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Most Asked Questions About Shipping Containers

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If you don’t know a lot about shipping containers, navigating the ocean of options for sale or rent can be challenging. It’s normal to have a lot of questions. In this article, we’ll analyze some of the most frequently asked questions we receive at Southwest Mobile Storage and provide some expert insight into the world of shipping containers, so you can find the one that’s right for you.

15 Frequently Asked Questions About Shipping Containers

Here are 15 common questions that customers have about renting, buying and modifying a shipping container from Southwest Mobile Storage:

1. What makes SMS different from other storage container providers?

Unlike other ISO container companies, Southwest Mobile Storage provides you with one point of contact, seamless delivery and dependable service from start to finish. Others use call centers where you’ll bounce around from rep to rep, but we provide you with a dedicated expert. From order to delivery to pick up and reorder, your container expert is with you at every step.

Modifying shipping containers requires specialized knowledge of the nuances of corrugated steel. Our in-house fabrication experts have more than 500 years of combined experience customizing containers through working on thousands of custom projects. Our unrivaled 11-acre fabrication facility in Phoenix is indoors and on level ground, preventing contaminants and weather from interfering with construction and resulting in precision cuts and welds.

We also provide the best overall value in steel containers. With competitive prices, vault-like security, superior service and unrivaled expertise and fabrication facilities, you’ll find that no other company offers as much.

Three shipping containers sitting next to each other in a container lot.
Here are some of the most common questions we receive about renting and buying shipping containers at Southwest Mobile Storage.

2. How does SMS compare to companies like PODS and Coolbox?

PODS and Coolbox don’t use ISO shipping containers; we do. The metal boxes non-ISO container companies use, like PODS or Coolbox, aren’t as solid and secure as our corrugated steel containers, which have one of the highest strength-to-weight ratios of any construction material. Additionally, they typically focus on residential moving and offsite storage, leading to higher prices and more inconvenience. They also don’t offer as many size options as we do.

3. Why should I use SMS storage containers instead of Public Storage?

Self-storage facilities don’t offer as many benefits as shipping containers. When you rent a shipping container, you can keep it at your location or ours, with more sizes, higher security, and more space for a lower price. With a self-storage rental unit, you have less choice, space and security while costing considerably more. Shop and compare to see for yourself.

4. How do I access my container stored at your location?

Please give us 24 hours’ notice to access your container. You can access your shipping container stored at our location during business hours, Monday through Friday, from 8 am to 5 pm local time. Please notify your dedicated container expert at least one business day (24 hours) before you come to our yard so we can prepare your storage unit for your arrival.

5. How do you open and close an SMS shipping container?

Starting with the right-hand door, unlock it, rotate the tabs on the locking bars, lift the locking bar handles and pull towards you.

To open a shipping container, first ensure it’s completely unlocked. A standard container typically has two cargo doors on one end with two locking bars on each door. Starting on the righthand side, rotate the tabs on the locking bars and pull the bar handles away from the container and pull the door open. Repeat on the left side.

To close a shipping container:

  1. Close the left door.
  2. Place the bar handles back into their designated holders against the container and rotate the tabs to secure them.
  3. Repeat on the right side and lock your container.

Need more help? Watch this step-by-step video on opening and closing an SMS container.

6. Can I rent a moving or storage container online?

We’re hoping to give you the ability to order online soon. Until then, you can start with a free container quote on our website, and one of our container experts will contact you shortly (usually within one business day) to finalize your order and arrange delivery.

7. What are the dimensions of SMS shipping containers?

ISO shipping containers come in various sizes. The most common lengths are 20 feet and 40 feet, with a width of 8 feet. ISO containers are usually 8 feet 6 inches tall. High cube containers are 9 feet 6 inches tall. We also have steel containers from 10 feet to 45 feet long to rent or buy, and we can modify shipping containers into any size you want.

Need more info? Here’s everything you need to know about understanding shipping container grades.

