The 50 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Shipping Containers

50 Frequently asked questions about shipping containers

In this article, we are going to answer the 50 MOST frequently asked questions about shipping containers that we have gotten at Southwest Mobile Storage over the last 25 years. 

Shipping containers are one of the most versatile ways to store or move objects in the entire world.

Whether being used to move commercial goods across the sea from one part of the world to another, or being used to create a new Starbucks, shipping containers can do it all.

But there are a lot of questions about shipping containers. 

From “How much do shipping containers cost?” to “How big are shipping containers?” 

You’ve got questions, and we’ve got answers! 

By the end of this article, you will know all the basic information about shipping containers like what sizes they come in and how tall they are. 

But you are also going to learn things like how to maintain your shipping container and what shipping container grades are. 

This article is your one-stop shop for everything you ever wanted to know about shipping containers but did not want to ask. 

Let’s get started! 

1. What are shipping containers made of?

ISO shipping containers are made of 14-gauge corrugated steel. The floors are 1” marine-grade plywood, supported by steel cross beams as an undercarriage. 

Shipping containers have double swing cargo doors on one end, and some units have doors on both ends. 

The tops and sides of the units are corrugated and attached to steel rails.

2. What sizes do shipping containers come in?

There are 2 standard sizes of ISO containers, which are 8’ x 20’ and 8’ x 40’.

The standard height of a shipping container is 8′ 6” however there are some 40’ high cubes containers that are 9′ 6″ tall. 

Shipping containers can be modified to whatever size you need. 

3. What types of shipping containers are there?

Shipping Containers come in a variety of types including standard shipping containers, refrigerated containers and climate-controlled containers. 

There are also office containers and combination office and storage containers. 

4. How much do shipping and storage containers cost?

The cost of shipping containers can vary based on a variety of factors like size, length of rental and distance from the storage facilities. 


5. Where can I find shipping containers near me?

A quick Google search will reveal the shipping container suppliers in your area. 

Be sure to read our article on “How to Avoid The 3 Most Common Shipping Container Problems” before you rent or buy a shipping container. 

6. What is a shipping/storage container?

A shipping container is an ISO Steel container made of 14-gauge corrugated steel. Shipping containers are available in a variety of sizes, but the most common sizes are: 

  • 10’ X 8’ X 8.5’ 
  • 20’ X 8’ X 8.5’ 
  • 40’ X 8’ X 8.5’

Shipping containers also come in various conditions from new containers, to recycled containers. 

Customized Container   

7. Why are there so many different names for storage containers? What do they mean?

There are a lot of different names for storage containers. 

Some of the most commonly used ones are:

  • Conex box 
  • Shipping Container 
  • Ocean Shipping Container 
  • ISO Shipping Container
  • Storage Container

All these terms refer to ISO steel shipping containers.

8. What industries use shipping containers?

Many industries use shipping containers, some of the most common industries are construction, retail, and event management. 

9. Should I rent or buy a shipping container?

Whether you should rent or buy a shipping container depends on a few factors such as how long you need the container for, how frequently you will use a shipping container in the future, how much space you have, and your budget. 

For more information read this article “Should I Buy Or Rent A Shipping Container?”

10. What things should I look for in a container supplier? 

When selecting a shipping container supplier, you should consider a variety of factors such as reputation, how long the supplier has been in business, where they get their containers, and whether or not they can customize your shipping container if you need it customized.


11. Do I need a permit to place the container on my property?

It depends. 

Be sure to consult all local ordinances before ordering a shipping container. 

13. Where can I rent/buy a container?

There are a variety of shipping container suppliers who operate locally and across the country. 

Be sure to check out our article on “How To Avoid Paying Too Much For Portable Storage” to make sure you get the best price possible. 

14. What are shipping container floors made of?

Shipping container floors can be made of a few different types of materials but most commonly they are made of 1-inch marine plywood. 


15. What are the dimensions of a shipping container? 

  Shipping containers come in a few standard sizes.

  • 10-foot shipping containers which are 10’ X 8’ X 8.5.’ A 10-foot shipping container can hold around 12-14 cubic meters of stuff. 
  • 20-foot shipping containers which are 20’ X 8’ X 8.5.’ A 20-foot shipping container can hold around 25-28 cubic meters of stuff. 
  • 40-foot shipping containers which are 40’ X 8’ X 8.5.’ A 40-foot shipping container can hold around 54-58 CBM of stuff.

