1. Introduction to Buying a Container
  2. What can you use shipping containers for?
  3. Buying New or Buying Used Shipping Containers?
  4. Buy or Hire a Container?
  5. Container Delivery – How to plan for delivery and avoid costly issues.
  6. Quantity – How much can you store in a container?
  7. Container Security – How to secure Storage Containers
  8. Shipping Container Accessories – Make the most of your space.
  9. I know the types of shipping containers I need – What now?

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Introduction to buying a container

Shipping Containers can be the perfect solution for a variety of needs, not only are they secure, wind and water tight, they can last for decades, generally easy to arrange and are cheaper than an extension or extra building.  Containers can be clad in a number of different ways if you need to disguise them.

Shipping Containers, Storage Containers and Container Conversions

Shipping Containers are highly versatile, but they have 3 main uses; storageconversion (including as container offices or container homes) or shipping.

From a SHIPPING point of view your container must hold a valid “CSC Plate”, this could be described as the container’s MOT and passport allowing it to be shipped around the world with its’ cargo.  All new containers are manufactured with CSC Plates and therefore can be shipped, however, most second hand or used containers will have a CSC Plate that has expired.  If you require a used shipping container for the purpose of shipping, ensure that your supplier can provide a good quality used container and renew the CSC Plate.

From a STORAGE point of view there are literally thousands of different situations and uses for shipping containers from storage of plant and machinery to archiving, chemical storage containers, to stock overflow and extra storage at home. Make sure when buying a container for storage, that it is at least weather-proof (known in the industry as ‘wind and water tight’).  If buying used shipping containers the door seals need to be intact and working, and ensure there are no holes or areas of deep rust, especially in the roof (as rust can be porous if bad enough).

Containers can also be CONVERTED to fulfil a variety of different requirements, the table below shows a list of some of the projects we have already completed along with some further ideas. This is by no means a comprehensive list but is to show the extensive number of uses to which shipping containers can be put:

  • Container Offices
  • Music Studios
  • Art Projects
  • Canteens
  • Blast Retardent Units
  • Toilet Blocks
  • Security Huts
  • Mobile Workshops
  • Changing Rooms
  • Cafe’s
  • Laboratories
  • Shower Rooms
  • Exhibition Stands
  • Saw Mills
  • Butchery
  • Food Stores
  • Multi Stores
  • Tack Room
  • School Rooms
  • Kitchen c/w Roller Shutters
  • Archiving Room
  • Equipment Enclosures
  • Tool Stores
  • Accommodation

As you can see the uses for containers are diverse and many different industries as well as private individuals purchase containers to solve an ongoing problem. A good supplier will ask the correct questions and provide support to ensure that you receive the specification of container that will best suit your requirements.

Always ask if your prospective supplier is able to cater for conversion works or shipping container accessories that you think will make your container work for you.  If they are anything like us, they’ve heard of it, quoted on it and completed it before!

Buying New or Buying Used Shipping Containers?

1. The definition of “new” and “used” changes slightly when discussing shipping containers purely because the majority of containers are manufactured abroad and therefore need to be shipped to the UK with cargo.

2. A “new” container is also known as a “one-way shipper” or “single trip” container which means it has been shipped with cargo on one occasion to get to the UK and is then available for sale thereafter. This of course means that even new containers are likely to have some bumps, scratches and other damage.  Check before you buy that your supplier will ensure this will only be superficial, at most.

3. The definition of “used” shipping containers in the container world, means that the container has either been in use as a shipping container for, typically, 10-15 years. These containers often have rust patches, bumps and bangs along the corrugations and scratches inside and out. However, if buying used shipping containers from a reputable supplier, the container should still be wind and water tight, have fully operational doors and seals and no major rust patches.  It will still have many years of service left, which can be further extended by a ‘mid-life’ re-paint at reasonable cost.

4. If in doubt about the quality of your container, whether buying or hiring new or used, ask your supplier for photographs or if possible, go and see their container stock for yourself!

Buy or Hire a Container?

1. In terms of storage, many companies will offer containers for hire or sale. Charges for purchasing a shipping container rise and fall in accordance with various market forces. Therefore, your buying decision should take into consideration the current market situation which may be different from when you last had to buy a container. Ask your supplier about the market. If the market is poor you may be better looking at storage containers for rent, if the market is good then buy and buy quickly, they do not stay cheap for long!

2. Similarly, if you are only looking for short-term storage, hire may be the best option whereas for long-term storage, buying a container will give you a return on your investment.

3. If you are having modifications or adding shipping container accessories then you will almost certainly have to purchase the unit.  Very few companies will carry out container modifications on a container for hire as re-hire is unlikely when works are bespoke.

4. In terms of shipping, you will again almost certainly need to purchase.  Very few container companies will offer a container for international shipping on a hire basis.

5. Finally, remember to take the shipping container delivery cost into consideration. When you hire a container you will need to pay both delivery and collection, which of course will add to the overall cost, whereas when purchasing a container you will only need to pay for delivery.

Container Delivery – How to plan for delivery and avoid costly issues

Container delivery is a specialist service and there are many issues that can prevent a successful delivery.  If a haulier has to abort a delivery, this will be EXPENSIVE.  However, appropriate planning by a professional supplier will virtually guarantee a successful and stress-free delivery, providing all of the requested information.

1. Crane equipped (‘Hi-ab’) vehicles or stand-alone cranes are used for container delivery.  Articulated Hi-ab vehicles (with trailers) are (often) up to 65″ (20m) long and are designed to operate on hard and level ground.  If the ground your container is being delivered on is not flat or hard standing, or can be problematic in wet weather, then please tell your supplier as any problems with delivery can incur waiting or abortive charges.

2. If you have any concerns ask your supplier to arrange a site visit where someone from the haulage company or your supplier will attend site.  Show them where your container needs to be sited and they will assess whether the vehicle will be able to deliver the unit and have enough space to manoeuvre.

Typical crane equipped vehicle

3. During container delivery, the vehicle offloads parallel to where the unit needs to be delivered so make sure there is plenty of space for the hi-ab to pull up next to the location.

4. A good supplier should prompt you with these questions for instance; S Jones supplies all customers with a delivery questionnaire, the information from which is then passed on to our professional hauliers.  That way, if the customer has mentioned a problem, the haulier can act on it as they see fit – after all, they are the experts!

5. Often container delivery can be arranged within 72 hours. If you are looking for a specific time for the unit to be delivered make sure your supplier is fully aware as problems can occur such as traffic jams, extra time on previous sites or breakdowns.  It is often preferable for the driver to contact the customer as they set off with your container to provide an Estimated Time of Arrival.

Note: These vehicles can ONLY go on grass if carefully planned and in very dry conditions.  The vehicles CANNOT work under overhead power cables or telephone lines. THE SIZES AND ADVICE OUTLINED ABOVE IS A GENERAL IDEA REGARDING HAULAGE – TO PREVENT EXTRA CHARGES ALWAYS CHECK WITH YOUR SUPPLIER, IF YOU ARE NOT SURE ARRANGE A SITE VISIT.

Quantity – How much can you store in a container?

1. The industry standard for Shipping Container measurements are 20ft long x 8ft wide x 8ft 6in (or 9ft 6in) high. To put this into perspective, this is approximately the size of a single car garage. If you need less storage, other types of shipping containers are available, such as a 10ft Container which may be ideal.  If you need more, a 30ft container or 40ft container would be perfect. However, both 10ft and 30ft containers are not industry standard shipping container sizes and so may cost a little more.  Therefore, if you have the space it is often best to add the extra 10ft!

