Thinking about buying a shipping container? Yeah, they’re not just for hauling goods anymore—they can double up as an extra storage or even morph into cool, unique living spaces! But let’s be real, finding the right container without draining your wallet can be a bit tricky. 

No stress, though! We’ve got an in-depth 11-step guide that’s about to become your best friend during this daunting process. By the time you’re done, you’ll be ready to strut into the market like a pro and purchase with confidence. 

Oh, and here’s a quick tip—don’t rule out local sellers; they often have some pretty dope deals. Ready to get started? Let’s dive right in! 

Tips: Hunting for the best purchasing deal on a shipping container and aiming to slash delivery charges? Fill out the form below, link up with up to five local shipping container suppliers, and compare prices to score the best deals on your shipping container purchase.

How to Buy a Shipping Container: Complete Step-by-Step Guide

Buying a shipping container can be a nifty solution for a multitude of needs. Whether you’re in need of extra storage or have an exciting project in mind like transforming it into living space, a shipping container can work wonders. However, nabbing the right one without breaking the bank requires thoughtful decision-making. This 11-step guide is here to arm you with all the essential info for a successful purchase.

Jump in and let’s find you the perfect container!

“Purchasing a shipping container is more than just picking out a color. There’s a bunch of stuff to consider, but hey, with the right tips, you can totally ace this..”

Guide Overview: 

  • Step 1: Determine Your Need: Renting vs. Buying Shipping Containers
  • Step 2: Assess the Intended Use and Size Requirement
  • Step 3: Select the Container Type
  • Step 4: Decide on Buy New or Used Shipping Containers
  • Step 5: Know how much it costs to purchase a shipping container
  • Step 6: Research Local Zoning Laws and Permits
  • Step 7: Where to purchase shipping containers
  • Step 8: Compare Quotes From Multiple Suppliers and Negotiate
  • Step 9: Inspect the Containers
  • Step 10: Consider Security and Modification Needs
  • Step 11: Arrange Logistics for Delivery and Site Preparation

Step 1: Determine Your Need: Renting vs. Buying Shipping Containers

So, you’re contemplating getting a shipping container. That’s great! But here’s the first crucial decision you’ll need to make– should you rent or buy? If your needs are temporary, like for a special event or short-term storage, renting might be your best bet. On the other hand, if you see yourself needing the container for the long haul, buying outright is probably a smarter move. 

The thing about rentals is that they can become surprisingly pricey over time, sometimes even costing more than if you’d just bought the container from the get-go. Think about it this way: If you need a place to crash for a couple of weeks, renting a hotel room makes sense. But if you’re planning to stick around for a few years, purchasing a home is a way better option. This same thought process applies when choosing between renting or buying a shipping container. What’s right for you really depends on your long-term needs.

Remember: It’s not just about cost, but also about convenience and long-term plans.

  • Short-term needs: Consider renting for emergency storage or a one-time event.
  • Long-term needs: Buying a container can save you money and provide flexibility for extended use.

Grapple with this crucial decision right from the get-go – it can save you a ton of time and money later on. Buying may come with a hefty initial price tag, but if you’re going to use the shipping container for a long stretch, it might prove to be a financially savvy move. On the flip side, if your need is short-lived, renting could be the better choice. Take a moment to think your needs and budget through before making the call.

 Buying Shipping ContainerRenting Shipping Container
ProsYou have full ownership of the container Ability to modify the container to suit your needs Cost-effective for long-term useNo large upfront cost Ideal for short-term usage Flexibility to return the container when not needed
ConsRequires significant initial investment May need a permit for placement depending on local regulations Matching delivery and logistics can be trickyRecurring costs can add up over time Limited control over the container’s condition No return on investment since you don’t own the container

Step 2: Assess the Intended Use and Size Requirement

First things first, you need to think about how you’re planning to use the shipping container. Are you going to use it for extra storage, create a home office, or even transform it into a cool living space? Whatever your plans are, they’re going to influence what type and size of container you need.

The most common sizes for containers are between 10 and 53 feet, so there’s a wide choice for you to pick from. But remember, choosing the right size is about more than just how much room you need inside. You also need to measure the space you have available on your property to make sure it’s going to fit. After all, it doesn’t matter how amazing the container is on the inside if you can’t fit it where you want it to go!

