More and more businesses these days are finding that they have an increasing need for storage space as they upscale, host an abundance of inventory during seasonal demand, work at a job site, and more. Renting or buying a shipping container can be a very smart choice. When it comes to shipping container costs, they are convenient and affordable. There are a variety of ways you can finance one, and you have the option of choosing a way that makes the most sense for your business.
There is a wide range when it comes to shipping container costs. You are able to rent or buy, select a used, refurbished, or brand-new container, choose a size, and pick and choose your add-on features, among other choices. Prices can range when buying depending on certain factors, and if you’re renting, you can arrange monthly payments over time. So essentially, whether your budget for a container is high or low, you can find one that best fits your business’s needs.
We’ve put together a list of factors that have the biggest influence over the price of your container so that you can best prepare for the cost:
First things first, you want to figure out what size storage container you will be needing. There are two “standard” sizes – 20-foot (20’ x 8’ x 8.5’) and 40-foot. (40’ x 8’ x. 8.5’) containers.
Note that all standard storage containers are 8 feet wide and 8.5 feet tall. However, you can customize your container if need be. For instance, some businesses find that they need extra height for their storage container (consider whether or not you need to store taller items), so they opt for a high-cube container, which adds a foot to the height at 9.5 feet tall. High-cubes are available in both 20’ and 40’ standard sizes, as well as most untraditional sizes. Speaking of which, you can also opt for an untraditional size – for example, 48 ft. by 10 ft. (48’ x 10’ x 8.5’), if the standard size isn’t large enough.
In terms of cost, the price per size will depend on the condition of the container you’re choosing.
Note: due to Covid-19, there has been a storage container inventory shortage. Since 2020, due to covid-19 and inflation, prices are higher for new containers compared to previous years, and used containers are harder to come by.
Also note that for untraditional-sized containers, you may have to pay an extra 20-30%. The supplier will quote these depending on the circumstance.
2. Age and Condition
A storage container’s condition has a direct impact on the cost. One thing that’s helpful to know is that most storage containers were previously used as shipping containers – to ship cargo overseas – so they have a history of use and damage. Of course, older containers that have been used more heavily and have more damage will cost the least, while brand new containers lightly or never used will cost the most. It’s helpful to know that the average lifespan of a shipping container is roughly 15 years.
Keep in mind when looking at the condition that suppliers will factor in the:
- Age – how many times has it been used to ship cargo overseas and/or used as a storage container?
- Repair history – when was it repaired, what were the damages repaired, and how often?
- Damage – what is the currently present damage and how severe?
So even though a container may be “new” in age (say, only 2 years old), that doesn’t mean it has the least damage and vice versa. An older container can actually be in better condition if it experienced less wear and tear during its lifespan. Be sure to ask questions about each of these factors – age, repair history, and present damage – to your supplier. With that being said, below is a list of the most common container grades (aka “conditions”) that are helpful to know:
|New (“One Trip”)|| – Best quality, durability, and appearance|
– Typically < 1-year-old, used only once to ship cargo
– Excellent condition, not exposed to harsh environments that can cause damage
|Premium (“IICL-5”)||– Aka “IICL-5” – highest grade used container, inspected and certified to meet all repair standards|
– Typically 2-8 years old
– In great condition, with little damage
|Grade A (WWT)||– Certified “wind & watertight”|
– Typically 8+ years old, still certified to ship cargo overseas
– Little damage or rust
|Grade B (WWT)|| – Certified “wind & watertight”|
– Typically 8 + years old, not certified to ship cargo overseas but can still be used for storage
– Significant amount of rust or damage
|Refurbished|| – Used containers that have been repaired (ie. dents removed, floors replaced, new doors, new paint)|
– Price varies depending on quality repair history and age
|As-is (“General Purpose”)|| – Purchased “as-is,” without inspection or certification|
– Usually has dents, rust, flaking paint, or punctures – but can be fixed up and repaired as needed on your own
Related: Types of Shipping Containers
3. Rent or Buy?
You have a few options when deciding how you want to pay for your container - renting, buying new, or buying used/refurbished. This decision usually relates to both budgeting and desired length of use.
