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Shipping Container Inspection

Shipping Container Inspection: 8 Things to Consider

When buying a used shipping container for sale, it’s important to pay attention to every detail before putting your money on the table. sea cans come in different stages of wear and tear, with issues ranging from rust to paint chips and sagging to faulty doors. Although the history of the shipping container can add to its charm, it also tells the story of how it came to be in its current condition. Here we look at the shipping container grades that tell you the level of wear and tear, as well as what to look for when doing a shipping container inspection.

Why You Need To Inspect A Shipping Container

Not all shipping container companies have a quality control process in place. While the most trustworthy companies will evaluate and check used containers for safety, you still want to do your own shipping container inspection to feel confident you are making a smart purchase. Although cosmetic issues are common on used sea cans, you have to look out for signs of severe damage that cause structural issues.

Understand What You Are Looking At

Shipping containers are graded based on the level of wear and tear. Understanding the container grades and conditions makes the shopping process easier. There are four grades:

New “One-Trip”

As the name implies, one-trip containers have only been used for shipment once. This is, of course, the premium used container because it is almost mark-free with a nice clean floor and no major marks or stains. If you plan to modify your container suited for living, working, or commercial use as opposed to storage, this is the best container, hands down.


These containers tend to be about 10 years old and are structurally sound. They are fully functional, without major holes or dents. Although they might have cosmetic damage, these containers have been inspected and approved for oversea shipping. Look for the CSC plate on the door to confirm certification.

Wind and Watertight

These containers provide a structurally sound storage solution. As with cargo-worthy containers, they will likely have some cosmetic damage but are still perfectly capable of protecting your stored belongings.


Once again, the name says it all. This container requires careful inspection as there are no guarantees to protect you against its current condition. Although you can find some in better condition than others, be prepared to find dents and rust, missing steel sections, damaged doors, and rotten floors. Although not suitable for exports in their current condition, repairs can bring them up to high enough standards to make safe storage possible. You have to weigh their price against the cost of repairs to determine if it’s worth it.

How Do You Inspect A Shipping Container: 8 Items To Check

Here are eight things to check when inspecting your shipping container:

Structural integrity

To get a good feel for the structure, stand back and look at the exterior silhouette of the container. It should be perfectly flush without any signs of sagging or leaning. It should be nice and square and free of slants. Next, check the doors and see how well they open. Although stickiness could be caused by the container not sitting level with the ground, it could also be a structural issue. The latch gear bars shouldn’t be damaged, missing or warped.

Shipping container inspection doors


The door check takes some strength but is a must to get a sense of the overall condition of the container. If the door is sticky, as mentioned above, this could be caused by the frame. But it could also be due to poorly maintained, rusty hinges. Both reasons are signs the container isn’t in the best condition. Also, look for things like dents to the doors or frames as this can create gaps that allow for leaks and pests. Last, check the seal and locks to make sure the door is sound and secure.


Ideally, you want to get up top to check out the roof. Things like dents can lead to rust and corrosion issues that eat away at the steel’s integrity. If the damage is relatively recent, dents can be repaired to even out the roof line. Older damage is more serious, as moisture creates corrosive rust. Obvious damage such as holes and corrosion require repairs whether you are using the container for storage or people.


Check the undercarriage to make sure the steel beams supporting the floor aren’t missing. The exterior floor profile should be level, and the interior floor should feel even. Some people actually use a mirror to do a thorough check of the hard-to-see places beneath the container.

Dents, Scratches and Repairs

Dents and scratches aren’t necessarily bad, as they can be repaired quite easily. However, deep dents in walls can cause slouches and warping. Where dents become more worrisome is on the roof, as mentioned above. Dents on the roof collect water and cause serious rust and corrosion. Although repairs are often made to improve the condition of a container, some repairs hide serious issues. A bubbly appearance on painted surfaces, for example, indicates corrosive rust.


We’ve mentioned rust several times, and for good reason. While small patches of rust create a patina that can actually prevent further rust, corrosive rust is very bad. Rust that has a bubbly, warty look is “cancerous” and has eaten away at the steel’s structure. Containers with this type of rust are almost always defective.
Shipping container inspection pre-buy


To check for holes, close the doors and look for dots of light in the walls and roof. Then use a flashlight to look for other signs of damage. The floor should be free of soft spots and sagging and also feel even when you walk.

Ventilation and Odours

If you notice unpleasant odours when you enter the interior, this is a red flag. This could be a mouldy, mildewy smell but can range from chemicals to rot. Smells are always a bad sign, as it means there were issues with ventilation or condensation.

Choose a Reputable Container Company

When purchasing a used container, it is important to deal with a reputable shipping container company and to inspect the container yourself. If this is not possible, ask for photos and/or videos to be sent to you. Shipping container inspection is the only way to ensure you are buying a container suited for your intended use. Choosing the right grade and making sure the container checks all your inspection boxes will provide you with a safe and sound container.

Conterm offers new and used shipping containers in different grades and conditions. Contact us to discuss your project and budget, and we will help you find the right container for you.

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