews on Yelp and on their website, they go out of their way to say
“We are more than a storage container company; we just do the right thing. Always. Even if that means it hurts our bottom line.”
Pros of using Probox:
- Affordability. Probox along with Southwest Mobile Storage is one of the most affordable portable storage providers on this list.
- Customer service. Probox has stellar reviews and goes out of its way to mention customer service on its website several times.
Cons of using Probox:
- Probox does not offer moving services per se. Probox’s website and business seem to be focused on contractors first and everything else second. While you can move with Probox it’s not an advertised service and requires a call to their customer service team and additional fees.
- Small service area. Probox offers the smallest service area of all the companies on this list providing services to just Phoenix and Tucson.
Who Should Use Probox?
People in Phoenix or Tucson who have small moves, and don’t care about using a company that doesn’t specialize in moving.
About Pods: Pods is one of the best known and most popular portable storage unit companies in the world. Pods were founded in Clearwater Florida (Home of Scientology) in 1988 by Peter Warhurst looking to expand his family storage business. Warhurst himself invented both the PODS container and the “Podzilla” hydraulic lift system that allows operators to easily deliver the units.
In 2014 PODS was bought by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan.
Affordability: Pods are the most expensive option for portable storage on this entire list. According to comparison site HireAHelper the average cost of a long-distance move using a PODS moving container is a whopping $3,253.
Types of containers offered: PODS offer 3 sizes of pods: A 7’ X 7’ X 8’ unit, a 12’ X 8’ X 8’ unit and a 16’ X 8’ X 8’ unit. Pods do not offer custom units at the time of this writing.
Types of Moves Offered: PODS offer both local and nationwide moves.
Customer Service: Pods customer service seems to leave a lot to be desired according to their reviews.
Pros of using PODS:
- Availability. PODS are available nationwide.
- Pay by the day means you can pack on your own schedule. Unlike other companies that have a tighter delivery and pick up window, PODS allow you to pay by the day so you can take your time. As long as you don’t mind paying extra.
Cons of using PODS:
- Affordability. PODS is by far the most expensive option on this list.
- Quotes take a long time. PODS has the slowest system for delivering quotes on the entire list.
- Pay for what you order, regardless of what you need. Customers must pay for all PODS they order whether they end up using them or not.
Who Should Use PODS?
People who don’t mind spending extra money, who have planned out how many pods they need exactly but might need a more flexible packing window.
6. ABF U-Pack Relocube Moving Containers
About ABF U-Pack: Founded in 1997, U-pack offers portable storage with its proprietary Relocube
Moving Containers. U-pack operates across the United States and prides itself on offering “moving quotes for every need and budget.” Every ReloCube is made of durable metal, sits directly on the ground, and can hold up to one room of furniture and boxes.
Affordability: Relocubes is the second most expensive option on our list with an average 30-day move cost of $2,330 according to moving.com’s Hireahelper Comparison tool.
Types of containers offered: Relocubes only come in one size: 6’3” X 7 X 8’4.” Each cube is designed to hold the furniture and boxes from one room meaning you will need one relocube per room for your move, which can add up quickly.
Types of Moves Offered: ABF U-Pack offers long distance moves only. No local moves.
Customer Service: U-pack offers friendly knowledgeable customer service over the phone and on their website as evidenced by their reviews.
Pros of using ABF U-Pack:
- Flexible payment. Unlike PODS which will charge you for the units you ordered regardless of whether or not you use them, ABF U-Pack allows you to reserve as many Relocubes as you want, but only charges you for the cubes you use.
- U-Pack also provides a handy moving space estimator tool.
Cons of using ABF U-Pack:
- Long-distance moves only. That means if you’re just moving across town, you can’t use ABF U-Pack.
- Only one size of cube. ABF U-Pack only offers one size of Relocube and that size is pretty small. If you have a 5–8 room home, you will need cubes for each room and that can add up quickly.
- 3-day load and unload window. Unlike PODs which allow you to load and unload on your own schedule, ABF U-Pack uses a strict 3-day system for loading and unloading, regardless of your schedule.
Who Should Use ABF U-Pack?
People who are doing long-distance moves, with small homes. If you are moving across town or have a large home, ABF U-Pack is not the right solution for you.
7. 1–800 Pack Rat.
