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Average Life Span of Shipping Containers – How Long Do They Last?

Shipping containers are built with heavy duty Corten steel that resists harsh weather and corrosion and often used for outdoor structures like bridges. They are used for either moving cargo overseas or sold as New/One Trip containers for storage or building. A container can very well last up to 50 years depending on its use and ongoing maintenance. When container leasing companies have used the shipping containers for moving freight for 10 to 12 years, they normally are taken out of service. Some containers are still good enough to be used longer for moving cargo and are designated as “Cargo Worthy”. Other containers are sold as used “Water/wind Tight” for storage and building. Both Cargo Worthy & Water/Wind Tight containers can have a lifespan of 25 to 30 more years if well maintained. Some have been subjected to a lot of harsh weather moving freight and are sold as “AS IS” units.

Shipping containers are primarily made from high-strength Cor-Ten steel, designed to withstand harsh environmental conditions, including heavy loads, stacking during transport, and exposure to the elements at sea. The corrugated wall panels are welded to the square steel tube frame to form the container’s skeleton. This frame includes the corner posts, top and bottom side rails, and cross members. The floor is made of 1 ¼ inch laminated, marine grade plywood which is extremely durable and resistance to rot and insects. To further the strength of the floor, the plywood planks are secured on top of steel beams running horizontally every 12 inches. The doors of a container are made of the same corrugated steel as the walls and are fitted with heavy-duty rubber seals to ensure they are watertight.

Extend the life of your shipping container – Maintenance Guidelines.

To maximize the longevity of your shipping container and ensure it remains in good condition, regular maintenance is essential. Here are some key guidelines to help extend the life of your shipping container.

Door Hinges and Seals

Container door joints and hinges need to be periodical lubricated for them to open and close properly. Use a spray product that offers powerful rust & corrosion protection. One of the best products is Fluid Film. If your doors are hard to open after lubricating the joints, hinges and seals you should also check to see if the ground under the container is level as it could have shifted over time. Sometimes one or more of the four (4) corner posts may have sunk into the ground requiring you to re-level the container and place a wood block, railroad ties, or other strong blocks underneath the corners post. Some people use this type of leveler to assist with lifting up the container.

Ready to purchase a shipping container? Reach out today to get a quote from the best in the industry!

Check for Debris on the Roof

Remove all debris on the roof periodically and do not put a lot of weight on top of the roof.  Any water leaks can easily be fixed by using a watertight, flexible liquid rubberized coating like Flex Seal Spray or waterproof tape.  These products will keep water, air and moisture out of the container.

Ready to purchase a shipping container? Reach out today to get a quote from the best in the industry!

Removal of Rust

Bare metal, because of rust is one of the biggest challenges with shipping containers.  Rust can harm the steel despite the incredible durability of corrugated Cor-Ten steel. Make sure to check regularly for any rust build-up on the    exterior of your shipping container.  You can remove it by using a wire brush or sandpaper.  Once removed, apply an exterior metal paint to prevent it from returning.

Check Rubber Gaskets and Seals

Gaskets around the doors prevent moisture from reaching the interior.  As time goes by, these seals undergo wear and tear, and you may need to replace them.  Here are some replacement seal options.

Repaint as Needed

A fresh coat of paint not only keeps your container looking good but also adds an extra layer of protection against the elements. Use high-quality, marine-grade paint suited for metal surfaces.

Ready to purchase a shipping container? Reach out today to get a quote from the best in the industry!


With their robust construction, shipping containers are built to last. However, longevity isn’t automatic; it requires proactive maintenance. By following these guidelines, you can protect your investment, ensuring your shipping container serves its purpose effectively for many years to come. Regular maintenance not only extends the life of your container but also enhances its functionality, whether it’s being used for storage, as a workspace, or as an innovative living area. Our accessory page on our website has a ton of shipping container maintenance products to help you.

Work with the best in the shipping container business.

Container Sales Group buys containers directly from the steamship lines to offer our customers the highest quality containers at the most competitive prices. We’re a women-owned business, established in 1998, and have locations throughout the US.

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