Whether you need a home base on a construction site or are rebuilding your structure after damage, an office trailer can be one of the best ways to ensure that everyone has a suitable place to conduct business, getting the job done no matter where you are.
When it comes to finding the right trailer, you'll have plenty of options, from the outside color to customized square footage and amenities. However, perhaps the biggest question you'll face when looking for an office trailer is whether you should rent or buy.
Your decision will come down to your needs, so surveying factors like your budget, project timeline, employees, maintenance capabilities, and more will help you make the right choice.
Obviously, cost will likely be the biggest factor when deciding whether to rent or buy an office trailer. Buying a trailer will require more up-front expenses than renting one, but renting one for a long period of time can accumulate payments far more than what a new one would cost.
When it comes down to it, you'll find that the longer you plan on having the trailer, the more cost-effective making a purchase instead of renting will be. To calculate the cost comparison between buying and renting, multiple your monthly projected rental payments by the amount of time you'll need the trailer; if you rent a $500 a month trailer for a year, it will cost you $6,000 for those 12 months. Purchasing the same trailer new can cost upwards of $50,000, so clearly, your project's timeline will contribute to your ultimate decision.
When it comes to projecting costs for your office trailer, you'll also need to make sure that you consider everything that will affect the total price. Some of the additional factors you'll need to think about are:
Time will also be one of the biggest factors in helping to determine your overall projected costs. If you have a job poised to last for several years, buying can turn out to be cheaper than renting, and you won't need to be concerned with moving the trailer anytime soon.
In fact, one of the biggest perks of renting a trailer for a shorter term job is that when you're finished with it, you can call the rental company to pick it up, and you're done. For longer jobs this won't be a factor, but if you'll be moving around to different sites for short-term jobs, it may be easier to have someone else -- your rental company -- take care of the heavy lifting.
A general rule of thumb is that the cost of renting a trailer will even out with the cost of buying one after a three-year period. Therefore, for jobs that will go on for a long stretch of time, purchasing a trailer will likely be the most cost-effective option. It can also be worthwhile in these cases to look for a rent-to-buy option, where your rental payments will essentially be paying off the cost of the trailer.
Timing also comes into play depending on how soon you need to get started. If you need a trailer immediately, finding the right one to buy may take time, and there is no guarantee that local retailers will have what you need in stock. On the other hand, renting a trailer means that you will be able to select from trailers that your leasing company already has in their inventory, and they may be able to get you up and running much faster.
When something goes wrong with your office trailer, it can shut down business as usual. If you own your trailer, it's on you to find the resources and appropriate people to get it fixed -- at your own cost, of course. However, when you are renting a trailer there will typically be a contractual agreement for the rental company to provide necessary periodic maintenance, and they will be able to service your needs quickly should a larger problem arise.
Remember that the more accessories and amenities in your trailer, the greater the chance you'll need at least some regular maintenance. If you're renting a trailer with an HVAC unit, you won't have to scramble to find a repair company; you can simply call up your leasing company and ask them to take a look. The same goes for everyone from a plumber to electrician.
As with a car, home, commercial space, or other items, if you are using an office trailer, you'll need to insure it. However, most rental companies will have liability packages, which means they'll cover at least some of the costs related to any significant damage or theft. If you buy a trailer, you are responsible for the insurance and liable if there are problems. Keep in mind that the requirements of insurance and the additional cost will likely vary from location to location, so you'll want to be responsible and ensure that you meet local standards.
Do you have full-time employees or do you work with independent contractors? Based on the size and scope of your employee base, it may turn out that buying an office trailer will allow you to maintain productivity around-the-clock. Having a home base for employees on construction sites is a must, so if you maintain a large operation, you'll want to decide whether it is worth it to buy a trailer that fits everyone. On the other hand, if you know your operation will be growing, renting a trailer until you know what your employee base looks like may save in the long run.
You'll also need to consider what tools and infrastructure your employees will need to handle their jobs. For instance, most standard rental trailers will come with hookups for electricity, phone, and internet connection, but beyond that, you may have to purchase a trailer if you need serious hardware installed.
When it comes to renting a trailer, you may be able to make some cosmetic adjustments to the base model, but in most cases, you won't be able to extensively customize a trailer to your needs. As noted, depending on what your employees need to be doing, you may want to tailor your trailer to a specific onsite work need, such as an area for someone to create, edit, and print blueprints. In these cases, truly tailoring your space to your intended workflow may require purchase and customization -- all at an additional cost.
At the same time, if you're looking for an oversized trailer, you may also need to purchase custom options. Rentals are great for those who have standard needs, but again, the more aspects that need to be customized, the greater the chance you will end up needing to purchase your own trailer.
Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to customization is that the more custom a trailer is, the longer it will take to construct and install. You want to be sure to assess your office needs far enough in advance to factor this time into your overall project timeline.
One of the major perks of renting is that the rental company will help you handle insurance and any necessary permitting for your temporary structure, and will deliver and install your trailer and pick it up when you're done. On the other hand, if you are buying your own trailer, you'll be liable for handling these things on your own, at additional cost.
If you do choose to buy a trailer, it can also be worth it to compare the cost and amenities of new trailers versus used ones. However, if you decide to purchase a used trailer, keep in mind that you'll need to do thorough due diligence and inspection to make sure that the quality and integrity of the structure is up to standard.
An office trailer will be one of the best investments you can make in your project, as it ensures that your employees and clients always have a comfortable place to handle business. If you're ready to make a decision about buying or renting, read our mobile office guide for even more helpful information.