Dimensions of shipping containers

16. What is a one-tripper container?

A one-tripper container is a container which has made one trip overseas then was refurbished and either rented or sold. 

One-trip containers are sometimes referred to as “new” containers even though they are not new. 

17. Why should I choose a shipping container over a brick and mortar building or other modular structure?

There are a few reasons to choose a shipping container over a brick and mortar building or other modular structure. 

The first reason is cost.

 Shipping containers are markedly less expensive than brick and mortar storage and other similar services. 

Another reason to choose a shipping container over other storage options is speed.

Shipping containers can be delivered, loaded, and taken away much faster than traditional options. 

The last reason is convenience. With a shipping container everything comes to you, you don’t have to drive a truck or worry about making extra trips. 

18. What can shipping containers be used for?

Shipping containers can be used for an almost limitless variety of purposes from storing extra inventory to setting up a mobile office or health center. 


19. Can I custom design my shipping container?


The only limit to the ways you can customize your shipping container is your imagination. 

Shipping containers have been custom designed to be used as:

Whatever you need, a shipping container can be custom designed to make it happen! 

20. What are shipping container grades/descriptions?

One of the most confusing parts of learning about shipping containers is their grades or descriptions. 

To make matters worse these grades or descriptions are often used interchangeably. 

Grades or conditions exist to reflect the current condition of the container to the potential buyer or renter.

Factors that affect the containers grade include: 

  • Age of the container
  • Miles traveled
  • Damage
  • Repair History
  • Weather conditions it was used in
  • And more! 

Another factor to keep in mind is that the standards used to grade a container for shipping are much stricter than those used for storage. A container that is no longer shipping approved may still make a perfect storage container or building material.

Here are a few descriptions you should know: 

  1. One-tripper or “new” container. A One-trip or “new” container has only been used once if at all for one overseas journey. 
  2. Cargo Worthy. A cargo worthy container is a container that has been certified by a marine surveyor and can still be used in the shipping industry. Containers remain cargo worthy for 5 years from the date of inspection.  
  3. Wind and Water Tight Grade A and Grade B. Grade A containers are certified containers which are 8 years or older but have little rust or damage. Grade B containers are also 8 years or older and have significant rust or damage.  
  4. Premium or IICL-5. A premium container is between 2-8 years old and still meets all repair standards for regular cargo use.  
  5. Refurbished Container. A refurbished container is a container which has been repaired before being rented or sold.  
  6. As is Containers. As is containers are sold in their current condition. 
  7. Handyman Container. A handyman container is a container with a lot of damage that requires major repairs. 

21. What do shipping container grades mean?

As mentioned in the answer above, shipping container grades are used to give a buyer or renter an idea about the condition of the shipping container since simply being a new container does not guarantee that it is damage free or wind and water tight. 

22. What should I look for in a shipping container?

While it depends on what you will be using the shipping container for, you want to look for things like no rust, no damage to the frame, solid floors, and general cleanliness.

Additionally, you may want to look for additional features like polyurethane floor coating to protect from spills, a pre-installed lock box, and easily accessible handles and doors.

23. What else should I know about renting a shipping container?

Before renting a shipping container you should know: 

  • What you need the shipping container for?
  • How long you need the shipping container for?
  • How much space you have for the container?
  • How you will secure the container?

  To learn more check out our article on renting a portable shipping container.

Rental reasons

24. What other things should I know about buying a shipping container?

Before buying a shipping container you should know: 

  • You will need the container for more than 2 years
  • You have long-term storage needs
  • You are using the container to build a permanent structure. 
  • You have multiple projects that always need containers (like a construction company)

 To learn more about whether you should buy a shipping container check out our article “should I rent or buy a shipping container”

Buying reasons


25. Why do prices vary on shipping containers at different times?

Prices vary on shipping containers due to their condition, as well as supply and demand. 

Shipping containers in “new” or “Cargo worthy” condition can cost 2-3 X as much as an as is container. 