About 1–800-Pack-Rat: Founded in 2001 by a mysterious “ North Carolina Entrepreneur” who jokingly referred to his invention as a “Pack Rat” because of its ability to store everything, 1–800-Pack-Rat was purchased by the Virgo investment group and merged with Zippy Shells in 2017. 1–800-Pack-Rat pledges total customer satisfaction and includes a $10,000 “Contents protection plan” with its long-distance moves.
Affordability: 1–800-Pack Rat is not cheap. In fact, while they were not the most expensive overall by average, 1–800-Pack-Rat did have the most expensive long-distance move as measured by Hireahelper clocking in at an average cost of $3,468 per long-distance move!
Types of containers offered: 1–800-Pack-Rat offers 3 sizes of containers: 8.5’ X 7.2’ X 7.8, 12 X 7.75’ X 7.5’, and 16’ X 7.75 X 7.5’
Types of Moves Offered: 1–800-Pack-Rat offers both local and long-distance moves.
Customer Service: As you can see from their reviews, 1–800-Pack-Rat struggles with customer service and often quotes one price then charges another, misses pickups and destroys property among other various complaints.
Pros of using 1–800-PACK-RAT.
- Claims (Unverified) to be the most weatherproof moving container on the market.
- Has an easy to use moving space estimator (Though there are many reports of additional charges for fuel etc., so read all contracts closely.)
- Provides a free lock and $10,000 contents protection.
Cons of using 1–800-PACK-RAT:
- Affordability. Especially for long-distance moves where it is easily the most expensive option
- Availability. 1–800-PACK-RAT doesn’t have as many locations as some of its competitors including several states that only have one location total.
Who should use 1–800-PACK-RAT?
1–800-PACK-RAT is a good choice for people who want a more flexible timeline for their move and are not super concerned about price.
About Smartbox: Founded in 2002 by Bryan Bostic, Smartbox differentiates itself by using wood containers instead of metal ones. The Smartbox cubes are made of wood and come with a vinyl cover to protect the boxes from rain and other bad weather. Smartbox claims that the wood cubes provide additional protection against extreme temperatures but there doesn’t appear to be much science to support that theory.
Affordability: Smartbox is one of the more affordable portable storage companies on this list. Smartbox does provide a price match guarantee as well.
Types of containers offered: Smartbox only offers one type of container a 8 X 5 X 7 wood box.
Types of Moves Offered: Smartbox offers both local and long-distance moves.
Customer Service: Smartbox’s customer service leaves a lot to be desired as you can see from their reviews.
Pros of using Smartbox:
- Affordability. Smartbox is one of the more affordable portable storage providers on this list.
- 30 days of storage included. If you need to store your stuff with Smartbox they provide storage space for free.
Cons of using Smartbox:
- Wood moving boxes. Unless Smartbox has invented a new kind of weather-resistant wood, there is no way that wood moving boxes are going to offer the same protection from the elements and damage that an ISO steel storage container can.
- Small containers. Because Smartbox only has one size of container, if you have a lot of stuff, you’re going to end up paying for a lot of containers.
Who Should Use Smartbox?
People who have a small move like from a dorm or studio apartment who are going to moving during a time or to a location where the weather is not a concern.
9. U-Haul U-Boxes.
About U-Haul U-Boxes: While U-Haul was founded in 1945, they have only been offering the U-box portable storage service since 2007. Before 2007 U-Haul strictly operated as a truck and moving equipment service aimed at people who wanted to pack and move themselves. In 2017 U-Haul acquired portable storage company Door to Door and all their containers in 20 states across the US.
Affordability: U-Haul U-Boxes are right in the middle of this list as far as price goes. They are not one of the most expensive or one of the least expensive options on the list.
Types of containers offered: Like Smartbox, U-Haul U-Boxes are made of wood, rather than steel and come in one size: 7.9′ x 4.6′ x 6.9′
Types of Moves Offered: U-Haul U-Boxes can be used in local, long-distance and even international moves.
Customer Service: Because U-Boxes is a service offered by U-Haul it is difficult to find reviews specifically for the U-box service but you can see U-Haul reviews here.
Pros of using U-Haul U-Boxes:
- Available for international moves. If you’re looking to move internationally U-Haul U-Boxes is one of the only options on this list.
