Moving Boxes - To Buy or Not to Buy (and What I Learned from My Recent Move)

Moving Boxes - To Buy or Not to Buy (and What I Learned from My Recent Move)

If you are moving and need boxes or other moving supplies, your local self-storage facility can likely supply you with everything that you need. Many self-storage facilities carry a wide variety of boxes and moving supplies. These boxes are useful for organizing items in storage and are essential for packing for a move. If you are like me, however, you might be wondering why anyone would pay for boxes instead of scrounging them for free from the neighbourhood liquor or grocery store. As I discovered when I recently moved, however, there are actually many good reasons (and a good economic argument) for buying boxes designed for moving rather than for holding bottles, cans, or produce. Finding free boxes is also not as easy as it used to be – in fact, I wasted a lot of time and a lot of gas driving around in search of the elusive “free moving box”!

So that’s the first thing - most liquor stores and grocery stores are now participating in recycling programs and will no longer part with their empty boxes. It had been a few years since I moved, and I was surprised by this. I was told repeatedly, however, that “we don’t do that anymore,” (this was often accompanied by a deep sigh, I might add, as if I was about the tenth or eleventh person that had posed this question today). I visited three or four stores before deciding this was a lost cause and that I would be further ahead buying new boxes for my move. I did find some loose boxes “dumpster-diving”, but these were not all they were cracked up to be - more on these in a bit.

In retrospect, buying new boxes was the way to go. New boxes are “new” obviously, and are in great shape – this was important as I had hired movers, was moving quite a distance, and needed to put my belongings into storage for a while. I knew the boxes were going to take a beating along the way (better the boxes than my stuff!); some of the boxes I picked out the dumpster were in such bad shape that I ended up not using them for my move. I discovered something else though, which brings me to my second point on this topic. The big disadvantage with free boxes is that you end up with a random mix of box sizes that do not pack well together - the few decent boxes that I did scrounge packed together very inefficiently. There was inevitably void spaces between the boxes, and this meant more everything – more “trips” for the movers carrying boxes out to the truck, more space used on the moving truck (resulting in a second trip for the movers to my local storage facility), more “trips” for the movers when they unloaded my stuff into my storage unit, and then more space needed for storage, resulting in a bigger storage unit. All of this added up to more time and more expense, which I would have happily done without! Whether you are moving yourself or hiring someone to move you, purpose-built moving boxes are far more efficient, as boxes of uniform size can be packed closely together with no void spaces between the boxes.

For my move, I ended up buying boxes from my local storage facility that carried U-Haul branded boxes. Here are some neat tricks that I discovered to pack efficiently. Did you know that U-Haul’s Medium box and Large box have exactly the same footprint, and therefore stack perfectly on top of each other with no overhang? Yup, they do. Similarly, did you know that their Large and Extra Large boxes are the same height and width (they just vary in depth) so that they fit perfectly end to end? Yup, it’s true. I also figured out that a stack of four Book boxes is exactly the same height as a stack of three Medium boxes. Although the movers knew this from experience, I was amazed at how this worked. They were kind enough to play along each time I announced a new discovery: “…and this one fits perfectly on this one, and if you stack three of these, it is exactly the same height as four of these!” Poor guys - I’m sure this happens to them all the time!

I also discovered how much more efficient it was to get new boxes versus scrounged boxes to my house in the first place for packing. As new moving boxes are sold in flat form, they take up less space than scrounged liquor or grocery store boxes that are already assembled. Although I could have broken down the boxes I dug out the dumpster, doing this felt self-defeating. As I’d just ripped my jeans on the dumpster getting these boxes, part of their “value” to me was that they were already put together. That was how I thought of it at the time, anyway. In hindsight, it was lucky for me that there were so few free boxes to be had, due to the amount of trips I would have made to and from the grocery store embracing this justification for not breaking down the box. I did a few calculations, based again on the U-Haul boxes that I bought for my move, and here’s what I found:

  • One bundle of 25 Book boxes took up about 2.8 cubic feet in the trunk of my car, but packed 25 cubic feet of my stuff. That’s about a factor of 9, meaning for every cubic foot of flattened box that I had to transport to my house, I was able to pack (and store) about 9 cubic feet of belongings.
  • One bundle of 25 Small boxes took up 3.5 cubic feet in my car and packed 37.5 cubic feet, a factor of 9.6.
  • One bundle of 20 Medium boxes took up 4.7 cubic feet in my trunk and packed 60 cubic feet, a factor of 12.8.
  • One bundle of 15 Large boxes took up 4.2 cubic feet in my trunk and packed 67.5 cubic feet, a factor of 16.
  • One bundle of 10 Extra Large boxes took up 3.4 cubic feet in my trunk and packed 60 cubic feet, a factor of 17.8!

As you can see, the bigger the box the greater the efficiency. This saved me a lot of trips (and a lot of time) driving back and forth to and from the grocery store. In short, a single trip to a self-storage facility can save you multiple scrounging adventures – that’s a lot of gas and a lot of time saved! You cannot of course rely upon just one size of box. Different boxes are needed for different things – trust me, you don’t want to pick up 6.0 cubic feet of books. 6.0 cubic feet of pillows on the other hand…well, that’s more like it! More on box selection and specialty boxes in my next blog.

I would still suggest that you make a couple of calls to your local self-storage facilities before you set out to buy your boxes, however. Not every self-storage facility carries boxes but many do, so just call ahead. Also ask your storage facility about any discounts it might offer for buying a lot of boxes. I was able to buy my bundles at a discount off the individual price. I also bought more than I thought I would need, as the self-storage facility that I bought them from was willing to let me return any unused boxes for a full refund without a restocking fee. This worked out well as it took quite a few more boxes than I expected to pack everything up. I could have bought fewer initially, but this saved me the trouble of having to go back a second time for more boxes, without the worry of spending more than I needed.

This blog was written by one of StoreSmart Self-Storage's resident bloggers. StoreSmart offers storage solutions for individuals and businesses in Edmonton, Red Deer, Cochrane, Sherwood Park and Canmore. All locations offer a wide range of unit sizes. StoreSmart Self-Storage is also pleased to offer an online sizing tool or guide to help its customers choose the correct size of unit. A variety of payment options are available to meet the needs of businesses and individuals, including people working in remote locations and overseas. Payment can be made in-store using cash, debit, cheque or credit card. Payments can also be made online at www.StoreSmart.ca using interact online or credit card. Post-dated cheques or automated credit card payments are also a great option for people on the go! StoreSmart Self Storage is also pleased to invoice its business customers. Except for some statutory holidays, all StoreSmart Self Storage locations are open 7 days a week. Customers may, however, access their storage units 365 days a year from 5am to midnight (24-hour access considered upon special request for service companies like emergency plumbers, or other trades that work long hours). For the added convenience of its customers, StoreSmart Self-Storage in Red Deer, Sherwood Park, Edmonton, Cochrane and Canmore offers U-Haul truck rentals. Its self-storage locations in Red Deer and Cochrane additionally offer U-Haul trailer rentals. And yes, StoreSmart Self-Storage also carries a wide variety of moving boxes and moving supplies (bundle discounts available). StoreSmart Self-Storage is also pleased to refund any unused boxes per its Buy-Back Guarantee!