Buying Shipping Containers: A Comprehensive Guide

buying used shipping containers

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shipping containers

buying used shipping containers

Whether you’re looking for new or used containers, it’s important to be well-informed before making a purchase. There are several factors to consider, such as quality, cost, size, and intended use. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the precautions and factors you need to look into before buying shipping containers. By the end, you’ll feel confident in making the right decision for your needs.

Table of Contents

Risks of Buying Shipping Containers

Like any industry, purchasing used equipment comes with its risks. When it comes to buying used shipping containers, there are a few key factors to keep in mind:

Container Condition Surprises

One of the common risks is that the actual condition of the container may differ drastically from what you see in pictures. To avoid surprises, it’s important to check reviews of the container supplier online and gather feedback from previous customers.

Paying Too Much

Before committing to a purchase, it’s crucial to have a ballpark estimate of the container’s value. This will help you avoid overpaying due to hidden fees, exorbitant delivery charges, or excessive markups by middlemen.

No Support or Guarantee

When buying a shipping container, it’s important to choose a supplier that offers after-sale support and guarantees. This way, if you receive a container in a condition worse than expected, you can rely on the supplier to rectify the issue.

Delivery Disasters

In addition to watching out for substantial delivery fees, it’s essential to understand how incidents of container damage during transit or installation are handled. Depending on the seller or the delivery company, you may either end up keeping the damaged container or having to pay for its replacement.

Factors to Consider Before Buying Shipping Containers

Before purchasing shipping containers, it’s important to consider several key factors that will influence your buying decision. Let’s explore these factors in detail:

Buying vs. Renting Shipping Containers

Deciding whether to buy or rent a shipping container depends on various factors:

  • How long do you need the container?
  • What is the purchase cost compared to the rental cost?
  • Do you plan to make modifications to the container structure?

If you need a container for more than three years or plan to make modifications, buying a container is often the better option. However, if you only need a container for a short period, renting may be more cost-effective.

Condition and Grades of Shipping Containers

The condition and grade of a shipping container play a significant role in its suitability for your needs. Here are the different grades of shipping containers:

  • New or One-Trip Shipping Containers: These containers are either brand new or have only made one trip from the manufacturer to their destination. They are in excellent condition and offer great discounts compared to brand-new containers.
  • Used Shipping Containers: Used containers vary in condition, from hardly used to completely used. They are generally classified into three categories:
    • Cargo-worthy (CW) Containers: These containers are certified to meet the Container Safety Convention (CSC) standards for international transport. They offer the same performance as new containers and are suitable for future moves.
    • Wind and Water Tight (WWT) Containers: These containers are similar to cargo-worthy containers but may require minor repairs due to shipping damage. They are suitable for general storage purposes.
    • As-Is Containers: These containers may have visible damage or cosmetic defects. They are not cargo-worthy or wind and watertight, but they can still serve specific purposes with an on-site inspection.

Shipping Container Sizes

Shipping containers come in various sizes to accommodate different storage needs. The most common sizes include:

  • 40′ Shipping Container: Commonly used for onsite storage, job site offices, and general-purpose cargo. It provides an internal storage capacity of 320 sq. ft.
  • 24′ Shipping Container: Suitable for smaller project needs, with a storage capacity of 192 sq. ft.
  • 20′ Shipping Container: Ideal for commercial or industrial storage requirements and can also serve as onsite offices for small teams.
  • 10′ Shipping Container: With 80 sq. ft. of storage capacity, these containers are perfect for confined spaces and can fit into driveways and parking spaces.

It’s also possible to find containers in non-standard sizes, such as 53′ long containers and high cube containers (taller than usual).

The Material of Shipping Containers

The material of construction is an important consideration for the longevity of shipping containers. Look for containers made of 14-gauge Corten steel, which is resistant to rust and inclement weather.

Intended Use of the Container

Consider the specific purpose for which you need the container. Not all containers are suitable for every storage requirement. For example, an As-Is container may be good for general storage but not ideal for keeping vulnerable items.

