Guide to Buying Shipping Containers

Did you know there are new and used shipping containers for sale all across the United States? Better yet, did you know you can have them delivered directly to your business or home? 

If you’re unfamiliar with how to buy a shipping container and want to know where to begin, we can help! This guide has everything you need to navigate the shipping container buying process, as well as some questions you should consider before making your purchase. 

Not ready to buy? ModuGo also has shipping container rental options.


buying shipping containers


Types of Shipping Containers

One shipping container does not fit all needs. When browsing online, you can find several different types. Start with the height of the container: 


Standard Shipping Containers

Standard shipping containers commonly come in 10-, 20-, 40- and 45-foot lengths. They are 8 feet 6 inches tall.


High Cube Shipping Containers

While standard shipping containers fit most needs, you can also purchase a high cube container if you want an extra foot of height or a specialty container that offers different door configurations. Container offices are also increasing in popularity, especially in the construction industry.


How to Buy a Shipping Container That’s Right for You

Before you buy shipping containers, you should assess your options and find the best configuration for your needs and space.


Choosing the Right Size Container

While containers range from 10 feet to 53 feet long, 20-foot and 40-foot containers are the most common standard sizes.

A 20-foot standard container is essentially the size of a one-car garage, while a 40-foot container is the equivalent of a two-car garage due to the extra length. Read on for more detail about shipping container sizes.


shipping container size, 10 foot10-Foot Containers

The 10-foot shipping container isn’t a typical intermodal container size that fits on sea freighters. Most often, these containers are modified to be smaller after their life as larger containers at sea. Making these small containers opens up a world of options to those who have storage needs and small spaces.

For between $3,000 and $4,500, you can buy a 10-foot shipping container. That gives you 563 cubic feet of interior storage volume.


shipping container size, 20 foot20-Foot Containers

Twenty-foot containers are some of the most common shipping containers for sale. They are still small enough to fit in most storage spaces but large enough to accommodate the contents of a standard one-car garage.

With prices ranging between $1,100 and $5,000, 20-foot shipping containers are an affordable way to gain 1,170 cubic feet of storage volume to fit almost any need.


shipping container size, 40 foot40-Foot Containers

You get 2,350 cubic feet of storage volume with a 40-foot shipping container. The large size makes these containers perfect for heavy tool and equipment storage in construction and agriculture. But these containers serve the needs of a wide variety of businesses.

Prices for 40-foot storage containers depend on the quality and type of container you buy, but expect the range to be somewhere between $1,350 and $9,800.


Choosing the Right Container Condition

Shipping containers can be broken down into two major categories: new and used. However, the analysis doesn’t stop there. 


New Containers

New containers are also called one-trip containers. These have been shipped overseas with cargo once before being available for sale. One-trip containers will be in excellent shape, have monotone paint and generally not have large logos on the side. These containers are excellent for customer-facing locations.


Used Containers

Used containers can be significantly less expensive than the new options. Used containers will all have some minor dings, dents and surface rust because they have been used in overseas freight for years. However, you may encounter several additional gradings or classifications. Those are IICL, Cargo Worthy, Wind & Watertight and As-Is.


Cargo Worthy Containers

The most common options are Cargo Worthy and Wind & Watertight. Both of these options are excellent choices for storage. Cargo Worthy containers have generally been inspected and deemed worthy of being used for shipping goods over land or sea (although they may not have valid CSC plates or documentation to be shipped internationally). 


Wind & Watertight Containers

Wind & Watertight containers have been deemed suitable for storage only but may not look that visibly different from a Cargo Worthy option. Some companies will use the terms “A-Grade” or “B-Grade,” which is a purely subjective scale that can vary from company to company but can generally be correlated to the appearance of a Wind & Watertight container.


As-Is Containers

As-Is containers are typically in rough condition and have been used heavily. They will likely have holes, damage to the floors and/or non-functioning doors.



Institute of International Container Lessors (IICL) containers are generally the nicest condition of used containers sold. They have been through a specific and detailed grading process set forth by the IICL.


Choosing Your Door Configuration – Do You Need a Specialty Container?

How to buy open sided storage containerThe final consideration for how to buy a shipping container is the door configuration. We outline the various shipping container door configurations below.

  • Standard doors. Standard containers will have one set of double cargo doors on one short 8-foot end of the container. These are by far the most common option and are available in used and new/one-trip options. 
  • Double doors. If a standard door container will not work for you, there are also double door containers (doors on both small ends). These create a sort of tunnel with access to your shipping container from either end.
  • Open-side doors. Open-side containers have a long door along one of the sides of the container. These allow for broad access to any part of the container.
  • Flat rack containers. Flat rack containers can take on wider loads because they only have walls on the two short ends of the container. While this is not technically a door, the flat rack configuration allows total access to your cargo.
  • Open-top containers. As the name suggests, these containers open at the top. This allows you to load large cargo like timber via heavy machinery.


Buying vs. Renting — When Should You Buy Shipping Containers?

Learning how to buy a shipping container is only half of the battle. Deciding whether you should rent or buy shipping containers can be difficult. You want what is best for your business and wallet. And in many cases, that means you should purchase a container. 

Ask yourself these questions to determine whether you should rent or buy storage containers:


How often do you intend to use the shipping container?

