How To Purchase Shipping Containers



You may have decided to construct a shipping container home but are uncertain about the next step.  To help you settle on which containers you need and also where and how to buy them, we will explore the whole process.

Types of Containers

There are a variety of choices here, the most popular of which are the standard 20 or 40-foot container, or the high cube 20 or 40-foot container. Please see the dimensions of each in the table below.

Shipping Container Dimensions

These are estimations. Note that each manufacturer has slightly different tolerance levels, normally +/-5 mm. Contact the supplier to get the exact dimensions.

You choices will be made on both the availability of the containers in your local area, and also the plans which you have prepared. If you have the budget and can source them, high cube containers usually make a better choice than standard containers. This is because you get an extra foot in height inside the container, which makes a big difference.

Purchase New, One Trip or Used Containers?

New and one trip containers are essentially the same thing. One trip containers are used to ship a single cargo load and once they have arrived at their destination they are sold.

Clearly the decision of whether to buy new or used containers will most likely come down to your budget. There are a few points to take into consideration while you are exploring your options.

New or one trip containers will be in much better condition than used container. It is easier to work with them. They will also have a longer expected lifespan than used containers. In addition, the risk of unknown chemical contamination is significantly reduced. Most used containers are treated with hazardous chemicals such as pesticides and lead-based paint. New and one trip containers are more expensive than used containers and so may cost more than your budget allows.

Used containers do offer the advantage of being less expensive than new containers and are quick to locate and purchase. However be prepared to expect a few dents and potentially some light rusting.

Inspecting Used Shipping Containers

If you decide to purchase new or one trip containers, generally you won’t need to inspect the containers too closely. However, if you purchase used container,s there are several key things to look for during your inspection.

  • Make sure it is watertight and doesn’t have any leaks. If you can see daylight coming through the container roof, don’t buy it.
  • Although you should expect typical wear and tear with the wooden flooring, make sure it is still intact and doesn’t contain any holes.
  • Check that the doors open freely and the locking bars work.
  • Expect some dents and very light rust. However, if the container has a large amount of corrosion to the extent where the metal is weakened or worse yet, you can see through it, don’t buy it.
  • Use your nose and check the container for odd or musty odors. The musty smell of mold would indicate leaks or toxic chemicals have been used in the container.
  • Climb up on the roof of the container and check it for any signs of leaks or corrosion.
  • Check that the container’s identification code is intact. The identification code is broken down into eleven digits as shown below.

Shipping Container Identification Code

Owner Code: three letters that identifies the owner. In this case ‘TGH’ belongs to the American company Textainer.

Product Group Code: made up of one capital letter U, J or Z.

  • U = shipping container
  • J = equipment that can be attached to a container such as a power unit
  • Z = trailer used to carry a container

Serial Number: a six digit number assigned by the owner

Check Digit: a single digital number used to cross-verify that the identification sequence is accurate.

Where to Buy Your Shipping Container?

The simplest way to purchase a shipping container is to find a reputable local dealer. Green Cube Network has a fantastic search tool to find local dealers; take a look at their tool over at:

Alternatively, you can search using Google. Search for ‘shipping container dealer’ and your location. For instance, search for something like  “Shipping Container Dealer Texas” or “Buy Shipping Container in Florida”.

If you are still struggling to find a container try using eBay, Gumtree or Alibaba.

When purchasing your containers, try to purchase them all from the same manufacturer. Manufacturers do have slight variations which could make working with different brand containers difficult.

For more information, look at Where Can I Buy Shipping Containers?

How Much Should I Expect To Pay?

Clearly this will vary depending on the containers you’ve decided to buy, however we have put some estimates below to give you a rough idea.

  • Used Standard 20 Foot Container: US$2,100 | AUD$2,700 | GBP£1,350
  • New Standard 20 Foot Container: US$3,000 | AUD$3,900 | GBP£1,950
  • Used Standard 40 Foot Container: US$2,850 | AUD$3,650 | GBP£1,850
  • New Standard 40 Foot Container: US$5,600 | AUD$7,200 | GBP£3,650
  • Used High Cube 20 Foot Container: US$2,200 | AUD$2,850 | GBP£1,450
  • New High Cube 20 Foot Container: US$3,200 | AUD$4,150 | GBP£2,100
  • Used High Cube 40 Foot Container: US$2,950 | AUD$3,800 | GBP£1,925
  • New High Cube 40 Foot Container: US$5,800 | AUD$7,500 | GBP£3,795
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