Delivery Fees and Options

Transporting a container can be a hassle, so it’s important to check with the supplier about delivery fees. Depending on the distance between the container’s current location and your desired delivery location, the fees may vary. Different delivery options may also be available, such as tilt bed or roll-off, flat bed, customer assist, or customer pickup.

Required Features and Security

Determine the specific features and security options you need for your container. These may include single or double door entry, windows, office-storage combo units, exterior bolt locks, or internal locking mechanisms. Keep in mind that certain features may not be readily available for used containers.

Permission to Place the Container

Depending on your location and the intended placement of the container, you may need to obtain a temporary permit from the city. This is especially important for residential areas or high-traffic locations where regulations may restrict container storage.

Essential Site Preparation

Consider the condition of the site where the container will be placed. If you only need the container for a few months and the site is fairly leveled and dry, minimal site preparation may be required. However, for long-term use or stacking multiple containers, thorough site preparation is necessary. Avoid placing the container on rocky land, flood-prone areas, or sloping ground.

Where to Buy Shipping Containers

When it comes to buying shipping containers, you have several options:

Buying from Local Dealers

Local dealers can be a convenient option, with the advantage of supporting local businesses. However, it’s important to carefully evaluate the reputation and reliability of the dealer before making a purchase.

Buying from Individuals

Buying from individuals may offer a good deal, but it comes with certain risks. You may have limited recourse if you discover leaks or holes after the purchase. Additionally, arranging container delivery to your location and lacking the expertise of container suppliers may pose challenges. You may also be responsible for any damage that occurs during transit.

Buying from Suppliers

A reputable and experienced supplier is often the best choice for buying shipping containers. Suppliers can offer a range of options, both new and used, at fair prices. They have the expertise to guide you through the buying process and ensure timely delivery. For businesses, it’s especially recommended to choose a renowned provider like Mobile Modular Portable Storage, which offers a comprehensive inventory of new and used high-security shipping containers for sale and rent.

Frequently Asked Questions about Buying Shipping Containers

How much does it cost to buy a shipping container?

The cost of shipping containers varies widely depending on factors such as type, age, condition, and location. It’s best to consult with a specialist to get accurate pricing information based on your specific needs.

What is the smallest shipping container you can buy?

The smallest available shipping containers are 10 ft. in size.

Are shipping containers a good investment?

Shipping containers can be a good investment, especially for reducing warehouse expenses or creating cost-effective office spaces at construction sites. They offer savings in terms of storage cost per square foot.

Are shipping containers bulletproof?

No, shipping containers are not bulletproof. However, their exterior can be fortified with additional steel plates for increased security.

Are shipping containers waterproof?

New or one-trip containers, cargo-worthy containers, and wind and watertight containers are designed to be waterproof. However, there is no guarantee of waterproofing for As-Is containers.

Do shipping containers need a foundation?

For short-term use on fairly leveled and dry ground, a foundation may not be necessary. However, for longer-term solutions or uneven ground, a stable foundation is recommended.

How long will shipping containers last?

Shipping containers can last up to 25 years with proper maintenance and care. However, the actual lifespan depends on various factors such as maintenance, climate conditions, and original condition at the time of purchase.

Are metal shipping containers fireproof?

Shipping containers made of galvanized steel are inherently fire-resistant due to the nature of the material.

How do you cut a shipping container in half?

Cutting a shipping container in half can be done with specific tools or by consulting a supplier. However, modifying containers in this way can affect their structural integrity and safety margin.

Do shipping containers need insulation?

If you plan to use a shipping container as an office or living space, insulation is recommended to regulate temperature extremes. Various insulation methods, such as blanket insulation, expanded foam insulation, or spray insulation, can be used.

In conclusion, buying shipping containers requires careful consideration of various factors. By assessing the condition and grade of the container, determining the right size and material, and considering your specific needs and delivery options, you can make an informed decision. It’s also important to choose a reputable supplier who can provide the best options and support throughout the buying process. With this comprehensive guide, you can confidently navigate the process of buying shipping containers for your storage or office needs.