Rental Container Handbook: All You Need in One Guide

So you’re interested in getting a rental container. Great, now what?

What should you look for in a vendor? How can you prepare? And what should you expect before, during, and after it’s dropped at your location?

We’ve got you covered. We surveyed the rental container marketplace, asked the vendors and experienced renters, AND dove deep into the latest trends and best practices.

To bring you up to speed, we’ve created this handy guide covering everything you should know about renting a storage container, all in one place.

This guidebook is designed to make it easy to get a rental container.  We’ll explore the ins and outs of the following topics:

  1. What to look for in a vendor
  2. Preparing for delivery
  3. How to maximize storage space
  4. Inspection recommendations
  5. Maintenance/cleaning considerations
  6. Damage waivers & insurance
  7. Contaminating materials to avoid

What to Look for in a Vendor

What to look for in a Container Rental Vendor

When determining the best vendor to rent container storage from, keep your eyes peeled for those who are committed to providing the best mix of quality, accommodation, and price.

Quality

Picture in your mind the size storage container rental you need…and where it’s going to be dropped at your site.

Are aesthetics, or the look/appearance of the rental unit, important for your storage location?

If so, look for companies that always refurbish and repair their rental containers back to Wind and WaterTight (WWT) condition…AND top them off with a fresh coat of paint.

Blue Gray Portable Storage Unit

And a BIG red flag should be raised when you come across vendors trying to sell portable storage containers for rent that aren’t constructed from 100% steel or protected with a secure steel lockbox.

Rates

Some sneaky (or maybe crafty?) vendors will adjust their storage container rental rates to meet supply and demand.

For example, if vendors have unusually low utilization rates, they may offer discounts on their rental container rates. Or (secretly) be willing to negotiate a container rate if it’s within an “acceptable” price range or company policy.

But, of course, they won’t disclose this upfront.

INSTEAD…go with companies that provide fixed storage container rental rates that are consistently the lowest across the board.

Rental container rates

This speaks VOLUMES about their transparency, integrity, and company culture.

And if you’re wanting the overall best rental container price, don’t forget about drop-off and pick-up costs!

So look for companies that have container yards, or “depots,” close to your location. OR those that offer delivery specials on rental storage containers.

Because the marketplace is so volatile, the cost of a shipping container is always changing. So be careful of what you’re getting for a container rate that’s considerably below market averages.

For example…is it really a steel storage solution?

In other words, when comparing shipping container rental cost structures, make sure your comparisons are of comparable product AND condition

….AND that you buy from a reputable and trustworthy company.

Here’s another example. Let’s say you come across a cheap “As-Is” (B-grade) shipping container for rent.

And you think, awesome, what a great deal!

But keep in mind, this rental container is probably NOT Wind and WaterTight (WWT). So it may ‘open the gates’ for moisture and condensation. Or, heaven forbid insects and pests. 

And then your precious goods, equipment, and supplies are left exposed and vulnerable.

Comparing storage container rental vendors

Yes, used WWT and New/One-Trip rentals are a bit more expensive…BUT they are head and shoulders above As-Is portable storage rentals in terms of quality, dependability, and security.

Service

Of course, customer service is a significant factor to take into account when comparing your rental container options.

Vendors who are responsive, attentive, and readily available when you need them typically have customer-centric values and solid company culture from the ground up.

And be on the lookout for vendors who help you determine the best rental container size and storage add-ons to accommodate your situation. AND who follow up with consistent status updates.

Of course, vendors who deliver to your location, pick your container up and relocate it as needed are the service providers you can feel good about working with.

Rental Container Delivery: Step-by-Step Process

Rental container delivery process and how to prepare

Commercial and residential onsite storage containers require a space that is clear and accessible throughout the life of the rental term.

The trucks that deliver and pick up shipping container rentals are quite large.

This is particularly true when unloading a whopping 40 ft to 53 ft rental container, which requires 80 ft to 125 ft of clearance.

Storage container size chart to understand delivery clearance

Space Requirements

Most companies will deliver your storage container for rent by truck to wherever you desire to store it. And no structural assembly or foundation is required.

You can prepare your storage location by making sure it’s accessible and free of trees, wires, and anything else overhead that might interfere with the truck or the rental container delivery.

The storage space also needs to be large enough for the container rental truck to access it.

A good rule of thumb when analyzing and preparing the space required for delivery is to double your container length.

understanding container specs for delivery

Surface Requirements

The surface of your storage site and the roads or driveways leading to it are SUPER important considerations when getting a rental container.

The strength and weight of containers reside in their four corners.

So your rental container needs to rest on a relatively flat, firm, and smooth foundation.

This will keep your portable storage unit level and provide much-needed support for the corners.

