Should you Buy Or Rent A Shipping Container For your Pop Up Shop?


This post was originally published on 12/9/2013. Due to its popularity, it was updated with new information on 7/11/2018.

Pops up shops are temporary retail stores.  They have the unique ability to invigorate the energy around a brand, a product, a retail destination, or a special date. When they’re managed well, and designed for the experience, they give customers a unique opportunity to interact with products and explore the brand. For more information about pop up shops, read our full blog post, “What is a Pop Up Shop?” 

We’re faced with this quandary all the time. Should I buy a home or rent? Should I purchase a car or lease? Should I make the commitment to buy all my favorite movies or just subscribe to Netflix? Deciding whether you should buy or rent a shipping container for your pop-up event is not so different. There are pros and cons for each, and together, we can come up with a solution that works for your needs and your brand.


You’ll benefit from a purchase if these factors are important to you:

  1. Complete Customization.

When you purchase your shipping container experience, we build it to your exact specifications. If you need a highly specialized building, such as a multi-container structure or permanent, modular structure, our purchasing option is a more streamlined and cost-effective way to approach the project. If you permanently modify one of our existing assets, you may end up paying considerably more for the container than if you’d built it from scratch.


  1. Longer Engagements.

There are no strict timelines for owning vs. renting, but for long-term campaigns, buying can make more financial sense. For a yearlong tour, for instance, the cost of renting often exceeds that of owning.


  1. Open-Ended Options.

After the close of a tour, Boxman Studios can store your container or do an “upfit” so it can keep evolving and serving your needs in new, creative ways.


  1. Tax Benefits

By utilizing Boxman Studios’ product, our clients can receive tax benefits. Based on IRS Publication 946, container structures are categorized as 7-year tax life property. Specifically, the code states, “Any property that does not have a class life and has not been designated by law as being in any other class.” This means that modular units are not called out in the IRS Publication 946, therefore it defaults to a 7-year property, which allows you depreciate the units over a 7-year tax life. Commercial traditional stick built construction in IRS Publication 4562 is classified as nonresidential real property, which has a depreciation period of 39 years.

For some customers, these reasons make sense. But are they enough to take the purchasing plunge?


You’ll benefit from a lease if these factors are important to you:

  1. Try It Before You Buy It.

If you are considering a custom build and have never experienced a shipping container activation or installation before, renting can give you the opportunity to explore different elements and determine what works best for your brand goals. Maybe you learn that your audience didn’t use the indoor lounge but loved the outdoor seating and awnings. Next time, you can incorporate what worked, and leave out what didn’t. Or tell us, and we can fix the layout, programming, or branding immediately, so you can continue your tour with a container that meets your needs. “Rental” doesn’t mean off-the-shelf. Everything we do at Boxman Studios has elements of customization and branding.


  1. Ideal for Shorter Or One-Time Events.

For some events, buying may not be the best financial or logistical choice. If you’re planning on utilizing the structure once a year, renting may be the most convenient way to create a brand experience for your audience. With our custom leases, you can have the same level of flexibility without needing to store your space for the other 51 weeks out of the year.


  1. Inventory Management.

Many companies prefer to maintain a lean inventory and keep their overhead low to reduce tax or insurance implications. In this case, renting helps you manage your inventory in a way that is more advantageous.


  1. Supplement Owned Assets.

When our customers purchase custom-built shipping containers, they’ll typically use them regularly throughout the year. Occasionally, they may have a show or venue where they can utilize a bigger footprint, so they choose to supplement their existing assets with rental units to ensure that they make the most impressive impact for those events.



But what are the lease options? I’m glad you asked…

Simple & Easy

We keep an inventory of our most popular lease structures, so they’re ready to go at a moment’s notice. They have easily brandable areas and lightning-fast activation times.



Our concession stands come in two standard sizes (10’x8’ and 20’x8’) and are built from repurposed containers. The 20’ container includes an external serving area with three flip-up windows and a half-door for staff entry.  The space is wired for electric, with track lighting, and a non-skid floor material. The 10’ concession has four flip up awnings and one employee access door. They are ideal for low-maintenance activations or pop up retail shops. They close and lock securely at night so they’re great for festivals, carnivals, or any multi-night event.


The transformer of shipping containers– our suites can be arranged and branded with thousands of variations. Awnings open up to shade either the 500 sq ft (20’ x 25’ open) footprint. They’re constructed with bamboo flooring and the lease includes cushion seating and bar stools. This unit arrives fully stocked with flat screen TV, DVD player, and satellite TV.

Super 10’

When you’re looking to get away from the same old tent set-up our Super 10’ structure functions as a life-size display.  The 10-foot base folds out into a larger footprint and includes flat screen TVs, a bar, and limited access upper deck for DJ’s, branding, or a big cow.


Iconic, Custom Spaces

When something in our inventory doesn’t fit the bill, we build! We can build and lease almost anything!


Custom… Kind of

Sometimes custom projects come in so hot and heavy, we don’t have enough time to build a completely new custom structure from scratch. So, in these cases, we look to our extensive inventory of storefronts, staircases, steel frames, upper decks, furniture, and simple & easy assets to put something completely different together. Take a look at the projects below to see where the original pieces and parts have been.



Your experience with your shipping container will be your own; it is unique. And whether you buy or rent, Boxman Studios works with you to ensure that you achieve your brand objectives and give your audience an event they’ll remember.