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What To Look For? When Buying a Container

Are you looking to buy a shipping container? Read up on the current trends, costs and benefits in this article and make buying a shipping container much easier.


Finding a good shipping container to buy can be quite difficult. There is more to it than you might think; especially so if you are a first-time buyer.

With a multitude of options and a load of jargon, a buyer can more often than not end up overwhelmed, resulting in poor choices. So to help you get the most out of your hard-earned cash, here is a simple guide outlining some of the most important things you should look for before making a final decision.


The continued growth in global trade and freight distribution has led to increased demand for new shipping containers. It is estimated that 2 to 2.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of shipping containers are produced each year.look for when buying

The majority of these are being produced in China – the world’s factory. The reason why so many are produced in China is because of the low manufacturing costs and to cater for demand, as China is the world’s largest exporter of manufactured goods.

With time, these shipping containers are distributed to all the world’s major ports. It is estimated that the global inventory of shipping containers is somewhere above 28 million TEUs.

Once the shipping container has reached its destination and has been unloaded, the container’s operator will look for cargo to fill the shipping container for the return voyage, as transporting an empty shipping container can be as expensive as transporting a full one. Sometimes relocating a shipping container is more expensive than buying a new one, so the owner decides to abandon it. (Source:

Once the shipping container is abandoned at its port of destination, the operator will buy a new one to replace the lost one and sell the old one to recover some money. It is this phenomenon that has made used containers abundant all over the world and has also increased the sales for new containers.

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Used container sales in Australia is growing by the day as people increasingly reuse them for other purposes such as housing, offices, bars and restaurants, and for temporary storage. Australians are more and more turning to shipping containers as a more affordable material to build their homes.

The increased popularity of shipping containers can be attributed to:

  1. Availability, because the thriving international trade is pumping out a continuous supply of shipping containers available in virtually any country with a seaport.
  2. Their cheap price and wide application.
  3. Their durability and strength.

Shipping container sales will continue to increase in the future as global trade continues to thrive, and as more alternative uses for used shipping containers continue to emerge.


With a large number of applications, you can modify shipping containers for, it’s no surprise that you are in the market for one.

Cargo containers have been around for a couple of decades now. Over this time, we have come to trust them to deliver our goods safely through rough oceans and harsh weather.Shipping Container Restaurant It is this hardiness that has made them popular not just in the transportation sector, but in other sectors as well. Although primarily used for goods storage and transportation, shipping containers have of late been getting a completely new job; and they’re getting really good at it.

Over the past few years, shipping containers have been gaining tremendous popularity in the building and construction sector. Although the press has a little to do with it, most of this popularity is coming from people realising that they need to be more responsible for how they use resources. Lots of people now are trying to reduce the environmental footprint they make on earth as a result of their lifestyles. And shipping containers offer the perfect starting point: building and construction.

It started with makeshift offices on project sites but with time cargo containers gained acceptance as an alternative building material for any kind of construction. You see them modified into stores now, houses, modern offices and even restaurants. With this kind of momentum, the only thing that’s limiting shipping container alternative uses is the human imagination.

That’s the good news. Now let’s get to the best news.

With the growing global trade and an ever-increasing trade deficit of most nations (in China’s favour), shipping container prices have been on a steady decline. This can be attributed to the high cost of sending back empty shipping containers to their country of origin after they have delivered their payloads. This leaves a lot of idle cargo containers lying around, and with about 2 million made each year, the number will only continue to grow. It is this factor that has also helped shipping containers gain their current popularity outside the transportation sector.

look for when buying


Buying a shipping container is relatively easy and does not require complex procedures. However, you do need to understand the different factors that determine the price of these items when buying. They might look the same at a glance, but all shipping containers are not equal. Some have features that make them a bit more expensive to buy as compared to others.

Some of the factors that determine the price of a shipping container include:

  1. Build material – Shipping containers are generally made from steel. The kind of steel used to construct the units is what makes their prices differ. Corten steel is the most durable and expensive steel used in shipping container construction. It is more resistant to rust and will last longer compared to other containers constructed from inferior steel.
  2. Size – Shipping containers come in two common sizes: 40ft or 20ft, but a smaller variation of 10ft is also available. Larger containers are usually more expensive than smaller containers due to their increased capacity and additional construction cost. The 40ft and 20ft containers also come in a slightly taller version known as high cubes. The high cube is a metre taller than a regular container and a tad more expensive due to the extra headroom.
  3. Age – This applies to second-hand containers. If you are looking to hire or buy a second-hand shipping container, its age will greatly affect its value. Two terms are used to describe a shipping container’s age. They are:
    • One-trip – As the name suggests, these containers have only been used on one trip and are almost new in both look and condition. Although they might have a few scratches here and there, this is the closest you can get to new and this makes them more expensive to buy or hire.
    • As-is – These are very worn shipping containers and offer the most economical option. These are retired shipping containers and may not be in as good a condition as the one-trip shipping containers.
  1. Paint Job – Shipping containers with “factory paint” are more expensive than refurbished ones – that is if the original paint job is still in good condition. Shipping containers with the original paint job are less likely to rust underneath the paint layer and this makes them more durable and hence more expensive.
  2. Modifications – Shipping containers can be modified to suit more specific needs. The more the shipping container has been customised, the more expensive it will be. A refrigerated shipping container, for instance, will be more expensive than a regular 40ft or 20ft shipping container.

Costs of Shipping Container Infographic


In order to get the best container possible, you will need to pay attention to the following.

  1. Your requirements. Containers come in different shapes and sizes. Sizes can be 10ft, 20ft or 40ft. Variations include; open top containers, insulated containers, refrigerated containers, dry freight, and flat rack containers. Choose one that best suits your needs.
  2. Terms used to describe containers. This applies mostly to used containers. Some of the most common terms are:
    • One trip – These are almost new and used only once
    • Premium A-Grades – Containers that have been sanded and refurbished inside and out plus Fully Painted
    • Standard A-Grades – Sanded and spot painted inside and out
    • Cargo worthy – Still seaworthy and with International standards
    • B-Grade – Basic wind and watertight plus Vermin Proof
    • As-is – these are economical and very worn out and have been retired.
  1. Check the structural soundness of the container by checking the edges for bends.
  2. Check whether the container is watertight by closing the doors to see if any light gets in.
  3. The doors and hinges should be in good condition.
  4. The locking door handles should also function freely.
  5. Look for possible corrosion under the door seals.
  6. Check for odour as this could be an indicator of contamination.
  7. The wooden floors of the container should be fairly intact.
  8. Check the cosmetics. If it doesn’t look good – its rusty, has scratches or is dented – it probably isn’t good.

If the container passes these tests, then it’s good for purchase and will last a long time without needing repairs or disposal.


At Tiger Containers we understand the importance of protecting our environment and the numerous uses that can be derived from the shipping container. That is why on top of selling high quality new and second-hand containers, we also help you make the necessary modifications to suit your needs.

After all, if we don’t take care of our planet, who will?

With more than 30 years experience in the shipping container industry, and depots located right across Australia, we are your number one choice. Get in touch today.

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