Storage Container Costs: Rent vs Buy

Insight - 66 Min read

May 14, 2024

Storage containers are large, durable units commonly made of steel, designed for storing and transporting goods securely. They are widely used in various industries for their robustness and ability to withstand harsh weather, providing a reliable solution for temporary or long-term storage. Containers can be customized with features like shelving, insulation, or climate control to meet specific storage needs. They are available for rent or purchase, with renting being cost-effective for short-term use and purchasing beneficial for long-term applications. Additionally, these containers are portable, allowing for easy relocation and flexible usage across different sites or projects.

Here’s an estimated cost of containers by size:

These are approximate ranges and actual prices may vary depending on various factors.

Below is a breakdown of estimated prices for storage containers based on their condition:

New:

These storage containers are the newest on the market, typically less than a year old. They have not been exposed to harsh environmental conditions, making them ideal for those seeking a container in pristine condition. Being brand new, these containers are likely to have a longer lifespan and may offer better security and insulation properties due to their untouched state.

Premium:

Premium units are used containers that range from 2 to 8 years in age. Despite their use, they are maintained in excellent condition and adhere to the highest repair standards. This category offers a reliable option for buyers looking for containers that balance quality and cost, providing a durable solution without the premium price of a brand-new unit.

Grade A:

Grade A containers are older, with over 8 years of usage, and may exhibit minor damage such as dents or scratches. However, they maintain integrity in being wind- and water-tight, making them a suitable choice for storage needs where cosmetic appearance is less critical but functionality in protecting contents from the elements is necessary.

Grade B:

Containers classified as Grade B are similar in age to Grade A but have more significant signs of wear and tear, including substantial damage or rust. These containers are generally not suitable for overseas shipping as they do not meet the strict certification standards required for such use. They are often used for static storage on-site where the condition does not impact the security or protection of the stored items.

Refurbished:

Refurbished containers have been previously used and show signs of wear but have undergone repairs to restore their functionality. The refurbishment process may include fixing structural damage, treating rust, and applying new paint to improve their aesthetic appearance and extend their usability. This category is ideal for those needing a cost-effective storage solution and are not averse to a container with a history of prior use, provided it meets their space and durability requirements.

Storage Types

Storage solutions come in various types to accommodate different needs and environments. Here are some common types of storage:

1. Self-Storage Units: 

Self-storage units are enclosed spaces that individuals or businesses rent to store various items, ranging from household belongings to business inventory. These units come in a range of sizes—from small lockers to large rooms—and are secured by the tenant's own lock and key, ensuring privacy and security. Self-storage facilities typically offer flexible rental terms, making them an ideal choice for both short-term and long-term storage needs. They are especially popular for storing items during moves, renovations, or any situation where extra space is needed temporarily.

2. Warehouse Storage: 

Warehouse storage provides expansive spaces suitable for businesses requiring storage for large quantities of goods, equipment, or raw materials. These facilities are crucial for inventory management and logistics operations, often featuring loading docks and staff to assist with handling and distribution tasks. Warehouses can be rented or owned outright, with some businesses opting for customized warehouse solutions that include specialized storage systems or climate controls. This type of storage is integral to supply chain operations and helps businesses manage their resources more efficiently.

3. Outdoor Storage Yards: 

Outdoor storage yards are large, open spaces typically used for storing vehicles, heavy machinery, building materials, or other large items that are not sensitive to weather conditions. These yards are often located on the outskirts of urban areas to provide ample space and are usually secured with fencing and sometimes monitored with security cameras. Although they offer less protection from the elements, outdoor storage yards are ideal for items that are either too large or too rugged for indoor storage.

4. Container Storage: 

Container storage involves the use of large metal containers (often repurposed shipping containers) to store goods securely. These containers are durable, weather-resistant, and can be kept on-site or transported to other locations, providing a versatile storage solution for both individuals and businesses. Container storage is favored for its robust security features, mobility, and ability to withstand harsh conditions, making it suitable for construction sites, large-scale events, or as a temporary storage option during office or home renovations.

5. Climate-Controlled Storage: 

Climate-controlled storage units maintain specific temperature and humidity levels to protect sensitive items from damage caused by extreme temperatures or moisture. These units are essential for storing items such as electronic equipment, musical instruments, fine art, and important documents. By stabilizing the environment, climate-controlled storage helps preserve the integrity and extend the life of valuable or delicate items, making it a preferred choice for museums, archives, and individuals needing to store heirlooms or collectibles.

6. Document Storage:

Document storage facilities are specialized environments designed to securely store critical documents and records. These facilities often provide enhanced security features such as monitored alarms, fireproofing, and controlled access to protect sensitive information. Additionally, many document storage services include document management solutions, offering indexing, scanning, and retrieval services to help organizations efficiently manage their paperwork and comply with regulations regarding document retention.

7. Cold Storage:

Cold storage facilities are essential for preserving perishable goods such as food products, certain pharmaceuticals, and chemicals that require refrigeration or freezing to remain viable. These facilities are equipped with advanced refrigeration systems to maintain consistent temperatures and are tightly regulated to adhere to health and safety standards. Cold storage is critical for the food industry, pharmaceutical companies, and any business that deals with perishable goods, helping to extend shelf life and reduce waste.

8. Vehicle Storage:

Vehicle storage facilities offer secure spaces for storing cars, boats, RVs, and motorcycles, protecting them from theft, vandalism, and environmental damage. These facilities may provide both indoor and outdoor storage options, with higher-end services offering climate-controlled spaces to preserve the vehicle's condition. Vehicle storage is particularly useful for collectors, individuals with seasonal vehicles, or anyone needing long-term storage solutions during travel or relocation.

