Should I Buy or Rent My Container? A Helpful Guide from MobileMod

We often get asked by our customers whether we recommend they buy a portable storage or mobile space unit outright, or simply rent one. MobileMod has “no dog in this fight” – our only concern is to ensure we’re doing right by our customers and serving their storage and space needs. However, there are several elements to this question that can help guide your buy vs. rent decision. When faced with this question, we often ask our customers a series of follow-up inquiries to better understand their needs:

  • How long do you expect to use the unit?
  • Is there a defined beginning and end date to your project?
  • Will the unit be in use during the entirety of your hold period? Or, will your need for portable space be more variable?
  • Do you anticipate needing to move the unit periodically?
  • How will the unit be used and do you expect to make modifications?

Let’s review these questions in-depth and discuss key considerations.

How long do you expect to use the unit?
If you anticipate having a need for your unit over several years, it will likely be more advantageous for you to buy the unit outright. You may expect the unit to become a permanent fixture, or you expect to have a permanent need for extra storage space. Similarly, as your need for storage or space evolves over time, you are completely free to modify the unit to your exact specifications. Given your ownership time horizon extends over multiple years, you’re sure to save money in the long-term when compared to making monthly rental payments over several years.

Conversely, if you feel you will only need the container for a limited amount of time, you will find it more cost effective to rent a unit instead. Certainly for periods of less than a year, renting will be a better financial decision. Customers in the portable storage industry will rent units for 24 months on average. Some customers choose to rent a unit for 5+ years and still find it financially advantageous when compared to buying it outright.

Having a firm sense for how long you’ll use the unit will provide the clearest indication as to whether you should buy or rent.

Is there a defined beginning and end date to your project?
If your need for portable strange or mobile space is driven by a project with a definitive beginning and end date, we recommend renting a unit. Even if the project could extend for 3-5 years, you are likely to save money by renting when factoring in other ownership costs like maintenance, repair, insurance and depreciation. If you anticipate having a series of projects, you will still have to incorporate the cost to physically move the unit to new locations, which can prove expensive.

Will your unit be in use during the entirety of your hold period?
Occasionally, customers will approach us with a long-term need for mobile space, but may experience variability as to how consistently the unit is in use. Certain industries like retail, agriculture and manufacturing have seasonal needs for space. A retailer may have a need for extra storage space every year, but only during the months leading up to the holiday shopping season. Schools, universities, and athletic departments are more likely to have a need for space only when class is in session, or during specific athletic seasons. If you think there will be significant periods of time where the unit will not be in use, consider renting so that you aren’t having to pay for space that isn’t being used.

Do you anticipate needing to relocate the unit periodically?
Relocating a container or modular building can require significant cost and time. If you need to move, you will have to factor in the costs of relocating the container along with you. MobileMod, like other portable storage companies, has invested substantial resources in our logistics expertise so that we can relocate these multi-ton boxes thousands of miles if needed. By owning a unit, you may find yourself incurring expensive moving costs for unanticipated relocations, thereby increasing your overall cost of ownership.

How will the unit be used and do you expect to make modifications?
At MobileMod, we are fascinated with our customers’ creativity and ability to develop new and unique uses for containers. By renting a container, you will be prohibited from making any modifications to the unit. With ownership, you can customize the unit to suit your specific needs. If your needs evolve over the life of ownership, you can continue making modifications as needed. MobileMod specializes in modifying containers based on our customers unique needs. We have experience installing everything from simple entrydoors and windows, to complex houses, offices, concessions stands, kiosks and more. If you’re looking for more information on our customization offerings, contact us to find out more.

These are a few of the elements we consider when recommending a buy vs. rent for our customers. In short, always be mindful of the extraneous costs involved with container ownership. You will be responsible for ongoing maintenance and upkeep costs, or any accidents that impact the structural integrity of the unit. While containers are exceedingly strong and can withstand extreme elements, over a long enough time horizon you can expect them to depreciate.

Should you elect to buy the unit outright and, down the road, find you no longer have a need for it – just contact MobileMod and we’ll be happy to quote you a price to repurchase your unit. We are committed to reusing and/or recycling as many units as possible to reduce waste and promote sustainability. Even if a unit is damaged beyond repair, we have relationships with scrap recyclers that can be sure as much of your container is being recycled as feasible. With your cooperation, we can reach our goal of 100% material sustainability!

Everyone’s need for storage and space is different and you may have unique circumstances driving your decision. The MobileMod team is well-versed in understanding these needs and is happy to answer your questions. Even if you don’t ultimately choose to buy or rent from us, we hope you’ll find our customer service exceeds the industry and you’ll be happy you called us!

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