Self-Moving 101: How to save money and avoid stress

There was a time when moving yourself meant calling up your cousin who owns a pickup truck and promising to buy pizza for your “moving crew” (AKA your friends). But times have changed, and there are better ways to do self-moving. 

Moving containers and rental trucks are both viable options for those who want to save some cash by relocating on their own. But what are the advantages of each option, and how can you choose the self-moving company that’s right for you? 

Don’t worry, self-moving newbies, we’re here to help. Here’s everything you need to know about planning and executing a lower-stress self-move.

people moving furniture out of a house

What is a self move?

It might sound like some new dance craze that the kids are doing on the Tik Tok, but the self move is actually a very old tradition. Your ancestors probably did a self move at some point in the past, whether it was with a boat, a covered wagon, or just on foot. 

A self-move is, technically speaking, any residential move that doesn’t involve a full-service moving company that sends two or more strong guys to load all your stuff up in their truck and then reverse the process at your new place.  But that doesn’t mean there’s no outside company involved at all. 

For example, you can rent moving PODS containers, but it’s still a self-move because you’re responsible for loading and unloading your couch, your TV, and those boxes of sentimental junk that you never open but can’t throw away (you know the ones we’re talking about). 

Feeling overwhelmed with your move? Keep track of the most important steps with this self moving checklist

Comparing self-moving and full-service moving 

There are some major differences between doing a self-move and hiring full-service movers. 

The first major difference is the cost: Self-moving is significantly cheaper.  On a long-distance move, we’re talking a grand and some change vs. five grand or more for traditional movers. That’s like the cost of a big screen TV vs. the cost of a used car. 

The second big difference is the workload: Full-service movers will bring a bunch of strong people to move that antique armoire for you. With a self-move, it’s up to you and your buddy who sometimes does Cross Fit on the weekends, or you can hire helpers to do the heavy lifting. 

There are a few other details to consider as well: Self-moving allows you more control over how your prized possessions are handled, and it gives you far more flexibility when it comes to scheduling. Plus, if your move-in date doesn’t exactly line up with your move-out date, moving container companies like PODS offer easy built-in storage options so you don’t have to sweat it.  

Moving PODS container for self moves

What are your self-moving options? 

If you’re going to do a self-move, you’ve really got two routes: The portable container route and the rental truck route. So, which is best for you, a PODS moving container or a U-Haul truck? Let’s walk through the differences. 

Comparing PODS containers and rental trucks 

Pop quiz: Rental trucks are just moving containers on wheels. True or false? 

If you said false, you get an A+! (If you said true, we’ll still give you an A+ because we like you.) There are many important differences between PODS containers and rental trucks.

Table: PODS Containers vs. Rental Trucks 

Feature/Service PODS  Rental Trucks
Cheaper than full-service movers
You’re responsible for loading and unloading  ✓*
Driving done for you X
Option to store at home or at a storage facility  X
No-contact moving X
Delivered directly to your door X
Multiple sizes available 
Ground-level loading  X
You don’t pay extra for gas and mileage  X

*PODS can refer you to local, professional packing and loading services to help you load and unload. 

Need storage? It’s not uncommon to have to store some of your stuff while you’re fixing up your old or new home, downsizing, or need to move quickly because you’re relocating for a job.  A key difference is containers make storage much easier because you don’t have to rent a truck multiple times and then repeat the process of loading and unloading from home to truck, truck to storage unit, storage unit to truck, and truck to new home. Whew. We’re exhausted just thinking about it. With moving PODS containers, you load and unload only once, whether you keep the container in your driveway or at a PODS Storage Center. 

Plus you won’t have to stress about unexpected costs, like gas, because with PODS you don’t have to drive.

Want to turn your cross-country relocation into a fun road trip? Having your stuff shipped in a moving container instead of hauling a truck opens up all kinds of possibilities. Get tips from someone who did it twice

Let’s talk about sizing for a moment: If you’ve got a four bedroom home, you’re probably looking at doing multiple loads in a large rental truck. With PODS moving containers you can just order a couple of containers to your door and get them shipped at the same time. Pro tip: You can stagger your deliveries to get just one container at a time. That way you save room in your driveway, plus you can even cancel the additional containers if it turns out you don’t need them. 

That’s like, a million hours of stressful driving in a big box truck that you just dodged. 

Here’s a gander at how the sizes of PODS moving containers and rental trucks compare. 

Table: Moving PODS container and rental truck sizing 

Home size /
Square feet
Rental truck*
Less than 400 SF
Small Studio Apt
7’ Cargo Van or
10′ Truck
600 SF
Studio/1 BR Apt
7′ or 12′ 10′, 15′ or 16′
800 SF
1 to 2 BR Apt
16′ 15′ or 16′
1,000 SF
2 BR Apt/Home
Single 16′ or
16′ + 7′
15′ or 16′
1,200 SF
2-3 BR Apt/Home
Single 16′ or
16′ + 7′
15′, 16′ or 18′
1,600 SF
3 BR Apt/Home
16′ + 7′ or
Two 16′
20′, 22′ or 26′
2,000 SF
4 BR Home
Two 16′ 26′ (may take
multiple trips)
2,500 SF
4-5 BR Home
Two 16′ + 7′ or
Three 16′
Multiple trips or
other options
3,000 SF
5-6 BR Home
Three 16′ Multiple trips or
other options
More than
3,000 SF
One 16′
per 1,000 SF
Multiple trips or
other options

Price difference between PODS and rental trucks 

We’ll talk more about the cost of moving with PODS below, so for now we’ll just say that the base rate tends to run higher than renting a truck. 