Additionally, when there is a lot of shipping container inventory for sale, prices drop. 

When shipping containers are more difficult to come by like during COVID-19 the prices go up.

26. Where do shipping containers come from?

Shipping containers come from across the globe as they transport everything from clothing to food.  

In the US, most of our containers come from: China, Hong Kong, Japan, Germany and the UK.


27. Can you add windows to a shipping container?


Windows of various sizes can be added to your shipping container and are one of the most popular types of customization. 

To learn more about customized shipping containers click here.

28. Can you add wheels to a shipping container?


You can add wheels to your shipping container in a few different ways.

To learn more about adding wheels to your shipping container click here.

29. Can I use solar power so I can have a self-contained shipping container?


You can use solar panels to power shipping container either in addition to or in place of traditional power. 

30. How do I maintain a container?

Shipping containers are very easy to maintain.

All you will need to do is make sure that the container remains secure and clean it occasionally. 

If you are placing the container near the ocean or other bodies of water, it is a good idea to do a periodic check for rust as well.

31. How do you care for and clean the walls of a container?

The best way to care for and clean the walls of a shipping container is with water. 

Some commercial shipping container owners use dry ice to help clear any chemical residue or foreign substances from the walls. 

During COVID-19 many shipping container providers have started to disinfect the walls of shipping containers both before and after use for additional cleanliness.

32.How do you care for and clean the floors of a shipping container?

Sweeping is the first step to cleaning your shipping container floors. 

After you have swept the floors, you will want to wash them using water and a floor cleaner like Lysol. 

After you have washed the floors be sure to dry them thoroughly to avoid rotting the wood.

33. How do I ensure my container is level?

The best way to ensure a level container is to make sure that there is a slightly larger level concrete slab to place it on. 

If you do not have a concrete slab, you can place your container on wooden blocks or railroad ties to ensure that it stays level.

34. How do I prevent bad odors in my shipping container?

Before renting or buying a shipping container, be sure to ask what the container was used to transport. Also ask if the container has been cleaned or disinfected since its initial use. 

If you are buying a container, make sure that you inspect it before purchasing. If your shipping container has not been cleaned, you can clean the container with these steps.

  1. Make sure to wear a mask before you start cleaning
  2. Sweep the floor, making sure that there is not any dust or debris. 
  3. Wash off any sticky substances, stains, or residue with water. You can also use dry ice to help clear any chemicals, however this will be dependent on weather conditions, so be sure to make sure to check your area before using dry ice. If possible, use pressure washer to clean the outside of the container and be sure to wear eye protection
  4. You can also use a vinegar solution to help clean off stains and rust.

Man looking at shipping containers


35. How do I prevent mildew and leaks in my shipping container?

Preventing mildew and leaks in a shipping container is best done before placing items within the container. There are several different ways to reduce moisture, such as:

  1. Installing dehumidifiers and air conditioners – great for long term usage and can help to reduce the moisture within the container.
  2. Insulation – also great for long term use and helps to protect items inside the container from variations in weather and temperature.
  3. Ventilation – vents help to prevent condensation by equalizing both the inside and outside temperature of the container

36. How do I keep my shipping container secure?

According to the Equipment Theft Report, about $400 million is lost due to equipment theft. $300 million was lost in 2016 alone.

There are a few ways to keep your shipping container secure while on-site, including:

  1. Checking out what is and is not covered in both the shipping container rental contract and your current insurance provider. If equipment theft is not covered by your insurance, get additional insurance to cover your shipping container.
  2. Make an inventory list of all the items within the container. Be sure to include any serial numbers, purchase dates, and any other relevant information.
  3. If possible, install a security camera on the property with the shipping container or near the container itself.
  4. Choose a lock for your shipping container, like a slide bolt and a lockbox to help prevent theft.

37. What comes standard on a shipping container?

Features on a shipping container can vary, but for the most part, many containers will have:

  • Double fitted doors at one end
  • Made of CorTen steel
  • Have a plywood floor
  • Twist lock fastening at each corner

You can modify and customize a shipping container to have other features if needed. These can include shelving, windows, extra doors, and vents.


38. How long do shipping containers typically last?

Once a shipping container comes out of the shipping service, they can easily last an additional 10 years.

