Storage Container Grades: How They Affect Price
In the world of storage containers, you will find that there are a number of different descriptions, categories, and grades assigned to containers. What this description actually means can be confusing, especially when some of the names are used interchangeably or mean different things to different suppliers. But is important to understand them because they can directly affect the price of a container.
Category = Condition
The grade or category that is assigned to a storage container often reflects its current condition. Other factors that will affect the grade include: the age of the container, miles traveled, damage and repair history, and weather conditions under which the container has been shipped or stored. Most storage containers are retired shipping containers, so you can expect some wear and tear. But it’s helpful to know the following:
Not all storage containers are created equal.
Newer ≠ Better
A newer container does not always mean it’s better quality. An old container could actually be in better condition than a ‘like new’ container that has traveled hundreds of miles or has been sitting outside in a shipyard for years under harsh weather conditions. It’s important to find out as much information as possible about a container’s history before you rent or buy. Most container suppliers have this information, but if you choose to buy from a third-party seller on sites like eBay or Craigslist, they may not know the details of the container’s history.
Shipping vs. Storage
Many of the grades/categories used to describe containers are actually terms that were created by the shipping industry. Labels such as ‘cargo worthy,’ ‘windproof,’ and ‘watertight’ are descriptions given by a certified marine surveyor who must approve the unit for international transport.
It is important to know this: a container that is no longer approved for shipping does not mean the container would not make an excellent storage unit. Shipping containers must adhere to strict regulations by the International Standards Organization (ISO) in order to ensure safety and consistency in transport.
A steel container that is going to be used on a construction site to hold heavy equipment and machinery does not need to adhere to the same standards as that of a container that will be stacked 7 units high on a barge that will travel hundreds of miles across the ocean. Similarly, a container that will sit in a parking lot to hold seasonal inventory and overflow items does not need to adhere to ISO standards.
However, it’s important to physically inspect the container before renting or buying. Holes and rust can be easily covered over with a quick paint job. Not all rust is bad, but it is helpful to know exactly what you are getting before you rent or buy. If you cannot physically inspect the container yourself, consider hiring an inspector or request pictures of all angles of the container before purchasing.
Container Categories and Pricing
One-Tripper or New Container
These are containers that have been newly manufactured and shipped directly from China carrying their first load of cargo. They generally cost around $3,000-5,000 and have the latest features like polyurethane floor coating to protect from spills, a pre-installed lock box, and easily accessible handles and doors. If you are planning on using your container as livable space (home, retail, office) or just want every assurance that you’re getting a high-quality container, a one-tripper might be a good fit for you.
These are containers that have been deemed cargo worthy by a certified marine surveyor. Containers that are cargo worthy are still qualified for use in the shipping industry. They have been deemed wind-proof and waterproof. The price will vary based on age, condition and miles traveled.
Note: A new container is considered cargo worthy for five years from the date of manufacture (listed on the CSC plate attached to the left door of the container). After five years, a container must be re-inspected by a marine surveyor to determine whether it passes. During that time, the surveyor will note the condition and determine whether the container is cargo worthy. If it passes, it will go another 24 months before a new inspection.
Wind and Water Tight (WWT) ‘Grade A’ Container
These are ‘Grade A’ containers that are 8 years or older but have little rust or damage. They are certified wind and watertight and range in price from $1,900-$2,500.
Wind and Water Tight (WWT) ‘Grade B’ Container
These are ‘Grade B’ containers that are 8 years or older and have a significant amount of rust or damage. They are no longer deemed cargo-worthy for the shipping industry but are usually suitable for storage. They can cost as low as $1,500 depending on the condition. These can often be great fixer-uppers if that’s your thing.
Premium or IICL-5 Containers
These are containers that are 2-8 years old and in excellent condition. They meet all repair standards and are qualified for regular cargo use. They usually cost less than a new container, but more than WWT containers that are 8 years or older.
These are used containers that have been repaired. They may have had dents removed, floors replaced, new doors or a new paint job. The price will vary based on the quality of repairs.
Note: Be sure to carefully inspect any refurbished container. Some paint jobs are poorly done and do not cover the entire container. Additionally, if new doors have been added, check to make sure they open and close properly. Depending on what you need the container for, this may or may not be important to you.
As-Is or General Purpose
This is a container purchased in its current condition. It may have dents, rust, flaking paint or punctures. Some sell for as low as $1,200, depending on the quality.
Note: If you are storing farming equipment or heavy machinery and don’t mind patching a small leak in the corner of the unit, then an ‘as-is’ container might be a great option for you.
These containers usually have extensive damage and require major repairs (often similar to an ‘as-is’ container). There can be leaks, broken doors, dents, and rust. If you want a DIY project or can hire a professional to make the necessary repairs, this might be the container for you. You can get these containers at incredibly low prices, often around $1,000 or less.
Note: All prices are estimates and will vary based on the market and supplier.
The category and grade of storage container you choose really depend on what your business needs and the amount you are willing to pay. Many local suppliers will offer a range of new and used containers for rent or purchase. Read more: 8 Tips for Renting a Storage Container.