Top 10 Dos and Don’ts of Buying a Shipping Container

Shipping containers come in various shapes and sizes. These are popular solutions for short and long-term storage in addition to transportation. There are both used and new/one-trip containers in the circulation. In short, there is no shortage of choices. Hence, one must evaluate one’s individual needs before purchasing a shipping container. Here we have compiled a few dos and don’ts to help you buy that ‘perfect’ container.

Top 10 Dos and Don’ts of Buying a Shipping Container

The Dos of buying a shipping container

  1. The first is to understand your requirements and define usage goals. If you need a garden shed, a 10′ container will suffice. But, if you want to transport food grains in large quantities, opt for an open-top 20′ or 40′ container.
  2. Before you buy a container, see how much space you have. Most people think that if they have 40′ of space, they can buy a container of the same size. This isn’t true. Your container will 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. Check out this video, created by the National Portable Storage Association (NPSA), to understand how a truck unloads a container at the desired location.
  3. If you plan to make a dwelling out of a container, it’s best to opt for a new/one-trip high cube container. These containers make a single trip from their manufacturing sites to the country they are sent to. Hence, the probability of contamination is pretty less. In addition, since they spend less time on the ocean, they are less exposed to wear and tear. So, you need not spend a fortune on repairing and painting.
  4. Many cities and localities have restrictions on container usage. Always check this aspect with local authorities before buying a container.
  5. Most of the shipping containers are made from steel. Hence, they are highly durable. There are aluminum containers too in the circulation. If storage is your requirement, aluminum containers are just fine. However, if you need to build a house, go for a steel one.
  6. Want to save some money? Check out or opt for any used containers instead of buying one. You may visit a local warehouse with several on their lot and negotiate. While making a purchase, make sure few shipping companies don’t own the container. You can quickly determine by noting down the container number or calling the owner.
  7. All shipping containers are not made from the same material. If you are looking for the last longing container, “Cor-Ten Steel” is perfect. It lasts the longest and stands up to inclement weather and rust. Keep in mind that containers are designed to sit on a ship and in the corrosive salt air environment for years.
  8. Negotiate with all sellers before buying a container. Negotiating with all sellers before purchasing is essential to get the best deal. Many containers are piling up in the US and other countries, resulting in a huge trade deficit in other countries. Sellers are typically motivated to sell multi-unit sales when given the space. Try to get a FREE DELIVERY.
  9. Always hire an inspector from the Institute of International Container Lessors to inspect the containers before purchasing. If you require a long-term use container, ensure you receive a good product by hiring an IICL inspector. You can also search online for an inspector near your sale location.

The Don’ts of buying a shipping container

  1. Don’t buy a used container without seeing it in person. Otherwise, you may run the risk of spending lots of money on repairs.
  2. Don’t assume that all dealers will offer the same qualities. Do your research and check for their reliability. At Pelican Containers, we take utmost care on quality and partner only with dealers who comply with our code of ethics.
  3. Avoid buying non-traditional shapes and sizes. Since they are less in circulation, they are much more expensive than their standard counterparts.
  4. Don’t cut off too much while making a house/shop out of a container since this can damage their structural integrity.
  5. Do not use any shipping container without giving it a thorough wash. Shipping containers are made to withstand harsh marine weather while resistant to rodents and pests. The pesticides used are often dangerous for humans. Moreover, you never know what kind of contamination these used containers have been exposed to during several years of the voyage.
  6. One of the biggest mistakes people make when purchasing the wrong size shipping container. Few people are surprised to know that containers are available in lengths other than just 20 and 40ft, including 10, 45, and 48 ft lengths. Some containers are a few inches wider than most, including 53 ft containers and called ‘pallet-wide’ containers.
  7. Another crucial thing to avoid is buying containers without accounting for the condition. Containers naturally undergo significant corrosion and rust due to having a hard life at the ocean and in busy ports. It must be dealt with care, and you often need to do some touch-up by painting.
  8. Many people make mistakes in choosing the insulation type without considering their local climate. For example, you need to ensure your insulation provides a seamless vapor barrier in areas with heavy rainfall. The best option you could choose would be to use spray foam insulation.
  9. The last mistake anyone can make is choosing the wrong builder or contractor to buy a shipping container. When selecting a contractor, ensure that they have experience shipping containers for a few years.

Hence, never use any shipping container without proper cleaning and sanitizing. If possible, procure a certificate from the relevant authorities which clearly states which cleaning measures have been implemented.

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