Planning to buy a shipping container? Make this otherwise tedious and overwhelming process smoother with this step-by-step guide.  Get a sneak-peek at how thousands of companies like yours are buying containers globally at their fingertips.

You may usually contact your regional network to find containers. But in this way, you can never be sure that you’re paying the right price. With the lack of transparency in the industry – you may end up paying a lot more for a container than the current market price. 

So how do you purchase shipping containers at the best price? At Container xChange – the leading online marketplace to buy, sell, or lease containers – you can find containers in 2,500+ locations globally within seconds from vetted members. Our platform makes it possible to find container deals, compare and negotiate container prices – all in one place. And we do it without charging any commission. 

Find the best container deals by using the trading search below. Fill in your desired container type and location and select ‘Search’. Choose the deal that’s within your budget easily!

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    How to buy a shipping container in 8 steps

    There are different types of shipping containers you’ll find for your cargo shipping needs. Every container comes with different conditions and gradings, depending on its usage and structure. So, knowing which container to choose, the right price, and how to purchase it is very important. 

    That’s why we’ve curated 8 simple steps for you to follow when buying shipping containers of your choice. These steps will help you understand your needs and make an informed decision for your business.

    How to buy a shipipng containerStep 1: Should you buy or lease a shipping container?

    The first thing you need to be completely sure about is whether it makes sense for you to buy shipping containers or lease them. That decision depends on your situation.

    Let’s have a look at some of the different scenarios for you to consider.

    Buying a shipping container

    If you only need a few storage containers, being a container owner makes sense. The same goes if you:

    • need containers for an indefinite period
    • use containers frequently
    • don’t need too many of them

    While buying a shipping container, you must be sure you’ll use the container for a long time. This is because you’ll make a one-time upfront payment. However, you can recover it later by selling it in the second-hand container market or even using it for other purposes like storage. Buying a container is a good investment if you have the money to purchase one. Want to buy a container at the best price? Check out container deals in your location. 

    Leasing a shipping container

    On the other hand, you should lease a container, if your requirement is only for a certain quantity of shipping containers. Or you might need a large number of containers, but just for one-way use. Or you simply require shipping containers for a brief duration. 

    Leasing shipping containers is cheaper in the short term. However, if you’re planning to use containers frequently and for the long term you should consider buying containers instead.

    buying vs leasing

    Step 2: Which container type do you need?

    Now that you know if you should buy or lease the containers, you’re ready for the next step: Deciding on which container type you need. This can feel like yet another jungle of information. But it all comes down to what goods you’re shipping. 

    How to buy a shipping container

    When you start looking for containers, the first thing you need to consider is: Do I need a standard container, or does my cargo have special requirements? If you need to ship paper or other common dry cargo, a standard container can be the best solution for you. Here, you can choose between the most common container sizes: 20ft and 40ft – as well as their taller sibling, the high cube.

    You can also use standard containers for your storage needs.

    But if your cargo has special requirements, there’s a long row of special containers for you to choose from. If you’ll be shipping foods, chemicals, or medicine, you should look into the reefer containers. Reefers help maintain a steady temperature inside the container (perfect for cold chain logistics).

    Or, if you are shipping out-of-gauge or project cargo, you’ll definitely need specialized containers such as flat racks, open tops, hard tops, etc. 

    You can get the full overview and learn more about these different shipping container types here.

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    Step 3: Choose the condition and grading while buying shipping containers

    When you’ve figured out which container type is right for you, it’s time to decide on the grading of the container. It will depend on what you need the container for. This step will make sure that your cargo successfully passes through customs. Read on to learn the different gradings of containers. 

    Container conditions and gradings: 

    • New/one-trip: Containers that are already used once before they reach their destination are called one-trip shipping containers. They have only been shipped from the manufacturer to the owner and are practically new.
    • Grade F (Food grade containers): A container with an F grade is a new container – also known as a food grade. This means that the container can be used to ship foods and has not carried any toxic chemicals or products before.
    • Grade A: These are new, refurbished, or used containers. They have only minimal rust and dents and are wind and water-tight (WWT). These long-lasting containers are great for transporting cargo.
    • Grade B (cargo-worthy): This shipping container condition is deemed suitable for cargo transportation. So, if you have cargo to send out, this box will do the trick. Used containers also fall into this category.
    • Grade C  (Wind & Water-tight): A container is wind and water-tight (WWT) if no wind or water can penetrate the container. Grade C containers would have undergone several repairs and are often used as storage containers.
    • As-is: These are damaged containers that have been taken out of commission in the shipping industry. They could have majority damage on the roof or walls, damaged floors, bad seals, doors that are difficult to open, or structural damage.

    Feeling a bit confused and overwhelmed with the many different abbreviations and gradings? Here we’ve just given you a very brief overview of the different things you should keep an eye on. Get more information about container conditions and grading right here. 

    Step 4: Find out how much does it cost to buy a shipping container

    The next and most important factor you need to pay attention to is the shipping container price. Knowing the price beforehand can help you negotiate better deals with sellers. Here are the prices of 20ft and 40ft standard containers in popular locations.

    Standard container prices (cargo-worthy) 

    Location 20ft 40ft
    China $1124 $1366
    USA $1333 $1849
    India $850 $1510
    Europe  $1300 $1451
    UAE $960 $1002

    Now that you know the average current prices of containers, you can easily buy containers at the best prices. But container prices fluctuate regularly and depend on a variety of factors like location or container type. For example, a used shipping container will cost less than a new container.

