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How Much Does It Cost to Ship a 20ft Container?

Published by Chris Townsend

How Much Does It Cost to Ship a 20ft Container?

The best way to convey big, heavy products is with shipping containers, often known as sea containers. The cost of transporting one of these units, however, can be high for some shippers. Find out, How much does it cost to ship a 20ft container?

Small shipping containers, or those that measure less than 20 feet long, are excellent if you only have a couple of items you need to store or a small enough space for your container to sit comfortably. Though, it’s important to note that any container that is less than 20 feet long will generally cost the same as a 20-foot container. This has to do with the fact that the smallest size shipping container used in the shipping industry is the 20-foot container.

While 10-foot and smaller containers can be used for shipments, modern port equipment cannot lift or move them. The only way that these small containers can be moved is when they are connected to another 10-foot container to make a standard 20-foot unit. With this in mind, it’ll actually cost quite a bit more to ship a single 10-foot container than it would be to transport a 20-foot container anywhere in the world.

What is the Smallest Size Shipping Container?

With that said, the smallest size container that can be used for shipping is a standard 20-foot container. These containers measure just under 20 feet long, eight feet wide, and eight feet six inches tall. They have a maximum load of 61,000 pounds and are suitable for shipping the contents of a one- or two-bedroom home.

Also referred to as a ‘Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit’ (TEU), the 20-foot shipping container is the industry standard. As such, vessel capacity and cargo volume are measured in terms of TEU. Although 20-foot containers are the smallest size shipping container available, the 40-foot container – known as the Forty-Foot Equivalent Unit (FEU) – is the most common container in use today.

How Much Does It Cost to Ship a 20Ft Container?

The average cost to ship the smallest container (20-foot container), is approximately $3,000. However, your final cost will depend on how much stuff you have to move and where you’re headed, in addition to a number of other factors. Even things like the moving company you hire and the time of year you move can make a huge difference in cost.

In terms of distance, the cost to ship a 20-foot container is between $1 and $4 a mile. The shorter the move, the more affordable overall, but you’ll generally have a higher rate per mile. However, keep in mind that each container shipping company calculates their rates differently. Therefore, the best way to know exactly how much it costs to ship a small container is to request an estimate from a reputable mover.

Factors that Influence Shipping Costs

To fully understand how much it costs to ship a small container, you must know what factors make the biggest impact. That said, let’s take a look at some of the most common factors that affect the total cost of shipping a 20-foot container.


Are you going to need the entire 20-foot container for your belongings? Or, will you only be able partially to fill it? LCL, or Less than Container Load, describes shipments that don’t require the entire container. Most companies will typically impose a minimum shipment volume, which may be as low as 35.3 cubic feet. For small shipments, this is the most cost-effective option since you will be sharing costs with those that you are sharing the container with.

Depending on your situation, it may make the most sense financially and logistically to book the full container. This is known as Full Container Load, or FCL. You will be responsible for paying for the entire container, as your goods will not be combined with other shipments.


Arguably, distance has the biggest impact on the cost of shipping a 20-foot container. The further that you need to ship the container, the more it’ll cost you. Most shipping companies raise their rate to account for vehicle maintenance, environmental taxes, fuel charges, and more.

Regardless, a local relocation is always going to cost less than a long-distance move – and especially one that is international/overseas.

Method of Transport

Essentially, there are three main modes of transport when it comes to shipping a 20-foot container, with some being more affordable than others.

  • Road: Nearly all types of relocations with involving a truck at some point. This is the most expensive method, as shippers must consider maintenance and fuel costs for the journey.
  • Rail: Shipping via train is less expensive and very common for moves within a continent.
  • Ocean Freight: Ocean freight or shipping via a container ship, is the most cost-effective way to transport a 20-foot container, but also the slowest. Though, keep in mind that if you’re not transporting the container overseas, you would not use this method.

Depending on your move, you may need to use a combination of these three methods. Shipping containers is all about logistics and while rail is generally cheaper than trucking, it may not always be the case for your situation.

Time of Year

If you plan to ship your 20-foot container during a time of the year when these services are in high demand, you’ll end up paying more. Peak seasons for the moving industry tend to be the summer and spring months. There is also usually a higher demand on holidays, weekends, and at the beginning and end of the month. Avoid these times of the year and opt for a winter move to make your shipment as affordable as possible.

Are There 10 Foot Shipping Containers?

You’re likely familiar with the standard 20- and 40-foot shipping containers. However, did you know that there are, in fact, 10-foot shipping containers available as well? These shipping containers are one of the more unique and rare sizes you can find. They are an excellent storage solution for areas where the more common-sized containers cannot fit. The dimensions for a 10-foot shipping container are as follows:

  • Width: 8 ft.
  • Length: 10 ft.
  • Height: 8 ft. six in.
  • Weight: 2,900 pounds

10-foot shipping containers have many uses, including locking up your construction materials, keeping your tools protected from the elements, creating a custom office container, or even housing a DIY sauna. Although you can move 10-foot containers easily around your property as needed, they cannot be shipped easily.

The only way to ship a 10-foot shipping container is to bolt it to another 10-foot container. That way, the equipment at the port can lift and move the container for transport. So, while there are 10-foot shipping containers out there that can be used for a variety of purposes, they are too small to be used for shipping.

Frequently Asked Questions

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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