Shipping Container Sizes: Dimensions, Sizes and Prices

Insight - 37 Min read

May 20, 2024

A shipping container is a big metal box used to transport goods like products and materials across long distances, mainly by ships, trains, or trucks. They're strong and durable, made to protect items during travel. These containers come in different sizes, but the most common ones are 20 feet, 40 feet, and 45 feet long. They're essential for global trade, making it easier to move products between countries. Sometimes, people also use them for storage, housing, offices, or creative projects because they're sturdy and easy to work with.

The chart summarizes the sizes of four common shipping containers used worldwide. It includes the 20-foot container, which is smaller and holds about 1,172 cubic feet. The 40-foot container is twice as long and can carry around 2,390 cubic feet. There's also the 40-foot High Cube, which is taller and has a capacity of approximately 2,694 cubic feet. Lastly, the 45-foot High Cube is longer than the others, but its exact capacity varies. These containers are vital for transporting goods globally and have various uses beyond shipping, like storage and housing.

Shipping Container Sizes

Shipping containers come in various sizes to accommodate different cargo needs. The most common sizes include:

1. 20-foot Container (20ft):

   - Length: 20 feet (6.1 meters)

   - Width: 8 feet (2.44 meters)

   - Height: 8.5 feet (2.59 meters)

2. 40-foot Container (40ft):

   - Length: 40 feet (12.19 meters)

   - Width: 8 feet (2.44 meters)

   - Height: 8.5 feet (2.59 meters)

3. 40-foot High Cube Container (40ft HC):

   - Length: 40 feet (12.19 meters)

   - Width: 8 feet (2.44 meters)

   - Height: 9.5 feet (2.9 meters)

4. 45-foot High Cube Container (45ft HC):

   - Length: 45 feet (13.7 meters)

   - Width: 8 feet (2.44 meters)

   - Height: 9.5 feet (2.9 meters)

These are the standard sizes, but there are also other specialty sizes available, such as 10-foot, 30-foot, and 53-foot containers, although they are less common.

Special Container Sizes

The choice of container size depends on factors like the type and volume of cargo being transported, as well as logistical considerations and regulation

Please note that the dimensions and specifications provided for the bulk containers, car carriers, livestock containers, half-height containers, platform containers, swap body containers, and double stack containers may vary based on specific models and configurations. The weights and capacities also vary depending on the cargo and loading conditions.

Types of Container:

1. Open-Top Container:

Open-top containers are specifically designed for the transport of oversized cargo that does not easily fit through the standard doors of a container. These units are ideal for bulky or tall items that require loading by crane or other overhead equipment. The top of these containers can be covered with a tarpaulin or other covering material to protect the contents from weather elements, making them highly versatile for various industrial applications, including the construction sector for transporting large equipment and materials.

2. Reefer Container:

Refrigerated containers, or reefers, play a crucial role in the global supply chain by maintaining perishable goods at specific temperatures. Equipped with advanced refrigeration units, these containers can keep goods like fresh produce, dairy, and pharmaceuticals in optimal conditions from below freezing to merely cooled states. Their ability to preserve the quality of sensitive products throughout transportation makes them indispensable in the food and medical supply sectors.

3. Double Door Container:

Double door containers offer the convenience of dual access, with doors on both ends of the container. This feature simplifies the loading and unloading process, especially for long items that can be more efficiently handled from both sides. The design also speeds up the sorting and distribution process, enhancing operational efficiency in logistics and freight operations.

4. Pallet Wide Container:

Pallet wide containers are engineered to maximize space utilization by accommodating more European-sized pallets without wasting space. This design is particularly beneficial for transporting large volumes of palletized goods, reducing transportation costs and improving loading efficiencies for exporters and logistics companies.

5. Flat Rack Container:

Flat rack containers are tailored for the transportation of heavy and oversized cargo such as machinery, vehicles, and large industrial components. With collapsible sides, these containers offer unmatched flexibility, allowing for easy loading and unloading from the top or sides, which is essential for handling heavy or irregularly shaped items.

6. Side Door Container:

Side door containers feature additional doors along the sides, providing wider access points which facilitate the loading of long or bulky materials. This container type is particularly useful for industries dealing with construction materials like steel beams or lumber, significantly easing the operational process.

7. Hard Top Container:

Hard top containers combine the advantages of open-top containers with added protection via a removable rigid roof. This feature allows for secure top-loading of tall items, and once loaded, the roof can be replaced to protect the contents from external conditions, offering a versatile solution for transporting sensitive or high-value goods.

8.Tank Container:

Tank containers are designed for the safe and efficient transport of liquids and gases. Encased in a standard-sized frame, these cylindrical vessels are robust and secure, making them suitable for hazardous materials like chemicals and fuels. Their structural integrity ensures safe containment and leak-proof transport, adhering to stringent safety standards.

