How much can you fit in a shipping container?

Containers are like legos - they 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 and help you decide what size is the right for your storage need

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 transferred seamlessly between road, rail and sea. All the ships, cars and cranes are designed to handle these very 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. summer house or other alternative structures.

Standard container specification

In the below, we have listed the standard specification for the 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 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 it's 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 the volume.

  • 20ft containers are designed to carry heavy cargo such as machinery, and heavy commodities such as Sugar, Paper, Cement and steel etc.
  • 40ft containers are designed to carry a lot of volume, but lighter goods such as consumer goods, furniture, cotton, electronics etc. which takes up a lot of space, but are lighter.

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

Calculate the space you need

To help you in the calculation there are various free tools online to calculate how many units will fit. 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 right price, delivered straight to where you need it.