How to Buy a Shipping Container in the United States

Shipping containers are an excellent choice for storage and transportation. Due to their simplistic design, robust built, cheaper price, and wide availability they have become extremely popular for various purposes like building homes and offices, swimming pools, indoor farms and so on. Many people now prefer shipping containers over traditional building materials because of the same reasons. Hence, there is an increasing need for these conex boxes in the US domestic market.

Currently, over 17 million shipping containers are there in the world, out of which only six million are in use for transportation via sea or land. The rest 11 million are sitting idle at various ports occupying valuable real estate. The United States of America too has a bustling maritime industry owing to its vast coastline of around 19924km. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the country has approximately 360 commercial ports, most of which store unused containers in their terminals or depots. Container traders usually buy these used boxes from various ports and then resell them to individuals and companies.

While getting hold of a used container may sound simple, in reality, a person needs to understand several factors before buying one. Let’s now learn how to choose the right shipping container in the United States:

How to Buy a Shipping Container in the United States

Consider the size :

Shipping containers are available in various sizes ranging from 6’ to 53’. The most popular sizes are, however, 20’ and 40’ as they serve the purposes of storage, transportation, and modification. Hence, understand your requirement before buying a container. If you need one for inter-modal transportation, buy a 20’/40’. Smaller containers of 6’/10’ serve as a personal storage solution.

Understand the type :

Shipping containers come in various shapes with different door options. They are usually standard, open-top, open-side, high cube, flat rack, and reefers. If you need one to make a home, consider a high cube container as they provide an extra foot of head-room. Similarly, open-top containers are apt for the transportation of large equipment and transformation into swimming pools.

Evaluate the condition :

Shipping containers spend years in the harsh marine environment. A dent here, some rust patches there testifies their journey. While minor cosmetic damages don’t jeopardize their structural integrity, serious damages aren’t uncommon among containers making them less robust than their counterparts. Based on their conditions, shipping containers are classified in the following category:

As Is :

These are usually the damaged boxes which are sold without any repair work done on them. These are the cheapest too.

Wind & Water Tight :

These weatherproof units are sold in relatively good condition and are ideal for local use since the expired CSC certificate prohibits them from shipping.

Cargo Worthy :

These containers are certified as shipping-worthy by a third party licensed surveyor and come with an extended expiry date on a new sticker on their CSC plate.


These containers are sold in extremely good condition and are of less than 10 years of age – which is their usual expiry date.

One Trip :

These are almost new containers who make a maiden visit from their port of origin to the destination. These are usually the costliest and of the highest quality.

Watch the space :

Before you buy a container, make sure you have the required space. Your container will most probably be delivered through a standard tilt bed ‘roll off’ style truck bed or trailer. That means you will need twice the length of the container, i.e., 80’ plus 10’ space in a straight line. Also, depending on the terrain of your choice, a crane may be required for unloading the shipping container.

Check the legalities :

Many cities and localities in the USA (E.g. Bend, Oregon) have restrictions on container usage. Always check this aspect with local authorities before buying a container.

Find a reliable distributor :

This is probably the most important step in buying the ideal shipping container since an experienced distributor can help you with all the above aspects. Pelican Containers has been in the used shipping container trading for years now and is a reputed name in the US market. We supply almost all varieties and can even help you in deciding which one will serve your purpose the most.

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