How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Full Container?

Published on 2021-12-22

Full Container Shipping Costs

Determining exactly how much it costs to ship a full container can be a challenge, as shipping costs vary based on a number of factors. Though, the key factors are the transport method, distance, and total volume of your shipment. With these in mind, the average cost of shipping a full container is from $2,000 to $3,000.

We understand that this is a bit vague, so we’ve put together some tables to give you an idea of the cost of container shipping to various places around the world. All of the following estimates are based on a full-container load with a shipment valued at $25,000, sea freight as the shipping method, and a port-to-port transport out of New York.

Note: No additional costs (e.g.: packing, taxes and duty fees, insurance) are factored into these quotes.

Full-Container Load Shipping Rates to North America

Destination Port City20-foot Container40-foot Container
Montreal, Canada$420$625
Vancouver, Canada$1,260$1,880
Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico$880$1,320

Full-Container Load Shipping Rates to South America

Destination Port City20-foot Container40-foot Container
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil$1,550$2,300
Barranquilla, Colombia$1,040$1,550
Port Limon, Costa Rica$890$1,330

Full-Container Load Shipping Rates to Africa

Destination Port City20-foot Container40-foot Container
Cape Town, South Africa$2,540$3,800
Apapa, Nigeria$5,000$7,440
Mombasa, Kenya$4,800$5,900

Full-Container Load Shipping Rates to Asia

Destination Port City20-foot Container40-foot Container
Tokyo, Japan$860$1,300
Shanghai, China$760$1,140
Kaohsiung, Taiwan$910$1,350

Full-Container Load Shipping Rates to Europe

Destination Port City20-foot Container40-foot Container
Barcelona, Spain$1,360$2,000
Marseilles, France$1,350$2,010
London, United Kingdom$1,190$1,780

Common Container Sizes

When it comes to container sizes, there are two standard sizes that dominate the market: 20-foot containers and 40-foot containers. Generally speaking, a 20 ft. container will be sufficient for a small move. But, anything larger or more extensive and you’ll want to consider opting for a 40-foot container, or multiple.

What fits in a 20-foot shipping container?

A standard 20-foot container will generally fit the contents of a one- or two-bedroom home, or a car and some boxes. They will house properties with a floor space of 146 square feet, with a total internal volume of 1,169 cubic feet. These containers measure about 19’10.5” long, 8’ wide, and 8’6” high and can carry about 61,000 pounds of goods.

What fits in a 40-foot shipping container?

In a 40-foot container, however, you’ll typically be able to fit the contents of a three- or four-bedroom home, approximately 320 square feet of floor space, or a standard two-bedroom plus a car. With a total internal volume of 2,385 cubic feet, these containers measure 40’ long, 8’ wide and 8’6” high. They can hold around 58,000 pounds of goods, which is slightly less than a 20-foot container due to the weight of the container itself.

This means that while a 40-foot container is longer and has twice the volume of a 20-foot container, it cannot hold twice the cargo weight because of the extensive weight of the container itself. 

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

When it comes to shipping a container, there are two terms that you will come across that have a major impact on cost: Full container load (FCL) and less than container load (LCL). In fact, the total volume of your goods is what will determine whether you need a full-container or less-than container load to transport your goods.

Less Than Container Load (LCL)

As the name suggests, this option refers to shipments that take up less than a full container (whether 20ft or 40ft). If only have a few items to move, you’ll likely only need an LCL. With this option, you not only share the container with someone else, you also share the costs. You only have to pay for the amount of volume that your goods take up in the container. Though, most shipping companies levy a minimum shipment volume, which may be as low as 35.3 cubic feet. 

While LCL is the most cost-effective way to transport small shipments, the drawback is that your goods will take much longer to arrive since other household moves are involved.

Full Container Load (FCL)

For high-volume relocations, you’ll likely need a full-container load (FCL). This simply means that your shipment will take up the entire container, whether it’s 20ft or 40ft, and will not be shipped with anyone else’s goods. Though, the drawback to this option is that you will have to pay for the entire shipping container yourself. Although FCL is more expensive, it comes with a number of benefits:

  • A greater value for your money, as companies typically charge a flat rate for the full container rather than by specified volume.
  • Faster transport since there aren’t anyone else’s moves involved.

Most shipping companies actually prefer when people choose to pay for FCL, as it makes the logistics on both ends much easier.

container load of household goods, public transport, exchange rate

Factors that Influence Container Shipping Costs

Just like any other type of move, there are numerous factors that influence the cost of shipping a full container. That said, here are some of the most common factors you can expect:

  • Volume and weight of your goods. As you might expect, the heavier your shipment and the bigger the volume, the more expensive it will be to transport.
  • Distance of your move. The longer the distance between your departure port and destination port, the more expensive it will be to ship a full container.
  • Your destination port. Every country levies its own taxes and duty charges. So, how much you pay for these will depend on the country that your goods are headed to. 
  • Transportation method. How you choose to have the container shipped will also affect your moving costs, but also how long it takes for your shipment to arrive.
  • The type of goods. If you’re shipping any special goods, like vehicles, pianos, or fine art, this can drive up the final shipment cost.
  • Add-on services. Of course, selecting any extra services, like packing, storage, or insurance, will increase the final cost to ship your full container.

Container Shipping Methods

As previously mentioned, the mode of transport that you choose for your container has a major impact on shipment costs and timing. There are three main options to choose from regarding shipping methods: truck, sea, and train.

Almost every type of move will involve a moving truck at some point, but it’s rarely the sole option for international relocations. Transport via truck is the most expensive option for containers, due to the fuel charges, vehicle maintenance, and environmental taxes. Whereas, transport via rail is less expensive but only works when you’re shipping within the same continent.

Sea freight, on the other hand, is the cheapest and most common way to ship a container internationally. While it will take a while for your goods to arrive, this method is the ideal option in many situations. Shipping via air freight is another option for relocations, but cargo planes cannot transport containers.

Additional Full Container Load Costs to Consider

Another pertinent cost to expect when shipping a full container has to do with the load and delivery of your shipment. You have three main options to achieve for load and delivery of your full container:

  • Port to Port: The most basic option, port to port shipping means that you are responsible for getting your goods to the departure port and then also retrieving them from the destination port. Your shipping company will take care of the transportation in between.
  • Door to Door: With this option, your moving company handles the entire move from start to finish – starting with the loading of your container and concluding with the unpacking of your belongings at your new home. 
  • Drop and Fill: This involves the shipping company dropping off the container at your home for you to load. The company will transport it for you, but then you’ll also be responsible for unloading it at your destination.

That’s all there is to it! Have more questions about the process of shipping a full container or the costs involved? We can help! Simply fill out the form at the top of this page and someone will be in touch with a free, on-obligation estimate. Or, call us today to find out how you could save up to 20% on your next move.

Written by Chris Townsend

Chris Townsend

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.

If you have any questions about moving, our services, or anything else you think he may be able to help with, you can contact Chris by emailing him at

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