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Questions to Ask Your Storage Container Dealer Before You Buy

You already know that you need to do your research before buying or leasing a storage container – that's why you're reading this guide. Unfortunately, not everything you need to know is in a buyer's guide. Some information you need to get directly from the source, i.e. the vendor or manufacturer from whom you purchase the container.

What you may not know, especially if you're new to the world of storage containers, is what you don't know. The following questions make a good beginning for your conversations with vendor reps. Take the time to record the rep's answers, since you'll want to refer back to them later when comparing proposals.

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Does the Price Include Delivery and Installation?

You almost definitely need the dealer to deliver the unit to you, especially if state lines separate you, but delivery isn't necessarily included in the price.

Follow-up questions include:

  • How much is delivery?
  • How long until the item is delivered?
  • How much space do you need to unload the container?

Knowing the answer to this last item is crucial. Typically, you need at least 60' for a 20' unit and 100' for a 40' unit. Depending on the type of truck the vendor uses, you may need more than that, but you seldom if ever need less. If you fail to provide ample space for safe delivery, you still pay the delivery fee, but you don't get your unit unloaded. Do not fail to get the full lowdown on delivery before signing any contract.

Do You Offer Financing?

A new storage container averages between $2,500 and $5,000, depending on size and type. If you add in features and modifications, that price quickly rises. For many businesses, financing is the only way to make that purchase. Before you draw on credit through your bank, check to see what financing options the dealer offers.

Some dealers provide in-house financing. You may get better rates than you would through your bank or lender, so it's worth checking to see what terms the dealer offers. Financing often gives you greater flexibility while helping maintain your cash reserves. This is particularly important if cash flow is minimal or your organization is growing or even just starting.

Follow-up questions include:

  • Does the financed amount include delivery and installation fees?
  • What are the terms of the loan (i.e. how long do I have to pay it off)?
  • What down payment do you require?
  • What interest do you charge?
  • What would my monthly payment be?

Are There any Zoning Issues?

Your dealer should know about zoning laws and regulations regarding outbuildings. Some areas forbid permanent installation of anything as large as a storage container without proper permitting. Other areas, particularly residential neighborhoods, forbid placing containers in visible locations to protect aesthetics. Your vendor is your best resource. If he or she doesn't know the particulars of your town, he or she can likely point you in the right direction to find that information on your own. If not, contact a local vendor and ask the same question. If the vendor you're considering is a local vendor and still doesn't know that answer, reconsider buying from them.

Does the Container Have Climate Control Capabilities?

If your stored items are sensitive to extreme temperatures (such as foods, beverages, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals), you likely need some type of climate control. Your needs depend on the type of item to be stored. Refrigerated units allow precise temperature control from sub-zero to around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. However, you may not need that level of control. In that case, insulation and ventilation may provide the environment you need to properly store your items. If you aren't sure, tell the vendor what you intend to store in the unit. He or she can advise you regarding what handles your needs.

Do You Have References?

The easiest way to know what to expect from a company is to learn how previous clients view them, so always ask for references. Then, take the time to actually contact them. It may seem like a waste of time (after all, they aren't going to give you bad references, right?) but still – call those references, particularly those who work in your industry.

When speaking to the references, ask them basic questions, such as whether they'd do business with the company again, but also more detailed ones. This includes:

  • Did you purchase a new or used container?
  • Follow-up question: What condition was the unit in when you received it?
  • Did the dealer handle problems or issues quickly? At all?
  • Did the vendor work with you through any budget concerns?
  • Did you have to clean or repair the container before you could use it?
  • Did your container include modifications? (make sure to include any modifications you need in this question)
  • Was the container delivered on time?
  • Were there any unexpected charges?

In addition to calling references, research the seller's reputation by reading online reviews. In general, a 4-star average with dozens or hundreds of reviews is worth more than a 5-star rating with only a handful of reviews. Make sure to read the full reviews. If you see negative comments, check to see if the dealer responded to the reviewer's complaints.

Making Your Decision

You're looking for a dealer who readily answers questions, seems knowledgeable about the product, and understands your requirements without trying to convince you to buy more than you actually need. Give extra points to dealers who are quick and responsive, provide references, work with you on pricing or make recommendations that save you money if budget is a concern, and provide detailed information even before you request it.

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