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International Container Shipping Costs for 2024

Nicola Ryan

Written by Reviewed by Dave Sayce

27th Jul 2022 (Last updated on 1st Feb 2024) 7 minute read

The average cost of a shipping container is £1,780 for 20ft and £2,997 for 40ft containers.

If you are moving abroad, you need to make sure that you factor in container shipping costs. Container shipping allows you to transport your goods safely to your new destination.

Knowing the container shipping rates in advance will prepare you for your international move.

  1. The Cost of Container Shipping from the UK
  2. What Factors Are Considered for Container Shipping Costs?
  3. Additional Container Shipping Costs
  4. What Options Are There For Moving Overseas
  5. Loading and Delivery Options
  6. What Size Shipping Container Do I Need?
  7. How Much Can You Fit into a Shipping Container?
  8. Can You Use Your Own Container?
  9. Choosing Between LCL vs FCL
  10. What is Intermodal Transportation?
  11. What is International Removal Insurance and Should I Get It?
  12. Finding an International Removal Company

The Cost of Container Shipping from the UK

Here are our estimated international container shipping costs for 2024. These costs are calculated for the container shipment. They do not include additional costs such as picking up the container.

Destination20ft Container40ft Container
New Zealand£3,200£5,750
South Africa£4,895£9,290

*Data taken from GoComet, MoveHub, Sirelo, MoverDB, NEX, PSS International Removals, and DFS Worldwide

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What Factors Are Considered for Container Shipping Costs?

Many factors affect container shipping rates. Here are the main aspects to consider:

Departure and Arrival Port

Firstly, the departure and arrival ports can affect freight rates. This is because charges differ depending on the country. There are additional costs such as customs and taxes that you will need to keep in mind.

Distance Moved

The further your destination country is, the higher the container shipping cost will be. For example, shipping costs to France tend to be less than shipping costs to the USA.


Certain times of the year are considered high peak, especially on major trade routes. The high peaks are between January and February and August and September. There is a higher demand during these months which increases prices.

Type of Freight and Route

The shipping container cost can be impacted by the type of transport and shipping route you choose. Air freight is the most expensive option, while sea and road freight are less expensive.

Volume and Weight

The volume and weight of your goods can influence container shipping prices. Air freight is expensive as it is calculated by weight. There are also weight limitations to consider which affect the overall cost.

Sea and road freight are calculated by the volume of goods. If you are moving large or heavy items, it is a cost-friendly alternative. Here are the estimated cargo weight limits according to S Jones Containers:

  • 20 ft container - 25.6 tonnes (25,600 kg)
  • 40 ft container - 26 tonnes (26,000 kg)

While 40-foot containers can only hold slightly more in terms of weight, they are significantly larger. They are a better option for a higher volume of goods.

Shipping Container Size

The size of the shipping container you choose will impact the cost. Full Container Load (FCL) is more expensive as you’re paying to use the entirety of the container. Less Container Load (LCL) is the cheaper option as you’re splitting the cost and size of the shipping container with others.

Additional Container Shipping Costs

There are some extra costs associated with shipping furniture overseas. This includes:

  • Customs duties
  • Delivery charges
  • General rate increase (GRI)
  • Inspection fees
  • Quarantine and holding fees
  • International removal insurance

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What Options Are There For Moving Overseas

The three main options for moving items overseas are Air Freight, Sea Freight and Road Freight. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of each shipping option:

Shipping OptionProsCons

Air Freight

  • Fastest mode of shipping
  • Can access most locations in the world
  • Items are easily tracked
  • Most expensive shipping option
  • Weight limitations apply

Sea Freight

  • Often the cheapest shipping option
  • Allows you to ship a large volume of items
  • Option to ship vehicles
  • Shipping times are longer compared to other shipping services

Road Freight

  • Cheap shipping option
  • Great for long-distance moves in Europe
  • Shipping can take longer to arrive

Loading and Delivery Options

There are three loading and delivery options to consider when shipping a Full Container Load:

Door to door

The container will arrive at your current home and a team of trained packers will fill it for you. It will then be picked up and shipped to your new home.

Port to port

You will be responsible for bringing your goods to the port for shipment. You must then pick them up from the destination port.

Drop & Fill

The container is sent to your house and you have to fill it manually. You can hire movers and packers if you want to at an extra cost.

What Size Shipping Container Do I Need?

