Using Shipping Containers As Storage Units: A Detailed Guide thumbnail picture
  19 Aug 2022

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Using Shipping Containers As Storage Units: A Detailed Guide

People love to keep things, including cars, furniture, ornaments, personal items, childhood souvenirs, children's clothing, and toys.

It's likely that the items you've accumulated over the years are scattered throughout your room, basement, garage, or all three.

Regardless of how much space you believe you have, there is never enough room to save everything.

What happens then to all the items that people want to keep but don't have a place for? In the past ten years, renting a storage facility has been an increasingly popular solution.

What Is A Storage Unit?

A space that is utilized only for storage is known as a storage unit. These spaces are typically found inside enclosed structures.

A storage unit could be climate controlled, but it doesn't always have the same facilities that make up a home that is fit for living.

Storage facilities are often composed of sheet metal and are very simple buildings with rather large temperature variations.

What Are Shipping Containers?

A shipping container or cargo container is a container that is strong enough to endure storage, handling, and shipment.

They range from large reusable iron boxes for multimodal shipments to common corrugated boxes.

Why Use Shipping Containers As Storage Units?

Although it may seem unusual, there are a number of reasons why shipping containers are good for storage facilities, which include:

  • Building a conventional storage facility is substantially more expensive than utilizing shipping containers.
  • The walls of cargo containers are made of sturdy, thick steel and are waterproof, safe, and durable.
  • Unlike conventional buildings, containers are dust-proof and have secure door seals to prevent rodents and other animals.
  • A customized lockbox and a lock on the doorknob on shipping containers provide extra security.
  • The wide opening of shipping container doors makes it easier to accommodate very big items, including full-size vehicles and mobile homes.
  • Compared to a static building, shipping containers are far more durable and need little to no upkeep.
  • Using containers for your business gives you considerably more flexibility because you may add, move, remove, and rearrange units as needed depending on demand.

Why The Storage Business?

This idea should get your attention if you're a business-minded individual. According to SpareFoot , the self-storage industry is enormous. Look at these statistics:

  • There are 5.4 sq ft of rented storage space for each individual in the US.
  • In 2019, revenue for the self-storage business was $38.6 billion, an increase of 2.6% from 2014.
  • 85 million Americans, or one in ten of the country's population, rent storage space.
  • According to USA Today, 14% of all Americans relocate each year. Numerous movers rent additional space to keep the surpluses. According to Market Watch, the self-storage market will expand at a pace of at least 5% a year until 2023.
  • Many tenants postpone sorting out stored properties. Renters often remain in their homes for more than three years.

For more storage capacity, people are going to pay money. What if you received a part of that money?

It may be possible if you run a self-storage company. But for a moment, consider creative alternatives to purchasing or constructing a standard storage unit.

There is a quick, affordable method to open a self-storage business anywhere without having to spend a lot of money on construction: using containers for shipping.

Read more: Starting A Self Storage Franchise Business

Developing a self-storage unit out of shipping containers enables you to launch your own company and generate profit pretty quickly.

It reduces the expenses and restricted flexibility that come with buying and renting out other types of real estate.

How Much Money Can You Make From Self-Storage Business?

Success in every business venture depends on your commitment and dedication. There are no revenue calculators that tell how much you can earn, neither is there a ballpark amount you can make from using containers as storage units.

However, one thing you should bear in mind is that it is a very profitable business. It is also not saturated compared to many other real estate investments.

Things To Consider When Starting A Shipping Container Self-Storage Business

Let's examine the "how," as in the process of turning this company concept into a reality.

Considering location, permissions, preparing the company site, buying the containers, and securing funding are all necessary steps in turning a concept into a reality. We'll quickly review each of these elements.


When selecting a site for your business, demand and accessibility are crucial factors.

Look for space close to a community college, nursing homes for the elderly, big enterprises, industrial estates, or military sites.

Look for a central site that is accessible by the main road and is close to some of the more populated cities in your area.


