How to Buy a Shipping Container: 7 Easy Steps

How much stuff can you fit in a 40ft shipping container? In this post, you’ll find out the 40ft shipping container dimensions. Read on!

If you’re looking to purchase a shipping container, it can be difficult to know where to start. However, it is easy as long as you’re purchasing cargo containers from a reputable seller like Shipping Container Depot.

From making sure the measurements are right to haggling for a good price, there are a few things to cover. Luckily, this blog makes the process easy – it talks about how to buy a shipping container.

Buying a Shipping Container Key Points

Here are the key steps on how to buy your first shipping container:
  • Buy or lease? If you only need the container for a short period of time, leasing may be cheaper in the short term. However, if you anticipate using the container for an extended period of time and need more flexibility, buying does offer certain advantages that leasing does not.
  • For Shipping, Storage, Cargo, or Container Home? Containers come in a variety of types and conditions.
  • What size of shipping container do you need? how many items need to fit in the container, and where the items will be going. For domestic shipping, a 40-foot container may be too large – a 20-foot or 40-foot might be more suitable.
  • Finding a shipping container supplier
  • Hiring a container surveyor – is optional and practical only for those who are renting
  • Arranging the container transport

How to Buy a Storage Container in 7 Steps

how to buy a shipping container

Have you been considering purchasing a storage container but don’t know where to start? The process can feel daunting, with so many options and suppliers available.

But don’t worry. Here are 7 easy steps on how to find and buy a storage container for your specific application:

1. Should You Rent or Buy a Shipping Container

Renting a shipping container can save you money in the short term, but buying one can put more money back in your pocket long-term. After all, shipping containers are a good investment. However, it’s important to think about your needs first and foremost. Let’s take a few things into consideration before you decide to buy or lease a container.
  • Do you need a shipping container for a short period of time? If so, then renting is probably the better choice. But if you need it for longer periods of time or you are going to be using it frequently, then purchasing makes more sense financially.
  • Consider the budget — although buying upfront may cost more, rental fees over time can escalate quickly adding up over the course of months and years. For example, 40HC containers for rent cost around $180 per month. If you’re going to rent one for more than a year, it becomes more cost-effective to buy a used 40HC instead.

To know more about shipping container costs, read our comprehensive guide on How Much Are Shipping Containers in 2023

2. Finding the Right Container Type

If you’re in need of transporting ordinary dry cargo, a standard container is your top choice. The 20ft and 40ft container varieties – as well as their taller alternative, the high cube – are the most oft-used containers.

For shipping or storing larger items, you can use 45ft HC containers or a variety of specialty container types such as flat rack, open side, or open top container.

Here’s your guide to the types of containers and their common usage.

Container Type

Common Usage

Where to Buy

Dry Storage Container

standard shipping container

  • General dry goods
  • Machineries, beds
  • Repurposed to build shipping container homes

Buy Dry 40’ Storage Container

Flat Rack Container

flat rack shipping container


  • Transport bulky and oversized cargo like construction equipment, machinery, industrial equipment, timber, pipes

Request Quote

Open Top Container

open top shipping container

  • Storing bulky items

Request Quote

Open Side Container

open side shipping container

  • Storing items that needs to be constantly accessible

Request Quote

Refrigerated Container

refrigerated container

  • temperature-sensitive cargo storage
  • Temporary storage for cold storage facilities
  •  Shipping foods, chemicals, or medicine,

Request Quote

3. Finding the Right Condition/Grade

Next is finding the right grade. The container grade information gives buyers an idea of the level of wear and tear the container was exposed to. Hence, it is essential to determine whether the grade you will choose will fit your needs.

  • “New” or “one-trip” containers – These containers are made in China and then shipped directly to the United States, typically arriving in pristine condition. This makes them ideal for converting into a home since they require the least work and are already weather-resistant. For those looking to find a container home without the hassle of scouring used containers, single-trip containers are a way to go.
  • “Cargo-worthy” containers are perfect for those looking for affordable yet durable shipping solutions. These containers have been used before and still remain in great condition, so can easily be used again at sea. Generally, they will be able to resist the harsh winds and water that come with being on the ocean, as well as hold their structural integrity making them a safe option when transporting goods overseas
  • “Wind and water-tight” containers – These containers can often be found in great condition at a fraction of the price when compared with their cargo-worthy counterparts, making them an ideal economical option for anyone who needs storage but does not require official certification. Wind and water-tight containers are far from outdated and offer a reliable source of secured storage in any environment.
  • “As is” containers are those that could be compromised by extreme weather conditions and have the potential for structural damage.

Container Grade


Food Grade New Container

“Grade F”

Used for shipping food

One-Trip/New Container “Grade A”

Shipping container home, office, restaurant, hotels

Cargo Worthy


“Grade B”

Transporting goods by sea, rail and road

Wind and Watertight


“Grade C”

Storage container; affordable mobile storage solution


Can be used for some purpose where structural soundness and exterior is not required.

4. Figuring Out the Right Size

Shipping containers come in a variety of sizes, ranging from less than 8 feet to more than 53 feet long.

However, the 2 most common sizes for shipping containers are 20ft and 40ft which have the following dimensions:

  • 20-foot shipping container: 20’ x 8’ x 8′ 6″
  • 40-foot shipping container: 40 x 8’ x 8′ 6″

Read more:

There are 2 things to consider when taking the size into consideration:

  • internal volume (in square feet or meters)
  • maximum payload weight that it can bear (in pounds or kilograms).

As a good rule of thumb, it’s better to err on the side of caution and buy a container that is slightly too big than one that is much too small.

