Shipping Container Basics & FAQ

Intermodal Freight Containers – The Basics & Shipping Container F.A.Q.

Freight containers are a reusable transport and storage unit for moving products and raw materials between locations or countries. There are about seventeen million intermodal containers in the world, and a large proportion of the world’s long-distance freight generated by international trade is transported in shipping containers. In addition, it’s estimated that several million of these containers have now been discarded due to the shipping cost of sending them back to their port of origin (often Asia). Their invention made a major contribution to the globalization of commerce in the second half of the 20th century, dramatically reducing the cost of transporting goods and hence of long-distance trade.

Shipping Container Benefits

  • Use as a recycled building material

  • Wind & water-tight

  • Very durable COR-TEN steel construction

  • Cheaper & easier than traditional building materials

  • Portability and agility of modular structure

Shipping Container F.A.Q.

Where do shipping containers come from? What are shipping containers made out of?

Shipping containers are predominantly manufactured in Asia. International shipping and freight companies (think MEARSK) purchase or lease the containers and use them to transport goods across the world. Once the containers have reached the end of their lifespan (depends on the company but usually 8-12 years) they are released and sold to the open market – usually wherever their final destination is. They are manufactured out of 14 gauge COR-TEN steel – a specialty steel alloy that is designed to be extremely durable and rugged in order to withstand many years of ocean transport. According to the COR-TEN website, 
COR-TEN® steel’s unique look and naturally oxidizing finish make it especially desirable for many architectural projects. Weathering steel, best-known under the trademark COR-TEN® steel, is a group of steel alloys which were developed to obviate the need for painting, and form a stable rust-like appearance if exposed to the weather for several years. Weathering steel has increased resistance to atmospheric corrosion when compared to other steels. COR-TEN® resists the corrosive effects of rain, snow, ice, fog, and other meteorological conditions by forming a coating of dark brown oxidation over the metal, which inhibits deeper penetration and negates the need for painting and costly rust-prevention maintenance over the years. In simple terms the steel is allowed to rust and that rust forms a protective coating that slows the rate of future corrosion.”

What are the different kinds of containers?

Shipping containers come in a couple standard sizes: 10 feet, 20 feet, 40 feet, and 40 feet high cubes (taller by ~ a foot), with the most common being 20′ and 40′. Containers also come in 45 feet and 53 feet sizes, but they are more rare. There are also containers that have only made one-trip across the ocean and are essentially brand new – these are commonly referred to as “one-trippers”. All Overcon containers are guaranteed wind & watertight and we have access to some of the best containers on the market based on our networks and buying power. Often containers will be advertised for very cheap, but these containers tend to have significant damage, holes, and repairs. Also, many container sales companies never see/inspect the containers they sell, instead relying on a list of random numbers.
At Overcon, we personally inspect and grade every unit we sell to ensure you are getting the right container for your project. Usually we can provide pictures of the exact container and can often give you a tour of your specific container. Our certified IICL container surveyors/inspectors go through our rigours Overcon inspection, ensuring the quality of the container, while also assigning a consumer grade (Base, Mid, Top) based on our expert assessment. We understand that different projects require different containers with different attributes and our goal is to ensure we get you the perfect container for your project. Some people are perfectly fine with a base model unit – maybe just need it to be water-tight for storing your motorcycle out back, while others require a top grade or one-tripper for their tiny home or portable bar where aesthetics are important.

Why do prices fluctuate so much?

Shipping containers are like any other commodity where supply is controlled based on market demand. In addition, areas where shipping containers are prevalent (think port cities) the prices are lower, vs. remote cities where the cost to transport the container to the final destination causes the price to increase. While it may seem like there is an endless supply of containers in the world, that is far from the truth and they are a finite commodity. We’re fortunate to have special relationships with the container companies that gives us access to a premium supply of containers. As the market changes based on numerous factors i.e. reduction in globalization/trade (especially w/ China), increase in demand, restricting supply for the freight lines, etc. the container market adjusts accordingly. Remember, many of our competitors selling containers never see the container they sell and have no idea of the quality (a container often referred to as “next-off-the-stack”) – we can offer you that container too, or you can pick out the exact container you want for a couple bucks more. At Overcon, we put customers first and always strive to get you the best possible container at the best price… Just remember that prices can change overnight! 

Can I get container and use it to move (like a POD)?

Yes. And no. While this may seem like a great way to move, we’ve found that the cost of transporting the container often makes this option price prohibitive. If you do want to go this route, we’d recommend purchasing, and using, the container at your final destination/home. Contact us and we’ll advise you on some other options and the best solution given logistical hurdles – usually we figure out a way to make it work

What’s up with modifying a container?

Our favorite question… The opportunities to transform a shipping container are only limited by your imagination. We’ve seen a container become a: tiny house, large house, ski chalet, hunting blind, swimming pool, chicken coop, bee hive, restaurant, office building, job site office, retail shop, pop-up shop, garage, cabin, mobile virtual reality pod, art installation, smoking room, etc. Really, there is no limitation as to what a container can become and we’ve worked with some of the best shipping container architects, designers, fabricators, and modifiers in the world to create some of the most beautiful custom modified shipping containers. Another added bonus – using shipping containers to make something means you are using 100% recycled materials – great for LEED certification (lots of bonus points) and/or general upcycling/recycling/sustainable development. Reach out for a consultation with our design team, we’d love to be a part of your container vision.


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  (303) 910-8850


Contact the shipping container experts at Overcon Containers