Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The Cheapest Shipping Container May Not Be the Best

Buying a shipping container, on the surface, should be a pretty simple transaction.  After all, it’s not much more than a steel box with a couple of doors, not a new car or even a table computer with loads of features.  To a certain degree, that line of thinking is correct.  There are fewer options available when purchasing a shipping container compared to a car or computer, but there are some terms and points of interest that you should be aware of before you make a purchase.

First off, buying the cheapest car that you find probably means that you’re getting a lemon that you won't be happy with for very long.  If you rush out and purchase the first cheap shipping container that you find you'll probably end up with the equivalent – a rusty box, that isn't wind and water tight and will only require some additional investment to get it to perform like you need it to.

The questions that you need to ask when looking for a container are:  What condition is the shipping container in?  What’s the container made of?

Inspecting the Condition of a Shipping Container

The age of a container can tell a lot, but it may not tell the complete story.  A shipping container may be eight years old, but if its spent most of its life in a depot waiting to be repositioned it may not have seen excessive usage or wear and tear.  If you have the time and need to inspect the container personally, the main thing to check for is rust.  Rust may appear in the corners of the container, near any joints and seams, or around any dents, dings, or gouges in the container.

In general, used shipping containers are sold by shipping lines and leasing companies when they are 10-12 years old.  They will have some signs of use and abuse, and like a used car they can vary in condition.  One trip containers are essentially new units.  They've probably transported one load of goods across the ocean before finding their way to the depot and container dealer.  One trip shipping containers will be more expensive, but require little to no maintenance.

What is the Shipping Container Made Of?

The material that a shipping container is constructed with means a lot to the long term durability.  The beams and flooring aside, the most important thing to look at on a shipping container is the steel that the walls and roof are made of.  International, intermodal shipping containers are made from CORTEN steel.  CORTEN steel is highly rust resistant and can withstand the harshest environments, after all these containers spend a good portion of their life on the sea and are exposed to salt air, high winds, and heavy rain.  Domestic containers are typically constructed from aluminium or steel and are designed to balance durability and weight to provide fuel efficiency, not long term durability.

What dictates the best price for you is how you plan to use the container.  If it's going to be in a highly visible area, the doors need to swing freely, and you need a built in lock box, the best container for you may be a one trip unit.  If you've got the time, energy, and ability to repair and paint the container you may be able to find a gem of a used unit.

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