Container TypeMaximum Gross WeightPayload WeightTare Weight
20ft High Cube Container 67,197 lbs/ 30,480 kg62,567 lbs/ 28,180 kg4,630 lbs/ 2,300 kg
40ft High Cube Container67,200 lbs / 30,481.407 kg62,974.8 lbs /28,560 kg8,687.7 lbs /3,940 kg
20ft Standard Dry Container52,813 lbs/ 24,000kg 47,900 lbs/ 21,727kg4,914 lbs/ 2,228kg
40ft Standard Dry Container67,200 lbs/ 30,481.407 kg61,200 lbs/ 27,600kg8,000 lbs/ 3,628 kg

Maximum Container Capacities

20′ Container

40′ Container

40′ Hi-Cube

45′ Hi-Cube

94LB Cement Bags

USA Standard (1 cu foot/ea)

1,160 by volume

660 by weight

2,380 by volume

675 by weight

2,650 by volume

670 by weight

3,040 by volume

640 by weight

50KG Cement Bags

Worldwide Standard (1.23 cu feet/ea)

950 by volume

560 by weight

1,935 by volume

575 by weight

2,160 by volume

570 by weight

2,470 by volume

545 by weight

House Moving

2-3 Bedrooms

3 Bedrooms

3 Bedrooms+

4 Bedrooms

Compact Cars





number of pallets that can fit a 20 and 40 container

Keep in mind though that just because a given container has enough room for your items doesn’t guarantee it is strong enough to handle its own weight.

These containers are used for static purposes rather than shipping weights.

5. Finding a Shipping Container Supplier

Now that you have chosen the perfect storage container for your needs, it’s time to find the best deal possible.

Only source from a reputable dealer. This is important as not all dealers can offer you the highest quality in the market as well as better pricing.

Compare prices across multiple vendors to make sure you get the most value out of every purchase!

6. Hiring a container surveyor

If you plan on leasing shipping containers, you may want to consult a container surveyor to inspect the containers first.

A container surveyor will be able to identify any damage or faults within the container and make sure everything is up to the necessary requirements. This is critical for both the shipping company and the person leasing the container, so they can make sure that their goods are properly stored and transported.

7. Arranging the Container Transport

Container shipping to the delivery address usually involves the services of a third-party company.

Taking the hassle out of delivery, Shipping Container Depot takes care of having your container dropped off directly at your home or business. We manage the entire process without any third-party trucking companies, as we have our own trucks to make this process truly effortless and efficient.

Please make sure you have a large space for the shipping container delivery. We need at least 100′ of space for the tilt bed truck to deliver a 40′ shipping container. You won’t be needing a forklift or a crane to unload the container at delivery.

Other Considerations on Purchasing Shipping Containers

1. Consider Modifications

Shipping Container Restaurant Orange

Anything from adding door locks, insulating or ventilating the container, installing electrical wiring and lighting, to simply customizing its exterior and interior can quickly raise its cost.

However, all these adjustments are important, as they will make the shipping container more suitable for presumably demanding tasks.

Here are some of the most common shipping container modifications:

Security and Lock Boxes

Whether your container is used as storage, an office, or even a residential unit, you need to ensure that it remains secure and free from break-ins or theft. Steel lockboxes are an effective way of achieving this.


Installing a custom shelving system is a great way to hold items in an organized fashion without sacrificing security.

Roll-up Doors

Roll-up doors for shipping containers offer an efficient, secure and cost-effective way of loading and unloading cargo from these containers. These roll-up doors allow the opening to be adjusted to various heights, ensuring the safe and reliable transportation of large goods without any risk of damage or loss.

2. Consider Shipping Costs

If you reside near the vendor supplying your container, then delivery may be free! Nevertheless, if your residence is situated a little farther away, transportation expenses could apply. These costs are negotiable and can vary depending on what both parties agree to.

As an example of payment terms:

  • transporting a 20’ container approximately 300 miles might cost around $500 to $700; this covers unloading plus any additional fees that arise.
  • When you need to transport a container internationally, delivery can cost up to $5,000 or more.

3. Consider the number of containers you’ll be buying

If you seek to buy a single or couple of shipping containers, large shipping container manufacturers will most likely address your needs.

You should search for professional shipping container dealers.

4. Preparing Your Site for Drop-Off

Elevating your container

If your container is going to be exposed to outdoor elements, it’s critical that you promote adequate airflow underneath the structure. Doing so will keep the floor dry and prevent any corrosion of its steel components.

To elevate your container, strategically place items such as tires, wood, railroad ties or special caster wheels in each corner; alternatively, you can also put it on a slightly inclined concrete foundation or asphalt surface.

Positioning the container

Make sure to tell your delivery driver which way you want the shipping container doors positioned; they are typically loaded with the doors facing forward.

To ensure that everything runs smoothly, it’s important to communicate this detail clearly and directly.



Prior to delivery, the area where the container will be located must have enough clearance for the truck to drive in and out and drop the container.

  • 40’ container – The minimum distance for a truck to deliver a 40’ container should be around 20’ clearance for the truck, 40’ clearance for the trailer, and 40’ for the container. To sum up, delivering a 40’ container requires around 100’ of space for the truck to move.
  • For a 20’ container, you need half of that distance (50’ to 60’ of space).

Looking for a shipping container dealer in California that’s sure to give you the best price and services? Don’t hesitate to contact us at Shipping Container Depot!

Where to Buy Shipping Containers?

Buy used storage container or new/single trip containers near you! We serve mainly in the Los Angeles area but we can also cater to neighboring cities like:

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