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How Much Does a Shipping Container Cost?

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 storage container can be a very smart choice, since they are convenient and relatively 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 in pricing for storage containers, since you’re able to rent or buy, select a used, refurbished, or brand new container, choose a size, pick and choose your add-on features, among other choices. They can be priced anywhere from around $1,400 to $6,000, and if you’re renting, you can it up into monthly payments over a decided-on period of 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: 

1. Size

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, price per size will depend on the condition you’re choosing. 

  • For new containers with zero add-on features, your standard price will be $2,800 – $3,400 for a 20-footer and $5,000 – $6,000 for a 40-footer.
  • For used containers in pretty good shape, expect to pay $2,000 – $2,500 for a 20-footer and $2,600 – $3,300 for a 40-footer. Older units in fair condition may sell for as little as $1,200.
  • 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. 

Keep in mind when looking at the condition that suppliers will factor in the container’s… 

  • 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:

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 large upfront cost), as well as return the container once you no longer need it. Once your term ends, the supplier will come pick it up and take it off your hands. Monthly rental costs usually range from $75 – $200, 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 by around $125 – $500 per month. An average rental period is 24 months.
  • 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 containers usually cost around $1,400 – $2,600 to buy, depending on size, features, and conditions.
  • Buying new: If you know you want a high quality container that has never been used for storage and are 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 have 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 from $3,000 – $5,000 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 (usually $100 – $400 per door) and roll-up doors (usually start at $600)
  • Built-in shelving: cost depends on number of shelves or brackets (starting around $85 per bracket)
  • Locking mechanisms: usually start around $90 
  • Awnings: can run anywhere from $100 – $1,000 if permanent, while retractable awnings usually start at $1,500
  • Custom size: can add around 20-30% to price

Many features like roofing, electricity, plumbing, windows, and floors might be charged via contractor fees, which usually range $50 – $150 per hour. Because of the wide variety of add-on features to choose from, they can add anywhere between $250 – $2,500+ 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 is 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 $1,000+ for delivery, which can sometimes be more than the container price itself! This is a huge additional cost you now have to add 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 from less than $100 to more than $500 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 is season, economy, and the price 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 price 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.

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.

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