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Metal Shipping Containers: What’s the Cost?

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Interested in purchasing your own metal shipping container? If you’re looking to make the investment, learn what metal shipping containers cost, first.

There are anywhere from five to six million shipping containers making their way across the world’s oceans. Each one is loaded with goods intended for the destination market.

Metal shipping containers are the standard for moving freight shipments internationally. But how do you go about buying one? Maybe you don’t even need to buy one, renting is a possibility too.

We’ve created this guide to help you understand metal shipping containers and their costs.

What Is a Metal Shipping Container?

Freight that moves across the United States does so on pallets. But this isn’t an effective method when the volume of the shipment increases for international transport.

Metal shipping containers provide a standardized method for packaging large shipments for international transport. Instead of stacking a handful of tires on a pallet, you can load a thousand of them inside a 40-foot metal container.

While metal containers can come in numerous variations, the standard container has a floor, roof, walls, and a door at one short end.

Specialty Containers

If you have cargo that needs special treatment, you can consider getting a container that suits your specific needs.

Items that need temperature regulation can go in an insulated container. Then if you need the temperature to stay at a freezing temperature, a refrigerated container is the way to go.

A generator provides power to a cooling unit that is mounted on the container. This ensures that continuous cold air cycles through the container.

Then there are several versions of metal containers that come with various combinations of sides and roof. For example, open-top containers have sides, but no roof. Then some are just a flat floor with no walls.

What Kind of Steel Is Used to Make Metal Shipping Containers?

Containers that are meant for international shipping must adhere to the BS EN 10025-5:2004. These guidelines state that containers must be made from “weathering steel” or “Cor-ten” steel.

The COR part stands for “corrosion-resistant” and the TEN part standard for tensile strength. This type of steel resists corrosion and have properties that make it comparable to Grader S355 steel.

This steel doesn’t need painting, though you’ll often see containers in a rainbow of colors. The metal prevents corrosion by developing a layer of rust-like coating.

It develops slowly over time. But this layer of what looks like rust actually protects the container.

You’ll find different alloys in this steel, including iron, nickel, copper, magnesium, and chromium. Other elements that you’ll find included are sulfur, silicon, carbon, and phosphorus.

What Are the Most Common Sizes?

There are five different sizes of metal containers that get used for the transport of bulk goods.

  • 20 foot
  • 40 foot
  • 45 foot
  • 48 foot
  • 53 foot

The two most common sizes are the 20 and 40-foot containers. These two sizes make it easy for the carrier to stack and move them from one transport method to another.

These sizes became standard in 1961 thanks to the efforts of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Now that we have the most common length, let’s talk about height and width. All containers are the same width, about 8 feet across. This keeps them standardized for stacking purposes.

When it comes to height, there are two common options, 8 feet, and 9’6″ feet. You may hear the taller containers referred to as “high cubes”.

How Much Does It Cost to Buy Metal Shipping Containers?

The price of your shipping container will vary depending on the size and condition of the container. There are four different conditions that containers get put into.

Condition of the Container

New or one trip containers are going to be in near perfect condition. They’re essentially new containers.

Certified or cargo worthy containers are in fine condition and considered seaworthy. Then there are wind and water tight (WWT) containers. These are typically in good condition.

The final category is the lowest quality at “as is”. They may have serious rust, holes, or doors that don’t seal 100%.


When considering this range of conditions, you can find containers are anywhere from $1,200 to $6,000. As a general rule, a newer container will be more expensive, but if an older container is in better condition, then it could be the more expensive one.

You can find used 20-foot containers for $1,800 to $3,000, while new 20-foot containers cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000.

What Is the Cost to Rent Metal Shipping Containers?

Just because you are renting a container doesn’t mean you’re stuck with a limited selection. You can ask for a preferred color, premium locks, or double instead of a single door. A quality company that cares about customer service will try to accommodate all of your requests.

The best thing to do is to speak with a rental agent. They will be able to help you locate the right container for your needs.

The cost of renting your container for a short period of time will save you significantly when compared to buying one.

Renting a container can range from $50 to $500 a month. The price will vary based on the specific container you rent and where you rent it.

Buy Your Own Shipping Container

Are you ready to get started with your purchase or rental? Hopefully, this guide has helped you understand what you need for your shipment and budget.

When it comes to metal shipping containers, you need to think about how you intend to use your container. Then consider your budget. Balance your choice between the two, so you end up with the perfect container.

Request a quote today and get started buying or renting a shipping container.

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