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SmartBox vs. PODS: Self Storage and Moving Compared

SmartBox vs. PODS: Self Storage and Moving Compared

by Fred Fauth (email Fred) | | July 15, 2009 | 10 Comments »

Editors Note (July 16, 2009):  This article was originally published with incorrect rates for Smartbox. The rates have been updated to accurately reflect the rates at the time of original publication. We’ve updated the text of the comparison to evaluate these new rates.

If you haven’t seen one of those big PODS (Portable On Demand Storage) boxes in your neighborhood over the past few years, you’re living in the dark ages (or at least somewhere very far away from a PODS franchise).  They show up frequently around here as people pack their stuff to move into a bigger, better, or at least different home.  In fact, we’ve written about our personal experience with them, and think they’re a great way to stage your home for sale.

The business model of PODS isn’t so complicated (boxes, trucks, and drivers), and as such a number of competitors have entered the market… each offering their own take on home-delivered self storage and moving.  Several months back, we ran an article comparing prices and other qualities of SAM and PODS. We follow that up with this one that provides a quick look at SmartBox and how they stack up against the market giant that is PODS.

What is SmartBox?

smartbox SmartBox is just like PODS (and, in fact, SAM, and probably a few others at this point). SmartBox’s claim to fame: they keep costs low by providing only one size box: 5 ft. wide x 8 ft. long x 7 ft. high (a total volume of 280 cu. ft., with 40 sq. ft. of floor space)  Instead of packing 1 – 3 large POD containers to move the contents of your home, SmartBox suggests you load 6-10 of theirs, potentially packing each room up in a separate box.  Is the smaller box better… thoughts on that after our comparison.

SmartBox Pricing vs PODS

Lets stack SmartBox up against PODS for a local move in our 21228 zip code:

PODS Cost: A PODS container is a little larger than 3 small SmartBox containers. We’ll assume we don’t value separating our goods into three separate bins, but are most concerned with total volume for our move. Total charges for one large (128 sq. ft.) POD in a local move that takes less than a month: $283.

SmartBox Cost: The same scenario for three smaller (40 sq. ft) SmartBoxes: $333. If instead of three SmartBoxes we get only two, the total price drops to $275, which is in competitive range with the PODS boxes but now we’re at only 2/3 of the available space in the PODS.

The winner: PODS by about $50. Notice that since we didn’t value segregating our stuff, SmartBox really didn’t provide the best value.

SmartBox comes out slightly ahead in our local move scenario when we stack up one small SmartBox (at 40 sq. ft.) against the smallest POD (96 sq. ft).  In this scenario, SmartBox wanted only $216, while PODS wanted $261… but remember, SmartBox’s container is less than half the size of the comparable smaller PODS box… so this only makes sense if you’re moving a very small amount of goods and really don’t care about the smaller storage area.

Does the Smaller Box Win You Anything?

At best, the smaller box is only a preference (at worst, it’s a nuissance).  It allows you to segregate goods from one room to the next, and potentially eases finding stuff in a move.  But it limits the size of furniture you can put in the boxes, and it costs a little more (at least in our local move scenario).

If you’re in an area were there’s a limit on the footprint of a storage container in front of your house, SmartBox might be worth the trade if you’re only getting one box at a time.  That said, the reality is that the large POD still fits into many standard parking spaces, and will probably work better for most moves.

Other Similarities

These companies are very similar… in fact, they both:

  • Keep the containers level while moving (unlike SAMs, which does not)
  • Offer long distance moves
  • Offer climate-controlled storage facilities
  • Have a large network of locales they service

The Verdict:

PODS wins.  But, you should still check out both, and a few competitors, before locking down your move.  Also, remember to negotiate.  We didn’t call SmartBox to see if they’d match our POD price, but our guess is that they’d try.

Editors Note:  One of the commenters to this article notes that SmartBox offers volume discounts (for multiple boxes) and delivery discounts (for local moving)… but these weren’t available without a promo code on the web site.  It is critical to reach out directly via phone or to use a promo code to achieve the best price.

