A Buyer’s Guide to Containers and Trailers

A lot of people look into buying used shipping containers for a variety of different reasons. They are a popular option, for instance, for construction companies that look at having job site trailers available to them. If you are also looking at doing something similar, you may wonder how much you will have to pay. This depends mainly on who you buy it of, and in what condition it is. The age of the container doesn’t really play a role, however.

Generally speaking, sea containers are used by the shipping industry for between seven and 12 years. The condition they are in after that period of time will depend mainly on the type of service they were actually used for. They may look and appear very battered, or they may be good as new. It is the physical appearance and the structure of the container that will most determine its price.

It is also important to understand that there is a difference between a seller and a retailer. Sellers, or merchants, are people who have purchased a range of containers from retailers, and then sell them on at a higher price. Retailers, by contrast, have direct access to the containers as soon as they are no longer used by the shipping industry.

What to Look for

There are pros and cons to purchasing from either a seller or a retailer. However, the recommendation is to choose retailers, not in the least because they are experts. Plus, they may offer both new and used containers, and they may also rent them out to you. Furthermore, you will be guaranteed of them being in good condition.

Nevertheless, you should always inspect the container before you buy it. Look for:

  1. The exterior surface, trying to find rust.
  2. The door gasket.
  3. The condition of the interior, including the word floor.
  4. The penetrations or pin holes in the panels.

If a container looks in absolute mint condition without any rust, it has probably been repainted. Rust is normal and does not mean the container is in poor condition. If it is absolutely covered with rust, however, you should get a serious discount. The points where the least rust should be present is the bottom of the container and around the door, because that is where strength is needed.


The door gasket is important because it seals the container and makes it waterproof. If the gaskets are rotten or missing, you shouldn’t buy it.

Last but not least, check inside. The floor, sidewalls, and roof should all be inspected. Make sure the floor is solid without soft spots or holes. You should see 1/8 inch marine plywood covering the floor.

Do consider, as well, renting a container if you can. It is very rare for someone to actually permanently need a secondhand container. If you are looking or a jobsite trailer, for instance, it may be much better to rent one, as it will come with all the necessary facilities as well.

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