How Much Is a Shipping Container? Used, New Shipping Container Prices

Shipping containers are quite expensive, typically ranging from around $3,000 to $5,000 for new containers and around $1,500 to $4,000 for used containers. Additional costs may apply if you want to modify your shipping container. Modifying your container can cost anywhere from around $150 to thousands of dollars, depending upon the changes you wish to make. This article lists shipping container prices for both used and new containers of all types. It also includes what else you should know before purchasing.

Shipping Container Uses

Steel shipping containers are becoming increasingly popular for personal use. They make for a unique and cost-effective way to store and/or transport items, and they can be used for living units, office space, pet shelters, or even a pool! Shipping containers are made of highly durable steel, and therefore require very little maintenance. These containers typically have a lifespan of over fifty years.

If you are thinking about buying a shipping container, for whatever use, you probably have a lot of questions about where to begin. We know your time is valuable, so we have compiled what you need to know into one article. Whether you want a large or small shipping container, new or used, standard or customized, we’ll tell you what you need to know to find and buy the container that is right for you.

Types and Sizes of Shipping Containers

Shipping containers are also known as intermodal containers, cargo containers, or freight containers, or sometimes as CONEX boxes. (CONEX was the original term for a shipping container when the design was first developed in the 1950’s; if you see this phrase used today, it can refer to any shipping container). Shipping containers are now available in a number of sizes and types.

Most shipping containers are “dry freight” containers made of high-grade COR-TEN Steel. This makes the containers non-corrosive and rust-resistant.

The most common sizes are 8 feet wide and 8 feet 6 inches tall and either 20 feet or 40 feet long. The 20-foot container weighs 5,000 pounds, and the 40-foot weighs 8,000 pounds. These common sizes are the most widely available for purchase and the lowest in cost. Both lengths also come in a “High Cube” option, which has an extra foot of height. Other available lengths include 5 feet, 8 feet, 10 feet, 45 feet, and 53 feet. These are rare compared to the 20-foot and 40-foot lengths, and they tend to be more expensive.

Besides dry freight (sometimes called dry cargo or simply dry containers), other types of shipping containers include refrigerated, open-top, open-side, and insulated. You may be tempted to buy a refrigerated or insulated container if you plan to convert the container into livable space and wish to save time and money when you need to insulate it later. However, these types of containers cost thousands more than the standard option, and they may actually make renovations more complicated down the line.

Used Shipping Container Grades

In addition to the type of container, you’ll also need to decide if you want a new (one-trip) or used container. This may come down to budget, as used containers will be considerably cheaper than new ones. Used containers tend to cost less in the U.S. compared to other countries because of the trade deficit — the U.S. imports more than it exports, and it’s very costly to ship empty containers back to their countries of origin.

Shipping containers are broken into four categories of wear:

  • New (One-Trip) Containers: New and one-trip are essentially the same. One-trip containers were used to ship a single cargo load. These containers are generally clean and dent and problem-free, with the manufacturer’s original paint and warranty. 
  • CWO (Cargo Worthy) Containers: Generally between three and eight years old, these containers may have some dents, scratches, repaired sections or cosmetic imperfections, but they still have very high structural integrity.
  • WWT (Wind and Water Tight) Containers: These containers may show some cosmetic imperfections, including exterior rust, dents, dings, and patchwork. The roof bows may not be perfect; doors will properly open and close; the floor will be worn but still in good condition. WWT containers will likely retain 100% of their price when resold later.
  • Damaged or As-Is Containers: The lowest grade of shipping containers, these generally show heavy damage and are no longer suitable for transporting cargo.These containers are most often turned into scrap metal, and they’re rarely available for purchase.

Major Manufacturers of Shipping Containers

Because shipping containers are used internationally, there are many manufacturers in numerous countries around the world. Most 20-foot and 40-foot ocean containers are made by manufacturers in China. Since shipping containers come from so many different companies and countries, specifications may vary.

