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Types of Shipping Containers

shipping container typesAlthough shipping containers have been standardized for decades, there are some variations between different sizes and styles, all driven by particular application requirements.  From open-side shipping containers to high-cube shipping containers to standard shipping containers, and from 10 foot all the way up to 40 foot sizes, the versatility of these workhorses of the world economy is impressive.  Here we’ll detail the different types of shipping containers, with an eye towards helping you figure out what container is right for your specific application.

portable storage containerPortable Storage Container | Portable Storage Unit

Portable storage containers are popular because they can be placed on-site, used for temporary storage of goods, construction materials, or work-in-process, and then later they can be removed and used elsewhere.  They can even be used in a moving situation where household or corporate goods need to be moved a long distance and they need to be safely packed and secured in a configuration that is easily transported.  Used in applications from construction job sites, to remodeling, to even crude hunting lodges and tiny houses, these containers can be configured and used in a myriad of ways.



steel shipping containersSteel Shipping Containers | Metal Shipping Containers

Steel shipping containers are available in many sizes and shapes. Standard 20′ and 40 foot storage containers are the most popular shipping containers. Standard containers have an interior height 7’10” and an external height of 8’6″. The standard metal shipping container’s interior and exterior widths are the same for almost all non-modified containers. They are 7’8″ and 8’0″, respectively. Other sizes of shipping containers come in different lengths, apart from the 20′ and 40′ containers.

You can also create custom-length containers by welding together containers. These containers can be made to order and take longer than the standard sizes available on the market.


20 ft shipping containers20 ft Shipping Containers

A shipping container’s most common dimensions are 20′ long, 8′ wide, and 8.5′ high. Apart from shipping goods across oceans, 20-foot shipping containers are often part of the rental fleets at on-site storage companies. The 20-foot shipping containers are far more common than the 10′ storage containers. Their popularity is largely due to the lower storage costs per square foot. There are many different types of 20ft shipping containers. These containers are typically new (also known as “one-trip”) and wind and watertight. They can also be cargo-worthy.




40 ft shipping containers40 ft Shipping Containers

Containers 40ft in length are very popular and can be bought in any condition. Similar to the 20ft storage container, these containers are 8′ wide by 8.5′ high. These containers can be used to ship goods and long-term storage. These containers can also be used as the foundation for large-scale shipping container buildings.  Their primary advantage is their superior length and larger capacity.





high cube shipping containersHigh Cube Shipping Containers

High cube shipping containers are similar to standard containers but they are 9 foot 6 inches in height (i.e. exactly 1 foot taller than a standard 40 foot shipping container), so they appear to be cube or square-shaped when viewed from the front or back.  High cube containers most often found are those with 40-foot lengths. These containers can often be seen on the highway on tractor trailers loaded with goods for delivery, and have a very large volume of 2694 cu ft.   For businesses that deal with bulk materials, a 40-foot high cube shipping container is often the best option for storing large amounts of materials on-site.

While the most common high cube containers come in a 40-foot length, there are 20-foot high cube containers as well as 45′ high cube ones on the market in the US that can be bought and used for storage on site.   

High cube containers can also come in any size from 10′ to 30’ in increments of one foot.   These irregular sized containers are usually made from 40′ high cube shipping container that have been damaged at only one end. The container is divided and the remainder is used to make the new container.

40 ft double door storage containers40ft Double Door Storage Containers

The type and placement of the doors is another distinguishing feature between containers. All non-modified shipping container have a pair of double “barn style” doors at one end.   Double-door storage containers have barn style doors at both ends, instead of the usual single set of doors at one end. These containers are rare and usually only available in the 40′ class.  They provide the advantage of being able to load and later access goods from both ends of the container, which is convenient in situations where goods are being kept for a short time on a rotating basis (for instance, store inventory).





openside storage containerOpen Side Storage Containers

Double hinged doors are available on open-side storage containers. They can be found on either one or both 20ft sides. These doors can be opened to expose the whole interior of the container. Because of the hinges and open-side doors, they are heavier than other containers the same length. These containers have a number of advantages; they can be loaded easily, can fit extra-large items that would normally not fit into a standard shipping container, and they make accessing goods easily (picture having to pull almost all the items out of a standard container to get to the back, versus the ease of simply burrowing into the right spot from the side).

