Where to Buy Used Containers

Do you want to build and design your own home, but don’t think you can afford it? A new trend, is using shipping containers to build a house. Depending on where you live, land alone can be reasonably priced. Buying one or more shipping containers and then modifying them to fit together can be relatively inexpensive. Design what you want, place then in the appropriate fashion, modify and weld them accordingly, and there you have your new home.

However, a shipping container house isn’t very attractive aesthetically. Some more appealing characteristics which may serve to change your mind if you are worried about the appearance are:

- Low cost: prices can range from about $1200 to $6000 based on usage (not including shipping)

- Eco-friendly – recycling material through reuse

- Readily available around the world

- Easily transported

- Strong and durable frames to build on

- Can come in standard sizes making modification easy

Do these appeal to you? Well if they do then you might want to really consider this type of home investment. The purpose of this article is to identify and answer questions which will be raised while you are in the process of buying a container. Questions you might consider when purchasing containers are:

- What condition is the container in?

- Is the price worth the condition of the container?

- How reliable is the seller?

- What type of material is the container made of and is it livable?

- What are the different sizes of the container and will it be suitable for my needs?

Container Specifications

Before discussing where to buy the containers, it is important to have a good idea of what you are looking for so you don’t run in blind. Specific things you want to reflect on when considering what container you are buying are:

- Size – the bigger it is, the more expensive it is

  •  length (up to 48 feet)
  •  width ( about 8 ft)
  •  height (can be 8ft, 10ft, 20ft, 30ft, 40ft)
  •  Do you have enough space to home large and inflexible containers?
- Material (cortensteel, corrugated fiberboard, wood, plastic, composite, stainless steel)
  •  Will the material it is made of withstand the environmental conditions of where you intend to put/use it?
  •  How well does the material insulate or how does it react in humidity?
- Color
  • Refurbished (possibly needs to be repainted) or a factory pain't (fresh paint job)
  • Does it still have a shipping label or company logo?
- Initial purpose
  • Previous use for carrying fragile equipment – reinforced edges and/or corners
  • Insulation with previous use carrying things like pharmaceuticals
  • Will your modification remove some of the original guarantees such as insulation, wind tight, or water tight?
- Price you are willing to pay unmodified or modified

After you decide what kind of container(s) you want, it is then important to pay attention to the following aspects so as to not pay too much or buy something which doesn’t fit your needs:

- Previous modifications – doors, windows, etc.

- Damage
  • Handling collision
  • Friction
  • Rust
  • Force of heavy load overhead
  • Cracked welds
  • Twisted frames
  • Pin holes
- City restrictions
  • building permits
  • o If you use timber, does it need to be treated? 
- Age or usage 
  •  A one-trip a new, a like new
  • A as is – most worn (and probably the cheapest)
  • Is it a cargo worth (inspected for ocean transport)?
  • Is it a cargo worth (inspected for ocean transport) or only a wind-water-tight (not necessarily inspected)?
  • Was there any cargo spillage? Chemicals or other contaminants? Solvents or sealants? 

- Product location – will you go see it before buying?

- Enough space and level ground for delivery and construction

- Shipping cost


Once you have all of this settled, you can now start looking for a buyer. It is important to note, some of your ideas about what you want may fluctuate depending on what you find is available. Also, some companies will offer to work with you on what type of modifications you want to implement such as creating a 3D virtual model. Specific websites are already in place for you to interact with sellers such as:

- www.sjonescontainers.co.uk

- www.lioncontainers.co.uk

- www.Jscontainers.com.au

- www.containerhomeplans.org

- www.Amazon.com

- www.Ebay.com 

Or places of large shipping container stock are:

- Odessa, Ukraine’s Tolchok or Seventh-Kilometer Market

- Biskek, Kyrgyzstan’s Dordoy Bazaar

- Christchurch, New Zealand’s Cashel Mall

Otherwise if you are wanting to purchase more locally, you can try looking in the phonebook or in an online search for shipping companies.IMPORTANT! Don’t forget to make sure the company or person is reliable. Read reviews about the person or company. As other people who have bought containers before about their experiences. Some places to talk with people with experience are forums such as:

- www.Archinect.com

- www.howtobuildacontainerhouse.com/forum/

- www.livingbiginatinyhouse.com

Otherwise, places to find reviews of the person or company are the websites you found them, searching them on the website, looking them up on country specific business bureau such as the Better Business Bureau in the USA and the ombudsman in the UK.

Negotiating a Price

Finally, you are about the purchase your container. You have talked to many different people to decide who is legitimate, but maybe you think the price is a bit much or you can’t find exactly what you are looking for. This is the time to negotiate.

1. Inspect the container yourself or hire someone to inspect the container from places such as the Institute of International Container Lessors.

2. Decide your overall budget, listing out price according to land, container, modifications, furnishing, and initial utilities cost.

3. Based on the cost of the container they are offering, use what you are doing and what other sales you are looking at to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to talk to the seller about what else is out there and what you intend to do with your container. They might be able to offer you a better price.

4. Consider if buying more than one would be cheaper in the long term if you know you will expand in the future (and if you have the budget for it now).

5. If this doesn’t work as well as you hope, think about where else you have spread your finances. Are you willing to give one thing up for another initially? For example, can you possibly let go of any of the fancy gadgets until you have it all set up just to cover the cost of an unexpected welding?

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After the purchase

Now you made your purchase, don’t forget to share your experience. Remember all those forums and reviews you read and consulted? By making a comment you are making it easier for the next person or yourself in the future to make a purchase of a container.

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About Peter Paul

Welcome to containerhomesplans.com. I've spent my career helping people upgrade their homes and improve their lives. I learned first hand about home renovation from my father, who hand-built our family home.
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