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Shipping Containers For Businesses

Used Shipping Container: A Guide for Businesses

Shipping containers have come a long way since their beginnings as simple steel boxes designed to carry goods across the seas. Over the years, these sturdy structures have evolved into creative solutions that find use in a variety of forms for both commercial and residential needs. In this guide, we look at the use of shipping containers for businesses. We’ll give you an overview of the process of acquiring a used shipping container, and provide you with relevant information to help you make an informed decision for your business.

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What is a Used Shipping Container?

A used shipping container is a large, durable, metal container that has been previously used for transporting goods via ships, trucks, or trains. These containers are made of Corten steel and are resilient to the rigors of transportation, including exposure to the elements and rough handling. Used shipping containers may have been used once or several times to transport goods. Once they have served their purpose, they are removed from the shipping network and sold to companies that specialize in the sale, rental and modification of used shipping containers.

Categories of Used Shipping Containers

Used shipping containers are classified into different grades and conditions based on their overall quality, structural integrity, and suitability for business needs. Before shopping for a used shipping container for sale, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the different types of containers to make an educated choice. Here are the different categories of used maritime containers you will find on the market:

  • One Trip/New (OT/N): One trip or new containers have experienced only a single use for transporting cargo, rendering them in excellent condition and often appearing nearly new. These containers exhibit minimal wear and tear, present a clean appearance, and maintain structural soundness. They are versatile and can be used for a variety of purposes, including offices, homes or pop-up kiosks, where the external aesthetics of the container are important.
  • Cargo Worthy (CW): Cargo-worthy containers adhere to the standards required for international shipping. They are considered suitable for safely transporting cargo over long distances. These containers are structurally sound and validated by a CSC (Container Safety Convention) plate. They exhibit minimal damage, if any, and are both wind and watertight.
  • Wind and Watertight (WWT): Wind and watertight containers are still perfectly sealed against the elements, ensuring protection of their content from wind and water infiltration. Although not approved for international shipping, they remain in good condition for applications such as local storage. While they may have cosmetic imperfections, they typically show no signs of significant structural damage.
  • As-Is: Containers in as-is condition are sold without any refurbishments or repairs. These containers may exhibit signs of wear, dents, rust, and other more or less important imperfections. Their structural integrity can vary, potentially requiring maintenance or repairs.
  • Refurbished/Modified: Refurbished or modified containers have undergone alterations to meet specific requirements, such as structural repairs, repainting, or custom modifications. The characteristics of these containers vary depending on the extent of refurbishment.

Shipping Container Sizes Available for Businesses

Used shipping containers are available in a variety of sizes, with each size catering to different business needs. The most common shipping container sizes are as follows:

  • 10-foot shipping container: The smallest shipping container size, these containers are 10 feet in length, 8 feet in width, and 8.6 feet in height.
  • 20-foot shipping container: One of the most versatile shipping container sizes for a variety of business needs. It measures 20 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8.6 feet high with high cube version available for more vertical space.
  • 40-foot shipping container: One of the largest containers on the market. It measures 40 feet long, 8 feet wide and 8.6 feet high.
  • 40-foot high cube shipping container: Similar to the standard 40-foot container in width and length, this container offers an extra foot of height for a total height of 9.6 feet.

Find out more about shipping container measurements and dimensions.

Shipping containers for businesses - modifications

Available Modifications of Used Shipping Containers for Businesses

Used shipping containers are often modified to meet particular needs beyond their original design for cargo transport. Modifications can enhance your used shipping container functionality and transform it into a versatile and purpose-specific structure for your business.

Some common shipping container modifications include:

  • Doors and windows: Containers can be fitted with additional doors such as personnel doors, patio doors, garage doors and roll-up doors to better suit your business needs. Windows can also be added to benefit from more natural light and improved air circulation.
  • Heating, Ventilation and Cooling: HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems can be installed to control temperature and air quality inside the container.
  • Electricity and lighting: Electrical panels, outlets, lighting and cabling are all elements that can be added to your container to make it more functional.
  • Shelving and racking: To facilitate organization and maximize space utilization, containers can be fitted with shelves, racks or storage systems.
  • Painting and branding: Businesses can paint and/or apply customized decals to enhance their used shipping container appearance and make it comply with their brand image.

If you’re considering modifying your used shipping container, it’s important to work with professionals experienced in container customization to ensure safety, compliance, and functionality.

Six Benefits of Used Shipping Containers

Beyond their primary role in the transportation industry, used shipping containers offer a myriad of benefits that make them a practical and resourceful choice. Their adaptability, durability, and security make them valuable assets for various applications.