Standard External Container Dimensions

Container Length 8ft 10ft 20ft 30ft 40ft
Container Width 7ft 1ins 8ft 8ft 8ft 8ft
Container Height:
» Standard 7ft 5ins 8ft 6ins 8ft 6ins 8ft 6ins 8ft 6ins
» High cube 9ft 6ins 9ft 6ins 9ft 6ins 9ft 6ins

Standard Internal Container Dimensions

Internal Length 7ft 6ins 9ft 2ins 19ft 3ins 29ft 4ins 39ft 4ins
Internal Width 6ft 11ins 7ft 7ins 7ft 7ins 7ft 7ins 7ft 7ins
Internal Height:
» Standard 6ft 8ins 7ft 9ins 7ft 9ins 7ft 9ins 7ft 9ins
» High cube 8ft 9ins 8ft 9ins 8ft 9ins 8ft 9ins
End Door Aperture Width 6ft 10ins as req. 7ft 6ins 7ft 6ins 7ft 6ins
End Door Aperture Height:
» Standard 6ft 4ins as req. 7ft 5ins 7ft 5ins 7ft 5ins
» High cube as req. 8ft 5ins 8ft 5ins 8ft 5ins
Floor area 51sq ft 72sq ft 150sq ft 227sq ft 305sq ft
Cubic capacity:
» Standard 348cu ft 560cu ft 1160cu ft 1760cu ft 2360cu ft
» High cube 630cu ft 1310cu ft 1985cu ft 2660cu ft
Weight 1 tons 1.5 tons 2.4 tons 3.2 tons 4 tons

2. If you feel that the container dimensions above will not suit your requirements, there are many other options.  High cube containers for example are 1ft higher than standard shipping container measurements, and are ideal for plant. It is often preferable to relay your requirements to your supplier as conversion work can be completed and most specifications can be catered for.

Container Security – How to secure shipping containers

1. You are most likely looking for a Storage Container because security is important to you. Secure storage containers are made from corrugated Corten steel which is a “copper rich” steel – the copper element helps reduce the speed of erosion in the event of paint damage. The steel is of a 1.6mm-2mm thickness, making Corten containers extremely secure.

It is also important to choose the correct container padlocks.

CISA 285/75 Lock2. The most popular container padlocks in the industry are CISA 285/75 which are a high security sliding shackle “block” lock.  When fitted with a “lockbox” on the outside of the container it provides a secure locking system that helps to prevent unauthorised access into the container – a must for container security.

3. S Jones Containers has created the patented “Contain-A-Lock” padlock protector (‘shroud’ or ‘lock box’). To prevent loss or theft of the padlock it is held inside the padlock protector shroud by a simple sliding carriage. Relocking the padlock away from the hasp stops its removal. However, the mechanism still allows full operation of the doors, it is used in conjunction with the CISA lock to improve container security and is further strengthened by heat treatment to harden the steel against cutting.  Visit the Shipping Container Accessories page to view the Contain-A-Lock padlock protector.

Shipping Container Accessories – Make the most of your space

1. We mentioned earlier about conversions but there are also a variety of shipping container accessories that can be applied to your container to make it work for you, it is always worth considering these at the point of purchase as it will be much cheaper for your supplier to carry out the works prior to delivery:

2. Door Positioning: You may require specialist doors or a side opening container so that you can load it from the side with a forklift, for example.  Or you may require doors at both ends of the container (tunnel containers) for ease of access, rather than the industry standard of doors at one end.  These can all be sourced by suppliers and if you have a specification it can often be followed.  See our range of non standard containers.

3. Windows and Personnel Doors: You may want your container converting into a site office or security hut, in which case you will probably require windows and a personnel door to be fitted.  (See also ‘Insulation and lining’ below).

4. Partitions: Partitions can be installed within the container if it is being used for more than one function, this would usually be a 50/50 split maybe for an office/store, but individual specifications can often be catered for.

5. Paint: It may be important that your container blends in with the scenery or is painted in corporate colours.  Container companies use RAL paint codes and specialist equipment in order to insure the paintwork stays on the container in poor weather.  We currently have an exclusive offer on container paint, get in touch to find out more.

