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What Type of Shipping Container Do I Need?

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Do you have an upcoming home improvement project? Consider a shipping container for extra space or storage. But do you know what types of shipping containers you need? You can rent or buy a few types of shipping containers, including used containers, one-trips, high-cubes and standard ones. Making sure that you choose the right types of shipping containers is essential, not only when it comes to price but also in saving time when placing your items inside. A small container may only be able to fit some of your belongings, while a larger one may be too big. In this post, we discuss container sizes and everything else you need to know to rent or buy the correct type of shipping container.

choosing the right type of shipping container
There are many different types of shipping containers from which to choose. The most popular are 20-foot and 40-foot containers.

New Vs. Used Shipping Containers

Should you get a used shipping container or a “new” shipping container? If you’re looking to rent or buy, one of the first questions you may be asked is whether you’re looking for a new container or a used one. There are a few essential differences. You might think a new container is better than a used container, but that’s only sometimes the case. A used shipping container can work just as well, or better, for some projects. So, what types of shipping container should you get? Here are a few options when it comes to container grades:

What is a one-trip container?

A one-trip is a type of shipping container that has made only one trip overseas. One-trip containers are the newest containers available in the United States, as most containers are manufactured in the Far East (China, primarily). In the United States, we import more than we export, and it is often cheaper for companies overseas to build new containers rather than ship them back across the ocean. Since they’ve only been used once, one-trippers have significantly less wear and tear than containers that have made multiple trips.

What is a used shipping container?

A used shipping container is a container that has made more than one trip overseas. You can use these types of shipping containers repeatedly. Sometimes, the container may have been used continuously for many years. Used shipping containers are sometimes referred to as “recycled containers.” The most significant difference between a used container and a one-trip container is the amount of wear and tear, rust and dents. Used containers are often more weathered than one-trips.

While one-trip containers have few issues, there can be some common problems with used containers, such as:

  • Hard to open doors. Due to dents and overall wear and tear, the doors of a used container might be challenging to open.
  • Worn down floors. Years of use may cause the bottom of a used container to get patchy and worn.
  • Odor. Depending on what it was used to transport previously, a container may have a foul smell.
  • Affordability. The main issue with one-trip containers is they are usually more expensive than their used counterparts.

There are a few different classifications for used containers from best to worst they are IICL, cargo-worthy, wind and water-tight, and as-is. Most of our storage containers at Southwest Mobile Storage are rated Class B, which means they are cargo-worthy. This means that they have been inspected and are deemed worthy of traveling over international seas.

Standard Shipping Container Sizes

In the United States, shipping container types come in a few standard sizes:

  • 10 Foot: 10ftt shipping containers are 10 feet long by 8 feet wide and 8.5 feet tall. A 10-foot shipping container holds around 80 square feet.
  • 20 Foot: 20ft shipping containers are 20 feet long by 8 feet wide and 8.5 feet tall. These types of shipping containers holds roughly 160 square feet.
  • 40 Foot: 40ft shipping containers are 40 feet long by 8 feet wide and 8.5 feet tall. A 40-foot shipping container has approximately 320 square feet.

What is a High-Cube Container?

High-Cube containers are standard containers that are 1 foot taller than the standard dimensions. While typical shipping containers are 8.5 feet tall, high cubes are 9.5 feet tall, making them perfect for offices, labs, or storage spaces. A high-cube container might be suitable to use during your renovation if you have items that need a taller ceiling – like a tall dresser or cabinet.

What type of shipping container do I need?
Here, we discuss what type of shipping container is best for your specific needs.

What is a Custom Shipping Container?

Custom shipping containers have proven creative outlets for businesses and residents. You can fabricate this type of shipping container into a standalone company, retail kiosk, or concession stand. Some people even started their businesses with a modified container. Customizing a shipping container can provide a workspace without building a costly addition. For example, a few of our residential customers have used our modified containers to reduce expensive room additions, like a home gym. Some have used them to make carports or garages, as their homes initially did not include one.

You can easily modify a storage container to suit your specific needs. You can add customizations like:

  • Steel security doors and windows
  • Storage cabinets, tool racks and cribs
  • Shelving units
  • Modular office units
  • Carts, dollies and toolboxes

Which Container is Right For You?

Now that you’ve learned what the different types of shipping containers are and their sizes, you have a better idea of what container will work for your home project. Remember, the standard container sizes are:

  • 10′ X 8′ X 8.5.’
  • 20′ X 8′ X 8.5′
  • 40′ X 8′ X 8.5′
  • High-cube containers are a foot taller, standing 9.5 feet instead of 8.5.

We have a quick container graph that helps you decide which types of shipping containers you would need if you were moving, but it can also be used for any remodeling or home renovation project, so you can see how much of your belongings will fit in which size.


Taking the time to figure out your shipping container type helps reduce stress, costs, and time. At SMS, we offer the best overall value for steel container rentals and sales. Unlike other ISO container companies, we have dedicated experts you can count on. No other Conex container provider has the breadth and depth of our container conversions and capabilities. With vault-like security, outstanding service and unrivaled expertise and facilities, you’ll find that no one else offers so much at our competitive prices.

If you’re curious about our custom containers, check out our gallery for options! Already know to want size you need? Get a free quote now!

Related Blogs

Want to learn more about shipping containers and their many practical uses? Check out these related blog posts:

Or watch this short video to see how easy it is to open, close and secure your container.

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