    That’s why it’s important to keep track of prices, especially if you’re part of the shipping industry. One easy way to do this is to use xChange Insights. With this tool, you get current container prices in 180+ locations globally. All you’ve to do is submit your location and the container type. 

    With Insights, you can also see the price development over weeks, months, and years. This gives you a better understanding of the container market price cycle and helps you determine the best time to buy equipment.

    Step 5: Where to buy shipping containers?

    There are multiple places you can buy shipping containers from. Let’s have a look at a few of them.

    -Around the ports: There are usually plenty of container suppliers near ports. So if you want to buy a shipping container, that’s one place to look. However, as easy as it can be to find the containers closer to the ports, it also has its downsides. The pricing can be higher given the ease of accessibility and lack of transparent pricing. This gives you little chance to know the reasoning behind the cost and added fees.

    -Local container dealers: You can also find containers through local container brokers, who have regional networks. But here too, you can’t be sure that you’re paying the right price. Container brokerage fees can cost you anywhere between $100 to $500. And this range is set to increase if you require more containers. This fee is added to the final container price, making the container more expensive than the market rates.

    -Send emails: The other solution you might then consider would mean you spending hours sending out email after email, hoping that someone in your network knows someone who might have shipping containers for sale.

    So how can you buy a high-quality shipping container at the right price easily?

    You can simply become a member on Container xChange and find the best match for yourself through a tap on the screen. Simply state your container requirements and location, then you’ll get multiple deals to choose from. Connect with 1500+ vetted members in 2500+ locations to buy containers online at the best prices.

    Plus, we offer 100% market transparency, competitive pricing and don’t charge any commission on your deals. Check out container deals in your location by clicking the banner below. 

    Buy shipping containers

    Step 6: Inspect the container or hire a container surveyor

    Before buying a shipping container, inspect thoroughly for container damages like rust, dents, or holes. Ensure doors close properly, check flooring integrity, and make sure the container is wind and water-tight. You should also check if the container has enough space for your cargo.

    You can also hire a container surveyor for this. However, reaching out to a surveyor is mostly relevant if you want to lease the shipping containers.

    A container surveyor usually conducts inspections, surveys, and examinations of container equipment either before or after a company leases a container to make sure the container is in the desired condition.

    This is often something the leasing companies make sure to do to insure themselves. You can learn more about the different inspections a container surveyor offers here.

    Step 7: Obtain necessary permits 

    In certain areas, permits are necessary for purchasing or storing containers. For example, international containers in some countries like India have to be domesticated after six months. Only domesticated containers are legally allowed for domestic and you have to pay an import duty to the authorities for this.

    Contact your local authorities to ensure you have the required documentation before proceeding with transporting the container to your location.  International containers in India have to be domesticated after six months.

    Step 8: Transport the container

    Once you’ve figured out how to purchase a shipping container at the right price, it’s time to figure out how you’ll move your box to your location. This means figuring out the scheduling, booking slots on the vessel, trucking, and transporting by rail.

    If you’re planning on shipping your containers empty, we’d like you to think twice. Because why should you spend more money on the empty container repositioning when you can get someone to move it for you – and then you don’t have to pay any delivery costs!  

    You might want to consider using your container as a one-way container. Let’s say you need to move your box from Los Angeles, the US, to Shanghai, China. This means that a container user leases the shipping container for that one journey. And that’s a situation where you both win.

    The container user gets to move the cargo and you get your container to where you need it. To make it even better, the container user pays for the shipping of the container. Meaning you don’t have to pay any shipping cost to get your container to your preferred location.

    But how do you find partners who want to ship cargo through the same route? Through our leasing platform; you can put up leasing offers and find vetted members to move your box. Check out how you can put up leasing offers yourself.

    How to buy a shipping container in a few clicks with Container xChange 

    If it’s a part of your business to buy and sell containers regularly, we’ve got an offer you don’t want to miss! By choosing Container xChange you can: 

    • Find vetted partners and make deals. Risk free: All companies undergo a mandatory vetting process before becoming members. This means you can do business with all xChange members. Risk-free. On top of this, all companies also have public profiles. Here, you can see reviews from previous partners – and how they’ve rated them. Want an extra layer of security? Keep on reading!
    • Make 100% secure transactions: Not only does xChange ensure that all sellers are vetted but we also protect the buyers. So, you don’t have to worry about paying and not getting your assets. For this, we keep your money on hold with us for 7 days to ensure you get your containers. Our dedicated Customer Service team makes sure that your container operations go smoothly. And that your payments are completely secure.
    • Choose between 50,000+ boxes and make unlimited deals: Do you need a container type that you can’t find in your current sourcing channels? Don’t worry. With over 50,000 containers located across 2,500+ unique locations, Container xChange makes it easy for you to find the containers you need.

    You get all this right from your computer screen and much more with xChange. 1500+ companies such as Trident, Seaco Global, and SeaCube are already finding value on xChange. Learn how you can get the best deal for shipping containers. Book a free tour of the platform with our expert team by clicking the banner below.

    How to buy a shipping container

    How to buy a shipping container: Common FAQs 

    How much does a shipping container cost?

    The average price of standard 40ft cargo worthy container can be anywhere between $1500 to $2500. It depends on the size, location and condition of the container.

    What is the average price of 20ft shipping container?

    The price depends on the container's condition and location. However, it can be anywhere between $1000 to $2000.

    How to buy storage containers?

    To buy a storage container, you should first choose the right container type and size. Then find out the average prices and look for sellers in your location.

    How to purchase a shipping container?

    To buy a shipping container, you should first choose the right container type and size. Then find out the average prices and look for sellers in your location.