It is important that you buy a container that is ISO certified (ISO is a standardization organization). This means your container was built to certain standards and specifications, and will properly fit on a truck for transportation. ISO certification is especially important if you wish to fit multiple containers together for a building project.

We have compiled the following list of reputable manufacturers so you have a sense of the big players in the shipping container industry. Containers from these manufacturers will be ISO certified and built to a high standard. You can usually find the manufacturer of a given container written on the outside, often near the BIC code (the BIC code on a shipping container is much like a VIN for a car).

Finding the Right Container for Your Intended Use

If you wish to use the container for storage or transport, choose the type and size of container that best suits your needs. Determine how much space is required for the items you’re storing or transporting, and find the best deal based on available inventory in your area. If you are just using the container for storage, you don’t need a new or cargo-worthy container — just one that’s watertight. This will save you hundreds of dollars. While it may have some scratches or dents and other cosmetic imperfections, it will keep your items safe and dry.

If you plan to use your container for living space, a standard high-top container is probably your best option. The additional foot of space in a high top container gives you extra height to work with, and this space can be customized to suit your needs and living arrangement. An open-side or open-top container will limit your options for home building. If you plan to turn your container into a residential unit, you’ll likely want to purchase a new or one-trip container. Although this is the most expensive option, it’s the safest way to guarantee against rust or structural damage.

Other uses for shipping containers come with their own unique set of needs and considerations. For example, if you wish to turn a container into a swimming pool, an open-top is necessary. If you are unsure which type of container will suit your needs, discuss your options with a nationwide container dealer (we’ll discuss this further in a moment).

How to Inspect Used Shipping Containers

To learn about prior use and ownership of a particular container, look up the BIC code (sometimes called an ISO Alpha-code). This is a unique serial number on every container. It is comprised of four letters, ending in a U, J, or Z, followed by six numbers and a check digit (which is a fail-safe against incorrect transcription of the container’s registration number). Check the BIC code for a particular container on the official BIC website.

Make sure the container is watertight and does not have any evidence of leaks. Close yourself in the container during daylight — no light should enter, except through any vents. Get on the roof and look for signs of leaks or heavy corrosion. A well-sealed container will not have any dampness on the interior.

Some dents and very light rust can be expected. However, do not purchase a container if rust has caused flaking or if the container has a large amount of corrosion, particularly if the metal seems weakened or has holes.

Inspect the flooring. Most containers have marine-grade plywood floors. Typical wear and tear, including scratches and discoloration, will be present on the majority of used containers; in most cases, this is no cause for concern. However, avoid containers with deep gouges, holes, mold, or rotten areas.

Ensure all doors on the container open and close easily, and that any locking bars are in working condition.

Check for the smell of mold or toxic chemicals. The smell of mold is a red flag and could be a sign of leaks.

Used containers may have the odor of previous cargo. This is not a reason not to buy the container! There are quick and cheap solutions to remedy this issue. Simply spread coffee grounds on the inside of the container and leave it there with the doors closed for a day or two. The coffee grounds will absorb most or all of the odors and leave a faint smell of coffee, which will fade over time. There are also commercial products to remove these smells, such as Earth Care’s Clear The Air.

If a container meets all of the above criteria — you have found a good used container.

Where to Buy a Shipping Container

Once you have decided what type and size of container you want, it’s time to find one. The easiest way to purchase a container is through a reputable nationwide dealer. To help you do this, we have listed several such companies below.

Shopping with a reputable dealer has many benefits. Because shipping containers are their primary business, these companies will be able to answer all questions you may have and may offer additional services, including delivery and container modifications. Most dealers offer a warranty, which can be a valuable asset with such an expensive investment.

Some companies also offer a rent-to-own option. Generally, this is not an advisable decision as it tends to be more expensive over time than paying upfront, and it may limit your ability to customize the container before it is fully paid off.

