Buying the Containers

One of the first decisions to be made when buying shipping containers is whether to get used or new.  I personally chose to go with new containers for a whole host of reasons.  The only advantages I could see to used containers were cost and availability.  New containers are in such better condition throughout that it makes working with them that much easier. An additional benefit to new containers is that the risk of unknown chemical contamination is reduced considerably.  I know that the flooring in containers is treated with pesticides from the factory, and I will be discussing that in detail in a later post, but that is a known quantity that I can make an informed decision on.

20' shipping container

20' shipping container

Another choice to be made is that of 20′ or 40′ containers.  40′ containers are definitely more cost effective, and just one or two of them can make a nice sized cabin.  My choice of 20′ containers was driven by the need for security.  Since I will not be cutting any holes in the sides for windows or doors, I needed the greater ratio of container door opening to square footage that the 20′ containers offer.  With large windows behind the container doors, the natural lighting in addition to the view will be more than adequate without sacrificing security.

Something else to keep in mind when you are connecting multiple containers is to make sure that they are all from the same manufacturer.  Even though containers are designed to stack together on a container ship, there are minor variations between manufacturers that could make mixed source containers more difficult to work with.  My three containers were all built on the same assembly line just a few serial numbers apart, and they fit together nearly perfect.  The identical appearance, hardware, and color will definitely make the cabin look better.

I know I will be asked about price, so here goes.  My new containers cost me $2,600 each delivered to Chicago.  The delivery to Chicago was free since I allowed them to be used for a single shipment of goods from China to Chicago.  If I wanted the containers to be truly new and unused, I would have had to pay for the shipping charges from China – I can’t even imagine what that would have been.  Shipping charges for all three containers from Chicago to Northern Wisconsin was $1,175.  So, the total delivered cost to my property was $2,992 per container.

I ordered my new containers from Dorothea Garrett at Cherokee West Enterprises.  She not only had the best price I could find at the time, but was also very helpful to a container newbie throughout the entire process.  She can be emailed at, or phoned at 530-547-5408.

Shipping Container Resources:

20′ Shipping Container Specifications.  These are the technical specifications for the type of shipping container that I am using.

Magellan Container Specifications.  This link has detailed specifications for almost every type of shipping container imaginable.

Shipping Container Information.  This is an interesting website with information on containers, manufacturers, and dealers.  They even have a page that says it can track shipping containers when given the container number.  When I plugged my numbers in they identified the manufacturer, but they did not have any tracking information for them.  My containers haven’t moved for a while, so maybe there’s a time limit on tracking or something.

13 thoughts on “Buying the Containers

  1. William Ottley

    Hey there Steve,
    Systems guy here (servers, pcs, linux, windows, etc).
    I just bought a small piece of land up east of sudbury, and my next goal is to build a container home. The sky’s the limit, but the basic idea was simple and small at first, and then ease of expandability.

    so I want to deeply thank you for putting all this info up on a blog! I’ll be going over it, and learning from you in a big way!



    1. Steve Post author


      I’m a UI guy myself, I try to stay away from the systems stuff. Please let me know when you start planning/building. I would definitely like to see what you come up with.


    2. Heather

      I’m planning to build in Ontario as well. Looking for land in the Grey-Bruce region. Just wanted to say that this is a great blog and I’m enjoying it a lot. Will be looking at container purchases this summer.



    3. Brenda

      I have purchased off-grid homestead property in Missouri and we have been trying to come up with the best design for the money. This is definitely the way we will go! I was concerned with moisture and condensation. We will be living in it full time so we will have more windows for sure but this is so awesome! Thank you.

  2. Dan Yocum

    Hi Steve,

    Another systems guy here, but don’t hold that against me.

    Do you mind telling me where you’re located? My Dad lives in Crandon, WI and has been looking for something like this to rebuild his Piper J-5 Cub in. He’s retired and if you’re close enough, I’m sure he’d like to stop by for peek.

    Feel free to email me offline.


  3. Mike

    Guys, check with Stoughton Trailers in Stoughton,WI. They build a 53 foot container. a domestic, it does not go overseas. Very well built, aluminum sides and wood floor, and are made to stack. The fact they are already in WI might save you a bundle in shipping…..Good luck….Mike

  4. Bill

    Hi who did you use to move containers from Chicago To Northern Wi ? I have 48′ high cube that I would like to move from IL WI border area to northern WI . If you can let me know

  5. Mike

    I am looking to purchase a 30 ft container and I am based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Please advise where should I be looking or whom to contact. Thank you in advance for your assistance.


    1. Steve Post author


      I never knew 30 ft containers even existed, but I did a little searching and found that they do. That being said, I have never seen one, and an eBay search shows none currently for sale. As for where to buy containers, I recommend contacting Dorothea Garrett at Cherokee West Enterprises. They usually have a good supply of new and used containers in Chicago. She can be emailed at, or phoned at 530-547-5408.


  6. John Dowsett

    Thank you so very much for this!

    I will be building a workshop, tentative plans are for THREE 40’s put side by side and opening up two of them in a large way, man door to the third which will be primarily storage.

    Early days, negotiating a property line adjustment (Southern Ontario, Canada) at the time of writing. A big part of this is siding/ making them look respectable. To start I am looking for 2 20’s to turn into a garage beside the house, which can’t look worse than the current old and ratty double car tent shelter.


  7. Ruth

    I’m planning on build a shipping container home for our retirement home. We want four containers in all. Who was your builder or did you build it yourself?


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