- Flexible timeline for packing, loading, and unloading. U-Haul has one of the most flexible schedules for the delivery of the services listed in this article.
Cons of using U-Haul U-Boxes:
- Non-weatherproof containers. Like Smartbox, U-Haul U-Boxes use wooden containers instead of the more weather resistant steel ISO containers used by other companies like Southwest Mobile Storage.
- Only One Container Size. U-Haul U-Boxes only come in the 7.9′ x 4.6′ x 6.9′ size which is fairly small. That means you are going to need multiple containers for most moves.
Who Should Use U-Haul U-Boxes?
People who are moving internationally and don’t have to worry about bad weather.
10. Zippy Shell
About Zippy Shell: Founded in Australia in 2007 by Gareth Taylor and Adam Gilchrist, Zippy Shell launched in the US in 2010. In June of 2015 Zippy Shell was purchased by Virgo LLC who also owns 1–800-PACK-RAT. As you’ll see in just a few minutes, Zippy Shell and 1–800-Pack-Rat have very different business models and pricing.
Affordability: Zippy Shells is less expensive than 1–800-PACK-RAT which is the most expensive option on our list for long-distance moves. But just because it’s less expensive than the most expensive option does not mean that Zippy shells are affordable. While Zippy Shells promotes themselves as giving customers the convenience of portable storage at the cost of traditional storage, Zippy Shells would be the most expensive traditional storage service on the market.
Types of containers offered: Zippy Shells offers two sizes of containers: 10′ x 7′ x 7′ and 15′ x 7′ x 7′.
Types of Moves Offered: Zippy Shells offers both local and long-distance moves.
Customer Service: Zippy shells seems to have some customer service problems especially with getting containers delivered on time and hidden fees. You can see their reviews here.
Pros of using Zippy Shell:
- Street legal containers can be parked on the street. Zippy Shell’s major advantage is that they deliver containers equipped with a license plate and wheels so they can be parked anywhere.
- Offers 30 days of free storage with every long-distance move. If you are moving long-distance and need to store your stuff for up to 30 days, Zippy Shell will store it for free.
Cons of using Zippy Shell:
- Delivery fees. Customers must pay a delivery fee if they want the container delivered to their home.
- Affordability. As mentioned earlier Zippy Shell is one of the more expensive options out there, especially when compared to traditional storage as they do in their marketing. If Zippy Shell were a traditional storage company, they would be the most expensive ones in the market.
- Inflexible loading and unloading windows. Zippy Shell only gives you a 3-day window to load your container.
Who Should Use Zippy Shells?
People without a car who are moving from an apartment without a driveway or designated moving space and are not super concerned about getting the lowest price possible.
About COWs: COWs stands for Container On Wheels and was founded in 2009 by the owner of a well-established fabrication company that specialized in the fabrication and modification of ISO steel containers. The first COWs dealership was opened in Lubbock Texas in 2009. One thing that makes COWs interesting is that they are a franchise-based organization with each COWs location owned by a local neighborhood moving company or self-storage facility.
Affordability: COWs are solidly in the middle of this list in terms of affordability. COWs aren’t super expensive like PODs or 1–800-PACK-RAT but they are not super affordable like Southwest Mobile Storage either.
Types of containers offered: COWs come in two sizes: 8′ x 6’8” x 7’4” and 16′ x 6’8” x 7’4.”
Types of Moves Offered: COWs offer both local and long-distance moves.
Customer Service: Because COWs are operated by franchise owners, customer service can vary from location to location. Check out some of their reviews here.
Pros of using COWs:
- Offers 3 different levels of service: Do it yourself, a hybrid option and a full-service done for your move.
- Provides convenient mobile storage. Because COWs come with wheels they are easy to move around to make your packing easier.
Cons of using COWs:
- The COWs website is not very user-friendly. The website is difficult to navigate and doesn’t provide much in the way of information or pricing.
- Franchise quality varies by location. Because COWs are a franchise there is not much quality control or oversite between locations. This means you can have totally different experiences from one franchise to the next on everything from pricing to customer service.
Who Should Use COWs?
People who do their research before booking and are looking for assistance with their move in addition to a portable storage container.
12. Go Minis
About Go Minis: Go Minis was founded in 2002 in New Hampshire by moving company Diggins and Rose. Since adding portable storage containers to their service offerings, Go Minis has branched out across the rest of the united states. Go Minis offers full-service moving, a hybrid model and do it yourself moving containers.
