This is the ultimate buyer’s guide to shipping container conditions.
Throughout this guide, we’ll cover:
- What are container conditions?
- The main differences you should know before you rent or buy.
- Why container classification matters for portable storage.
- How do container conditions impact pricing?
- And finally…how can you determine which is the right option for you?
What are Container Conditions?
Shipping container conditions are assigned to units both during AND after their use as international transport equipment.
While in active cargo use, container conditions are determined by certified marine surveyors based on the International Standards Organization (ISO) shipping requirements.
These container ratings help shipping lines and leasing companies understand a unit’s shipping and repair history.
Once retired from active use, many shipping containers enter the portable storage market.
But just because a unit has been retired from active cargo use, doesn’t mean it won’t make an excellent temporary OR permanent portable storage unit.
The portable storage industry has its own set of container conditions.
These container ratings provide insight into a container’s history and how it’ll perform as a portable storage unit.
In other words, container conditions help buyers and sellers align expectations. They also have a HUGE impact on pricing.
So then, how are container conditions assigned?
How are Container Conditions Assigned?
Shipping and storage container conditions are based on a number of factors, including the:
- Age of the shipping container.
- Cargo transport history.
- Amount of wear and tear.
- Whether or not it has been refurbished.
- Ability to withstand weather conditions.
So how can you tell the differences between container conditions?
What are the different grades used in the shipping industry…and how do portable storage container conditions impact pricing?
Let’s dive into each of the five different container conditions used in the shipping and portable storage industry:
- One-Trip (New)
- Wind and WaterTight (WWT; A-Grade)
- Reconditioned (Refurbished)
- Cargo Worthy (CW)
- As Is (B-Grade)
We’ll start with the one tripper container classification…
One-Trip (New) Condition
Containers in the “new” or One-Trip condition are as close to new as you can buy.
Unless you want to pay 2X or 3X more for a container built in the U.S.
A “One Tripper” container has made a single trip carrying cargo from its manufacturing point in China to a port near you.
Then, it’s transferred to a storage location and made available to the portable storage market for rent or sale.
The One-Trip unit is one of the most popular container conditions in the portable storage industry.
If your budget allows, these units offer the following portable storage benefits:
- New and clean.
- Refreshingly modern and industrial-chic look.
- Minimal (if any) handling damages.
- Guaranteed to stand the test of time.
But, again, be prepared to cough up the big bucks if you want a One Tripper.
Wind & Water Tight (WWT)
Used containers classified as Wind & Water Tight (WWT or A-grade) are free from leaks and holes.
And they’re hooked up with fully operational doors.
If you’re looking for cost-effective and reliable portable storage, the Wind and Water Tight container grade is the go-to.
WWT units are guaranteed to:
- Stand strong against extreme elements and weather conditions.
- Withstand frequent and/or heavy storage use.
- Last in the long-term (or the short-term).
- Require minimal long-term maintenance and zero repair costs.
Some used WWT containers might be 15+ years in age. But that doesn’t mean they’re not 100% secure.
In fact, WWT units are perfect for any temporary OR long-term onsite storage need.
Many WWT can even pass stringent cargo worthy inspection criteria and be given the go-ahead to ship valuables overseas.
We’ll dig into this in a couple of minutes when we cover the cargo worthy container grade.
But, long story short: if you need a low-cost, low-maintenance, and high-performing storage solution, the WWT condition is your safest choice.
In fact, WWT is the most popular out of all storage container conditions.
The reconditioned (or refurbished) container classification means the unit has been repaired back to Wind and WaterTight condition and topped with a fresh coat of direct-to-metal (DTM) paint.
These units can also be customized or modified to fit your unique storage units.
In most cases, this is a cost-effective solution to improve the appearance of your unit without paying the cost of a new container.
That’s because refurbished containers don’t have noticeable dings or dents. AND they can be customized with paint, security bars, windows, and electrical. As well as a variety of other modifications for residential, retail, workspace, industrial, and other applications.
At Container Markets, we only deal with companies committed to delivering cost-effective and high-quality reconditioned storage containers.