Storage containers 10ft in length | 10 ft Storage Container

It is difficult to find a 10ft storage container. The standard 10ft shipping container is 8’6″ tall and 8′ wide. You can also modify containers to reach 10 feet by simply cutting down an existing container. Most of these modified 10′ shipping containers will not have the steel corners at the container’s cut or modified end.

Types of Shipping Containers FAQ

Question: What are the different types of shipping containers?
Answer: 20 foot containers, 40 foot containers, open side containers, high cube containers, and double door containers are the ones you will typically encounter in the used container market.

Question: What type of shipping containers are used for homes?
Answer: That depends on the type of home or tiny house you’re trying to build.  20′ and 40′ are popular sizes for many applications.

Question: What sizes of shipping containers are there?
Answer: The lengths of shipping containers that are the most prevalent in the market in the US are 20-foot and 40-foot.  10 and 30 are also available but in fewer quantities and at a relatively high price per foot.

Question: How much does a 40ft shipping container cost?
Answer: Prices for shipping containers vary widely by type and availability.  20 foot containers often have the best price/cubic foot of the different type, but 40 foot containers are often more convenient for certain applications even though they tend to cost more per cubic foot of storage.

Question: How wide is a 40 foot shipping container?
Answer: A 40 foot shipping container is typcially 8 feet wide; this has all been standardized by industry to make them easy to load and pack onto container ships for shipment.

Question: Can you fit an automobile in a shipping container?
Answer: Often a 20 foot shipping container is adequate for storing a sedan or sports car.  It’s important to take into account the actual space inside the container; the external size includes the width of the walls etc, so the internal storage size is actually slightly less. Check our inventory pages <here> for information on dimensions of available shipping containers.

Question: What is the largest shipping container size?
Answer: The 53 foot high, 53 foot wide high cube container variant is the largest standard size commercially made, although it is fairly rare to see in the used container market.

Question: How wide is a 20 foot shipping container?
Answer: Externally they are usually 8 feet wide; but internally only 7′ 9″ of width is available for storage of goods.

Question: How many boxes can you fit in a 40-foot container?
Answer: This depends on the number of boxes; for a standard 40 foot container, take the number of boxes per pallet and then multiply by 20, since 20 pallets typically fit in a 40 foot container.

Question: How many cases fit in a 40-foot container?
Answer: This depends on the number of cases per pallet. For a standard 40 foot container, take the number of cases per pallet and then multiply by 20, since 20 pallets typically fit in a 40 foot container.

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Used Shipping Containers | Buyers Guide to Used Shipping Containers | Buy Shipping Container

Buyers Guide to Used Shipping Containers

used shipping containers for sale

Used shipping containers can provide great value in their use, but businesses and consumers often do not know what to look for when they are trying to select the right one for their application.  This buyers guide runs over the details you should consider to make sure you pick the optimal one.

Used Shipping Containers | Buy a Used Shipping Container
You can save significant money by purchasing used shipping containers. They often perform the same as new ones.  Shipping containers can be used for many purposes, including vehicle storage and gear storage.  This industry is no different from other industries. However, it’s important to remember the “caveat emptor” rule (“let the buyer beware”).   A savvy buyer will be careful to assess whether the container they are considering buying meets their requirements, or if a different container (or a newer one) would be more suitable.  There are many aspects to consider when purchasing a used container; the following are the most important items to think about:

General Appearance of the Shipping Container
It is a personal choice. A rusty, poorly-painted or weatherbeaten shipping container can be a eyesore. One that has had the rust removed has had it repainted will not.

new shipping containers for saleThe Shipping Container Doors
If you plan to store valuable items, such as tools, on a jobsite, or personal property, swinging doors that lock properly are essential.  It could be a problem if the door is not able to open so you can get in the box.  A door that does not latch or lock is worse.

The Shipping Container Floor
You must ensure that the flooring will hold up to whatever load you place on it.

Rust Spots on the Shipping Container
This is a very common problem with these containers. A little bit of rust isn’t a big deal but large amounts can eventually rust through the container and cause a hole. It’s also unsightly, so make sure to inspect for rust. However, it is usually possible to remove rust and have it repainted with minimal damage.