8. What if I need a size that’s not standard?

We offer a wide range and can modify containers into any size you need. Standard containers are 8 feet wide by 8.5 feet tall and come in 20-foot or 40-foot lengths. We offer the widest variety of nonstandard container sizes for storage rental to meet your needs, including:

  • 10′ L x 8′ W x 8′ 6″ H
  • 15′ L x 8′ W x 8′ 6″ H
  • 24′ L x 8′ W x 8′ 6″ H
  • 30′ L x 8′ W x 8′ 6″ H
  • 45′ L x 8′ W x 8′ 6″ H

If you need something different, we can modify containers into any size you need, including double-wide, extra-long or extra-small.

9. Are SMS shipping containers affected by condensation?

Condensation can affect any metal surface, but you can reduce it. While the corrugated walls and roof of shipping containers help prevent condensation, temperature variations will inevitably cause condensation on any metal surface. Condensation is more likely to occur when the container has contact with cold, damp ground, so placing your container on dry ground or dunnage helps prevent it. You can also open the doors of your container to allow moist air to circulate out and to balance the internal and external temperatures of the container.

10. What should I do in the event of a break-in or attempted break-in?

Call the police and then notify your dedicated container expert. Steel containers are incredibly sturdy and challenging to break into without power tools, but if someone attempts or successfully breaks into your unit, call the police to file a report. If the break-in damages your rental container, call your dedicated container expert so we can assess and repair it.

Two beige shipping containers for rent in Southwest Mobile Storage's container lot in Phoenix, Arizona.
In addition to selling and modifying containers nationwide, SMS branch locations in Phoenix, Tucson and Denver rent shipping containers throughout Arizona and Colorado. Our SMS branches in Los Angeles and San Diego branches cover the entirety of Southern California.

11. Do SMS shipping containers require any maintenance?

Regularly inspect your container for damage and unsafe conditions. Shipping containers require relatively little maintenance. New one-trip shipping containers require the least amount of care. We recommend spending a few minutes oiling the door hinges and locking bars every few years to ensure smooth opening and closing. In addition to oiling, older containers may need repainting or patches as dents or surface rust appears.

When you rent containers from us, we recommend regularly inspecting your units for damage, defects and hazards so we can fix them for you as soon as possible. If you notice any problems, contact your dedicated container expert to notify us of any repairs needed to prevent safety hazards or damage to your contents. We’ll send one of our fabrication experts to fix any problems.

Learn more storage container damage and when it’s time for repairs.

12. Why doesn’t the U.S. manufacture shipping containers?

Steel and labor costs make it competitively unviable to mass produce in the U.S. Most shipping containers are constructed in China and arrive in the United States after a voyage on a container ship. Learn more about the history of shipping containers.

13. Are SMS shipping containers wind and watertight?

Containers must be wind and watertight (WWT) to transport cargo across the ocean. Because shipping containers are made for transporting cargo across the sea on the decks of ships, they need to be wind and watertight to avoid damaging the contents of the units.

WWT containers are hole-less and have heavy-duty rubber door seals to prevent water and other contaminants from entering any gaps between doors and walls. Used containers that aren’t WWT may have damaged door seals or holes, but we ensure any of these damages are repaired before delivery.

14. What if SMS doesn’t have a store in my area?

We sell and modify shipping containers nationwide. We pride ourselves on being able to deliver to remote areas that other companies won’t. In addition to selling and modifying containers nationwide, our Phoenix, Tucson and Denver branches rent shipping containers throughout Arizona and Colorado. Our Los Angeles and San Diego branches cover the entirety of Southern California. See our service areas for more information.

15. Does SMS require mandatory insurance?

We require all rentals to be insured. We offer a Damage Liability Waiver (DLW) to ensure your rental shipping containers, which costs 12% of the 28-day billing rate. The DLW covers damages (excluding graffiti) to your storage container and mobile office rentals but doesn’t cover loss or damage to your contents. The DLW is mandatory unless you provide your insurance.


Thank you for reading our blog on our most asked shipping container questions. Still don’t have an answer to your question? You can give us a call during our weekday business hours, and contact a dedicated container sales representative, who can provide you with quotes for container purchases, rentals and modifications.

Trying to get an answer after-hours? Our helpful chatbot, Sammie, is happy to assist. You can open a chat with Sammie by clicking on his text box in the right corner of the screen.

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