Container Shipping Descriptions. Helpful tips you should know!

Container Shipping

Typical measurements:

Size (LxWxH): 19′ 10.5″ x 8′ 0″ x 8′ 6″ (6.1m x 2.4m x 2.6m)
Total internal volume: 1,169 ft³ (33.1 m³)
Net shipping load: 61,289 lb (28,200 kg)

40ft Shipping Container

Suitable for: 3-5 bedroom moves or a car plus a typical two bedroom move

Typical measurements:
Size (LxWxH): 40′ 0″ x 8′ 0″ x 8′ 6″ (12.2m x 2.4m x 2.6m)
Total internal volume: 2,385 ft³ (67.5 m³)
Net shipping load: 57,759 lb (26,600 kg)

Note: While a 40ft shipping container can typical hold about twice as much (in volume terms) as a 20ft one, it can actually carry less total cargo weight due to the weight of the container itself. Thus, if you’re looking to ship a car and a large household you may need more than 1 container.

Less Container Load (LCL) vs Full Container Load (FCL)

Another, set of term you may come across are LCL and FCL.

Less Container Load (LCL): This refers to moves or shipments that require less than a full container (either 20ft or 40ft). However, most companies will impose a minimum shipment volume, sometimes as low as 35.3 ft³ (1 m³). This can be the most cost effective option for very small moves, but it can often work out cheaper to just pay for a full container.

Full Container Load (FCL): This refers to moves or shipments where you pay for an entire shipping container. This means all your goods as shipped together as one and means no one else’s goods are shipping in your container. Shipping companies generally prefer when people pay for FCL as it makes the logistics at both ends much simpler.

Shipping Modes of Transportation: Land, Sea and Air

There are 3 ways to move freight internationally: by land, sea and air. All moves will involve at least some land transportation and some could involve all 3 methods. Here are the important things you need to know:

Land (Truck & Trains)

There are two types of land transportation used to ship containers: trucks and trains (via rail).


Virtually all moves will involve a truck. Domestic and international moves within the same continent will likely be done entirely by truck and usually by one company.

Whereas moves overseas can result in coordination between trucking companies. Any moving company you choose should make it clear how these costs break down and who will be responsible for what during the moving process.

Speed: Trucks can generally drive as quickly as road conditions will allow.

Costs: Moderate, but are unavoidable.

Examples moves: Domestic moves within the same city or country, United States to Canada or Mexico, Canada to the United States, United Kingdom to mainland Europe or Ireland (via ferry), and moves between countries in Europe.


The use of rail transportation to move shipping containers is also very common and can be much more cost effective than shipping via truck for long distance moves within a continent.

Speed: Depends on origin and destination, but usually slower than trucks.

Cost: For some journeys can cost less than using a truck.

Examples moves: Moves between the East and West coasts of North America, long distance moves between Eastern and Western Europe and some domestic moves within Australia.

Sea Freight

Sea freight or shipping via container ship is by far the cheapest way to move goods internationally but also the slowest. However, if you’re moving goods between continents, you normally have little choice but to send them via container ship.

Speed: Slow, depending on routes can take from a few days to several weeks.

Cost: Given the distances involved, very low

Example moves: United States to Australia, United Kingdom to the United States, South Africa to Canada, New Zealand to Australia.

Air Freight

Air freight is only rarely used in full household container moves due to the extremely high cost. Shipping via air can easily cost 10X as much as shipping via sea. Therefore, if you have some items you want to have with you as soon as you arrive in your new country, you should ship them via plane, but it’s much more cost effective to send the bulk of your goods via boat.

Speed: Very fast

Cost: Very high for large moves, but reasonable if only shipping a few boxes.

Example moves: Any two cities that have airports.

Loading & Delivery Options

Another important factor that affects cost is how you plan to load and deliver your shipping container. If you’re planning an FCL move you may have up to 3 options depending on your mover/freight forwarder/NVOCC:

1. Port to Port

This is the most basic option, and is what the rates at the top of the page are based on. Basically, with port to port shipping you are responsible for getting your goods to the origin port, the shipping company ships them to the destination port and then you’re responsible for getting them to your new house.

2. Drop & Fill

This is where the shipping company drops off a shipping container at your house and you fill it yourself. You may be able to use local movers and packers who work separately from the shipping company to help out.

Similarly this can be an option at the other end of your move, where the shipping company just drops the container at your new house and you are responsible for unloading it.

3. Door to Door Moves

By far the most common choice for people moving abroad is a complete door to door moving service. Depending on the options you choose your mover will arrange to have the container delivered to your house, packed, moved to port, shipped, moved to your new house and then unpacked.

If you don’t have much experience moving internationally and/or are shipping an LCL load this is the recommended option.

Other International Moving Costs

We listed international container shipping rates above, but these are by no means the only costs involved in any international move. When moving between countries you could face some of these costs as well.

Insurance: If you’re planing to ship your entire home overseas (or even just around the corner), it’s very important everything is insured. So make sure your shipping company has adequate maritime insurance. This will give you peace of mind that should anything get damaged or broken during your move, you’re not out of pocket.

Packing Costs: Many, if not all, international moving companies will make it a requirement that they pack your goods for you. While it may seem this is just way to add on an extra cost, there are good reasons for it. First, it helps prevent fraudulent insurance claims, which drives up the cost for everyone. Second, it can be requirement for taxes and duty (see below).

Taxes/Duty/Customs Charges: Before shipping your home overseas, it’s highly recommended that you do some research into how the country you’re moving to treats international moves. Some will impose taxes and/or duties on the value of the goods entering the country. It’s good to find out how much these are likely to be, before you move so you’re not faced with any nasty surprises.

Storage: Also, if you’re not planning to move abroad permanently it can be worth checking how much storage in your home country costs. This can sometimes work out cheaper than shipping goods overseas and then back again, especially if your home country also imposes taxes and duties on goods being shipped.

No reason to pay twice for the same things.

The Best International Container Shipping Deals With Free Quotes

With the cost of oil plummeting and a glut of container ships on the market, now is a great time to get a good deal on international container shipping. However, basic rules of economics still apply and you’ll pay more for long distance moves and/or moves that involve less trafficked shipping routes.

In all cases the easiest way to ensure you get the best deal is to get a free moving quote. Your move is unique and so there’s really no way to give you a fully accurate estimate without getting more details from you about your move.

Fortunately, we’ve made it extremely simple. Just fill in the form at the top of this page with a few basic details, and we’ll get started trying to find you the best rate possible.