Here’s What You Should Know Before Buying a Shipping Container 

There are a lot of unknowns when buying a shipping container. This article will walk you through the ins and outs of purchasing one. It should help you save money and a ton of time, whether you are purchasing a shipping container into convert it into a home, guesthouse, garage, shelter, or shed.

Authors Note: As shipping container homes become more and more popular, their price also rises. Many readers have complained about how expensive even secondhand containers are. Remember that many vendors may increase prices to capitalize on the trend and sell their goods for the highest possible profit. The reality remains, though, that old container are abundant in the United States and may be found for cheap with a little imaginative searching and haggling.

The interior of a shipping container home
The interior of a shipping container home!

10 Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Shipping Container 

Logistics And Delivery Are Tough 

Where you live plays a big part in the shipping container you buy. If you’re nearby a port or railway, it will be easier. If you’re further into the woods, maybe even off grid, then it’ll be tougher.

You shouldn’t have trouble finding vendors if you reside close to a port. If not, the container will probably need to be sent to you. I recommend renting a truck with a tilting bed or a long tilting trailer to pick it up yourself. It’ll be more work, but you’ll save money and some experience!

After you get the shipping container then what? Ask yourself these questions:

  • What location do you want the container?
  • Is it easy to reach?
  • Will you require specific tools to place it where it belongs in the end?
  • How far is your container from the container depot? Does it need extra equipment? (Many container shipping companies will transport your containers over long distances on flat-bed trucks, which need special tools to unload.)

Interested in a tiny house that’s not a shipping container? Check out our comprehensive review of the Alpha Tiny House!

Have a Professional Inspect The Container 

If you want your container to be inspected, think about hiring an Institute of International Container Lessors inspector. They will help you determine if the container you’re purchasing is a good choice. They look at things like the containers history, scalability, and safety. Find an inspector nearby by searching online.

Negotiate With Sellers 

Talk to any seller about a deal! Seriously. I recommend trying to negotiate with every seller! Containers are accumulating in the United States and other nations because of the enormous trade deficit. The seller is typically motivated to sell and negotiate terms for multi-unit sales since they require the space. You can even try to acquire free delivery.

A surplus of shipping containers

Building Permits 

A construction permit is typically only necessary if no permanent foundations for your structure are installed. This entails positioning your container on railroad ties, concrete footings, or another secure base. However, you might need a permit to transform it into a more permanent construction.

High Initial Cost V.S. Low Maintenance  

The initial cost of a shipping container is typically much more than that of a concrete or wood-frame structure because it is a readymade structure. However, there may be additional costs related to construction, material transportation, and labor while creating the structure itself. Since it will typically hold up better in the face of adverse weather conditions and wear over time, the maintenance of the container would also be significantly reduced over time.


If your container is located where day and night temperatures vary, condensation may occasionally be an issue. A few conventional solutions work effectively, like fixed vents and a straightforward HVAC system.

Even after the goods have been sent, they may still emit unpleasant odors. Instant coffee can be dispersed within the container and left for a few days with closed doors to absorb unpleasant odors. There will be a slight coffee fragrance left over, but chances are that it will be much better than the stench you were attempting to get rid of.

Size of Container 

Aside from 40-foot cubes and extra-tall 40-foot containers, the most common container sizes are 20-foot and 40-foot variations. To maximize your investment, think about the size of the footprint you have available on the lot, and then verify the cost per square foot for each container. Even though a larger container has a lower price per square foot, consider how much space you need.

History of The Container 

Do you know what the shipping container you bought was used for? If it was transporting produce, the interior has been treated with pesticides. This is a potential problem if you’re planning on living or storing anything in it. You’ll need to professionally remove any hint of pesticide in the container before renovating it. 

Logos and Exterior 

Many shipping containers have logos printed on them. While most people plan on giving the containers a fresh coat of paint, you’ll need to remove the logos before painting. Scraping the logos away is a time-consuming process. You’ll need a strong sander and a few other sharp tools to peel away the logo. 

If you can, I recommend trying to find a shipping container without a logo. 

Insurance Benefits For Shipping Container Homes 

This is a bit of a bonus tip! If you’re building a shipping container home, ensure your insurance provider is aware! It will be called an Intermodal Steel Building Unit (ISBU). These types of buildings are typically more structurally sound than traditional homes, meaning you’ll be able to get a discount on house insurance! 

Final Thoughts 

I hope these tips help you when buying a shipping container. I’d love to hear any additional tips from the public as well! 

Interested in reading more about tiny homes and cabins? We have a free library dedicated to it!

10 Things to know before buying a shipping container

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