How much can you fit in a shipping container?

Containers come in standard sizes and can be stacked on top of each other. This guide illustrates the dimensions of standard 20ft, 40ft and 45ft containers to help you decide what size is right for your needs.

Team Boxhub

May 28, 2018

Standardized Lego bricks

The magic of containers is that they are standardized like Lego bricks. In this way they can be stacked easily on top of each other and be transfered seamlessly between road, rail, and sea. All the ships, trucks, and cranes are designed to handle these globally standardized units.

The advantage is that, as a buyer of a new or used container, you can count on the dimensions to be within the clearly defined ISO standard specifications. This is very useful when you are trying to decide how much storage you need for your project, or what dimension to input if you are converting the container into e.g. a summer house or other alternative structures.

Standard container specification

Below we have listed the standard specifications for most common container sizes, namely the 20ft and 40ft standard containers as well as the 40ft and 45ft “high cube” containers.

How much storage do I need?

Knowing the dimensions make it relatively easy to figure out how much you can actually store in a container. A rule of thumb is that a standard 20ft container can hold 11-12 “euro pallets” of goods while a 40ft container has enough space for 24-25 pallets. This roughly equates to the following items:

Moving guide

Movehub.com has made a great guide to how to load a 20ft container, which should give you a great idea of how much space is actually available in a "20-footer": movehub.com/advice/loading-20-foot-shipping-container
If you want to see how this is done in practice, this time-lapse video of stocking a 20ft containers also illustrates very well how much you can actually store: Link

Weight vs. Volume

If you need more detailed calculations, you will also need to consider the weight as well as volume.

  • 20ft containers are designed to carry heavy cargo such as machinery, and heavy commodities such as sugar, paper, cement, and steel.
  • 40ft containers are designed to carry a lot of volume, but lighter goods such as consumer goods, furniture, cotton, and electronics, which take up more space but are lighter.

This means that you can ship or store more than double the volume in a 40ft container, but carry slightly more weight in a 20ft container.

Calculate the space you need

There are various free tools online to calculate how many units will fit into your container. One example is www.cbmcalculator.com

Find your container on BoxHub

We hope you found this guide useful, we look forward to help you in selecting the container size and type that is right for your need. When you are ready, head to www.boxhub.co and find the right container at the best price, delivered straight to where you need it.