Holes in a Shipping Container
Containers that have rust holes all the way through should be considered dangerous, from a structural integrity standpoint.

Dents in a Shipping Container
A dent in a shipping container is not as dangerous as, say, dents in canned food (in that case, the food can develop botulism). However, dents should still be checked, to ensure that they are not large enough or in an important spot that may compromise the structural integrity of the box.

It’s Fit for Purpose
You should ensure that you choose a container that best suits your needs. A 20-foot container, for example, may be the best choice if it can be transported on a flatbed truck. Based on your needs, doors and other features should also be considered.

The Size of the Shipping Container
It might be worth looking into purchasing a container slightly larger than you originally need. It’s frustrating to buy a container, fill it up and then find out that it is just too small for your needs a few months later.

used 40' shipping containers for saleChoose a shipping container company near you
This can help reduce transportation costs. It is rare for people in the Midwest to buy a container from East Coast, for instance because of the prohibitive transport costs.  New Hampshire and Vermont in particular are fairly far from shipping ports, which is typically the ultimate source of shipping container inventory that then has to be trucked all the way up to Northern New England, adding to costs.

It doesn’t matter what year it is
People often ask about the age and shape of a container. This is probably because they are influenced by their past experience with shopping for cars. As it turns out, the container’s actual year of manufacture is essentially irrelevant. What is more important is its condition.  A container that is only a few years old with a hole and dents in it is not as wise a choice as a 15-year old container that is in good condition.

That Said, a New Container is often a Better Choice
Although it is often a good idea to buy used shipping containers, there are many advantages to buying new ones. Their appearance is often superior. A new container tends not to have dents or scratches and usually has a pleasing color. A new box will not require much effort to repair, as it is usually free from rust and dents. The container is still in its initial phase of life so it will need less maintenance.

New  containers also allow you to make a quick selection
It can be very easy to select a new container. Because new containers are so similar, buyers won’t have to spend hours looking at different containers and making mental tradeoffs. You might have to choose between a container with a door that closes awkwardly but has great flooring and one that has great doors but has poor quality floors. This can make it difficult to purchase and make a decision. You can choose a different container if you’re in a rush or don’t feel confident choosing from the various quality options. This will give you peace of mind knowing that you have bought a reliable product.

New containers are more likely to be certified
A container must be certified before it can be used for freight purposes on a shipping vessel. Although most used containers do not have certification, it is possible to obtain certification. However, this may mean that they will need to be repaired or replaced. Containers that are new and only used for one trip (i.e. Containers that have made only one trip overseas since being manufactured are usually already certified. This certification can be checked by inspecting the metal plate at the container’s end.

It is hard to beat the value of buying used shipping containers
However, a used shipping container is a great value if it’s chosen well. You can find a supplier that has several used containers. Then, personally inspect them and choose the one that suits your needs.

Used Shipping Container Buyers Guide FAQ

Question: How much does a used 40 feet container cost?
Answer: Prices vary widely based on availability and the condition of the container.  Check <here> for our latest inventory and prices.

Question: How much does a used 20 foot shipping container cost?
Answer: 20 foot shipping containers are the smallest standard size that is widely available although their availability is often quite limited; see <here> for our latest pricing.

Question: How deep can I bury a used shipping container?
Answer: You need a sufficient amount of dirt around the container to support the walls; typically four feet around the container is adequate, but more is always better.

Question: Why is there a shortage of used shipping containers?
Answer: The Covid-19 pandemic, combined with inflationary pressures that have caused high demand in the US, has led to irregular availability of containers.

Question: How long do used shipping containers last?
Answer: They can last a very long time; 25 years is considered to be the average, but as they say, your mileage may vary.

Question: Are used shipping containers waterproof?
Answer: Shipping containers are typically “wind and watertight” which is sufficient to keep water and rodents out of valuable goods.  This does not mean they are humidity controlled, but rather, unlikely to leak.

Question: Why are used shipping containers so expensive?
Answer: Inflation (as Milton Friedman famously said, is “everywhere and always a monetary phenomenon”) combined with supply chain issues resulting from the pandemic, have cause price fluctuations outside the norm.

