Storage containers are the easiest, quickest, and most affordable way to add additional space to your home or business.
Available for rent or purchase and in a variety of conditions, they range in size from 10 feet long to up to 54 feet long.
Unlike steel building kits, these versatile shipping containers require no assembly and are ready for use as soon as they come off of the truck.
Storage Container FAQ
A portable storage container, not to be confused with a storage trailer – which has wheels – are a great option to get more storage space. If you feel that your warehouse and other storage areas have no space left at all, then a portable storage container could provide you with some extra space immediately, ready for storing excess inventory, company records, and anything in-between.
Storage containers are tough and waterproof, and they can be used across the year in any kind of weather without any fear of leaks or rust. Even better, they are less expensive than having a new building constructed, and they can be with you in days.
Read through the information on this page to learn more about storage containers, including
- What options you have for storage containers
- What to look for in a storage container seller
- How to choose between leasing, renting, and buying
- How much a storage container may cost
Afterward, we will connect you with portable storage container dealers in your area for a free quote.
Storage containers are available in a wide range of sizes. The most common options are 8’ wide, 8’6” high, and 20 or 40 feet long, giving a total volume of 1,170 cubic feet or 3,340 cubic feet.
Businesses typically choose 20’ containers as they offer easier access to any items kept to the back of the container. A 40’ model offers around three times as much space, but they could require extra doors at the back to properly take advantage of the larger space. A “high cube” container, for the record, has an internal height of 9’6”.
Some sellers will offer different length containers, including lengths as small as 6’ and as large as 54’, but it can be hard to find a specialty size like this, and you should understand the purposes of these specially-sized storage containers. These containers are only for domestic use and they cannot be shipped overseas.
Storage containers are stackable too, which is another reason they save so much space. It’s possible to hoist a 20’ unit with a forklift so that it can be placed on top of another unit.
Storage containers are built with 12-or-14 gauge corrugated steel sides, roofs, and doors. The floors of the container are made from marine-grade plywood that, despite being just one inch thick, is able to withstand up to 16,000 pounds of pressure per 100 square feet. Manufacturers weld containers together with an elastic sealing compounds so that they are completely airtight and watertight. The heavy-duty construction of the containers meets ISO construction standards and models of these containers are made to be fireproof and weather resistant as standard.
In order to offer protection against vandalism and theft, the containers are made with swing-out doors that have galvanized interior locking bars, similar to those found in bank vaults. Cam rods and padlock hasps are also used to secure units and protect the contents of the unit after hours.
While the average commercial storage container is made from steel, there are some other portable storage solutions including ones made from fiberglass and wood. While these are handy for personal use, they could lack the durability and reliability needed for commercial use.
The average 20 foot container weighs around 5,000 pounds while a 40 foot container weighs around 10,000 pounds. Both kinds of containers are delivered using flat tilt-bed trucks or are delivered on trailers. While these containers are comfortable resting on any surface from concrete to rough gravel, it is required that you have at least a 75 by 100 foot area of level, firm land for them. This level ground prevents containers from lifting and tipping, and the large open area means the truck has a lot of room to move in and out.
Take care if you are considering using a storage unit for an extended period of time. There are some cities that view them as being “dumpsters”. They might require you to hold a special permit or other official approval to use them long-term. If you are going to have the unit for more than a few months, you should check with your local government so that you aren’t violating zoning laws by keeping it.
Zoning laws and permits can vary between cities and counties, and they are subject to change all the time. If you plan to buy a storage container, make sure that you do your due diligence and learn what the current laws are. When renting a container, the onus is on the rental company to know the latest laws and regulations.
Different businesses will have their own different uses for portable storage containers. Here are a few examples of how they are used by different industries;
|Storage Container Uses|
|Department stores, pharmacies, supermarkets, hospitality, food service|
|Excess inventory, paper records storage, seasonal and holiday needs|
|Construction, landscapers, home improvement|
|Equipment, machinery, supplies, temporary office space|
|Residents, property owners|
|Tool shed, household goods storage, home furnishings, non-perishable food supplies|
|Truckers, financial institutions, insurance companies, film production|
|Document storage, raw materials|
|Medical, government, Native American reservations, academic institutions|
|Disaster preparation supplies, temporary bunks/shelters, security offices, athletic equipment storage|
Storage containers can be equipped with various upgrades depending on what is stored inside of them to increase security, convenience, appearance, and weatherproofing. The most popular add-ons can help you take full advantage of your container.