9. Insulated Container:

Insulated containers are vital for transporting temperature-sensitive products that require a stable environment but not necessarily refrigeration. The insulation within these containers is designed to minimize the transfer of heat between the interior and the exterior, protecting products like pharmaceuticals, certain chemical compounds, and cosmetics from the adverse effects of temperature fluctuations. This feature is crucial for maintaining the integrity and efficacy of products throughout their journey, particularly when shipping across different climatic zones.

10. Bulk Containers:

Bulk containers are specialized for transporting a variety of bulk materials, ranging from agricultural products like grains and beans to industrial raw materials such as sand, coal, and chemicals. These containers are often equipped with features like bottom discharge hatches or tipping functions that facilitate easy and efficient unloading directly into silos, hoppers, or other storage and processing facilities. This design not only speeds up the unloading process but also reduces the risk of contamination and material loss, making it an effective solution for bulk cargo logistics.

11. Car Carriers:

Car carrier containers are specifically designed to maximize the transportation of vehicles in a secure and efficient manner. These containers often have multiple levels and come equipped with ramps and securing mechanisms to hold vehicles in place during transit. By allowing multiple vehicles to be transported within a single container, these carriers significantly reduce the risk of damage from movement or external factors, thus ensuring vehicles arrive at their destination in pristine condition.

12. Livestock Containers:

Livestock containers are customized to transport live animals such as cattle, sheep, and horses safely and humanely. These containers are equipped with adequate ventilation, automatic watering systems, and feed troughs to ensure the well-being of the animals throughout the transit. Additionally, the design adheres to strict animal welfare regulations, which mandate specific space, environment, and health standards to prevent stress and injury to the animals.

13. Half Height Containers:

Half height containers are designed with a lower profile than standard containers, making them particularly suited for heavy or dense materials that require robust handling equipment to load and unload. Their reduced height not only facilitates easier handling but also lowers the center of gravity, enhancing the stability of the transport vehicle during transit, which is crucial for safety when moving heavy materials like metal ores or construction debris.

14. Platform Containers:

Platform containers are essentially flat platforms equipped with corner posts and are used for carrying oversized or irregularly shaped goods that cannot be easily accommodated in standard containers. These containers provide maximum flexibility in securing and transporting large items such as heavy machinery, large industrial parts, or construction elements, offering tie-down points to ensure the cargo remains stable and secure during transit.

15. Swap Body Containers:

Swap body containers offer a unique advantage in multimodal transportation scenarios. They are equipped with folding legs that allow them to be quickly shifted and secured onto different types of transport vehicles, such as from a truck to a rail car, without the need for cranes or other heavy lifting equipment. This capability significantly reduces downtime and handling costs, making swap bodies an efficient choice for logistic operations involving frequent mode changes.

16. Double Stack Containers:

Double stack containers are designed to optimize space and load capacity in rail transportation by allowing containers to be stacked two high on a single rail car. This arrangement effectively doubles the carrying capacity of each train trip, significantly improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of rail freight transport. The containers used in double stacking are reinforced to handle the additional weight and ensure structural integrity under the increased load.

Do storage containers and shipping containers vary in size?

Shipping containers are primarily designed for transporting cargo internationally by sea, land, or rail. They come in standard sizes like 20 feet or 40 feet long, with variations in height and specialized features. Storage containers, on the other hand, are more versatile and can be used for stationary storage at construction sites, warehouses, or for personal use. While shipping containers adhere to strict standards for durability and compatibility with transportation infrastructure, storage containers may vary more in size and construction. This differentiation between shipping and storage containers allows for optimal use in their respective fields. Shipping containers must adhere to international standards set by organizations like the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), ensuring they can be easily stacked, shipped, and handled worldwide. In contrast, storage containers can be customized with features such as shelving, doors, or climate control, tailored to specific storage needs, making them more adaptable for various non-transport applications.

Dry Shipping Container

A shipping container is considered "dry" when it is sealed and protected from moisture, ensuring that the cargo inside remains dry and free from water damage during transportation. This typically involves features such as weatherproofing, sealing mechanisms, and structural integrity to prevent water ingress. Dry shipping containers are essential for transporting goods that are sensitive to moisture, such as electronics, textiles, and paper products. These containers are equipped with tight gaskets around doors and robust weather-resistant materials to withstand harsh environmental conditions during transit. The added features like ventilation and insulation help regulate the internal atmosphere, preventing condensation and the resultant damage it could cause to the cargo. Additionally, proper ventilation and insulation may also contribute to maintaining dry conditions inside the container.

Estimated Prices for Shipping Containers

On average, the cost of a standard used shipping container can range from approximately $1,500 to $4,000, depending on factors such as size, condition, and location. New containers typically cost between $3,000 and $6,000 or more. Specialized containers or those with additional features, such as refrigeration units or custom modifications, can be significantly more expensive, ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 or higher. These are rough estimates, and actual prices may vary based on various factors such as market conditions and supplier pricing.

Join our inventory mailing list to get early access to our best deals