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How to Find and Buy Good Used Cargo Containers

Here's an overview of what you need to know to make informed decisions when buying used containers. Choosing a used cargo container can be confusing. Everyone uses their own terms for describing shipping containers and without previous experience with containers, the options can seem overwhelming. Here is a brief guide to make shopping easier. Midwest Storage Containers only deals with quality cargo containers.

Types of Containers

There are two types of containers: standard ocean cargo containers and domestic shipping containers.

Ocean cargo containers are used for shipping goods both overseas and domestically. These containers generally are made of COR-TEN steel. COR-TEN steel is preferred as it's the highest quality container steel and it is preferred on all components of the container. Shipping containers come in two standard lengths: 20' and 40' long. Here are the dimensions for standard sized containers:

  Length Height Width
Standard 20' 20' 8' 6" 8'
Standard 40' 40' 8' 6" 8'
40' High Cube 40' 9' 6" 8'
45' High Cube 45' 9' 6" 8'
One-trip, new 20' cargo container

Domestic shipping containers are used only within the U.S. They are made of either steel or aluminum. Their standard sizes are:

48' shipping container - domestic
  Length Height Width
Domestic 45' 45' 9' 6" 8' 6"
Domestic 48' 48' 9' 6" 8' 6"
Domestic 53' 53' 9' 6" 8' 6"

Grades of Containers

Container sizes are standardized; however, they age at different rates. There is no universal grading system for shipping containers, but the universal language for describing them: "one-trip/new"; "cargo-worthy"; "wind and water tight"; "as is." Here are descriptions of what each means:

One Trip/New The container was manufactured in China and shipped to the U.S. It is being sold to you relatively quickly after arrival in the U.S
Cargo-worthy The container is no longer considered "new", but is still certified to ship goods overseas. It is wind and water tight and structurally can handle the rigors of overseas shipping.
Wind and Water Tight The container is wind and water tight. While it may be cargo-worthy, a qualified surveyor has not inspected it to ensure that it is.
As Is The container may have a leak or damage.

How to Examine a Used Container

When you examine a container, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Check to make sure the container is wind and water tight. Shut yourself in the container and look for daylight. Inspect any rust areas to make sure it is only surface rust. Containers will accumulate surface rust long before a hole is formed.
  2. Look to make sure the doors open and close correctly and completely. Look for intact door seals and sturdy floors with no soft spots. Examine any inserts (repairs of holes are welded on the outside and caulked on the inside); they should be properly installed and repainted.
  3. Look for corrosion and rust under door seals and hardware.
  4. Check for major dents in the sides or the roof; there should be none.
  5. Make sure there is no evidence of contamination or foul odors (e.g., hides can be transported in containers, leaving a strong odor).

Midwest Storage Containers is committed to helping you find the right used container to meet your needs. We carefully examine all the containers we sell. If you have questions about our cargo containers or how to pick a used storage container, call us!  1-888-782-2363

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