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In a world where innovative solutions meet practical needs, buying shipping containers has evolved beyond their traditional transportation role. Beyond being mere vessels for goods, these steel giants have become versatile assets for individuals and businesses alike, serving as storage units, home offices, and even mobile business spaces.

If you’ve ever contemplated how to buy a shipping container for your unique needs, you’re in the right place. From understanding the diverse types available to ensuring a secure and timely delivery, we will unravel the intricacies of making this unconventional yet highly functional investment. This blog aims to be your comprehensive guide on how to buy a shipping container.

Step 1: Define Your Needs

When embarking on the journey to purchase shipping containers, the first crucial step is to clearly define your needs.

Size and Type

Familiarize yourself with the different standard sizes of shipping containers to determine the one that best suits your intended use. The 20ft and 40ft standard containers are widely popular, while high cube containers offer extra vertical space.

Below we expand on distinct features and purposes of a few specialized storage containers:

Open-Top Containers

Description: Open-top containers, as the name suggests, lack a fixed roof. Instead, they are equipped with a removable tarpaulin or a convertible roof structure.

Ideal Use: Best suited for easy loading and unloading of oversized or tall items. The absence of a fixed roof allows for crane access and simplifies the handling of goods that exceed standard container height limits.

Flat Rack Containers

Description: Flat rack containers have collapsible sides, allowing for easy loading and unloading from the sides or above.

Ideal Use: Designed for unconventional cargo that doesn’t fit well within the confines of a standard container. This includes large machinery, heavy equipment, or goods with irregular shapes.

Refrigerated (Reefer) Containers

Description: Refrigerated containers, commonly known as reefers, are equipped with a cooling system to maintain specific temperature conditions.

Ideal Use: Primarily used for transporting temperature-sensitive goods such as perishable foods, pharmaceuticals, or any items that require a controlled climate. Reefers ensure that the cargo remains at the required temperature throughout the shipping process.

Understanding the unique features of open-top, flat rack, and refrigerated containers allows you to choose the most suitable option based on the nature of your cargo. Whether you’re dealing with oversized items, unconventional cargo, or perishable goods, these specialized storage containers provide tailored solutions for diverse shipping needs.


Assessing the condition of a new or used shipping container is pivotal to ensure it meets your expectations. Explore various grades, starting with ‘one-trip’ containers that have made a single voyage and are almost new, cargo-worthy containers certified for transporting goods, and wind & watertight containers suitable for secure storage. Understanding these grades will help you choose a storage container aligned with your specific needs.


Setting a realistic budget is essential for a smooth purchasing process. Consider not only the shipping container cost but also factor in additional fees. Delivery expenses depend on the distance and logistics involved. If modifications, such as adding doors or windows, are on the horizon, include those costs as well. Check if there are any permits required for placing a shipping container on your property. Taking a comprehensive approach ensures your budget accurately reflects the true cost of acquiring and customizing a shipping container tailored to your needs.

Step 2: Research and Compare Suppliers

Once you’ve defined your needs, the next step is to thoroughly research and compare suppliers and container dealers, considering various aspects to ensure a seamless container acquisition process.

Local vs. National Suppliers

When choosing a supplier, you’ll likely encounter both local and national options, each with its own set of advantages and drawbacks.

Local Suppliers

Pros: Local suppliers often offer proximity benefits, reducing delivery costs and transit times. Inspection convenience is higher as you can personally assess the containers.

Cons: Purchasing a container locally can mean limited selection and availability might be a challenge, and container prices may vary based on regional demand.

National Suppliers

Pros: National suppliers usually have a more extensive inventory, providing a broader range of container options. Prices may be competitive due to economies of scale.

Cons: Delivery costs might be higher, and the inspection process may be more challenging if the supplier is not local.

Consider your priorities, such as budget constraints, timeline, and the need for hands-on inspection, to determine whether a local or national supplier aligns better with your requirements.

Direct from Intermodal Logistics Companies & Shipping Lines

An alternative approach is to purchase directly from shipping lines, which can offer unique advantages, such as:

  1. Better Pricing: Purchasing directly from shipping lines can often result in more competitive prices. As the containers are sourced directly from the source, there may be cost savings compared to buying from intermediaries.
  2. Large Inventory: Shipping lines typically have a large inventory of containers, providing you with a broader selection. This variety allows you to choose containers with specific features, conditions, or sizes that suit your needs.
  3. Quality Assurance: Containers from shipping lines are usually well-maintained and adhere to international shipping standards. These containers often undergo rigorous inspections and maintenance, ensuring higher quality and reliability.
  4. Direct Communication: Dealing directly with shipping lines allows for clear and direct communication. You can obtain detailed information about the container’s history, certifications, and any specific conditions that may affect your purchase decision.

