black background decor lines

All the Types of Containers and What They're Used For

A high-cube shipping container next to a standard shipping container

A shipping container is identified by both its type and size. All ISO containers are either one-trip containers, used containers, or purpose-built containers. They might be 10-feet, 20-feet, or 40-feet long, at either a standard height of 8.6 feet or a high cube height of 9’6” feet. To better understand the different types of containers, let’s take a closer look at the options.

Types of Shipping Containers

One Trip Containers

one trip shipping container

True to their name, one trip containers have made just one journey across the ocean. These types of containers are used only once as cargo boxes and then sold or discarded. They exist largely because the United States imports much more than they export, and it’s more cost-effective for shipping services to create new containers than to ship an empty container back to Asia for reloading.

Because these containers have made only one trip, they have significantly less wear and tear than their more seasoned counterparts. One trip containers are preferred by most companies because they’re as close to new as you can get. Therefore, you may hear some people refer to one-trip containers as “new” containers.

Used Containers

used shipping container

“Used” containers have spent up to 15 years at sea carrying goods around the world. Their experience often shows on their exterior with more signs of wear and tear when compared to one-trip containers. These types of containers have larger dents, rust patches, and sometimes logos from the original manufacturer. Used containers cost less and are arguably more eco-friendly than one-trip containers because they’ve had long careers traveling at sea. However, they may not always be ideal to repurpose as container structures.

Some used containers accumulate a lot of rust and dents over time, causing the container walls to warp. Patchy floors and unpleasant odors are not uncommon. If one of our customers is considering a used container, we thoroughly evaluate whether it will be a good fit before beginning modifications.

Purpose-Built Containers

Purpose-built containers are custom steel boxes fabricated to order. They may look similar to ISO containers, but their dimensions often vary outside the standardized sizes. Some companies opt for purpose-built containers if they need an extremely custom structure. They’re significantly more expensive than one-trip containers, but the cost may be justified if the end-user has precise specifications that can’t be met by standard containers.

Different Container Sizes comparing sizes of shipping containers

Most types of shipping containers are either 20-feet long or 40-feet long. 10-foot containers are available, but they are less common. ISO containers that are 45-feet and 53-feet long do exist, but they’re very difficult to find and often unavailable when required.

In the case that a more obscure-sized container is needed—say a 14-foot container—Falcon can cut a 20-foot container and weld the end cap back on. Similarly, containers can be combined to create longer structures as needed.

High Cube

High cube containers are 9.6 feet tall, which is one foot taller than a standard container. The higher ceilings make them ideal for living spaces and offices, adding an extra foot for comfort. Industrial enclosures made from high cube containers offer more circulation for equipment radiating a lot of heat.

Type of Containers

What is it?

When to use it

One Trip A container that has only carried cargo once; the newest container available. One-trip containers can be used for just about every application.
Used A container that has carried cargo for up to 15 years before being retired. Used containers are best for basic storage functions with minimal modifications.

A custom steel box fabricated to exact specifications.

Companies in need of a highly customized structure choose purpose-built containers.
High Cube A 9’6” tall shipping container, a foot taller than standard shipping containers. The higher ceilings make high cube containers ideal offices, living spaces, and equipment enclosures.


If you have any other questions about shipping containers, contact us at 877-704-0177 or We’re happy to answer your questions!

New Call-to-action


Get everything from shipping container basics, to detailed how-tos and industry news in our weekly blog. Stay inspired and subscribe!


Guide to Shipping Container Sizes & Types
A high-cube shipping container next to a standard shipping container

Guide to Shipping Container Sizes & Types


Should You Rent or Buy a Shipping Container? 4 Questions to Ask
A high-cube shipping container next to a standard shipping container

Should You Rent or Buy a Shipping Container? 4 Questions to Ask


How to Buy a Shipping Container: 5 Things to Consider
A high-cube shipping container next to a standard shipping container

How to Buy a Shipping Container: 5 Things to Consider