If you’re not sure what size container best matches your needs, let’s break it down a bit. We’ve got everything from cozy 10-footers up to the gargantuan 53-foot beasts. Check this out: 

  • 10-foot containers: These cute little numbers are perfect for tucking into a standard parking space and are just the ticket for compact storage or small workspaces.
  • 20-foot containers: Meet the industry standard for international shipping. These guys are great for storing loads of stuff, or if you’re feeling creative, they morph pretty well into small offices or art studios.
  • 40-foot containers: Need more space? The 40-foot containers can pack a punch. For sizeable storage or converting into fully-structured homes or large business applications, they’re the way to go.
  • 45-foot containers: Getting bigger still, the 45-foot containers are a go-to for those industrial storage needs or big, airy commercial facilities.
  • 53-foot containers: Now, if you’re seriously needing room to play, these gigantic 53-footers are your best bet. They’re ideal when you have enormous storage needs or if you’re planning to create spacious living or working spaces.

Step 3: Select the Container Type

Choosing the proper shipping container type can be a cool experience, kind of like picking out a fresh pair of kicks. It’s not just any container that’ll cut it, you need to find the one that perfectly fits your groove. So, let’s look at the abundant variety, from standard, high cube, open side, double door, to refrigerated models. What you end up choosing depends on how you want to use it, so let’s take a closer look: 

  • Standard containers: Pretty much your bread and butter in the container world. They’re sturdy and resistant to weather, which makes them a great choice for shipping or storage.
  • High cube containers: Much like the standards, but they also give you that extra foot of height. If you’re thinking of creating a living space or a home office in a container, this extra space can come in quite handy.
  • Open side containers: These are your go-to when you need easy side access to your stuff. They’re especially great if you’re going to be moving large items in and out frequently.
  • Double door containers: Imagine a shipping container that offers you entrances at both ends. Now that’s easy access! Either for large stuff or for when you want to create an airy open space.
  • Refrigerated models: If you’re needing to store things that need to be kept cool, these are your best bet. They’re insulated and even have their own cooling system to keep everything chill.

Wrap your head around what you need the container for. This consideration will help you decide just what kind of doors, height, and features will serve you best. Making the right choice in container type is key in getting the most bang for your buck and serving your needs as best as possible.

Step 4: Decide on Buy New or Used Shipping Containers

Once you’ve nailed down your requirements, it’s time to decide whether to go for a new or a used shipping container. This can significantly influence the overall costs so consider your budget and whether it can stretch to accommodate a new container. Remember, new is not always better. 

  • New Containers: These containers come straight from the factory, never used before, offering an enticing guarantee of minimal or no wear and tear. However, these shiny new containers will cost you more, sometimes being up to 50-80% more expensive than their used counterparts. The predictability and lower maintenance make them attractive, though, especially when you plan for a living space or long-term use.
  • Used Containers: Offering a substantial cost advantage, used containers could be a smart choice if you’re budget-conscious. However, you need to be ready to roll up your sleeves and do some thorough inspection. Items on your checklist should include checking for any sign of structural damage such as rust, dents, and leaks. Damages may not be immediate deal-breakers; instead, they should be factored into the overall price as they may require repair down the line

Tip: Regardless of whether you’re planning on buying new or used, never skip the inspection process. It’s vital to ensure that the container would serve its intended purpose for the long haul.

Step 5: Know how much it costs to purchase a shipping containers

Having a clear picture of how much a shipping container is going to cost you is key to planning out your budget. The price tags on shipping containers can swing widely based on a bunch of things like the size of the container, whether it’s new or used, and its specific type. When you have a good understanding of the price range, you can easily figure out which option gives you the best bang for your buck, considering what you specifically need and want.  

You can expect to shell out around $1,500-3,500 for a used 10-20 foot container. If you’re going for a spanking new 40-45 foot container, you’re probably looking at somewhere in the ballpark of $4,500-7,500. Remember though, these are average prices, so the exact cost might fluctuate based on who you’re buying from and the current market situation.

