Buying Shipping Containers

buying shipping containers

Buying Shipping Containers, In the world of logistics, construction, and innovative housing, shipping containers have surged in popularity. These robust, steel boxes, once used exclusively for transporting goods across oceans, have found new life in various sectors. Whether you’re considering a shipping container for storage, a unique building project, or starting a cargo transport business, understanding the ins and outs of purchasing one is crucial. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about buying shipping containers, ensuring you make an informed decision.

Understanding Shipping Containers

Before diving into the purchase process, it’s essential to understand what shipping containers are and why they’re so versatile. Shipping containers are large, steel boxes designed to carry goods on ships, trains, and trucks. They come in standard sizes, the most common being 20 feet and 40 feet in length, known as Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) and Forty-foot Equivalent Units (FEUs), respectively. Their durability, standardized sizes, and portability make them attractive for various applications beyond shipping, including storage solutions, modular construction, and even disaster relief housing.

Key Considerations Before Purchase

Purpose and Specifications

Identify what you need the container for. Is it for storage, a building project, or transportation? Your purpose will dictate the type and condition of the container you should look for. For instance, new or “one-trip” containers are preferable for homes or offices due to their excellent condition, whereas used containers might suffice for storage.

Size and Type

Containers come in various sizes and types. Besides the standard 20 and 40-foot lengths, there are high-cube containers that offer additional height. Specialized types like open-top, flat-rack, or refrigerated (reefer) containers serve specific purposes and might be what you need depending on your project.

Condition and Grade

Shipping containers are categorized by condition. New containers have made one trip from their manufacturing site, usually in China, to their destination. Used containers are graded based on their condition, with “A-grade” being in the best condition, and “C-grade” showing significant wear and tear. Inspecting the container or buying from a reputable dealer is crucial to ensure you get what you’re paying for.

Where to Buy Shipping Containers

Local Dealers and Resellers

Purchasing from a local dealer can be beneficial, allowing you to inspect the container in person before buying. Dealers often offer delivery services and can assist with any modifications needed.

Online Marketplaces

Websites like eBay or specialized online marketplaces for shipping containers can offer a wide selection. While buying online might provide competitive pricing, ensure you understand the shipping costs and the return policy in case the container doesn’t meet your expectations.

Direct From Shipping Lines

Some shipping companies sell their used containers directly. Buying from these sources can be cost-effective, but availability may be limited to specific locations or times.


Government or private auctions can be a source for finding containers at lower prices. However, the ability to inspect the containers beforehand might be limited, and buyers should proceed with caution.

Cost Considerations

The price of shipping containers can vary widely based on size, condition, and location. New containers might cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 for standard sizes, while used ones can range from $1,500 to $3,000. Prices fluctuate based on supply and demand, so it’s wise to research current prices in your area. Remember to factor in delivery costs, which can significantly affect the total price.

Preparing for Delivery

Ensure you have a suitable foundation or space for the container. Consider how the container will be delivered and whether the delivery truck can access your site. You may need to arrange for a crane or other equipment to place the container, especially for larger sizes or challenging locations.

Customization and Modification

One of the exciting aspects of shipping containers is their versatility. They can be modified to include windows, doors, insulation, and more. If you’re not handy with tools, some companies specialize in customizing shipping containers to your specifications.

Legal Considerations

Before buying a shipping container for any project, check local zoning laws and building codes. Some areas may have restrictions on using shipping containers for construction or require permits for placement on your property.


Buying a shipping container can be a straightforward process when you’re armed with the right information. Whether for storage, transport, or a creative building project, shipping containers offer a durable, cost-effective solution. By carefully considering your needs, researching your options, and preparing for delivery, you can make a successful purchase that meets your requirements. With their versatility and durability, shipping containers provide a foundation for innovative solutions in a variety of fields.

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