If you’re in the market for a used shipping container, don’t make the mistake of thinking that all shipping containers are the same. By conducting some research about what to look for before you rush into a decision, you can save yourself a lot of time and hassle.

If you are within reasonable proximity of the container for sale, go and inspect the container or containers you wish to buy. If you aren’t able to personally inspect the unit, then you can delegate a trusted colleague or friend to go on your behalf. Otherwise, the container supplier should be able to send you all the pictures you need from various angles. If the supplier refuses to let you see the container or send you pictures, then be wary.

To make sure your container is worth its money, there are several physical aspects to closely examine. Keep in mind, however, that some containers with a fault or two are still worth buying, depending on what it takes to repair them. Just know what you are getting and move on to something else if the container is in considerable disrepair. A few key portions of shipping containers for sale deserve close scrutiny.

Used Shipping Containers for Sale Shouldn’t Have a Starry Ceiling

Walk Around the Outside

It may seem obvious, but it is important to focus your attention on the entire exterior of the shipping container you are considering to purchase. Make sure its coat of paint is not hiding severely bad rust spots. If the container’s surface is rusty, then you should liaise with the supplier to see if they will fix the problem before you take delivery. Surface rust isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, but if left untreated, it can result in corrosion lying deeper than just the surface.

As for the paint job itself, don’t be overly concerned. If it’s not to your liking, or you want to get rid of the big shipping company logos, then your shipping container supplier will be able to repaint it for you.

When checking the outside of the container, you should also check the corner castings and any seals around the edges or along the doors. If any are defective, you can again solicit the supplier about fixing them or pursue a different container.

Used shipping containers won’t look immaculate, but they should be structurally sound and free from rust.

Check the Floors

Most shipping container floors consist of marine-grade plywood. It won’t be in pristine condition because containers are used to ship very heavy cargo across large expanses of sea and land. It should, however, be free of deep gouges, mold and rot.

If any of the aforementioned defects are detected, ask the supplier’s container modification branch to install new flooring.

Try the Doors

If the doors of the container are open when you get there, don’t be fooled into thinking that they work perfectly. Make sure you test them yourself. When inspecting the doors, you should make sure the locking gear and handles work properly and form a tight seal. If you find the doors are stiff, the hinges may just need to be greased or lubricated.

Look for a Starry Ceiling

The roof is one of the most important parts you need to check, but it can be very difficult to actually get on top of a shipping container. Instead, enter the container with its doors shut on a sunny day. If all you notice is darkness, then the ceiling is likely fine. On the other hand, if you see rays of light hitting the floor or stars during the night, then the roof is riddled with small holes. In this case, see the light and move on to a different container.

If you keep an eye out for these warning signs, you can be fairly certain that the shipping container you are looking at is a good prospect. Proceed by making sure you are dealing with a reputable provider, open to answering any of your questions.


What is Rust? NCHEurope.com
Shipping Container Inspection Criteria, ACMS-USA.com