The Renter’s Guide to 20 ft’ Shipping Containers

What are 20 ft’ shipping containers?

In this short article you’re going to learn all about 20-foot shipping containers as we answer questions like

Why are ISO steel 20’ foot shipping containers so popular?

And what can you do with a 20 ft’ conex box?

ISO shipping containers have become a popular option when it comes to alternative building materials or storage opportunities.

When it comes to renting – whether it be for moving, storage, or remodeling – a shipping container can be a great addition to any project.

In this guide, we’ll look more in depth at 20 ft’’ shipping containers with:

  • A look at what they are
  • What they are made of
  • Container grades
  • What you can do with them

Let’s get started!

What are 20 ft’ shipping containers?

20 ft Shipping Container from Southwest Mobile Storage

So what are 20 ft’ shipping containers?

Overall, a shipping container is an ISO steel container that is able to withstand shipment, storage, and handling.

They are often synonymous with intermodal freight containers, conex boxes sea cargo containers and many other terms.

ISO shipping containers are made from 14 gauge corrugated weathering steel known as CorTen.

This allows them to be sturdy, resilient, and resistant to many weather conditions.

Containers also come with marine grade plywood flooring and depending on the container, can either have double swing cargo doors on one end or on both ends.

The humble shipping container came into existence thanks to a man named Malcom McLean.

Credited as the father of shipping containers, McLean’s idea for a more efficient way of cargo transportation helped to create globalization as we know it.

We go more into shipping containers in our ultimate guide.

20 ft’ shipping containers are considered a standard size, measuring 20’ x 8’ x 8.5’. They can hold around 160 square feet (1360 cubic ft’) of items.

To put this in perspective, a 20 ft’ shipping container can hold about 100 washing machines or 400 flat screen TVs.

Because of this, 20 ft’ containers are often very popular for both individuals and businesses.

Let’s look at what you can do with a 20 ft’ container.

What Can you Do with a 20 ft’ Shipping Container?


Now that you know what a 20 ft’ shipping container is, what exactly can you do with one?

If you’re reading this renter’s guide, you’re probably about to or in the midst of moving.

Whether you are moving from one location to another or moving items during a renovation or remodel, a 20 ft’ shipping container can be very useful.

Let’s look at some examples below.


31 million people moved in the US in 2019. That’s about 9.8% of Americans moving every year.

Most Americans end up renting a truck or moved without any assistance.

And if you’ve ever moved even once, you know how stressful it can be! Renting a 20 ft’ shipping storage container can help a move go smoother.

As mentioned, 20 ft’ shipping containers can hold a lot and is perfect for a standard two bedroom home.

The great thing about shipping storage container providers is you can rent a container which can be delivered to your current location and then delivered to the new one.

Renting a 20 ft’ shipping storage container isn’t just for moving purposes. If you’re remodeling or renovating parts of your own, you can store items there as well.

Southwest Mobile Storage Storage Container

Storage conex boxes aren’t just for individuals who are moving or remodeling.

Businesses will often use storage containers for inventory, storing incoming supplies for later. They can also be used as portable pantries.

Portable pantries are popular with restaurants and other food stores, as they can provide extra storage for food and can also be transported from location to location.

The construction industry is probably the most common and familiar when it comes to using storage containers.

20-foot containers make perfect storage facilities for equipment, extra tools, and machinery. They can also be used for mobile offices.

We’ll discuss mobile offices in a later section.

Let’s look at another way to use a 20-foot container.


Storing your items in a storage container while moving or renovating is great, but what if you want to tinker around?

Do-it-yourself projects are common for many people, not just those who enjoy working with their hands.

Woodworkers, metalworkers, even the occasional handyman or woman all need a place to build and work on projects.

A 20 ft’ shipping container can be turned into a workshop, allowing for plenty of room inside for different tools, equipment, shelving, and more.

Both businesses and individuals can make use of container workshops.

Hardware stores, for example, can make use of ISO steel containers for both storage and adjoining workshops.

Hardware inventory – tools, equipment, paint, and other items – can be easily stored within a storage container, especially a 20 ft’ container.

jacob campbell h2uzMQtlInk unsplash
Photo by Jacob Campbell on Unsplash

Because of the length, one side could be used for storage while the other side can work as a workshop.

Hardware store customers can test out paint samples or even try out tools, like hand saws.

Depending on the size of the store, customers might be able to cut their own supplies, such as wood or metal.

As mentioned above, homeowners can use ISO steel containers for workshops as well.

Take this Florida resident who created a home workshop using two shipping containers. Inside, he has a custom swing out door for his welder and saw.

He also has a workbench for himself and his children.


This type of container architecture, called cargotecture, is something we’ll look at in the next section.


The home workshop is just one example of what individuals can use shipping containers, but it’s also a part of what we call cargotecture.

What is cargotecture?

Cargotecture is using shipping containers as alternative building material by replacing traditional components.

Tiny homes and container homes are the most common structures when people discuss cargotecture, but there are other buildings as well.

Schools, hospitals, hotels, bars, shopping malls, and more have been made out of shipping containers.

Conex boxes provide low-cost building materials in place of traditional means. These are also helpful for areas that are unable to have construction.

Take the Signal School in Mumbai. The school was built in the middle of an intersection where many children beg or sell trinkets.

The single container school is divided into several classrooms to provide a learning environment and an avenue of support.

Healthcare is another industry that has been using containers, especially in the midst of the 2020 corona virus pandemic.

From examine rooms and med labs to actual hospitals, healthcare professionals are using containers to help extend services and provide care.

Another option for 20 ft’ shipping containers are pop up shops.

Pop up shops are becoming a trend for many businesses, giving them a low-cost storefront which can be moved from one location to another.

Pop Up Restaurants are a Conex Box Option

Considerations for Choosing a 20 ft’ Shipping Container


You’ve learned what 20 ft’ shipping containers are and what they’re made of. And you’ve learned some of the things you can do with one.

You might be thinking you’re ready to go and rent, lease, or even purchase a 20 ft’ shipping container.

Before you do, let’s look at some things to consider when getting a shipping container.


1. Consider the container grade

A container grade is the condition of a shipping container. These go from new or one-trip containers through ‘as is’ containers.

These grades give container suppliers valuable information about their shipping containers and how well they will perform as other things.

Choosing a container grade will depend on your project. For instance, if you plan on using a shipping container to store machinery or equipment, an as is container might work for you.

On the other hand, if you need to store certain items for a long time, containers in the grade categories of cargo worthy or wind and watertight are best.


2. Choosing your length of time

How long will you be needing the shipping container?

Will you need something for a few weeks or a few months?

Maybe a few years?

The length of time for your project can help dictate how long you should rent, lease, or even buy a container.

Home renovations or remodeling can take some time, so you may need to rent a 20 ft’ shipping container for a few months and up to a year.

Business projects, like construction or mobile offices, vary between a few months and a few years.

A good rule of thumb for shipping storage containers is: if your project’s time line is a year or less, you should rent.

If the timeline will be a year or more, you should purchase.

In this renter’s guide, we looked at what you should know about 20 ft’ shipping containers. Shipping containers, as mentioned, aren’t just for cargo transport anymore!

If you’re interested in renting a 20 ft’ shipping container, call us! Our general office number is 800.686.9114 and we’re always happy to help.

Our shipping container experts have decades of experience to answer any question or address concerns on sizing, container projects, pricing, and more.

Give us a call today or fill out the contact form below!


  • Product and services

  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY


  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY


  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY