The Ultimate Guide to Metal Storage

metal storage container is a multi-functional unit with a wide range of industrial, commercial, and residential applications. From creating additional space for warehousing to building a restaurant, metal storage containers can help you do it all.

You can also use storage containers for:

  • Building an apartment complex
  • Storing materials, tools, equipment, and machinery at manufacturing sites
  • Creating sales offices, interaction areas, retail shops, and display areas
  • Starting a container café, coffee shop, or bar
  • Accommodating additional inventory and holiday layaway items during peak sale seasons
  • Keeping sound and lighting equipment safe during concerts, events, and conferences
  • Relief and rehabilitation activities in the event of a disaster
  • Vaccination centers, remote medical clinics, and pharmacies

Discover the best storage containers for all kinds of industrial applications. Request a quote or call us at 866-459-7600 to get in touch with a container specialist.

Understanding the various shipping containers, their uses, and benefits can help you pick the most appropriate storage container units for your applications.

Let’s explore a few more important details.

What Is the Difference Between Metal Storage Containers, Shipping Containers, and Conex Boxes?

Metal storage containers, Conex boxes, shipping containers, portable steel containers, sea containers, and cargo containers all refer to the same thing; units that help transport goods across continents.

Shipping containers may go by different names depending on the country, geographical location, or industry they serve.

While they might have a different name, all standard ISO containers have a similar structure made from high-strength Corten steel.

New vs. Used Storage Containers
The corrugated steel construction of storage containers allows you to extract a service life of approximately 30 years, making both new and used units suitable for a wide range of applications.
New or One-Trip Storage Containers
In the United States, the newest type of container you can buy is a ‘One-trip’ storage container. One-trip units are almost as good as new, with hardly any evidence of wear and tear. If aesthetics is your priority, one-trip containers can be the perfect solution for you.
New containers find applications in building shipping container homes, offices, and restaurants. Along with providing high levels of durability and quality, they come in one single solid color that makes customizations and modifications easy to perform.
In addition, since these containers retire after a single trip, there is less chance of chemical contamination.
Used Storage Containers
Used metal storage containers may have minor dents, blemishes, or surface rust which may slightly diminish the aesthetics. However, these containers offer a budget-friendly alternative to one-trip containers, helping you save as much as 50% of the cost of a new container. You can even hire service and maintenance teams to spruce up these containers.
Note: Used containers undertake several trips. There is a chance they have transported toxic products and may require additional surface treatments. This is why used containers are not a very suitable option for building living spaces.
Maintenance of Shipping Containers
Maintaining your storage containers helps extend their overall service life. These are some quick maintenance tips for new and used shipping containers:
Cleaning up and painting can help avoid rusting.
Ensure that your unit is on level ground to prevent water accumulation under or around the container.
Use container vents and internal circulation systems to prevent moisture accumulation.
Keep your door hinges well-lubricated.
Avoid putting extra weight on the roof.
Make sure the rubber seals on the door are in good condition. Replace the seals if they wear out or strip due to weather.
Which Storage Container Should You Buy?
The two most important considerations for buying a storage container are application and budget.
While new containers may suit certain industries, their prices may reach as high as US$8,500. On the other hand, the cost of a used container falls in the range of $1,000 – $5,000.
Find out more about how much do shipping containers cost.
The prices may vary according to sizes, features, availability, and accessories.
Even though used metal storage containers may seem older, their design helps them last decades. If you want maximum savings and don’t mind a few dents and scratches, used containers can be an excellent choice.
What Are the Types of Metal Storage Containers?
Storage container units vary in dimensions, structure, construction, and material. Listed below are a few different types of containers that can be used to store different quantities and different types of products.
Standard Container
Standard or general-purpose containers, also known as “dry storage containers,” are the most common type of containers. They have a fully enclosed construction that protects the content from wind and water.
These containers come in the following standard ISO sizes: 10-foot, 20-foot, 24-foot, and 40-foot.

You can also invest in customizations such as high-security HASP locks, shelving brackets, and pipe racks to improve the container’s security and space utilization.

Flat Rack Container

Flat rack storage containers have collapsible walls which you can fold to make a level surface or a ‘flat rack’ for shipping oversized goods such as heavy vehicles, machinery, and construction equipment. A flat container has highly stable end walls that can secure up to 45 metric tons of cargo.

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Open Top Container

An open-top storage container has a removable top, which makes it suitable for handling over-height cargo. Open top units are also perfect for machinery, equipment, and bulky products that cannot fit through the doors and need cranes for top loading.

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Tunnel Container

These storage containers have doors on both ends that resemble a tunnel, hence the name ‘tunnel containers.’ A metal storage tunnel container is perfect for quickly loading and unloading goods.

High Cube Container

High cube metal storage containers are taller than general-purpose containers. They measure 9ft 6 in or 2.89 meters in height, whereas standard containers are 8ft 6in or 2.59 meters tall. The extra foot increases the storage capacity of high cube containers from 2,350 cubic ft. to 2,694 cubic ft., allowing you to store an additional 344 cubic ft.

