How to Buy a Shipping Container: 7 Insider Tips You Should Know


Container Buyer Guides

I often hear variations of the following questions from people looking to buy a shipping container.

  • Should I worry about condensation?
  • How is the container delivered?
  • Do I need to put anything underneath my container to lift it off the ground?
  • Is there a way to make opening and closing my container doors easier?

To cover these questions, and a lot more, I sat down with one of Adapainer’s senior container buyers to get their tips on how to buy a container like a pro.

There are 7 tips in total.

Each one will give key insights to save you time and/or money. Especially tip 2, and 3.

Even if you’ve bought shipping containers before, I guarantee you’ll get valuable nuggets of information to help you get a better deal, or avoid potential pitfalls.

Before You Buy a Shipping Container, Get These Valuable Insights and Tips

– The one simple method to help prevent condensation

– How to avoid unknowingly buying low specification new containers

– When buying a bigger container could cost you LESS than a smaller one

– 6 Things to look out for before booking a container delivery

– The correct way to open and close shipping container doors with ease

– How to get a longer lifespan for your used container

– The short-cut to immediately protecting your property inside the container

– BONUS: Planning to ship your container? Make sure it has this ONE thing

OK. Let’s get started.

How to buy a shipping container tips 1

The One Simple Method To Help Prevent Condensation

When UK self storage business owners want a way to help protect their store units from condensation, there’s one solution they often turn to.


Simply put Grafotherm is a coating applied to the container roof (internally) and helps reduce condensation by absorbing it. You’ll see how that works in a second.

Buy a shipping container with Grafotherm to help prevent condensation

It’s also very cost effective compared to other anti condensation solutions. But does it really work though?

What happened when they tested Grafotherm?

A while back the manufacturer of Grafotherm published the findings of a test they conducted.

Let’s take a quick look.

In the test, 2 cone shaped vessels made from copper were put next to each other in a room with a temperature of 20 degrees and relative humidity of 60%. One cone is sprayed with Grafotherm and the other isn’t.

Both cones were then filled with ice cold water. What happens next is quite impressive.

After 6 hours the tester reported the cone with an untreated surface had collected 33ml of water. But the cone treated with Grafotherm had collected none.

So in other words the Grafotherm treated cone had prevented condensation.

Now condensation is not an exact science, no one can ever give you an iron clad guarantee of eliminating condensation.

With that said though, customers have been asking us to apply Grafotherm to their containers for several years — and it remains our best selling anti-condensation solution.

Should I buy the Grafotherm add-on too? Not so fast

If you want to learn more about the possibility of condensation in shipping containers then check out this in depth post I wrote a while back.

But here’s the thing.

It’s rare I hear about condensation issues in containers Adaptainer supply, including those without Grafotherm applied. 

This is helped by the fact that new Adaptainer containers are built with special features to help reduce the chance of condensation. 

At no extra cost to you.

More detail on that coming up shortly.

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How to Avoid Unknowingly Buying Low Specification New Containers

Did you know there are two types of new containers selling in the container market?

And one is superior to the other.

Low specification containers are one type. They are built using less steel.

This means the door frame is weaker and can result in more difficulty operating the doors. 

Thinner steel also means you have less protection against corrosion damage. Especially since low spec containers are also known to have a thinner coat of paint (paint thickness is essential to help prevent corrosion advancing). 

Buy a shipping container - Adaptainer full specification box

All Adaptainer new build containers are built to full specification

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The good news is that it’s easy to spot a low specification container by the tare weight shown on the door.

For example.

Full specification new build 20ft containers have a tare weight of 2,185kg. Any less than this means you’re probably looking at a low specification container.

All Adaptainer new containers are full spec containers so you’ll be getting a box built to the recommend standard.

Plus some extra bonus features too.

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When Buying a Bigger Used Container Could Cost You LESS Than a Smaller One

Here’s a surprising fact.

Buying a larger shipping container doesn’t always cost you more.

40ft shipping container

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Take 10ft containers for example.

You see, 10ft containers are not a standard size. They are often cut down from a larger 20ft box before being repainted.

The extra steel work involved and repainting process results in higher costs for the supplier of course.

This means the price of a second hand 20ft or 40ft container can actually be around the same sort of level as a 10ft.

Sometimes even less.

So you could get extra storage capacity (and potentially save money) by buying a larger used container.

And one more tip.

Many people assume a standard used 40ft container is double the price of a 20ft.

With Adaptainer this is actually not the case.

Depending on whether you’re buying new, or second hand, you might be surprised at the difference in cost.

I’d recommend checking pricing for a larger used container option too — if space is not an issue.