Here are some key advantages of opting for used shipping containers for your business:

  1. Versatile – Used shipping containers are highly versatile and can be repurposed for a wide range of uses, like merchant booths, event kiosks, and offices.
  2. Robust – Shipping containers are constructed from durable materials. They feature a steel alloy structure with marine-grade flooring, ensuring structural integrity and longevity, and making them reliable for long-term use.
  3. Secure – Shipping containers and their robust locking systems coupled with secure lockboxes offer significant protection against vandalism. They are ideal for storing valuable items, and equipment, or serving as a protected workspace.
  4. Weather Resistant – Designed to endure the elements, shipping containers are inherently weather-resistant. They can withstand exposure to rain, wind, and sunlight, making them suitable for outdoor use in various climates. Doors are sealed with a 2-stage EPDM rubber for weather protection.
  5. Mobile – Used shipping containers are transportable, allowing for mobility and flexibility and making them an ideal solution for temporary or changing space requirements.
  6. Modular – The modular nature of shipping containers provides scalability as your business grows or changes, as well as easy stacking and arranging in different configurations.

How Can Business Owners Use a Shipping Container?

As a business owner, you can leverage the versatility and adaptability of used shipping containers to create functional spaces in a variety of ways. Some examples include:

Retail Kiosk (Pop-up or On-site)

Transform a used shipping container into a versatile retail kiosk, perfect for pop-up or on-site sales of clothing, food, beverages, and more. The container design ensures easy portability, complemented by a convenient ground-level entrance for customers.

Learn more about container pop-up kiosks and retail shops.

Shipping containers for businesses - restaurants

Restaurant, Bar, and Café

Convert a shipping container into a trendy restaurant, bar, or café for a unique dining experience. Enjoy quick setup and maximized seating with a rooftop patio and lounge, all wrapped in a modern aesthetic.

Get inspired by existing container restaurants.

Studio, Workshop, and Repair Shop

Utilize a used shipping container as a studio for photography, recording, or art. Equipped with all the right tools and equipment, a used shipping container can also serve as a workshop or repair shop, ideal for fixing bicycles and small motors or engaging in woodworking.

Storage (Inventory, Equipment, Archives)

Used shipping containers offer a cost-effective, secure, and weather-resistant storage solution for inventory, equipment, and archival items. Their robust design protects contents from the elements, and their mobility allows for easy relocation without the need to empty them.


As a business owner, you can convert a used shipping container into a versatile, portable office space, ideal for construction sites and events or use it for remote work. The container can be modified with electricity, AC, doors and windows for a practical temporary or permanent workspace.

Service Station (Pop-up or On-site)

Old shipping containers can become innovative pop-up service stations. They are ideal for pet grooming salons, hair and nail salons, barber shops or massage studios. These portable units can easily be shipped to remote locations, offering a unique and compact solution for diverse service offerings.

Renting vs. Buying a Used Shipping Container for Businesses

When it comes to securing a used shipping container for your business, the decision to rent or buy involves careful consideration, with each option offering distinct advantages. Here, we explore the pros of both, helping you choose a solution that aligns with your business goals and requirements.


Short-term needs: Renting is ideal for short-term projects, events, or storage needs where a temporary solution is required.

Flexibility: Renting provides flexibility to change container sizes or configurations based on evolving requirements.

Budget constraints: If upfront costs are a concern, renting allows your business to access containers without a significant initial investment.



Long-term commitment: Buying is suitable for businesses with long-term or permanent space requirements, providing a sense of ownership and stability.

Customization: Buying allows for extensive customization, making it a preferred option if your business is looking for an adaptable solution for your project needs.

Investment potential: While requiring a larger upfront investment, owning a container can be viewed as a long-term asset and potentially offers cost savings over time.

More about buying or renting a shipping container.

How Much is a Used Shipping Container?

The cost of used shipping containers for businesses varies significantly based on several factors, including shipping container dimensions, grades and conditions, any alterations made to it and supply and demand. Here’s a breakdown of how these factors influence the pricing:

  • Size: Smaller containers, such as 10 or 20 feet in size, are generally less expensive than larger containers like 40-foot These tend to cost more due to the increased volume of material.
  • Condition: Containers sold in their existing state are usually more budget-friendly but may require maintenance or repairs. Containers meeting international shipping standards or in good condition are priced higher than those with visible wear and tear.
  • Modifications: Adding modifications increases the overall cost. The extent and type of alterations and conversions will contribute to the final price.
  • Supply and demand: Supply and demand can also affect the price of a container. A less common size of container could cost more than another if demand is greater than supply.


As you can see, what began as a pragmatic solution for global trade has transformed into a multifaceted resource with applications suitable for a wide array of business endeavours. As you explore the possibilities of investing in a used shipping container, the key lies in recognizing not just their physical durability, security, and adaptability, but the limitless potential they can offer your business.

Conterm specializes in the sale of used shipping containers in Montreal. As experts in used shipping containers for businesses, we can advise you on choosing the best container for your project and budget. We can also modify your container to meet your exact requirements. Contact us for more information on our services.

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