Buying a shipping container can get overwhelming and cumbersome. Let this blog be your step-by-step hassle-free guide to buying one!

In this blog, you’ll learn:

  • Briefly about 11 different types of container
  • The difference between buying & leasing a container 
  • Grading of a container
  • Steps to buy/lease a container
  • Cost of a shipping container
  • Where to buy a container
  • How xChange can help you through the process of buying, selling or leasing the containers

More of a visual learner? Watch our video guide here:


shipping container

How to buy a shipping container in 7 steps

What do you do when you have to buy a shipping container? You search on Google and exhaust yourself, hoping to find  the right link.  

We understand how it can get confusing with numerous results.  But here’s an idea! Why not be a part of xChange, a leading online marketplace to buy, sell or lease containers and help us help you be more efficient with your search!

Want to see container availability in your location? Just enter your location and container type to find containers where you need them. Give it a try now!

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7 steps for how to buy a shipping container

Step 1: Should I buy or lease a shipping container?

The first thing you need to be completely sure about is whether it makes sense for you to actually buy the 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.

If you only need a few containers for storage, being a container owner makes sense. The same goes, if you need containers for an indefinite period, use containers frequently, and don’t need too many of them. When you buy a container, it’s important that you’re sure you’ll use the containers. Also because it’s an upfront payment you’ve to make – something that will leave a dent in your finances.

buy or lease

On the other hand, you might be in a situation where you only need to borrow a small number of containers. You could also be in need of a large number of containers, but only one way. Or simply need the containers for a short period of time. If you find yourself in any of those situations, leasing a container could be the best option for you. And you should also consider a one-way lease. When you lease a container, it’s cheaper in the short term than when you buy. Because here you only have to pay the leasing rate. However, in the long term, the cost of leasing the container can get higher than what you’d pay for a used container.

Not quite sure whether you should buy or lease the containers? You can learn more about the pros and cons of leasing and buying shipping containers right here in this blog article.

Step 2: Which container type do I 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 need to ship.

When you start looking for containers, the first thing you need to consider is: Do I need a standard container, or does my shipment have special requirements?

shipping container

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 containers 20 ft and 40 ft – as well as their taller sibling, the high cube.

But if you have shipments that are larger, there’s a long row of special containers to choose from. If you’ll be shipping foods, chemicals, or medicine, you should look into the reefer and the insulated containers. Both of these container types help maintain a steady temperature inside the container.

You can get the full overview and learn more about these container types in our in-depth blog article on container types.

Step 3: Choose the condition and grading of the container

When you’ve figured out which container type is right for you, it’s time to decide on the grading of the container. Which grading and condition you should choose, depends on what you want to ship.

Here, it can get a little complicated. Because there’s no universal grading system for shipping containers. Something that also leads to a lot of confusion with all the different abbreviations to explain the container condition, like WWT, CW, F, and B. And you’ll quickly come across these abbreviations. So, let’s clear that up first.

We’ll start out with the different grades. There are one-trip containers that have only been shipped from the manufacturer to the owner. Find below the journey for a typical one-trip container 👇

shipping container

Then, there are Wind and Watertight containers (WWT) as well as Cargo Worthy containers (CW). Cargo worthy means that the condition of the shipping container is deemed suitable for cargo transportation under CSC criteria.

If we, instead, look at the grading, there are other abbreviations to look out for – like the following gradings: F, A, B, and C.

Container with an F grade is a new container – also known as food grade. This means that the container can, for instance, be used to ship foods.

A grade-A container is new, refurbished, or used, whereas, a grade B container is cargo-worthy. Containers with a C grading are often called wind and watertight or cargo-worthy 2 containers.

If you need containers for e.g. storage, you can look for containers graded As-Is.

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. Read this in-depth blog article about container condition and grading right here.

Step 4: Where can I buy a shipping container?

Around the ports, there are usually plenty of container suppliers. So if you want to buy a shipping container, that’s one place to look. You can also find containers through local brokers, who’ve regional networks to find the containers you need.

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 deals you can make. Giving you little chance to know the reasoning behind the price and added fees.