What do you think? Have you moved with PODS or SmartBox? Let us know in the comments below!

(photo credit: smartboxusa.com website)

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10 Responses to SmartBox vs. PODS: Self Storage and Moving Compared

  • Ian responds...
    July 15th, 2009 2:40 pm

    Great comparison Fred – any chance you can write up a comparison of PODs vs Door to Door – http://www.doortodoor.com ? They are pretty similar to Smartbox and SAM so maybe it won’t change the smaller details much, but it would be interesting to see the cost difference.

    [Reply]

  • Abby responds...
    July 15th, 2009 5:29 pm

    Thanks Fred. Really appreciate you doing the legwork for us. We used PODs to move and can vouch for them. The fact that we didn’t have to rush was the biggest thing for me. We just took our time and loaded things up over the course of a couple weeks. Then we ended up needing storage for a while when we arrived at our new house and we were able to just keep it with them. Great concept, and very professional. Can’t say enough good things about Pods.

    [Reply]

  • Nick Sage responds...
    July 16th, 2009 10:57 am

    Fred-

    This is a nice article but unfortunately the pricing you have for SmartBox is incorrect. Our containers rent for $55/month so using 3 of ours would be $165. Also with 3 or more containers I give another $5 off per Smartbox so it would be $150 plus tax. With this straight move and only one month of rental charges you would have 2 $79 delivery charges and would also offer $20 off each delivery. so our total would be $268 plus tax, therefore less money than PODS. If you rent for 2 or more months right now our first month rental would be $1 per SmartBox so in this scenario we would be much less money than our competitors. Feel free to contact me at my email address for verification. I also beleive that we offer the best customer service in the industry with our 3 warehouses in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.

    [Reply]

  • Fred responds...
    July 16th, 2009 9:53 pm

    Nick,

    Thanks so much for the very polite correction of my figures, and for the added information about Smart Box.

    I’ve updated the text of the post to reflect the accurate costs, per the SmartBox web site (not sure how I miscalculated the last time, and I don’t want to blame the site, but I wonder if there was a bug that caused the mispricing).

    Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s fair to compare your special rates to the posted rates of PODS. And, for posted rates, PODS still comes out ahead.

    That said, I did add a note in our price shopping section that discounts are available if you reach out, and mentioned your comment here.

    Thanks for weighing in. The next time we move, we’ll certainly be considering SB as one option to meet our moving needs.

    Fred

    [Reply]

  • Steph responds...
    August 9th, 2009 9:46 pm

    Actually, the rates AND the calculations for Smartbox are wrong. (total cu. ft of a small smartbox is 280 cu. ft, not 240.) And why is SF calcs even a factor? Total VOLUME of the box (cu. ft) is what we need to go by. Also…the smallest pod (8x7x7 at 392 cu. ft) is only 112 cu. Ft bigger than the smallest Smartbox (8x7x5 at 280 cu. ft).

    What I’m wondering about Smartbox is if you order TWO of the boxes at once….will they deliver them both at the same time ($89 delivery fee) OR will they deliver them one at a time with only ONE delivery fee for both? Or will there be 2 delivery fees?

    Thanks!
    Steph

    [Reply]

  • Fred responds...
    August 10th, 2009 10:37 pm

    Steph –

    I fixed the cubic ft. calculation… and my analysis still looks right to me. Square footage is a major factor, potentially more important than total cubic feet at ceiling heights that differ by a foot (e.g., 8 foot vs. 7 foot ceilings). It’s hard to get the last foot packed when it’s 7 feet off the ground, and the lack of floor space is a major hindrance for heavy furniture.

    But, I did notice something. In our area (Baltimore), the smallest POD that you cite (8x7x7) is not offered — or at least not for any of the dates I tried. Only the 12 foot long (medium) pod is available, and I assumed that was the smallest since the PODS web site did not indicate a smaller one existed. They have fixed that now… now is shows that the POD isn’t available but does exist.

