Portable Storage vs. Valet Storage: Which is Right for You?

Portable Storage Container out front of a house

Portable Storage vs. Valet Storage: Which is Right for You?

What is the difference between valet storage and portable storage?  Which one is right for you, or should you be using traditional self-storage?

In this article we’ll try to answer those questions and provide some guidance about how to choose what is right for you.


Storage Options are Increasing


As storage services become more and more a part of the tool kit for organizing our lives and controlling the spaces we live in, new options are emerging.  Most people are familiar with self-storage or mini-storage, which has been around in some form since the early 20th century, but began to take off in the 1970s and has now become a familiar feature in the lives of many people.

In 1998 Peter Warhurst wanted to find new ways to serve his storage customers and invented PODS containers and a hydraulic lift system that could load them onto trucks, giving birth to the modern industry of portable storage.

The newest kid on the block is “valet storage” (sometimes called “concierge storage”) which has just begun surging in the last decade in urban areas.

Valet storage involved the delivery of boxes to your home and having them picked up, and because of that it would be easy to confuse it at first glance with portable storage.


Portable Storage


Probably the best known portable storage company is PODS, but Smartbox, 1-800-Pack-Rat, and UPack are also players.  You’ve probably seen PODS boxes sitting in front of homes.  They are rented by the customer and dropped off by a specialized truck.  One of the reasons this form of storage is pretty well known is that the boxes can be seen sitting in front of homes and businesses, sometimes for extended periods of time.

The customer then loads the PODS box and, when they are ready, they schedule a pickup to carry the box away to storage or to a new location if they are moving.

The advantage of portable storage over traditional self-storage or mini storage is that you don’t need a truck, and you can load your things right where you have them and let someone else carry them off.

It also provides an advantage over traditional movers in that you have time to load things up yourself and only have to move your stuff when you’re ready.

But what about people who want the convenience of delivery but don’t need that much space to store their stuff?  What about people who want to be able to store seasonal things that are taking up space in their house and want an easy way to get part of what they’ve stored back without a trip to a storage unit?


Enter Valet Storage…


Valet storage was invented to help customers store just what they need to store and no more, while being able to call just the things they need back when they need them.

Though still new, it is growing like crazy in the US, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, India and the UK.  It has started in urban areas where space is tight and transporting personal items is more complicated, but it is showing up in less populated markets too.

Valet storage companies bring box-sized storage bins to your home. You pack them yourself.  You then record what is in each bin so you’ll know how to get back just what you need.  The better providers provide apps to take confidential pictures of the contents of each box for your reference, too.

Then you schedule a pickup and the company picks up the bins and stores them in their secure facility. When you need items from a bin, you call the company or go online and arrange a drop-off.

In addition to standard bins, many companies will also take items too large to fit in bins, within certain limits of weight and size.

The advantage is that you only pay for the space you are actually using, when you are actually using it.  This can save a lot of money, although companies typically charge a drop off fee.


Do I Need Valet Storage or Portable Storage?


How do you decide between portable storage and valet storage?  Where does traditional self-storage fit in?  It mostly comes down two factors:  price and convenience.

In terms of price, valet storage is usually the best option if you are looking to store 10 boxes or less or a few bulky items that aren’t too big, like sports equipment or music gear.  Once you get above that level, a self-storage unit of a smaller size (5×5) might become your lowest cost option.  As you begin moving into larger storage units, portable storage like PODS is roughly the same price as self-storage, except that it will involve delivery fees up to $200.

Now that you’ve considered cost, convenience becomes a factor.  Even if you have enough things to fill a smaller self-storage unit, how much time and trouble is involved in delivering it yourself?  What is your time worth to you?  That’s where the “storage to your door” of valet storage and portable storage may become your best option even for a larger amount of stuff.

And here valet storage offers something that makes it truly different from portable storage.  PODS are pretty big.  Valet storage lets you use only the space you need, and only when you need it, and also allows you to bring back just the part you need, when you need it.  You can’t ask a portable storage company to just bring back your Christmas decorations or ski equipment and keep the rest until you need it!

The bottom line is valet storage often wins on cost and convenience if you have less than 10 boxes worth, or just a few bulky items, or if transportation is an issue.  You may be able to save money by using self-storage once you have enough to fill a 5×5 self-storage unit, but it’s important to consider to the time and trouble if you need to get a vehicle and visit your storage unit.  Especially if you have things that you are going to need to take out of storage and return them later, valet storage may be the right choice even if you have a larger amount to store.