Packing boxes – what to buy & where to get them

If you’re moving house, do you know how many packing boxes you need? What sizes to get? And where to buy them?

Packing boxes stacked and ready for the furniture removals company
Having clear answers to these questions can help ensure you don’t get caught short on move day, help save costs, and contribute to you achieving a stress-free move.

In this post I’m going to give you my insider tips on:

  • The different TYPES of packing boxes to buy when moving house
  • WHERE to get your packing boxes from
  • HOW MANY packing boxes to buy for your move
  • Other materials for packing
  • The COST of packing boxes and packing materials

Types of packing boxes

Let’s start with the types of boxes you can buy when moving home.

Single or double walled?

Double walled packing boxes contain two layers of cushioning in the structure of the wall (the squiggly bits). I always use double walled boxes for my clients’ moves as they are more robust and provide more protection for your items. It’s also more likely they’ll survive the move and can be used again by you, or someone else if you decide to donate them or sell them back to a supplier – a win for the environment and for your pocket.

Double walled boxes can be harder to source second hand and if buying new, they can be a bit more expensive than single walled but definitely worth the investment in my opinion. If you want to save costs, I’d get double walled for your breakable and heavy items, like kitchen crockery, appliances and books, and use single walled for lighter, non-breakables, like cushions, lightweight toys etc. Single walled boxes can vary in quality quite a bit, so try to source more robust ones if you can.

Plastic boxes

It’s good to have at least a few plastic packing boxes on hand when you are moving. I use them for moving and storing liquids such as cleaning products, as well as garage items, delicate clothes or linens. They help protect and contain the items; the last thing you want is a loose bottle top coming off your kitchen cleaner and liquid seeping through a cardboard box, potentially damaging the items you so carefully packed. You can hire plastic packing boxes, but it can be good to buy a few to have at home as they’ll always come in handy post move. I’ll discuss where to get these later on in this article.

Which sizes should you buy?


There are so many different sizes of packing boxes, it can be hard to know which ones to buy and how many, but you’ll likely need a variety of shapes and sizes for your move.

The basics

  • Dish packs – Dish packs are large boxes and are intended to be used for packing your kitchen dishware, but they can also be useful for packing other larger items like bedding, clothes, soft furnishings, toys etc.
  • Book boxes – These smaller boxes are great for books, as the name suggests, but I also use them with cardboard inserts for stemmed and tumbler glasses – it’s a great way to pack glassware and ensures they are protected.
  • Medium sized boxes – These come in different dimensions. I really like the Mitre 10 Medium Heavy Duty box, it’s the prefect size for packing wine and spirits. My next fave medium sized box is the half dish or 52 Litre Wrap and Move box from Bunnings – Heavy Duty version of course! This size box is great for small or medium sized breakable items that need to be packed on their own or with just a few other items. It’s also good for heavy items that can fit in a smaller box.
A picture and mirror packing box

Specialist boxes

  • Wardrobe boxes – I love these boxes. They come with a hanger which makes it so easy to transfer your shirts, jackets, dresses etc from your home wardrobe to the box and back out again. They can be expensive in comparison to other packing boxes but are well worth paying for as you only need one or two per bedroom, depending on how many clothes you have of course.
  • Picture boxes – This is another packing box that makes moving items so easy. I use these boxes for TVs, artwork and mirrors. You can use the box either portrait or landscape and as they slide together you can alter the length/width – so flexible. Again, they can be a bit more expensive than standard sized boxes so you may want to prioritise using them only for your more expensive items.

Where to buy your packing boxes

Second hand

I love reusing packing boxes; it’s helpful for the environment and also means I can pass cost savings on to my clients. The best place to source these is by keeping an eye out on your local community social media pages for people wanting to pass them on after their move. Always make sure the boxes are clean, intact and don’t smell to ensure your items are not going to be damaged. This is especially important if your items are going into storage – you don’t want any mold growing from unclean or previously damp boxes!

If you’re short on time, consider purchasing second hand boxes from Packaging Recyclers, who are a cardboard recycling specialist and a zero waste company. They’ll even buy the boxes back from you when you’re finished!

Storage facilities

There seem to be storage facilities popping up everywhere in Auckland, and many of them sell packing boxes. You can sometimes get a deal if you are storing your items with them and many of them provide moving packs, which can work out more cost effective than buying individual items. I tend to purchase the more unusual shaped boxes from storage facilities such as the picture boxes. Some facilities also offer a buyback service where they will take back and refund you on any returned unused boxes and also buy back your used boxes at a reduced rate.

Online suppliers

Another good place for purchasing packing boxes online is Packaging Products – they sell a range of boxes and packing supplies at a competitive price. They also sell moving packs at a significantly lower price than some of the storage companies.

