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Principal Differences Between Rental Boxes and Cardboard Boxes for Moving

Choosing between rental boxes and cardboard boxes is a key decision when planning a move. In the last 10 or so years, moving box rental companies have become an increasingly popular choice for moving day. This option can be attractive for people who value convenience and environmental sustainability. However, cardboard moving boxes are still a common and very affordable mainstay. Both rental boxes and cardboard boxes come with their own unique benefits and advantages that cater to different or specific needs.  So which box type is really right for you?

In this article, we explore the important differences between these two moving box types and how they can affect the moving process.


When you’re gearing up for a move, convenience is key. But whether rental boxes or cardboard boxes are the most convenient option for you will depend on your individual needs and circumstances.

Rental boxes can be very handy during a move for a variety of reasons. Most, if not all rental box companies will deliver the boxes right to your door, then pick them up after you’re moved in and unpacked. Rental boxes are available in several sizes, which makes stacking and packing a diverse range of items as practical as possible.

Additionally, when you rent moving boxes, you can customize your schedule along with the quantity and size of boxes you’ll need.  You’ll be able to set the duration you keep them for, as well as the dates, times, and locations for drop-off or pickup. The simplicity of using this service makes rental boxes a very handy option when you’re looking to save time and reduce hassles during a move.

Perhaps most importantly, rental boxes are ready to use immediately upon delivery, with no assembly or taping required. Their standardized sizes and stackable design greatly simplify packing, loading, and organization, making the process of moving much more efficient!

On the other hand, cardboard boxes can still be a great option for your next move. A big advantage that cardboard boxes have is availability. No matter where you live or when you’re moving, cardboard boxes are a universal resource, so they’re pretty much always an option. You can pick them up just about anywhere, even last minute, so there are no limitations when it comes to scheduling or potential time constraints.

Cardboard boxes come in a wide range of sizes and types, but most significantly, they also include a variety of specialty boxes for specific items, such as files and documents, wardrobes, televisions, glassware, mirrors, and more, which allow for greater flexibility and protection for packing and during transport during a move.

Unlike rental boxes that might clutter your space upon delivery, cardboard boxes have the advantage of being stored flat and assembled only when needed, making it easier to keep your space organized as you pack. It is important to keep in mind that cardboard boxes do require assembly, which will require additional packing materials like packing or shipping tape.


In terms of eco-friendliness, rental boxes and cardboard boxes have differing sustainability merits.

Since they’re made of recycled plastic materials, rental boxes can be used potentially hundreds of times before they need to be retired from service. Fortunately, this goes a long way to cut down on waste during their functional lifetime.

When it comes to cardboard boxes, you may have assumed they can be used only once for moving. However, they can in fact be repurposed to store items indefinitely, provided that the cardboard itself is still in good condition. Should you prefer to discard your cardboard boxes right after the move, they can be conveniently recycled by local blue-bin programs to reduce the environmental impact.

Strength & Uniformity

In terms of strength & uniformity, rental boxes and cardboard boxes both have their advantages and disadvantages.

As rental boxes are made of durable plastic, this enables them to carry more weight than the average cardboard box. Their materials are also designed to be crush-resistant and tear-proof, providing your goods with extra protection during the wear-and-tear of moving and transport.

Between their systematic design and standardized dimensions, rental boxes are engineered for efficient stackability. Additionally, the majority of rental boxes are outfitted with a plastic lip around the top of the box, which makes them topple-proof for stable stacking, even several feet high.

While they’re not made of plastic, cardboard boxes are still quite strong, especially when new, in which case they’ll have maximum durability. Moreover, such boxes won’t have the potential structural or sanitary risks posed by pre-used boxes sourced from common retailers or curbsides, so opt for new cardboard boxes wherever possible if choosing this box type. Cardboard moving boxes are corrugated, allowing them to securely hold up to 80 pounds, depending on the box size.  As long as you pack and stack using properly sized boxes, packing materials, and common sense, you should be able to have a safe and efficient move using cardboard boxes.

In terms of uniformity, cardboard boxes come in standard sizes when purchased for moving, making it easier to figure out how many you’ll need. Most packing supply stores will stock the standard moving box sizes, plus a selection of common specialty boxes, so you will be able to find the right size and type of cardboard boxes to suit your needs.


When it comes to pricing, rental boxes and cardboard boxes each have very different costs for different reasons.

If you just don’t have the time to search around for boxes and assemble them yourself, rental moving boxes can often be a real boon, since many rental box companies will drop off the boxes right at your door ready-to-go, so all you have to do is pack. Once your move is done, they’ll come back and pick them up, sparing you the hassle of disposal. It is important to keep in mind, though, that depending on things like availability and demand, renting boxes can sometimes be a lot pricier than buying them, especially if you need them for a longer duration, or if you want to start packing weeks in advance. Also, you may be required to rent a minimum number of boxes, or even be charged a flat rate per box per week, thus potentially limiting your quantity options.

Cardboard boxes, on the other hand, are generally more affordable, and obviously don’t come with a time limit for keeping them or using them. New boxes can be purchased singly, in packs, or in bulk for extra discounts, so there’s a great deal of flexibility around the amount of boxes to be had for a nominal cost. In short, if quick access or budget are a concern, cardboard boxes may be the better option, since they’re readily available and can be obtained new at very affordable prices, or even for free, if you don’t mind repurposing pre-used boxes.

As another cost element, regardless of the box type you go with, you might need to buy additional packing materials such as bubble wrap, foam kits, or wrapping paper, which can safeguard your items from potential damage during your move or while in storage. So, when pricing out your boxes, don’t forget to factor in these types of supplies, as well.


In terms of scheduling, whether you use rental boxes or cardboard boxes will have differing implications for your move.

Using rental boxes for your move is very convenient, but there is some inflexibility when it comes to timing and scheduling, both of which impact cost. Most moving box rental companies will ask you to choose specific delivery & pickup dates for your rented boxes. This means that you are on a very specific timeline for both packing and unpacking your goods. If something unexpected arises and you require more time with your rental boxes, you may be charged an additional fee for keeping the boxes longer than anticipated. If you end up needing your boxes sooner than you planned, you may not be able to get them when you want them, especially during peak moving times, such as the last weekend in the month or at the height of the moving season. Although rental boxes can make for a much more seamless move, being at the mercy of supply-and-demand for these boxes on a pre-determined schedule means that a considerable amount of advance planning must be done to stick to the timeframe and stay within your rental box budget during your move.

On the other hand, cardboard boxes can be picked up whenever you want, and you can keep them for as long as you need. There are no firm dates to worry about, in terms of box delivery or return, so you can unpack at your leisure. Cardboard boxes can be kept on hand indefinitely without costing you an extra cent, and they can even be reused for other purposes once the move is over, like storage containers. Any leftover boxes can be easily broken down for household recycling.

Useful Resources for Moving Day Preparation

Whether rental moving boxes or cardboard boxes are right for you, there are many other things to consider as you get closer to moving day: