If you’ve got a move or remodeling project coming up (or maybe both!), you may be thinking about renting a container as part of your plan. But if you’ve never used a portable moving and storage container before, you might not be sure if it’s what you need.
To help you decide if a portable moving container is the best choice for you, we’ve put together this roundup of tips and advice from people who’ve used them. Makes sense, right? Their stories represent some of the main reasons people choose portable containers instead of traditional movers, rental trucks, or self-storage units:
- Moving combined with downsizing and decluttering
- Relocating after retiring
- Job relocation
- Last-minute moves
- Moving cross-country with one or more cars
- Storing furniture while getting new floors
In all but one case, this was the first time these folks had ever used containerized moving or storage, and they weren’t sure how it worked. That leads us to our first tip:
1. Research and ask questions about what to expect when renting a container
Like anything you’re not familiar with, you may not have the full picture when it comes to containers. For instance, Katherine Tuttle was surprised when a friend recommended PODS after her Atlanta home sold faster than expected, leading to a last-minute move. “I’d seen PODS containers around, but I never really thought about them for moving … I guess I always thought they were for storage,” she recalls. But when her friend explained that “you just get the container early, pack it up at your leisure, and then they come pick it up and take it to your new place, I was like, ‘That is genius,’ I never thought of that.” After making eight moves in six years, Katherine said using a container made it the “least stressful move” she’d experienced.
In the case of Ethan Hethcote, the first time he and his partner moved across the country, they knew they wanted “some type of moving container service” to get their stuff from Bloomington, Indiana, to Los Angeles while they drove both their cars. After doing preliminary research online, Ethan called PODS to find out more. “I’m really a fan of their customer service … they took their time and explained everything,” said Ethan. In fact, they liked it so much, they used PODS again when they decided to leave LA and move to Nashville.
See these links to learn more about how PODS works based on how you want to use your container:
2. Take your time!
By far, the most frequent advice from PODS customers is to pack and load at your own pace, because flexibility is the main thing they liked most about using a moving and storage container.
For example, when Jehlisah Rae and her husband had to move while she was several months pregnant, they knew they couldn’t cram all their moving into just one day. Even though their new Pittsburgh area home was just three miles away from their townhouse, they didn’t want to go with a DIY rental truck as they’d always done before. She said getting a PODS container delivered to their driveway in advance gave them the breathing room they needed to get their packing and loading done gradually over the course of a few weeks.
“Everything was so easy,” said Jehlisah, explaining how the ability to do a little at a time helped her feel less stressed, even while working full-time and caring for their toddler daughter.
3. Size up your container needs
For long-distance moves, PODS customers can choose from two container sizes: 8-foot and 16-foot. For local moves, there are three container size options: 8-foot, 12-foot, and 16-foot. Most customers we talked to used the online moving and storage calculator tool and size chart to figure out how much space they needed, in addition to getting advice from a customer service representative. In all but one case, the PODS container sizes they chose provided enough space.
For example, Ethan and his partner made both their cross-country moves in one 8-foot container. On their way out to LA, it was no problem. But when they headed back east, even though they still lived in a one-bedroom apartment, he admitted they’d accumulated a bit more stuff. “So we decided we wanted to downsize and just trim the fat,” he said. They held a yard sale a month before they moved, and “then we had just enough things that would fit.”
Even with the downsizing, they fit a lot of stuff in that 8-foot container: “We had a king-size bed, mattress and box-spring, and a queen-size mattress. Plus a lot of other stuff. We also had four bikes: two regular and two electric bikes.”
Still, if you’re in doubt about the size, one strategy is to simply order the next size up if you think you might need more space.
For example, when Stacye and her husband retired and downsized from a five-bedroom home in Columbia, Maryland, to a two-bedroom home in Phoenix, Arizona, they under-estimated the space they needed. After filling a 16-foot and 8-foot container, they still needed more space, so they ordered a third container. If they had it to do over again, they would have started with two 16-foot containers. “Whatever you think you need, add some space to that,” she advised.
Another strategy if you’re ordering multiple containers is to have them delivered one at a time (called “staggered deliveries”) so you can load the first and see how much more space you still need. That way, you can adjust the next container order if needed.
But choosing a container size really depends on the size of your household, how much stuff you have, and how much downsizing you’re willing to do. Which leads us to our next tip…
4. Have containers delivered early to help downsize and declutter
Since you get a full 30 days when you rent a container with PODS, many customers get their containers delivered in advance to help them declutter and downsize as they pack and load gradually. You can put furniture, boxes, and other belongings in your container to help you stay organized while you’re sorting things and making decisions.
