A Beginner’s Guide to Renting vs. Buying a Shipping Container for Your Business


Running a business comes with many challenges, and whether you are tasked with finding a place to store inventory, finished goods, tools or even securing more office space, shipping containers are a great solution that offer a wide variety of uses. Cargo containers are becoming increasingly popular among individuals and businesses for their versatility.

There is no question that shipping containers can greatly benefit a business, but knowing when to buy or rent a shipping container is the big challenge. There are many pros and cons to each side, and while the decision can be a tough one, determining which option is best can save your business both time and money.

To help inform your decision making, here are some questions to consider to help you decided if you want to rent or buy a shipping container for your business:

What’s Your Budget?

Up front, storage containers can be a big financial commitment, with some container prices reaching into the tens of thousands. Renting, however, costs significantly less per month, with an average range spanning from $50 to $500 a month, based on your needs. If your business plans on using a container for a few months, it would be more cost-effective to rent, but once you begin renting for multiple years, the monthly payments begin to stack up. Long-term, you will get more bang for your buck by buying a container.

How Long Do You Need the Container?

Now that we know that time plays a big role in the long-term costs, it is important to evaluate how long you need the container for. If you plan on permanently installing your container in one location, you will need to buy it. Purchasing a container is ideal if you plan on using the structure for many years.

Short-term rentals are ideal for seasonal needs. There is also more flexibility if your timeline changes. If plans change, you can modify your pick-up and delivery dates. You also won’t have to think too much about up-keep, as the containers are designed to be durable and weatherproof. Owners on the other hand, need to maintain their container to maximize its life-span or possible resale value.

Do You Plan on Moving the Container?

While shipping containers are designed to be transported, moving a cargo container requires special equipment and money. Moving containers is a labor-intensive process, but when you rent, you can typically have the containers delivered right to where you need them, plus this service is often embedded in the rental cost. Rented containers can more closely be compared to traditional travel trailers, since they can be moved about and won’t be installed permanently.

Owning and moving a container can often pose challenges. If you need to change locations, your business will most likely need to hire someone to move it for you, which can come with a hefty price tag.

How Much Space Will You Need?

Shipping containers vary in size, with some smaller containers measuring in at under 10 feet in length while others are over 50 feet. Big containers are great for storing large quantities of cargo and materials, however not every business has a space to keep such a hefty container.

Businesses are constantly evolving and their needs change. One year you might find that a small container will do the trick, and the next you require multiple large containers. Renting is an ideal solution if adaptability and fluidity is something you’re after. This way you have some wiggle room to find the best container option for your business.

Will You Need to Make Modifications?

Most container rental companies offer two types of containers: offices and storage units. These containers come very bare-bones, and while they are designed to suit a variety of needs, they won’t be customized to your particular business wishes.

Purchasing a storage container can open up a world of possibilities for your business. Units can be modified and adjusted to fit your specific requirements. Whether that means additional doors, windows, ventilation or even cosmetic changes, buying offers much more flexibility.

Final Thoughts

When deciding whether to buy or rent a cargo container, there are many pros and cons depending on your business needs. If you plan on using your container all year for many years to come in the same location, purchasing is the way to go. This will allow for more flexibility when it comes to customizations and possible reuse in the future.

Alternatively, renting can offer a lower commitment at less cost if you plan on using your container seasonally or for less than a year. This is also a better option if you foresee needing to swap out for an upgraded model or move the location of the container.

Trust NorCal for Your Shipping Container Needs

With these key questions to consider, you can now make an educated decision on whether your business should buy or rent a container.

If you live in Nevada, California or Oregon, NorCal wants to help you find the right shipping container for your business. Known for our affordable prices, reliable shipping and customer service, you will be in good hands. Check out our selection to find the right solution for your business.

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