Storage container sellers offer some add-ons to improve the functionality of a container, including;
New and “one trip” storage containers are painted with neutral colors such as beige and gray. A used container may come in any kind of color. If you are planning on leaving the container in a visible location, then you should consider having it painted with the colors and logo of your company.
This fireproof steel box offers extra protection for the contents of your container.
A monitored alarm system offers extra security for your container by alerting authorities to potential break-ins.
Adjustable shelves make it easier to organize the contents of the container.
Main Doors/Side Doors
Extra doors can be built into the sides of the container so that people can access the unit from the middle rather than at the end. These are beneficial with larger units. They may also allow for access between two containers kept adjacent to each other.
A foldable ramp walkway makes it easy to wheel carts into the storage container. Make sure that they aren’t propped directly against a container, in order to avoid blocking the container door.
Louver vents and wind turbines allow for air to flow through the container for better humidity.
Partitions separate a large storage container into smaller sections. This creates different compartments for different uses, such as using one partition for storage and another as office space.
Keep belongings safe in harsh weather while also keeping the container at a nice temperature.
Offers ventilation, heating, and cooling for temperature regulation.
While some businesses might use their storage containers for extra office space, including having plumbing, electricity, and internet access installed, they aren’t a good choice for total long-term usage. You should consider getting an office trailer to work out of unless you’ll only need it for a few weeks.
The market for portable storage and shipping containers is filled with large and small companies reselling units from wholesalers, industry associations, and leasing companies. Sellers could exclusively deal with storage containers, or they may include them as part of an inventory that includes things like prefabricated construction and office trailers.
While the size of the seller isn’t too important, there are other things to look out for before you make your purchase.
Proximity is an important factor. Any potential delivery charges will be based on distance, and the location is the most competitive part of the industry. We recommend choosing a seller that is close to you as shipping costs increase to the point of becoming prohibitive.
Using local sellers gives you a great chance to look over their inventory in person. Through a facility tour, you’ll have a better feel for how the business works compared to just ordering over the internet or phone.
Be sure to ask the supplier questions and gauge their knowledge of the industry. If someone has been in the business for long enough, then this longevity is a good sign of their customer service and quality products.
If you want help choosing from a range of sellers, then you can ask them for references to narrow down the search. Try requesting references from businesses that are similar to the one you run to find out more about how the seller addressed the storage needs of those businesses. You should ask the references questions such as;
- Did you run into any budgeting problems, and did the seller help with them?
- Did you need to get any add-ons like ramps, lockboxes, or shelves?
- What condition was your container in when it arrived?
- Did you need to do any additional prep or cleaning to get the container ready?
- Did you get hit with any unexpected bills or charges?
- How long was the delivery process?
- Did the seller quickly address the problems you had, if any?
- Would you choose to use the seller again?
There are three options when it comes to acquiring a portable storage container;
If you expect to be using the container for years and you have the money for it, then buying would be your best bet. When you don’t need the container anymore, you can likely resell it at a good price because their price depreciates slowly.
Renting is an affordable option if you need a container for a few days or weeks. Renting lets you deduct the costs of renting from your taxes, but the costs can mount up if you keep the container too long.
Lease to Own
Lease to own is a good idea if you need to have the container on a long-term basis but lack the money to buy it upfront. Leasing to own lets you pay off the cost of the container over time and then purchase it outright with one last payment. The downside is that, much like most forms of credit, you end up paying much more than the initial purchase price due to interest.
Before buying a container, you need to take into account when you need the container. Certain sellers do offer same-day delivery if they have the container ready in stock. More often than not though, it could be between one or three days before you receive your container. Also keep in mind adding some features to the container extends the delivery time and increases the cost. Don’t forget that you have the option of buying a used transport container too.
