Container Shipping Rates 2020: Cost of Shipping a Container

There’s a wide variety of factors that can affect container shipping rates, so pinpointing exactly what the price will be can be a tricky task. On average, shipping a full-container load can cost between $2,000 and $3,000. On this page, we break down everything you need to know about container shipping costs. If you’re looking for an international moving company, check out our ranking of the best international moving companies of 2020.

Container Shipping Rates Across the World

As we mentioned before, pinpointing exactly how much does it cost to ship a container overseas can be extremely tricky. The reason being that your costs of shipping will vary depending on all the factors we listed above. Regardless, to give an estimate of what you can expect, we compiled a list below for the container shipping costs to various places in the world.

These estimates are based on using a FCL to transport household goods (valued at $25,000) through sea, departing from New York (port-to-port). No extra costs (e.g.: insurance, taxes and duty charges) have been included in these estimates.

Container Shipping Costs to North America

Destination Port20ft Container40ft Container
Los Angeles, United States$2,798 – $3,093$3,498 – $3,866
Vancouver, Canada$3,089 – $3,414$3,861 – $4,267
Veracruz, México$1,216 – $1,344$1,519 – $1,679

Container Shipping Rates to South America

Destination Port20ft Container40ft Container
La Guaria, Venezuela$4,170 – $4,608$4,905 – $5,421
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil$1,272 – $1,406$2,365 – $2,614
Cartagena, Colombia$3,038 – $3,357$3,573 – $3,949

Cost of Shipping a Container to Europe

Destination Port20ft Container40ft Container
Rotterdam, The Netherlands$922 – $1,019$1,084 – $1,198
Málaga, Spain$1,080 – $1,194$1,271 – $1,405
London, United Kingdom$967 – $1,068$1,137 – $1,257

Container Shipping Costs to Africa

Destination Port20ft Container40ft Container
Cape Town, South Africa$3,890 – $4,299$4,576 – $5,057
Onne, Nigeria$3,191 – $3,527$3,754 – $4,149
Mombasa, Kenya$4,630 – $5,117$5,447 – $6,020

Container Shipping Rates to Oceania

Destination Port20ft Container40ft Container
Sydney, Australia$2,958 – $3,269$3,480 – $3,846
Melbourne, Australia$2,901 – $3,207$3,414 – $3,773
Auckland, New Zealand$3,125 – $3,454$3,676 – $4,063

Cost of Shipping a Container to Asia

Destination Port20ft Container40ft Container
Tokyo, Japan$1,937 – $2,141$2,279 – $2,519
Shanghai, China$1,956 – $2,161$2,301 – $2,543
Jakarta, Indonesia$2,446 – $2,704$2,878 – $3,181

Please remember that the prices shown above are estimates, which have been obtained through the official page of World Freight Rates. 

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Common Container Sizes

When it comes to container sizes, there’s two main dimensions that dominate the market: 20ft and 40ft containers. In general, if you’re planning to perform a small move, a 20ft container is probably the best option to go for. If this isn’t the case, we recommend looking into 40ft containers instead.

What Can I Fit in a 20ft Container?

A 20ft container can generally hold the contents of a three-bedroom property, with a floor space of 146 square feet and a volume hold of 1,172 cubic feet (≈33 cubic meters). These measures translate on a 19’4″ length, 7’9″ width, and 7’10” height. These type of containers can hold around 63,500 pounds of goods.

If you’re having trouble visualizing this, here’s a representation of what the inside of a 20ft container can hold:

Container Shipping Rates 2020: Cost of Shipping a Container

What Can I Fit in a 40ft Container?

In a 40ft container you can generally hold the contents of a four-bedroom and up property, with a floor space of 320 square feet and a volume hold of 2,660 cubic feet (≈75.3 cubic meters). These measures translate on a 40′ length, 8′ width, 8’6″ height. These type of containers can hold around 57,600 pounds of goods –a bit less than the 20ft container because of the weight of the container itself.

