Shipping Container Cost and Benefits


If you’re in the market for a shipping container, you aren’t alone. Nowadays, more people are asking, “how much does a shipping container cost?” These units are being used to ship merchandise and as projects for homeowners and businesses.

How Much Does a Shipping Container Cost?

While some businesses rent shipping containers, other companies have discovered that purchasing their own can alleviate many logistical headaches. Likewise, owning a container gives them complete control over to do with it.
There are a lot of factors that can affect the price you’ll pay for a shipping container. Fortunately, containers have been standardized since the 1950s, making it easier to estimate overall costs.

Used Containers

Used shipping containers are the most cost-effective containers available, but to determine if a used container is suitable, there are different descriptions to note.


One-trip containers typically cost the most of all used containers, but they are also in close-to-new condition. They have only taken one trip on a container ship and were most likely manufactured in China before they shipped to their current location.


Both wind and watertight containers don’t have any defects, like holes or cracks, that would allow wind or water to enter. However, this doesn’t mean that the unit is seaworthy. It may require an inspection or maintenance.


Cargo-worthy means that the units are robust, weather-resistant and can carry cargo immediately. Sometimes, they have wear and tear, like dings, rust or dents, but most issues are cosmetic.


An as-is container is primarily suitable for items that won’t be affected by wind or water. These are the cheapest units and can be found below the average cost of a used container. These containers may have rust, holes and dents.
In general, if you want a cargo-worthy used container, expect to pay between $1,300 and $2,600, depending on the type and quality of the container.

20ft Shipping Container

How much does a 20 foot shipping container cost? First, keep in mind that the 20ft box is the most common intermodal unit. It’s not only the smallest but the most affordable cost to buy a shipping container. Since it’s lightweight, it is easier to transport, so you’ll save on freight rates in addition to the overall cost. When looking at new containers, the 20ft shipping container cost is as follows:
• Dry: $2,300
• Open top: $5,000
• Flat rack: $6,000
• Reefer: $18,000
Keep in mind that average prices can depend on location when searching for the 20ft shipping container cost.

40ft Shipping Container

The 40ft container is a good investment if you need more storage space. The price of 40ft shipping containers is typically only about 20-30% more and you have double the storage capacity. 40ft units are ideal for furniture, clothing, grains, cotton, electronics and other consumer goods. Average costs include:
• Dry: $4,300
• Open top: $5,300
• Flat rack: $13,900
• Reefer: $14,300
In addition, if you have tall or high-volume cargo, you can invest in a 40ft high cube. These units are about a foot taller than the average 40ft container.

What Factors Affect Shipping Container Costs?

So, how much does a shipping container cost? As with all investments, the average cost of a shipping container relies on different factors. For example, if you plan to ship goods overseas, it may not matter if you have rust or dents on the outside. However, if you want to use one as a structure for your home or business, you will want it in pristine condition.

Container Condition

The condition and age of the unit have a substantial impact on how much you pay. While older units come with wear and tear, many are still as solid and weather-resistant as their newer counterparts. When it comes to new containers, you can expect there to be no rust, no dents and for it to have a fresh coat of paint.

Container Size

Larger containers are typically going to cost more than smaller units. For example, purchasing a 40ft container will cost more than a 20ft container overall. However, the price per square foot tends to be cheaper if you buy the larger one. The same goes for all standard sizes. If you want something smaller, like a 10ft unit, you may have to pay more because containers that small are rarely used.

Delivery Cost

The price for shipping container will depend on where you’re located. How far does the supplier have to travel to deliver your unit? Every company will have its own protocol involving delivery but will include delivery costs in its quote.

Geographical Location

The cost of containers in specific locations varies because of supply and demand. The price of steel and the current economic outlook affect prices. Likewise, if you live in a more landlocked area, your transit costs will be higher because you don’t have direct access to the ocean.


Regional and global events determine U.S. prices. In 2022, for example, the American shipping industry experienced port congestion, trucker shortages and dramatic labor negotiations. On the East Coast, shipping container prices skyrocketed and didn’t stabilize until the end of the year.


Generally, there is typically an ample supply of used and new containers coming from China. However, in 2022, there was a lower demand for goods, which lowered container prices.


India’s government is pushing for the advancements of ports, creating a fast-growing hub of container manufacturers and sellers. Ever since 2022, the price of shipping containers has dropped significantly.


European prices depend on trade relations within European countries and regions. Trade has been impacted by the Russian-Ukraine war, which has caused an increase in pricing and an unreliable vessel schedule.

Discover the Answer: How Much Does a Shipping Container Cost?

At Norcal Containers, we want to help you answer the question, “how much does a shipping container cost?” The overall cost depends on various factors and many of the prices you see will be based on estimates and averages. Investing in a shipping container can be smart for businesses and homeowners alike, depending on what you need it for. If you’re looking to invest in a unit, we’d like to help. If you’re in California, Nevada or Oregon, contact us today for a quote!

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