9. Shipping storage:

Shipping containers have experienced the most dramatic price increase in recent years. Because of changes in global supply chains, the price of containers has increased exponentially. While this is offset by decreases in shipping costs, most businesses will end up paying more for overseas shipping. Shipping delays can also incur unforeseen expenses for companies.

10. Rack Storage: 

Rack storage systems are commonly used in warehouses and manufacturing facilities to maximize vertical space efficiency. These systems consist of metal frames equipped with multiple shelf levels that can be adjusted to accommodate different item sizes. Rack storage enhances the organization and accessibility of stored goods, making inventory control more manageable and improving the overall efficiency of operations. This type of storage is ideal for businesses that require easy access to their products and efficient use of warehouse space.

Renting Storage Containers

Short-Term Needs:

Renting storage containers is particularly advantageous for short-term applications. It offers a cost-effective alternative to purchasing, bypassing the substantial upfront investment required for buying. This makes renting an appealing option for temporary projects, such as construction sites, seasonal retail stock storage, or event-specific needs where the use of the container is limited to a certain period.

Flexibility:

One of the significant benefits of renting storage containers is the flexibility it provides in managing storage capacity. You can easily adjust the number of containers you rent based on your current storage demands. This is particularly useful during peak business seasons or special projects where increased storage space is temporarily needed. Conversely, you can reduce the number of containers during off-peak times, ensuring you only pay for what you need.

No Maintenance Costs:

When you rent a storage container, the responsibility for maintenance and repairs typically falls on the rental company. This absence of maintenance costs can lead to significant savings, particularly for businesses or individuals looking for a hassle-free storage solution. Renting eliminates the need for long-term maintenance planning, making it a convenient option for many users.

Lower Upfront Costs:

Renting storage containers requires a lower initial financial outlay compared to buying. This lower cost barrier makes renting an attractive option for startups, small businesses, or individuals who may not have the capital for a large upfront purchase but still require flexible and scalable storage solutions.

Limited Commitment:

Renting storage containers allows for testing different container sizes and configurations without a long-term commitment. This is invaluable for businesses that are in the process of determining their optimal storage solutions or those whose storage needs are likely to evolve. Renting various container types and configurations can provide insights into what best meets their operational needs without the permanence of purchase.

Buying Storage Containers

Long-Term Use:

For long-term storage needs, buying a storage container becomes more cost-effective than renting. The one-time purchase price, while initially higher, eliminates ongoing rental fees, making it a financially sound investment over time. This is especially true for businesses or individuals with stable, long-term storage needs.

Customization:

Buying a storage container also allows for extensive customization. Owners can modify their containers to include shelving, insulation, climate control, or security enhancements, tailored to specific storage or operational requirements. This level of customization can be critical for specialized industries or unique storage conditions.

Asset Ownership:

Owning a storage container provides the financial benefit of a tangible asset. This asset can be depreciated over time and potentially sold if no longer needed, offering a return on the initial investment. Additionally, as an asset, it can sometimes be used as collateral in financing arrangements.

Control Over Usage:

Purchasing a container grants complete autonomy over its usage. Owners have the liberty to alter, relocate, or repurpose the container without the restrictions typically associated with rental agreements. This freedom is crucial for those who require specific modifications or wish to use the container in various capacities over time.

Tax Benefits:

There are potential tax advantages to purchasing a storage container, such as claiming depreciation. These benefits, which vary depending on jurisdiction and business structure, can substantially reduce the net cost of ownership, enhancing the financial appeal of buying versus renting.

Factors to Consider

Budget:

One of the most crucial factors in deciding whether to rent or buy a storage container is your budget. It's essential to thoroughly evaluate your current financial situation and consider both the immediate and long-term financial implications of your decision. Renting typically requires less initial capital, making it an attractive option for those with limited funds or those who prefer to preserve cash flow for other business operations. However, for long-term use, the cumulative cost of renting can surpass the one-time purchase cost of buying a container. Therefore, analyze your budgetary constraints and investment capabilities, taking into account both the short-term cash flow impacts and the long-term financial planning to determine which option is more economically feasible for you.

Duration of Use:

The intended duration for which you need the storage container plays a decisive role in whether renting or purchasing is more appropriate. For short-term needs, such as during a specific project or a seasonal peak, renting a container may be more cost-effective and sensible, as it avoids the long-term commitment and higher upfront costs of purchasing. Conversely, if the container is required for ongoing or permanent use, buying may be more economical in the long run. The break-even point where buying becomes more cost-effective than renting depends on various factors, including rental rates, purchase price, and the duration of use. Evaluate how long you anticipate needing the container to make an informed decision.

Storage Needs:

Carefully consider your specific storage requirements before deciding to rent or buy. This includes assessing the size of the container needed, the type of goods to be stored, environmental control needs (such as temperature or humidity control), and any specific features or customization that might be necessary. For instance, if you need a modified container with shelving, extra doors, or insulation, purchasing might offer more value as you can tailor the container to meet your exact needs. Conversely, if standard container specifications suffice, renting might be more straightforward and cost-effective. Conduct a detailed analysis of what you need from your storage solution to guide your decision towards the most appropriate and cost-effective choice.

Future Plans:

Another critical factor to consider is your anticipated future needs and any potential changes in your storage requirements. If your business is in a growth phase or if you anticipate significant changes in your operations, the flexibility offered by renting may be advantageous. Renting allows you to adapt to changing storage needs without a significant financial outlay each time. On the other hand, if your storage needs are stable and predictable, purchasing a container might make more sense. This is particularly true if you foresee using the container for an extended period, as it could lead to cost savings over time.

Join our inventory mailing list to get early access to our best deals