Question: How much is a used shipping container from China?
Answer: You need to inspect an individual container for its condition, and prices can also vary based on availability.  Check <here> for our latest pricing.

Question: Do you need planning permission to put a container on your land?
Answer: In all cases you should check with your local zoning/planning board to find out what the regulations are.  In many places, since these containers are only placed temporarily, they are often classified as “temporary structures” and are tolerated as long as they are not there permanently.

Question: How thick are the walls on a used shipping container?
Answer: Walls are usually made of 14 gauge corrugated steel has a thickness of 0.075 inches; the rails, pillars, and frame are tubular and are usually 0.187 inches (7 gauge).

Question: What is the smallest size shipping container?
Answer: 10 foot shipping containers are the smallest standard size available; although their availability is often quite limited.

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Storing Construction Items In Shipping Containers

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Contractor Storage:  Storing Construction Items In Shipping Containers

Contractors have the unique challenge of maintaining a tidy job site and ensuring materials and equipment are safe and secure overnight.  Shipping containers can be used on a construction job site to store items that can be harmful if not properly handled, secure valuable tools, and to manage materials that will be needed later.  Storage containers keep the job site neat and save valuable time.

Construction job site theft of power tools and high value materials is one of the most common scenarios for contractors. Power tools are generally expensive, and thieves can easily grab  them. Commonly stolen power tools include concrete mixers, hand drills, skid drives, screwdrivers, and pressure washers.   Tools left out in plain view may not only tempt thieves but could also injure workers and other people on the site. Also, any valuable items left in the parking lot or in the break room are targets for theft.  Lastly, many job sites have valuable materials that thieves seek to resell such as copper fittings, specialty tiles and more.

Oftentimes construction companies and contractors cannot store large equipment securely due to its size. Bulldozers, loaders, forklifts, skid steers, and generators are often left on the site, with the keys removed and locks placed on the steering wheels etc.  However, most small equipment is compact enough to fit into a shipping container, and it is usually worth protecting in one.  Container shelving can be used to keep your job site organized and provide for easy access to materials.  Companies that are not taking appropriate precautions are at risk of losing money due to downtime and the need to repurchase tools and supplies.  If you own or manage a business site that has not been securing all of its tools properly, making some investments in shipping containers where tools and materials can be locked and stored securely is a no-brainer.  A shipping container, with its doors securely locked, is a powerful deterrent to construction job site theft.


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20-Foot Storage Containers Used for Tactical Training Center in NH

We are always excited when we see the many uses for our 20-foot storage containers. From ice cream shops to bike stores, shipping containers can be used for various business models and on-site storage to enable both year-round and seasonal businesses.

Custom Color Shipping Container

When Ridgeline Training Center asked for a custom color to complement their multi-purpose training range, we were pleased to support their local business requirements in New Hampshire. Situated in the White Mountains on nearly 80 acres, Ridgeline is New England’s premier tactical training facility. The center is purpose-built to support world-class training.

Wind and Water Tight Storage Container Protects Contents

The custom-painted 20’ storage containers are situated near the range for easy access and storage of training equipment. The storage containers are wind and watertight and rodent-proof to protect contents and will last the client 20 or more years.

We appreciate your business Ridgeline Training Center!


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Storage Containers used for Bike Storage Help to Transform Mountain Bike Park

We were thrilled last winter when Highland Mountain Bike Park reached out to us for support on their bike shop expansion project using our storage containers | shipping containers!  In fact, our own family has enjoyed the park on several occasions when the park hosted mountain bike races for NEHSCA in the early days of the mountain bike league, and of course, our son HAD to experience the rush of downhill mountain biking while we were there!  What better place to do a storage container project?

Why storage containers for a bike shop?

The purpose of the storage containers at Highland Mountain Bike Park was to dramatically expand their bike storage capabilities and to streamline the bike rental process for park visitors.  Highland Mountain Bike Park, #americasbikepark, is a converted ski resort which caters to mountain bikers.  The resort offers downhill, Enduro, pump track, and even an indoor training center.  The resort hosts a variety of races and events throughout the year which attract both professional and amateur bikers alike.  In fact, mountain bikers come from all over the U.S. to experience the park, and as a result, they may not be traveling with their own gear.  The bike shop at Highland Mountain Bike Park has everything a visitor could need including bike rentals, protective gear, and bike service.

