Picture of How To Get A Shipping Container
Shipping containers are a robust, interesting, quick, and cost-effective way to put a building in your yard, on your flatbed, or at your business.  You can also stack them (8+ tall at sea in hurricanes), inexpensively transport them, and have an instant rooftop deck. 

You can learn more about containerization and its impacts in this fascinating Wikipedia article.

Like other industrial detritus, shipping containers can be a bit difficult to find / move. This Instructable is to help you find and get a container or 10.

This is the first entry in a (long) series I'll do on converting a shipping container into an off-grid, open-source, affordable house. If you enjoy it, please consider supporting my Kickstarter project and/or forwarding it on. Thanks!
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Research Regulations

Picture of Research Regulations
If you're going to go through the trouble of placing a metal box that weighs several thousand pounds in your yard, you should start by making sure your local code enforcers aren't going to promptly make you move it.

As of this writing, I live in Austin, Texas. Codes vary substantially from place to place, so you'll have to verify for your own locale what the deal is.

Here's how I found out I'd (probably) be enforcer-free:
  1. google: austin city building code
  2. click on first result, go to some austin city webpage
  3. click on 'frequently asked questions' then 'inspections and permits' then 'permits' then 'do i need a permit?'
  4. sweet! under 'work exempt from permits':
One-story detached accessory structures, provided the floor area does not exceed 200 square feet (18.58 m2).
Please keep in mind that although you do not need a permit to build or install the structure you must still abide by any zoning rules and regulations in regards to height, setbacks and trade permits. If you decide to install electricity or plumbing systems into the structure you will be required to obtain those trade permits. Please visit the ‘Zoning’ page to find out what which regulations apply to your home in regards to structure height and/or yard setback areas."

I want to make sure I'm ok on my planned rooftop deck, so on to the zoning page. yikes: forget it. I'll just do it and take my chances. I think I'm supposed to be at least 5 feet from my neighbor's fences or something... 

If you can't avoid zoning issues through an exemption, you're in for a process.  Check out what others have done for inspiration / examples. The good folks of The Shipyard, a collection of workspaces consisting largely of shipping containers in Berkeley, California, have been so kind as to publish their use permit details. You can check it out here.
1-40 of 45Next »
cbrown314 days ago
Suggest looking into hiring one of the roll off dumpster carriers for delivery.
How about if you completely coated the metal exterior with something to permanently rust proof it. (Maybe a tar based product) Dig a big hole and bury it. Make an underground house. It wouldn't be an eye sore to the rest of the world then.

I have a thing for underground houses lately. Insulation is perfect, cool in summer and warm in winter. You would have to put it in a location not prone to flooding. A customarily undesirable sloped lot comes to mind. One that isn't really useful to anyone traditionally building a house.

Make a good fraidy-hole in tornado country.

The is a lot of interest in burying a container as instant underground building but there are number of reasons that you should not do this including structural integrity and corrosion management.

There is a video that explores and explains all the issues here

GrapeApe2263 years ago
them suckers are between $1000 and $2000. Used containers are being sold for a reason. Most have damage or rust/corrosion. Usually on the top. You'll prolly have to weld some repair panels up there. Maybe build another roof above it. A friend made a car port lookin thing with a 4 foot space to keep the hot sun off it.

Here's my dream retirement complex....

Looks like the Clinton Presidential Liberry.

Wow!!! Cool pic! Where's that from?
Troyison Bubbamax9 months ago

It's an outdoor theater in Amsterdam.

@Amsterdamse Bos Gardens

Megaton? Very Cool =P
FogVision1 month ago

Redpanther you are awesome

JuanitaL1 month ago

Thanks so much for sharing this information! Your tips are awesome. Personally I feel like the google route would be easier, but I bet there are advantages to finding shipping containers at a shipyard as well.

<a href='' ></a>

redpanther made it!2 months ago

I found a way to move my own container without a CDL license by using:

You'll need a 3/4 ton truck with a gooseneck and brake controller.

I did not even need a forklift for loading or unloading!

A real slick solution!

Xinerama3 months ago

Thanks for the info. The CONEX word search tip was great. I'll come back and post pics when I get mine.

twitty.sean4 months ago

Looks like a good way to have myself my very own welding shop. I'll have to check into grounding it among a few other concerns, but at least it will not burn down from sparks.

GeekTinker4 months ago

My best advice is to subscribe to this blog:

The owner of it knows what he is talking about as he has built container homes for years. I would highly recommend that you get his book on the subject as well. I am not compensated in any way for promoting his blog or book. I have followed it for several years and it is still the best information available. When complete, the house looks like any other conventional house in the neighborhood, unless the owner wants it to look like it's made from a container.
I would also recommend the book "Mortgage Free" by Rob Roy. Building a Mortgage Free container home is my dream. Right now, I am still in the planning stages while I pay off debts and save up the money for the first phase.

RobC54 months ago

We are the leading storage company in the nation, with over 130 locations throughout North America. Mobile Mini offers a wide range of product sizes, types and accessories that’s unmatched by any other storage companies in the industry.

Our convenient services, patented security features, and all steel containers make us the smart choice for consumers and businesses to store the things that matter most.

CourtneyS14 months ago

Check us out

CourtneyS14 months ago

I sell Containers...

1. Good call to check city codes, we charge if we have to come out and pick the box back up. Although a lot of my customers prefer the Ask Forgiveness Not Permission route.

