How to buy
used shipping containers?

You want to buy used shipping containers for your business in shipping, storage, or construction? Then this article is for you. It will show you how to make the purchase effectively.

Several aspects to consider…

First, you should check to make sure containers’ structure is not damaged. While containers are designed in modular with very strong structure, that doesn’t mean used products still keep the same characteristics after in use for years.

Secondly, all ISO containers are manufactured in accordance withISO standards, but there still exist many other non-standard units in operation. You surely want to buy used shipping containers with standardized dimensions.

Thirdly, buyers need to understand how containers are graded. Actually, there is no universal grading system for containers, but the common terms for describing used container’s conditions are:

  • cargo worthy – containers are no longer new, but is still qualified for cargo shipping
  • wind and water tight - containers are wind and water tight
  • as is - containers are used as shipping containers for years then retired by shipping or leasing companies. This is the cheapest option.

Last but not least, you’re likely concerned the most about the price of containers. When buying the new, you can expect to spend some USD 2,500 and USD 4,000 for 20ft and 40ft respectively. Fortunately, there are plenty of dealers offering second-hand containers at a part of new containers’ price. For instance, you can buy a used 20’DC at less than USD 1,000 and a used 40’DC at about USD 2,000.

How to find?

Shipping containers have many sizes and types. You should decide which size (e.g. 20’, 40’, and 45’) and type (e.g. dry, refer) you need.

With specific need in mind, next step is to look for container dealers or providers in your areas. It’s better to buy products available in your vicinity to save transit cost.

You can also look on internet for more sellers, for example: eBayAlibaba. Just go to their websites, search for several key phrases "cargo containers," "shipping containers", "storage containers”, “used shipping containers”, “buy shipping containers”.

Examining used containers

Before deciding to buy used shipping containers, you should have containers examined carefully. If you want and can survey yourself, suggests some points to keep in mind:

  • Check to make sure the container is wind and water tight. Shut yourself in the container and look for daylight. Inspect any rust areas to make sure it is only surface rust. Containers will accumulate surface rust long before a hole is formed.
  • Look to make sure the doors open and close correctly and completely. Look for intact door seals and sturdy floors with no soft spots. Examine any inserts (repairs of holes are welded on the outside and caulked on the inside); they should be properly installed and repainted.
  • Look for corrosion and rust under door seals and hardware.
  • Check for major dents in the sides or the roof; there should be none.
  • Make sure there is no evidence of contamination or foul odors (e.g. hides can be transported in containers, leaving a strong odor).

Buy it

Now that when you are satisfied with the containers after adequate survey, the next step is to bargain and buy used container for your purpose.

Keep in mind if you can't find used shipping containers that fit your needs, or you just prefer a new unit, you can always lease containers you want. Leasing, long-term or short-term, allows you to spread your payments over time and costs you just a few dollars for a unit a day.

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