What is Portable Storage

What is Portable Storage or Mobile Storage?    
Since this is a blog about portable storage, I figure we should get things started with the basics.  I am amazed at how many people really don’t understand how portable storage works.  Even though most people have heard of PODS, they really don’t quite know what they do.  The worst part of it is that most people who might look into PODS come away thinking it is an expensive luxury that they do not need and look no further.  I hope you will find that this blog shows that there are alternatives to the PODS system that are much more economical and provide a much higher level of customer service.  Please do not judge all of the portable storage industry by looking at PODS.  Let me start to explain portable storage by assuming you have a few common questions like:

  • What is portable self storage?
  • How does portable self storage work?
  • What is mobile storage and moving?
  • Is portable storage too expensive for me? 
  • What are the advantages of portable self storage?  What are the disadvantages of portable self storage?
I’m sure the list of questions goes on and on for some of you.  And that is due mostly to the fact that portable self storage is a relatively new market, and that it is still evolving.  Portable storage is here to stay and it just may be the wave of the future and as much as I would love to get into the details comparing all the various options there are in portable self storage, I first want to make sure everyone understands the differences between portable self storage and traditional self storage.  That is the real object of this post. 


Let’s start with a couple very basic concepts or definitions.  With traditional self storage, the storage unit is a room, normally similar to a garage, attached to the earth in some way.  Quantities of these units are housed together in large buildings and even quantities of buildings.  You have all seen these self storage facilities in your area.  Your storage unit would be one of these rooms behind one of the countless roll-up doors at one of these facilities that may be 5 or 10 miles from your home.  With portable self storage, the storage unit is some form of box or enclosure that can be transported relatively easily, say… directly to your front door.  In this case, your storage unit is the one in your driveway, 25 feet away.  So in its most basic essence, the portability of the storage unit is what makes portable storage portable, the capability to move and transport the entire unit as a whole with your belongings inside of it.  Many portable providers offer this service.  Even though the delivery systems may vary, the end product is essentially a storage unit of some type delivered wherever you want it. 


With portable self storage, your involvement goes something like this.  You call and arrange to have a unit or several units delivered to your home or business on a certain date.  After that delivery, you begin to fill the units at your own pace by simply walking your stuff out your garage door and into the self storage unit.  When they are full, you simply arrange for them to be picked up.  The portable storage provider will return to your home and take your units to a secure warehouse facility for safe storage.  When you need your things back, whether that’s in 1 month, 6 months, or 10 years, just request to have them delivered and you can repeat the loading process, only in reverse, again with the unit sitting in your own driveway.  It is all very efficient and convenient. 


Mobile storage and moving is really another term for the same service.  “Portable” and “mobile” are essentially the same.  Adding the word “moving” may confuse people but it’s an indication of the fact that this service can actually be used to help you move from one location to another with or without actually going into storage.  You can have your empty unit delivered to an address on the west side of town and sell that home, buy a house  on the other side of town and have your full unit delivered to that new home.  You just moved, hence the term storage AND moving.  I think that the term mobile storage and moving came about only for the nice alliteration it offers.  It’s really just an extension of the same service.


In general there is a premium to be paid for a service that offers a certain level of convenience.  Portable storage obviously offers a level of convenience that is totally impossible with traditional self storage.  And yes, during the initial development of the portable storage market, the storage rates were probably a little expensive.  Today, however, there are a several providers that have found ways to offer the same service at more economical rates.  In fact, some portable storage providers actually offer storage rates almost identical to traditional facilities, especially when you consider that portable storage warehouses are generally heated, while traditional self storage providers typically advertise their unheated storage rates.  When comparing rates, you have to remember that your time and effort is worth something.  Keep in mind that with portable storage, you will handle your belongings half as much as with traditional storage.  That translates to less time, less work, and fewer miles travelled for you.  Are the storage rates more expensive?  Well maybe, but you must consider all the costs related to the entire process before making a decision about the value of such a convenient service.


Hopefully this is pretty clear.  As discussed above, the convenience of having a storage unit delivered to your door is amazing and can dramatically change the way you move things and store things.  Just the simple fact that you can stay home while you handle your transition can be very comforting.  Let’s face it, it’s not like the traditional storage facility has anything calling you to want to spend time there.  They are normally desolate, industrial, hard, unfriendly and inconvenient places that make you want to leave as soon as possible.

Portable storage makes for less work.  You handle everything twice as much when you use traditional storage.  You typically load your vehicle, drive to the facility, try to get close to your storage unit, and then once again move everything from your vehicle to the storage unit.  This may take a number of repetitive trips back and forth.  Does that sound at all efficient?  With portable storage, pick something up in your house, walk out to the driveway, place the item in the unit and you’re done.  Did you notice there were no vehicles or driving in that scenario?  That’s right, save the hassle of traffic, of renting a truck, of putting gas in your car.  Work smarter not harder.

Portable storage can be used as a moving service.  Since the units can be delivered to a different address than your original delivery, you can use the service to effectively move.  If you are in transition and aren’t sure how long you will need storage or where you will end up, portable storage is the perfect option for you.


Well, I hate to admit it, but portable self storage may not be right for everyone in every situation.  The primary disadvantage of portable self storage is that you probably cannot have access to your unit at any time of the day or night.  While not all traditional storage facilities offer 24 hour access, I know that some do.  I am not aware of any portable self storage providers that can provide such access.  If you really really need to get to that unit at the drop of a hat, maybe you should stick with traditional self storage, or better yet, build a big shed in your back yard.  My guess is that you probably won’t need access to your stuff all that much.

Cost can be a disadvantage especially in more rural areas where land is cheap and traditional storage facilities are able to provide cheaper rates.  But as we discussed above, there are more aspects of the entire process to be considered prior to making a decision on the entire value of each option.

One other disadvantage relates to the boxes sitting in driveways.  There are two issues with this.  One common use of portable self storage is to stage or declutter a home prior to listing it for sale.  Now if you put that effort into making the interior of your home welcoming, why on earth would you leave a big ugly box in your driveway to destroy your potential buyers’ first impression anyway.  The second issue is that neighborhood associations, townships, and municipalities are starting to make rules and ordinances against placing such boxes in driveways or on streets.  If you are considering PODS or another service that leaves boxes behind, you need to check into this issue.  Although this has been a disadvantage and will continue to be so, there is a new evolution occurring in the industry that may eliminate this disadvantage.  A new provider called Zippy Shell has created a product that delivers the storage unit inside a cargo trailer.  So there are no ugly boxes to worry about.  This is a great new twist on a very convenient service.


In the end the portable storage industry is a merging of the self storage industry and the do-it-yourself moving industry offering the best of both worlds.