- Renting: Renting a storage container is a popular preference for many businesses since it’s easy, affordable, and convenient. Renting allows you to pay smaller amounts monthly (rather than paying a significant upfront cost), as well as return the container once you no longer need it. Once your term ends, the supplier will come to pick it up and take it off your hands. Monthly rental costs usually range, depending on size, add-on features, and condition (you have the option to rent both used and new containers). If you go with a modified size or add-on features, your price can go up per month. An average rental period is 24 months. Note: You can also choose to rent to own, which can be a cost-efficient choice if you want to eventually own the container.
- Buying Used/Refurbished: While your first instinct may be to go with a brand new container to assure quality, understand that there are plenty of used containers out there that are in great condition. Storage containers are made of corten steel, which is a sturdy building material made to withstand harsh conditions. Conveniently, most suppliers offer a range of “used” containers, including refurbished and certified options, so you can choose depending on your cost-to-quality preference. Used container cost depends on size, features, and conditions.
- Buying new: If you know you want a high-quality container that has never been used for storage and is willing to pay top dollar, a “one-trip” storage container is the best choice. A “one-trip” storage container has been built within the last year with brand-new, quality steel. Upon purchasing, they only carried one shipment of cargo from overseas. These may be a good choice for businesses that want to own their container for a long period of time, need to assure they have a structurally sound unit, or even want to convert the shipping container into a livable space! They can range in price, depending on size and features.
4. Add-on Features
Depending on your business’s need and intended use for your storage container, there are dozens of add-on features to choose from. Adding features will tack on additional costs to your rental or purchase cost, but it can certainly be worth it. Here are just some of the features you can choose from:
- Doors: including personnel doors and roll-up doors
- Built-in shelving: cost depends on the number of shelves or brackets
- Locking mechanisms
- Awnings: regular and retractable awnings
Many features like roofing, electricity, plumbing, windows, and floors might be charged via contractor fees. Because of the wide variety of add-on features to choose from, they can add to your budget. For a more comprehensive list of add-on features to choose from, you can reference our renter’s guide.
5. Location and Delivery
Delivery fees and the location of your chosen supplier are something you definitely want to think about when budgeting for your storage container. If you neglect these costs and choose a supplier located hundreds of miles from your area, you can wind up paying extra for delivery, which can sometimes be more than the container price itself! You now have to add this huge additional cost to your out-the-door cost. That’s why it’s important to ask the supplier for their specific delivery charges before deciding, and why it can be an excellent idea to go local.
The cost to deliver and install your container can range for local delivery, depending on the distance and weight. Some suppliers may have a minimum fee, and others may have a distance maximum. It’s also common for suppliers to have a flat fee for delivery plus additional charges for more mileage. If you choose to rent, ask the supplier about their charges for removal, as well.
6. Seasonal Changes
As is the case for most products, storage container prices can vary based on supply and demand. The biggest factors that influence this are the season, the economy, and the cost of steel. Of course, when the economy is doing well and the price of steel is low or steady, suppliers aren’t forced to boost their prices. On the other hand, when the cost of steel inflates or the economy dips, this may impact the prices suppliers must offer their customers.
Additionally, keep in mind if you are not working in the construction or retail industries that these businesses often rely on storage containers during their busy months, which can affect storage container premiums. The busy season for construction is typically in the Spring and Sumner, while the busy season for retail is typically in the Fall and Winter. You can always ask suppliers about the supply and demand influences they are facing and ask when is the best time to buy from them.
Depending on the season, you may need a temperature-controlled storage container, which may cost you a bit more. Learn more about refrigerated storage containers (aka reefer containers).
When you’re ready to start shopping around for quotes, 360Connect can help! At no cost to you, we guide you through your storage container decision by making your life easy – based on your needs, we match you with the best suppliers (up to 5) that service your area. You get to compare and make the final decision. No obligation whatsoever to buy!
Remember that for the best buying experience possible, we recommend comparing just 3-5 different suppliers and what they have to offer (don't over-complicate the decision by comparing too many options!) and prepare for your call with these tips to get the most out of your phone call with each supplier.