International Freight Forwarder and Customs Broker Based in China

Shipping Container Sizes- Which Size is Best for Your Needs?

Table of Contents

Shipping your cargo safely requires understanding the different types and sizes of shipping containers. We cover everything you need to know about shipping container size, the differences, what size is best for you and where to obtain them. 

When it comes to choosing a container size, you have a lot of options. In fact, it’s a huge decision. Saving money and keeping your cargo safe can be achieved with the right container size.

History of Shipping Container Sizes

A standard shipping container was invented in 1956 by Malcolm McLean. In the past, there wasn’t always two standard sizes for shipping containers. In the days before containers were widely used, stuff was shoved into sacks, drums, and pallets. Then they’re loaded straight onto the ships. Back then it would take about 2-3 weeks to fully load the ship up. 

Standard containers have proven to be beneficial from the outset. Consequently, more goods could be shipped simultaneously, and less time was wasted loading and unloading. The use of containers also allowed fragile items to be shipped without fear of damage. 

We’ll check out a few popular container sizes now.

Sizes of Shipping Containers

Freight containers most used in shipping are ISO standards. There are 8 ft wide and 8 ft 5 high containers available in 20 ft and 40 ft.
These durable containers are ideal for transporting cargo, thanks to their aluminium or steel construction. 

Size of 20 Foot Shipping Containers

Most shipping containers are 20 ft, which is the most popular. Standard containers come in a range of sizes, but this one is the smallest. Below is a chart showing shipping container sizes.

20 ft Dimensions

Inside width        7.8 ft
Inside length      19.4 ft
Tare weight        5,071.5 lbs
Internal height    7.9 ft
Payload capacity 55,126.9 lbs

It is possible to find 20 ft containers at an affordable price on the market. 
Size of a 40-Foot Shipping Container

There’s twice as much height in a 40 ft container as in a 20 ft container. It’s perfect for things that don’t fit in a 20 ft container. The measurements of a 40 ft container can be found in the table below.
40 ft Container Dimensions

Inside width    7.9 ft
Inside length   39.5 ft 
Inside height    7.9 ft
Payload capacity   61,200 lbs
Tare weight       2,389 cu ft

Two 20 ft containers are more expensive than one 40 ft container, because a 40 ft container costs 30% more than the 20 ft shipping container. 

Sizes of High Cube Shipping Containers

High-cube containers are taller than standard containers by one foot. In high cubes, cargo is transported that is heavy, bulky, and of higher volume than standard containers can handle.

In addition to 40 ft high cube containers, 45 ft high cube containers are also available. The next section discusses their dimensions and capacities.

Container Size For 40 ft High Cubes
Compared to a 40 ft container, a 40 ft high cube container is one foot taller. Below is a size chart for 40 ft HC shipping containers.


Inside height   8.9 ft
Tare weight    8,687 lbs
Inside length 39.5 ft
Inside width    7.8 ft
Payload capacity 63,052

  Container Size For 45 ft High Cubes
There is a lot of space available for your cargo when you use 45 ft high cube shipping containers. Below is a table showing the container’s dimensions.

Inside width
Inside length
Tare weight
Payload capacity
Inside height

A 45 ft HC container costs more than a 40 ft HC container.

We have already discussed all the containers that can be found on the container market. Due in part to an oversupply of shipping containers at present. Despite the availability of these containers, it is still necessary to source them from a trusted platform. This is where our company comes in.  

With our platform, you can buy containers from more than 1500 vetted members. By utilizing our platform, you will be able to communicate with vetted suppliers directly, make better deals, and conduct secure transactions.

Shipping Container Sizes: Which One to Choose

There are a few factors that must be considered when choosing the right container size. If you’re wondering what size shipping container to choose, here are some tips:

Cargo volume: If you are only transporting a small number of items, 20 ft containers are ideal. You should choose a container of bigger size if you have a lot of stuff.

Weight capacity: In addition to cargo volume, consider the weight of your shipment. For instance, 20 ft containers can hold 25,000 pounds of payload. If you’re shipping something heavier, a larger container is recommended.

Container cost: Container costs vary based on many factors, including the size of the container. There is a price difference between 40 ft and 20 ft containers. Nonetheless, it makes more economic sense to rent one 40 ft container instead of two 20 ft containers.

The cost of the container you choose is important, but it’s also important to consider the type. Dry transport is not suitable for temperature-sensitive goods containers. Special containers are needed for this. 
Types and Sizes of Special Containers
The Container Allwayforward platform has some special containers in different sizes.

What is a Reefer?

They’re the same as dry shipping containers, with the addition of insulation and refrigerators for maintaining a specified temperature when they’re being shipped or stored.

Throughout the world, refrigerators are used to store and ship perishable goods. Intermodal transportation became possible as railroads improved, making it easier to get food across continents without affecting the nutritional value. As a result of technology, these containers are also designed better, improving their efficiency and safety.

