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Quality you can see, experience you can trust.

Tips on How to Buy a Used Shipping Container

Monday 25 November 2019, Filed in: General

Used shipping containers can be an excellent buy, in terms of value and performance. Shipping containers are extremely tough and have a long lifespan. When you consider they are designed to cope with heavy loads of at least 20 tonnes and endure numerous sea crossings stacked up to eight or more high, you can see why they make superb storage containers. The price of used shipping containers comes down considerably from new shipping containers, but as these containers are built to last they will remain in good, usable condition for many years. If you know what you are looking for and can avoid the pitfalls of containers that are suspiciously cheap, then you should expect between 10–15 years of secure, dry space from a good quality, reasonably priced container.




What to look for in a used container

The cosmetic appearance is not the most important thing you should be looking out for in a used shipping container – they will naturally show lots of evidence of handling due from their sea-faring journeys and handling at ports. What is more important is that the container is structurally sound. Most used shipping containers sold on are between 10-15 years old, so the most important factors in whether you have a bargain or a dud are:

  1. The container is watertight: go inside and check there is no daylight showing through! If there is it means the container has a hole corroded through and will leak. While it’s not uncommon for containers of this age to have rusting, any areas which have “gone through” should be repaired before sale. At Containers Direct we use the patch method. This involves a welder removing the broken or damaged section, replacing it with a matching piece of corrugated steel and fully seam welding the patch on. A good seam welded patch is a sign of a repaired container, not a broken one!

  2. Free and easy doors and intact seals: Again, to ensure the container is watertight, check the door seals! Shipping container doors have seals around the outside to prevent any water ingress damaging the cargo inside whilst the container is in transit. Make sure the container door seals are still intact and line up properly against the container. Also check your original container doors are ‘free and easy’. Used containers have a reputation for having stiff and difficult doors. Whilst common, you want to make sure the doors are able to open and close properly. Sometimes rust can build up inside the hinges, rendering the doors unusable.

  3. The wooden floor is intact: marine ply floorboards are held in place with steel cross members on the underside of the container – check the floor is in good condition structurally. Again, cosmetically the floor will show signs of wear and tear, but should remain intact nonetheless.



Remember cosmetic damages such as scrapes, dents, rust and patches will be evident on used shipping containers. However, don't be put off! At Containers Direct all used containers are repaired before sale to ensure they are structurally sound and watertight, and we give a 12 month guarantee on all of our containers for extra peace of mind. We offer a repainting service – free with containers under 20ft long – that can vastly improve the appearance of used containers.

Still not sure about buying used shipping containers?

If your budget allows why not look at buying a new shipping container? While the price is higher, they will last you longer. But bear in mind that even new shipping containers will carry a small amount of cosmetic wear and tear. Most will have been transported with cargo in order to arrive in UK ports in the most cost-effective way, and therefore will still show some evidence of handling. New shipping containers are also an option worth considering if you are buying for a shipping container conversion. Used shipping containers are also fit for this purpose, but you will want to consider your budget and how many years good service you need from your conversion project. For instance, if it’s a shipping container office you require, you may only need the extra space on a temporary or semi-permanent basis – a good 15yrs may be more than enough. Chemical storage shipping containers may suffer more wear and tear in use, due to potential contact with damaging substances, so the age of the container this could be worth bearing in mind if buying for this purpose.



Shipping container sizes

Whether you buy used or new shipping containers, when you chose Containers Direct, not only can you trust the quality of your purchase, but you will have plenty of choice. Standard shipping container sizes are 20ft or 40ft, which we stock in depots across the UK to give our customers the cheapest delivery rates. On top of that we offer a cut down service, whereby we can provide any length up to 45ft!


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