Before deciding, carefully weigh the benefits and challenges of sourcing directly from shipping lines, considering factors like cost-effectiveness and the specific requirements of your project. Whether opting for local suppliers or going direct, thorough research ensures you make an informed choice aligned with your goals.

Step 3: Inspect the Container Before You Buy

Before finalizing your purchase, it’s crucial to conduct a thorough inspection of the shipping container to ensure it meets your standards and requirements.

Checklist for Visual Inspection

Use the following checklist to visually inspect the container and assess its condition:

  1. Dents: Examine the exterior for dents, especially in critical areas like the corners and sides.
  2. Rust: Check for rust, focusing on areas prone to corrosion, such as the bottom, door hinges, and corners.
  3. Leaks: Inspect the interior for any signs of water leaks, which could damage your cargo.
  4. Door Functionality: Ensure that the doors open and close smoothly, latching securely without any issues.
  5. Structural Integrity: Assess the overall structural integrity of the container, looking for any signs of deformation or damage.

Ask the Right Questions

When communicating with the seller, ask pertinent questions to gather essential information about the container’s history and condition:

  • History: Inquire about the container’s history, including its previous use and any notable events it has experienced.
  • Certifications: Check for relevant certifications, such as cargo-worthiness, which ensures the container meets international shipping standards.
  • Modifications: Ask about any modifications made to the container, as this can impact its suitability for your intended use.

By combining a visual inspection with detailed inquiries, you can make an informed decision about the container’s condition and whether it aligns with your specific needs. This meticulous approach not only ensures the quality of your investment but also contributes to a smooth and trouble-free shipping container experience.

Step 4: Negotiate the Price and Terms

As you venture into the negotiation phase of purchasing a shipping container, it’s essential to be well-informed and strategic in order to secure a favorable deal.

Research Market Prices

Before entering negotiations, conduct thorough research on current market prices for shipping containers. Compare shipping container prices from different suppliers, both local and national, to gain a comprehensive understanding of the prevailing rates. This knowledge empowers you to negotiate confidently, ensuring that you receive fair and competitive pricing for your container.

Factor in Delivery Costs

Delivery costs are a significant consideration that can impact your overall budget. Take into account the following factors when assessing delivery fees:

  • Distance: The distance between the supplier and your location influences transportation costs. Be aware that longer distances generally result in higher delivery expenses.
  • Special Permits: Check if any special permits are required for transporting the container to your site. Permit costs can vary based on local regulations.
  • Unloading Equipment: If specialized equipment is needed for unloading the container at your location, factor in these additional costs.

Understanding and accounting for these elements allows you to budget effectively and avoid unexpected expenses during the purchasing process.

Payment Terms and Warranty

Negotiating the terms of payment is a critical aspect of the transaction. Consider the following:

  • Payment Options: Discuss various payment options with the seller, such as upfront payment, installment plans, or financing. Choose the option that aligns best with your financial situation.
  • Written Warranty: For used shipping containers, obtaining a written warranty is crucial. This document outlines the condition of the container at the time of purchase and any specific guarantees provided by the seller. A written warranty adds an extra layer of assurance and clarity to the transaction.

By thoroughly researching market prices, factoring in delivery costs, and negotiating favorable payment terms with a clear warranty, you position yourself for a successful and cost-effective shipping container acquisition.

Step 5: Delivery and Permits

As you approach the final steps of acquiring your shipping container, focusing on delivery logistics and permits is crucial to ensure a smooth and compliant process.

Delivery Logistics

Understanding the various delivery methods is essential for a seamless experience. Suppliers typically offer delivery via truck or rail, each with its own considerations:

  • Truck Delivery: Common and flexible, truck delivery allows cargo containers to be transported directly to your specified location. Ensure clear communication with the supplier regarding access points, unloading requirements, and any potential challenges at the delivery site.
  • Rail Delivery: In some cases, storage containers may be delivered by rail. This option is advantageous for long-distance transportation. Coordinate with the supplier to guarantee proper arrangements for ground transportation from the rail station to your site.