Food can be kept fresh for a long time in refrigerators due to their lower operating temperatures. The temperature of the device is maintained at a set level (usually -10°C) using a cold-generating system. There’s usually a sliding door on one end so the container can be loaded and unloaded easily.

Container Size for Reefers

Containers that keep temperature-sensitive stuff cold are called reefer containers. Medications, pharmaceuticals, and foods fall into this category.

You can find out the dimensions of reefer containers by looking at the container size chart below.

Measurement 20 ft  40 ft  40 HC 
Inside length 17.9 ft 37.9 ft  38.0 ft 
Width inside 7.5 ft  7.5 ft  7.5 ft
Height inside 7.5 ft 7.4 ft  7.9 ft
Tare weight 6,790 lbs 10,584 lbs 9,880 lbs
Payload capacity 60,417 lbs 61,079 lbs 65,080 lbs

Container Size for Flat Racks

Flat rack containers have no roofs or walls on their longer sides. Various sizes and shapes can be loaded quickly and easily this way. A wide range of items can be transported using it, from machinery to timber to pipes to vehicles.

A flat rack container has the following dimensions:

Measurements 20 ft  40 ft 
Inside length 19 ft 39.8 ft
The width of the inside 7.7 ft 7.9 ft
Height from the inside 7.7 ft 7 ft
Tare weight 5203.8 lbs 11,025 lbs
Payload capacity 30,140 kg / 66,458.7 lbs 40,000kg / 88,200 lbs

Size of Open Top Containers

A container with an open top is called an open-top container. In place of a solid roof, tarpaulin sheets cover the roof of the container. By doing this, you can cover it or leave it open depending on your convenience. Whenever the dimensions of your cargo exceed those of a standard shipping container, open-top containers will be used.

Here is a chart showing the sizes of open-top shipping containers:

Measurements 20 ft 40 ft 
Inside length 19.4 ft 39.5 ft
Inside width 7.8 ft 7.9 ft
Inside height 7.8 ft 7.8 ft
Tare weight 5,982 lbs 8,774 lbs
Payload capacity 62,214 lbs 58,422 lbs

Find Out How Much a Shipping Container Costs in Real-Time

Making the best container deals requires knowing container prices. There are many factors that influence the price of containers, including their quality, location, availability and popularity.
Allwayforward Insights offers real-time container price updates. You can do the following with Insights:

Over 110 locations worldwide offer real-time container pricing.
Selecting the right city for purchasing, selling, or renting equipment.
Even in a new market, you can make a good deal.
Make the most of your profits.
Allwayforward Offers a Wide Range of Shipping Containers 

Find containers of any size using Allwayforward. Here are some advantages to sourcing with Allwayforward. 

Partner with vetted companies and close deals. There are no risks involved.
The vetting process is mandatory for all companies before they are accepted as members. All of these businesses are open to doing business with you and involve no risk. The public profiles of all companies are also available. 

Transact securely with 100% encryption.
The buyers are also protected by us. We’ll make sure you get your stuff no matter what. Customer Service ensures that your needs are met. The Allwayforward wallet ensures complete security of your payments.

Make unlimited deals with 50,000+ boxes.
More than 50,000 containers are available on Allwayforward – so you’re more likely to find what you’re looking for. 

Other Uses for Shipping Containers

There’s more to shipping containers than just moving cargo, they can also be used for a variety of other purposes. In case of special requirements, keep these in mind when you’re choosing a container, and make sure it matches as closely as possible. The largest container may be the best option if you want to use the container as accommodation. With a variety of sizes and shapes available, there is bound to be something that is right for you. It is very important to have a clear understanding of your options so you can make an informed decision about the size that you need.
Sizes of Shipping Containers: Common Questions
40 ft Containers and How Big They Are
A 40-foot is 12.03 meters long, 2.4 meters wide, and 2.39 meters tall. Approximately 27,600 kg can be loaded into a 40 ft container, which can hold 67.7 cubic meters.
Is There a Limit to the Amount That Can Be Carried in a 40 ft Container?
40 ft containers can hold 60,000 pounds of payload. A 40 ft container has a cubic capacity of 67.7 cubic meters.
How Big is a 20 ft Container?
20-foot containers are 5.90 meters long, 2.35 meters wide, and 2.39 meters tall. The payload capacity is 55,126.9 lbs.
What is the Cost of a 40 ft Container?
It costs about $1500 to $2000 to rent a cargo-worthy 40 ft container. There is a difference in price based on the location, quality, and availability.


It is important to source the correct size and type of shipping container that will suit your needs. Doing this will ensure your cargo gets to its destination safely and securely without any problems. If you are unsure what you need in terms of shipping containers or want a quote for a job you need to do, get in contact with the team who can offer specialized advice and friendly staff who thrive to get you the best deal.