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Shipping container to buy

How to buy a shipping container

If you are looking to buy a shipping container, there are some things you need to bear in mind – because after all, a container is not simply a container. Depending on the designated usage, there is a great variety of sizes, models and special equipment to choose from. So how do you find the perfect container for your needs? In this article, we explain all the option you have.

Sizes and types

The first decision you need to make: What size and what type of container am I looking for?

Shipping containers can usually be divided into five different types:

  • Bulk containers for loose items that are in direct contact with the container, such as sand or gravel,
  • General-purpose containers which are ideal for parcelled goods,
  • Thermal containers and reefers which have a temperature control system and are usually used for food and beverage transportation,
  • Platform containers without walls, used primarily for bulky items, machines and prefabricated parts and finally
  • Tank containers for fluid or gaseous goods.

Aside from that, there are also container specifically designed to fit cargo compartments of aircrafts. All models except for platform containers can also be obtained in an open – that is, topless – version.

Standardized measurements of containers are regulated by the international ISO norm 668. This overview shows the most common shipping container sizes:

Container type

Interior measurements in


(L x W x H)

Exterior measurements in

(L x W x H)

Door opening in mm

(L x H)

Interior base area in m² Capacity in m3
8-ft Container
2.278 x 2.112 x 2.060 2.438 x 2.200 x 2.260 2.100 x 1.949 4,812 9,92
10-ft Container
2.831 x 2.352 x 2.390 2.991 x 2.438 x 2.591 2.338 x 2.280 6,66 15,9

20-ft Container

(1 TEU Container)

5.898 x 2.352 x 2.390 6.058 x 2.438 x 2.591 2.338 x 2.280 13,88 33,1


High Cube

5.898 x 2.352 x 2.690 6.058 x 2.438 x 2.896 2.338 x 2.585 13,88 37,4

40-ft Container

(1 FEU Container)

12.032 x 2.352 x 2.395 12.192 x 2.438 x 2.591 2.340 x 2.280 28,37 67,7


High Cube

12.032 x 2.352 x 2.698 12.192 x 2.438 x 2.896 2.340 x 2.585 28,37 76,4


High Cube

13.556 x 2.345 x 2.695 13.716 x 2.438 x 2.896 2.340 x 2.597 31,79 86,0

What to watch out for when buying a container

To determine the condition of a container you intend to buy, there are classifications that help. The highest classification is IICL5, meaning that the container is as good as new and can be used for transporting goods. These containers also have a CSC plaque. The CSC is the “International Convention for Safe Containers.” The plaque contains information on safety authorization, the authorizing country, the manufacturer, and the manufacturing dates as well as permissible load in both English and French and ensures that the container is suitable for logistical use. The second highest classification is “Cargo Worthy” (CW), meaning the container can still be used for logistic purposes, but has some signs of wear and tear. Finally, the classification “WWT” stands for wind- and watertight. These containers are still in good shape for storage, but they no longer have the CSC plaque and cannot be used for transportation.

In addition to asking for the classification, always check the container for damages like tears and rust holes yourself. If you plan on buying a used container with special equipment such as a security system or a cooling system, have it checked by an expert upfront so you are really sure they are working.

When you’re making the purchase, also take into account that it might take some time to make the delivery – especially if you order a custom-made container. Additionally, remember that for the delivery there is usually a surcharge of about EUR 1 to 2.50 per kilometer.

Choosing the right container

Where do you buy a shipping container, and how do you choose the right one? In general, the choice is not all that difficult. Once you know what goods you want to transport or store, you will automatically know which type of container you need.

After that, the most important decision is whether to buy a new or a used container. If you need your container for transportation, the main thing you need to make sure is that it is still in a condition that allows the use in logistics – it needs a CSC plaque. In that case, an IICL5 classified container is just as good as a new one. If you need your container for storage only, you can also opt for the cheaper containers with WWT classification. A new container, however, is often advisable if you need high‑quality custom-built models with very specific modifications.

What can a shipping container be used for?

Sea containers are mostly used for transporting goods and as storage units, but they are also frequently used as mobile offices on construction sites, as temporary housing or classroom options or mobile infirmaries in crisis regions, or at large festivals. Lately, they have also become quite popular in mainstream culture for building cheap tiny houses and even swimming pools in an industrial look.

20 feet container, small but functional!

Prices of shipping container

The price for sea containers varies, depending, of course, on size, equipment, and condition. For a new shipping container, you can should plan to spend at least around EUR 2500. A used container in CW condition (“cargo worthy,” meaning it can still be used for transporting goods) will cost you about EUR 850. Since shipping containers are usually made of steel, you should expect some variation in pricing over time, depending on the current steel price.

But how do you buy a shipping container? Well, that’s actually pretty easy. There are a lot of offers in regional classifieds or on online platforms. If you want to be sure about the quality of what you are buying and if you are looking for competent consultation, you should consult with a company that sells used or new sea containers. Those sellers also usually offer more options and services and a better variety. You can look at different options and decide what is best for you without a rush.

Do you want do get more information about buying shipping containers? Then we are happy to help you find the perfect solution for your needs. Contact us today to get more information or get a quote!

40 feet container, the perfect mobile storage!

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