A new container is more accurately referred to by the name “one trip” containers. That’s because they make a trip across the ocean before they are sold. A basic new/one-trip storage container at 20’ costs between $2,800 and $3,400. A 40’ storage container costs anywhere between $4,900 and $6,000. A 40’ high cube container will cost between $5,000 and $6,200.
If you’re in the market for several containers, then you may find a seller willing to cut you a deal on transport. Sellers will charge hourly fees for customization, between $50 and $150, plus cost of materials. You could find yourself forking out hundreds of dollars for even basic add-ons like ramps and shelving, and even more to convert a container into office space.
Used Storage Containers Pricing
While a new container can set you back several thousand dollars, getting a refurbished/used container is much more manageable. Sellers will purchase pre-owned units, fix them up, get rid of broken parts, ensure the container is water tight, and possibly apply some new paint. A seller might decide against painting in case a customer wants to choose their own custom paint. A refurbished container looks good, but they could still be dented, and you’ll have to pay up to half as much as you would for a brand new container.
The price for 20’ used containers is between $1,900 and $2,400. A 40’ used container is between $2,600 and $3,300, and a 40’ high cube used container will cost between $2,700 and $3,400. Units on the lower end of the spectrum may be “as is” containers that have very few, if any, upgrades and are not guaranteed to protect against fire and water damage.
Upmarket used containers are fully reconditioned and they have all the functionality of brand new models. They come with a higher cost that may include the cost of acquisition, trucking expenses, and the cost for sealants/repairs.
A short term rental is a more common option than leasing as the majority of customers have their containers for between 1 and 6 months. The cost for a rental can be between $3 and $8 per day, with flexible length terms.
A rental agreement is usually offered with a one-month minimum. With billing starting after the first month. Most companies choose to pro-rate the last month of the agreement.
Leasing could be good if you require several containers but for long periods of time. Leases run for an average of 24 months, with monthly payments being between $75 and $150 based on the quality and age of the rental container. When you lease, a seller may reduce their monthly rate if you rent for longer. Whether you rent or lease, it is up to you – the customer – to handle delivery and pickup charges.
The shipping cost for the container depends on the weight of the container and the distance it is being shipped, and those costs quickly add up. You should expect to be paying anywhere between $80 and $500 for in-town delivery, taking traffic into account. The delivery costs will quickly go up depending on the distance, especially for those in the Mountain Time zone. Outside of the east and west coast rail lines, Dallas and Denver are the only outlets in the mid-west. Sellers might also require you to pay a minimum shipping fee no matter the distance, and they could have a maximum distance of 250 miles.
You really do get what you pay for
It’s true that storage containers may be expensive, but you should never sacrifice quality for price. You might have the option of getting an “as is” model for a couple of hundred dollars, but such containers have cracks, dents, rust, and missing pieces that could lead to damage of the contents stored in them. The extra money that you spend on a good container is insignificant compared to the costs associated with a cheap one.
Check the birthday
Storage containers come with numbers referring to their shipping standards. These are numbers with a four letter prefix followed by a six digit container number, and a check digit, which is a number in a box. The container number should be on every side of your container, twice on the roof, and once inside the door. The steel plate of the container will also have the manufacturer date, or the birthday if you will.
You will need at least 75 feet of clearance to make way for the delivery and installation of a 20’ storage container, not to mention so you have room to maneuver in and out of it. 40’ units require a 100 foot clearance. The ground that a container is placed on should be level, firm, and relatively flat. Hills and mold could make the truck become stuck, and you would be the one left paying for the tow.
Drivers generally won’t deliver containers to areas that they feel unsafe driving to, or where they feel that they might inadvertently cause property damage that they would be responsible for.
Customers can prevent wasted trips by providing drivers with photos of the area the container will be kept and the access for the truck (such as the driveway). Vendors and drivers can then determine whether it would be appropriate and/or safe to deliver the storage container.
Learn more about containers
You can learn more about storage containers, the industry as a whole, and best practices by looking through the National Portable Storage Association website.