A high cube container can store larger machinery, equipment, or automobiles in your storage unit or look for more headspace in your office container. Architects and designers also find the excess height of high cube containers useful when constructing false ceilings, ventilation, and additional space.

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Open Side Containers

These units have a hinged door that can open on one of the sides too. Open side containers provide more room to enter the container, significantly improving the accessibility. If you have extra-large items and equipment that can’t fit through regular doors, you can use open side containers.

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Reefer Containers

You can purchase a reefer container to store and transport all kinds of temperature-sensitive and perishable cargo such as meats, fruits, and vegetables.

Refrigerated ISO containers or reefers use an external power supply to regulate the temperature inside the container.

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Insulated Containers

Similar to refrigerated containers, insulated container units have a controlled space that can withstand temperature fluctuations. The construction of an insulated container incorporates a vacuum flask, just like a ‘thermos’ flask, making them ideal for long-distance transportation of pharmaceuticals, chemicals, organs, food, and other biological materials.

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Half-Height Containers

Half-height storage containers have a low center of gravity, which allows them to handle heavier loads better than taller containers. As a result, these containers find application in transporting denser goods such as coal and stones.

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Tank Containers

Tankers or tank containers have a strong steel body enhanced with anti-corrosive materials for protecting and transporting all kinds of industrial liquids. For safe operations, transport companies fill the tanker to 80% of its capacity to prevent surging.

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Metal Storage Container Dimensions

Storage containers come in the following ISO Sizes: 10′, 20′, 24′, and 40′. All standard storage containers have similar width and height, with varying lengths.

10′ Storage Container

The convenient size of 10-foot storage containers helps tackle space limitations at industrial sites. These portable container units can easily fit within small spaces such as a parking space or a driveway.

These units are often used at construction sites, schools, convenience stores, malls, hospitals, and manufacturing plants.

Dimensions:

Exterior Dimensions: 10’0” L x 8’0” W x 8’6” H

Interior Dimensions: 9’4” L x 7’8” W x 7’10” H

20′ Storage Container

A 20-foot storage container is ideal for small to mid-size commercial storage, fire training facilities, and industrial storage. Companies can use these units to create garages, storage sheds, and moving equipment storage.

Dimensions:

Exterior Dimensions: 20’0” L x 8’0” W x 8’6” H

Interior Dimensions: 19’4” L x 7’8” W x 7’10” H

24′ Storage Container

The 24-foot container is a great storage solution when 20′ containers are too small, and you don’t have the budget or space to rent 40-foot units. The additional length of these container boxes helps you store pipes and other large equipment efficiently.

Dimensions:

Exterior Dimensions: 24’0” L x 8’0” W x 8’6” H

Interior Dimensions: 23’5” L x 7’8” W x 7’10” H

40′ Storage Container

40-foot metal storage container units offer the largest space among all metal storage containers. They are ideal for storing excess inventory, heavy equipment, and machinery for large commercial, material movement, and construction projects. Their high-strength steel body offers maximum durability and keeps your valuable goods safe.

Dimensions:

Exterior Dimensions: 40’0” L x 8’0” W x 8’6” H

Interior Dimensions: 39’9” L x 7’8” W x 7’10” H

Read our size guide to learn more about shipping container dimensions.

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Renting vs. Buying: Which is Better?

Renting a container is much less costly than buying a container. If your business needs temporary offices or a short-term storage solution, renting a container is the best option. Some companies also provide discounts and lower prices if you rent for a more extended period.

However, you can also purchase storage containers, container offices, and combo units if you have long-term storage needs.

For instance, a retail store might require temporary storage to cater to seasonal variations in demand. On the other hand, if a manufacturing unit is expanding its product storage facilities, buying a container can help reduce overhead costs.

Read more on why renting a shipping container can be a great option.

Conclusion

Metal storage containers offer one of the best options for storage, transportation, and preservation of goods. When picking a suitable container, there are all kinds of options to choose from, ranging from the container type to its condition and size. You can also accessorize your containers with high-security locks, vents, and other accessories to improve their functionality.

Depending upon how long you require container services, you can either rent or buy the most appropriate container for your business.

Mobile Modular Portable Storage is one of the leading suppliers of shipping containers. We offer both rental and purchase options on our portable storage, office, and combo containers.

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Why a Shipping Container Building Is a Great Alternative

Shipping container buildings are created using steel Conex containers. Thanks to their modular designs and attractive, modern look, they’re gaining in popularity.

Starting in the early 2,000s, people began looking to containers for use as tiny homes, luxury homes, apartments, and shopping malls. From full-fledged offices and cafes to clinics and retail shops, construction using these modular units only seems to find more applications.

Businesses worldwide use shipping containers for temporary and remote storage and office space, because they have a much faster turnaround time than traditional brick-and-mortar construction.

A shipping container building is also easy to modify. You can join multiple containers, add accessories, insulation, and interior finishes for a secure, aesthetically pleasing, and fully functional container build in only a matter of days.

What Can You Build with Shipping Containers?

Shipping container architecture offers the ease and convenience associated with a modular design. Owners can quickly expand or modify the design by adding more units. You can also stack these units to create more space in the same ground area.

