Shipping container cost guidelines

Shipping Container Cost

Wondering How Much Shipping Containers Cost?

Our experience at Container Sales Group is that when the phone rings, most of the time, the first thing people ask is “How much does a shipping container cost?” What potential buyers are looking for is a simple answer. Unfortunately, the reality of shipping container pricing is anything but simple.

If you’re looking for ballpark figures, currently, the following ranges hold true:

  • Used shipping containers range from $1,200 to $3,500 each
  • New, one-trip shipping containers can cost anywhere from $2,800 to $7,800 each
  • Specialty equipment, like double doors on both ends of a container, or open-sided containers, are priced much higher and in some cases are in very limited supplies. 

But where the price ultimately will fall for you depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • Size and type
  • Condition and usage history
  • Modifications or customizations
  • Manufacturer
  • Location, shipping destination, and delivery date
  • Bulk orders

Container Size & Type

Shipping container types and sizes vary drastically and there are benefits and detriments to each depending on the customer and their intended usage scenario. Standard containers are all 8’ 6” high x 8’ wide. High Cube containers are all 9’ 6” high x 8’ wide. Length of containers are typically 20 ft. or 40 ft., but can be as long as 45 ft..

There are too many price variables to list all out, so for simplicity’s sake we’re going to stick to standard sizes in this article as that is what most customers are looking for.

The price of a 20ft. used standard container versus a 40ft. used standard container can be the difference of about 34%.

Condition & Usage History

The condition of a shipping container isn’t as easy as saying “new” or “used” most of the time. There are literally dozens of factors that can wildly push the price in one direction or another and therefore it is vital to work with an experienced professional that can vet these factors that might otherwise go unnoticed by a novice buyer.


New containers aren’t necessarily new in the sense you might think. They are not manufactured and delivered directly to you. These “new” containers are known as “one-trip” or “one-way” containers. There are containers were built overseas and literally loaded one time to transport cargo to the United States.


Used containers are normally 10 to 15 years of age and if you want to save money on an older model, you’ll need to know how to buy a used container and what to look for.

There are three main classifications of used containers, each of which affect price:

  1. Water/Wind Tight inspected containers are usually retired from moving cargo overseas and are sold for storage and building needs.
  2. Cargo Worthy inspected containers are typically used for transporting cargo overseas or they be used for storage and building purposes when customers need a stronger container.
  3. IICL-inspected containers are units that are 2-7 years of age and have the same Cargo Worthy standards required for ocean export but are newer and more expensive. 

Generally, the price of 20ft. used standard containers versus 20ft. new, one-trip containers can be around 77% higher, so depending on your budget, there could be a clear winner in terms of condition.

Modifications or Customizations

Customization options include refrigerated, insulated walls, raised flooring system, power outlets throughout the container, air conditioning units attached to roof compartments, or exterior doors with ductwork running through the interior compartments.

If you plan to make customizations to your shipping container, know that it will be more expensive to modify a container that is in poor condition vs. a new/one-trip shipping container.

Location, Shipping Destination & Delivery Time

Shipping container prices will vary based on your location in the United States and where the container is coming from due to the cost of shipping. However, containers in certain metropolitan areas will inherently be more expensive simply due to market conditions and the demand in those areas.

Delivery time will affect the final cost of the shipping container. Containers can take up to 2 weeks for delivery depending on whether they are in stock. Delivery is normally with a tilt body truck (roll-off) for a distance of 200 miles or less.  For delivery of longer distances, a flatbed truck is used requiring the customer to lift the container off at the time of arrival through a flatbed broker. 

Containers that need customization may also incur a longer lead time than average.

How To Save Money When Purchasing a Container

Beware of Phony Sellers or Scammers

The easiest way to lose money when purchasing is falling for shipping container scams. Most people get multiple quotes and go with the lowest-priced vendor. If the quote is much less than other providers this is something you should investigate further by checking the company out online and look at their customer reviews or better yet asking for a couple of customer references.

Also, when a vendor offers a “warranty”, make sure to get a copy of the details, particularly around who is paying for the delivery back to the repair facility and then back to you. 

Another red flag is a vendor that promises lightning-fast shipping, especially during the buy time frames of Spring or Fall.   

If your vendor cannot answer all your questions, or provide you with customer references, these are all red flags. And at the end of the day, if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

Experience = Savings

The easiest way to save money is to purchase through an experienced seller like Container Sales Group who has great customer service & quality shipping containers.  We save customers money as we buy our shipping containers directly from the Steamship Companies and we pass the cost savings on to you. 

At Container Sales Group, we have been selling Shipping Containers for over 25+ years to major corporations like Ford Motor Company, Ace Hardware, Bobcat, Union Pacific, Walsh Construction, and Cirque du Soleil to schools and universities across the country like Northern Illinois University and Purdue University. 

If you want to have a positive experience and feel confident in your shipping container vendor from start to finish, request a quote on our website or call our office at 708 639-4783.

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