Plus, storage container delivery trucks are quite heavy. So many drivers won’t drive off of a well-paved road or driveway.

Delivery is typically safe on cement, pavement, asphalt, gravel, grass, and dirt as long as it’s not too soft.

If you need off-road delivery, this should be communicated to your driver or sales rep before getting a storage container for rent.

And in case of flooding or severe rain, avoid placing rental storage containers in low-lying areas. If you don’t want your rental container sinking into the ground, it’s best to have enough drainage.

But, let’s say you don’t have a firm surface with adequate drainage on site. What can you do?

No problem. Here are a couple more options:

  • Use blocks of wood or concrete to support your shipping container rental at the corners. This also elevates it off the ground, minimizing contamination.
  • Purchase or rent a container chassis. A chassis can hold your rental container evenly off the ground while ALSO improving portability.

But whatever your exact situation may be, make sure your mobile storage rental is secure and has a solid surface at your location.

That way you’re not blindsided when the delivery truck shows up.

Loading Prior to Delivery

Consider which direction you’ll want the doors to face when your rental is dropped off.

container loading for delivery

When shipping containers for storage are loaded on a delivery truck, they’re placed “doors-to-rear” or “doors-to-cab”.

So, consider whether you want the double doors facing the delivery truck when it drives away from your storage site. OR whether they should face away from the truck.

Rental Container Permit Considerations

The placement of your rental container is typically in your hands at the time of delivery.

Certain subdivisions, cities, and counties have restrictions against residential storage containers for rent (and purchase).

 So be sure to check whether you need a permit before the unit is delivered.

In our experience though, this is usually not an issue for the vast majority of portable storage renters.

Easy Rental Container Add-Ons to Maximize Space

Many folks turn to mobile storage containers because they just don’t have enough space.

And frustration typically sets in when you can’t make room for all of that “stuff”. So how can you get the most out of your container?

With 5 quick add-ons, you can easily (and cheaply) maximize the storage capacity and usable space inside your rental container…

with no installation or tools necessary.

Portable Storage Container Add-Ons to Maximize Storage Space

Designed for ultimate flexibility, these portable storage solutions can be added to any container size.

They can also be adjusted and rearranged to suit virtually any storage or organizational need.

And since these container add-ons can be assembled in a jiffy, most companies will do it for you prior to delivery.

So be sure to look for container vendors that offer this extra touch of service. It’s the little things that matter, after all. And this way, your unit arrives ready for immediate use.

Now let’s get into how you can do more for less with these storage add-ons, shall we?

1. Add Shelving Systems.

Shelving systems allow you to use the pre-installed lashing rings inside your rental container to instantly add shelving when and where you need it.

Most shelving solutions are simple, lightweight, and reliable. They’re made from welded American steel and subject to 3 cycles of quality control prior to being powder coated.

With all the shelving systems available today, you’re free to pick whether you want 1, 2, 3 or 4 shelves in your rental container–on one side OR on both sides of the unit.

Portable Storage Shelving

Please keep in mind that the approximate load ratings per bracket shouldn’t exceed 550 lbs. per arm or 1100 lbs. per bracket. Using two brackets allows for loads up to 2200 lbs., three brackets 3300 lbs., etc.

2. Add Contractor Desks.

Contractor desk (also called planning desks) is a quick, clean, functional option for adding a drafting area to review plans and documents on the job site.

Just rip a piece of plywood to size, set the angle of the brackets in your rental container, and voilà!

You get an instant workspace that’s not only cost-effective. But that’s also completely portable, easily removable and adjustable.

3. Add Pipe Racks.

Pipe racks are another great way to make better use of your rental container.

Pipe racks provide 4 support arms set at a 30-degree angle to increase the container volume capacity and strength.

A safety roll stop is included at the end of each arm. This particular rental container accessory provides 24 inches of clear floor space below the lowest arm and the floor.

4. Add Overhead Lofts.

Make use of the high space in your rental container by adding a loft or two.

Overhead loft storage, initially developed for use in the High Cube shipping container, spans from side to side to form a loft area in the high space of the unit. 

Overhead lofts can also be used in standard height container rentals. But keep in mind that headroom will be limited.

If added to your portable storage rental, you’ll have an extra 5 feet, 3 inches of space under the loft in a standard height rental container. And 6 feet, 3 inches beneath the loft in a High Cube.

5. Add Apparel Racks or Bike Racks.

Some companies offer apparel and bike racks as portable storage add-ons to address the need for clean, organized, and easily-accessible storage.

Multi-use racks can be configured and reconfigured to allow for the efficient storage of clothing on 2 different levels. Or, if you prefer, you can get bicycle storage on the upper level only.

Support mechanisms and stay straps are typically always included to enhance the stability of rental container storage racks.

And their easy setup and removal make rearrangement a breeze.