If you want a sustainable and convenient option, there are suppliers that provide plastic storage boxes for hire, such as cleverbox. You order online and they deliver and pick up from your door. The moving packs can work out at a similar price to cardboard boxes but the boxes are a standard size, so you may find that some items just don’t fit into the box and you end up having to source additional suitably sized boxes. Personally, I like a variety of shapes and sizes so I’m not sure only using this option would suit me. Big bonus though- no taping up your packing boxes which could be a big timesaver, just make sure you fix the lids correctly to prevent any damage.

I mentioned earlier that it can be handy to have a few of your own plastic packing boxes for your move. I normally look out for deals like the ‘buy 1 get 50% off the second’ offers at places like The Warehouse, or you could look in charity shops for second hand boxes.

Your moving company

Purchasing packing boxes and supplies from your moving company can be another good option. Moving companies have access to wholesale pricing from packaging suppliers so they can pass cost savings on to you. I also offer large discounts to my clients if they are using my Total Move service, or if they are moving within Auckland from home to home on the same day and are using my second hand boxes.

How many boxes should you buy?


For an average 3 bedroom house I’d use around 40-45 packing boxes. And I’d increase it by about 12 boxes for each extra bedroom the house has, as usually the living areas will be larger too. My approach is always that it’s better to have too many boxes than too few, within reason of course.

Here’s an example for a 3 bed house of how the boxes might be used and what sizes are usually required:

Kitchen

  • 4-6 book boxes (used with dividers for stemmed glasses, tumblers etc)
  • 3-4 dish packs (I pack 2 layers using a spacer (cardboard and paper) in between each layer)
  • 2-3 medium to large boxes for kitchen appliances

Bedrooms

  • 2 large boxes for the bedding in each bedroom
  • 1 wardrobe box per room for hanging items, like shirts, jackets and dresses
  • 1-2 x flat boxes or clothes and shoes

Linen cupboard

  • 2-3 large boxes for your linen and towels
Kitchen with packing boxes. Some closed and ready to move.

Living areas

You’ll need a mixture of different box sizes for the living areas, around 6 in total. If you have a lot of books, ensure you buy more of the smaller book boxes.

Bathrooms, Laundry and Garage

I use plastic boxes for garage chemicals as well as laundry, bathroom and kitchen cleaning products.

I allocate a half dish pack for each bathroom and another for the laundry.

The number of packing boxes you need for the garage will depend on how much stuff you have accumulated, but on average I’d allocate 5 large boxes, 5 medium boxes and 5 small/book boxes. Using a wardrobe box for your long shed/garden tools such as rakes and brushes, can be very handy.

Artwork and TVs

I use picture boxes for TVs, mirrors and artwork. I always put the TV in the box on its own but often you can fit at least 2 pictures in the artwork boxes, depending on the depth and fragility of the pieces.

Here’s a QUICK VIEW of what you might need based on a 3 bedroom house. Remember to increase by 12 or so boxes for each extra bedroom the house has:

Type of boxQuantity
Dish15
Half dish 6
Book10
Other medium6
Wardrobe3
Plastic5
Picture/MirrorAs required

Other materials you’ll need

It’s not just about packing boxes. You’ll need other materials so that you can pack and label your boxes correctly and your items arrive at your new house safe and sound. Here’s a list of items I take with me on my moves.

ItemQuantity
Clear or brown tape8 rolls
Tape dispenser
(to make it quick and easy to tape up your boxes)
1 or 2
Scissors2
Packing knife1
Fragile tape1
Masking tape
(for mirrors and glass wall art)
1
Packing paper10 – 15 kg
(More is better than less in my opinion)
Bubble wrap2 rolls
Labels, such as sticky notes
(You may want different colours
for different areas of the house)
2 – 4 pads
Mattress and couch covers5
(Choose the appropriate size you need)
Moisture absorbing sachets
(I use these for boxes with bedding, linen and clothes when items are going into storage for a while)
1 or 2 per box, depending on the size

Cost of packing boxes

Moving packs for a 3 bedroom house cost between $150 and $280, but bare in mind that they don’t always include everything you need and you can often find yourself buying or sourcing a few more bits here and there. If buying everything new, I’d allocate around $300 for packing materials (increase by about 20% for each extra bedroom the house has). If you are buying new, look around for deals in the lead up to your move as from time to time storage facilities in particular have discounts on their moving packs.

OK, you should now be well on your way to understanding how to source the right boxes for your move. I’ll be posting tips on how to efficiently pack your boxes in my next blog post, so be sure to check back or subscribe to be notified. Happy packing! 🙂