When it’s time to move, many of us ask ourselves whether to hire someone to do the job or rent a truck and do it on our own, maybe by bribing some buddies to help out. But if it has been a while since you moved, there is another option that you may be overlooking. Using shipping containers for local, long distance and overseas moves is becoming increasingly popular. This choice can save you money on your move and provide flexibility in timing and storage.
Usually, a moving container is a steel box that is weatherproof, but some are wood framed with a weatherproof covering, and others have a polymer outer shell. The receptacles come in various sizes, and you can choose the size you need for your situation. The standard sizes are 7-foot,12-foot, and 16-foot containers. The mover delivers the box either to your driveway or to the street in front of your home. You fill it up, and then the mover transports it to your destination.
This option may offer advantages to you over the more traditional methods of relocating. First, you can pack and load the container over some time. If you know you are moving, you can get started packing up the container with the items you don’t need every day and store them in the moving receptacle. Keep in mind that your neighborhood may have restrictions on how long you can keep a container in the street or even in your own driveway if you have a homeowners’ association. It is essential to check first to be aware of any restrictions that can limit your ability to keep the shipping receptacle in view. If you live in an apartment or condo, you can check with the management to determine if this is allowable. Some of the container companies will also provide a place for you to keep it on their premises, but this obviously decreases the convenience to you.
Once you fill the container, you don’t have to drive a truck, which is very attractive for most people. Navigating those huge vehicles, especially around unfamiliar areas, and trying to back up a driveway is just too much stress. The shipping company picks the container up, puts it on their truck, and delivers it to your new address, where you then have the time to unload it into your new home. The same concerns about street and driveway restrictions apply at the new residence, so check before deciding to go this route. You may need a permit. As with the loading process, you can take the time you need to unload the container or even use it as storage if you need to. If you are doing work on the destination residence, you may need to leave some of your furniture in the container for a while, and you can do this usually by paying a month-to-month rental fee.
Suppose you want the convenience of loading some of your possessions into the container in advance but don’t want to have responsibility for the big stuff. In that case, you can fashion a solution that combines the best of both worlds. Rent the container and have it delivered to your home, then take your time ahead of the move while you pack and load the items that you can do without as you prepare for moving day. Meanwhile, find professionals who will come in and take care of the furniture and other large items on the last day to complete the process. Or you can have the entire container loaded by professionals and unloaded at the destination.
The size of the container you need will depend on the amount of stuff you are moving, of course. On average, a small 7-8 foot container can hold the contents of a studio apartment, a medium 12-foot container is adequate for a one- to two-bedroom home, and a sizeable 16-foot container will hold the contents of a three-bedroom house. We have all seen those homes where the shipping container becomes a permanent part of the driveway—extra storage that never gets emptied. A better approach is probably to do some downsizing and decluttering before you move. Sell, donate, or give away the things you don’t need, and you can reduce the size of the container you rent and avoid having long-term storage at your new home as well.
You will need insurance for the shipping container and for the things you put inside it. Most container rental companies will require you to protect their box with insurance, even if you decline to protect your possessions. While the receptacle is on your driveway, the things you place inside will likely be covered by your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance. But after the container leaves your property and gets loaded onto the truck to be transported to your new destination, that is no longer in effect, and you should ensure that you have adequate protection for your belongings on their journey to the new residence.
Just like with a moving company, there are some things that you can’t pack in the shipping container. This list includes hazardous materials such as gasoline, lighter fluid, charcoal, motor oil, propane tanks, scuba tanks paint, paint thinner, fertilizer, ammonia, fireworks, fire extinguishers, guns, and ammunition. It is also wise to refrain from packing highly valuable items such as jewelry, important documents, and sentimental items into the container. Don’t put perishable food items in there, and plants are prohibited if the journey is across state lines (states have their own rules about plants).
The shipping container industry has advanced substantially in recent years, and there is fair competition. It is helpful to get quotes from several local container companies before you settle on a vendor for your container provider. You may get a better deal from one on a local project that is more for storage and a great bargain from a different provider if you are looking for a long distance relocation. It’s worth the time to call and talk about the options.