Below you can find a visual representation of what the inside of a 40ft container can hold:

Container Shipping Rates 2020:

Full-Container Load vs. Less-Than Container Load

The total volume of your move will be what determines if you’ll need a full-container or less-than a container to transport your belongings by sea.

High-volume moves will usually require a full-container load (FCL), meaning you will have to pay for an entire shipping container. Usually a FCL is a better value for money, since shipping companies tend to only charge a flat rate for the full container rather than charging you based on a specified volume. As well, since there aren’t other people’s household moves involved, using a FCL usually results in a faster moving process.

If you’re performing a small move, you will most likely require only a less-than a container load (LCL). This entails that you will share the container with someone else. Consequently, you will only have to pay for the amount of volume your belongings occupy in the container. Usually, a LCL is the most cost-effective way to transport small moves compared to other types of freight. The downside is that your belongings usually take longer to arrive.

Factors that Affect Container Shipping Costs

As with any move, there are several factors that can affect the cost of shipping a container. Among the most common ones you can expect:

  • Cargo volume and weight: The bigger the volume of your move, as well as the heavier it is, will result in a more expensive transport of goods.
  • Moving distance: The further apart your point of departure is to your destination, the more expensive you move will be.
  • Destination port: Every country has its own tax and duty charges, so your destination port has an influence on how much you’ll be paying for these at the end.
  • Mode of transport: The way you choose to ship your goods will also have an influence on not only your moving costs, but also on the time of arrival of your goods. Shipping containers via air freight tends to be the quickest but also the most expensive option compared to other forms of transport, like sea freight.
  • Type of goods transported: Transportation of special goods, such as pianos or cars, can also increase the total costs of your move.
  • Additional services: Extra services, such as insurance or storage, will raise up your final container shipping costs.

Container Shipping Rates 2020: Cost of Shipping a Container

Another relevant cost associated with container shipping rates comes from the load and delivery of your goods. When it comes to load and delivery, there’s three main ways in which this is done:

  • Port-to-port: With port-to-port, you have the responsibility of delivering the goods to the departure port. The shipping company takes over by shipping the container to the destination port for you to eventually pick up.
  • Door-to-door: With door-to-door, your mover you the option to charge of the whole moving process –starting with the load of the container and finishing up with the unpacking of your goods.
  • Drop-and-fill: With drop-and-fill, the shipping company delivers the container to your house so you can load it up yourself. Or, alternatively, the shipping company delivers the container at your new home and you’re in charge of unloading it.

Air Freight, Sea Freight, Road Transport: What to Choose?

As you probably already know, there’s three main ways by which moves are carried out: road, air and sea. The way by which you decide to carry out your move will determine how long your shipment will take. As well, it will also determine how expensive the shipment will be.

Road Transport

There’s two main ways of road transport that will carry your container: moving trucks and trains. The most commonly used way of road transport is the use of a moving truck, given that all moves will require one at one point or another. Generally speaking, road transportation options are cheap compared to air freights. Unfortunately, for international moves road transport is rarely an option.

Air Freight

Although moving a container by plane is quite difficult and uncommon, it’s still possible.  Do keep in mind that the containers allowed on planes are not like the common containers we mentioned prior, but rather are specialized containers with specific dimensions. The maximum cargo dimensions for standard air freight planes are 96 x 125 inches. So it’s very unlikely that you will be able to move the contents of a whole household via air freight. Air freight is the quickest, yet the most expensive way of shipping your household goods.

Sea Freight

Most international moves are carried out by sea. Sea freights are significantly cheapest option out of all the modes of transport, but they’re also the ones that take the longest. Even if you need to combine your sea freight with a road transportation option first, this combination will still be cheaper than carrying out your move by plane.

Container Shipping Rates 2020: Cost of Shipping a Container

Next Steps

We hope this article gave you further insights of what you can expect from container shipping rates. Check out the following pages we believe might be interesting for you: