How Durable are Shipping Containers?

The reason why containers are so strong and durable

Published In : 12-October-2023

Shipping containers are one of the most well-built, durable structures in the world. So much so, that they are being utilized every day as an alternative to traditional stick-built structures. Some of the applications range from single container projects, like offices and storm shelters. Others are more elaborate and utilize multiple containers for schools, mini storage, and retail space.

But why are containers so strong and durable? Below are some details that will help you understand why.


Containers are made from weathering steel or COR-TEN steel (U.S. Steel trademarked name). COR-TEN is a group of steels developed to resist atmospheric corrosion better than other steels. Due to its ability to handle the weather it is often used for many outdoor structures, like building facades and bridges. An unaltered container (one that has not been modified), is wind and watertight. However, it is not rustproof.


The steel panels are cut to the correct size and are then corrugated. This process gives the panels added strength.

The panels are then welded onto reinforced steel beams (the undercarriage of the container). From that point, the doors & floor are installed and the container becomes a solid structure.

Finally, the container is painted and primed with marine-grade paint, adding a final layer of protection.


A cargo container is made to be stacked. They are stacked on a container vessel (sometimes 8 or 9 high) while traveling from port to port. In most cases, the containers are loaded with products while making their way overseas. To put this into perspective, a 20’ container can hold upwards of 60,000 lbs. These capacities change depending on the size of course.


Depending on the condition of the container, some may last longer than others.

If you purchase a used container, it’s one that will have already been used in shipping service. The typical lifespan of a container (in shipping service) is 10-12 years. Once a container comes out of shipping service, many of them are sold in the aftermarket for storage or for alternative purposes. A used container can easily surpass another 10+ years of use. Of course, this timeframe can vary depending on how the container is used.

A “One Trip” container is the newest and nicest container you can get. “One Trip” containers are not utilized in shipping service. They are typically loaded with cargo only one time before being shipped to the US. They are then sold in the aftermarket for storage or for alternative purposes. This type of container can easily surpass 25+ years of use.

Obviously, the lifespan of a container can vary, depending on how it’s used. However, The above factors are evidence that shipping containers are definitely well-built and durable. If you just need additional storage space or you plan to build using alternative materials, consider using one of the strongest structures in the world…a shipping container!

If you’d like to purchase a container or discuss a container modification project, we’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact us at (877) 670-0229 or complete an online quote.

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