A shipping container is a huge investment. Naturally you’d want your purchase to be worth the cost and built to last a good few years.
A shipping container’s lifespan, however, greatly depends on a number of factors, including:
- age at the time of purchase
- condition at the time of purchase
- how your container is being used.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to determine longevity, but it’s possible to make an educated guess.
Most marine containers are used for shipping goods for a maximum of 10 to 12 years before being retired. When a container reaches this age, it’s often sold for other uses.
Converted shipping containers can be used as office space, ablution facilities and even low-cost housing, to name a few. Most often, these containers are simply used for storage.
A container that’s been shipping goods for the maximum amount of time can easily be used for another 10-plus years, but a container’s true lifespan much depends on its grade at purchase.
Shipping container grades
Used shipping containers are assigned one of three grades (grades can differ from source to source). These grades are based on two factors: structure and aesthetics.
- A grade – almost new, “one trip” containers
- B grade – less than five years old
- C grade – older than five years, and generally sold “as is”.
A-grade containers have completed at least one trip, but they’re practically brand-new. These containers are in excellent condition and have a predicted lifespan of 30 years.
Any damage on B-grade containers is often negligible. They may have a couple of scuffs and dents, but they remain totally sturdy and weatherproof.
“As is” containers may have superficial rust and dents, but these usually don’t compromise their structural integrity.
Shipping container durability
Containers are designed to endure extreme heavy weights and loads. In fact, they’re some of the most durable structures in existence. In their early years, they’re virtually indestructible (although they can be scratched or dented).
The biggest problem you’ll face is rust and corrosion. Shipping containers are made from marine-grade steel and are designed to be wind- and watertight, but they’re not fully rust-proof.
The marine-grade steel, however, means that the container is able to resist deep corrosion for a good few decades. Instead, it will form light rust on the surface.
With some attention and maintenance, you can stop the rust – and other signs of weathering – in their tracks.
Shipping container maintenance
It’s very possible to extend your container’s lifespan by many years. Well-treated containers are believed to be usable for 40 to 50 years!
Some things you could do to keep your container going for longer include:
- having the container re-primed, painted and buffed
- having the dents – especially roof dents – repaired
- minimising the container’s exposure to moisture
- replacing worn door seals
- keeping the container well-ventilated
- sealing the floor with water-resistant paint every few years
- regularly cleaning and checking the container for rust and mould.
Shipping containers are some of the strongest structures in the world, so you can rest assured you’ll get your money’s worth if you take proper care of it.
Big Box Containers rents, sells and converts high-quality shipping containers for a range of purposes, from shops to event spaces, computer centres and ablution facilities. We’re also a leading supplier of reefers – refrigerated containers ideal for temperature-sensitive items.