However, costs can quickly add up with a rental truck, depending on your location, destination, gas usage, and other fees, especially if you’re relocating across the country.  That’s not to mention the mental cost of stress-driving a box truck on narrow city streets and speedy highways. 

Uhaul rental trucks

How do moving truck rentals work? 

If you’ve decided to go with the rental truck option, we commend your bravery and wish you well on your adventure. Here’s a rough play-by-play of what to expect. 

How to move with a rental truck: 

  1. Figure out the truck size you need.
  2. Choose a rental truck company.
  3. Reserve a truck.
  4. Pick up your truck. 
  5. Load your possessions.
  6. Drive (hopefully you’ve got some good audiobooks!). 
  7. Unload your possessions.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 for extra loads, if needed.
  9. Fill up gas tank.
  10. Return rental truck and pay for any additional fees. 

If that sounds a bit stressful, then maybe you should consider using a moving container company for your move. 

How do moving containers work?

If moving and storage containers are starting to look like the better option for you, you’re not alone. But how does it work? Let’s run through it, step by step. 

How to self-move with a moving container:

  1. Get an estimate (you can get a free detailed quote from PODS).
  2. Reserve your container.
  3. Your container is delivered to your current residence. 
  4. Load your container.
  5. Your loaded container is picked up. 
  6. Your container is taken to storage or delivered to your new home.
  7. Unload your container. 
  8. The container is picked up and you’re done! 

Pretty much everything is done for you, except the packing, loading, and unloading. While that might seem like the hardest part, it definitely doesn’t have to be if you use these self-pack moving tips. Just think about all the money you’re saving as you wrap your glassware in bubble wrap. But if you’re more interested in saving your back, you can also hire hourly labor to help with the heavy lifting for loading, unloading, or both.

Moving in a big city? 

What if you’re moving somewhere that’s so crowded you can’t leave a moving container or park a rental truck? Depending on the location, PODS City Service may be just the solution for you. Available in select ZIP codes, the service is designed for those moving in the most urban areas. As with the standard PODS service, a driver brings a container to you, but it doesn’t leave the truck while you load or unload with the help of a built-in lift. The driver also stays with the container to guard against tickets and help protect your belongings during your loading and unloading process. Then your container gets whisked to your new digs — or a PODS Storage Center if you can’t move in right away.

How to choose self-moving companies

Let’s be real: Most of us are going to choose the self-moving company that’s easiest on our wallets. But there are other factors you should consider before you make the final call. 

Think about the following before you hire a self-moving company: 

  • Reputation: What feedback has the company received from past customers? Is the company highly rated by professional reviewers? Does your cousin have a horror story about her container arriving weeks after the promised date? 
  • Licensing: Major self-moving companies, like PODS and U-Haul, are definitely accredited with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. But smaller outfits might not be, so be sure to check a companies’ accreditation. 
  • Ease: Is it easy to get in touch with the company? Can you get a fast and free quote? Does the company regularly operate in your area, or will this be a stretch for them (increasing the possibility of delays or mistakes)?
  • Services: Does the company offer all of the services you want? For example, storage or roomy scheduling may not be included in every portable container solution. For instance, one company gives you just three days to load and unload, compared to 30 days with PODS.
  • Pricing: Are they including everything in the quote? For instance, some container companies may not include delivery and pick-up fees, and one company makes you pay extra for a guaranteed delivery date. With PODS, the price quoted is the price charged, as long as nothing changes.

Speaking of services, let’s look at how different moving container companies’ offerings compare. 

Comparing PODS and other moving container companies 

Sure, we could write a manifesto (or even a poem) about how moving containers companies compare, but a chart is worth a thousand words. 

Table: Comparing PODS and other moving container companies 

Service/Feature PODS Other moving container companies 
Local moves Yes  Not usually 
Long-distance moves Yes Yes
Nationwide coverage 230+ locations in the US, UK and Australia Varies by company 
Loading/unloading time allowance* 30 days (with option to store longer with monthly rental fee) Varies (from 3 to 30+ days) 
Steel-framed and weather-resistant container Yes Varies (some companies use wooden crates) 
Storage included* Yes (30 days, with option to store longer with monthly rental fee)  Varies (from no free storage to 30+ days) 
Multiple storage options  On-site or at secure storage location  Some companies require storage on-site
Online quotes  For local moves only Varies by company
Fast quotes over the phone Yes Yes
Contents protection options Yes Yes
Easy cancellations and refunds Yes Refund policies vary by company 

How much does a PODS move cost? 

So, PODS sounds great and all, but let’s talk numbers. How much does moving with PODS cost? The short answer is $299-2,999. 

Here’s the longer answer. 

Cost of local move: Doing a local self-move with a PODS container usually costs between $299 and $499. 

Cost of long-distance move: The average cost of making a long-distance self-move with PODS is harder to determine because there are so many factors (like distance, location, and container size). However, most long-distance moves with PODS fall within the range of $1,237 to $2,999. 

Of course, the best way to find out how much moving with PODS moving containers will cost you is to get a quote. You can get an online quote for local moves, while long-distance moves require a phone call ( 877-350-7637) to go over all the details and make sure you get the best deal for your specific moving situation. 

planning a move? 

We’ve talked a lot about different ways of doing a self-move, and each one has its benefits. Whatever you choose, try adding some self-care to the process with these tips: 9 Ways to Reduce Stress When Moving

Weston Anderson has worked as a freelance writer and researcher for five years, reviewing technology trends and the moving industry. He moved all around the continent, from New York to California, before finally landing back in his hometown of Salt Lake City.

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