20 ft and 40 ft shipping containers are the most popular options for international shipping. A 20 ft container is suited to smaller moves. 40 ft containers are the best option for larger moves. The option you consider will depend on your specific requirements.

20ft Shipping Container

20 ft containers can hold approximately the contents of a three-bedroom house. They are 33 CBM in size. Between 25 to 28 CBM is usable space. It has ample space for large pieces of furniture and appliances. A 20ft container can also be used to ship a car overseas.

40ft Shipping Container

40 ft containers are 67 CBM in size. Approximately 54 to 58 CBM of this space can be utilised. If you are looking to ship a car and your goods in the same container this is the best option.

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How Much Can You Fit into a Shipping Container?

How much you can fit into a shipping container is all dependent on the size you choose. You will need to consider your household goods, appliances and the volume of goods you are looking to move before making a decision.

In general, most people opt for a 40ft container as they are more cost-effective compared to 20ft containers. In addition to this, 20ft containers are beginning to be phased out according to Approved Forwarders.

40ft containers are the industry standard and are easier to transport. As a result, they ship quicker than 20ft containers. They are also more readily available to use. A 20ft container will need to be shipped with another 20ft container the majority of the time. This means you will need to wait until another 20ft container is being shipped to the same destination.

If you’re relocating to a less popular area, you may have to wait significantly longer for your goods to arrive. Many people will opt to use Less Container Load and hire the use of half a 40ft container to avoid additional costs and waiting times.

Here is an estimate of what each size shipping container can hold:

20ft Shipping Container40ft Shipping Container

4 bikes, motorbike, microwave, fridge/freezer, oven, television, 2-seat sofa, armchair, table, 4 chairs, light fixing, lamp, wardrobe, double bed, single bed, 30 boxes

Motorbike, 4 bikes, car, microwave, oven, washing machine, dryer, fridge/freezer, 6 chairs, table, television and unit, 3-seat sofa, armchair, 2 light fittings, 2 lamps, side table, single bed, 2 double beds, wardrobe, 30 boxes, lawn mower

Can You Use Your Own Container?

Yes, you can purchase your own shipping container instead of renting one through a removals company. Purchasing your own shipping container can be costly.

According to Budget Shipping Containers, the average cost is around £1,250-£2,100. The larger the container is, the more expensive it will be. The condition of the container will also affect the overall cost.

In addition to this, you will need to arrange your own removal services and insurance. You don't receive the same reassurance and benefits that come with hiring a professional. This is why most people opt to hire an international removals company.

Choosing Between LCL vs FCL

When organising your shipping, you will need to decide whether you want to pay for a Full Container Load (FCL) or Less Than Container Load (LCL). Here are the differences:

Full Container Load

If you’re looking to ship a high volume of goods, a Full Container Load is the best option. You can use the entirety of the shipping container to transport items.


  • Charged flat rates
  • Faster option as there is less waiting involved compared to LCL
  • Allows you to transport more items


  • High cost compared to LCL

Less than Container Load

LCL is the best option for those who don’t have as many belongings to transport. Your goods will be stored with other people’s belongings and you will share a container.

  • Cheapest option
  • Ideal for smaller moves under 15 cubic metre
  • A popular choice for students studying abroad

Here are the cons:

  • Not suitable for larger moves
  • Takes longer to arrive compared to FCL

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What is Intermodal Transportation?

Intermodal Transportation involves using multiple modes of transport. The cargo is moved from one transport to the other without unloading. The transportation used will depend on the best option for your move abroad. Intermodal transportation can include sea, air, rail, and road.

What is International Removal Insurance and Should I Get It?

It’s recommended to have international removal insurance when shipping overseas. Shipping companies advise that you get shipping insurance coverage. This will protect and cover your items if they were to be stolen, lost or damaged. It helps to provide additional peace of mind

All international shipments are regulated by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). They ensure that the ships are capable of carrying the shipment.

Finding an International Removal Company

At Compare My Move, we have a network of international removal partners ready to help you with your move abroad. Simply fill in our comparison form and compare quotes from up to 6 removal companies. We can help you to save up to 70% on your international removal costs.

Nicola Ryan

Written by Nicola Ryan

Nicola focusses on all things moving house at Compare My Move where she writes articles for the advice centre, guiding users through everything they need to know about moving house.

Dave Sayce

Reviewed by Dave Sayce

Owner & Managing Director, Compare My Move

Dave Sayce is the owner and managing director of Compare My Move and has over 10 years of experience in the house removals industry.

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