Mobile Storage Units - An Alternative Home or Office Moving Solution

Moving your home, apartment, or office is never an easy task. I've moved six times within the past 10 years, and I can tell you from experience, it can be a costly and exhausting endeavor. Recently, I moved again and was looking for an alternative to the moving van, so I decided to try a mobile storage unit. If you are considering using a mobile storage unit service, such as PODS, PackRat, or U-Haul Boxes, here are a few suggestions from my own (independent) research and experience that I hope will help guide you in the right direction.

What is a Mobile Storage Unit?

A mobile storage unit is a large weather-proof container that can be easily transferred by the service provider. Typically, the unit is available in a variety of sizes for personal or commercial use, and it can be rented on a monthly basis with no long-term contract. The unit can be delivered to your location where you can load it, keep it, store it, or you can have it transferred to another location of your choosing.

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How Can a Mobile Storage Unit Help Me With My Move?

Whether you are moving locally or cross-country, a mobile storage unit can help make your move easier. Here's how it works:

The unit is delivered > You load it > You call to schedule a transfer > The unit is picked up and transferred to a new location of your choosing > You unload it > You call to schedule the final pickup.

This process may take place over the course of the 30-day rental period, or it could take less/more time, depending on your situation.

Is a Mobile Storage Unit Right For You?

So, you've decided to move. What will be the most cost and time effective way for you to accomplish the task? Here are some of the traditional methods of moving with pros and cons to consider.

Professional Movers

Pros:

  • Time and energy saver. All you have to do is pack, and let the pros do the heavy lifting (literally).
  • Your items are insured against damage.

Cons:

  • Price. Professional movers can cost anywhere from $500 to several thousand dollars, depending on the amount of items being moved and the distance between locations.
  • Unexpected Fees: If your moving van passes a weigh station on the way to your new location, there could be additional fees for your transport. I had to learn this the hard way. If a moving company has miscalculated the weight of your items, there may be an extra cost to complete your delivery. In my case, I had to come up with an extra $500 on-the-spot to have my items unloaded.

Moving Van

Pros:

  • Price. Depending on the amount of items being moved and the distance between locations, renting a moving van (such as U-Haul) can be a good choice. Typically, the rental fees are around $100-$150 per day for a local move, plus the cost of refilling the gas tank.

Cons:

  • Time. Moving van rental companies charge by the day. You will need to be sure that you can complete your move in a timely manner before choosing this option. If you need more time, you will be stuck paying an extra day(s) worth of fees.
  • Moving Help. Unless you are able to physically move your items on your own, you will need to either a) enlist the help of friends and family or b) hire haulers. Asking for help from your friends and family is the cheapest route, but it may also put undue stress on those relationships. Remember, asking someone to help you move is a big deal, and you should at least offer food and drinks in exchange for their help. Hiring haulers to help load and unload your truck can add to your bill. Most companies charge $100-200 per hour, and they may/may not offer insurance for your items.

Mobile Storage Units

Pros:

  • Price: Renting a mobile storage unit may have a high up-front cost, but the fee typically includes rent for an entire month (30 days). In some cases, the fees may be staggered. For instance, you may pay half the rent when the unit is delivered and half when the unit is transferred.
  • Time. Rather than squeezing your moving into 1 day, you have the ability to load/unload your items at your leisure over the course of 30 days.

Cons:

  • Moving Help. Just like with a moving van, you may need to get help loading/unloading your unit. (See 'Moving Help' under Moving Van Cons)
  • Time. You may or may not want to move your items over the course of 30 days. For some people, this could be too long. It may make your move seem like it is taking longer than it should. The question is: Would you rather move over 1-2 very intense days, or would you rather space it out over a month? Keep in mind: You are under no obligation to keep the unit for an entire month. You may be able to complete your move within 1-2 weeks.

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Pricing

Let's get down to the dirty details. Rental of a mobile storage unit will have varied pricing based on your location and the size of the unit needed. Let's assume you are conducting a local move. If you have a 1 bedroom apartment, an entire month may cost you around $150. If you are moving a house or a business, the cost will be closer to $300. If you are traveling more than 60 miles, you will need to call around to get quotes.

Choosing a Service

There most important things to consider when choosing a mobile storage company to help with your move are:

Price

Many of the national companies (such as PODS and U-Haul Boxes) will having higher pricing. So, be sure to check your local yellow pages for local companies who will most likely have a more reasonable rate. I was able to save at least $50 on my recent move by choosing a local company.


Condition of the Unit

If you have heavy furniture or equipment, you will want to be sure to choose a company who offers a quality unit. Many companies advertise metal units, but then you discover they are metal on the outside and wood on the inside. Try to find an all-metal unit, if possible. Also, make sure the unit has tie down points inside, so that you can secure your items with bungees. This will be an important detail that you don't want to ignore.


Customer Service

So, you found a great price and a great mobile unit. I can tell you from experience: If your company has poor customer service, neither of those things will make a difference. There is nothing worse than sitting around on your moving day and realizing that the company is a no-show or they've lost/damaged your unit. When calling around for price quotes, try to get a sense of who you're working with. Talk to the sales people. Ask about the drivers. A good company should follow up to confirm your delivery date and your transfer date. You shouldn't have to chase them down to make sure the job gets done.

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Packing Your Unit

In general, you will want to pack your mobile storage unit the same way you would pack a moving truck. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • If you don't have enough items to fill the unit, at least pack from wall to wall to make sure all of the flooring space is used. This will help prevent against shifting.
  • Try to distribute weight evenly throughout the unit.
  • Place heavier items on the floor and lighter items toward the top.
  • Use bungee cords to secure your items. Remember that your unit may be tipped up to 45 degrees upon transfer and delivery.
  • Do not place perishables or flammables inside of the unit.
  • Be aware of the temperature inside the unit. If it's summer, the box will get hot. If it's winter, it will be cold. Don't place items inside the unit that could melt or freeze.
  • Buy your own padlocks for the unit, and never leave it open and unattended.

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