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Renting a Traditional Storage Unit Versus a Portable One

Whether you’re moving, downsizing, or just trying to create more floor space during a renovation, a storage unit can be a lifesaver. These units offer a safe, secure place to keep your belongings for a few days or even a few years.

However, with the emergence of portable storage containers in recent decades, the options have expanded. It’s no longer just a matter of shopping around local storage facilities to compare prices, sizes, and amenities. How do you decide between these portable containers and traditional self-storage?

Read on to explore the differences between portable storage containers and traditional storage units and compare their advantages and disadvantages to decide which is best for you.

Portable Storage

Like the shipping containers from which they’re adapted, portable storage containers are designed to offer savings by maximizing efficiency. Storage companies deliver the containers to your home so you can pack them up with anything you need. You can then opt to keep the unit at your home as on-site storage or have it delivered to a remote facility for safekeeping—or, if you’re moving, to your new home.


There are good reasons that portable storage containers have exploded in popularity since their appearance on the market in the 1990s.

Flexibility: You can use portable containers for a combination of storage and moving purposes. If you need short-term storage in the run-up to a move but aren’t sure exactly when you want to hit the road, you won’t have to decide too far in advance.

No hauling: The chief advantage of a portable storage unit is that it eliminates the need for you to haul your heavy, unwieldy collection of belongings to its final destination. Whether you’re moving house or storing items for a short or long while, the storage company performs all the delivery work.


Availability: Portable storage containers are widely available, but because of the complex delivery infrastructure, they are not available everywhere. In many places, you may only have the choice of one or two companies. No matter where you live, you’ll have to make your booking weeks or months in advance to make sure containers (and trucks to transport them) are available.

Lack of climate conditioning: Though the boxes are weatherproofed, portable storage units sit outdoors, their steel or wood frames magnifying the summer heat and helpless against the winter cold. For many household belongings, this is no big deal, but it rules out storing more sensitive items.

Remote storage accessibility: If you choose to store your container at a remote facility, accessing your stored items won’t be as simple as visiting during business hours. The containers are stacked to maximize space; when you want to retrieve belongings from your unit, you must pay to have them delivered back to your home.

Traditional Storage

With traditional self-storage, you rent a unit (or multiple units) at a secure, climate-controlled storage facility and move your belongings yourself. Some facilities offer 24-hour access to units, while you can only visit others during business hours.


Security: At a remote storage facility, your items are kept safe not only by the lock on the unit itself, but by building security as well, often including on-site guards and extensive camera systems.

Climate: While you can find outdoor storage units that don’t provide air conditioning, most indoor storage facilities are climate-controlled, making them a safe environment for all of your belongings, even fragile antiques.


Transport: Compared to portable containers, the disadvantage of traditional self-storage is that you need to haul everything to the storage unit yourself, adding time, hassle, and—if your car isn’t large enough to fit everything you need—expenses.