To score the best deal for your buck, it’s smart to hunt for quotes from a handful of different suppliers. When you compare these prices, you get a better grasp of what the standard rate is in the market right now, making sure you don’t end up overpaying. Plus, with this knowledge of the market, you’re in a stronger position to haggle with the sellers.

Advice: When budgeting for a shipping container, don’t overlook the sneaky costs. These might be things like delivery charges, prepping the land, or cash to modify the container. Keeping these in mind will save you from shock costs and help you stick to your budget..

Step 6: Research Local Zoning Laws and Permits

Just be sure you’re aware of any legal baggage that could come along for the ride. Every neighborhood has its own zoning laws. These govern what you can put on your property and how you can use it. Breaking these rules could mean shelling out some big bucks in fines or (even worse) having to ditch your new, cool container. 

To steer clear of this mess, get in touch with your local government agency or council. They’ll clue you in on the zoning regulations for your area. These could have a big say in the size, style, and placement of the shipping container on your property. Also find out if you need any permits for your new addition, especially as shipping containers are often seen as permanent structures. 

Word of caution: Zoning laws and permit requirements can be tricky business and change pretty often. So, if you’re not completely sure, it’s a good idea to chat with an attorney or property consultant.

  • Zoning laws generally drop some rules on where you can place your shipping container, how many you can have, and what you can do with them. For example, you might not be allowed to use a shipping container as a home.
  • Securing a permit often means handing in a site plan, filling out an application, and forking over some cash. Then the building department usually checks out the container once it’s delivered and after any changes have been made. They want to ensure everything is up to code.
  • In many situations, a shipping container is classified as a temporary structure when used for storage. However, if it’s modified for purposes such as a home or office, it typically gets bumped up to a permanent structure category. This could impact what zoning laws and permit requirements apply.

Grasping all these things ahead of the game could save you a lot of head-scratching and unexpected costs down the line. Plus, it’ll definitely help you nail the whole shipping container buying process.

Step 7: Where to purchase shipping containers

Okay, so you’ve figured out what type, size, and condition of the shipping container you need, now you’ve gotta settle on where to get it from. You’ve got two main routes you can take: buying from local container yards or from national online retailers. It all comes down to your personal preference, so let’s break each option down a bit. 

Local Container Yards: Buying local allows you to physically check out the container before throwing down any cash. This means you get to look for any visible flaws in person, which can be pretty helpful. You might be able to haggle on the price a bit, and there’s a good chance you can save some bucks on the delivery fee too.

National Online Retailers: If you decide to go with online retailers, you’ll have access to a wider selection of containers. The prices are usually pretty cut and dry, so you know what you’re getting into upfront. You can also compare options from different retailers from the comfort of your own home, which is a bonus. These sites usually have all the info and pictures you’ll need to make your decision.

No matter where you decide to make your purchase, make sure you’re dealing with reliable sellers that offer warranties on their containers. A quick check of customer reviews and ratings can also help you avoid any nasty surprises down the line. Lastly, keep your eyes open for extra hidden costs that might sneak into the purchasing process.

Pros of Buying LocalPros of Buying National
Possible savings on delivery fees.Access to a wider selection of container types and sizes.
Opportunity to inspect the container in person before purchase.Prices might be more competitive due to a larger market.
Building relationships with local businesses for potential future collaborations.More transparency in pricing.
Faster delivery times due to close proximity.Access to national warranties and guarantees.

Step 8: Compare Quotes From Multiple Supplier and Negotiate

Well, it’s critical to make sure you’re armed with a multitude of quotes from diverse suppliers. Don’t limit yourself to just one or two places. Instead, trigger your curiosity, go ahead and ask around a minimum of three or four suppliers. This way, you’ll be able to compare your options and you’ll likely spot major differences in cost, condition of the containers, warranties, and even those pesky delivery fees. 

“Remember, don’t just settle for the first quote you get. Patience is key, my friend! Take your time and do your homework so you don’t miss out on a better bargain.”

With multiple quotes at your disposal, you’ve actually got an ace up your sleeve for negotiations. Knowing the market rates puts you in a strong position to bargain. Doing your research increases your odds of landing an awesome deal. And hey, it’s not just about the price, make sure the dealers you’re dealing with have a solid reputation. Don’t let any bad vibes cloud your judgement.