Shipped Marketplace

  • Types of shipping containers sold:
    • All locations offer new, CWO, and WWT.
    • Most types are available, including open-top, open-side, and double doors.
    • Inventory will vary by location.
  • Shipping container sizes available: 10 feet, 20 feet, 40 feet, 45 feet, 48 feet, and 53 feet
  • Shipping costs: Varies by location. For example, in California, a standard 20′ container costs $199 for a 14-mile delivery, $206 for a 50-mile delivery, and $340 for a 108-mile delivery.
  • Pickup/delivery options: Pickup available; delivery by tilt-bed truck or flat-bed truck and crane.
  • Offers rent-to-own or rental option? Yes, rent-to-own
  • Offers customization? No.
  • Start shopping at the Shipped Marketplace

Railbox Consulting (DBA: Western Container Sales)

  • Types of shipping containers sold:
    • All locations offer new, CWO, and WWT.
    • Most types are available, including refrigerated, insulated, open-side, and double doors.
    • Inventory will vary by location.
  • Shipping container sizes available: 10 feet, 20 feet, 40 feet, and 45 feet
  • Shipping costs: Varies by location. For example, in Georgia, to ship a standard 20′ container cost $250 for 5 to 20 miles, $395 for 50 miles, and $650 for 110 miles. Shipping costs for rented containers will cost more than purchased containers because the price includes both the drop-off and pickup of the container.
  • Pickup/delivery options. Pickup or delivery available. Delivery by roll-off trucks or tilt-bed trucks. 
    • Sale units can be delivered up to 250 miles; rentals can be delivered within 50 miles of a Railbox location.
    • Railbox Consulting will not deliver units larger than 40 feet, so the customer must make their own arrangements for these sales.
  • Offers rent-to-own or rental option? Yes, rentals
  • Offers customization? No.
  • Start shopping at Railbox Consulting

W&K Container

  • Types of shipping containers sold:
    • All locations offer new, CWO, and WWT.
    • Most types are available, including refrigerated, insulated, flat-rack, open-side, and double doors.
    • Inventory will vary by location.
  • Shipping container sizes available: 20 feet and 40 feet, including High Cubes
  • Shipping costs: Varies by location. Request a quote for more information.
  • Pickup/delivery options. Pickup or delivery available. W&K Container can provide more information as part of the customer’s individual price quote.
  • Offers rent-to-own or rental option? No.
  • Offers customization? Yes, check the W&K Container project page for more information.
  • Start shopping at W&K Container

You can also search on eBay or Craigslist to find containers. These online marketplaces may provide the cheapest options. When buying on these platforms, be sure to inspect the container in person and confirm that a shipping company doesn’t still own it. You can verify this by looking up the container’s BIC code.

Another option is to purchase a container directly from a shipping company. This tends to be a more expensive method, and it’s usually only a possibility if you live near the coast. Buying from a shipping company will tend to limit your options when it comes to buying a container with modifications. If you are interested in this option, try a Google search for “shipping companies that sell freight containers near [your city].”

Typical Shipping Container Prices: New and Used

Twenty-foot and 40-foot steel containers are generally the best bargains and the easiest to find. Other sizes, and those with additional features, such as double doors or extra height, are rarer and will cost you more for each cubic foot.

Shipping container prices are also affected by location. If you live near a seaport, there will be a greater availability of containers, which will drive down prices. Farther from the coast or from a major container dealer, prices will be higher and you will probably have to pay more to have your container delivered.

When buying your container, don’t be afraid to negotiate! Some areas have such a surplus of shipping containers that sellers need to make space, and they’re motivated to move inventory quickly. Look to get discounts for buying multiple units, and try to work out a deal for free delivery.

The following chart lets you compare prices for different size containers by condition (New, CWO or WWT), additional features, and geographic location. Massachusetts (MA), California (CA), and Missouri (MO) were chosen for broad geographic representation. Please note that not every container is available in all locations. If a price is not given for a location, this means that unit was not available there. Prices were gathered from multiple national retailers to get an accurate price range.

