Everyone who lives in a rural or suburban environment understands the requirement for exterior storage. Tools, lawn care equipment, vehicles and other large, bulky or dirty items that don’t belong or fit inside your home’s closets are best kept out of sight and out of mind while still being protected.
Two of the most popular options for exterior bulk storage are the traditional shed and the modern shipping container. Both have their adherents. Both have their pros and cons.
Which is best for the average person? Should you get a storage shed or shipping container?
Modern shipping containers offer the most advantages for the best price, being stronger, far less maintenance intensive, less expensive on a square footage and upkeep basis, more mobile and less sensitive to improper placement and installation.
The only advantage a traditional storage shed offers is appearance, as they can be designed to suit any property or home appearance.
As one would expect there is far more detail in this calculus that is worth considering, and then the remainder of this article we will show you how all the factors involved shake out. Keep reading to learn more.
Shipping Container vs. Storage Shed At A Glance
|Shipping Container||Storage Shed|
|Cost||☑ Cheaper||❌ More expensive|
|Durability||☑ More durable||❌ Less durable|
|Weather resistance||☑ More resistant||❌ Less resistant|
|Pest resistance||☑ More resistant||❌ Less resistant|
Significant savings and cost per square foot is one major advantage shipping containers have over sheds.
However, performing an apples-to-apples comparison can be challenging due to the extremely wide variety of build options, finishes and installation requirements for traditional sheds compared to only a handful of standardized shipping container options.
Let us consider the typical short configuration shipping container, which measures 8 ft wide by 8 ½ ft tall and 20 ft long for a total of 160 sqft.
The typical cost of one of these containers is anywhere from $3,300 to $3,600. We’ll use the latter figure for comparison. Using that price point, this shakes out to $22.50 per square foot, more or less. Remember that.
Now let us compare it with the more or less typical 12 ft by 12 ft storage shed, possessed of 144 sqft.
Though you can build a shed from scratch yourself or have one professionally built to suit many residents now choose to purchase their sheds complete from big box hardware stores before having them delivered, which drives up the cost a little bit.
Owing to huge variability in finishes and features a shed this size could cost anywhere from $4,700 to $6,000. This breaks down to about $32.65 per square foot for the lower figure and about $41.65 for the higher price.
As you can see, the shipping container blows the storage shed right out of the water when it comes to cost per square foot of storage!
Considering durability, shipping containers once again decimate traditional storage sheds. Shipping containers are made out of welded steel with reinforced, marine-grade wooden decking whereas the average shed is wood and a shingle roof on a concrete slab or pilings.
A shed could be seriously damaged by an impact from a large broken branch or large hail, whereas such an impact is highly unlikely to significantly damage a shipping container.
Likewise if worse comes to worst and an entire tree should fall on your storage solution your shed is going to be flattened along with everything in it while there is a better than average chance that your shipping container will not be completely destroyed.
With a little luck, it might even deflect the worst of the damage. Shipping containers are designed to be stacked one on top of another, and their load-bearing capability is substantial.
This is also a worthwhile consideration for theft since a shipping container equipped with an appropriate high security and high durability lock must be broken into with power tools and considerable effort.
A hefty hammer, crowbar or even a shovel will earn you quick access into a typical wooden shed, on the other hand.
All things being equal there is no comparison between traditional sheds and shipping containers, with shipping containers once again being victorious.
And yes, it is true that shipping containers can and do leak, but they are far less likely to leak or permit the intrusion of moisture than any kind of shed.
Additionally any shed made from wood, no matter what kind, is going to be vulnerable to mold, mildew and rot unless kept scrupulously inspected and either painted or sealed against the weather.
The heavy-duty steel of a shipping container is far more resilient, and the steel employed is of a type that is specialized for weather resistance. Given a coat of appropriate paint their weather-resistant qualities are improved even more.
You’ll need to factor in the cost of regular repainting or refinishing for your shed, typically something that must be done every few years for maximum longevity. This has a not-insignificant dollar value attached to it and, if you are going to do it yourself, a significant investment of your time.
Made to the correct standard, and properly maintained, a shed is reasonably effective at keeping out pests, in particular mice and insects.
But over time, with the effects of wear, damage and degradation not to mention the efforts of both rodents and termites the shed will become host to a variety of life that is otherwise milling around on your land.
Though any container, including shipping containers, are similarly vulnerable the steel construction of shipping containers is utterly impervious to both insects and rodents
So long as the doors are properly hung and fitted and their gasketed seals are intact mice will not be able to get it in, and only precious few insects can be expected to squeeze in assuming they try.
If you want to keep your possessions free of infestations and the roaming teeth of both insects and mammals a shipping container is your top choice.
When the time comes to deliver, relocate or otherwise move your storage solution shipping containers once again beat the brakes off of storage sheds. They are, after all, designed to be dragged, hoisted, hauled and otherwise, well, shipped to and fro over and over again with no ill effects.
Even modern sheds that are purchased intact and delivered before being placed will not hold up nearly as well to repeated moves, and building a shed on site may more or less make it part of the property.
Anyone who has tried to move an intact building before, even a tiny one like a shed, will tell you that the activity is fraught with risk and there is always a permanent element of uncertainty: Damage or just an overall weakening of the structure is far from out of the question.
Considering that you have to live with your storage solution and not just use it, aesthetics are not something you should completely disregard, especially if you live in a rural neighborhood or right in the middle of suburbia.
Anything you place on your property will either beautify it or make it look uglier and tackier, and it is here where the storage shed claims an uncontestable victory.
A storage shed that is properly chosen, properly finished, kept in good repair and appointed according to the parcel around it and your home if appropriate will blend beautifully into the appearance of your property, or even beautify it.
You can add windows or false windows, a variety of trim, even some tasteful landscaping around it. This all adds up into a cute and tidy storage solution.
A shipping container, on the other hand, decidedly will not unless painstaking steps are taken to visually modify it. A square, corrugated metal container is no one’s idea of “aesthetically pleasing”, at least as far as most residential settings are concerned.
Though it is possible to clad them in vinyl siding and employ other tricks to conceal what they are, they are usually too large and too obvious to truly fit into their environment.
Also consider that shipping containers might not be a practical option at all if you live in a place with an HOA.
Considered on a cost-effectiveness basis and also for practicality, shipping containers are far and away the superior choice for storing your goods and possessions compared to any traditional shed.
Unbeatable combination of price, durability, weather resistance and ease of maintenance makes these sturdy containers ideal for preppers and everyday citizens alike.
The only advantage that typical sheds offer is aesthetics, so long as they are chosen with care, maintained and matched to their surrounding environment.