Several variables will affect your facility's initial investment, including:

  • The expense of zoning and land.
  • The expense of the facility's renovations.
  • The quality and quantity of purchased cargo containers.
  • The state of the bought cargo containers.

Containers in general will be one of the most costly expenditures. Thankfully, a lot of shipping container suppliers let companies finance their containers.

Permits And Other PaperWork

After choosing a place that meets your requirements, find out more about the zoning regulations in the area.

This will guarantee that you abide by all local zoning laws and ordinances. If at all feasible, inquire about these details in the city or town hall.

Visit a local zoning website to see if there is any chance you might obtain this information there as well.

In case you are uncertain or have any concerns, do some research and get in touch with the zoning board.

Prepping The Area

Level ground is required for the placement of shipping containers. The space for the storage facility may need to be leveled and cleared. The standard features of a storage facility should always be maintained to reassure consumers that their belongings are safe and secure. Among them is

  • A security system.
  • A barbed-wire fence.
  • Lockboxes for shipping containers.

Laying a solid foundation for it to sit on

Any development made for shipping containers needs a foundation. A foundation will stop rusting on the bottom of your container's storage facility and allow for ventilation and moisture drainage.

Lay concrete or construct a lattice-like framework out of wood and metal beams to finish the base before the containers arrive. Alternative solutions include slab-on-grade and railroad ties.

Size Of The Container

Of course, container size influences whether or not it offers a decent return on investment. To avoid wasting money or having you buy another shipping container down the line, make sure to get the correct container size for all of your storage requirements.

How To Secure Your Containers

Lockboxes are a regular feature on newly built shipping containers, but not on previously used ones.

If your container doesn't already have one, think about getting one to keep the lock from being accessed from any other side than the bottom. As a result, security is increased because it is very difficult to cut the shank.

Is Your Space Well Ventilated?

Ensure that your containers have the appropriate ventilation systems before shipping. If the temperature during the day and at night differs significantly in your region, you must do this. Condensation may accumulate in this situation and result in container rain.

HVAC systems or fixed vents spaced evenly around your container are two examples of ventilation systems. Before installation, take into account both choices depending on your spending limit and level of expertise. Hopefully, your container will already have installed vents.

Buying The Shipping Containers

It's time to buy the containers now that the area has been prepared and approved by the zoning authority. Buying brand-new or one-trip cargo containers is the best choice.

These have carried cargo just once and will need less upkeep going forward. Utilizing pre-owned wind-water tight (WWT) units is another choice. Before they become ready to be utilized in the facility, such units could require some basic maintenance and painting.

Shipping containers are far more affordable and manageable than conventional storage units. As demand grows, more cargo containers can readily be added.

Protect yourself from scammers

Additionally, there are some fraudulent websites that claim to sell cargo containers. These websites appear to be quite legit.

They occasionally use identical trade organization membership symbols and other similar logos, provide fake addresses, and frequently copy information and photos from other trustworthy container websites.

Before transferring any money when purchasing from a website, we STRONGLY advise double-checking and seeking up the company registration number and the VAT registration number from their invoices.

Also, it never hurts to get in touch with a few other cargo container dealers to see if they are aware of the company, it is a small and exclusive industry!

Also, it never hurts to get in touch with a few other cargo container dealers to see if they are aware of the company, it is a small and exclusive industry!

A great majority of honest traders are more than willing to help someone in ensuring they are not the victim of fraud.

Don't Buy Too Cheap

Finding a container that suits your budget is important, but the lowest option can put the objects in space at risk of damage.

Containers exist in a variety of forms, including new, renovated, and "As-is," and each has a unique price that reflects its condition.

It's crucial to pick a container that is within your price range, in good shape, and with as few flaws as possible.

With a little investigation, you can locate a used container that works well for you because both the quality and cost of used containers vary greatly. In terms of quality and options, new containers are basically standard.

