If you've ever considered holding a big outdoor event, chances are you've considered porta potty rentals.
It's not a glamorous idea to research but it's a very necessary one. If you don't have enough porta-potties, your event will be a disaster. It doesn't matter if you have U2, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, Taylor Swift, and AC/DC playing all at once … your event will be terrible if you don't have enough porta-potties.
We have good friends who run a local brewery, Manor Hill Brewing (by the way, great beer, love their Citra Splendor and Grisette). The brewery is on a farm, which means they hold a few outdoor events each year. The brewery doesn't have the restroom capacity to handle the huge influx of attendees so they rent porta-potties.
Half the grossness of a porta potty is in the servicing. If you rent them for a day or so, even the cheapest porta-potties will be fine. They arrive in pristine condition, get used for a day or a weekend, and then they get picked up. It's when you try to stretch a porta-potty multiple days, in the hot summer, that you run into disaster.
If you're running an event, whether it's a big family reunion backyard affair or perhaps a wedding or mini-festival – here's what you need to know if you're going to rent a porta-potty.
How Many Porta Potties Do I Need?
First things first, you need to know how many you need. This might surprise you but despite all the different types of portable bathrooms, they each have the same amount of “containment.” The units themselves might nicer, bigger, and have special amenities… but they have about 200 uses of capacity.
So how many do you need?
Well, Service Sanitation, a renter of these units, recommends that a commercial worksite has 1 portable restroom for every 10 workers. But what if you're not running a worksite? What if you're having a party?
Service Sanitation also has an event rental “calculator.” Calculator makes it sound like it's more than it is – it's just a chart. And the basic math is simple – each unit has approximately 200 uses. Then they calculate how many hours you'll need it and arrive at a “uses per person” for your event.
The end result is something like this table – which has the number of portable bathrooms and sinks.
It's super easy to use. If you have a 2-hour event with 500 people, you'll want 4 porta-potties.
A local rental company, Gotugo, estimates that you'll need one unit for every 75 people at a four-hour event. If there are lots of liquids being consumed, they recommend two units. (using the same 48-minute rule as Service Sanitation, this estimates the units have 120 uses…)
Sometimes, you'll see calculators recommending 10-20% more capacity when there are food and alcohol. You can add whatever buffer you think your group may need.
Different Types of Porta Potties
Porta potties run the gamut in terms of “luxury.”
I know you probably don't think about it when you're in one but they do vary in terms of size, amenities, and quality.
Just think back to when you were last in a porta-potty. If it was at a race, where the porta-potties are available just for a few hours, they were usually very basic. They were the small ones with just a toilet, no flushing, and a door. For large events, it's all about numbers.
If you were at a more upscale event, like an outdoor wedding, you may have seen one that was more like a trailer and less like a plastic box.
As you can imagine, the trailer costs a lot more.
Here are the major categories:
Standard Porta Potties
These are the most common, the cheapest, and a rental company can empty and clean them on location. They're single-unit portable bathrooms that have no flushing capability and no sink. The holding tank is ~60 gallons. You see these a lot in locations where you need a porta potty but only for the short term.
The PolyJohn PJN3 is an example of this type of porta potty. It's 91″ tall, 43.5″ wide, and 47″ long. If you were to buy it, you can get it in dozens of colors but I've only ever seen blue, dark blue, and similar neutral colors. PolyJohn calls this the “workhorse of the industry,” given how often it's used.
Deluxe Flushable Porta Potties
The next step up is a porta potty that has flushing capabilities. They will usually come with a sink area to wash your hands, a mirror, and a urinal. They look at a lot like the standard porta potties except they're bigger.
The PolyJohn Fleet line of products is an example of a deluxe or premium porta potty. It's 91″ tall, 47″ wide, and 47″ long – the extra width gives it greater interior space. They claim 24% more interior floor space than comparable models.
You don't see too many of these out in the wild and as a user, I'm not sure it's really necessary. It can handle the same amount of waste but it costs more to seem slightly nicer. But it's not nice enough to be considered upscale, so it's tough to see the utility.
One step up from a “portable restroom” is the idea of a portable restroom trailer. If you've ever been to a summer music festival that runs for several weeks, you may have seen a few of these in addition to traditional porta-potties. They are essentially restrooms on wheels and sometimes called VIP or wedding restroom trailers. If you were inside one, it would be like you're in a regular restroom and not a portable unit.
These can be very luxurious if you're willing to pay for it. For example, check out this Mr. John Wedding Cottage and it's shed-like design. It has four private restrooms with flushing toilets, sinks, and glass mirror. If it wasn't on a hitch, you probably wouldn't even know it was temporary.
If you want slightly more upscale, a solar-powered porta potty can offer that. They're designed with a more upscale interior but solar power offers some amenities you can't get without power. For example, you get hands free handwashing and lights. The solar panels charge up a battery, which powers these features.
Finally, we have wheelchair accessible units that have no entry lip or rise and are much larger so that someone who is in a wheelchair can physically be able to use the restroom.
The PolyJohn Comfort XL is an example of one such unit and it has more than 16 square feet of interior floor space for easy maneuverability.
Commercial Porta Potties
There are a few types of porta potties meant primarily for work sites like ones you can lift with a crane, tow away on a trailer, or others. We excluded those from the article since we figure you're probably looking at one for a party or other special event.
How Much Do Porta-Potties Cost?
If you're running an event, you don't want to buy a porta-potty.
You want to rent them.
Rental services will deliver the units, set them up, clean and service the units as required, pick them up and take them away. If the event is multiple weeks, they will come and service them as needed as part of the contract. If it's a single day, they'll deliver and then remove after the event.
In researching options, we've seen these price ranges:
- Standard: $100 – $175
- Deluxe with Flushing: $150 – $375
- Handicap Accessible: $150 – $250
- VIP Trailer: $1000 – $5000 (varies widely because the trailers vary)
- Wash Stations (Sinks): ~$200
Want actual prices you can see on a website? The prices quoted below are from Nationwide Waste Service's website and may vary, but it gives you a sense of relative cost (these are the only prices they listed publicly).
- Standard: $199
- Handicap Accessible: $258
- ADA Accessible: $298
- Double Faucet Wash Station: $188
You should try to find someone local, since it'll reduce any delivery fees (some places will charge you a small fee if you're far from their facility), and a quick Google search will identify those pretty quickly.
Also, you may rent it for “one day” but they usually leave it for entire weekends. They may drop it off on a Thursday or Friday for a Saturday event and not pick up until Monday or Tuesday. It's the type of item that you can't use a unit twice in a weekend. It takes time to get it back to the facility to clean and service.
Finding a Porta Potty Rental Near Me
There are several nationwide providers of porta potty rentals.
United Site Services is one of the largest portable bathroom rental companies (and other temporary rental needs like fences and dumpsters) in the nation. They own a lot of subsidiaries, including Johnny on the Spot, a company that serves much of the mid-Atlantic region.
United Site Services may be a large temporary site rental services company but United Rentals is likely the largest equipment rental company in North America and they also rent portable bathrooms. URI was founded in 1997, has 997 locations, and is publicly traded NYSE:URI. They had revenue of $6.64 billion in 2017 and 18,800 employees!
The portable toilet business falls under “Onsite services” and joined the business in 2017 when they acquired “Superior Speedie.” You can find out more about renting from United Rentals here.
Outside of those two companies, you start looking at local operators much like Johnny on the Spot (but with a smaller footprint). In the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) area, we have a few local players that we see often – Gotugo, Don's Johns, and others. If you do some research, you can often find a more local company to work with if you don't want to deal with the big boys.
Whatever the case may be, finding a porta potty rental near you should not be an issue!