Portable Moving and Storage Review: U-Haul U-Box Vs. PODS
I have been bouncing from one end of the country to the other as my beau and I pursue our graduate degrees. Having moved three times now in three years, I’d like to think I’ve gotten it pretty much down.
Update: U-Box has changed a lot since I wrote this article. For my more recent experiences with U-Box, please see my second review. Also check out Moving to Canada with U-Haul U-Box; hopefully you can avoid the problems I ran into there.
Your Choices When Moving
When it comes to moving, the perpetually broke college/grad student generally has three options:
- Ship everything. This works best if you are leaving a dorm and have little to no furniture to take with you. It also works best if you have an intermediate location (ie parent, friend or relative) to hold your stuff and ship it to you once you have a new address. I did this as I moved out of my dorm in Portland, OR, and into my apartment for grad school in Pittsburgh, PA.
- Move it yourself. This generally requires a truck and some burly friends. I have steered clear of this generally because of long highway hours and gas prices. (Though now that I actually have a car to move cross-country anyway, I may be revisiting this option).
- Portable moving and storage, made famous by PODS and, in my opinion, perfected by the U-Haul U-Box.
How Portable Moving and Storage Works
Here’s how it works: you call Moving Company and tell them that you’re moving and what size crate you want. Moving Company drops off a crate at your doorstep at your requested date. After you’ve filled the crate, you call them, and they take it away, store it for however long you need. When you arrive at your new home, you call up Moving Company and they drop off the crate at your new doorstep. You unload the crate, and they take their crate back. So easy. So convenient.
As my boyfriend and I prepared to leave Pittsburgh for St. Louis, we had originally planed to do option #1 again--ship everything--but despite getting all our furniture on Craig’s List, we came across a couple pieces we decided were worth keeping. This, of course, made option #1 unfeasible, and so began our research into on-demand storage and shipping.
Started in 1998, PODS is perhaps the most well-known on-demand storage company, if not the pioneer of the business.
Their containers come in three sizes: 8x7x7, 8x8x12, and 8x8x16, however only the smallest and biggest sizes are available for moving. They also partner with packing services if you need a hand boxing and unboxing your precious items.
Despite PODS being well-known and well-established, I found them to be pricey and inflexible the more I looked. First of all, they require your email address to give you a quote, and for most long distance moves you end up having to call them anyway. I personally like to shop around a little more before dealing with a live person.
When I called them and requested a quote on their smallest container, the representative’s first question was not “Where are you moving to/from?” but “How much are you moving?” Upon my response of “A 1 bedroom apartment,” she immediately answered “Oh, the 8x7x7 won’t be big enough.” But of course the mid-size is not available for moving, so she proceeded to try to talk me into getting the 8x8x16 which would be ridiculous. Besides this, I was rather miffed that she imply I didn’t know how much stuff I had in my own apartment. Yes, on paper it was a 1 bedroom apartment, but it was so small it might as well have been a studio. Plus all we were moving was a mattress, a sofa, a table and an assortment of boxes. Even the 8x7x7 would have been spacious.
I finally got her to give me a quote for the 8x7x7, and, as a perpetually broke grad student, the price made my teeth grit: $99 a month for storage (we would be storing for 2-3 months), and about $900 to ship from Pittsburgh to St. Louis. With two people it was certainly doable in our budget, but it would still hurt.
At the time we were moving, spring of 2009, U-Haul had just started their U-Box program. We didn’t even know about it until my dad stumbled across it in a fortuitous web search.
Unlike PODS, U-Box has one container size that is a little smaller: 7.5x7x5 However they make it easy to get as many as you need. They have a convenient chart on their home page clearly showing approximately how much each box holds, and how many boxes you might need for any given number of rooms. If I recall correctly, you can even have them drop off an extra one if your not sure how many you need, and if you don’t use it, you don’t pay anything extra.
The added benefit of these smaller boxes is that they take up a smaller footprint, which is really nice on narrow, downtown streets. While the smallest of the PODS is 7 feet wide, a U-Box fits neatly into a standard sized parking space without sticking out into the street. The standardizes size also lets U-Haul easily stack a bunch of these on a flatbed truck which probably helps them keep shipping costs down.
The cost for a U-Box was significantly cheaper than for the smallest of the PODS. One U-Box (which fit the contents of our tiny apartment perfectly) cost about $60 a month to store, and shipping from Pittsburgh to St. Louis was less than $500.
You can get a quote online without an email address or phone call, and can even book your U-Box online.
Whatever moving options you pick of course depends on your needs. U-Box may be cheaper, but their boxes are also smaller. If you’ve got an eight foot sofa, you’re probably going to have to go with PODS.
Needless to say, we chose U-Box for our last move, and will be considering them again in the future. In my experience, I found them much more convenient and cost-effective, and the personnel friendly and helpful. Plus the smaller box fit our small amount of furniture perfectly.
Of course, my experience with PODS ended with getting a quote. If you have had experience with them, or have discovered other lesser known portable storage companies, feel free to share!