When Does It Make More Sense to Buy a Shipping Container Instead of Renting?

Given the low cost of used shipping containers and their long functional life as steel storage containers, sometimes it makes more sense to buy a container instead of renting one. A lot of that decision depends on how long you think you’ll need the container. But, beyond the break-even point of how many storage container rental payments it would take for it to make more sense to buy a shipping container, we will cover other factors to consider, such as:

  • Will the container need to be moved later?
  • How will long-term maintenance be handled?
  • Does cosmetic appearance matter at your location?
40ft storage container rental being delivered, 40ft shipping container rental delivery truck, 40ft storage containers for rent

What’s the break-even point for buying a shipping container versus renting a storage container?

The price of used shipping containers can vary dramatically from location to location and can also be impacted by overall container supply and cargo demand. A reasonable expectation for a used shipping container might be around $3,000 and One Trip (or like new) shipping container might be closer to $5,500. That same container probably rents for around $175 per month, so in simple math it would take about a year and a half, or 18 months, to break even on a used container. If you wanted a container that was closer in condition to a rental container, a One Trip shipping container is like new and would take close to three years to break even on buying versus renting.

Anyone planning to have their container for more than 2-3 years is probably better off buying a one trip container or a used shipping container instead of renting. If you do buy a used shipping container, we recommend you paint it once every ten years or so to help it last longer.

Please remember that shipping container pricing can vary based on availability, so you should make sure to do a break-even calculation based on current pricing to buy a shipping container versus renting.

If Your Container Needs to Be Moved Later, It Might Make More Sense to Rent

Moving a shipping container can be complicated if you don’t have the proper equipment. We don’t move containers that customers purchase after their initial delivery, so you’ll need to find your own hauler to pick the container off the ground and relocate it to the next location. If you’ve never managed moving a container before, it can be a bit of a process. Most haulers require that the container be emptied out prior to moving it, and usually you’ll be charged roundtrip trucking for the hauler to go to your site and back to their facility.

If you rent a storage container, we can always relocate it to another site within our service area for an additional relocation fee (usually far less than hiring your own outside hauler). Unfortunately, we’ll still need the container to be empty prior to moving it anywhere.

Maintenance of a Shipping Container Can Be Complicated if You Don’t Have Proper Equipment

One thing that makes renting a container simpler than buying one is maintenance. When you rent a storage container from us, we manage any maintenance and repair issues that might come up by either sending a service technician to make a repair or by swapping out your container for a new one. If you own the container then you’re responsible for maintenance beyond the warranty period. For simple things like paint or a small patch that’s usually not a big deal, but if you need to repair the doors or cross members underneath the container floor at some point it can get complicated.

Mobile repair companies for semi-trailers are often your best bet, but those can be costly and usually will charge you for driving time to your location. In some cases, the container may need to be lifted off the ground for repair, which adds additional expenses and complications to owning a container.

Cosmetic Condition of Used Shipping Container Versus Rental Containers

If the appearance of your storage container matters at your location, then renting can be a better way to go. Used steel shipping containers are also usually ugly, with rust and dents all over them, where rental containers are either one trip containers or refurbished used containers that have been painted a neutral color like beige, blue, or grey. Additionally, we remove the shipping line logos from rental containers, but don’t do so for purchased containers.

Rental containers are meant to go unnoticed and blend in with their background. Whether the container is behind a shopping complex, in a hotel parking lot, or at a construction jobsite, it shouldn’t be attention grabbing. We paint our rental containers neutral colors, so your neighbors won’t complain about your container being an eyesore.

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