This means top-of-the-line workmanship and careful attention to finishing touches are standard for these units. NOT value-added features.
Out of all the container conditions, reconditioned units are best at blending into their surroundings because of their custom paint options.
If you’re interested in a visually appealing and/or customized container, a reconditioned container is the next best option after the One Tripper.
Cargo Worthy (CW)
A unit in the cargo worthy container condition has met the shipping industries ISO standards.
This means it’s been inspected and given the go-ahead for shipping by a qualified container inspector within the last year.
In essence, a certified cargo worthy (CW) container means it’s structurally and functionally sound.
These units may OR may not have a visible advantage over the As-Is and Wind & Watertight container conditions.
But it’s more about the “bones” of the unit than the appearance.
Today’s cargo worthy inspection criteria are quite comprehensive…
These units are carefully (and thoroughly) examined. And certified by the Institute of International Container Lessors (IICL) for intermodal freight transport across the deep sea. Or any mode of transport for that matter.
So what does this mean for you?
If you need to transport your storage items either domestically or internationally, go with the cargo worthy container condition.
With a CW storage container, you can transport your goods and other storage items via road, rail, and/or ship.
BUT…there IS a minimal fee for a CW certification to pay for the paperwork.
There is no guarantees or promises on the As Is (B-grade) container grade. You buy units in the As Is container condition with blind faith.
You’ll save, in most cases, hundreds of dollars. But there is no recourse.
When you go with a storage container in As Is/B-grade condition, you go in with your fingers crossed. There’s a chance you may get a storage container in great shape. But again, you’re walking a tight rope.
But if you’re willing to roll the dice, you may turn up with the odds in your favor. After all, not all “As Is” units are created equal.
We try to avoid allowing B-grade equipment into Container Markets marketplace. That’s because As Is, B-grade containers often have dents, leaks, and rust on them. And, in some cases, even holes!
But if your needs are not sensitive and you’re looking for a deal, this could be just what you’re looking for.
Some smaller companies and suppliers will use this grade as a price leader when presenting special offers.
So be on guard and ask the right questions.
How Condition Impacts Pricing
Condition is huge when it comes to setting the price of containers in the portable storage industry.
Container conditions help potential buyers understand the true value of a storage container.
In the portable storage market, container conditions are determined by suppliers.
The price of a container is based on the condition and size of the unit.
Previously, you had to work really hard to obtain price information. This meant calling around to different container companies to get a quote.
But on Container Markets, we show you all this information upfront so you can compare supplier pricing and understand the true marketplace.
Comparing & Selecting Container Conditions
So out of these five container conditions, which best fits your storage situation?
When it’s all said and done, it comes down to personal preference and your budget.
A unit that works well for storing tools and old toys might not be the best storage solution for important artifacts, family heirlooms, or precious photos and documents.
While an As Is (B Grade) container might suffice for dead storage, it’s probably not the best option for housing more important or vulnerable items.
Although used containers have an amazingly long lifespan, they are made of steel and long-term exposure to nature’s elements might give way to rust and corrosion.
On the other hand, a New (One Trip) container or a newly painted, Refurbished container will withstand the elements for a considerably longer time.
But, of course, these are more expensive options.
Based on what we covered about the differences in container conditions, consider the following when making your decision:
- How long will you need your container?
- Are you looking for a temporary storage solution? Or do you need something for the long-term?
- Does your situation require a cargo worthy shipping container inspection certification?
- And…are you trying to keep costs to a minimum? Or are you wanting a solid, good-looking unit?
Which is right for you?
The most important considerations when contemplating this decision are your intended use of the container and your budget (i.e. how much you are willing to spend).
We recommend that you avoid sacrificing quality just to save a few bucks.
The additional money you invest in a quality container is a small price to pay to avoid future problems.
WWT, One-Trip, and Reconditioned container conditions, in particular, all provide virtually maintenance-free, onsite storage solutions.
And with these shipping container grades, you don’t have to worry about unpredictable weather.
But if you’re looking for a quality, convenient (and cost-effective) onsite storage solution, WWT shipping containers are by far the go-to solution.
So now that you’ve got the low-down on container conditions, which one is right for your storage situation?