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Container Import Cost

Published by Chris Townsend

Container Import Cost

How Much Does It Cost to Import a Container?

Container ships

The cost to ship a container internationally varies widely and depends on numerous factors. Though, as a rough estimate, you’re looking at spending anywhere from $1,300 to nearly $7,000 (USD) to import a 20-foot container. Continue reading as we explore container shipping prices and how they’re calculated, as well as other costs you should consider like customs duties, inspection fees, insurance, and more.

How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Container Overseas?

We’ve put together some estimated shipping rates for some of the most popular routes from the USA (New York), Canada (Montreal), and the UK (London). These rates are based on international container shipping rates and port-to-port transportation of both a 20-foot and 40-foot container, for reference.

Note: These costs do not include typical add-on services like professional packing/ unpacking, door-to-door delivery, and insurance. Therefore, the rates should only be used as an indication.

Container Shipping Estimates from the US (New York)

Destination Port City 20 Ft. Container Cost 40 Ft. Container Cost
London, United Kingdom $2,080 (USD) $2,600 (USD)
Montreal, Canada $2,100 (USD) $2,800 (USD)
Hamburg, Germany $1,700 (USD) $2,150 (USD)
Sydney, Australia $2,900 (USD) $3,900 (USD)
Barcelona, Spain $2,600 (USD) $3,400 (USD)

Cost of entire shipping container from New York overseas

Container Shipping Estimates from Canada (Montreal)

Destination Port City 20 Ft. Container Cost 40 Ft. Container Cost
London, United Kingdom $2,960 (CAD) $3,480 (CAD)
Los Angeles, USA $5,960 (CAD) $6,400 (CAD)
Sydney, Australia $9,050 (CAD) $10,645 (CAD)
Dublin, Ireland $3,040 (CAD) $3,600 (CAD)
New York, USA $2,620 (CAD) $3,100 (CAD)

How much it cost to ship containers from Canada overseas

Container Shipping Estimates from the UK (London)

Destination Port City 20 Ft. Container Cost 40 Ft. Container Cost
New York, USA €2900 (EUR) €5100 (EUR)
Los Angeles, USA €3780 (EUR) €4600 (EUR)
Sydney, Australia €2500 (EUR) €3700 (EUR)
Montreal, Canada €4000 (EUR) €5300 (EUR)
Barcelona, Spain €2350 (EUR) €3070 (EUR)

International shipping industry rates from Londo overseas

Factors that Influence Shipping Costs

There are five key factors that influence the cost of shipping a container, which shipping companies use to calculate their costs. These factors are:

Mode of transport

Do you plan on shipping your container overseas via sea or air? Not only does the transportation method influence the cost, it also determines how long it takes for your belongings to arrive. While air freight is generally faster, it can be up to seven times more expensive than sea freight. Or, if your move does not involve crossing an ocean or two, you can choose to transport your goods via truck, train, or air.

Volume or weight of your shipment

Whether it’s the weight or volume will depend on the mode of transport you choose. Airfreight is determined by the weight of your shipment, while sea freight is more concerned with volume. Regardless, the more stuff you have to move, the more expensive it will be to move it.

The distance

This factor is pretty self-explanatory, as the longer the distance between ports, the more you’ll pay. Though, whether you opt for port-to-port or door-to-door delivery will also influence costs. Door-to-door service is convenient, as it means the shipping company will pick up your goods at your old front door and then deliver them to your new one. Though, it comes at a price.

Destination port

Service charges and customs duties are unavoidable when you’re importing containers. Though the rates will vary from country to country, the destination country is what determines how much you pay in taxes and customs.

Time of year

Like any other industry, the container shipping industry has peak and off-peak seasons. These typically occur in the summer (from August to September) and following the Chinese New Year (between January and February). During these months, the demand is higher, which raises rates as capacity is limited.

International move and container size

Ocean freight rates

What Size Container Do I Need?