Container Office

One of the most common applications of container units is mobile offices. You can select a portable office unit or make appropriate customizations to meet your needs.

Pre-built office units typically have in-built HVAC, phone and data boxes, lights, and insulation. You can also purchase an office-storage combo unit with accessories such as plan tables, shelves, and pipe racks.

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If you prefer to put your building together from scratch, you can play around with the design and get creative with the exterior by painting it to reflect brand colors or simply put your business logo on top for an original office space.

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Emergency Clinics

Shipping containers can easily transform into fully functioning primary healthcare units, mobile testing centers, or emergency rooms, making them particularly useful in remote areas with limited accessibility. These units are also ideal as medical and rehabilitation centers during disaster relief operations.

During community health crises, such as pandemics, remote clinics and container hospitals enable fast and easy deployment of response measures. Shipping container clinics can help provide crucial medical care, counseling, exams, and diagnoses to isolated communities by professional healthcare practitioners.

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Shipping Container Homes

Shipping container homes offer a reliable and flexible alternative to traditional houses.

A 20-foot shipping container home will provide about 160 square feet of space, while a 40-foot container gives you 320 square feet of home living space. If narrow width is a concern, you can create a wider home by combining multiple units and removing the walls in between units. Stacking containers also buys you more real estate and offers a modern aesthetic.

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Because building a shipping container home is a relatively new concept, you must check with local authorities to make sure you are in compliance with building codes and zoning regulations.

Emergency Shelters

Shipping containers are ideal for creating emergency homes, shelters, and bunkers in hurricane-prone regions or areas with a high frequency of tropical storms and tornadoes. As these units help transport cargo at high seas, they can withstand winds of up to ~90 miles per hour!

You can buy or build aboveground container-based shelters for storm protection, but note that such units need internal reinforcements and to be anchored to a concrete slab.

In the event of a disaster, shipping containers can be converted into temporary homes for affected individuals and help ease relief and rehabilitation activities.

Markets

Shipping containers create attractive shopping spaces, flea markets, seasonal markets for produce, and much more.

Did you know that the biggest shipping container market in Europe spans more than 170 acres? Tolchok, or the Seventh-Kilometer market in Ukraine, boasts 16,000 vendors and employs 1,200 security guards and maintenance workers.

Shipping containers also helped restore the Cashel Mall in Christchurch, New Zealand, after an earthquake devastated the business district.

Learn how you can use a shipping container to start your own cafe.

Warehouses

In busy seasons, the need to warehouse goods might be temporary, and buying commercial space can be expensive. In such cases, renting a storage container is a great solution that makes a sturdy warehouse to protect contents from wind, moisture, and bad weather.

A container building can tackle the space crunch during peak holiday seasons quickly and efficiently. One key benefit is that they are immediately usable as warehouses, without having to make any significant modifications. You can use these versatile units for storing building materials, finished goods, raw materials, and even perishable goods.

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Garage

The container’s strong steel body provides a secure space for automobiles and can be used by car dealerships that need affordable space. These garages are quick, cost-efficient, and help transport your vehicle when needed.

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Explore other important reasons why you should use shipping containers for your garage.

Barns

Shipping containers are ideal for storing fresh farm produce or long-term storage of processed products. Compared to wooden barns, these steel units can sustain rain, wind, and fires. You can also use a high-security unit with HASP locks to prevent theft, tampering, and break-ins.

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If you intend to store perishable goods, use insulated, climate-controlled containers to maintain optimum temperature, which improves your product’s shelf life.

Permits and Building Codes

Shipping containers are subject to codes and zoning regulations.

A building code is the minimum set of standards or prerequisite rules that a building must fulfill in order to receive an occupancy permit. Zoning regulations are a set of guidelines that define the locations where you can build a house or keep a similar structure next to your home.

In 2019, the International Code Council (ICC) voted to incorporate shipping containers in the International Building Code (IBC) 2021, giving these units the same significance as any other building material. However, each jurisdiction needs to accept IBC codes, which can vary from state to state.

While constructing shipping container homes or buildings, you need to prove that your structure adheres to relevant codes and local regulations in the permit application. We recommend discussing permits with a general contractor or architect.

Pros and Cons of Multi-Container Buildings vs. Traditional Construction

Pros

  • A durable, high-strength, Corten steel body shields the structure from strong winds and harsh weather.
  • Shipping containers are deployed and ready to use much more quickly than time-consuming brick-and-mortar construction.
  • Basic modifications on shipping containers are comparatively less expensive, making them a more cost-effective solution.
  • Containers are highly flexible, allowing for more creative modifications and designs. Architects and construction experts who specialize in such structures can help you modify the design as per your preferences.

Cons

  • Used storage units may have dents, scratches, rust or other forms of corrosion on the inside from spills. Or they may be nearing the end of their life span. You will need to inspect your cargo unit for existing damage.
  •  Maintaining optimum insulation, temperature, and humidity in shipping container structures can be expensive. This, combined with land costs, foundation, and other installations, may require a larger budget.
  • Obtaining zoning and construction permits can be tedious in certain regions or municipalities.
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