What is the best (cheapest) place to buy boxes for moving?
June 7, 2004 6:46 AM   Subscribe

Boxes, I need boxes. What is the best (cheapest) place to buy boxes for moving? I'd like a step above liquor store/grocery store boxes, the ones that don't need to be taped, and are easily formed. I've looked at theboxcompany.com, and they seem reasonable.
posted by corpse to Travel & Transportation (35 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Err... go there then.
posted by dash_slot- at 7:09 AM on June 7, 2004

Response by poster: thanks for the help, pal. I was hoping someone might chime in witch something better though.
posted by corpse at 7:11 AM on June 7, 2004

Staples and Office Depot and Office Max sell them super-cheap, and they're amazingly sturdy. Staples has them on sale a lot, and if none of those stores are near you, you can check their online sites. Happy moving!
posted by iconomy at 7:13 AM on June 7, 2004

I gotta say, I recently moved and purchased both boxes from Staples and got a lot of boxes from various businesses in the neighborhood. By far, the boxes from liquor stores were the best bet. They were clean, strong, and easily taped, and there was a constant supply (the guys were happy for me to take them because they didn't have to break them down at the end of the week). In contrast, the Staples boxes weren't as strong and cost close to $3 per box (granted they were larger than the average liquor store box) Still, I probably saved $100.
posted by gwint at 7:22 AM on June 7, 2004

the ones that don't need to be taped : I have moved many times, and my experience with those boxes has been far from positive. Argrov Box sells virtually any size regular box you could need. One bundle (25) of 10" x 10" x 6" ($28 dollars shipped UPS) easily accomodated my CD collection (48 per box) and were the perfect size.
posted by mischief at 7:26 AM on June 7, 2004

My lurker friend tells me to note that U-haul sells very sturdy boxes. She says that after the next great war, all that will be left are cockroaches and U-Haul moving boxes. No idea about price, though.
posted by iconomy at 7:26 AM on June 7, 2004

Easiest and cheapest ways (I've done both in the past): ask your local liquor store or bar if you can have the empties. Work your network of friends to find bar owners, bartenders, etc. Don't ignore other places that have nice strong boxes, like copy stores.

A caveat: while moving into a new building a while back, people were amazed by all the matching Bacardi boxes and word went around that I was some sort of amazing lush. I kid you not.
posted by Stoatfarm at 7:29 AM on June 7, 2004

The problem with liquor store boxes around here is that there aren't any. Almost all the ABC stores are run out of boxes as soon as they get them, thanks to our fair city being home to four or five colleges. This is partially what drove us to the box purchasing decision.

Bars are a good idea, and we don't need no stinking network to befriend bar owners! Copy stores are a good idea, too. And I've actually bough Uhaul boxes before, when I was putting stuff in storage, but had forgotten them as a resource. This is good information. Thanks, kids!

(We're in this move together, if you hadn't noticed.)
posted by jennyb at 7:36 AM on June 7, 2004

The Container Store is another option.
posted by davidmsc at 7:55 AM on June 7, 2004

Supermarkets get tonnes of boxes that they discard each week, if you talk to the manager, I am sure they will happily give you some.
posted by riffola at 8:05 AM on June 7, 2004

Copy paper boxes are my absolute favorite moving boxes - they're sturdy, stack well, don't require taping, and are small enough that you can load 'em up with books and they're not too heavy. During my last move, the big copy places (OfficeMax, Staples) wouldn't give me any boxes, so try an independent copy shop. Better yet, ask everyone you know who works in an office to collect them for you. You'd be amazed at how many you can amass.

18" square moving boxes from an office supply store are my next favorite. You can clear the spare remnants of an entire room into one of those.

