How Much Does Shipping a Container Overseas Cost?

Published on 2021-12-23

An overseas relocation can bring about feelings of excitement, but also feelings of anxiety. While uprooting your life and moving to a new country is exhilarating, getting your personal belongings to your new home overseas can prompt a lot of stress. However, the more that you prepare, the easier your international relocation is going to be. Not only do you have to prepare logistically, you also need to prepare financially.

This brings us to the question at hand: How much does shipping a container overseas cost? While the cost to ship a container overseas varies based on a number of factors, the average cost ranges from $1,300 to $3,200 for a 20-foot container.

Though, there is much more to it than averages and cost estimates. So, to help put things in perspective, we’ve assembled a table that outlines the cost of shipping a container overseas to various places across the globe. The data is based on port-to-port transport out of New York, with household goods worth about $50,000.

Overseas Container Shipping Rates (From the USA)

Destination Port City (& Country)20 Ft. Container40 Ft. Container
Montreal, Canada$1,260$1,880
London, United Kingdom$1,190$1,770
Hamburg, Germany$1,170$1,750
Busan, South Korea$745$1,110
Tokyo, Japan$860$1,290
Sydney, Australia$2,780$4,175
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil$1,550$2,310
Dublin, Ireland$1,340$2,000
Cape Town, South Africa$2,500$3,800
Jakarta, Indonesia$1,190$1,775

Again, these numbers are just estimates. Given the fact that each overseas relocation is unique, you’ll want to obtain a quote to get the most accurate pricing.

Mover vs. Freight Forwarder

When you’re comparing rates for overseas container shipping, it’s crucial that you are aware of your needs and how they will impact your final price. For starters, you want to understand the difference between an international mover and a freight forwarder. Also called a non-vessel operating carrier (NVOCC), freight forwarders provide similar services as movers but typically do most of their work with commercial shipping for businesses.

International movers, on the other hand, have the ability to coordinate your entire overseas relocation for you, including packing, pick-up, transport, and delivery. Some other key things to understand when determining the cost of shipping a container overseas are as follows.

Standard Container Sizes

While there are numerous intermodal shipping container sizes out there, two sizes are standard: 20-foot and 40-foot. We listed rates for both of these two common sizes above to help give you an idea of what the relative costs of each will be. Other variations you may come across include 40 ft. high-cube containers, 45 ft. high cube containers, and refrigerated containers.

20-Foot Shipping Containers

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

40-Foot Shipping Containers

A standard 40-foot container, on the other hand, can generally be fit the contents of a three- or four-bedroom home, about 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 contain around 58,000 pounds of goods, which is less than a 20-foot container.

While 40-foot containers are longer and have twice the volume of their 20-foot counterparts, they cannot hold twice the cargo weight because of the weight of the container itself. 

FCL vs. LCL

Some other terms you’ll need to be aware of when shipping a container overseas are full container load (FCL) and less than container load (LCL). The volume of your shipment will determine whether you need an FCL or an LCL, and will also determine your final shipping costs.

  • Less than container load simply refers to shipments or moves that do not necessitate an entire container (20ft or 40ft). Most companies do, however, impose a minimum shipment volume, which will vary depending on the company. In addition to sharing the space in the container with someone else, you also share the cost. Oftentimes, this option is the most cost effective for smaller shipments, but it may sometimes make the most sense and be cheaper to just book the full container.
  • Full container load, as the name suggests, are shipments that use the entire container. This means that instead of your goods being shipped with someone else’s, your belongings take up the full container and you are responsible for the full cost. Since only your move is involved, this option often results in faster transport times.

Some shipping companies prefer when customers choose FCL, as it is easier logistically on both ends.

Average Cost of Shipping a Container Overseas

With all of these terms in mind, the average cost to ship a container overseas ranges from $1,300 to $3,200. Less than container load (LCL) shipments tend to fall towards the low end of this range, while full container loads (FCL) are higher. Though, this estimate does not include any add-on services, such as packing/unpacking, insurance, or door-to-door delivery.

While these estimates can be helpful for budgeting purposes, obtaining an estimate from an overseas moving company will give you the most accurate price. But, how exactly do these companies calculate their rates? Let’s explore this next.

How Are Overseas Container Shipping Costs Calculated?

There are five key factors that go into the cost of overseas container shipping: the weight and volume of your cargo, transportation method, distance, time of year, and the type of goods you’re transporting. Let’s take a look at each of these factors in detail to understand how they influence costs.

  1. Weight and volume of cargo. While it may be a no-brainer, the bigger the volume and the heavier your shipment is, the more expensive it’s going to be to ship. The volume will also determine which type and how many containers you need, which also has a direct impact on the final cost. 
  2. Transportation method. Your three main options for shipping a container overseas are via sea freight or air freight. Though, keep in mind that it’s not always possible to ship a container on a cargo plane. Regardless, sea freight is the most common and also the cheapest option for overseas shipping.
  3. The distance. The longer the distance between your departure port and your destination port, the higher the price of transport.
  4. Time of year. Just like any other industry, the shipping industry has peak and off-peak seasons. January to February and August to September tend to be the peak shipping seasons for containers. So, if you want to save money, avoid these months.
  5. Type of goods. If you are hauling any special items overseas, like a car, boat, piano, or even fine art, you can expect the total cost of your shipment to be higher.

Aside from these factors, any additional services will, of course, increase the cost of shipping a container overseas. These include, but are not limited to, insurance, packing/ unpacking, door-to-door delivery, and storage.

Need help shipping a container overseas? Look no further than Three Men And A Truck for the job. Get in touch with one our overseas shipping specialists by filling out our online form or calling the number at the top of this page. We’ll provide you with your free, no-obligation estimate and craft a plan that meets both your needs and your budget.

Contact us Three Men And A Truck today to find out how you could save up to 20% on your next overseas relocation!

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 Chris@threemenandatruck.net

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