Maintain open communication with the supplier to address any delivery concerns, ensuring that the chosen method aligns with your logistical needs.

Permits and Regulations

Before placing a shipping container on your property, it’s essential to be aware of potential permits and regulations:

  • Zoning Permits: Check local zoning regulations to determine if any permits are required for placing a shipping container on your property. Zoning laws may dictate the allowable land use and structure types.
  • Building Code Requirements: Be informed about building code requirements that might apply to shipping container installations. Compliance with these codes ensures the safety and legality of the container’s placement.

Understanding and adhering to local permits and regulations is crucial to avoid legal complications and ensure a hassle-free experience.

Prepping the Delivery Site

Preparing the delivery site is a proactive step to guarantee a smooth installation process. Consider the following tips:

  • Ground Leveling: Ensure the ground is level to provide a stable foundation for the container. Uneven surfaces can affect the container’s structural integrity and functionality.
  • Accessibility: Ensure that the delivery site is easily accessible for unloading. Clear any obstacles or obstructions that may impede the delivery process.

By focusing on delivery logistics, permits, and proper site preparation, you ensure that the arrival and placement of your shipping container are efficient, compliant, and hassle-free.

Step 6: Additional Considerations

As you near the completion of our guide on how to buy a shipping container, explore additional considerations that can enhance functionality, security, and environmental sustainability.

Modifications and Customization

Transform your shipping container into a tailored space that meets your unique needs through popular modifications:

  • Insulation: Enhance comfort and energy efficiency by insulating the container, making it suitable for various climates.
  • Windows and Doors: Introduce natural light and accessibility with window and door installations. Customize sizes and placements based on your specific requirements.
  • Paint Jobs: Express your style and brand identity by giving your container a personalized paint job. Not only does it add aesthetics, but it also serves as a protective layer against the elements.

Security and Insurance

Ensure the safety of your container and its contents by addressing security and insurance considerations:

  • Locks and Alarms: Implement robust security measures with high-quality locks and alarms to deter unauthorized access and protect valuable cargo.
  • Insurance Coverage: Secure comprehensive insurance coverage for your shipping container and its contents. In the event of unforeseen incidents, insurance provides financial protection and peace of mind.

By prioritizing security measures and obtaining suitable insurance coverage, you safeguard your investment and ensure a secure container environment.

Sustainability and Environmental Impact

Embrace the eco-friendly aspects of shipping container usage and disposal:

  • Reuse and Repurpose: Reusing shipping containers contributes to sustainable practices by giving new life to existing materials. Explore creative ways to repurpose these steel boxes for shipping container homes, offices, and other structures.
  • Responsible Disposal: When a container reaches the end of its usable life, prioritize responsible disposal methods. Recycling and upcycling options minimize environmental impact.
    By actively considering the sustainability of your shipping container choices, you contribute to environmentally responsible practices and make a positive impact on the planet.

As you delve into these additional considerations, your shipping container becomes more than just a functional unit – it transforms into a personalized, secure, and environmentally conscious asset tailored to your specific needs and values.


In this guide of buying a shipping container, you’ve navigated through key steps that ensure a successful and well-informed acquisition. Let’s recap these essential steps on how to buy a shipping container:

  1. Define Your Needs: Understand the size, type, condition, and budget that align with your intended use.
  2. Research and Compare Suppliers: Explore local and national suppliers, and consider purchasing directly from shipping lines for potentially better deals.
  3. Inspect the Container Before You Buy: Conduct a thorough visual inspection and ask pertinent questions about the container’s history and certifications.
  4. Negotiate the Price and Terms: Research market prices, factor in delivery costs, and negotiate payment terms with a focus on obtaining a written warranty for used containers.
  5. Delivery and Permits: Consider different delivery methods, be aware of permits and regulations, and prepare the delivery site for a seamless installation.
  6. Additional Considerations: Customize your container with modifications, prioritize security measures, and embrace sustainability for a holistic container experience.

As you embark on this exciting journey, trust in your ability to find the right shipping containers tailored to your needs. Your thoughtful consideration of each step ensures that the container you acquire is not just a functional space but a personalized, secure, and environmentally conscious asset.

To get a quote for your shipping container, we are here to help. Contact us today to learn more about our shipping container sales.


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