How Long Can a Shipping Container Last?

Shipping containers are all the rage right now. These versatile units are used to house everything from small homes and mobile offices to storage and even small restaurants.

Their growing popularity leads to a natural question: How long can a shipping container last? We’ve got your answers. The following article will tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know (and maybe more) about shipping container lifespan.

Shipping Container Basics

The average lifespan of a shipping container is 25 years. This assumes that no maintenance is performed on your shipping container, so keep that in mind when deciding whether to rent or buy a unit.

Before we get into the factors that impact a shipping container’s lifespan, let’s get the basics out of the way:

  • Shipping containers are made out of steel. At Mobile Mini, we use corrugated steel (one of the strongest steels out there), but all shipping containers will feature steel construction of some sort.
  • Due to their steel construction, shipping containers are naturally weather-proof. Weather-proof means that shipping containers keep the weather away from anything kept inside, but it does not mean that weather has no effect on shipping containers. Keep this in mind for later.

Now that the basics are out of the way, let’s move on to the fun part:

The Lifespan of Shipping Containers

As we mentioned, the natural lifespan of a shipping container is 25 years. Of course, that lifespan comes down to how you treat your container and what kind of weather it encounters, among other factors.

In short, there are ways to prolong or shorten that magic 25-year number. Here are the top three factors that will shorten the lifespan of your shipping container:

  1. Exposure to Water: We promised we would come back to this one. Shipping containers are made of steel. Steel is hard to penetrate, can take a beating, and is one of the strongest materials on earth. It only has one natural enemy: water. When steel is exposed to water over a long period, it will start to rust. Rust weakens the integrity of steel, making it brittle and prone to cracks and fractures. A rusted shipping container cannot offer the protection and support for its contents that a non-rusted unit can, leaving stored or enclosed items vulnerable to weather damage, animal damage, or theft.
  2. Heavy or Improper Use: Like most items, the less you use something, the longer it will last. Shipping containers are designed to be used and to handle heavy cargo and storage loads, but they do have their limits. Dents in steel promote rust, and we have already covered the danger of that four-letter word above. Dents on shipping containers are usually the result of placing heavy industrial items on container roofs or loading a shipping container improperly and “throwing” heavy items in. The more you can avoid dents in your unit, the longer it will last, and the better your chances of keeping your container rust-free.

Prolong the Life of Your Shipping Container

We’ve told you the things that can shorten the lifespan of a shipping container, but let’s end on a high note. While risks are out there, there are key steps you can take to keep a shipping container healthy and functional until a ripe old age.

  1. Paint the Outside of Your Shipping Container: Outside of the aesthetic brilliance this achieves, a coat or two of paint gives your shipping container the best shot of a long and productive life. Pro tip: recoat your unit whenever you see paint chipping or starting to look brittle. If you rent your shipping container from Mobile Mini, this step is taken care of for you. Our shipping containers come pre-painted to offer protection from the elements and to ensure that your unit always looks clean and professional.
  2. Keep Things Off the Roof: When you store things on the roof of your shipping container, you are risking dents and rusts. The roofs on most of our competitors’ shipping containers tend to dent more easily than other areas, so keeping heavy items on a unit’s roof could lead to structural damage. At Mobile Mini, we use corrugated steel units to ensure your unit is dent-proof and structurally sound for a long time. With that said, it’s always a good idea to avoid storing heavy items on your unit’s roof, even when it’s strong enough to support the weight. Rooftops are also moisture breeding grounds, so when items are stored there, water can easily get trapped and rust can develop quickly. By keeping a shipping container’s roof free and clear of debris (this includes leaves and branches), you will limit opportunities for rust and structural damage.
  3. Keep Things Lubricated: The shell of your shipping container isn’t the only part of the unit that needs a little TLC. Hinges, levers, and doors should be cleaned and greased regularly to ensure functionality and to avoid – you guessed it – rust. By keeping all things “moving parts” clean and rust-free, you eliminate risks of rust spreading throughout your unit and ensure that everything continues to work and function as it should.

Mobile Mini: Your Shipping Container Source

At Mobile Mini, we have a slight obsession with shipping containers, and we are more than OK with that. Our standard and extra-wide storage and mobile office units cover storage and work needs of all shapes and sizes. All of our units are made from 100% corrugated steel, are weather-proof, and come standard with our patented tri-cam locking system. These theft-proof locks ensure that your property is safe 24/7/365. Period.

To enhance the longevity of our units and to make sure that you’re getting the best unit every time, we regularly inspect each shipping container to ensure that what’s delivered to your jobsite is in good condition, attractive, and fully weather-proof. When your unit is delivered, you can feel confident that you are getting one of the strongest and most reliable shipping containers out there.

With stress-free delivery, pick-up, and relocation, combined with 24/7 customer support, it’s hard to find a better shipping container provider. And that’s just the way we like it.

Contact us today and see how simple storage can be!