How Long Do Containers Last?

How long does a shipping container last?

We get this question frequently: How long does a shipping container last when used for storage at my home or business?

The short answer is “around 30 years”.

The more complete answer depends upon multiple factors such as:

  • Condition when you received it. Was it a new / one-trip unit or did it have a life before?
  • If it was used, what was it used for? Did it sit in one place behind a store for its entire life, or was it being sent over the oceans and through dozens of ports per year? In general, international shipping is a much heavier duty cycle compared with a domestic rental container.
  • What are you using it for? Are you storing landscaping equipment or is it being used for household furnishings?
  • How important are cosmetics?


Let’s look at an example of an ‘older’ container. This 40-foot standard container was manufactured in 1991 and has been in our rental fleet from before 2004 until June 2023. Before that, I think it’s safe to guess that this unit had seen some cargo transport for at least a few years, based upon its former prefix being from a company that leases containers to oceanic cargo fleets. After we bought the container, it has been to countless job sites and stores for the past 19 years.

On first glance, it’s not the prettiest unit, with some surface rust and a few dents, but it appears to be functionally solid. There aren’t any apparent leaks and the rubber door seals appear to be intact. The seam between the upper wall and the roof looks good as well. Is this container still fit for service? For some applications, definitely. Is it one in which I would place high value items that are sensitive to environmental changes? Probably not. Being an older spec, this container isn’t equipped with the multitude of vents that newer, consumer grade containers are fitted with to help reduce the chance of interior condensation. While the dents and rust haven’t compromised the integrity of this container, it’s certainly something to watch and maybe remedy by grinding and painting to remain leak-free.

Older containers have value for plenty of applications, and even this seasoned model has some useful life. Of course, a newer, better condition container will cost more, but this has to be examined in light of what you plan to use it for, and for how long you intend to use it. If you’ll be storing lawn mowers and ATVs for a few years, then this old dog might be the perfect, economical solution. If you’re going to be storing heirloom furniture, office records, or plan on needing decades of storage, then it might be best to look at a new / newer model.


Whether you’re looking for a month or 30 years, contact us or give us a call at 603-622-1673 to talk with New Hampshire’s storage container experts.