5 Things to Consider Before Buying a Shipping Container
Aug 2019

5 Things to Consider Before Buying a Shipping Container

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Cargo containers have become increasingly popular in the last couple of decades, meaning you can now easily buy a shipping container for residential, commercial, and industrial uses. Their supply also seems to be virtually limitless, with an estimated 500,000 containers being abandoned each year, and several million other containers laying dormant.

This surplus of containers, combined with the fact that they are extremely strong, tough, and long-lasting, has made them quite useful in a wide range of applications beyond shipping items by sea, including:

  1. Residential

    Homeowners usually buy shipping containers to serve as extended living space, workshops, underground emergency bunkers, or for seasonal storage.

  2. Commercial

    Businesses can take advantage of new and used shipping containers to set up remote office space, increase showroom space, or for storage of business inventory, supplies, and equipment.

  3. Industrial

    There are numerous applications of containers for various industries, including equipment and material storage, on-site offices, and refuse and waste collection, among others.

For any of these applications and depending on your specific needs, you can choose to purchase a new or used container. Either way, you need to take different factors into consideration to ensure that you get the right shipping container.

1. Quality of the container

The price of a container depends on a number of factors, including its condition, volume, and range of conditions in your area, as the price varies from one local market to another. Some of the containers on the market include:

  • ‘One-trip’ containers, which have made only one trip across the ocean carrying cargo
  • ‘Cargo worthy containers’, which satisfy the international standard set by the shipping industry, to be certified for transport by rail or road
  • ‘Cargo Worthy’ or ‘A-grade’ containers are older, but they still maintain their structural integrity, are wind and water tight, have fully functional doors, and don’t have any holes
  • ‘As is’ or ‘B-grade’ containers have no guarantee on their condition, aesthetic, or structural functionality and rust condition may vary from light to heavy
  • IICL-4 or ‘Premium’ containers are held to a higher standard than Cargo Worthy, As is, and Cargo Worthy units and are ideal where aesthetics is a primary concern
  • ‘Reconditioned’ refers to any used container that has been inspected, repaired to Cargo Worthy standard, and freshly painted

2. Condition of the Container

When choosing a container, you can use the photos provides to quickly and easily assess the dimensions and condition. In most cases, the photos provided are a fair representation of the average condition and features of the container you want. If you decide to buy the same type of container, then you should request photos of the exact container that you intend to buy. If you are able to, visit the site for a personal physical inspection.

When inspecting the exterior, walk around it to assess its overall condition, including the paint, corner casting, and seals around the edges. Dents are usually not a serious problem unless there are noticeable sections of rust and corrosion that could imply that the containers have been poorly handled. Check for any aesthetic or structural blemishes that could cause an issue.

After inspecting the exterior, you should check the doors for any signs of serious damage, for a proper lock and seal, and good condition of the door fittings, seals, gaskets, and locking mechanisms. Open the door and smell inside for any indication of rust or mould, as this could be a sign of leaking. Ensure that the unit is watertight by closing the door during daylight while still inside to check for any light penetration. Assess the floors for signs of cargo spills or holes.

If you were not able to physically examine the container before making your purchase, check the exterior and interior to ensure that it matches the description provided for the container you paid for. Ideally, every purchase should come with a ‘certified condition guarantee’ for your peace of mind.

3. Consider the Intended Use

The type of container that you purchase largely depends on your intended use. Even when buying a shipping container for storage, a unit that is satisfactory for keeping tools and old toys may not necessarily be suitable for keeping photos, artifacts, musical instruments, family heirlooms, and other important and valuable items. So, while Grade B container may be sufficient for general storage, it’s not recommended for storing vulnerable items.

Similarly, while Cargo Worthy — wind and watertight — containers have a very long lifespan, they are fabricated using Corten steel, which means that prolonged exposure to the elements can result in rust and corrosion. Conversely, refurbished, or One-Trip containers can withstand the elements for a significantly longer time, though they are more expensive to buy.

4. Delivery Fees

Transporting a container — especially large ones — can be quite a hassle, so you should check with your seller about their terms of delivery. In some cases, you may need to pay more than the pre-purchase quote if the container needs to be delivered far from its current location. There’s no point of saving money on the price of the container only to overpay on delivery costs. Ideally, you should pay more for a quality container rather than for transport.

Remember to ask about who’s accountable for the delivery of the container while on the road, whether it’s you or them. Check who’s responsible for any damage during transit, loading, or off-loading.

5. Guarantees

There are different types of guarantees. Some suppliers give cash credit or allow returns, while others prefer to send out repairmen to your site. Regardless of the options provided, it’s important to know the type of guarantee offered before purchasing the product. You should be careful about low-cost units that don’t come with a guarantee. Suppliers who offer warranty add value to their products by giving you peace of mind.

Before you set out to purchase a container, you should have an idea of how much space you need and the intended use of the unit. This will depend on how much space is available at your site to place the container.

Overestimating the square footage will leave you with plenty of unused space and wasted funds in purchasing a larger unit while underestimating your space requirements will leave you with a space deficit and poor return on your investment. That said, it’s better to buy a larger shipping container than you need, rather than continuing to struggle with space limitations or eventually purchasing another unit.

For more information about purchasing a shipping container, call Sigma Containers at (416) 366-7762 or contact us here.

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