How to Know When You’re Dealing with a Good Shipping Container Provider

So, you’re excited because you just made the final decision to upgrade (or downsize) your home into an awesome repurposed shipping container home –and now the next part of the journey begins and you’ve got no idea where to start.

While coming to the decision to purchase a shipping container for repurposing may have been a long series of debates, back and forth, indecision, and frustration –buying a shipping container to repurpose shouldn’t be.

Thank goodness shipping containers are pretty basic items, and they’re not very difficult to inspect or assign a value. And gosh knows there are plenty of them out there available to be purchased.

Currently it is estimated that there are 3.3 million unused shipping containers sitting in port lots just waiting to be sold. Until then, they’re just sitting back rusting, waiting to be reclaimed by either man or earth.

Get To Know Some Used Shipping Container Terms

 What to Know Before Purchasing a Used Shipping Container 

And of course, before you even purchase a shipping container to repurpose there are a number of factors to consider.

Every single used shipping container available on the market is a little piece of history. It’s quite likely your shipping containers have crossed every large body of water on the planet, and have witnessed untold wonders along their short life span in service to shipping companies. 

Research Conditions and Options 

The ocean’s a big place, and a lot can happen away from prying eyes! Meteor showers, UFO landings, secret spy submarines, whales… Alright, I’m sort of kidding. The prospect of what these things have contained and places they’ve been over the years really intrigue me though. BUT. My point is – a little research into where your container has been and what it carried is a must.

The “used” label people assign to shipping containers leaves a lot to the imagination. Used for what?! So let’s explore the different labels that come along with your shipping container.

“One trip”

One trip containers are great if you are looking for a used shipping container that is pretty much brand spanking new. They are usually made in Asia, and with millions of these things sitting around, personally, to me, I think one trip used shipping containers are not only a little fishy; they’re not eco-friendly. Whether you’re in this to save building costs on a new home, or you’d like to do your part to help recycle the maddening surplus – these ones aren’t for you.

“No shipping label”

Used shipping containers that advertise that they have no shipping label generally means that there is no giant corporate logo on the side, front, or back. These used shipping containers are likely painted a simple, solid color, and have few visible markings on their surface.

“Cargo worthy”

Here’s a real kicker that stands out to me – aren’t all shipping containers cargo worthy? Apparently not. It may not be a very big deal whatsoever to the average consumer, however, used shipping containers for sale in America that are described as cargo worthy are assigned this label by a certified cargo surveyor, and the shipping container is sea-worthy and will hold up against one hell of a beating.


A term made famous more recently by a certain Swedish furniture maker, “As-Is” is a label given to units that are the equivalent to “scratch and dent” furniture you can pick up with a steep discount. Of course, when they say “as-is”, they mean it. “Take it, it’s yours, and I don’t want it back” is what they really mean. 

Research Used Shipping Container Vendors 

So how does one know what is important when shopping around for a vendor to sell you a used shipping container? Easy. Google. 

Pricing Research 

And as much as we imagine pulling up into a used shipping container lot as if it were an old used car lot, kicking steel, drinking bad coffee, and making small talk while we suss out our salesperson – it is not like that at all, and the internet may be the best place to start.

There are also in-person auctions all over America, so you might want to check those out, too.

Once you’ve shopped around, you’re going to have a good idea of the price; $1,400 for as-is used shipping containers, and up to $6,000 for like new. If you’re looking for additional customization like sliding doors, heating or refrigeration, those carry additional costs. 

Used Shipping Container Condition 

Another key factor to look into is how condition used shipping containers are in, and whether or not your shipping container provider takes care of them at all.

Do not leave all the research to the labels; check out the containers in person for yourself. Look for rust and damages, structural issues, and the wood inside the used shipping container.

Look for chemical or pesticide treated wood, and be sure to ask what the used shipping container had been used for. Often shipping containers come into a lot of contact with chemicals and industrial solvents, waste, or biological cargo. The last one “weirds” me out, but hey, we got strange supply chain requirements these days.


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