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How Much Does a Shipping Container Cost?

Nicola Ryan

Written by

27th Jul 2022 (Last updated on 7th Sep 2022) 6 minute read

The average cost of a 20ft shipping container is £1,780 while the average cost of a 40ft shipping container is £2,997.

If you are moving abroad, you need to make sure that you factor in container shipping. Container shipping means all your belongings are transported safely to your new destination. Knowing the container shipping rate in advance will prepare you for your move.

This article will cover the following:
  1. What Options Are There For Moving Overseas
  2. What Size Shipping Container Do I Need?
  3. What Factors are Considered for Container Shipping Costs?
  4. Choosing Between LCL vs FCL
  5. How Much Can You Fit into a Shipping Container?
  6. Loading and Delivery Options
  7. Additional Container Shipping Costs
  8. What is International Removal Insurance and Should I Get It?
  9. Can You Use Your Own Container?
  10. Finding an International Removal Company
Shipping Container Costs

Here are the average costs of container shipping from the UK to various locations. These costs are calculated for the container shipment and do not include additional costs such as picking up the container.

Destination20ft Container40ft Container
New Zealand
South Africa

We have collected this data from GoComet, MoveHub, Sirelo, MoverDB, NEX, PSS International Removals, and DFS Worldwide.

What Options Are There For Moving Overseas

There are three modes of transport for international shipping which are land, sea, and air. Land transport takes place in all moves, but some locations require all three methods. These are the options for international shipping:

  • Air Freight
  • Sea Freight
  • Road Freight

Your goods may be shipped via Intermodal Transportation. This means that multiple modes of transport are used for shipping goods. The cargo is moved from one transport to the other without unloading. Your shipment will be able to travel by ship, train, and road.

What Size Shipping Container Do I Need?

20 ft and 40 ft shipping containers are the most popular options. The 20 ft container is best for smaller moves and the 40 ft container is best for larger moves.

Here are the facts you need to know about each option:

20ft Shipping Container

20 ft containers are the smaller option. They will hold goods up to approximately a three-bedroom house. They are 33 cbm, but between 25 to 28 cbm of this is usable. This means that it has ample space for large pieces of furniture, beds, and fridges. However, if you want to bring your car, you will most likely need to upgrade to a 40 ft shipping container. A car can technically fit in a 20 ft container, but there won’t be much space for everything else.

40ft Shipping Container

40 ft containers are double the size of a 20 ft container, but this doesn’t mean that they can carry double the goods. They boast around 67 cbm of space, but approximately 54 to 58 cbm of this is usable. This is because the container will not be able to handle the weight. These containers are best for larger homes and save money as they are not double the price of a 20 ft container.

If you have a car that needs shipping, you will need to opt for a 40 ft shipping container. This will mean you can fit the rest of your goods in the container.

What Factors are Considered for Container Shipping Costs?

There are many factors that determine the container shipping cost. Here are the main factors you need to consider:

  • Departure and arrival port
  • Distance moved
  • Season
  • Type of freight and route
  • Volume and weight

Choosing Between LCL vs FCL

When you pay for your container, you will have to decide whether you need a Less Than Container Load (LCL) or a Full Container Load (FCL). LCL is for those who don't have enough belongings to fill a full container. They are assigned a portion of a container. An FCL is when you pay for the full container.

Less than Container Load

LCL is the best option for those who don’t have as many belongings to transport. This option means that your goods will be stored with other people’s belongings. Here are the pros of using LCL:

  • 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

Full Container Load

For those who are making a full move abroad and have a lot of goods to transport, you will most likely need to pay for an FCL. This means that the container will be filled with your goods. Here are the pros of using FCL:

  • Charged flat rates
  • Faster option as there is less waiting involved
  • Not moved around as often as LCL shipments

Here are the cons:

  • High cost

How Much Can You Fit into a Shipping Container?

A 20 ft shipping container is the smallest option, but it can hold a large number of goods. 40 ft containers cannot hold double the weight of 20 ft containers due to the weight of the container. Therefore, if you are planning to ship any motor vehicles, it may be best to get more than one container.

20 ft containers are best for 1 to 3-bedroom moves, while 40 ft containers are ideal for 4+ bedroom moves.

An average 20 ft shipping container can fit the following:

  • 4 bikes
  • 1 motorbike
  • 1 microwave
  • 1 fridge/freezer
  • 1 oven
  • 1 television
  • 1 2-seat sofa
  • 1 armchair
  • 1 table
  • 4 chairs
  • 1 light fixing
  • 1 lamp
  • 1 wardrobe
  • 1 double bed
  • 1 single bed
  • 30 boxes

An average 40 ft shipping container can fit the following:

  • 1 motorbike
  • 4 bikes
  • 1 car
  • 1 microwave
  • 1 oven
  • 1 washing machine
  • 1 dryer
  • 1 fridge/freezer
  • 6 chairs
  • 1 table
  • 1 television and unit
  • 1 3-seat sofa
  • 1 armchair
  • 2 light fittings
  • 2 lamps
  • 1 side table
  • 1 single bed
  • 2 double beds
  • 1 wardrobe
  • 30 boxes
  • 1 lawn mower

Loading and Delivery Options

If you are using an FCL, you have 3 loading and delivery options that you can choose from. The option you choose depends on what mode of transport you opt for and what goods you are shipping.

Door to door

The container will arrive at your home and then be picked up, shipped, and moved to your new home.

Port to port

You are 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. You can hire movers and packers if you want to at an extra cost.

Additional Container Shipping Costs

There are some extra costs that you will most likely come across. Regardless of whether you opt for a Full Container Load (FCL) or a less Than Container Load (LCL) shipment, you need to keep these extra costs in mind. These additional payments are:

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

What is International Removal Insurance and Should I Get It?

International removal insurance quotes are based on the worth of your belongings. Shipping companies advise that you get shipping insurance in case an accident occurs.

There is a level of risk associated with international shipping. After all, if you are transporting goods by sea or air, accidents or mistakes can happen. Here are the ways that shipping companies try to keep your goods as safe as possible:


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


Another way that international shipping is monitored is through tracking. ISO codes are 4 character codes that are applied to each container electronically. This ensures that there are no mix-ups or mistakes when unloading the shipment.

Can You Use Your Own Container?

You can decide to purchase your own shipping container. Containers are often renovated after being shipped. They have been transformed into mini homes, shops, garden sheds, and swimming pools.

Make sure that the container is either new or has only been used for one or two trips before making a purchase. This will give the shipping container a longer lifespan.

Purchasing your own shipping container can cost thousands of pounds. The larger the container is, the more expensive it will be. The condition of the container will also play a big part in the price.

New or barely used shipping containers last between 25 and 30 years. Shipping containers will rust over time, but they will remain watertight and windproof. Used shipping containers last between 10 and 12 years.

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 the form and compare quotes from up to 6 removal companies.

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.