What type of shipping containers were used?

When searching for a partner for their project, Highland Mountain Bike Park turned to UpNorth Storage Containers for a quick-to-install and secure solution for their new bike shop.  Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the shortage of available lumber and contractors, storage containers were the perfect solution.  The park ultimately purchased two 40’ shipping containers in a complementary ‘toy soldier green’ to blend in with the natural environment as well as roll doors for quick and simple access.  

The storage containers have since been transformed to allow for easy access to bike storage and to enable a smooth rental process for park visitors.  The containers were branded with the “Highland Mountain Bike Shop” logo and a deck was constructed on top to allow for 360 degree views of the park.  The unique design adds to the character of the resort as well as solves the challenge of a streamlined rental process.

Thank you for allowing us to share your story Highland Mountain Bike Park!

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Buying a Storage Container in New Hampshire – Things to Consider

Buying a storage container in New Hampshire can be a daunting process.  Many buyers are relatively unfamiliar with (seemingly simple) container features and criteria that could be helpful in making a buying decision.  In our view, three very key items are: reputation, the condition of the container itself, and the delivery method.


When purchasing a shipping container most potential buyers will go to the internet to research local shipping container distributors to get an idea of what their overall costs will be. Over the last few years, more and more containers appear available for sale in various places online. While sometimes these online deals might be a steal, many times it is a “bait & switch” sale in which the buyer and the seller NEVER see the actual shipping container being sold, instead relying on generic pictures of similar containers. This is problematic because no two shipping containers are alike.  Used shipping containers may have holes, rust, and wear and may not be wind and watertight.  Oftentimes, the doors do NOT seal up tight or are very difficult to open and close.   If the buyer is not fully aware of the condition of the shipping container they could be in for a big surprise upon delivery!  If you’re looking to get a container shipped to, say, Concord, Conway, Lancaster, Rochester, or Laconia – buying from a national but frankly fly-by-night-appearing vendor may not be the wisest way to go, especially since a container is often a pretty significant purchase.  The last thing you want is a poor quality, rusty, dented, and generally unappealing container showing up on your site.

Up North Storage Container’s clean and secure containers represent a reliable solution for your storage needs, and our transparency with regards to posting inventory helps eliminate any last-minute surprises during the delivery process.

The condition of the Shipping Container itself

Our goal has always been to be up front about our shipping containers before they are sold. We are one of the ONLY shipping container sales companies to take several pictures of each individual container for sale and post the pictures to our website. We then describe it according to its condition –  new “one trip”, wind and watertight, or “as is”.  We try to make any flaws obvious through the many pictures we take of the containers interior and exterior.  If the doors are hard to open and close, we make note of it.   Our prices are reflective of the condition of the specific container you are purchasing, much like a used car we carefully critique our inventory and price it accordingly.

The Method of Delivering the Shipping Container

Another warning to buyers considering purchasing a shipping container site unseen from an online shipping container retailer is the delivery method. Many ‘National’ shipping container retailers are not equipped for proper shipping container delivery and will offer what is know as a “customer assisted” delivery.  By this, they require a point to lash the container to as they pull forward resulting in the container sliding off the back of the trailer and crashing to the ground typically from a distance of three or four feet.  

By contrast, all of our delivery trucks are equipped with a tilt bed that allows us to gently slide the shipping container into the proper location. Before delivery of your container, our office will contact you and review your drop-off location on Google Maps allowing us to make a safe determination as to the best way to unload your container in the location you desire without damaging the container or the surrounding property.

Whether you need a storage container in Rochester, Lancaster, Conway, Laconia…or even way way up north in Pittsburg – we want your business and are committed to providing the best containers and support that Granite State businesses and residents demand.

We hope you have found this article helpful and will contact us with any questions about purchasing a shipping container. We have over 15 years experience in shipping container sales, refurbishing, and modifications and are your #1 LOCAL source for quality shipping containers.We Love New Hampshire