10-foot Shipping Container

  • New:
    • MA: $3,990
    • CA: $3,990
  • WWT:
    • MA: $3,990
    • CA: $3,250

20-foot Standard

  • New:
    • MA: $3,249 – $3490
    • MO: $3,249
    • CA: $2,790 – $2,973
  • CWO:
    • MA: $2,499 – $2,790
    • MO: $1,875 – $2,190
    • CA: $1,849
  • WWT:
    • MA: $2,449
    • MO: $1,675 – $1,890
    • CA: $1,568 – $1,690

20-foot High Cube

  • New, in CA: $3,149

20-foot Double Doors

  • New, in CA: $3,099

20-foot Open-Side

  • New, in CA: $4,449

40-foot Standard

  • New:
    • MA: $4,699
    • MO: $4,699 – $4,790
    • CA: $3,999 – $4,590
  • CWO:
    • MA: $2,790 – $3,190
    • MO: $1,849 – $2,090
    • CA: $1,775
  • WWT:
    • MA: $2,499 – $2,790
    • MO: $1,649 – $1,790
    • CA: $1,575

40-foot High Cube

  • New:
    • MA: $4,699 – $4,990
    • MO: $4,899
    • CA: $4,299 – $4,490
  • CWO:
    • MA: $2,899 – $3,190
    • MO: $1,649 – $2,490
    • CA: $1,875
  • WWT:
    • MA: $2,588 – $2,790
    • MO: $1,777 – $1,990
    • CA: $1,575

40-foot High Cube, Double Doors

  • New, in CA: $4,449

45-foot High Cube

  • CWO:
    • MA: $3,495
    • MO: $2,495
    • CA: $1,699
  • WWT:
    • MA: $2,997
    • MO: $2,249 – $2,590
    • CA: $1,599

40-foot Double Doors

  • New, in CA: $4,199

Cost to Modify Your Shipping Container: Vents, Double Doors, Skylights…

Standard containers come with no special features — just a heavy steel container with a door on one side. You may wish to make modifications on this standard formula. Possibilities include adding doors, windows, or wiring for electricity. Many manufacturers offer to make these modifications for you, or you can do them yourself. If you wish to have modifications made by the manufacturer, expect costs on top of the base cost of the container.

The price of modifications will vary widely by manufacturer. Below, we’ve compiled estimates for many of the most commonly-requested modifications based on information from CubeDepot.

  • 3-foot door: $900
  • Double door: $1,950
  • Roll-up door: $800 – $1,500
  • Sliding doors: $1,500 – $2,500
  • Ramps: $1,000 – $1,900
  • Skylights: $300 – $450
  • Turbine: $165
  • Vent: $150
  • 3’x3’ window: $600
  • Windows with fixed glass: $1,800 – $4,500, depending on size
  • Exterior paint: $550

In Summary

Shipping container prices vary widely based on location, availability, age, and usage. But now you know how to figure out the prices for your specific needs. Shipping containers have numerous uses beyond shipping; they can be used as storage sheds, mobile offices, and even living spaces. Like any major purchase, there are many factors to consider when buying a shipping container. You’ll need to decide on the size of the container, whether you want to buy new or used, where to purchase it from, and how you’ll have it delivered to you. You now have what you need to get started on your journey to purchasing a shipping container. You might also be interested in our articles How Much Does it Cost to Ship a Car? and One-Way Trailer Rental.

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  • do you happen to have a graph that shows the purchase price of used containers, per TEU, over the last 5-10 years? I would like to see how the price dipped and has subsequently recovered.


    • Laura Bachmann says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Bill,

      Unfortunately, we don’t have a specific graph for prices over the past 5-10 years. In researching this article, we gathered prices from shipping container companies to compile our lists, and we didn’t have a graph of prices over time to reference. Wish we could be of more help!