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Used shipping container to buy

Buying a used shipping container: what you really need to know

If you are looking to buy a used sea container instead of a new one, there are some things you need to take into consideration. Aside from different types of containers to choose from, you also need to take into consideration the condition of the container and the purpose you need it for. In this article, we explain what to look out for.

Sizes and types

Containers are ISO-standardized. Nonetheless, there are numerous sizes, many different types, and special equipment available. To make the right choice, you need to take into consideration what exactly you need the container for.

Firstly, the typology of sea containers distinguishes between bulk containers and general-purpose containers. While the former is used to transport goods like sand or gravel that have direct contact with the container, the latter is used for all other cases. General-purpose containers are frequently used to transport pallets.

Depending on further requirements for transportation, containers are divided into:

  • platform containers without walls (for bulky items like machines or finished components)
  • thermal containers with integrated temperature regulation system (for transportation of food and beverages),
  • tank containers for fluid or gaseous materials
  • air freight and ground handling containers in lightweight construction optimized in form and construction for freight rooms.

All these variants (except for, of course, the platform container) are also available in a topless variant. The container parameters themselves (size, weight, stackability etc.) are regulated by ISO 668 for freight containers that have international validity.

These are the most common ISO sea containers in an overview:

Container type

Interior measurements in

mm

(L x W x H)

Exterior measurements in

(L x W x H

Door opening in mm

(L x H)

Interior base area in m²Capacity in m3
8-ft Container2.278 x 2.112 x 2.0602.438 x 2.200 x 2.2602.100 x 1.9494,8129,92
10-ft Container2.831 x 2.352 x 2.3902.991 x 2.438 x 2.5912.338 x 2.2806,6615,9

20-ft Container

(1-TEU-Container)

5.898 x 2.352 x 2.3906.058 x 2.438 x 2.5912.338 x 2.28013,8833,1
20-ft High Cube5.898 x 2.352 x 2.6906.058 x 2.438 x 2.8962.338 x 2.58513,8837,4

40-ft Container

(1-FEU-Container)

12.032 x 2.352 x 2.39512.192 x 2.438 x 2.5912.340 x 2.28028,3767,7
40-ft High Cube12.032 x 2.352 x 2.69812.192 x 2.438 x 2.8962.340 x 2.58528,3776,4
45-ft High Cube13.556 x 2.345 x 2.69513.716 x 2.438 x 2.8962.340 x 2.59731,7986,0

What to watch out for when buying a used container

The first impression almost always gives you a solid idea of the state of a container. Nonetheless, there is a classification system that makes it easier to understand exactly what a used container can and cannot be used for (see next paragraph).

The first thing to look out for are traces of usage and rust. They may not be harmful or diminish the usability of the container, but they are relevant for the price. Try to check the steel frame as well as the walls for holes or cracks. Containers with strong wear and tear only have limited purposes they can still be used for.

Another important aspect that indicates the container condition are the door locks and the material used for the door locks. Always have special equipment like cooling systems or electric installations checked upfront by an expert and make sure you get a written document assuring the functionality of these special pieces of equipment.

Finally, don’t forget to calculate cost and time for delivery. Depending on the mode of transportation and possible modifications to be executed prior to delivery, it might take several days to get the container to the place where you need it. Per kilometer, you usually have to pay a delivery fee of approximately EUR 1€ to 2.50.

Classification of used containers

If you are looking to buy a used shipping container, it is important to know what condition the container is in and whether it is in appropriate condition for your purpose. Shipping containers are classified in three different conditions that help you evaluate their condition and transport capacity.

Containers that are as good as new and that can be used even for long-term rental or in logistics are classified as IICL5. They can further be marked with a CSC plaque. “CSC” is short for “International Convention for Safe Containers.” This plaque must contain information on safety authorization, the authorizing country, the manufacturer and the manufacturing dates as well as the permissible load in both English and French.

If the container has already been used for a longer time and shows some signs of usage, it is classified as “Cargo Worthy” (CW). These containers are still usable for freight transportation but might have so rust and other wear marks.

Containers classified as “Wind- and Watertight” (WWT), on the other hand, have limited operating conditions. They can no longer be used for freight transport and no longer possess the CSC plaque required for logistics. As the name indicates, they are nonetheless still wind- and watertight and can be used for storage.

What can shipping containers be used for?

Shipping containers are mainly used for logistics and storage, but the practical steel boxes are popular in the construction industry as well. They are ideal as mobile offices or as a break room for workers. Even schools use shipping containers for temporary classrooms. Shipping containers can even serve for building a house. They can be an excellent option to create small houses at a great price-performance ratio. One idea is the construction of so-called “Tiny Houses” from containers; however, they can also be stacked to form up a larger living area. The versatile containers can even be transformed into swimming pools. In conflict areas or at large events, they are also frequently used as mobile infirmaries.

20 feet container, small but functional!

Prices of used shipping container

The price for a shipping container can vary depending on the size, condition and selected special features of the container. Containers are made of steel. Accordingly, the price of the container also depends on the price for steel, which may be subject to fluctuations. On the table below, we have compiled average prices for containers depending on size and condition:

ConditionNewIICL5Cargo-WorthyWWT
Container type
20-ft (1 TEU)
EUR 2,500EUR 1,900EUR 850EUR 600
40-ft (1 FEU)EUR 4,800EUR 4,350EUR 1,500EUR 1,000

40 feet container, the perfect mobile storage!


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