Will you need a container for a year or longer? If so, buying it is likely a wise choice. You will save money in the long run by purchasing instead of renting it. However, if you need extra storage for seasonal use or temporary jobs, there is no better solution than a rental.


Do you want the freedom of ownership that comes with buying a container?

Ownership has its privileges, such as the ability to modify the container. Rented containers are generally required to stay in the same location. But you can take a container you own anywhere you like. And owning the container affords you the benefit of being able to sell it later without any of the design or modification restrictions of renting.


Do you need to store hazardous materials in your shipping container?

Renting a storage container provides huge flexibility, but one spot where you may feel somewhat restricted is in what you can store. You can store most items inside rented containers, but many shipping container rental companies place restrictions on hazardous materials, such as volatile chemicals. If you need to store items like this, buying a shipping container is probably the way to go.


Do you have a way to transport your shipping container?

When you own a shipping container, it’s yours for as long as it lasts. If you intend to place the container in a spot and let it sit there for years, that’s no problem. But if you frequently need to move the container, you need to be sure you have access to the right equipment to do so. If moving the container is going to present a big challenge, you might want to consider renting containers for shorter periods and having them delivered directly to your worksite.


Interested in renting a shipping container? Check out our Container Rental Guide.


Common Uses for Shipping and Storage Containers

The question of what you plan to use your container for is just as important as the question of how to buy a shipping container. Different industries and individuals rely on shipping containers for storage and container offices. But the uses for storage containers are nearly limitless.


Buy Storage Containers for Industry Use

Because shipping containers can be modified, they work for almost all industries. Construction might be the most common, but these containers are popping up just about anywhere you can imagine. These industries include the following:

  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Education
  • Automotive
  • Retail
  • Agriculture/farming
  • Healthcare
  • Residential storage


Buy Shipping Containers for Container Homes and Businesses

Contemporary building designers all over the world are refurbishing shipping containers into everything from small, affordable living spaces to large buildings, restaurants and coffee shops — you name it. All of these designs look sleek, minimize space and have environmental benefits.


What You Should Know Before Ordering a Shipping Container

Learning how to buy a shipping container is easy with ModuGo. The following information can make it even easier:


Find the Best Shipping Container Price

When you research how to buy a shipping container, you’ll be surprised by how widely prices can vary. At ModuGo, we guarantee the lowest price on your shipping container. We shop city by city and state by state to ensure we are finding the best prices across the country. 

With our access to tens of thousands of containers, we can find exactly what you need at a great price. If you find a lower shipping container price somewhere else, just let us know. We will beat it!


Consider the Shipping Container Delivery Method

Used shipping containers for sale are normally delivered on roll-off trailers. However, you can also pick up your shipping container. If you use a website that allows you to compare shipping container prices, you can factor in the cost of delivery, as well. Remember, if you find used shipping containers for sale that’s located close to your home, the delivery cost will be lower.

Generally, 40-foot containers are delivered on a 40+ foot trailer pulled behind a truck. This can be a pickup truck or a day-cab/semi. At ModuGo, we will work with you to ensure that the truck delivering the container is the best choice for the delivery site.

By contrast, 20-foot containers are typically delivered on a tilt-bed tow truck (what they use to tow vehicles with four-wheel drive). These trucks are more maneuverable and have a smaller turning radius, allowing them to deliver the containers to tighter spots.


Prepare the Location for Shipping Container Placement

After you have learned how to buy a shipping container that fits your needs, you must prepare for the delivery and placement of the container. The trucks that deliver shipping containers can weigh up to 45,000 pounds, so they require a hard surface. If the drivers attempt to maneuver through wet grass or mud, they can get stuck. This results in added costs and hassle.


Learn more about site preparation in our Shipping Container Site Preparation Guide.


Avoid Water

When considering where your container will sit, the most important factor is avoiding a location where water can pool at the base of the container. You can use railroad ties or some other moveable foundation beneath the container to avoid water buildup. You can also lay gravel or another base that will drain water easily.


Get Help

If you do decide to use railroad ties, you should ensure that you have someone there to move them during delivery. While the delivery driver may be able to help, you should not assume that they will be able to move them for you.


Clear the Way

Finally, make sure the delivery site and path through the property are free and clear of debris to save time and energy on the day of delivery.


Ensure You Have the Necessary Clearance

Shipping container delivery trucks also need ample space at your delivery site to maneuver. Assume that you will need the following:

  • A minimum of 100 feet of straight clearance for 40-foot containers and 60 feet of straight clearance for a 20-foot container (Measure the space from where the back of the container will sit.)
  • A minimum of 12 feet total width for the truck to deliver the container
  • A minimum of 14 feet of vertical clearance for the truck and container to drive under an obstacle safely
  • A minimum of 20 feet of vertical clearance at the actual delivery site in order to safely complete the tilt-off delivery


How to Buy a Shipping Container: Team Up with ModuGo

Now you have the information you need to take the next steps. Browse the ModuGo website and buy storage containers today! If you find a similar shipping container in your area for a better price, take advantage of our price match guarantee to make sure you get the best deal possible.

ModuGo’s online store makes buying a shipping container easy. Our three-step process is as simple as:

  1. Place your order online.
  2. Check out.
  3. Sit back and relax.

If you have more questions about how to buy a shipping container, please check out our Frequently Asked Questions page or contact us directly!

Shop ModuGo!