Buyers’ Guide to Purchasing a Shipping Container

Buyers’ Guide to Purchasing a Shipping Container

The main purpose of a steel shipping container is to transport cargo across the sea on large ships. During the journey, those containers can get dented, scraped, and scratched – not to mention exposed to the harshest of elements — all while protecting the goods enclosed inside. This durability is what has led to many home and business owners across the country purchasing shipping containers to use as ground level storage on site.

Buyer Beware

Many companies sell to customers “sight unseen.” The prices are usually low to entice the customers into buying something without seeing it first. But just like you wouldn’t buy a car, boat, house or other large purchase without inspecting its condition, you shouldn’t buy a shipping container without taking a look.

It’s strongly recommended that you inspect the container in person before signing on the dotted line. If you can’t, do business with a company that you have bought from in the past or that at least has a stellar reputation in the area for quality products and excellent customer service.

Ask to see high-quality photos of the exact container you are agreeing to buy. Many companies send pictures of similar containers, not the actual one you want. Be specific. Make sure the picture features all four sides (with doors closed) and a few of the inside, including the floor.

Price vs. Supply and Condition

There is usually a surplus of containers in the United States, which means there’s always a pretty steady supply. Prices are usually based on age and condition.

Price will vary with condition due to the following factors:

  • Miles Traveled – Some containers log more mileage moving cargo, while others spend more time sitting in ports.
  • Container Handling – Some containers fall victim to rougher handling by forklift and crane operators than others. Rust can develop wherever the paint has chipped.
  • Container Cargo – Sometimes the cargo the container is carrying will leak or spill its contents onto the floor.
  • Environment – A container that travels on ships in milder climates will show less wear and tear than one that has spent many years enduring harsh climates.
  • Road Transportation – Some containers get damaged during transport via tractor trailer, due to all the road grit, elements and more.


You can quickly tell how old a container generally is by looking at its:

  • Doors – A container with flat doors is generally considered to be an older container. That’s because container manufacturers switched from flat to corrugated doors in the early 1990s.
  • CSC Plate – This plate can be found at the left-hand door of the container, listing all the pertinent information about that specific container, including the date it was made. It’s just like a VIN (Vehicle Information Number) on a car.

What to Look Out For

When inspecting your container, there are several elements you should take a look at.

  • Doors: Make sure they open and close easily. Also, make sure the locking mechanisms work, which are comprised of handles and vertical rods. If those are bent, it will make it more difficult to open and close the doors. Take a look at the hinges too. If they are rusted, the doors won’t swing open and closed smoothly.
  • Roof: Check the roof of the container from the interior, looking for dents and dings where water could collect and lead to rust. At the same time, look for dents and scratches in the paint that could eventually rust through the roof. That’s not to say you should never buy a container with dents or dings. Just be sure you know what you’re buying and the level of risk that comes with it.
  • Door Gaskets: Make sure the gaskets seal up tight. Look for rust where the gasket joins the door, particularly at the bottom.
  • Lower Side Wall: Check the exterior side wall where it comes into contact with the flat portion of the beam at the bottom. This is a common point of water accumulation that can result in rust later on.

Delivery Options vs. Cost

If you don’t live close to your shipping container provider, you will pay less to have the container delivered to you on a flatbed truck rather than on a tilt bed truck or trailer. This is because flatbed vehicles are much more common, while tilt bed trucks and trailers are much more specialized.

Contact Transocean Equipment Management

If you need more guidance in buying a shipping container in North Carolina, South Carolina or Georgia, contact us at 910-483-7828 for a free quote and assistance.


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