Everyone seems to know what shipping containers are all about, but do they really know? Since starting our office container park, I must admit, I have been at times confronted by the lack of knowledge I thought I had going into the project, but which as it turned out did not even scratch the surface. In this blog I want to share what I learned about shipping containers and how you should go about buying one the smart way.

Shipping containers come in all shapes and sizes…and colors! They can range from 10’-0” long all the way up to 45’-0”, and come in a standard 8’-6” tall or 9’-6” tall called “High Cubes”. The most standard containers are the 20’ and 40’ long containers with a standard height of 8’-6”. For building projects, I would strongly suggest you search for 9’-6” “High Cubes”  as they give you an additional 12 inches of head room which is awesome.  Furthermore, doors on one end of the unit is considered a standard configuration. Having doors on both ends is a rarity and will require a special order from China, or a lot of searching different shipping yards.

One trippers vs. Used containers. What do you mean by one tripper? Well there is a difference!!  In the shipping industry there exists difference  between used containers(those who have made years and years worth of ocean voyages) and one trippers who are build brand new in China and loaded for one single voyage with cargo and then sold on. After months and months of research, bargain hunting, dealing, negotiating… I came to the conclusion that despite the fact the one trippers on average are about double the price of a used container, the benefits of getting a brand new non dented and patched containers far outweigh the cost savings.  Keep in mind that a 40’ long used container will run you about 2-2.5K vs. a brand spanking new one at a little over 4K.

Shipping companies are required by law to re-certify each of their containers after the first 10 years of use and every 7 years after that. This is a significant cost, which often times prompts them to sell their boxes as “used” containers to other end users. Getting your hands on a good one is like searching for a needle in a hay stack. Shipping yards often do not allow people on their yards to sift through each containers picking one they like, for insurance reasons they say. They will however allow you to look at the first stack of typically 6 containers and pick which one you want, provided you bring your own means of transport. What a bummer!!!

Stack of freight containers at the docks

For our container project, we ended up purchasing mostly 1 trip containers from China, through a local expeditor, as well as some used containers in good condition. Depending on the quantities you get, they even let you pick custom colors. How cool is that? In my opinion going with 1 trippers is the best way to go if aesthetics are important. From a sustainable standpoint using used containers makes a lot of sense, and you will get years and years of great service out of them

…..Ooo and don’t forget about the “High cube” for that additional headroom clearance! It makes all the difference.