A pro tip: don’t forget to figure in the delivery cost while assessing your options because this can vary a ton between different suppliers. 


  • Reach out to at least three to four suppliers.
  • Analyze the quotes keenly.
  • Check dealer reputation—don’t compromise here.
  • Don’t hesitate to negotiate—every penny counts!
  • Consider delivery costs—they can really rack up.

Step 9: Inspect the Containers

Taking a close and careful look at the shipping container you’re thinking of buying is crucial. Whether it’s brand new or has a little mileage on it, you’ve gotta know what you’re dealing with. And yep, you guessed it—it’s especially important when you’re buying used – those bad boys can have a few war wounds. 

  • Used Containers: So, with used containers, you’ll want to watch out for any rust, dents, and leaks, or any signs of wear and tear that could cause you headaches down the line. Check how the doors are faring – do they open and close without a fuss? How about the seals – holding up alright? And remember to trust your nose; you don’t want any funky smells creeping out from inside the container. Bringing a pro with you to have a look can be a big help – they might spot something you might have missed!
  • New Containers: Going for a brand spanking new container? Sweet! You’ll probably get the first look when it’s delivered. Make sure everything in’s tip-top shape and just as you ordered. Just remember, even the newest of the new can occasionally come with a dud – manufacturing dings and defects can happen. If you see anything off, speak up and let your supplier know.

Pro Tip: Regardless of the container’s condition – new or used – do not trust words alone and make sure to personally inspect each piece yourself or through a professional. After all, it is your investment.

Step 10: Consider Security and Modification Needs

Now that you’ve picked your container, it’s time to ponder over any changes or security measures you might need. Personalizing your container can be a neat way to make it work specifically for you, making it super adaptable. Whether it’s vents, insulation, or setting up water lines, you’ve got a ton of options at your disposal. 

Consider Security and Modification Needs

Let’s talk about the basics like entrances and temperature control. Will you need extra doors or windows? Are you thinking of spicing up the container with internal divisions or built-in furniture? Planning on running some power lines or setting up a water system? These are some of the many alterations you can think about. 

Protip: Remember, every change is going to need some cash. If you’re feeling the DIY vibe, then you’ll need to allot time and materials. If not, there’s always the option to get a pro to do the work for you.

And let’s not underestimate security measures. Depending on what you’re using the container for, you might need some good locks or alarm systems. Whether you’re using the space for living or working, it’s important to have a secure spot for your stuff—or yourself!

Step 11: Arrange Logistics for Delivery and Site Preparation 

Getting your shipping container to your chosen spot and prepping the space for its arrival is a super critical step in the buying process. Check with your supplier about when exactly your container will land – you want to make sure it lines up with your schedule. Ask about delivery fees too if they haven’t already mentioned them. Most places drop off your container right on your site, but your spot needs to be easily reachable. You could possibly need to rent heavy-duty equipment like a crane or forklift for this, so keep that in mind. 

Making sure your site is good to go is absolutely essential. Your shipping container’s life span could take a hit without a proper ground foundation, plus you want to dodge any water issues or problems with the structure. Think about setting up a gravel bed or even a concrete slab, depending on what you’re using the container for, the state of your land, and the rules in your local area. If your container will be carrying a hefty load or is heavy itself, you may need to strengthen its base. Site prep can be a big job – getting a professional on board may save you a lot of hassle, especially if your local codes have certain rules you need to follow.

What to look for when buying a shipping container?

Negotiate the price

There are a few critical points to consider that could make or break your decision. Use this handy checklist to ensure you’re on the right track. 

  • Condition: Always take a good look at the container’s overall condition. Damages, rust, or just a generally shabby look could mean you’re in for issues down the line. Also, make sure the doors work well and all locks are secure and functioning.
  • Potential Repairs: If you’re going for a used container, be prepared that there might be some fixing up to do. The extent of these repairs, whether they’re manageable or not, depends greatly on your intended use for the container and your budget.
  • Certifications: It’s always a good idea to check out the container’s certifications. If it’s approved by well-known organizations like the International Convention for Safe Containers, you can rest easy knowing your quality and safety standards are met.
  • Type of Flooring: Assess the type of flooring in the container. Would you prefer a wooden floor or is steel more up your alley? Think about your needs here.
  • Age and Origin: Older containers might show more damage than the newer ones. Make sure to ask when and where the container was made. This info can give you a glimpse into the amount of wear and tear it has taken.
  • Previous Contents: If you are buying a used container, it’s really important to ask what’s been stored in it previously. Some things can cause the container to degrade faster, and you definitely want to avoid that.

