Storage While Moving –  What is Right for You?


During the moving process, it is not unlikely that a need for storage may arise.  You may encounter a scenario where you need to be out of one home, but the new home is not yet ready. You may be staying in a temporary home while you search for a new one in a new area.  Whatever the case, you want to know the storage options available, and the benefits and obstacles associated with each. Here are the insider details on self-storage, portable containers, and permanent storage with a Professional Mover.



Traditionally self-storage is the go-to for storing extra attic, garage and shed-type articles, or storing goods for a temporary period of time. During the moving process, self-storage can be a good option when you need access to your goods, and self-storage units are almost everywhere, with more continuing to pop up.  If you are doing some DIY, moving a little at a time or working on purging goods while being stored, this may be an appropriate option.

Some self-storage facilities may also offer indoor or ‘climate controlled’ units and outside on-site storage for bulky items such as RVs. Be aware that just because a facility offers climate or temperature-controlled units, does not necessarily prevent dampness from creating mold/mildew. This is because goods sit directly on a concrete floor, the most susceptible to dampness being the ground-level outdoor access.

More modern self-storage facilities may offer indoor units and have multiple levels accessible by elevator. Some facilities may offer a discounted price for the upper-level units since the ground level is usually more desirable and more easily accessible. However, if you are hiring a Professional Mover to load or unload your goods from the storage unit, inquire about the additional cost associated with the mover needing to use the elevator to transfer goods. This usually slows the process and results in an additional labor cost. However, if you stay there for many months, taking the discounted upper-level unit may be worth it. Ask and budget in advance.

Keep in mind that self-storage facilities are generally not liable for your goods.  Check the rental contract closely to see what occurrences (if any), such as fire, water, or theft, may be covered. Chances are they are not. Talk to your Insurance Professional to ensure goods are correctly covered while in self-storage. Even if a Professional Mover takes you to self-storage, their liability ends at delivery time.


●      If looking to access goods or sort, make sure to increase the unit size; you need to create an aisle to get in and out or have some wiggle room to work inside. If you are working with a Professional Mover, they can advise what size unit(s) you require based on your inventory. Keep in mind a Mover stacks better than a regular person. If your move is DIY, you will require more space.

●       If you are downsizing during the moving process, you can rent multiple units instead of getting one big unit. As you purge, you can consolidate into one unit and give up the second to lower costs. 

●      Talk to your Insurance Company about Coverage since the Self-Storage Facility is not liable for your goods. Since the State of N.J. no longer requires self-storage facilities to maintain public storage licenses, there is no recourse or assistance from the State if a catastrophe occurs.

●      Use a wood barrier (skid) between any wood furniture and the concrete floor to help reduce moisture absorbed from the concrete (even in a climate or temperature-controlled facility). Use plastic totes instead of cardboard. Add some damp reduction products such as Damp Rid (buckets or bags which help absorb moisture.)

●      Make sure you have proper protection, like furniture pads or old blankets, to stack furniture and items to protect goods and utilize the space better. Even if a Professional Mover moves you to self-storage, they will take their blankets back since it is only their facility if you arrange for purchase or rental.

●      Pay on time or set up auto-payment.   Most self-storage contracts allow the facility to lock you out and auction your goods if you are a day late. A self-storage facility is not governed by the N.J. warehouseman regulations and therefore, they can profit from the auction of your goods. 

Lastly, remember that you need to know what is next door. It is much harder for a self-storage facility to control infestations or hazardous material storage.  Securing a unit in a more expensive area may add cost, but you are less likely to find a unit in the facility being used for cleanouts or waste. 

Self-storage best fills the need for extra space, and short-term storage outside of a drastic season change or when you need repeat access to your goods. Some movers with more extensive warehouse facilities may also offer their own self-storage option, which is a great combo option to have access to some goods, which can be later combined with what the mover must transport.

Portable Containers

Portable Containers were introduced to the industry to help reduce the cost of labor and liability.  They are derived from cargo containers – the large metal containers you see on freight ships. The concept is to drop a smaller version of the freight container at a residence, let the customer fill it themselves then ship the container to the required destination. This is a no-touch service meaning the service provider is not a ‘mover.’ 

Portables offer on-site storage, which makes them popular with contractors, landscapers and other service providers who want to lock up materials on-site. They are often used for quickly accessible on-site storage for staging and purging. 

Various companies have introduced them as a moving ‘service,’ offering to transport your filled container to your destination. Some companies keep them just for on-site storage or off-site but will not transport them across state lines.  Some Professional Movers offer a portable container option. Make sure you know whom you are working with and if their capabilities meet your needs. In N.J., you do not need to be a licensed ‘mover’ or warehouse to offer portable container storage or ‘moving service.’ They offer the least protection from a regulatory standpoint.  They best serve the customer as a cost saver, and the best way to take advantage of that is to be physically able to load and unload the containers on your own and accept exposure to the risk.