How to Inspect Your Rental Container

Rental containers shouldn’t have any noticeable damages since the industry standard storage units for rent are refurbished.

While they may (or may not) have some hairline scratches or minor dings. They should be entirely free from any serious rust spots or deformations.

As a general guide when getting a portable storage container for rent, we recommend that you take a moment to inspect your unit as soon as it’s delivered.

That way you can assess its structural integrity. And check for any damages that could potentially allow water or rodents to get inside of your rental container.

Look for the following during your quick inspection:

How to inspect your storage container for rent

Corners and Seams

Check the corners, edges, and seams for excessive amounts of condensation or rust on the outside and inside of your rental container.

There may be some subtle scratches on the corner castings, which may (or may not) cause minor rust over time. BUT surface rust usually amounts to nothing.

Especially since we’re talking about container rentals (not lifelong assets).

Plus, shipping container rentals are made with 100% Corten steel. This “weathering” steel is strategically designed with layers and layers of protective coatings and defense mechanisms.

Paint

Check the exterior AND interior of your rental container for areas of severely broken paint.

Storage containers for rent shouldn’t have substantial paint damages. Some may have faint paint chips or flakes. But this is pretty standard.

And minor paint chips shouldn’t sound the warning bells. Because they don’t threaten the structural soundness of containers for rent.

Mechanical Parts and Doors

The mechanical parts of rental containers reside around the doors.

So be sure to double check that the doors of your storage container close tight and square. AND swing open freely.

storage container doors and mechanical parts

It’s also good practice to check the locking gears to see if they open and close easily. If these parts don’t move as smoothly as expected, a good ole’ lubricant can solve the issue.

Or, you can always ask your trusty delivery driver for an overview of how to operate the doors… and/or what can be done to improve their functionality, if need be.

Flooring

Make sure the hardwood floor of your rental container is not compromised or contaminated.

container floor inspection

Some dings in the wood are not uncommon, but there SHOULD NOT be any areas of serious deterioration or rotting.

Steel Lockbox

Make sure your rental storage container comes equipped with a strong steel lockbox.

Lockboxes may differ in their security and manufacturing depending on your choice of vendor and their rental options.

Container rental lockbox for security

So double check that your lockbox is secure and you can easily open and close it.

How to Keep Your Rental Container in Top Shape

Depending on the amount of time you rent container storage, little (if any at all) preventative maintenance is required.

At least there shouldn’t be if you’re renting a container from a legitimate vendor.

how to keep your storage container in great shape

The only thing you may want to do every now and then is open your rental container to let it breathe and ventilate. 

If you need a storage rental for an extended time frame, minimal cleaning may be required to maintain the integrity of the unit and protect your items.

Let’s quickly walk through those (light) maintenance recommendations for long-term rental terms.

Maintenance of Long-Term Rental Container

Although Corten steel (nicknamed weathering steel) is resistant to corrosion, long-term exposure can cause steel to rust, pit, and boil.

So, to play it safe, here are preventative maintenance strategies for long-term rentals (and rent to own situations):

Removing dust and dirt

To make sure all dust and dirt are removed from your portable rental container, use a bristled broom and then a pressure washer on the inside and outside of the empty unit.

We recommend focusing the pressure washer a tad longer on the seams and corners.

Treating serious rust spots

Surface rust typically amounts to nothing. But more compromising rust spots should be treated to maintain the integrity of your rental container.

To treat rust damages, you can easily use a natural rust remover. For example, white vinegar and apple cider are good options.

After you apply the rust remover, use a cloth, tough brush, or aluminum foil to rub the spot. Then, let the product dry completely.

Repairing paint damage

Rub your storage container rental with medium grit sandpaper on the spots where paint may be broken or flaking.

Then, apply a primer coat of paint to prevent future corrosion or moisture from infiltrating your rental container.

Allow the primer to dry completely. Then apply thick exterior paint on the inside AND outside.

Preventing condensation

Condensation may occur within your portable storage rental after long-term use. The amount is typically minimal.

But you should ventilate and inspect your unit on occasion. (Once every couple months is ideal).

Rental Container Insurance

Most vendors include a monthly damage waiver in their recurring charges to protect temp storage containers from minor damages (e.g. graffiti, holes, scratches, etc.) that may occur during the rental term.

But this damage waiver usually doesn’t cover you OR your storage items.

To be safe, you can self-insure to protect any precious valuables.

is rental container insurance still important?

How to Avoid Rental Container Contamination

There are certain materials that should NOT be placed inside storage container rentals because they may cause contamination. And, in turn, possibly damage the unit itself or your items inside.

Such inherently dangerous materials include toxic materials, waste products, hazardous materials, explosives, flammables, chemicals, controlled substances, as well as cocoa beans and oils.

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