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The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Boxes vs. Bins for Your Move

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Boxes can often be sourced for free or cheap from local businesses. Options like book boxes have built-in handles for easy lifting.

Moving to a new home is an exciting new chapter. But packing everything up can be stressful and overwhelming. 

One of the first big decisions you’ll make is whether to use cardboard boxes or plastic bins for packing and moving your stuff.

This comprehensive guide breaks down the age-old packing dilemma – classic boxes vs. trendy bins. 

We’ll explore the pros and cons of each option through research and personal experience insights as well as the best storage service.

Cardboard Boxes: The Budget-Friendly Option

Cardboard boxes are the tried and true packing supplies used for generations of household moves. Here’s what makes them a top choice:

Pros of Cardboard Boxes

  • Affordable: Boxes can often be sourced for free or cheap from local businesses. Options like book boxes have built-in handles for easy lifting.
  • Customizable sizes: Choose from file boxes, lamp boxes, mirror boxes, etc. to fit each item.
  • Eco-friendly: Cardboard is recyclable, reducing your environmental impact.
  • Easy labeling: Labels or colored markers identify contents.

Cons of Cardboard Boxes

  • Vulnerable to weather: Cardboard disintegrates in rain or snow. Not ideal for outdoor moving in extreme weather.
  • Durability issues: Boxes wear down over time, doubly so if reused. Not great for protecting fragile items.
  • Time-consuming: Must be assembled and taped up before packing.

Plastic Bins: The Durable Option

Plastic bins have surged in popularity thanks to their ruggedness and waterproofing. Here’s the appeal of bins:

Pros of Plastic Bins

  • Reusable long-term: Invest once in durable bins for years of re-use.
  • Weather resistant: Sturdy plastic protects contents from rain, snow, dust, dirt, etc.
  • Stackable space-saver: Square bins are easy to stack and transport.
  • Secure lids: Tight-sealing lids keep contents secure inside.

Cons of Plastic Bins

  • Hefty upfront cost: Buying new bins in various sizes adds up quickly.
  • Heavy when loaded: Heavier than cardboard when filled, making lifting difficult.
  • Limited sizes: Mostly come in standard sizes, unlike customizable cardboard.
  • Harder labeling: Labels stick better on cardboard than plastic.
best storage service

Key Packing Considerations

When deciding between cardboard or plastic, keep these key factors in mind:

  • Items being packed: Fragile antiques, art, crystals, etc. fare better in sturdy bins. Books and linens are fine in cardboard.
  • Distance of move: Short local moves have lower risks than cross-country moves with multi-handling of boxes.
  • Time of year: Rainy or snowy winter moves make plastic bins preferable to keep contents dry.
  • Budget: Buying all new bins costs more upfront compared to free or cheap boxes.
  • Environmental impact: Recyclable cardboard is more eco-friendly. But plastic bins can be reused.
  • Space considerations: Square bins maximize loading space in trucks better than irregular boxes.

Pro Tips for Packing Success

Follow these pro tips regardless of whether you choose boxes or bins:

  • Start packing 1-2 months in advance to prevent last-minute stresses.
  • Purge belongings beforehand to avoid packing what you don’t need.
  • Organize contents by room so you know exactly where unpacked items go.
  • Label every item clearly with room location and fragility warnings as needed.
  • Protect delicate items with plenty of cushioning materials.
  • Load heavy items like books on the bottom, and lighter items on top.

Compare Top Moving Supplies Retailers

Shopping around for the best deals on moving boxes and bins can save big. Here are the top national retailers to check out:


  • Offers cardboard wardrobe boxes, dish packs, mirror boxes, and more
  • Also sells plastic bins in a variety of sizes
  • Low prices with frequent sales and coupons

Home Depot

  • Large selection of cardboard boxes and packing paper
  • Husky brand storage bins in popular sizes
  • Free 1-hour pick-up of purchases in-store


  • Wide range of cardboard boxes for all needs
  • Ziploc Big Bag plastic bins keep contents clean and dry
  • Often runs promotions on storage and moving supplies

The Final Verdict: Mix & Match is Best!

At the end of the day, choosing between cardboard boxes and plastic bins is not an either/or question. 

The best approach is to mix and match depending on your specific packing needs and budget. 

Sturdy bins for fragile items, mirrored wardrobe boxes for clothes, and free or cheap cardboard boxes for everything else.

Focus on packing strategically with the right supplies. This will keep your move damaged and stress-free. Now go forth and seamlessly pack up your life!

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