Storage Containers vs. Storage Units: Which is Best for Your Storage Needs?

January 17, 2024

Storage Containers vs. Storage Units: Which is Best for Your Storage Needs?

When it comes to storage containers vs storage units, it can be hard to know which is best. It can be very tempting to go for the cheaper option when looking for storage containers. And in these trying times, this is incredibly understandable. We will all try and save some money where we can. Self storage, however, is one area where the cheapest option could cost you a lot more than you could imagine. 

Storage containers vs Storage units - which is best for your storage needs? Image shows the interior of a large storage unit.

It is very important that you choose the right storage solution over the cheapest. And it is very important that you think about all the extra costs which will come from owning your own storage container. Within this article we will be discussing the storage container vs storage unit debate and help you to figure out which is best for you and your needs.

What are Storage Containers?

Storage containers are containers which look a lot like shipping containers but they are usually made from lower grade steel and are built to the size that the customer desires. They provide clean, dry storage but, unlike shipping containers, they cannot be used to transport goods or possessions by sea, rail or road as they are not made of strong enough steel.

A lot of storage containers on the market are actually used shipping containers which you can buy or rent as a storage solution. They will be brought to your home/workplace and you can use them to store a whole host of things such as your belongings during home renovations or your business stock. You will be in charge of maintaining the unit and making sure that everything within it is safe. 

What are Storage Units?

Storage units are similar to storage containers in that they are strong, sturdy places which come in a variety of sizes and provide clean, dry storage. Storage units, however, are rented from storage companies and are located within the storage companies facility. To use them for storage, you bring your items to the storage facility. 

This brings with it a vast amount of security and means that you will not be in charge of the maintenance of the storage unit. 

Key Differences Between Storage Containers & Storage Units

Size and Space

Storage containers to rent or buy in the UK market seem to reach around 40 sq ft. This is probably due to the fact that their customers are going to have to find somewhere to put the container so it isn’t really feasible to rent/sell containers that are any larger.

As storage units are within a self storage facility, there is more room on offer allowing storage units to range in size from 10 sq ft to 1000 sq ft. Within our stores, our units come in many different sizes. Head to our website to see what your local store has on offer.


If you were to rent or buy a storage container you would be in full control of accessing it. As storage units are contained within a storage facility, your access may be slightly limited but many storage companies have extended opening hours. Within many of our stores we have extended opening hours on offer. 

You need to decide how important accessibility is to you and your needs when considering storage containers vs storage units. 

Security Features

With storage containers, you will be in charge of sorting out security and keeping everything stored within it safe. 

With storage units being within a self storage facility, they will be protected by high-quality security systems such as pin-code access, CCTV surveillance and state-of-the-art alarm systems. Within all our self storage facilities, we have 24/7 CCTV surveillance, intruder alarms and smoke and fire detectors on every unit and pin-code access. Storage units are perfect for storing valuable items and large amounts of business inventory and equipment because you know it will be kept safe and secure.

Cost Comparison

Storage containers vs storage units rental prices can be quite similar but when it comes to storage containers you have to take into consideration the extra costs. Even if you are only renting, storage containers will be brought to you so you will be in charge of maintaining it whilst you have it and you will be in charge of keeping it clean. You will also need to think about security measures, particularly if it is being kept within an area that is not near to your home. 

With a storage unit, within a self storage facility, you do not need to worry about the maintenance of the unit or the security. This will all be taken care of by the self storage company.

Durability and Protection

Shipping containers are made of Corten steel which is extremely strong and durable so if the container you are renting/buying is a used shipping container, it will be ready for any and all weathers. They are made to withstand being shipped across the sea so they will definitely withstand the British weather! If, however, the container is classed as a storage container, it may have been made from lower grade steel. It should still be fine against rain and wind but its durability for long-term storage will be less than a shipping container. 

Many storage units are situated within the self storage facility giving them an extra layer of protection. Ones that are situated outdoors, if you have chosen a professional self storage company, will also be made to be durable and protect your belongings from the elements. 

Customisation and Flexibility

If you were to buy a storage container, you would then be stuck with this size container for the foreseeable future. Buying a container does not allow for flexibility which is very important to a lot of our customers, particularly our business customers. 

When you rent a storage unit, you will receive a flexible rental contract which allows you to upgrade or downgrade your storage whenever you need to. With our self storage you are also free to leave if and when you need to. We just need 14 days notice. 

Legal and Zoning Considerations

When renting or buying a shipping container, you may need to seek planning permission, particularly if you are wanting to store it near a residential area. Your need for planning permission may be dependent on what you are planning to use the container for. If you plan on it being a permanent structure, such as a home office, you will most likely need planning permission. It is a temporary structure for storage or a building site office, you may not. 

Using a self storage company will take away all the planning permission hassle.

Choosing the Right Option for Your Needs

When choosing between storage containers vs storage units, which is right for you will be entirely dependent on your individual needs. If you have the space and can gain the right planning permission, having a storage container close to your home/work could be extremely useful. You will be able to pick a location that is perfect for you and your needs. 

Although storage units within a self storage facility can’t offer you location flexibility, they do give you flexible rental contracts and state-of-the-security so they may be the better option for businesses or if you are storing valuable items. 

What is most important is that you pick the container or unit that is right for you. 

Storage Containers vs. Storage Units: Which is Best?

In the debate of storage containers vs storage units, there isn’t really one which is best. They both offer you storage solutions and which you choose will be dependent on what your needs are. 

Storage units contained within a self storage company do come with high-quality security which will be of high-importance to you. You want to know your belongings and/or business stock is protected. 

Whatever you choose, make sure that you have all the facts about pricing and planning permission. 

If you would like to know more about our pricing, please click here to find your local store.

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Locations we service.

At Cinch Self Storage we can help arrange a pick-up service for your storage needs. See our locations listed below.

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1 Arkwright Road, Bicester, OX26 4SU

Unit C Hubert Road, Brentwood, Essex, CM14 4JE

The Depositary, South Road, Brighton, BN1 6SB

Bumpers Way, Chippenham

St Margarets Way, Stukeley Meadows Industrial Estate

1 Works Road, Letchworth, SG6 1FR.

Grovebury Rd, Leighton Buzzard, LU7 4SQ

July Court, Willie Snaith Road, Newmarket, CB8 7RL

666-678 Garratt Lane, SW17 0NP

25 Mollison Ave, Enfield, London, EN3 7LW

Newspaper House, Faraday Rd, Newbury RG14 2DW

Unit 4, Crown Quay Trade Centre, 1 Eurolink Way, Sittingbourne ME10 3DY

Unit 22 Mitcham Industrial Estate, Streatham Rd, Mitcham CR4 2AP

Invicta Business Centre, Bredgar Rd, Gillingham ME8 6PG

Cherry Tree Road, Watford WD24 6SB

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