Scroll Top

The Versatility Of Used Shipping Containers

Shipping containers, affectionately dubbed “sea cans”, by Merchant Marines and international shipping companies, emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a way of transporting goods between coastal cities in the United States and to Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. That was when North Carolina truck driver turned trucking magnate Malcolm McLean, grew tired of waiting for dockworkers to unpack deliveries. He correctly calculated that moving large boxes of good directly from trucks to transport ships and vice versa would cut costs and congestion, and speed the loading/unloading process. The invention certainly cut costs and saved time. In 1956, the going rate for shipping a ton of cargo was $6.43. With McLean’s shipping containers, those costs plummeted to just $0.18 a ton.

With the COVID pandemic forcing more people away from office and turning parts of their homes into remote workplaces, sales of used shipping containers increased dramatically. At 55.4 percent of the shipping container industry’s revenue, the housing market is driving the new frontier of repurposing used shipping containers for sale.

At Rice Intermodal, we see our used shipping containers being used for a wide variety of residential uses. Some are transforming them into versatile and attractive workspaces. Others are using them for “granny pods”–places where senior relatives can have the support of their nearby family and still maintain their independence. Some are using them for actual storage, and for good reason.

Used shipping containers are made of corrugated steel and designed to be very strong an weather resistant, which is important in Florida’s sometime unforgiving environment. Used containers can protect people and belongings from intense wind and rain, and even hurricanes as long as their structural integrity is maintained when being renovated. The most common type of shipping containers for sale are dry freight containers, but others are refrigerated, insulated, and custom modified.

Most residential project begin with high cube shipping containers. These have container dimensions of nine feet six inches and can be as long as 40 feet. This extra vertical space is especially important if the used shipping container is to be used for a tiny home or office. The smaller the floorspace, some of the most valuable real estate in a shipping container is is up.

Equally important, repurposing a used shipping container for a tiny home or office is simply good for the planet. The biggest difference is in the materials. While some tiny houses and backyard offices are made from brick and wood, shipping containers are made from weathering steel, which is designed for outdoor use, making them more durable and more resistant to epic weather events and even earthquakes. The more durable something is, the longer it will last, and therefore, the more sustainable it is.

If you are looking to expand your existing home, office, or business, or start a new one in a new way, we are here to help. We offer transparent pricing, delivery, and custom quotes on all of our shipping containers for sale or lease. To learn more, visit