A Guide to Renting Storage Containers: The Costs, Benefits, and More

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated April 15, 2022
A family packs moving boxes
Photo: bernardbodo/iStock/Getty Images

Highlights

  • Portable storage containers can be used for moves and on-site or remote storage.

  • Size options include 8-, 12-, and 16-foot containers.

  • Average rental costs fall between $50 and $300 per month for storage.

  • The typical mover pays between $2,610 and $3,290.

You’ve seen them looming in neighbors’ driveways, sitting beside the curb at the nearby cul-de-sac, or stacked up as cargo on a tractor-trailer: large portable storage containers branded with names like PODS or U-Box. Since its appearance in the late 1990s, this moving and storage innovation has changed the way we transport and stash away our stuff. 

Whether you’re moving or just curious about how they work, we’ll break down all the important details on renting a portable storage container. 

Portable Storage Containers 101

Like shipping container homes, portable storage units are a consumer adaptation of the intermodal shipping containers that reshaped global trade in the 20th century. 

It works like this: A rental company drops off a storage box to your driveway or curbside near your home, using a truck or hydraulic lift system. You can hang on to it for a set period or indefinitely, at a monthly charge, depending on the type of rental you choose. 

What to Put in a Storage Container

When renting a portable storage container, you can load it up with all the belongings that you don’t need right now (think furniture in between moves) or that don’t fit in your current home (during remodeling or downsizing). Then you can choose to either have the company pick the unit up again and deliver it to your new home or a remote storage unit—or you can just continue keeping it at home as outdoor storage. 

Types of Storage Containers

Your reasoning for renting a storage container is unique, and so are the units themselves. Most portable storage units are made from weatherproofed plywood, corrugated steel, or a combination of the two. Some feature rolling doors while others have swinging, barn-style doors. 

Some portable storage companies offer a choice between a few different sizes of containers, while others are limited to a single standard model. The precise dimensions vary among companies, but your general size options are:

  • 8-foot container: Roughly equivalent in capacity to a 10-foot moving truck, 8-foot containers are the most common size, designed to pack up a studio or small apartment comfortably. 

  • 12-foot container: Suitable for packing up a 2–3 bedroom home, the 12-foot container compares to a 15-foot moving truck.

  • 16-foot container: Extra large 16-foot containers, the biggest commonly available, are meant to be a substitute for a 20-foot moving truck.

Different companies may provide accessories like tie-down rings, locks, and padding as part of the rental or for an additional fee. These features offer protection against inclement weather and theft, so if either is a concern, be sure to bring these features up. Most companies also offer their own insurance policies at an additional charge.

Ways to Use Portable Storage Containers

Consumers rent storage containers for moving or for temporary or long-term storage, whether kept at home or transported to a remote facility. 

On-Site Storage

A novel possibility created by portable storage container rental is the opportunity to clear bulky or infrequently used items out of the home without bringing them to a faraway facility. You can simply get the container delivered to your driveway or yard, load it up, and forget about it, enjoying your decluttered house for as long as you’re willing to continue paying for the rental. 

While it is possible to do this for the long-term, portable storage containers are a more popular choice for those who need temporary outdoor storage over a renovation, for example. If you’re refinishing your hardwood floors, for instance, you can simply move all the furniture in a room into the portable container during the duration of the job and easily bring it back inside when you’ve finished. 

Bring the Storage Facility to You

Many companies offer the other option to pick up the unit and deliver it to a remote storage facility. In essence, this provides traditional self-storage without the hassle of renting a truck to haul the items yourself. If you’re deciding between a self-storage unit and a portable storage container, keep in mind that you will pay a premium for the portable container. Significant additional charges come when you need the portable unit delivered, so it may not be the best option for items you anticipate bringing in and out of storage rather than just stashing away for a long time.  

Moving 

Perhaps most commonly, portable storage containers are also used as a substitute for or supplement to a moving truck. Not only does it require less work from the renter to get the container to their home, but most portable storage units are also easier to load than a truck since they sit flat on the ground and do not require a ramp for access. 

The majority of storage companies provide options for local or long-distance moves, though some only make their products available for one or the other. 

Pros and Cons of Portable Storage Containers

A storage container sits in a driveway
Photo: JodiJacobson/E+/Getty Images

Portable storage containers provide a perfect solution for some moving and storage needs, but they are not right for every job.

Pros

Advantages include:

  • Less expensive than hiring a full-service moving company

  • Easier to load than DIY moving with a rental truck

  • Stiff competition between companies, meaning a wide range of different choices for the consumer

  • Perfect for short-term storage needs, like during a renovation

Cons

Keep these downsides in mind.

  • Keeping a portable storage container at home requires a significant amount of outdoor space and, in some cases, the approval of parking authorities or an HOA.

  • They’re not available everywhere.

  • They can be more expensive than truck rentals or traditional local storage facilities.

  • Pricing can vary widely. 

How Much Does It Cost to Rent a Portable Storage Container?

The final bill for a portable storage unit depends on the size of the container, local availability, whether or not you’re transporting it, the distance it will travel, and the rental duration. 

Generally, customers pay between $160 and $246 for the delivery of the container. The average rental costs fall between $50 and $300 per month. Many companies offer 30 free rental days if you move the container to another home or a storage facility. 

There is a wide range of potential costs for short- and long-distance moves, but the typical customer pays between $2,610 and $3,290.