While in the shipping service, they can last between 10 and 12 years.


39. What is the average lifespan of a shipping container?

The average lifespan of a shipping container, while in the shipping service, is between 10 to 12 years.

Once the container is out of the shipping service, they can typically last another 10 years.

40. What is container “Seaworthiness”?

A container’s ‘seaworthiness’ is simply the ability to meet the dangers that could be encountered on a trip. However, there is more to this than just a simple description.

Seaworthiness is mostly determined by the ship owner and the shipping service. The overall responsibility to make sure that the container meets the requirements of the Convention of Safe Containers (CSC). 

This means that a container should be inspected at least every 5 years and regularly serviced. There are also maritime laws that are dedicated to implementing and complying shipping container seaworthiness.

41. Are shipping containers air tight?

No, shipping containers are not air tight. 

Some containers will come with specifically designed holes to help with air circulation. This is to protect and preserve the cargo that is being shipped.

Modifications or customizations to containers can add or include insulation which help with weather and temperatures. 

42. Are shipping containers weatherproof? 

Because shipping containers are made from steel and are designed to handle long periods at sea, they are extremely durable.

Containers are both flood and fireproof resistant! This can be very helpful in the case of a heavy storm that causes flooding or during a wildfire.

43. How long is the typical shipping container rental period?

The rental period for shipping containers depends on the supplier, but on average most companies will require a minimum of a month.

44. What are some typical fees or charges that you incur when renting or buying a shipping container besides the cost of the container?

Some of the fees you may incur with both renting or buying a shipping container include:

  • Delivery fee for delivering the container to your location or designated location
  • Mileage and distance from the facility to your location
  • General taxes

Renting a shipping container may have some additional fees, such as any pickup fees once finished with the container and storage fees, if you plan to store the container on the facility’s lot.


45. What are shipping container homes?

Shipping containers homes are basically houses that have been built from shipping containers.

The container home market is expected to reach over $73 million by 2025, a sign that these types of design have grown in popularity.

Shipping homes are popular because they are cheaper to build than traditional brick homes. Their durability also helps to protect them from harsh weather conditions.

46. How expensive are shipping container homes? 

The cost of shipping container homes depends on the size and condition of the home itself.

Generally, a shipping container home can start around $1,400, however that cost can rise with additional features such as plumbing, electricity, windows, and others.

Larger container homes can range in price between $150,000 and $175,000, which is about half of the price for a traditional home.

47. What are some cool unique examples of ways you can use shipping containers?

Shipping containers have been used for many types of businesses and projects! A couple examples include:

48. Are all shipping containers insulated?

While shipping containers can be insulated, only refrigerated containers are specifically insulated.

This is to help protect cargo such as food, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, electronics, and any other type of temperature-sensitive items.

You can insulate a shipping container, especially if using one as a temporary workspace, mobile office, or home.


49. How are shipping containers delivered?

Shipping containers are delivered on a tilt-bed roll off truck. The bed is tilted up until the container hits the ground.

The truck then pulls out from under the container, leaving the container in place. The bed is then lifted back to its original position.

Shipping container delivery


50. How much does a standard shipping container weigh? 

On average, the typical standard 20-foot shipping container weighs between 3,970 and 4,850 pounds when emptied.

The standard 40-foot shipping container weighs between 8,340 and 9,260 pounds.

These weights can differ once the container has been filled.

51. Where can I rent or buy a shipping container? 

There are a variety of local and national providers of shipping containers that offer rental and purchase options. 

 While we are biased, we think the best place to rent or buy a shipping container in the Southwest United States is Southwest Mobile Storage!

We have been in business for over 25 years with outstanding reviews and customer support. 

See the Southwest Mobile Storage difference for yourself! 

There you have it the 50 MOST frequently asked questions about shipping containers! 

In this in-depth detailed article, we answered everything from “what are shipping containers made of?” to “How big are shipping containers?” and everything in between.

By now you should be a regular shipping container expert, but if still have questions our dedicated shipping container experts are here to help! 

You can ask any questions you still have in our contact form and we will get back to you within a few hrs. during business days. 

You can also give us a call at 1-800-686-9114 and we will be happy to help you find the perfect container for your business!



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