Liquor boxes are best for packing the kitchen -- glasses, oil and vinegar, etc. It find it helps if you remove the divider, place a layer of bubble wrap in the bottom of the box, then replace the divider and load in wrapped glasses and bottles.
posted by boomchicka at 8:08 AM on June 7, 2004

Jeez, that was lengthier than I intended. Can you tell I've moved a lot? :)
posted by boomchicka at 8:09 AM on June 7, 2004

Call up a nearby Borders or Barnes and Noble and ask them if you can have some boxes. Unless they are processing a ton of returns, they'll give them to you for free. The boxes are not huge and will require tape, but they're strong, uniformly sized and free.
posted by mookieproof at 8:17 AM on June 7, 2004

Where do you work? Do they have a warehouse / shipping & receiving area?
posted by Capn at 8:25 AM on June 7, 2004

I'm a fan of copy paper boxes too, but we wound up buying a few "specialty" boxes (wardrobe boxes and dish boxes) from a local self-storage place.
posted by JoanArkham at 8:28 AM on June 7, 2004

You can't send liquor store boxes through the mail without covering up ALL liquor references [in the US], however, so keep that in mind depending on how you're planning to get from point A to point B. I found U-Haul boxes pretty sturdy [though NOT for mailing, don't know why but my boxes got smushed in the mail but were fine when I handled them] and they have a great deal where you can return your unused boxes for a pro-rated refund. If you have a biggish library near you, they will be getting stuff shipped in frequently [boxes of books, boxes of paper] and will often be happy to give them away instead of breaking them down for recycling.
posted by jessamyn at 8:33 AM on June 7, 2004

I'll second the Library Looting. My recent move was done in boxes liberated from a decent sized academic and law libraries.

You may need to buy some larger boxes for garments and the like if you're not using the "Hefty Duffel Bag."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:40 AM on June 7, 2004

Get thee to an IT department in a local company. When I moved, I grabbed about 100 boxes that previously held Dell desktop PCs. Strong, nice sized but not so big that you can't lift them, with little handles punched in the side. The only problem I had was when security asked my why I was loading computers into my truck. I had to prove they were all empty.
posted by bondcliff at 8:40 AM on June 7, 2004

if you live in a community serviced by craigslist, you might want to keep on the lookout for "free boxes." a friend turned me onto the box economy and i was able to get rid of my boxes quickly.

also, uhaul sometimes sells used boxes at a cheaper price -- they're typically in good condition and a great deal.
posted by heather at 10:16 AM on June 7, 2004

Call up a nearby Borders or Barnes and Noble and ask them if you can have some boxes. Unless they are processing a ton of returns, they'll give them to you for free. The boxes are not huge and will require tape, but they're strong, uniformly sized and free.

Bookstore boxes can hold a ton of weight (50-100lbs) and aren't very awkward to carry. I much prefered them to the boxes from something like Target.
posted by drezdn at 10:16 AM on June 7, 2004

Depending on when you're scheduled to move, you're about to hit a great time to beg boxes off your local college or university. Most of them have a fiscal year which ends on June 30 and starts again on July 1. As a result, they do as little purchasing in June but a TON in July. My previous employer, a small liberal arts college, would routinely order between 100 and 200 pcs in June to be delivered and paid for the first week of July. It was a moving box bonanza!! Just make nice with the IT guys and they're happy to have you come pick the boxes up so they don't have to do the work of disposing of them.

Year round, the library department and copy center were good sources.

In the last 13 years I've moved 8 times and only ever bought 2 boxes. They were wardrobe boxes from Uhaul. One did not survive the move well. Fortunately, since my last move was only in Feb, I didn't get rid of any boxes. I knew the move into an apartment was temporary. Now, I only have to find a handful of boxes to finish the transition into a house in a new area.
posted by onhazier at 10:38 AM on June 7, 2004

Not the easiest thing to come about, but I've had fantastic luck with the boxes the fix and developer came in for the film processor at my old work. They're basically a 14" cube and are double walled and have handles. They're great for packing CDs, dishes, etc. and are especially nice when navigating narrow stairwells. You can easily carry 2+ of them stacked without either yourself or the boxes toppling over.
posted by nathan_teske at 10:53 AM on June 7, 2004

Well, well, well. This question is right up my alley.

