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10 Tips for Using Shipping Containers as Portable Storage Units

29.11.2021 - Posted by Updated On 29.11.2021    

Converting a shipping container into a storage unit is a great idea, one which has been growing in popularity over the past few years.  In many areas of North America there a surplus of both new and used shipping containers, and while the costs involved aren’t dirt cheap, there are some great deals to be had when compared to other alternatives.

Before you decide to convert a shipping container into a portable storage unit, we’ve put together a list of 10 tips that you should consider to keep your costs low, and your stored items safe, secure, and in the best condition.

1. Delivery Method:  There are two common types of trucks that can deliver a shipping container:  a roll off, or tilt bed, and a flatbed truck.  A flatbed truck is cheaper than a tilt bed, but if you don’t have a forklift on site it may not be an option.  If you’re more than 100 miles from the container depot the best idea is to research the cost of renting a forklift and compare it to the total delivery cost of the two options.

2. Building Permits:  In many parts of North America you don’t need a building permit for something that isn’t on a permanent foundation.  If you’re building a shed or barn you may need a permit, if you’re setting a container onto railroad ties or concrete footings you may not need a permit.

3. Total Costs:  When compared to a shed or other wood frame or concrete structure, the material cost may appear to be less than the cost of a shipping container, but if you include the construction costs, time, and related fees a container may become a financially competitive option.

4. Container Foundation:  To get the most life out of a container it’s a good idea to put it on some type of a foundation.  If you drop the container directly onto the ground there won’t be much room for moisture drainage and ventilation and it can expedite corrosion and the decay of the underside of the container.  If you can provide even a basic shipping container foundation, such as rail road ties, it will increase the life of your container. For ideas on shipping container foundations check out this article on storage container foundation ideas.

5. Improve Security:  New shipping containers come equipped with lock boxes, while used containers don’t have a lock box as a standard feature.  A bolt on lock box increases the security of the container by making the lock inaccessible on all sides but the bottom, and nearly impossible to cut the shank. If your container doesn't have a lock box, you can purchase one on

6. Interior Odor/Smells:  If your container has any type of interior smell due to the goods that were shipped, take a large jug of instant coffee and spread it around the inside of the container, then close the doors for a day or two.  The coffee normally absorbs any odors and leaves the container with a faint coffee smell.  (Thanks to On-Site Containers in Lancaster, PA for this tip!)

7. Proper Ventilation:  If you’re in an area of the country where the temperature of days and nights fluctuates, you may find that condensation builds up inside of the container.  Depending on what you’ve stored in the container this may damage the items.  It’s a good idea to install some type of ventilation system inside of the container; either a basic HVAC system or fixed shipping container vents will do the trick.  Shipping container vents can be purchased on

8. New or Used Shipping Containers:  Depending on what your plans for the container are, the cost of a new shipping container may outweigh the price of a used container.  Read more about the differences in this article, "Do I need a new or used shipping container?"

9. Finding the Best Priced Container:  The cheapest container may not be the best option.  Just like in #8, if you find a container that’s really cheap you may want to check out the condition.  New containers are pretty standard in terms of options and features, but used containers can vary greatly in terms of condition and price.

10. Get the Most for your Money:  20’ standard, 40’ standard, 40’ high cubes, and 40’ super high cubes provide a different amount of storage in a standard foot print size.  If you’re looking for the best value for a commercial storage company, calculate the price per square foot of each container and see which makes the most sense to you.

Shipping containers are a great option if you’re looking for a portable storage solution, even if you don’t plan on moving it from one place to another.  Containers can be set up quickly, and for a really affordable price; making them a competitive option when compared to a wooden or concrete structure.  If you’re considering buying a shipping container to use as a storage unit (or any purpose for that matter) and have questions feel free to contact any of the qualified sellers on, or our staff directly and we’ll do everything we can to make sure you get the best deal.

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