We all want shipping containers. They’re versatile, durable, and they can be used for anything from housing and storage, to pools and restaurants. But no matter their intended use, one of the most common questions we all have relates to how much a shipping container should cost.
We know, shopping for the right price on a shipping container can be as frustrating as the used car market. All you’re trying to do is understand what the market value of a container actually is and avoid the embarrassment of getting ripped off.
And while we unfortunately can’t give you a straightforward answer on exact amounts, we can give you some insight into which factors contribute to the range of prices you’ll likely see. We’ll also throw in some best practices to help make sure you get the best price available to you on the container market (or at least don’t buy an overpriced container).
Let’s get started.
Factors That Influence Shipping Container Cost
There are a lot of different factors that can influence how much it costs to purchase one or more shipping containers. Let’s break them down one by one.
Factor #1) New (ish) or Used Conditions And Shipping Container Costs
The biggest factor that will influence the price of a shipping container is whether it’s a one-trip container or has been used more heavily by previous owners or commercial shipping companies.
Newer shipping containers, also known as one-trip containers will obviously cost more than a more heavily used container. And this will continue to be true depending on how used and in what condition a container is in when you buy it. For example, those that have been on many ocean voyages will likely be the most affordable initially. Ocean travel causes degradation to any shipping container due to the native salinity in the air and the cold, wet conditions that permeate any ocean vessel. The result is a little more rust and some bumps and bruises.
And while used containers are usually cheaper, they likely won’t be able to offer the same shipping container lifespan. How you’ll be using the container and how long you anticipate needing it for will help you decide if you want the initial higher price of a one-trip container or if you’ll be happy with a more used “wind and water tight” container.
For more on the varying conditions of shipping containers and what they mean, check out our guide to buying shipping containers.
Whatever you choose, we recommend trying to avoid “as is” containers unless you are really on a tight budget or are incredibly handy at repairing and welding. These containers may be sold with any number of defects, such as rust, doors that don’t properly close, holes, and more.
Note: This is especially true for home construction – if you’re using your shipping containers to build a new structure, try to aim for quality over a cheap price.
Factor #2) Where You Source From Will Impact the Cost of Shipping Containers
Where you actually buy the container can also drive up the price significantly.
Direct From Manufacturers Likely Not An Option For Container Buyers
Most buyers won’t have access to this type of wholesale market. While it might be an affordable way to pick up brand new containers at wholesale prices, almost the entire inventory of shipping containers available to people and businesses have experienced one shipping related trip. Additionally, most containers are assembled in China and the price of having a shipping container delivered would be considerable at that distance.
Container Dealers Offer the Sweet Spot Between Quality, Large Selections, and Cost Savings
Often the most reliable sources for containers, these dealers have access to bulk numbers of containers and have curated an inventory list that includes different types, conditions, and sizes that you’ll need.
Additionally, these container dealers make a living out of providing you a specific service. That means it’s in their best interest to find you deals, source containers nearest to you, and provide the highest overall customer service experience.
If you find a shipping container dealer you enjoy working with, you’ll also benefit from the relationship you build with a great sales representative. Repeat customers and bulk ordering should get you the best deals and keep you in the loop with any upcoming sales or new accessories on the market.
Individual Resellers and Inconsistent Pricing
Individual resellers suffer from inconsistent pricing and costs. You might find someone trying to get a shipping container out of their yard at a super affordable cost. Or you’re just as likely to notice that they understand perfectly well what the cost of their container is and they’ll add a 25% to 35% markup on top of that to try and profit.
In addition, monitoring quality and getting accurate information can be much more challenging in this type of space. It’s hard to comfortably and consistently recommend this type of shopping, but you’re welcome to examine this space.
Factor #3) How Amenities and Extras Impact Container Costs
Some shipping containers will come with extra amenities or features, which may make them more or less suitable to your storage or construction needs. These include things like utility integration ports or plugs, window cutouts, special doors, ramps, shelving, refrigeration and more.
Avoid overbuying your next shipping container by examining what features or extras it comes with. If you are buying shipping containers to act as a basic shed or garage, you might not need windows, multiple doors, or even complete waterproofing. For more sensitive storage items you might need to consider insulation, humidity reduction, and perfectly sealed corners, roofing, and doors.
Related Reading: Preventing Shipping Container Humidity
Factor #4) Size and Cost
Of course, the size of your shipping container will also play a role in its price. In general, ISO-certified shipping containers come in two sizes: 20’ and 40’. These are standardized sizes that can fit interchangeably with other containers of their archetypes, and so they are the most common you’ll find when shopping for new or used shipping containers.
All things being equal, larger shipping containers will generally cost more – the 20’ containers will be a little cheaper than their 40’ counterparts. Consider which one you’ll need to use when calculating your overall budget.
Factor #5) Minimizing the Dreaded Delivery Fees
Lastly, be sure to factor in the delivery price for a shipping container purchase. Containers that are close to your workplace or the property where you plan to build your shipping container home won’t cost as much for delivery. Be sure that a dealer can source containers nearest to you.
How Much Should You Pay For a Shipping Container?
This all really dances around the big question: how much is an appropriate price for a shipping container?
Unfortunately it varies depending on where you’re located, the supply available, the conditions, etc. For example, a 20 ft. one-trip container with specialized doors will likely cost more than a standard, used 40 ft. container located further away from the delivery location.
Best Practices to Avoid Overpaying for Shipping Containers
Want to avoid overpaying for shipping containers when contacting a seller? Follow these best practices to give yourself the upper hand in any price negotiations:
- Do your homework on the reputation of a particular shipping container seller. This includes online Google reviews, Facebook reviews, etc.
- Be sure to clarify if the cost for shipping is included in the overall asking price or if it’s a separate fee. Don’t let a seller trick you into paying more for a shipping container than what you agreed.
- Make sure you can actually transport your container where you need to put it! This is especially true for folks building shipping container homes. Some states or cities have limits as to the sizes of shipping containers you can use. Be sure you don’t overpay for a 40’ container when you can only put a 20’ container on your property.
- Ask about deals related to buying shipping containers in bulk. Click here to read more about container bulk buying benefits.
- Make sure the container dealer can source the container you need that is located closest to your home or business location.
Get the Best Prices on Shipping Containers with ModuGo
Hopefully the above gave you some ideas and additional resources that will help keep you from overspending on shipping containers. While there are no hard and fast rules about shipping container prices, being an informed buyer is helpful.
Remember that shipping container costs are about:
- The condition of your container
- The source you buy your container from
- Whether or not your buy a specialty container with additional add-ons or accessories
- Size of the container
- Delivery costs associated with proximity to the containers final destination
If you’re looking for the easiest buying experience with the best price for your next shipping containers, start shopping today on ModuGo’s convenient ecommerce platform. Shop with confidence and never overpay for shipping containers again.