“Just because something goes in doesn’t mean it stays in,” said Sherry and John of the popular Young House Love podcast when they used a PODS container to help their family of four downsize. They went from a sprawling 3,150-square-foot home in Richmond, Virginia, to a home less than half that size so they could live on the beach in the Florida panhandle. They managed to fit everything they really needed into a 16-foot container.
5. Take control with tools like moving checklists and packing and loading tips
In addition to the moving calculator, many customers are fans of PODS’ Ultimate Moving Checklist and packing and loading tips. The downloadable checklist helps you stay on track with a week-by-week, step-by-step guide to everything you need to do for a successful move. The packing and loading video and tips are also essential for maximizing container space and helping to minimize damage to your belongings.
One of the tips that Stacye and other customers stress is to create an inventory of what you’re packing and where you put it — especially if you’re using multiple containers. Your inventory list should include the:
- Container number
- Category of items to go in that container (e.g., kitchen, living room furniture, clothing, recreational)
- List of items going in the container
6. Simplify moving in stages when you have time between homes
Many people use temporary housing or short-term rentals when they have a gap between long-term homes. Customers tell us that’s when PODS makes the relocation process much easier, because they can keep most of their belongings locked up inside their own container in a secure PODS Storage Center. If they need access to something, it’s easy to schedule a visit, and their container will be waiting for them when they arrive. Once they’ve decided on their new home, their container is delivered. In contrast, with traditional moving services and rental trucks, customers have to unload and reload multiple times, not to mention paying to move twice!
Temporary housing is a typical scenario for professionals relocating for a job. For instance, Paul Tucker, who relocated from San Antonio, Texas, to Tampa Bay when he got hired as PODS’ new digital director, said he and his wife always rent before buying when they move to a new area so they have time to get to know the neighborhoods and make better home-buying decisions. While they’d always used traditional movers for job relocations in the past, he said containerized moving was a “game-changer” for his family. “Using containers made this our easiest move ever,” said Paul, who has relocated several times either for his own career or his wife’s.
7. Get and pay only for the moving help you need
While renting a container doesn’t include loading or unloading your belongings, several customers used PODS’ referral network to hire local moving help by the hour. “It’s worth it, because the pros know what they’re doing. They’re familiar with loading containers, so they’ll get the most out of your space,” said Paul.
But he also used the flexibility to pay only for what he needed. When it came time to unload at the home they purchased, the ease of ground-level containers enabled him to save money by hiring help only for moving the heavy furniture. This also enabled Paul and his wife to unpack gradually and even downsize more by having a local furniture dealer pick up furniture pieces to sell on consignment. “We didn’t even have to unload certain items because they were picked up and sold instead,” Paul recalled. They also had only one container delivered at a time, so once one was empty, the next was delivered.
8. Clear the way for remodeling
Besides moving, another common reason for renting a container is to store stuff while you’re remodeling. Diane Galow Hertel of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, did exactly that when she and her husband got new flooring.
They were concerned about protecting their fine furniture while their contractor replaced almost 2,100 square feet of oak and travertine tile with real hickory flooring. Although this was only part of their home, they wanted to make sure the rest would be livable. They also could have used their garage, but “that’s not the cleanest environment…I didn’t want my good furniture sitting in a garage. We talked about a self-storage unit for some of our more expensive furniture, but the idea of hiring a company to move it made no sense. Plus, you never know what you’re getting when you get a storage facility, how clean it will be.”
After she thought of renting a PODS container and checked it out, “that was a no-brainer,” she said. Although her husband was skeptical at first, the experience went so well, they planned to use containers for the next two phases of their home flooring project. “The container was clean, we could lock it, and having it made the process so easy and effortless,” said Diane.
The timing was good, too. Since their floors were completed in three weeks, a one-month container rental allowed plenty of time.
Choose the moving solution that’s right for your needs
Moving and storage containers make a great match for many customers, but they aren’t for everyone. While they appeal to people who prefer to maintain more control over their move and belongings, some folks would rather not have anything to do with the moving process — and are willing to pay more to hand it all over.
The important thing is to make the choice that best fits your specific needs. In addition to reading tips and reviews shared by PODS customers, you can learn more by getting an online quote for local moves, or by calling (855) 706-4758 to ask questions and get quotes for both local and long-distance moves.
Some customers quoted in this article were sponsored influencers or employees of PODS.
Liz Taylor is a freelance writer based in Tampa who is always looking for ways to declutter after living in the same house for 28 years.