The Complete Guide to Buying a Shipping Container

buying a shipping container

Buying a Shipping Container, Shipping containers have transcended their original purpose of transporting goods across the globe and have found a new lease on life in various sectors. From storage solutions to innovative housing, offices, and even retail spaces, the versatility of shipping containers has been fully embraced. If you’re considering purchasing a shipping container, whether for traditional use, a building project, or any other creative endeavor, this guide will walk you through the essentials of making an informed decision.

Understanding the Basics

Before diving into the specifics of purchasing a shipping container, it’s important to understand some basic aspects:

Types of Shipping Containers

  • Standard Containers: These are the most common types, typically available in 20-foot and 40-foot lengths. They are ideal for most storage, transport, and modification projects.
  • High Cube Containers: Similar to standard containers but with an extra foot in height, providing more space and making them popular for modular housing and offices.
  • Specialized Containers: This category includes refrigerated containers, open-top containers, flat racks, and tank containers, designed for specific cargo types.

New vs. Used

  • New Containers: Also known as “one-trip” containers, these have been used only once for shipping and are in excellent condition. They are more expensive but offer longevity and aesthetics.
  • Used Containers: These are more affordable but can vary greatly in condition. It’s crucial to inspect used containers for rust, dents, and structural integrity.

Considerations Before Buying A Shipping Container

Purpose and Modifications

Identify the intended use for the container, as this will influence the type, size, and condition you should look for. Modifications can transform a container, but remember that structural changes may require professional expertise and additional budget.

Local Regulations and Permits

Before purchasing a container for construction or as a permanent fixture on your property, check local zoning laws and building regulations. Some areas have specific restrictions on container use, and obtaining necessary permits is essential to avoid legal issues.

Delivery and Placement

Consider the logistics of getting the container to your location and placing it on-site. Delivery costs can vary widely based on distance and accessibility. Ensure your site is prepared and accessible for the delivery truck, and consider whether you’ll need a crane or other equipment to position the container.

Where to Buy a Shipping Container

Local Dealers and Resellers

Buying from a local dealer allows you to inspect the container in person before making a purchase. Dealers often offer delivery services and can provide useful advice based on your specific needs.

Online Marketplaces

Websites like eBay or specialized container sales platforms offer a wide range of options. While buying online can be convenient and sometimes cheaper, it limits your ability to inspect the container beforehand. Always check seller ratings and reviews.

Direct from Shipping Companies

Some shipping lines sell their used containers directly to the public. This option can offer good deals, especially for bulk purchases, but availability may be limited to certain times or locations.

Inspecting a Shipping Container

When inspecting a container, pay close attention to:

  • Structural Integrity: Check for significant dents or deformations that could affect strength.
  • Rust and Corrosion: Surface rust is common but look out for deep corrosion, especially around seams and welds.
  • Doors and Seals: Ensure doors open smoothly and seals are intact to prevent water ingress.
  • Interior Condition: Look for signs of leaks, mold, or unpleasant odors indicating poor previous usage or storage.


The cost of shipping containers can vary significantly based on size, condition, location, and current market demand. As a general guide:

  • New 20-foot containers range from $3,000 to $5,000.
  • Used 20-foot containers vary from $1,500 to $3,000, depending on condition.
  • High cube and specialized containers will be at the higher end of these ranges or more.

Remember, delivery costs can add significantly to the total price, so factor these in when budgeting.

Final Thoughts

Buying a shipping container can be an exciting venture, opening up a world of possibilities for storage, construction, and creative projects. By understanding the basics, carefully considering your needs and local regulations, and conducting thorough inspections, you can make an informed decision that ensures your container serves its intended purpose effectively for years to come. Whether you’re embarking on a unique building project or simply need durable, secure storage, a shipping container can be an excellent investment.

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