Taking the time to weigh these considerations will do more than just save you from unexpected surprises further down the line – it will guarantee that you pick a container that’s truly worth your money and perfectly tailored to your needs.

Cheapest way to buy shipping containers

If you’re looking to purchase a shipping container without emptying your bank account, the cheapest way to buy shipping containers is to get estimates from a bunch of local suppliers. This can be a real money-saver. By choosing local, you’re able to sneak a peek at the containers before they hit your doorstep. This means you’ll be able to spot any damage or issues that could end up costing you in repairs down the line. 

Another plus to going local? Cut down on those pesky delivery fees.

Transporting a massive shipping container isn’t cheap, and if your supplier is just around the corner instead of across the country, you’ll likely pay less to get it to your place. 

Lastly, don’t be afraid to haggle a little. The shipping container game is a competitive one, and suppliers might be willing to drop their prices a notch to win your business.

Remember, every buck you save brings you one step closer to owning your very own shipping container without breaking the bank.

How to buy a used shipping container?

No matter if you’re opting to buy a brand new or a used shipping container, you’ll need to follow these specific eleven steps. However, when you’re considering a second-hand container, there are a few areas where you should pay extra close attention.

Check this out:  

  • Inspect Every Inch: Launch your mission by thoroughly examining the used shipping container. Keep an eye out for any battle scars – think dents, rust or issues with door hinges and seals. Seal the door and check for any light creeping in – a sure-fire sign of leaks. Doing it might feel like detective work, but it could save you from shelling out a ton on repairs later.
  • Do the Safety Check: Not all containers are created equally. Only the best get a stamp of approval from the International Convention for Safe Containers. Don’t forget to check that your potential container still meets these safety certification requirements.
  • Warranty Woes: Some sellers are cool enough to offer a warranty on used containers, especially on the frame and structure. It might be smart to stick with these guys when making your purchase.
  • Bring in the Pros: If this all seems a bit much, hire a professional. They can do the inspection and help with any modifications you’re planning, such as turning it into your epic new workspace.

Remember, a used shipping container has lived a past life. It could have been used for all sorts, which might have shaken up its structural strength. Finding one in good nick and understanding what it was originally used for can help you make a smarter purchase.

Tips for Getting the Best Deals on Shipping Containers

Buying a shipping container involves a bit of strategy to get the best deal. Here’s some laid-back tips to help you score a sweet bargain:  

  • Keep an Eye on the Calendar: Much like other markets, the cost of shipping containers can fluctuate throughout the year. If you hold out for the dips, you can save a significant chunk of change. But this heavily depends on market demand, the number of suppliers, and many other factors. 
  • Check Out Auctions and Foreclosure Sales: This might feel like scoring garage sale finds, but seriously, auctions and foreclosure sales can be hidden gold mines for scoring shipping containers at pretty good prices.
  • Group Up for a Purchase: If you’ve got friends or neighbors who share your shipping container dreams, why not band together? Buying in bulk can give you some bargaining power and save everyone some dough.
  • Take Your Time: Don’t rush it and land yourself with extra costs you didn’t see coming. The best deals often come to those who wait.

The Bottom Line

Going through this journey, you’ll find yourself better equipped and more confident when buying a storage container. It’s a significant decision – one that gives you a sturdy, cost-efficient space solution. But, a heads-up – this isn’t a purchase you make on a whim. Understanding your needs, doing your homework, weighing your options, and checking over your potential purchase ensures you end up with the perfect container for your unique needs.  

In a nutshell, the process of purchasing a cargo container is just as crucial as the outcome. Take it seriously and you’ll end up with a container that checks all your boxes and fits your budget. Best of luck with your shipping container quest!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *