Choosing A Good Quality Container

Five shipping containers

Cargo containers are built to be strong and to last, which makes them perfect for a home-build project. A number of factors can affect the integrity of a shipping container – age, materials used, how weathered they are etc.  If you’re on the lookout for the perfect container, then the following advice may help you identify the best one for the task in hand.

 New or Used?

So “New” speaks for itself – if you’re buying a new container, you can be sure that it’s not going to be covered in rust.  It should be in great condition on arrival, and you don’t have to worry about what’s been contained within.

“Used”, however, can have a number of different meanings, anywhere from almost perfect all the way to ready for the scrapyard. 


If you’re after a container which is at the top end of the quality scale, look for those which are being sold as “One Trip”.  These containers have usually been built in Asia, and have been used once to cross the ocean before being sold.  They might have a few scratches here and there, but the paintwork should be in good condition and there should not be any significant signs of rust.

Sometimes they are listed as “Like New”, which often refers to these same one-trip containers.

What’s it made of?

If you’re looking for a container that will be more resistant to poor weather, or ocean-facing conditions then the one to look out for is a COR-TEN (which is a trademark also written as Corten) Steel container.

This material is relatively new, and is used in many other industries to ensure that products can stand up to more extreme conditions without rust becoming a problem.

Be aware though that this “weathering steel” as it’s also know is still prone to rust when water collects in pockets, or where drainage isn’t sufficient.  It also doesn’t provide any advantage in humid climates.

shipping containers

Factory Paint

If there’s a “Factory Paint” label in the listing, then you’ve found a container that has the original paintwork intact.  This can provide assurance that rust will be less of an issue than with a refurbished container – which might not have had its rust treated properly before the repaint.

Cargo Worthy?

A designation of “Cargo Worthy” means that an authorized surveyor has inspected the container and it is up to the job of cargo transport.  It doesn’t mean it’s the most beautiful container around, but it does mean that its structural strength is intact and up to the task.  A listing which states “No shipping label” means that the container is a single color, and doesn’t have company logos attached.


Cheaper options

Some containers might be described as “Wind-/Water-tight”.   This means that there hasn’t been a formal inspection by a surveyor, but judging by the appearance of the container, the unit has satisfactory protection from water ingress, and would make a suitable building block for a container home project.

Bespoke creations

Some sites will carry out the hard work for you – modifying a container exactly to your specifications.  This could be to create windows, doors, partitions, insulation, or anything else you’re looking for.  Obviously this is a more expensive route to take so it’s not being covered in extensive detail in this blog – our focus is on creating inexpensive dwellings.

Issues to be aware of

Please see my other page on possible problems for info you should be aware of before buying a shipping container.

3 thoughts on “Choosing A Good Quality Container”

  1. You should cover the fact that there are several types of containers available, some obviating the need for expensive hacking.

  2. It’s good to know that when it comes to picking out a shipping container, that there are a lot of different things to consider. I like how you pointed out that one thing to look at is what it is made of to determine if it is something that will be able to withstand poor weather conditions. This is something that my husband and I will keep in mind when we start looking for one to help us move across the ocean.

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