    My pricing for PODS is based on the 12 foot x 8 foot unit (96 square feet), which is more than double the size of the smallest SmartBox. It’s a little pricier (about 20% more), but it is more than twice as big from a square footage and cubic footage standpoint.

    The analysis speaks for itself. PODS is a better deal based on the web sites.

    Fred

    [Reply]

  • Nick Sage responds...
    August 17th, 2009 9:28 am

    Steph-

    Depending on where you want the container delivered I can fit either 6 or 7 boxes on one truck delivered to one location for the one fee. I have some trucks that can fit 6 and some that can fit 7 boxes. Remember our delivery fee includes picking up the full containers and bringing them back to the warehouse, most competitors will charge a second delivery fee to pick up the full containers and take them to their warehouse. Most competitors also charge more to store in their warehouse than on your property, we charge the same flat rate of $55 per month per container. i don’t see anywhere where you can rent a 8′ x 12′ POD for $66 if Fred’s comment about PODS being only 20% more money than SmartBox is correct. As far as the square foot/cubic foot comparison goes you need to use the cubic foot comparison. There is no problem packing the 7′ containers to the top and utilizing all the space, that is the beauty of our product, the smaller conatiners are easier to completely load full. I am moving myself right now and the Smartboxes have been the ticket as I can load them full. also I used 7 boxes which is one delivery fee, if you were to use 2 PODS you would have FOUR delivery fees. Sometimes you need to pick up the phone and contact the local office to find out the complete picture. you can do that with SmartBox but not with PODS.

    Nick

    [Reply]

  • Fred responds...
    August 22nd, 2009 10:54 pm

    Nick –

    I’ve moved dozens of houses, and both square and cubic foot measurements matter when it comes to moving… ESPECIALLY for odd-shaped (unboxed) items. But we may not come to agreement on that point….

    As far as a PODS for $66 / mo. I didn’t claim that. My analysis is for the *total* cost of a move, locally, based on the web site pricing in the Baltimore, MD region. The specific comment address to Steph was the comparison of the smallest SmartBox to the smallest POD (or, actually, the smallest POD available in our area).

    I’m willing to correct errors when I make them (and unfortunately this post was riddled with numerical/calculation errors when it originally ran – and for that I’m sorry)… but I also think we need to compare apples to apples.

    I appreciate that *you* offer discounts above and beyond what the web site provides, but I would assume PODS also offers discounts that aren’t listed… and we don’t have a POD rep on this thread making their case (perhaps they should!?!)

    So I thought I’d give the whole SmartBox deal a second shot. I just reran the numbers on http://www.smartboxusa.com tonight, for a local move in the baltimore area that takes less than a month (1 box only). Here’s the breakdown:

    Monthly Rental: $55.00
    Initial Delivery: $99.00
    Taxes: $3.30
    Total Due Initially: $157.30

    Additional charge to pickup the Smart Box: $99.00

    Total cost as priced today (8/22/09): $256.30!

    That price is $40 more than my original quote… and the reason: the delivery and pickup charges are now $99… about $40 higher than previously.

    I’m not a PODS advocate (I’ve got no stake in PODS… they have never contacted us / are not an advertiser… and I’m not affiliated). I’m going by the numbers, as presented on the web site, without discounts.

    [Reply]

  • lynn responds...
    March 5th, 2013 10:01 am

    As a single person who lives in small apartments, I get so sick and tired of movers who only cater to families and houses. When I’ve used traditional movers in the past, they send a small truck to my place, load it and then transfer my stuff to a large truck with other smaller loads going to the same area. At the destination, they load again to a small truck to deliver. The extra loading/unloading and mixing with other people’s stuff always leads to loss and damage. Rental trucks that I drive myself are OK, but driving one of these alone across the country is a huge pain. POD is not a solution for me, as my stuff wont’ fill one of them. I’m glad to learn about Smartbox. This is PERFECT for those of use who live in smaller spaces and have less stuff.

    [Reply]

  • Tawanna responds...
    November 12th, 2013 12:04 pm

    Nice post! I will totally save this for future reference.
    Terrific!

    [Reply]





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