10 Tips for Buying a Shipping Container the Smart Way
Jun 2019

10 Tips for Buying a Shipping Container the Smart Way

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Shipping containers offer exciting new possibilities for the design and function of workspaces, retail environments, and even compact living spaces. It’s no surprise then that in the age of sustainable, eco-friendly living, and relaxed corporate culture, these refurbished and modified shipping containers are generating quite the buzz.

It also doesn’t hurt that these are built with steel, one of the most durable materials ever made, which enable them to provide sound structural support even in the face of extreme weather.

If you’re about to jump on this trend, it’s best to know first what your options are for investing in a modified shipping container to ensure your purchase is cost-effective. This allows you to get the best container for your needs, fitted with all the custom configurations required in your specific application. Here is a quick guide to buying a shipping container:

What will your shipping container be used for?

The most basic step in buying a shipping container is determining what it will be used for. A clear goal allows you to quickly narrow your search according to size, features, and price points, saving you time and valuable resources in the process. This means determining whether you are buying a shipping container for its original purpose, or you are looking to convert it into an office, storage shed, or living quarters.

Consider the Container Size

Shipping containers come in a wide range of sizes, each designed with a maximum capacity allowance for storing and transporting goods. Take time to determine the nature of its intended application and the amount of space required, to help narrow down your options and promote a cost-effective investment.

Buying Used, Refurbished or New

While reimagined shipping containers first rose to prominence as a result of refurbishing old and used containers, newer models have since debuted to feature updated designs, cleaner interiors and exteriors, and perfectly functioning mechanisms. While buying old and used containers will save you valuable dollars upfront, the long-term maintenance cost and likely requirement of a replacement unit might just make a newer build worth it. Either way, it’s important to consider your budget and the project itself, so you can make a financially sound investment.

Inspect Before You Buy

There aren’t enough ways to stress this but conducting a thorough inspection is the best way to safeguard your investment and the items to be stored inside the shipping container. A thorough inspection informs you of the condition of the container, allowing you to check for signs of damage, dents, patches, significant rust, and even leakage. By spotting these signs of damage, you can avoid a costly purchase and necessary replacement in the short-term.

Check for Weather and Security Protections

Shipping containers are designed to last in harsh conditions, but before taking yours out for a spin, you will want to make sure that it’s up for the task. At a minimum, the shipping container you buy should be water-tight and vermin-proof.

Other considerations include resistance to wind and prevention of rodent infestation, to promote clean and safe interiors, and a conducive work or living environment. Make sure to check the security mechanisms of the shipping containers, ensuring that the steel lock box and padlock are safe and secure from break-ins and vandalism using bolt cutters.

How old is the shipping container?

Before you buy a shipping container, make sure to ask the manufacturer or seller how old it is, especially if you’re considering a used unit. More often than not, old containers have a history of extreme shipping conditions which can impact their structural integrity. If you are looking at a container that is more than 10 years old, consider its refurbishing requirements and see whether a new model makes more financial and operational sense.

Test the Mechanisms

How do you get in and out of your shipping container — are these mechanisms safe and secure? Make sure to check the doors, locks, and hinges to ensure that these are functioning properly. Don’t forget to check the gasket seals, roofs, and lower sidewalls to ensure that they have not suffered any structural damage that could compromise your safety in the near future. If you can, also check is the height of the door handles, as newer models are built with waist-height handles, making them more accessible.

Additional Configurations

A shipping container to be used for storage may come as ready to use but for more complex, high foot traffic applications like mobile offices and living quarters, additional configurations for electricity and lighting need to be installed. You might want to explore other options outside of the standard shipping container, such as those with doors at both ends or at least on one side. Make sure to take note of these specifications when you buy a shipping container.

Prepare for Modifications

Unless you’re planning on using the shipping container as is, chances are, you will need to introduce modifications to its design to suit your application. Before you buy a shipping container, carve out some time to plan for the required modifications and check whether the unit you are considering can support them.

The chances are, the seller also offers design and modification services, so they can work with you to install doors, windows, security locks, shelving units, and a ventilation system to transform this steel structure into a suitable office, retail, or living space.

Plan for Transportation and Setup

Your shipping container is finally ready but do you have a transportation and setup plan in place? Planning in advance will greatly reduce downtime, so you can use your new work, living, or storage space right away. This also helps to ensure a smooth and cost-effective transport, while providing ample time to check for accessibility.

To learn more about buying a modified or custom shipping container, call Sigma Containers at 1(877)225-7762 or contact us here.