Top 12 Must-Know Facts Before Buying A Used Shipping Container – Checklist


If you’re thinking about buying a used shipping container, there are some critical points you need to know first. Whether transforming it into a living space or using it for storage, understanding key details can save you time, money, and potential headaches in the long run.

That’s why we’ve put together a handy checklist of the top 12 must-know facts for buyers like you. We’ll cover everything you need to know about buying containers, from pricing to logistical considerations. Keep reading to make sure you’re well-equipped with what to consider so you can make a successful purchase.

What You Need to Know Before Buying a Used Shipping Container

This handy and comprehensive checklist will provide you with valuable insights, expert advice, and practical tips for a smooth and efficient buying experience.

Shipping Containers Are Rarely Scrapped and Often Reused

There’s a fascinating phenomenon that occurs within the shipping industry called the trade imbalance. Simply put, more containers arrive in the United States and Canada than are sent out.

Since the useful cargo life of a shipping container is 10 to 12 years at sea, rather than being discarded and crushed into a scrapyard, most containers either become reloaded, sent back empty, or sold for storage, which can extend their lifespan to about 25 years.

The Port is Not The Place for Purchasing Shipping Containers

Can you buy a shipping container directly from a port? Before you google “how to buy shipping containers from the port,” let us save you the searching time. It turns out that you can’t walk in or place an online order and buy one since the port or depot doesn’t own the containers. They store them for shipping lines or intermodal equipment leasing firms that are typically based in Asia or Europe.

To buy a shipping container, you’ll need to go through a company. See our last fact for tips on choosing a reliable company!

Prices for Buying Used Shipping Containers Are Based on Cargo Volumes

How much does it cost to buy a used shipping container? You might think that the demand from people wanting to buy storage containers determines the price, but cargo volumes have a more significant influence. A higher cargo volume requires more containers, which increases demand and raises prices. However, recently, an oversupply of containers has caused prices to fall.

No Need for Container Surveys (Unless Used for Export)

You may have come across recommendations online suggesting that you should have your container inspected to ensure it is in good working condition. However, we believe it’s a waste of time and money for most customers, especially if you purchase from a reputable seller. Only if you plan to use the container for export does having it surveyed become relevant.

Don’t Base Quality on the Appearance When Buying Old Shipping Containers

Don’t worry too much about its appearance when buying a storage container. Instead, focus on its shipping readiness. As long as the container is CWO (cargo worthy) and WWT (wind and watertight) or rated at an IICL (International Institute of Container Lessors) standard, you’ll be good to go. Remember, shipping companies care how well the container can keep their goods dry and undamaged, not how it looks on the outside.

Rust and Dents Do Not Impact the Durability of Steel Containers

Can you buy shipping containers without dents and rust? Unfortunately, unless you’re buying a brand-new container, your used container will most definitely have rust and a few dents. However, despite their cosmetic imperfections, shipping containers are made from Corten steel, which is highly durable and corrosion-resistant. Even though a container may have some rust on the surface, its overall structural integrity remains intact.

Shipping Containers Can be Repurposed in Many Ways

The next time you see a shipping container, think outside the box and consider all the exciting possibilities that lie beyond their original purpose. Whether you’re looking for a sustainable housing option, a portable shop, or sculptural artwork, these containers can be transformed into just about anything you can imagine.

Used Shipping Containers Can Be Customized

Shipping containers provide a blank canvas for adding design and practical options. You can let your creativity run wild by adding doors, windows, ventilation, insulation, or anything else to customize this space to make it comfortable and functional.

Permits May be Required When Buying a Container for Storage

In some cases, you may need a permit to legally place a storage container on your property. The regulations surrounding storage containers can vary depending on where you live and the specific rules put in place by your local authorities.

The Delivery and Set-up Needs Plenty of Space

Before you schedule the delivery of your shipping container, you need to measure whether you have enough space for both the container and the truck that’s bringing it to your doorstep. The truck that delivers the container is quite a bit larger than the container itself. So, you need to make sure it has room to maneuver into position and safely drop off your container without any hiccups.

The Container Doors Must Be Square for Proper Opening

When the shipping container is placed at your desired location, take steps to ensure it’s sitting on the ground just like it would rest on a chassis. Once in place, give your container’s doors a good look, double-checking they are square and aligned correctly so that your doors will continue to open and close smoothly.

A Reputable Sales Company is the Best Choice for Buying a Shipping Container

If you’re wondering how to buy a used shipping container, your best bet is to go through a sales company. Take time to research the company before buying. Container companies come in all sizes, from inexperienced dealers looking for a quick commission to those with knowledgeable, professional teams.

You can trust NorCal Containers to provide versatile and reliable shipping containers that are fully customizable to meet your specific needs. We have an extensive inventory at affordable prices and always provide excellent customer service. Check out our selection today to find the ideal solution for your business or shipping company.

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