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The Difference Between New and Used Shipping Containers

New and used shipping containers are both wind and watertight units which are sound for dry and secure storage.

If you have further questions, please contact us today on 0330 321 3380 or complete our quick enquiry for a competitive quotation.


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The Difference Between New and Used Shipping Containers

New and used shipping containers are both wind and watertight units which are sound for dry and secure storage.

New and used shipping containers are both wind and watertight units which are sound for dry and secure storage. However, the units appearance, ease of handling and life expectancy could have a big impact on which is the right unit for you.

Used Shipping Containers

Used shipping containers are usually between 12 and 18 years old which is the industry standard. These containers will have travelled the world on board container ships carrying various types of cargo between countries. They are known as ex-shipping containers as they are sold directly from the shipping line into the UK’s container trade market. Because of this, used shipping containers are supplied in various colours with different branding and shipping line logos. We cannot guarantee the colour that used containers are supplied in as they are pulled “next in stack”, of which a stack could be six deep and three high.

Used ex-shipping containers are supplied in wind and watertight condition. Due to the nature of the equipment, their years at sea and the way they are handled by heavy plant in container depots, used shipping containers will have dents, rust, scrapes and faded paintwork. The double cargo doors will be fully functional however will likely be stiff and feel heavy to open and close. We recommend using WD40 or similar on the door hinges to help with this.

We recommend the addition of a fitted steel lockbox to secure the container along with a heavy duty padlock. These are not fitted as standard on used equipment and can be added in depot or on site. The life expectancy of a used shipping container is between 10 – 20 years depending on the upkeep of the unit. Our mobile container team offer services to increase the containers lifespan with products such as Grafo-Therm anti condensation treatment, container painting with marine standard paint and we also carry out on site container repairs.

New Shipping Containers

In comparison, new containers are usually between 6 – 18 months old with a life expectancy of 25+ years. All new containers are manufactured in China and filled with cargo. The units are then loaded onto a container ship and transported around the globe to the destination where their cargo will be unloaded and distributed, and the container will be sold into trade. This is why new containers are commonly referred to as one-way shippers, once shipped containers or one trip containers.

As the containers have been used on one occasion, handled at the ports and in the container depots, they can sometimes have some marks on the corner posts and a small dent here and there. They are otherwise in great condition, fully wind and watertight and easy to secure. New containers have factory fitted slim line lockboxes as standard making securing the container easy. The double cargo doors are available as four bar or three bar for easy opening. A higher number of container vents are fitted to new containers and range between four and ten vents per 20ft container to help with air flow.

One trip containers are available in set colours of blue, green and grey in the UK. RAL colours do vary depending on the Chinese manufacturer meaning the shade of the colours can be lighter or darker. Our usual RAL colours include (blue) RAL5013 and RAL5010 and (green) RAL6007 and RAL6028.

Used and New Comparison

Here is a quick summary of the main differences between new and used 20ft containers:

Wind and WatertightYesYes
Corten Steel ShellYesYes
Marine Plywood FloorYesYes
Double Cargo DoorsYesYes
Fork Lift PocketsYesYes
Corner CastingsYesYes
Four Locking BarsYesYes
Three Locking BarsYesNo
Fitted LockboxYesNo – optional extra
Guaranteed ColourYesNo – painting available
Life ExpectancyYes10 – 20 Years

Move the slider to see an example of a used and new 40ft shipping container

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To keep your new shipping container in the best possible condition, we recommend the addition of Grafo-Therm anti condensation treatment to combat the effects of condensation within the container. Grafo-Therm will help to protect your container from the build-up of condensation and damp, which if left untreated could cause corrosion. This is also an ideal option to include if you’re using your containers for self storage as it will ensure your clients items are kept dry and free from damp. We recommend using new/one trip containers for self storage due to the longer lifespan of the units, their clean and uniform appearance and ease of opening and securing the doors.

Contact us today on 0330 321 3380 or email [email protected] for further details.

If you require more information about our containers or mobile site services, please call us today on 0330 321 3380 or email [email protected].  Alternatively, you can complete our quick enquiry form for a competitive quote. Thank you.


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We have over 70 combined years experience in the container industry, we will give you the expert advice and service you need. We take care of your storage needs, guiding you through the sales process and ensuring that your delivery is completed efficiently by one of our haulage experts.