Don’t Buy Directly From China

While cutting out the "middleman" may seem like a great idea, in the case of cargo containers, middlemen actually do a lot of the work in terms of sourcing and reliability checking the containers.

They assume a lot of the risks on your behalf and relieve you of the burden of worrying about the safety of your investment.

First off, 100 units will be the minimum production order. You'll probably need to pay for the order in full upfront, so you will need to have a lot of money available.

After then, it will take a further three months for anything to arrive, but if your shipment has issues, there can be significant delays.

How Will It Be Delivered?

Typically, one of two truck types (a tilt-bed or roll-off truck or a flatbed truck) is used to deliver cargo containers.

Although flatbed trucks are often less expensive than their competitors, you still need a forklift to install the container.

Consider the expense of hiring a forklift if your site is more than 100 miles away from the container yard. When the overall cost is significant, employing a roll-off truck will simplify the logistics.

Do You Need To Stack The Containers?

To save space on your land, it is advised that you think about stacking many containers on top of each other. If you need to buy numerous containers because you have a lot of storage demands, then this can be essential.

The good thing is that they usually fit on top of each another perfectly and easily because the majority of shipping containers you can buy are already ISO-certified.

However, in order to complete the task, you might need to buy a forklift or crane. Once more, keep this possible expense in mind when purchasing your first shipping container.

Preparing Your Shipping Containers

Painting Your Shipping Containers

You'll want to make your cargo containers as appealing as possible once you acquire them. This can be achieved by painting them.

The paint will make the shipping containers last longer by shielding them from the elements and reducing corrosion, in addition to improving their appearance.

Before you even think of applying a drop of paint to the shipping container's surface, it's critical to properly prepare it.

Surface preparation is essential, just as it would be if you were painting your house or a damaged area of a car.

Getting Rid Of Interior Odours

Scatter some instant coffee inside the container and lock the doors for some days if there is any odor within the container caused by the product that was previously shipped.

Coffee absorbs odors, naturally, leaving a little coffee aroma in the container.

Shipping Container Storage Rental Operation Metrics

Promotion and marketing

Although self-storage businesses don’t usually require so much promotion and marketing, it is still a business and you will need to do some form of marketing.

There are already people lined up for your products, but how can they find you?

Among many other promotion techniques, your shipping container storage business should have a professional website, just like any other credible business.

Also, utilizing social media can never be a bad idea, so make sure you post numerous pictures and videos on your social media platform. You can run ad campaigns too.

If you’re starting big and you have the funds, you can place some adverts on billboards, this may be expensive, but it gives you more visibility.


Like marketing, maintaining a self-storage business is not rocket science. It is very easy to maintain and inexpensive.

To make sure that your belongings are still in good condition, storage units must occasionally be maintained, cleaned, and sorted.

If you leave your storage unattended for an extended period of time, dust will accumulate there.

Overall Management

The overall management of your storage unit should be done by a dedicated property manager in order for you to focus on other important aspects of the business.

Irrespective of how you run your business, you must give serious consideration to customer service. While bad customer service can result in frequent tenant turnover and lower occupancy rates, excellent customer service can retain current tenants and draw in new ones.

With growing technology, it is recommended that the dedicated property manager utilizes management automation to carry out some tasks, this way operation will be easier and more accurate.

Booking Ninjas Property Management System offers seamless and clear-cut storage unit management features that are all in one and cloud-based. The features are managed in a single interface.

Final Thoughts

This guide is by no means the final word on how to operate your own container self-storage company. There are many people who took alternative paths from the ones we recommend and succeeded.

These, in our opinion, are the primary factors that the majority of new yard owners may wish to be aware of.

Not every storage provider or location will find using shipping containers to be the best option. However, they're undoubtedly worth your attention if you're trying to expand your business or maybe establish a new one.

To learn more about Booking Ninjas Self Storage PMS and what we do,schedule a call with us now!

Improve Your Property's Management, Operation & Revenue With Booking Ninjas Property Management System

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