2. Very true, 40' standard height containers are on there way out so it will be 40'x 8.5'x 9.5' that is the norm.

4. The grades from the Port are IICL5 (best used containers) CW (next best, minor dents/dings clean) WWT (Dents/Dings smells...) AS IS (Holes) For that matter we have bought some WWT that had holes the depots do not take the time to rate these properly. ASK TO SEE THE BOX before it is delivered, if they say no they either do not own the box yet or don't want you to see it before it is in your yard and you have already paid for it. We definitely do not want you modifying containers you do not OWN out right.

5. That is crazy, you should ask that it is delivered on a tilt bed trailer!!! or RollBack for a 20'. We can usually get it within a foot of where you want it, however residential customers should keep in mind that these are not little trucks and space is required.

6. Love the handstand on top of the box. Glad you're happy with your box. :)

So I have bought 2 of these suckers, 40' long. I was happy as a clam with both of them, but the first one I bought apparently was used to transport oily machines, and smelled musty. Well, that musty smell got into EVERYTHING I had stored in there, including my furniture. I either had to throw it away, give it away, or burn it! I ended up with NO usable furniture, and all my books and collectibles were permeated with that stink! If I brought a book or 2 home, it stunk up the WHOLE house! There is NO WAY to get that stink out of anything! Now, since my husband died of cancer last year, I am stuck with cleaning out both of these containers on my off-grid 40 acres, and trying to sell the place so I can move back to Georgia. (I am in N. Arizona). I wish luck to any and all who buy one of these "cheap" containers.

I'm interested, in that land, if you're still selling. How much? allows you to know the condition of your container before it arrives so that there are no surprises like the one you described. Im sorry you had such a bad expericence when trying to purchase a container, next time you should try so that you wouldn't have to deal with these problems.

ali.c.hoover4 months ago

For the best deal in Central or North Texas, We have pictures and pricing on our website, we do NOT sell anything that we do not have in our inventory, and if we do not have what you are looking for, we can special order what you need.

TaylorM24 months ago

My husband and I are looking for any information regarding the process of building a shipping container home... we are looking to buy 4-7 containers.

We would need them delivered to Arcadia, Florida or Port Charlotte, Florida.

if anyone has any tips, information, comments, suggestions, etc. PLEASE let me know!!!

What is your closest port of entry? Get the phone number and call them. They usually have the containers at a reasonable price. They may even bring them to you. Good Luck.

frankHornsby6 months ago

How can I get One ,!

You can go to and search for one in your area or read more about how it all works.

MichaelL74 months ago

Theres actually a new website out that allows you to search for a container in your area and find out the price in real time. You can even modify the containers exterior to add windows, doors, ramps etc. and still get the cost and delivery price. Its called -

You can modify the container here

The tool is free to use and it is web based so you don't have to download any software to your computer.

kkstroup5 months ago

Karen.b. stokes would you llike to sell your containers?

GeekTinker8 months ago

It is worth it to search out and buy the "high boy" sized taller containers. The added headroom in them will give you room for either storage, air vents, hanging lights, and a place to run electrical lines. The extra cost is very much worth it.

mikeallbay9 months ago

We deliver tons of shipping containers, we've seen crazy projects people do with the containers, Oakland port is very busy with deliveries, just in case you need help call us or search us here

Thank you
revolushn2 years ago
Not often I rue living in New Zealand, but going by our "ebay",, the cheapest I can get here (second hand), is about ND$3600 or just a tad 0ver US$3000, this is definitely one of them.. great instructable, hope the box is still going strong.
askjerry3 years ago
I live in Kyle, TX which is about 1/2 hour from Austin. I'm renting now, so i can't put one in the back yard yet. Anyway... I contacted some places in Houston about a 40' Hi-Cube (9' tall) to get a price for two (2) of them delivered here. I wanted to see what the feasibility was. This was about 4 months ago and they quoted $2600 for both, delivered on my lot from Houston.

I had made an AutoCAD drawing of a 3-unit structure... a 24 X 40 foot (7.3 x 12.2 meter) shop. I like the metal buildings... but by the time you get the concrete floor and building you are into it for $25,000 vs. $4,000 so I'll take the containers and be quite happy with it. The project may take a couple of years... but that's the plan.

Good luck!
I also live in Tx near Kyle, trying to find info about building alternatives. It seems that metal shipping containers is the way to go .
Do you have the info from the company in Houston? especially if it includes delivery , sounds very good.
Thank you.
God bless.
I looked through my archives but I can't find the email that I had. We ended up buying a house with a garage so I never got to build the structure. I found all my plans and such... but not the email or any other documentation with that information. Houston has several places that sell used shipping containers... there are so many that sometimes they want to get rid of them cheaply. Even Craig's list has them now.

Here are some to try out...

This is likely the place...

Hope that helps.
Thank you very much for the info.
I will look into those webpages

be bless.
tfreeman22 years ago
4 stars
steelnix3 years ago
Been kicking an idea around about converting a 40 footer into a pool!!!
Casey Jones3 years ago
Just a quick thought from my experiences in the trucking industry with containers, ensure any container bought is relatively odor free. Even then, make sure to keep in touch with whoever delivers the container and have it run thru a professional truck wash for an internal wash out, just in case. Expect to pay about $40 to the truck wash. I've often considered building with containers myself. Good info on the instructable, hope my input helps.
Hoopajoo3 years ago
To track a shipping container, use this website:


Some of the info on your particular trailer is:

TRIU1924017 - 20' Dry Van Container (D2)
Status : Retired
1st move from factory (Local) : 02-Feb-1996
Manufacturer : QUIC

Hope this is of some help to you. I've been looking for a 20' one for the same reason for several years, but even the defective ones bring a premium price here (4 hours inland).
1-40 of 45Next »