Buying Shipping Containers

How to Buy Used Shipping Containers Cheap and Find the Best Deal

Whether it’s your first time buying used cargo containers or you’ve bought a few units in the past, you probably have one question in mind: where can I buy used shipping containers cheap and get a great deal?

While container prices tend to move up and down in the market based on many factors, like supply and demand, you can find great deals on shipping containers if you know where to buy.

While there are a ton of listings online selling cheap used containers, an online purchase may be a bit risky because there's no way for you to inspect the container in its entirety before committing to purchase. Unless you travel all the way to the seller’s location, shipping container photographs posted online can be deceiving.

On the other hand, buying from local shipping container sellers may be less of a worry because it’s easier to drive by at their depot and carefully evaluate the container’s condition. Yet for the most part, local suppliers charge more and the price is already set in stone. Haggling is usually out of the question.

So how do you make sure that you get the best deal?

Finding the Best Deals in Buying Used Shipping Containers

This quick guide to getting the best value in shipping containers is for you. You’ll learn where to buy used storage containers at a discounted price without sacrificing quality. Let’s get into it!

Buying from Classified Ads and Listings

So you’ve talked to several suppliers in your area and felt that the prices are way beyond your budget. You suddenly thought about eBay and Craigslist, went online, and voila — you’ve found the perfect container. The photos look good and the seller has a couple of decent reviews. Plus, it fits your budget perfectly!

Should you order the container right now? Not until you're aware of the pros and cons of buying containers cheap from online listings.

Pros:

  • Selling price is typically cheap and negotiable because the owner is eager to sell. The best deals you get with used containers for sale in listings are often from individuals reselling their containers.
  • You can choose from a broad variety of units because you can search for sellers almost anywhere in the world.

Cons:

  • As with most things sold and bought used online, you won’t always know the exact condition of your container. Pictures may be worth a thousand words but they don’t truly tell the entire story. You could end up with a container with lots of issues or much worst, a different container.
  • If you find a seller who lives hundreds of miles away from you, delivery costs may be expensive. On top of that, you may have to pay for “handling” fees. As much as possible, get a quote from the seller before putting an order.
  • Learning about the container’s history may be more challenging if you buy it from eBay or Craigslist. Details such as how the unit was previously handled, stored and used, as well as its history of repairs and chemical spills will be more difficult to dig up.
  • In contrast to companies who have been moving containers across the country for years, hiring teams who are inexperienced in moving containers could end up costing a lot more than you expected if the container gets damaged. Shipping containers are one of the most difficult things to move from one place to another and this might be an issue for those who have never dealt with it.

Buying From a Local Dealer

Buying local may be another option worth looking at if you’re in the hunt for used storage containers and save money at the same time

Where do you find local dealers near you? Check the daily local paper for ads, go over business directories, or call your local shipping docks to ask if they’re personally selling containers or perhaps recommend trusted resellers.

Pros:

  • Delivery charges are predominantly cheaper because there’s less distance to cover.
  • Local suppliers, particularly the ones who have been in the industry for a while, are well-informed enough to help you find the right container for your specific needs and preferences. They are also likely knowledgeable about the ins and outs of securing permitting requirements in your area.
  • Local retailers tend to offer customized or special features that might interest you like shelving, ramps, and high-end locking mechanisms.
  • Ask neighbors or the people in your area about the seller’s reputation. It’s easier to look up reliable ratings on Yelp or the BBB when it comes to local dealers.

Cons:

  • A local seller may be pressured to sell what’s left in stock. It might sound like a good deal but be wary of containers with a lot of issues.
  • Prices are usually on the expensive end because the containers are custom-made. In addition, you can’t expect big discounts or negotiable prices because these sellers have to take care of overhead costs as business owners.

Buying Direct from a Tier-1 Supplier

Buying from a tier-1 supplier of shipping containers means you’re buying directly from a supplier who sells containers to huge corporations and local resellers across the country. In short, you’re bypassing the middlemen e.g. local dealers and distributors.

Pros:

  • You will likely get the best deal of all three options by buying from Tier 1 suppliers. Case in point: resellers tend to mark their containers up by 25 to 35 percent while ContainerDiscounts, a tier 1 supplier, sells containers at 15 to 20 percent markup.
  • You also get a better selection than you get with most local dealers who sell from the stock they have on hand, rather than the thousands of containers sold by Tier-1 suppliers.
  • Tier 1 suppliers like ContainerDiscounts almost always have a certified condition guarantee and offers professional delivery.

Cons:

  • Buying direct can be more expensive than buying from an individual seller on listings like Craigslist. While it's possible to find containers at a bargain price from these individual sellers, a purchase doesn't usually come with a certified condition guarantee.

Finding the Best Value When Buying Shipping Containers

Apparently, "cheap" is relative. For some, paying $500 for a used container may be a steal, but if you can't use it because of leaks and rusting, it's a waste of money. On the other hand, you can end up paying too much for a container you could have bought cheaper by buying direct.

In the end, a bit of research goes a long way.

By knowing what a good deal looks like, you can decide on what you're willing to pay for. If this is your first time buying a shipping container, you may want to read Buying Shipping Containers 101: A First-Time Buyer's Guide.

Written by Container Guru / August 3, 2018

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