While there are tons of different types and sizes of shipping containers, there are only two that you need to familiarize yourself with: the 20ft container and the 40ft container.

A standard 20-foot container will generally hold the contents of a three-bedroom home, including things like beds, furniture, boxes, appliances, and electronics. The volume of a 20-foot container is 33 cubic meters, but there really is only between 25 and 28 cubic meters of usable internal space. This is about the size of a single-car garage.

A 40-foot container, on the other hand, gives you double the space of a 20-foot container. Contrary to popular belief, these containers do not also come at double the price. In fact, a 40-foot container may be a better value for your money if you are shipping a lot of stuff. These containers can fit a home with four (or more) bedrooms but are also useful if you need to ship your household and a car. The volume of a 40-foot container is 67 cubic meters, but only 54 to 58 cbm is usable.

Full Container Load or Less than Container Load?

Whether or not you need to pay for an entire container will depend on how much stuff you have to transport. Fortunately, for those that need to ship smaller amounts of cargo, shipping companies have developed a system that lets multiple customers share the space inside of a single container. This is known as ‘Less than Container Load,’ or LCL for short.

Generally speaking, people who are only moving the contents of a one-bedroom can choose LCL. Though, volumes any greater and you’re better off paying for the entire container – called ‘Full Container Load,’ or FCL for short.

West coast container ship

Additional Container Shipping Costs

While we’d love to tell you that we’ve covered everything there is to know about international container shipping, there are a number of additional shipping costs that you must consider when importing a container. These are as follows:

Container Inspection Fees

Nowadays, physical inspections are uncommon. In fact, only 5% of inbound containers to the United States are physically inspected, and it’s even less common in Europe. Though, if the electronic scan gives the customs staff any reason to want to open and investigate your container, you will have to pay for any charges acquired during this process.

Customs Duties

Unfortunately, customs duties are unavoidable. The country where you are importing your container is going to tax your cargo, as well as impose fees on things like terminal handling and port service. Though, these charges vary from port to port so make sure that you speak with your shipping company beforehand to budget accordingly.

General Rate Increase (GRI)

This refers to the average increase in base shipping rates established by shipping companies. They are intended to cover the constantly rising costs that freight carriers are subjected to, which happen very regularly. This is what the cycle looks like: shipping companies establish GRIs, demand falls, they decrease their rates, demand increases, and then another GRI is established. In fact, this is what makes container shipping rates so unpredictable.

Inland Delivery Fees

Make sure that your shipping company is transparent about the services they are providing. Are they only offering a port-to-port service, meaning you’ll have to get your container to the departure port and then retrieve it at the destination port? Oftentimes, this ends up costing you more than door-to-door delivery, since there are a ton of logistics involved on your end.

Quarantine Fees

Quarantine fees are not only reserved for importing animals. In fact, in some countries (like Australia), your goods will be inspected upon import to check for any pests that could disrupt the country’s ecosystem. You will be charged for this inspection, and anything that they discover should not be coming in. So, make sure that you understand your destination country’s quarantine process and pack accordingly.

container import cost container freight rates to import

Chris Townsend is a moving professional and relocation expert that has more than 10 years of experience in the moving industry. With a background that includes working in virtually every aspect of the company, he has distinguished himself as an integral part of our operations with expertise in all things related to moving. Chris has a keen eye for detail and brings intelligence and passion to every project he’s involved with.

While getting his degree in communications from Santa Clara University, Chris started out with the company working in the field as part of our team of professional moving associates. Following graduation, he was promoted to our main office, where he has thrived in a role that involves increasing responsibility and requires him to wear many different hats. Some days, you may find him answering the phone and providing moving estimates, others he may be writing for our moving blog, and another day he may be coordinating a large corporate moving job or helping us with our marketing efforts. Chris has authored many of our in-depth moving guides, as well as provided our clients with information and advice to handle the complexities of their upcoming moving plans. Simply put, there’s nothing he can’t do and we wouldn’t be where we are today without him.

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