That way is just one way to trade containers. The other solution you might then consider would mean you spending hours sending out emails after emails, hoping that someone in your network knows someone who might have containers for sale. But it also doesn’t have to be that difficult. You can simply create an account on Container xChange and log in to find the best match for yourself through a tap on the screen. (We bet it doesn’t get easier than this!)

Buy shipping containers from your computer screen

Skip the long email correspondences and hair-pulling frustrations of looking for traders offering competitive pricing. How? With Container xChange.

shipping container

On our neutral online marketplace, you become a part of an international trading network. Here, you can scroll through sales offers, and see the prices of all the containers. This way, you can compare the prices with each other – just like when you’re out shopping. Easy, right?

To make it even more simple, we vet all companies before they become xChange members. Ensuring that you can find trustworthy partners. When you find one or more containers you like, you can directly message the seller and negotiate the terms. All of that right from your computer screen. Want to lease containers instead? That’s no problem with our online leasing platform.

Lease Containers

Step 5: Hire a container surveyor

Reaching out to a surveyor is mostly relevant if you want to lease your 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, a way of insuring themselves. If you want to learn more about the different inspections a container surveyor offers, have a look at this in-depth blog article.

shipping container

Step 6: What does a shipping container cost?

The price of a container depends on many of the choices you’ve made in the previous steps. The container type, container grading, and also where you need them. Because there’s a built-in container imbalance in world trade. The major demand for export containers in China and across Asia means that these countries often face a deficit of containers, as Asia has an export that exceeds its import. They, therefore, often don’t have enough containers available.

So, if you want to buy a container in, for instance, Shanghai the cost will be higher than if you were to buy one in Hamburg, Germany.

But let’s have a look at some average prices:

A used shipping container can cost you in the range of US$1,500 – US$5,000. Here the location also plays a crucial part in the pricing. New and one-trip containers, on the other hand, usually come more expensive and can be anything between US$3,000 – US$5,000.

For instance, a used 40ft shipping container can cost around US$1,400, whereas a new or one-trip 40ft container can cost around US$3,500.

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Step 7: Transport the container

You can now officially call yourself a container owner – congratulations! But with your new metal boxes, you need to figure out how to transport them. That means scheduling, booking slots on the vessel, trucking, and transport 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 repositioning of your new containers, if you can get someone to move it for you – and then you don’t have to pay anything?

You might want to consider using your container as a one-way container. Let’s say you need to move your box from e.g., 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 cargo moved, 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 anything to get your container to your preferred location.

Intrigued? Learn all about one-way containers and leasing in this expert piece.

Buy shipping containers quickly and easily

Now you’ve been through our how to buy a shipping container guide. You might have realized that buying shipping containers can be a bit of a mouthful. And, truthfully, it’s not always easy to find the containers you need, in the right location, at the right price.

But we, at xChange, want to make it easier to buy and sell containers worldwide across 2,500+ locations. So once, you’ve decided which container type, grading, and locations you want your containers in, we’re here to help.

With Container xChange you get access to containers worldwide. And the owners of these containers have all been vetted and checked, minimizing the risk of you being cheated out of your money.

review and rating

Use xChange to buy containers without any hassles

Enabling you to choose from 10,000+ containers and vetted members, xChange helps you get the best deals in the market. Plus, we’ve an in-built tracking feature that lets you keep a real-time tab on your containers. We also help you digitize all the documents and invoices in one place rather than maintaining confusing physical ledgers. 

On xChange, you can compare offers, and negotiate with other traders and lessors to find containers in your budget, at your desired location. And if you’re worried about our role burning a hole in your pocket — stress no more! xChange doesn’t charge any commission on your deals. . You can start with something as easy as our free Basic trading membership plan and sail through the container trading process seamlessly. 

Want to see how the xChange trading marketplace can help you find containers easily and conveniently? Click on the banner below and get in touch with our expert team. They’ll be happy to show you the marketplace in action.

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Want to buy a shipping container? Here's how [+ detailed 7-step-guide]
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Want to buy a shipping container? Here's how [+ detailed 7-step-guide]
Get our step-by-step guide on how to buy a shipping container before you start handing out your money. It might save you both time and money.
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