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Container Inspection Tips for New Buyers

11.08.2013 - Posted by Updated On 11.08.2013    

If you're never purchased a shipping container, you may not even know where to start.  Finding a shipping container in your area, at the price you want, is the first step; and once you do that you'll probably want to visit the depot and inspect the unit.

Inspecting a container for the first timhe can be challenging, especially if you don't know what to ask or look for.  Some dealers and depots are incredibly helpful and will explain everything to you, including the names of the container parts and what to look for, while other high volume depots may not have the time to give you a crash course in "Shipping Containers 101".

We previously posted this article on the technical jargon associated with shipping container parts and components.  It goes into detail, but if you remember a few of the parts you'll be able to have a better idea of what's most important for your project.

Shipping Container Inspection Checklist

If you try to search for "shipping container inspection guide" you're likely to find the US Department of Defense "MIL-HDBK-138B", or "GUIDE TO CONTAINER INSPECTION FOR COMMERCIAL AND MILITARY INTERMODAL CONTAINERS".  While this is an interesting read for some people, for most it's 143 pages of repetitious information and content that is probably not useful to the person that wants a 20' container to store their tools in.  We've created our "Shipping Container Inspection Sheet" for the retail buyer that's comparing multiple containers.

There are really seven core areas to focus on when you're inspecting a shipping container.  Some areas are lower priority, unless you plan on using it for shipping, while other areas are important to how well it will serve you.

  • The doors (1), both inside and outside
  • The sides of the outside container, both left (2) and right (3)
  • The floor (4)
  • The front wall (5).  This is the wall on the opposite side of the doors in a standard container
  • The ceiling/roof of the container (6)
  • The undercarriage (7), or the outside, opposite of the floor

When inspecting these areas you'll want to look for any dents, dings, or bent components that cannot be easily repaired.

Check if it's Square

If a shipping container isn't square it can lead to issues at a later time.  Bending, warping, or other unnatural pressure can cause damage that's hard to notice, until it's too late.  To check if the container is square, starting on the either long side of the container take a long piece of string and extend it from the top corner to the lower corner and pull it tight.  If the distance to the wall changes along the path of the string you may have an issue.

Test the Doors and Locking Gear

The locking gear should move, and depending on the age of the container and how frequently it's used this may take a little more encouragement.  Make sure the locking bars and retainer brackets are present and still securely connected to the container, and the handles can be opened and closed.  Keep in mind that they may need a little grease to get them moving smoothly.

Is the Container Wind and Water Tight?

Checking to see if a container is wind and water tight is pretty simple.  Basically, you want to make sure there are no holes, punctures, or damage that's weakened any of the sides of the container.  To test this, go inside of the container and close the doors.  If all you see is darkness (and it's during the daytime), you're set.  If it looks like a starry night, you've got some issues.

It's important to remember that, like used cars, used shipping containers are all a different in different ways. While new shipping containers tend to be similar in terms of condition and features, used containers have each been handled differently and carried different things. When you inspect them be sure and look at the all four walls, the ceiling and floor, and the doors. If you are thinking about buying a shipping container and have any questions about inspections, checking the condition, or which container is the best for your project our staff is always available to help you however we can. Feel free to contact us through email or call (307) 222-9085.



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