Should You Rent a Self-Storage Unit or a Portable Moving Container?

Written by: Editorial Team - Published: May 18, 2024


Choosing to rent a self-storage unit or a portable moving container is a big decision you want to get right the first time. Whether you're looking for additional storage or a place to keep your belongings while making a big move, it's essential to know the ins and outs of both options to make your best choice. Here, we have broken down the critical elements of both options so you can see which option is the best choice for your needs.


What Is the Difference Between a Self-Storage Unit and a Portable Moving Container?

While a self-storage unit and a portable moving container are both excellent options for temporarily storing your belongings, each carries pros and cons that make them better suited for different needs. 

A self-storage unit is permanently housed in a brick-and-mortar location. It is a great option for anyone looking to keep their belongings in the best condition for either short- or long-term storage. 

Additional benefits for renting a self-storage unit include:

  • Added security measures
  • Some amenities, like climate-controlled units
  • Options for storing large items, like boats and travel trailers

On the other hand, a portable moving container is delivered directly to your home. This can make loading and unloading a breeze, especially if you’re moving directly from one place to another or seeking a solution for any short-term storage needs. 

You might consider a portable moving container for the following situations:

  • To complete a home-improvement project or a series of renovations
  • To move belongings to an office or a second home
  • As a place to store decorations or rentals for a significant event, like a wedding or a holiday

How Big Are Typical Moving Containers?

PODS moving containers are a popular choice for anyone looking to rent a portable storage option. These containers come in three sizes — 16-foot, 12-foot and 8-foot.

Large container — 16-foot

The large container is a favorite choice for anyone moving a 1,200-square-foot space or a home with three to four rooms. Also, as the only PODS container size available for long-distance moves, this is a great option if you’re interested in using your container to move 150 miles or more. 

This container is best used for:

  • Large cross-country moves 
  • Big households 
  • Homes with three to four rooms

Medium container — 12-foot

The medium container is designed to accommodate 500-800 square feet or a home with two to three rooms. While this container is not available for long-distance moves, it is a popular choice for those committing to a local move. 

This container is best used for:

  • Local moves 
  • Apartment homes
  • Homes with two to three rooms

Small container — 8-foot

The small container is best suited for 500 square feet or less. While this might work for a small apartment home, this container is also an excellent option for college dorms or shipping furniture. In addition, many users who need more space than the large container will rent a small container to make up the difference. 

This container is best used for:

  • Local or long-distance moves 
  • Small apartments or college dorms
  • In combination with a large container for more space

How Much Do PODS Moving Containers Cost?

The cost of renting a PODS moving container varies. Many factors should be considered, like whether you’re using it for moving or storage and if you’re making a short- or long-distance move. Long-distance moves will incur the most significant expense, while local moves and short-term storage are more affordable. 

Costs for storage

Renting a PODS moving container for storage is more straightforward and less expensive than renting a container for a local or long-distance move. Although customers still have to pay delivery and pickup fees, it might be worth it for some perks. For example, customers using PODS for short-term storage will enjoy the convenience of keeping the container in their driveway for easy access or the peace of mind of having the container transported to a storage facility for them.

Container Size Monthly Fees (Container Storage and Insurance) One-Time Charges (Delivery and Pickup Fees) Total for a Single Month’s Rent (Including Fees)
16-foot Container $239 $198 $437
12-foot Container $219 $198 $417
8-foot Container $199 $198 $397

Costs for a local move

Making a local move with a PODS container is a relatively simple process. Although their rates might be slightly higher than other moving companies, some clients enjoy the ease of unpacking on their timeline. PODS containers are rented by the month, so users never have to worry about loading or unloading in a hurry. The table below represents the cost for a move up to 30 miles.

Container Size Monthly Fees (Container Storage & Insurance) One-Time Charges (Delivery, Moving, and Pickup Fees) Total for a Single Month’s Rent (including fees)
16-foot Container $239 $317 $556
12-foot Container $219 $317 $536
8-foot Container $199 $317 $516

Costs for a long-distance move

PODS can also accommodate long-distance moves to virtually any location nationwide. However, this option involves additional costs — namely, higher transportation fees charged by the mile. Nevertheless, many customers appreciate that their container is driven by a professional to their new location. They can feel confident that their belongings are insured and well-protected in weather-resistant containers.

PODS encourages customers looking to make a long-distance move to contact the company directly for an exact quote. The quote below is the approximate cost of a move up to 1000 miles. 

Deliver Empty Container to Your Location $159
Contents Protection While in Transit Fee $50
Monthly Rental of a 16’ Container in a Storage Facility $289
Contents Protection $10,000 Value – Monthly Fee $49.95
Return Filled Container to Storage Center $0
Transportation Mileage $2,592.04
Redeliver Container to Your Location $159
Pickup Empty Container From Your Location $0
Cost of Move and First Month of Container Rental $3,298.99
Monthly Rate after First Month $338.95

How Much Do Self-Storage Units Cost?

Self-storage units are relatively less expensive than renting a portable moving container — primarily because they don’t have to account for pickup and delivery fees or transportation costs. The inexpensive nature of renting a storage unit adds an increased benefit for those willing to store their belongings in a different location than their current residence or anyone comfortable with the extra work of driving their belongings to the storage facility. 

Costs may differ based on a variety of factors — including geographic location, added amenities or facilities with additional security. Below is the average price for storage in a facility without climate control or other amenities.

Unit Size Monthly Rate
5 x 10 $110
10 x 10 $172
10 x 15 $209
10 x 20 $250
10 x 23 $270

Pros and Cons of Using PODS Moving Containers

Using a PODS moving container is an excellent option for those looking for a high-quality and flexible option for their moving or storage needs. While they are more expensive than other companies, many customers use PODS repeatedly for the added ease of trusting their belongings to a professional driver. With an included insurance policy and the knowledge that your belongings are well-protected in high-quality containers, PODS is a great option if you value convenience and flexibility above all else.

While their storage or local moving rates are relatively reasonable, the cost can add up quickly for long-distance moves. In addition, some users claim that scheduling a delivery or pickup date was more complicated than they originally anticipated.

Pros Cons
Does all of the driving for both local and long-distance moves Relatively expensive for long-distance moves or long-term storage
Insured to protect $10,000 worth of belongings Some users report difficulty scheduling delivery/pickup dates
Weather-resistant with a steel frame and polymer wall panels

Pros and Cons of Using Self-Storage Units

While renting a PODS container is an excellent option for short-term storage or a move with a quick turnaround, renting a self-storage unit also has its fair share of perks. 

Renting a self-storage unit is a relatively inexpensive endeavor. With units running $110-$270 per month, you can rent a storage unit without making too much of a dent in your pocket. Rather than keeping your belongings in your driveway for an extended period, most people renting a storage unit can count on additional security and amenities. In addition, some storage facilities offer large item storage for boats or travel trailers — making your rental a one-stop shop for all your storage needs. 

However, a self-storage unit is notably less convenient than a PODS moving container. All moving and transportation must be completed with your labor, including using your vehicle. 

Pros Cons
Relatively inexpensive for short- or long-term use Renter must do all of the moving and transportation
Added security and amenities Can be inconvenient for moves with a quick turnaround
Options to store large items, like boats and travel trailers