Affordability: Go Minis is one of the most affordable services offered for local moves, but because they have limited locations their long-distance moves can be a bit more expensive than average.
Types of containers offered: Go Minis offers 3 sizes of containers: 12′ x 8′ x 8′, 16′ x 8′ x 8′, and 20′ x 8′ x 8. ′
Types of Moves Offered: All Go mini locations offer local moves, but only certain locations offer long-distance moves.
Customer Service: Go Minis has a 100% customer satisfaction policy but as you can see from the reviews customer service seems to vary from location to location.
Pros of using Go Minis:
- Go Mini claims to have more tie-downs than any other competitor. Do they? We don’t know. But it sounds good.
- Weatherproof containers. Go Minis use ISO steel containers that offer protection from bad weather unlike Smart boxes and other wooden options.
Cons of using Go Minis:
- Each location is individually owned so service can vary greatly from location to location. Be sure to check reviews at the location you are thinking about renting from.
- Long-distance moves are not available at every location. Be sure to confirm that the location you are renting from does long-distance moves.
Who Should Use Go Minis?
People who are moving locally and don’t mind doing a bit of research to make sure that the branch they use has good customer service.
About Pacvan: Pacvan was founded in 1993, Pacvan’s founding goals were to supply an excellent product, competitive value and the highest possible levels of local, personal service. In 2008 Pacvan was purchased by the General Finance Corporation, a multi-national, publicly-traded company based in Pasadena, California.
Affordability: Pacvan is one of the more expensive options on this list.
Types of containers offered: Pacvan offers two sizes of containers: 20’ X 8’ X 8’6’ and 40’ X 8’ X 8’6”
Types of Moves Offered: Pacvan offers both local and long-distance moves.
Customer Service: While Pacvan mentions providing excellent customer service in their marketing materials, their reviews tell a different story.
Pros of using Pacvan:
- Offices across the US means it is easy to find a location near you. Pacvan has locations in 31 of the 50 states as well as 2 Canadian locations.
Cons of using Pacvan:
- No additional moving services. While you can use Pacvan to move both locally and long-distance it doesn’t offer any of the additional done for you services some of the other brands offer.
- A disturbing history of property damage. A lot of Pacvans review mention that the delivery or pick up of a container did damage to the customer’s property.
Who Should Use Pacvan?
People who don’t have any other options for moving their stuff and want to use an ISO steel shipping container.
14. Cool Box.
About Coolbox: Founded in 2007 by a family in Tucson Arizona, Cool Box offers moving and storage services in 6 states throughout the United States. Cool Box currently operates in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah. One of Cool Box’s main advertising points is that they are more affordable than PODs, which sounds good until you remember that PODs are one of the most expensive options on this list. While Cool Box is cheaper than PODs that doesn’t necessarily make them affordable.
Affordability: Cool Box is one of the most expensive options on this list.
Types of containers offered: Cool Box offers 3 sizes of containers: 12’ X 8’ X 7’, 16’ X 8’ X 8” and 20’ X 8’ X 8”.
Types of Moves Offered: Cool Box only offers local moves.
Customer Service: Cool Box advertises their superior customer service and lack of hidden fees but as you can see from the reviews, that’s not always the case.
Pros of using Coolbox:
- Cool Box is less expensive than PODs. Cool Box is not the most expensive option on this list.
- Cool Box offers price-matching. Cool Box has a price-matching policy on its website, though we could not find evidence of any customers using the price matching to save money.
Cons of using Coolbox:
- Limited locations. Coolbox only operates in 6 states so if you don’t live in one of those states, they are not an option.
- No Long-Distance Moves. Cool Box only does local moves.
Who Should Use Coolbox?
People in Texas, Oklahoma or the other 6 states who are not super price conscious and don’t have a lot of fragile stuff that could be damaged.
In this article, you learned about 14 of the best portable container services that offer moving services.
You’re now ready to make an educated decision about what the best portable storage container service is for your move.
We might be a bit biased but we truly believe that Southwest mobile Storage is the best option for moving with a portable container service.
And if you want to get a quote right away from one of our qualified shipping container experts who brought you this guide, you can fill out a quick quote form on our website or give us a call at 1–800–686–9114.