Do you need short-term storage for moving? We’re discussing the pros and cons of portable moving containers and storage units to help you make an informed decision.

storage units vs moving containers

When people move from one home to the next, the need for temporary storage space rises dramatically. Mismatched closing dates, a relocation overseas, or trying to stage your home for sale are just a few of the likely scenarios that require extra space for belongings. Storage for moving is meant to be temporary, convenient and hassle-free. With that said, there are a couple of different options for short-term storage to consider.

We’re exploring the two main types of moving storage on the market right now — on-site containers and off-site storage units. Depending on your situation, one option might be significantly more beneficial to you. Keep reading to learn more about these moving storage options to weigh the pros and cons of each.

1. Moving Storage Containers

Pros and cons of using moving containers for short term storage

In many cases, moving container companies are used for long distance relocations. Though utilizing containerized storage for moving is a relatively new concept in the DIY moving industry, this portable storage option has been gaining popularity with movers that need a convenient way to pack up their home on their own time.

With container moving, you pick the size container you want. The company drops it off at your home; you pack it up, then the company moves the container to your new location. In the event you need your stuff stored longer, some of the companies will store your container on their property for an extended period for an additional fee.

Be sure not to confuse these portable units with shipping containers for moving. Shipping containers look similar but are used for commercial purposes only.

Storage Tip: When packing up a moving container, make sure to take care to load the space in the same way you would pack a moving truck. Since these items will be lifted and moved without you present, you want to be sure your belongings are secured and won’t break during the move.

Common Sizes Available:

  • 7’-8’ deep
    • Approximately 400 sq feet and would likely fit the contents of a studio apartment.
  • 12’ deep
    • Approximately 800 sq feet and would likely fit the contents of a 1-bedroom apartment.
  • 16’ deep
    • Approximately 1,400 sq feet and would likely fit a small 2-bedroom home.
  • 20’ deep
    • Approximately 2,000 sq feet and would likely fit the contents of a 2-3 bedroom home.

Some companies offer a portable container option that is on a trailer that you can tow by yourself.

Average Cost:

The cost of renting portable storage depends on whether you need to have the unit moved to a new location or not. To store the unit on your property for one month, the cost starts around $150. If you need to have the container moved as well, you’re looking at anywhere between $600 – $3,500.


  • Portable storage options allow you to move at your own pace, loading up the containers as quickly or slowly as you see fit.
  • If you get transferred or deployed and will be flying to your new home, this option allows you to have all your belongings shipped to the new location.
  • With moving containers, you don’t need to worry about having to drive a large rental truck. The items can be shipped to your new location by the company renting you the unit.


  • Quality of construction varies from company to company. Be sure to ask how the container is constructed and also read reviews about longevity. If you need storage for an extended period, some portable boxes may not hold up well and could rust.
  • Some companies only offer smaller size portable storage containers that will comfortably fit the contents of one room. If this is the case, you may need multiple containers to fit your entire home, which can cost a lot more than you’re willing to spend.
  • If you live on a small lot, portable storage containers might not fit on your property or might take up your entire driveway.
  • Some city or town regulations may prevent you from keeping a moving container on your property for an extended period. If you opt to park on the street, check with city hall to find out what regulations are in place for street parking. In some cities, special permits can be acquired to park a container on the street.
  • Some larger cities might not let you park the container overnight at all. A driver would be required to wait with the unit while it is being loaded and unloaded.
  • You need more lead time to plan for a portable storage container than you would a truck rental since there are a lot fewer containers out there than there are moving trucks.
  • Portable moving containers can be unsightly to look at on your property, which in turn can upset your neighbors.


If you opt for a portable storage option, be prepared to spend a lot of money. However, you’ll get the most out of your portable storage container if you only need temporary storage for a month or less. Most companies include the first month of storage as part of the base cost. If you go beyond a month, you’ll often need to pay monthly rent.

In most cases, moving container companies are ideal and more convenient for long-distance moves. You’ll spend more than you would if you rented a moving truck without movers, but you’ll have a lot less hassle moving the items across state lines. Only you can decide if the added cost is worth the extra convenience.

Related: Top 7 Interstate Moving Companies

2. Storage Units

When to use storage units for moving, pros and cons

If your new home is located close to a storage facility, a storage unit might be an affordable option for short-term storage during a move. Storage units come in a variety of sizes and offer both indoor and outdoor storage. An outdoor storage unit is similar to a garage with a garage style door. Indoor units offer more protection from the elements but are a little more expensive.

Since most storage companies offer month-to-month leases, there are a few different ways you can utilize a storage unit when moving. Rent a smaller unit to store excess decor and personal items while selling your home. If a child is going away to college, rent a unit to store their dorm items during the offseason. Also, larger units are available for packing in your entire home during a time when you can’t get into your new place right away, like if your closing dates get pushed back.

Storage Tip: With storage units, you can have third-party movers take your items in and out of the unit. Simply provide the movers with access by giving them keypad access and a key to your lock. However, we recommend being present anytime a third party needs to access your unit for security reasons.

Common Sizes Available:

  • 5’x15’ or 10’x10’
    • Ideal for storing items from a 1-bedroom apartment.
  • 10’x15’
    • Ideal for storing items from a 2-bedroom apartment.
  • 10’x20’ or 10’x30’
    • Ideal for storing items from a 2-3 bedroom home or apartment.

Average Cost:

Pricing of storage units depends on the season, availability, size and climate options you need. You’ll only pay monthly rent, which can range anywhere from $30 to $250 a month.

Read Also: How Much Does a Storage Unit Cost in 2018?


  • Most locations offer month to month leases, which is ideal for short-term storage for moving.
  • Life Storage locations offer a free moving truck rental with a storage rental, so you’re able to move all your large items to the storage unit without an added expense.
  • In general, storage units are more affordable than portable storage options.
  • You don’t have to worry about obtaining city permits to keep a container on your property.
  • If you need to store your items off-site, you’ll have more access to your items in a storage unit facility than you would with a portatable container company. Most container companies that store your items off-site provide limited to no access at all. Many storage unit companies offer 24/7 access.


  • Your options may limited depending on your market and the number of storage facilities located within a few miles of your home.
  • Moving items in and out of a storage unit is not as convenient as moving them in and out of a moving container that is located on your property.


Storage units provide a flexible alternative to portable containers, mainly if you are unable to get into your new home right away or are going to be away from your property for more than a couple weeks.

Read Next: Helpful Tips When Renting a Storage Unit for Moving

Which storage option would you choose for an upcoming move? Let us know in the comments below!

Storage for Moving - Storage Units Versus Moving Containers Infographic

About the Author


Lauren Thomann

Lauren Thomann is a moving and storage expert. She attended the University at Buffalo and has worked in the storage industry for over five years. Here on the Life Storage blog, you can find Lauren covering everything from finding a home, settling into a new home and all the stages in between.

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