How To Choose The Right Size Shipping Container

How To Choose The Right Size Shipping Container


If this is your first time moving across the country or shipping some cargo ahead either for a move or business, then you may be uncertain as what kind of container works best for you. Steel shipping containers come in a variety of sizes and specifications, as well as both new and old containers. These factors and tips will assist you in making your decision.

Choosing the Right Shipping Container

Choosing the right size shipping container for sending freight overseas or to transport the belongings of your house can save you thousands of dollars.  In addition, packing and loading it correctly to make use of its cubic space and volume weight also helps, both you and the customs agent, who may be inspecting your container.

However, if you select the wrong size container, you’ll experience the hassle of having to locate one in the proper size and selling the one you just bought. Save yourself the trouble by following these tips:

  • Get an estimate from a full-service shipping company. Ask them to come out and analyze the contents of your house that needs to be shipped. These companies are knowledgeable and can visually estimate where certain goods would fit in a container to know what size would work best for you.
  • Determine how long you will need the shipping container. If you’re only leasing it for a few months, you probably have a good idea of how much stuff you’ll be shipping or storing in it after it arrives. However, if you’ll be using the container as a long-time storage solution, you may want to consider a larger size as they fill up quicker than you think.
  • Pick a container that works with what you are storing or shipping. Most often, it’s not practical to just throw everything into the container and be done with it. The big stuff has to be at the bottom with the fragile boxes near the top. This prevents anything from breaking, as well as making things easier if you need to retrieve something from your shipping container.
  • Figure out which size container you need. According to, shipping containers come in standard 10-foot, 20-foot, and 40-foot sizes, as well as 20-foot and 4-foot high cube containers.
  1. Ten-foot containers are the smallest containers. They are only 10 feet long and generally can hold the contents of a studio apartment. While they are lightweight and easy to transport, they’re not as cost effective as the 20-foot and 40-foot steel shipping containers.
  1. Twenty-foot containers are the most popular as it’s typically can hold up to around 32 cubic square metres and 24 tonnes, which is a lot of cargo. However, that is gross weight, and once you subtract the weight of the container, you should only actually load around 31,000 kilograms of cargo in the container. This generally equals to the contents of a one-car garage or a small house. Since they around 1,360 kilograms lighter than a 40-feet standard container, they are easier to transport using a traditional flatbed tow truck or even loading it on a regular trailer.
  1. A 40-foot standard container allows you to load everything from your home and garage, making them popular to use for moving, as well as for storage solutions. These generally cost less per cubic feet.
  1. Instead of being only 8 feet tall, high cube containers are 9’6″ tall, allowing you pack and load unusual farming equipment or other machinery that might need high clearance. The door itself is 8′ 10″ tall instead of only 7′ 10″ tall, making it easier for you.

The Importance of Selecting the Correct Size Shipping Container

Since you want to fit all of your goods or cargo into one shipping container, it’s imperative that you know the exact tally of what is being transported. We’ve talked about the dangers of buying a container too small, but what happens if you almost buy one that’s too big for your needs. For example, if you are moving to another country and want to ship your belongings ahead but you have around 100 to 150 cubic feet of stuff over the 20-feet standard container, what should you do?

According to and other shipping companies, the easiest option would be to re-evaluate your belongings and see if you can get rid of some of them. Other options would including bring extra packed boxes as your approved limit on the plane with you or joining another person’s shared container with the rest of your belongings. This may cost more but probably not as much as jumping to a 40-foot container with a bunch of dead space.

Finally, you need to consider the size of your container when thinking of about where you’ll have it delivered or where you’ll store it long term. Typically, you want to leave a comfortable five feet on each side so that it fits comfortably and allows you easy access to it.