Portable Storage vs Self-Storage

Written by: StorageUnits.com Editorial Team - Published: Jun 21, 2024


There may come a time where you need a little extra space to keep your belongings during a move, in between housing situations, or when you don’t have enough room in your current home. When it comes to choosing a storage solution, there are generally two options to pick from: portable storage or self-storage. In this guide, we’ll talk about the differences between the two, how to choose which is right for you, and where to find services.


What is Portable Storage?

When you need a way to temporarily store your belongings or move them across town or country, portable storage and moving units are a great short-term solution. Simply order the number of containers that you’ll need for delivery and then schedule a time for the storage company to pick them up when you’re done packing. They will then deliver the containers to your new home or one of their storage facilities.

Pros and cons of portable storage


  • Set your own pace. You decide how long your storage units will stay at your location, giving you the flexibility to move as slow or fast as you’d like. 
  • Load items at ground level. Portable storage units are placed directly on the ground, allowing for easy loading without a ramp.
  • Storage company drives for you. The portable storage company will handle all of the traveling required to transport your belongings. 


  • Logistics can be a challenge. Depending on your location, it may be a challenge to deliver the storage units due to parking, street size, and homeowners associations.
  • Climate control is not guaranteed. If you’re planning to store your units, be sure to check with the company and see whether or not their storage facility is climate-controlled.
  • Can be more expensive long term. The fees associated with pickup and drop-off or length of storage in a facility may prove to be more expensive for long-term situations.

What is Self-Storage?

If you need a secure space in which to keep your belongings for a lengthy or undetermined period of time, self-storage is the way to go. Tenants sign on for a month-to-month lease, allowing the flexibility to end the contract when you need to. You are able to enter your unit whenever you want during business hours (sometimes up to 24 hours a day), making it easy to manage and access your items.

Pros and cons of self-storage


  • Good option for long-term storage. Self-storage facilities were designed with long-term storage in mind and offer an affordable price point.
  • Some units are climate-controlled. No matter the weather, climate-controlled storage units keep your items at a consistent temperature and humidity.
  • Easy to get to your things. The units in a storage facility are set up in a way that makes it easy to access your items, as long as you haven’t packed it to the brim.


  • You transport your own items. Tenants are responsible for hiring movers or unloading their own items into their storage unit.
  • Size availability can be a challenge. With self-storage in such high demand, it can be difficult to get the exact size you need in the location you desire.
  • Security can be hit and miss. Although many facilities invest in quality security systems and on-site supervision, there are locations that may not put in the same effort.

How to Decide Between Self-Storage and Portable Storage

When trying to decide on which storage route to go with, it all comes down to what you need and what you can afford. 

Portable storage is a nice option for people who need to move in a relatively short amount of time and have the resources to pay a company to transport their belongings. You’ll want to be sure that the locations you’re moving between have plenty of space to drop off the storage units, as this can be the largest hurdle with the portable option.

Self-storage is beneficial for people who need a space to keep their belongings for the long-term or would like to store items as they pack during the process of moving. It provides a secure place to store boxes and furniture, giving you the option to go through your things away from the chaos of moving at home. 

Where to Find Portable Storage

Moving your valuable and often priceless personal items is a stressful process in itself, so be sure to go with a highly rated portable storage company. You want to be able to trust the company you’re working with to care for your things and ensure their safe transport. Here’s some info on three well-known portable storage companies:

  • PODS: The PODS company provides a contactless pickup and delivery service for their customer’s safety and comfort. Customers order a PODS unit, load it up, and then they have three options: keep it on their property for as long as they need to, store it temporarily at a PODS storage center, or have it delivered to their new location. On the PODS website, the company states that a local move costs between $349 and $549, storage starts at $149 per month, and long-distance moves are $999 to $2,999.
  • SMARTBOX: The units at SMARTBOX come in one size: 8 ft. x 7 ft. x 5 ft. Customers are able to choose how many containers they need and can use the website’s Storage Estimator to help determine the quantity needed depending on the size of their home. Prices for a local move start at $278. Storage prices for one unit start at $69 per month, plus a delivery fee of $99. A long-distance move of three storage units is priced around $3,200.
  • U-Pack: This company’s unique offering of service center delivery provides a space for people who would otherwise be unable to park a storage container on their property. It is a little more work this way but provides an option for people who need the service. U-Pack offers door-to-door delivery, service center delivery, or U-Pack storage delivery. According to the U-Pack website, costs for delivery to a service center can start at $500 for one container, and costs for door-to-door delivery is around $2,500 for multiple containers.

A few things to consider when shopping for portable storage and moving units:

  • What size and number of containers do you need? You may need to order multiple containers depending on sizes offered and how much you have to store.
  • What are the containers made of? Wood and plastic aren’t going to do the job. Go for a steel-framed metal container for the best protection and weather resistance. 
  • Does the company have good ratings? Do some digging into the high and low ratings of any company you’re researching. Customer opinion and experience matters.

Where to Find Self-Storage Units Near You

If you’re looking for a long-term storage solution, where you decide to keep your belongings matters. You’ll want to do some good research and nail down what it is you’re wanting from a facility. Check out our “Find Storage” tab above to locate the best storage facility in a city near you. Here’s a breakdown of some popular self-storage companies, their offerings, and prices:

  • CubeSmart: With over 1,200 facilities across the U.S., CubeSmart offers climate-controlled storage services for households, vehicles, businesses, and even wine. Prices will vary depending on what you’re looking to store and where the storage facility is located. Small units start anywhere from around $70 per month to upward of $250 per month. Apply, reserve, and secure your storage unit on the CubeSmart website.
  • Public Storage: Customers who apply online are eligible for one month free and up to 30% off their first storage unit at Public Storage. With units starting as low as $50 per month, Public Storage is an affordable option for people looking to secure climate-controlled, vehicular, or business storage units. No more fumbling with keypads — customers can now open their facility gate using the app on their smartphones. 
  • ExtraSpace Storage: Find your next storage unit at one of over 2,000 locations provided by ExtraSpace Storage. The company offers storage options for vehicles, RVs, boats, businesses, and household goods. Reserve and rent online from their website, with prices starting at $25 per month. Select from a range of sizes and find a climate-controlled unit using the filter tool in their storage unit search engine.

When shopping for a storage unit, keep these things in mind:

  • Is climate control an important feature? If you’re storing items that will be affected by extreme temperatures or moisture, consider getting a unit with a controlled climate.
  • What size unit do you need? It can be hard to determine how much space you really need. Talk to a representative to better understand the size and capacity of their units.
  • How is security and surveillance provided? Security is often provided through 24-hour surveillance and on-site management. Be sure to ask about the facility’s safety protocols.