6. Cladding: We can also clad containers to give a more natural and rustic appearance.

7. Shelving: Fresh air in a container is wasted space that you have paid for. Make full use of the storage capacity inside your container with shelving to double or treble the amount you can store. This is particularly useful for archiving or storing smaller items in your container.  Shelving is also ideal for keeping paint or chemicals off the floor in containers.


8. Ramps: If you are storing heavy items it is definitely worth considering a ramp as the container has approximately a 7 inch lip from the floor which can be difficult to lift objects into, a ramp makes this much easier and more convenient.


9. Refrigeration/Heated: You may be using your container to store perishables in which case you may need refrigerated containers, or in some cases heated. This is possible to do with a few suppliers so definitely check on your initial contact.

9ft secure walk-in Cold Room

10. Insulation and lining: Insulation and lining are generally used to make the space into a work environment, and to control temperature and/or noise within the container. A simple plywood/insulation lining for basic storage helps prevent condensation where moisture control is not possible or practical. Sturdy panels also mean hooks or shelves can be fitted but this intention must be advised in advance in order that strong ply panels are used. There are many different options for providing an insulated shipping container, so please speak to your supplier about your intended use so that the most appropriate method can be advised.



11. Ventilation: Shipping containers are fitted with vents but can be prone to condensation in cold weather (e.g. old washing machines can cause havoc when the moisture leaves them!).   Extra vents can be installed in order to improve the flow of fresh air. Alternatively, many companies offer anti-condensation coating (Grafo-Therm) and moisture traps.

12. Condensation/Moisture Control: As mentioned with the vents; dependent on what you are storing moisture and condensation can sometimes be an issue with containers, therefore, try something like a Moisture Trap or Grafo- Therm.  The cost of any anti-condensation treatments or accessories is worth its weight in gold if it means the items you are storing are safe.

This is not a full list of what is available, the sky is quite literally the limit with shipping container accessories and container conversions.  Make sure you ask your supplier about what is available and view some of their past projects prior to purchase to ensure quality.

I know the type of Shipping Containers I need….What now?

Now you have made the decision on what type of shipping container(s) you need – you have to find a supplier and know what questions to ask to ensure you receive the container and service you need:

1. Does the supplier have testimonials on their website? The best way to find out how well a company perform is by asking their previous customers.  If they have testimonials on their website read them and see if they provide the quality of service you are looking for. If they do not have testimonials, ask for references.

2. If you contact the company, check their industry knowledge. This buyers guide has a great deal of information that your supplier should know…Test them. Talk to prospective suppliers to see how interested they are in you and your enquiry. They should be asking you questions about how you intend to use your container in order to deliver a container you can fully utilise immediately.

3. Know who you are dealing with. Is the company you’re talking to an ‘office-based’ operation (i.e. they don’t directly work with containers, just trade them through third parties) or an actual facility that handles containers and directly modifies them like S Jones?

4. Will the container delivery be safe? What preparations and precautions is the supplier volunteering to ensure a safe and professional delivery?  If your supplier does not ‘grill’ you about your delivery how do they know your site conditions and issues?

5. Will the quality of the container be up to standard? If you are buying used shipping containers for shipping, is it still covered by its CSC plate for shipping (the containers passport!)?  Is it “wind and water tight”? Are there any large rust patches? Are there any holes? Do the doors open and close easily? Are the door seals intact? Are the floors sound?

If you are purchasing a new container it should definitely be up to scratch!

6. How many containers do you need and will they be the same? If you need a larger volume of containers will your supplier be able to supply them?  If so, can the supplier offer this many? Do they all need to be the same or similar. e.g. for a self store site?

7. Does your supplier provide Site Visits? If you are unsure if you have enough space or suitable ground for the unit to be delivered ask your supplier if they can arrange a site visit.  This is sometimes chargeable.

We hope that our guide to buying a container has helped you with your buying journey.


  • We have a Customer Satisfaction rating of over 95% consistently across a range of factors. We have worked hard to earn it and are proud of it!
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