My family runs a small box manufacturing outfit outside Portland, and we get calls for moving boxes all the time. On top of that, I'm in the middle of a move myself.

I don't know anything about buying boxes on-line, but imagine that would be a fairly expensive way to go. Here are your basic options for puchasing moving boxes:

Purchase custom boxes. This is the most expensive but most convenient method. By settling on a specific size or two, you can have boxes custom manufactured to your needs. The problem is, most box manufacturers aren't interested in small orders. There ought to be one or two companies in most major markets that'll do this sort of thing for you, though.

Purchase boxes from a retail center. When you purchased boxes from a store like Staples or from a self-storage facility (or U-Haul), you're going to pay more than you would elsewhere. Also, your selection will be very limited. However, stores are often the most conenient places to purchase boxes.

Purchase stock boxes from a distributor. Around the country, there are several large companies that manufacture certain stock sizes. They distribute these boxes to packaging suppliers of all shapes and sizes. For example, on the west coast there are least two major stock box suppliers: Tharco and Econobox. Tharco has distribution centers in Portland and Seattle (and probably in L.A.), and they're happy to sell boxes to walk-ins. Smaller packaging suppliers will sell you stock boxes at the same price as the manufacturer, but they'll also be able to sell you tape and bags, and other things you might need for your move.

Purchase used boxes. Every major market is going to have one or two suppliers of used boxes. These companies by used boxes and misprints and overstocks from other companies. They stock these in a huge warehouse. They're never going to have a constant supply of boxes in a particular size, but they're a great source for good deals on boxes.

Scrounge for leftovers. Think of a place that receives a lot of shipments. In the evening (or on a weekend), go to this place's recycling/garbage bins and help yourself. Even though my family owns a box business, I've used this method for previous moves (especially when I was in college). With a little thought, it's easy to find a place that discards lots of usable boxes.

For my own current move, I bought some stock boxes from a distributor (for those things that I knew were a set size, like record albums and comic books); I bought a lot of used boxes; and I had a few custom sized whipped up for various things that just wouldn't fit in anything else.

Mostly when people call in looking for moving boxes, we route them to suppliers of used boxes. We find they're the most efficient, cost-effective source for moving boxes, and they're happy to sell to the public.
posted by jdroth at 11:05 AM on June 7, 2004 [1 favorite]

Here are some further tips:

Sizing a box. Boxmakers measure boxes in a specific way. Ask for you boxes in length, width, and height (aka depth). For example, if you want a box that has an opening 12 x 12 and a height of 16, don't ask for a 16 x 12 x 12. You want a 12 x 12 x 16.

Material. Your average, everyday box material is 200# test (or 32 ECT). That should be fine for most applications. Slightly heavier material is 275# test (or 44 ECT), though if you go heavier you'll probably want double-walled construction (48 ECT).

Useful sizes. Don't overestimate how much you can reasonably expect your helpers to lift. I have thousands of books. My main book box for this move is a 15 x 15 x 12, but I think that's actually a bit too large. Some of those boxes are heavy. My secondary book box is 12-1/2 x 12-1/2 x 10-1/2. It doesn't hold as much, but it's a nice size for carrying, and it doesn't get too heavy. An 18 x 12 x 12 is a good size for most household stuff (as long as the stuff isn't too heavy).

Boxes that don't require taping. Boxes that don't require taping are generally going to be more expensive. You mentioned that you prefer these, and I can understand why, but realize that you pay for this. And for hand-holes. And for detachable lids. Etc. For this move (since we're doing it ourselves, with friends), we're using neither tape nor special boxes. We're simply tucking the flaps in and calling it good enough. I hope for no disasters.