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6 Things To Look Out for Before Booking a Container Delivery

  • Are there any overhead obstructions like trees or cables?
  • Is there enough room for the vehicle to manoeuvre? Bear in mind that the largest vehicles used in container deliveries are around 60ft long.
  • Is the area the vehicle needs to drive over hard standing? (Many hauliers will not drive over wet grass or muddy ground in case their vehicle gets stuck).
  • Are there likely to be any site access restrictions, like parked cars for example?
  • Does the container need to be lifted over anything, like walls or hedges?
  • Can the container be offloaded from the side of the vehicle?

shipping container delivery

The list is not exhaustive. When you order your container from Adaptainer though we’ll send you a delivery questionnaire and it’s a great way to help you flag up potential problems.

By the way.

If you have any concerns after completing the delivery questionnaire Adaptainer can also provide a virtual site survey.

And it’s complimentary.

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The Correct Way to Open and Close Shipping Container Doors With Ease

I remember the first time I ever tried opening and closing shipping container doors — it was slightly awkward.

Now it wasn’t anything to do with the ground not being level (I’ll explain why this is so important for operating doors in a second).

It was just because I didn’t have the technique quite right.

Actually, operating the doors was easy when I learned how so I made a video to help you too.


Now back to the point I touched on before about level ground.

It’s vital that your container is placed on level ground for the doors to open and close properly. If not you may experience what’s known as racked doors. This is where the cams and keepers are unable to line up and engage (you see how this works in the video).

So try to find the most level ground location for your container to go, it will make operating the doors much easier for you.

And by the way.

If you plan on placing the container on a non hard standing surface such as grass it helps to use either wooden railway sleeps (2, one at end end) or concrete blocks (4, one on each corner).

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How to Get a Longer Lifespan for Your Used Container

Structural damage caused by corrosion is your enemy when it comes to containers.

So how do your help protect yourself when you buy a used box?


You might have thought of paint on a container in terms of just cosmetics — but there’s an even bigger advantage.

Paint helps protect your container against corrosion.

The thickness of paint used to spray the box is important when it comes to new build containers. Any reduction by the manufacturer might leave your container exposed to accelerated rusting.

Can of shipping container paint

All Adaptainer new containers are sprayed using 120 microns of paint. This is the correct amount.

For used containers you might consider repainting to help extend the life of your box and enhance the cosmetics

What if you wanted to do it yourself? And what type of paint should you use?

First it’s important to clean down your used container before starting.

The paint Adaptainer recommend using is sold by a company called Hempel (a marine grade paint and ideal for containers).

In fact this is the premium paint Adaptainer depots use in case you’d like us to take care of the repainting for you before delivery.

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The Short Cut to Immediately Protecting Your Property Inside The Container

Worried about how safe your property is inside the container?

What if I told you there was a simple way to make it very difficult for anyone trying to cut your padlock open.

Introducing the “lockbox”.

Buy a shipping container with a lockbox for theft protection

When securing your container you simply insert the padlock up into the lockbox rather than leaving it exposed.

This means anyone intending to break in with bolt cutters for example will find it extremely difficult.

The good news is that all Adaptainer new build containers come already fitted with this feature.

So there’s no extra charge.

And if you are buying a used container we can have one fitted for you for a small fee.

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Your 7 Key Takeaway Points From This Guide

Let’s have a quick recap on what you’ve learned.

  • Many customers don’t experience problems with condensation in containers, but a popular anti-condensation solution to help reduce the chance of it is Grafortherm. Adaptainer also have special features built into their new build containers to help protect you at no extra cost.
  • Second hand 20ft and 40ft containers are priced at roughly the same as a used 10ft container. A new 20ft container is also roughly the same price as a new 10ft.  If you have the space compare prices of other container sizes too.
  • When buying a new container check if the supplier is providing you with a full specification unit so you are getting the chance of easier to operate doors and longest lifespan. The tare weight of the container shown on the door is an easy way to check.
  • Paint helps protect your container from corrosion. Full specification new build containers should have a paint thickness of 120 microns. If you want to repaint a used container yourself the recommended brand is Hempel (marine grade paint).
  • Take some time to review the Adaptainer delivery questionnaire we send when you order. It will help you avoid potential failed delivery issues on the day.
  • Ensure the ground you will place the container on is level. If not, you may experience problems closing the doors. Wooden railway sleepers or concrete blocks at each end of the container will help if you have to place it on grass.
  • To help protect your property inside the container make sure you have a lockbox welded to the door. All Adaptainer new containers have this, and we can fit to used containers for a small charge.

So there you have it.

These little insights should leave you well prepared to buy a shipping container like a pro.

One more thing though.

If you are planning to ship your container overseas there is something critical you need to be aware of. More on that now.

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Planning to Ship Your Container? Make Sure It Has This ONE Thing

Any shipping line transporting your container overseas will require it to have a valid CSC plate.

The CSC plate certifies the container as bring suitable for shipping use. Without it the shipping line will not allow your box on board.

Some containers are no longer suitable for shipping use and will therefore not be certifiable.

So if you plan to ship your container overseas, make sure it meets the required standard.


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