For first time buyers, finding shipping containers can sometimes be surprisingly difficult. Who knew that tracking down something which weighs over 4000 pounds could be this difficult!? Buying containers online can be risky because you can’t inspect them before you purchase. So, today we are going to walk you through how to find your local shipping container suppliers, so you can buy your containers in person.
Knowing Which Container to Buy
Before you buy your shipping containers you need to know exactly which containers you are looking to purchase. We won’t go into this in much detail in this post because we have already covered it in How to Purchase Your Shipping Containers and Shipping Container Dimensions.
However, what is important to reiterate is that you need to clarify whether you are going to buy either New, One-Trip or Used containers (new and ‘one-trip’ containers are essentially the same thing except one trip containers are used to ship a single cargo load). Also, when purchasing your containers try to purchase them all from the same manufacturer because each manufacturer has slight variations which could make working with different brand containers difficult.
Buying Online or Offline
It’s much more convenient to purchase your containers online as this saves you travel time, however you can’t thoroughly inspect your containers online. For this reason, we would recommend only purchasing containers which you have seen in person and thoroughly inspected.
Note: You can find a pre-purchase inspection checklist here.
Who to Buy Them From?
We have placed a heavy focus throughout the article on buying containers from a reputable distributor (dealer) however you can also purchase directly from shipping companies.
We wouldn’t recommend this option for two reasons. Firstly, buying directly from shipping companies is typically more expensive.
Secondly, buying directly from shipping companies is normally not as easy as buying from distributors, because distributor’s sole business is to sell containers so they are normally pretty good at it!
Finding Shipping Containers
You can find shipping containers either online or offline, below we have detailed both methods.
Finding Containers Online
To find your local container dealer my favourite tool is the Green Cube Network’s Eco, Green and Sustainable Resource Directory*. This is basically a search engine which can be used for free to find local dealers. You can access the tool over at:
*Please note at the time of writing this, the directory mainly consists of US listings only, however I believe they are wanting to expand this to include Australia, New Zealand and the UK shortly.
Once the tool has loaded, you can enter your address (either a country or a state) and the tool will provide a list of local dealers. All you need to do now is search online and look for any reviews of the dealer to make sure they are credible.
If you are based outside the US, there are still ways to track down a shipping container dealer near you; my first point of call would be to use Google.
When using Google make sure you are using your local Google (e.g. www.google.com.au or www.google.co.uk) and not the US Google (www.google.com), this will make sure Google provides you with more localised search results.
Once you have loaded your local Google use the search term ‘shipping container dealer’ and your location. When putting this into google it would look like: Shipping Container Dealer Perth.
This should give you a pretty good start, however if you are using this term and struggle to find any local dealers then another search term which can be used is ‘buy shipping container in’ and your location. When searching this in Google it would look like: buy shipping container in Wellington.
Google and Green Cube Network’s Directory are my favourite two tools, but by no means are they comprehensive. Still haven’t found a reputable local dealer? Not to worry there are still three more great online tools to use.
At this point, I would head over to your local eBay (i.e – http://www.ebay.com.au) or the most common online selling platform in your area and continue your search there.
When searching eBay I wouldn’t search specifically for your ideal container (i.e. 40 Foot High Cube Shipping Container), I would just search for ‘shipping containers’.
Then once your search has loaded you can type in your postcode and set a maximum distance in miles (i.e. only shown items up to 25 miles away).
This should now bring up a list of all your local sellers; you can then contact the seller directly to enquire about the specific containers you want to purchase.
If eBay doesn’t bring up the results you are looking for then head over to your countries version of www.gumtree.com (Gumtree is a local classified ads directory). Again, like with eBay, at this point I wouldn’t search specifically for the container you want, I would use a broader term such as ‘shipping containers’. Then once you’ve found a dealer I would enquire about the exact containers you are looking to purchase.
The last online tool we are going to look at in the post is http://www.alibaba.com. If you haven’t heard of Alibaba before, it’s similar to Amazon but based in China and brings manufactures and consumers together.
Alibaba was my last pick because normally you can only find new containers listed on here. In addition, I found a lot of the containers were based in China which you will have to incur shipping costs. This is very expensive and depending on the number of containers you are shipping and the distance, you are looking at anywhere from US$1,900-$23,000 | AUD$2,450-$29,500 | GBP£1,250 – £15,000 just to get them to your nearest port!
Finding Containers Offline
If you have used all the tools above and are still struggling to find containers you can still use a few traditional techniques to locate containers.
Firstly, locate a paper copy of either a regional or national business directory (e.g. In the UK this would be the Yellow Pages). You can then go through the directory and look for shipping containers dealers.
If there are no listings in your local business directory then you can call other container dealers in your country and enquire if they know any dealers in your local area. To do this use the Green Cube Network’s search tool (listed above) and find a dealer in your country. Then give them a call and ask.
A final technique which you could use is contacting your local shipping docks. Give them a quick phone call and enquire whether they personally sell shipping containers or if they have a list of recognised re-sellers.
With these eight different methods you should easily be able to find a local shipping container dealer and purchase your containers. Let me know below if you have any other tips and tricks for locating shipping containers and I would be happy to update the post and include them.
Blog Cover Modified from Rob Shenk