Maybe I'll think of more later. I've probably told you more than you want to know, though, and not exactly what you wanted…
posted by jdroth at 11:14 AM on June 7, 2004 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: All very helpful, Thank you all. I think i'm going to buy a few, maybe 15 or so, then hit the grocery/liquor/library/etc for the rest.
posted by corpse at 11:27 AM on June 7, 2004

Another technique from my Ace Hardware days:
Go to your local hardware store and find out what days they get shipments in- usually once or twice a week. Befriend the manager and then offer to take the boxed off his hands...one less thing he has to worry about. This works very well for community-level stores.
posted by jmd82 at 11:48 AM on June 7, 2004

jdroth: I have to ask... do you allow field trips at your box factory?
posted by jennyb at 11:58 AM on June 7, 2004

You can't send liquor store boxes through the mail without covering up ALL liquor references [in the US]

That doesn't sound right...why can't you ship things with liquor references? I recently shipped a former beer box with no trouble, so why would it be different for liquor? Also, are you talking just about usps, or fedex and ups too? I used ups, so that may be the difference, but it still seems like a stupid and pointless law.
posted by rorycberger at 1:13 PM on June 7, 2004

My new bride moved in with me and scrounged most of her boxes at the local Bookstop--they have a giant recycling dumpster in back, and the boxes there were all clean and 200-lb test, which is fine for UPS shipping, moving, whatever.

For a side-business of mine, I use die-cut boxes to ship small items. Although they need less tape, I would say all boxes need tape. Die-cut boxes are also about 2x as much as regular boxes, come in smaller sizes and a smaller range of sizes, and are perhaps a bit sturdier (not sure).

I actually get these boxes shipped to me from papermart.com -- despite the rather high UPS charges, they're cheaper than buying from a local supplier.

If you're going to be taping a lot, make your life easier and drop $20 on a tape gun.
posted by adamrice at 2:10 PM on June 7, 2004

why can't you ship things with liquor references?

Because they're going to assume that there's liquor in it, and you can't ship that.
posted by kindall at 2:39 PM on June 7, 2004

If you want sturdy boxes, go to your local comic book shop on Tuesday morning and ask them if they can hold you some from their weekly shipments, which around these parts come Wednesday. Comic book shipping boxes from Diamond are particularly strong, but you will have to tape them.
posted by MegoSteve at 4:46 PM on June 7, 2004

Because they're going to assume that there's liquor in it, and you can't ship that.

It's a USPS rule only as far as I know. Read the signs when you're stuck in there sometime, they even have a little set of pictures showing you just how much you need to scribble out for the package to be acceptable to mail.
posted by jessamyn at 6:00 PM on June 7, 2004

Well, my fiendish plan to inspire the massed ranks of Mefites by snarking ya worked poifectly. Bwa, ha, ha.

Seriously tho', I don't often post 100% snark, I apologise for that - it was the epitome of the anti-AskMe post. Sorry.
posted by dash_slot- at 7:38 PM on June 7, 2004

If you're still interested in using an online source, try BoxesDelivered.com. I moved interstate and bought one of their "apartment packs" that was perfect. They use UPS to deliver straight to your door. When I compared the cost (and time!) of purchasing from a place like Staples or scrounging around dumpsters, the price wasn't too bad. You do have to put them together and use tape, though.

A tip: try going to your local bank and/or credit union and asking for copy paper boxes. Hammermill and the like make extremely solid boxes with lids that seem to be perfect for most items. Despite the "paperless" pitch of most banks, they go through about 2-4 cases per week; more if they've got a lending department. They usually don't have recycling programs or break the boxes down, so if you hook up with the branch manager or office manager, they might set them aside for you.
posted by cyniczny at 10:55 PM on June 7, 2004

I will say, whoever suggested Barnes & Noble is right, book boxes are awesome (very strong). My mother works at a library and saves them for me (having moved back & forth to dorms on campus the past few years). They get boxes from Baker & Taylor which are not too large but are incredibly sturdy. Also ones from print shops, copy ones being particularly good since they have lids.
posted by dagnyscott at 9:30 AM on June 8, 2004

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