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Finding and Selecting Portable Storage Containers

August 5, 2019


Finding and Selecting Portable Storage Containers

5 min

If you’ve decided to invest in portable storage, finding and selecting the containers as the basis of operations is a critical step.

Whether pursuing portable storage as a standalone business or an extension of your current self storage facility, the containers will be the most expensive and vital portion of the investment.


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Several factors play a role in selecting the containers, including which type of container is best suited to your purpose.

This article examines various considerations to take into account when selecting containers and lists some manufacturers and wholesalers.


Shipping vs. Storage Containers

The type of container you choose will depend on how you plan to use it.

There are two choices for containers: shipping containers and portable storage containers.


Shipping Containers.

If the goal is to expand the number of units at a facility without turning to new construction (fixed storage), shipping containers are a great option.

Shipping containers (also called ISO containers, cargo containers, or intermodal containers) are steel boxes used for shipping and transport throughout the world.

The most common dimensions are 20 to 40 feet long, 8 feet wide, and either 8 foot 6 inches or 9 foot 6 inches tall.

Usually made of COR-TEN steel (which is highly resistant to rust and corrosion), shipping containers are incredibly durable but very heavy.

These shipping containers have a “sea life” of 15 to 18 years, and a second, or repurposed, life of 10 to 20 years.

Because of their weight, shipping containers aren’t the best choice for a mobile storage business.

However, they are an excellent option as fixed storage units if a business is merely wanting to add inventory on-site.

There is a substantial market for used shipping containers, which can be modified and configured to function as storage units, housing material, scrap steel, workspaces, and auxiliary building structures.

For information on where to find used shipping containers (or to purchase new ones), see “Options for Shipping Containers” towards the bottom of the article.


Portable Storage Containers.

If you’re planning to offer mobile portable storage, i.e., delivering a container to a location, having the customer load it, and then moving the container elsewhere, then specifically portable storage containers are the best choice.

Also called portable storage units, these containers are much lighter than shipping containers due to being made of aluminum or lighter steel.

Portable storage containers are usually custom-made and designed to be customer-friendly. Their variable sizes and weight are ideal for portable storage customers needing these containers to be placed in a wide array of locations.

They feature roll-up doors, and some can be broken down and stored flat when not in use.

Sizes vary, but typical sizes are 12, 16, or 20 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8 feet high. These sizes are relatively standard for facility units in the self storage industry. This fact makes going between these two different storage solutions smooth.

These containers are specifically made to store and transport goods from one location to another with a truck outfitted with a lift or ramp.

The average life span of a portable storage container is 5 to 10 years.


To Franchise or Not To Franchise

If investing in mobile storage services, you’ll have to decide whether to purchase an existing franchise, such as PODS, UNITS, 1-800-PACK-RAT, or SmartBox or to set up a mobile storage operation independently.

If you opt for the franchise route, a large portion of the franchise fee goes toward branded containers and a delivery system. This homogenized branding hopes to give a consistent experience to all potential customers.

For more information on franchising opportunities, check out this Small Business Trends article on 15 Storage Business Franchise Opportunities.

If you’re not choosing to franchise, then you’ll need to purchase portable storage containers from a manufacturer.

This decision allows you to pick the exact sizes you believe your customers will desire.


Manufacturers of Portable Storage Containers

Below is an alphabetical list of eight different manufacturers of portable storage containers, along with a brief overview of the company and link to their website.



Purchase of containers includes free consulting package, a training manual, help with business plans, ROI analysis, and growth strategies.

The company resides in South Carolina, and they manufacture the containers at their Alabama facility.


BOS Container USA:

Uses German steel and engineering to manufacture a variety of customizable portable storage units and accessories.

Winner of the Inside Self Storage (ISS) Best of Business award for “Most Innovative Product” for three years.



Offers full-service container solutions—from design and manufacturing to delivery and assembly.

The company works with vetted financial partners and delivery companies to coordinate the delivery of the customized containers, which are delivered within weeks and assembled on site.


Mobile Container Sales:

Has been manufacturing portable storage containers since 2004. Products have undergone years of extensive testing all over the U.S. and Canada.

Products include the containers, roll-off trailers, and removable wheels.


Portable Container Sales:

Manufactures and sells portable storage units and trailers. The company makes the containers used by the franchise, UNITS Moving and Portable Storage.


Portable Storage Box Company:

Has been manufacturing and selling portable storage containers for 20+ years.

The company prides itself on its manufacturing process, which uses high-quality raw materials, precise manufacturing, and quality control.


Universal Storage Containers:

Offers portable container solutions that incorporate foldable and quick assembly technology. Offices in Connecticut, New York, Denver, and Atlanta.

The company won ISS’s “Best Portable Storage Unit” award for multiple years.



The company offers distributorship opportunities for owners of self storage facilities or investors looking to invest in portable storage solutions.

The partnership allows businesses to set up a mobile storage fleet or complete a build out using the company’s Quickbuild containers.


Options for Shipping Containers

There are numerous ways to purchase used shipping containers to be repurposed as storage units. If you live near a port, look for local buying options near you.

Here are a few other options to consider, whether you’re looking to purchase new or used.


Big Blue Box:

Sells high-quality, steel CONEX boxes in Minnesota and surrounding states.

However, depots located around the U.S. allow for nationwide delivery.


Container Auction.com:

Provides an online auction and marketplace for shipping and cargo containers, working directly with manufacturers, leasing companies, and shipping lines to locate buyers for their equipment.


Mobile Modular Portable Storage:

Offers portable storage containers, offices, and office/storage combos for rent, purchase, or lease.

The site also includes listings for pre-owned shipping containers.


Onsite Storage Solutions:

Wholesaler of new and used shipping containers. All containers go through a detailed inspection before sale.

The company has locations in all 50 states.




Having a desirable and functional inventory starts with selecting a quality and purposeful container. There are plenty of options and possible paths to find the correct type and style of container.

If beginning a portable storage business or using containers as an expansion at your facility, differentiate what you need.

Create criteria for the containers and reach out to any number of manufacturers, franchisers, and sellers to learn more and connect for the business relationship you want, and that will expedite your entry into self storage.

Use this article as a resource to find and select containers and complete one of the most daunting tasks of the industry from your list.



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