Lift vans, also known as van packs, can be one of the most economical ways to move to or from Alaska, especially if you’re currently living in an apartment, a condo or a smaller home.

We’ve seen people move to Alaska in all kinds of ways. Those with that Alaska “can do” attitude may pack their own truck and trailer and drive to Alaska. Others have enough personal possessions to warrant an entire 40′ container (or two)!

Lift vans fall somewhere in the middle of these two options. You’ll get less space than you would in a 20′ or 40′ container, but you’ll also get more ease and convenience than you would in a DIY move.

In this article, we’ll show you everything you need to know about Alaska moves using lift vans. We’ll also address the most common questions we get around this option—some you might not even know you had! We’ll start with the most common one:

#1: What Exactly Is a Lift Van?

A lift van is a standardized wooden shipping crate that’s used both for domestic and international moves.

Each lift van measures about 7ft x 4ft x 7ft on the outside and a few inches less on the inside, for a total of about 170 cubic feet of internal capacity.

We’ll give you a more precise idea of the size of a lift van in a moment. However, to give you a general idea, start by envisioning a 40′ container. You can fit 10 lift vans into that container.

Now, let’s talk about why you might think about selecting a lift van for your Alaska move.

Lift Van Specifications:

  • External Dimensions: 87 in. x 45 in. x 87 in.
  • Internal Dimensions: Approximately 85 in. x 43 in. x 80 in.
  • Capacity: ~170 cubic feet of loading space and 1000-1500lbs+ by weight

#2: Why Would I Use a Lift Van?

There are a few reasons people choose to move using lift vans. If you’re moving a multi-bedroom house—or you simply have a lot of furniture and possessions you want to move—a 20′ or a 40′ container might be your best bet.

However, if you don’t have enough to fill a 20′ or 40′ container, a lift van will be your next best bet. For comparison, let’s take a look at the smaller, 20′ container. It offers a capacity of around 1,160 cubic feet. A lift van gives you about 170 cubic feet to fill. If you don’t have many possessions, why pay for an entire 20′ container when a lift van (or two!) will do?

(By the way, we’ve helped many people move using multiple lift vans. When you get to the point of filling 4-5 lift vans, though, it’s probably time to start looking at a container. You’ll know for sure when your moving company conducts an in-person survey.)

Why else might people choose a lift van? Convenience. Some people simply don’t want to deal with moving all of their stuff on their own. Renting a truck or a trailer, packing it all, driving through the Alaskan weather through it all—it can quickly become a hassle. As a result, they look to a professional moving company to help them make the move.

Now, let’s take a closer look exactly how it works when you move with a lift van.

#3: How Much Stuff Fits in a Lift Van?

As we mentioned, a professional can help you evaluate the best method for moving your possessions, but we’ll give you some rough estimates to help you kick off your planning process.

The capacity of a lift van is about 170 cubic feet, but if you’re outside the moving industry, that number might not mean a lot to you.

To give you a better sense of what fits in a lift van, we’ve got some examples for you:

7 IKEA Bookcases

Did you know that every five seconds, IKEA sells one of their popular BILLY bookcases somewhere in the world? Seeing that the BILLY is so popular, we thought we’d use it to demonstrate one way to think about the capacity of a lift van.

If you lined them up carefully, you could fit 7 BILLY bookcases in a lift van, with a little extra room for packing materials.

47 Cases of Beer (By Volume)

Now, the dimensions of a typical box of beer (16 x 16 x 24 inches) would prevent you from stuffing 47 cases of beer in a lift van. However, if you stacked up 47 cases of beer, you’d at least have a pretty good idea of the volumetric capacity of a lift van.

53% of Your Bathroom

To visualize the volume of a lift van, you might find it easier to compare it to a room you’re probably familiar with: your bathroom. If you’ve got a standard size bathroom—5′ x 8′, with 8′ ceilings—that’s 320 cubic feet. A lift van, at 170 cubic feet, is 53% of that, so a little over half that space.

If you prefer to think in terms of the kinds of items you want to move, we’ll give you a few additional ways to think about the capacity of a lift van.

40 Medium Moving Boxes

Consider a standard medium moving box with dimensions of 18″ x 18″ x 16″. If you wanted to pack a lift van full of these boxes, you’d be able to fit 40 of them inside.

A King Size Mattress, Box Spring and 12 Large Boxes

Yes, a king-size mattress and box spring will fit in a lift van (just barely). Assuming a 10″ mattress and a 9″ box spring, you’d still have room left over for a row of 12 standard large moving boxes (18″ x 18″ x 24″)—but not much else.

One other way to think about it might be simply to know a lift van fits some small furniture, clothing and a few boxes.

Or, if you want to get a little more creative with your contents, consider the fact that a lift van is about:

  • 30 times as big as a bathtub.
  • 700 times as big as a basketball.
  • 70,000 as big as an egg.

One final word on the topic: When it comes to, “What fits in a lift van?” your best bet is to get an in-person survey from an expert. A professional can eyeball your possessions and help you pick the right method for shipping your household items so there are no surprises on moving day.

Finally, a lot of people we talk to want to know . . .

#4: Will Lift Vans Keep My Possessions Safe?

Absolutely! Lift vans are very sturdy and they’re constructed of heat-treated wood. Most of the time, your lift van will go inside a steel container during its journey to your destination, so it’s got an additional layer of protection as it moves.

One thing to note, though, is that lift vans do have a weight capacity of 1,000-1,500 pounds. If you exceed that capacity, you may threaten the structural integrity of the crate. Make sure you consider this weight capacity as you decide what to pack in your lift van. Your extensive bowling ball collection, for example, might need to be distributed among several lift vans.

Finally, lift vans are often packed directly at your home. Then, once everything is securely loaded, the lift vans are sealed until they reach their final destination, to give you an extra layer of security and peace of mind during your move.

Understanding All Your Options for Your Alaska Move

Whether you’re headed to Alaska or leaving the Frontier State for the lower 48, you’ll have a number of options to help you move your most important possessions along with you. Lift vans offer a convenient and economical way to move, especially if you’re moving with a few small pieces of furniture. Either way, understanding your options thoroughly will help you make an informed decision so you can feel confident about your move, right from the start.



Want some help with your Alaska move? We’d be happy to send one of our experts for a complimentary in-person survey, in which he or she will walk you through your options. Just get in touch with us, and we’ll schedule a time to meet.

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