What to Look For When Buying a Used Shipping Container

In 2019, there were 811 million shipping containers that made their way around the world. While many of these containers will get used for multiple transport trips, there comes a time when each one reaches the end of its shipping life and gets sold for a new use.

You can then buy these used containers and convert them into something new. Perhaps you could use a personal storage unit or as a part of a construction project.

This guide will help you buy a used shipping container for whatever purpose you need it for.

New vs. Used

New containers are significantly more expensive than used. You can find a used shipping container for sale that’s in great condition and nearby, making it a better investment than trying to purchase a brand new container.


The majority of used shipping containers are still in great condition; they just aren’t suitable for international transport. There are different condition levels, and your intended use will dictate the condition you should look for when you purchase shipping containers.

As-is containers are the lowest grade and most affordable. They could have dents, have holes, rust, misaligned doors, and be leaking. Wind water tight (WWT) is the next grade up and will have working doors and no leaks.

Cargo-worthy containers are structurally sound with no leaks or rust spots. These containers won’t need refurbishing and command the highest price. You may also see containers that are called “one-trip”, which is considered new despite having already made one shipping trip.

Type and Size

Dry storage containers come in 10, 20, and 40-foot lengths. They come in a standard height of 8’6″ or high cube at 9’6″. These containers are the easiest to find, making them the most affordable.

These dry shipping containers are also the best for use as a storage unit or construction. However, there are several other types of containers that may work better for your specific need.

  • Dry storage
  • Flat rack
  • Open top
  • Tunnel
  • Open side
  • Double doors
  • Refrigerated
  • Thermal or insulated


Start by searching online for “shipping containers near me” to find available local shipping containers. While you may find cheaper containers further away, the cost of transporting the container to you can negate any savings you may have.

You can learn more from online container sellers who have connections with ports throughout the country. They may be able to help you buy a local container in the condition you want.


Always confirm that the shipping container in the picture is the one that you are actually buying. Some less honest container brokers will have limited stock. They will sell you a WWT container, but then send you one that’s in worse condition.

Only buy a container from a reputable seller or from a seller that lets you see the container in person before buying.

Buy a Used Shipping Container

Buying a used shipping container is a great way to save some money and repurpose the steel containers that are no longer usable for international transport. They come in a range of conditions and prices, making it possible to find the perfect container for your budget and project.

Check out our other lifestyle articles for more helpful information and guidance.

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