Portable container companies are not liable for your goods as they do not touch them like a Professional Mover, even if they offer third-party labor to assist you. Review the contract carefully for liability limits and talk to your insurance professional.

Like self-storage, you will need furniture protection as it is not provided with the container. There are usually no bars or straps to help hold and brace goods as there are in a moving van. Ensure your load is secure and will not move around like puzzle pieces, as they must tilt and lift the container onto a flatbed truck.  You need to find out what materials were stored in the container before you.

Another risk of storing in a portable container is no temperature or climate control.  Some containers are modeled after airtight cargo containers. An all-metal container is strong but turns it into a hot box and no ventilation creates condensation.  Portables with vents or a fiberglass roof will serve you better if you anticipate temperature changes while storing, and models continue to evolve, but you may not have any control over what model or type of container is delivered to your residence. Therefore, Professional Movers do not store on board trucks for a long time, because they are large metal boxes.

There are select Portable Container Companies and larger Carriers (Interstate Movers) that may have indoor storage for their portable container systems. If you require longer-term storage, especially over a change of season, and want to use portable containers, investigate this option. 

Given these factors, you reap the benefit of a portable container when used as on-site storage or for those physically able to DIY, and articles are not considered high value.  When used in transport, items that are not as susceptible to heat and condensation and can easily be stacked fare better; for example, if you are shipping boxes or totes and some outdoor items to your vacation home, and you can load the portable container yourself, or at minimal cost,  they may be a good fit. If you have large wood furniture pieces that require protection, high-value art, or articles that must be temperature controlled, you want to minimize their time exposed to the elements and have a professional handle them in transit. 


Storage with the Mover

Storing your goods with the Mover who is moving you, is referred to as ‘permanent’ storage. This indicates that the goods will be kept in the Mover’s possession in an approved facility throughout the moving process. 

If you require the assistance of Movers anyway, and you do not need access to your goods, a full-service option may serve you best.  This option places most of the risk and responsibility on the Mover since they are physically touching your goods and are regulated by the State of N.J.  There is one throughline of liability from start to finish.

A Mover uses wood containers called ‘vaults’ inside their warehouse to store goods. . They allow the goods to be safely consolidated with minimum stacking pressure on the furniture inside. The containers are strong for stacking but breathable. They keep goods off the ground to help keep articles from absorbing dampness. Bulky articles are racked to prevent damage from improper stacking. Some facilities are climate and/or temperature controlled, which makes a difference for long-term storage or storage during a change of seasons.

Not all Professional Movers offer ‘permanent storage’ as this requires warehouses. There are moving companies and there are moving and storage companies. The State of N.J. distinguishes this in the business license type issued to the Mover. In N.J., if a company is licensed for moving, its license number begins with a PM for Public Mover. If the company is licensed for Moving & Storage, its license number starts with a PC for Public Carrier. 

Licensed movers that do not own warehouse space may offer storage but use self-storage facilities or portables. So, it is essential to verify where your goods are being stored while in the mover’s possession because this affects your risk exposure. If you are paying for storage through the Mover, you want to ensure it is in their possession in a safe and insured location.  A reputable mover will often have pictures available of their warehouses online and may allow you guided access to walk-through upon request.

Since the goods are being stored and traveling with the mover, there is a basic coverage that the Mover must provide. If moving in the State of N.J., the Mover must provide insurance coverage based on the value of $1.00 per pound.  If moving across State lines, a basic liability of $.60 per pound is provided. A Professional Mover will usually have Full Replacement Options directly available. 

While handling your goods throughout the process, the licensed, registered, and insured Mover has a vested interest in proper handling and protection since they have skin in the game. Unlike the self-storage or portable container options, movers usually monitor the condition of goods during the required visual survey phase and will not accept goods into their facilities that create exposure to their team members, facility, or their customers’ goods. The mover provides blanket protection throughout the process and a detailed inventory of all articles.

During the estimate and early budgeting phase, the full-service option can seem more costly.  However, industry data shows that once you book more than one portable container, the cost can be equal to that of a full-service mover due to the add-ons not being provided, and with no liability to the portable container service (because they are not a licensed mover).

In case of non-payment, a licensed mover must follow a process to put a warehouseman lien in place, which includes a series of notifications. Unlike non-regulated options, a mover is not allowed to profit from auctioning your goods. And in case a licensed mover goes bankrupt, or suffers a catastrophe that affects the business operation, the Division of Consumer Affairs steps in to ensure the Consumer’s goods are redistributed, unlike unregulated storage providers.

The logistics of the moving process are often the first factor in determining which option you may or may not be able to use. Whether you are unsure if you want to have the Mover control the process or schedule elements individually, or try to DIY, it is always advisable to speak with a Professional Moving Consultant. They perform free visual surveys but can also provide insight to help you navigate a successful transition. Find one today at

 New Jersey Warehouse and Movers Association –

Blog Submission: Tara Dixon, V.P. Sea/Cure Moving, Inc. & NJWMA Movers For Consumers Commitee Member


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