Shipping containers, like most things, come in a variety of conditions. They can be brand new, beat to hell, and everything in between. Grades assigned to container quality will help you make the right decision when purchasing or renting a shipping container.
All container companies should be operating in accordance with the International Institute of Container Lessors, or IICL-5. The IICL created a standard of inspection based on the physical condition of the shipping container. This ensures that a container is in adequate enough physical condition to be leased for long-term cargo transportation.
"One Trip" containers are the best quality units available on the market. They're called "One Trippers" because they've been used one time in transit between Asia and the United States.
Technically, they aren't brand new because they have been used once, but they are as close to brand new as you can get, seeing that containers aren't manufactured in North America.
These units generally come painted either light beige or grey and are equipped with high handles for easier opening and lock boxes for added security.
There is no question that this is the best quality container for your money. They have spent only weeks at sea instead of years and the only signs of wear on them that could possibly be noted from their sole trip across the ocean are tire marks on the floor from a forklift unloading it or light scratches on the outside corner posts where it was picked up to be loaded. Other than that, there is virtually no wear and tear.
All of these containers are built out of 14-gauge corten steel and have heavy-duty plywood floors designed to hold up to 60,000 lbs.
Cargo worthy-graded containers are units that have been inspected and deemed worthy to be used for international maritime shipping. They have no defects or damage that would threaten their integrity or ability to be used for transporting cargo around the globe.
Practically, this means that these containers are in good shape structurally, and most of the time are in superior shape cosmetically (due to not having been retired by the shipping lines after 12-15 years of use), and in our experience, are one of the best options for used containers.
Should you consider shipping your container overseas at some point down the road, it is paramount that you purchase a cargo-worthy-graded seatrain, which can for a small fee be certified Cargo-Worthy at a later time or at the time of purchase for shipping purposes.
We find these units to be the most common unit we sell and much superior than Wind and Watertight if you plan on doing any modifications.
Wind and Watertight
Wind and watertight containers are the most common containers available on the market. They are the most economical containers and are guaranteed to be weather-proof and varmint-proof.
These containers have been retired by the shipping line so they do show a good amount of wear and tear and bumps and bruises. But, again, if you are looking for a cheap option, this is it.
Since the shipping lines offload these containers when they are done using them, they are readily available most of the time. If cosmetics isn't an issue and you simply need secure weatherproof storage, Wind and Watertight is a great choice. If you want something that looks cleaner and should last a bit longer, paying a small amount more (10%-15%) to purchase a Cargo-Worthy may be worth it.
Refurbished containers are used units that are either wind and watertight or cargo-worthy. All refurbished units have been carefully selected and inspected in addition to receiving a good pressure wash, inside and out.
Afterwards all surface rust, scratches, scrapes, chipping paint, and peeling logo decals are ground down to bare metal with a wire wheel. Large and small dents are pounded out and the cargo swing door hinges are sometimes heated when needed and greased for easy opening.
We then prime our units with an industrial steel primer and then paint with Direct-to-Metal (DTM) high-quality Sherwin-Williams paint product.
A refurbished container is a great way to both get the desired color you need, make a used container more aesthetically appealing and less noticeable, as well as provide an added measure of protection from the elements and ensure your shipping container lasts much longer.
If you need a custom color, want to avoid having large logos on the side of your container, or want a container that will last that much longer, a Refurbished unit is the best choice.
"As Is" units are containers that have been damaged in one way or another. These units are not suitable for stationary storage. They could have major holes in the roof or walls, damaged floors, doors that don't open, or some other form of major structural damage.
Once in a while an "As Is" container seems to be in good shape and can be used for storing goods, but for the most part they have an issue that excludes them from being graded wind and watertight, so they are not guaranteed to be weatherproof.
We don't recommend purchasing these units unless whatever you need the container for doesn't require it to be wind and watertight.
These containers are cheaper than usable units, but you are taking a big risk by purchasing containers "As Is." All of the other grades are generally a much better option. If you need a container for keeping something secure but are not worried about holes or structural damage, this could be a great choice.
An example of what a one trip container may look like. Quality may differ slightly container to container.
An example of what a cargo-worthy premium container may look like. Quality may differ slightly container to container.
An example of what a cargo-worthy container may look like. Quality may differ slightly container to container.
Wind and Watertight
An example of what a wind and watertight container may look like. Quality may differ slightly container to container.
An example of what a refurbished container may look like. Quality may differ slightly container to container.