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Shipping Container Dimensions

The two industry standard sizes of shipping containers are the 20ft and 40ft containers. Importers and exporters are at an advantage when it comes to packing up their container because their products are boxed and shipped from the manufacture. This makes it easy to access the amount boxes that fit on a pallet. If you are using a container to move, it is difficult to know how much of your stuff is going to fit into the container. Do you need a 20ft container or a 40ft container? Finding the perfect shipping container dimensions that will fit your entire home seems like an impossible task. Packing your items in a container can feel like a game of Tetris. Going through each room of your house or apartment and taking inventory of what is in each room will help give you a better idea of what standard container dimension you will need. Taking inventory of your home will also help with the organizational process when it comes time to load your container. At this time, you can discard any unwanted items or make a trip to Goodwill. Hopefully this guide provides a clear understanding of the shipping container dimensions as you embark on your journey to a new place!

20 ft container rental20ft Containers – The standard container dimensions of a 20ft container is 20ft long, 8ft 6in tall, and 8ft wide. It can hold about 850 to 1,050 cubic feet, and are usually big enough to fit a 1 to 2 bedroom household, or one vehicle with a few small household goods. The container filled to the maximum capacity is 1170 cubic feet but filled up to 90% capacity would be about 1,050 cubic feet. This is only an estimate and only work if everything fits like a puzzle piece – which rarely happens – so be sure to leave some extra space.

Cubic FeetQuantityTotal
Twin Bed
King Size Bed30
3 - Seater Couch45145
Washing Machine 15115
Refrigerator 10110
TV (Small)5210
Medium Boxes (18" x 18" x 18")4520
Large Boxes 8540
Dinner Table 50150
Suitcases 5420
BMW 3 SERIES 325i M Sport 2dr Step Auto Convertible 3.0670
Grand Total 1050

Resource: Movehub

CIMG037540ft Containers – The standard container dimensions of a 40ft container is 40ft long, 8ft 6in, and 8ft wide. It can hold about 1,850 to 2,200 cubic feet, and are typically appropriate for moving a 3 to 5 bedroom household, or 1 vehicle and a 2 bedroom household. The overall capacity of a 40ft container is 2,390 cubic feet. It is highly unlikely that you will fill your 40ft container to full capacity because of awkward shaped items. Make sure you have some extra room so you do not fall short. The 40ft shipping container dimensions are best for families and larger homes or large items such as vehicles.

Item Cubic Feet
Living Room / Kitchen / Dining Room / Laundry Room
Couch 3 Seater50
Sofa Bed50
Sofa Sectional30
Arm Chair10
Occasional Chair15
Lazy Boy25
Book Case20
Coffee Tables5
Wall Unit Small15
Wall Unit Large20
Cupboard small10
Cupboard Large15
Floor Lamp3
Upright Piano60
Baby Grand Piano70
Grand Piano80
Carpet and Rug10
Grandfather Clock20
Breakfast Chair5
Breakfast Table10
Kitchen Cabinet30
Utility Cabinet10
Refrigerator (Small)40
Refrigerator (Medium)45
Refrigerator (Large)55
Freezer (Small)45
Freezer (Medium)50
Freezer (Large)60
Washing Machine 35
Dishwasher 35
King Size Bed70
Full Size Bed 55
Twin Size Bed 40
Bunk Beds70
Dresser, Chest of Drawers
Ironing Board10
Side Tables10
Wardrobe Boxes
Small Dining Table20
Medium Dining Table 25
Large Dining Table 30
Dining Chairs5
China Cabinet25
Corner Cabinet 20
Outdoor Area
Barbecue 10
Lawn Chair5
Porch Chair10
Lawn Mower35
Outdoor Swings 30
Picnic Table20
Large Bookcase 15
Arm Chair10
Computer Desk 20
Conference Table 50
Drawing Table 20

Resource: Movehub 

Estimating the volume of your container
Generally speaking, a two-bedroom apartment will fill into a 20ft container. For example, if you take a typical 1,200 square foot apartment and pack it very well using boxes and bubble wrap, it should easily fit all your possessions in a 20ft container. This would be similar to a 2-3 bedroom house of about 2,000 square feet in a 40ft shipping container.

How many cars will fit in one shipping container? 
Varies with the size of the cars, but typically:

20ft Container
A large sedan, van, or small SUV when loaded flat without supporting frames
2 very low sports cars when loaded with supporting frames

40ft Container
2 large sedan, vans, or small SUV when loaded flat without supporting frames
3 or 4 sedans when angled and secured by frames

Container Alliance can help you find the right shipping container dimensions for your moving needs. Give us a call at (800) 386-2345 to speak with one of our knowledgeable sales representatives or fill out a quick quote form today!

The Perks of Office Containers

Due to the shipping container’s portability and security, a popular application for the ISO container is turning it into a mobile office. Office storage containers are perfect office solutions for construction job sites, properties under remodel, boatyards, mining sites, and more. 

With a portable office container from Container Alliance, you get the durability of a sea-transport-ready shipping container along with everything you need in a small office. From doors to windows and everything in between, our container modifications can transform your container to best serve you. When you work with Container Alliance, converted shipping containers can be customized to suit your specific requirements.

Thousands of people have chosen converted shipping containers as the solution for their office needs. But why work out of a container instead of building a permanent structure or converting a pre-existing room into an office? There are a handful of benefits that come along with using converted shipping containers as base structures.

40ft Office/ Storage Combo

They’re Functional

All of Container Alliance’s office containers consist of insulation, electricity, windows, and personnel doors. These features separate them from the shipping container’s simple default form with two cargo doors, allowing for more convenient accessibility and replicated comfort of being inside a normal room. In addition, we offer 40 foot containers that can be modified as both office and storage space in the same container, providing the beneficial aspects of both office and storage containers.

They’re Cost-Effective

Shipping container offices allow you to avoid the expensive strings attached to using traditional building methods such as foundation, walls, etc. After purchasing the container you can expect a high standard of quality for the next ten years or so, allowing it to pay for itself in the long run. For the customer with short-term needs, these units are also available for rent, allowing you to choose the length of your lease. We’ll arrange delivery and pick-up.

They’re Compact

Our 20 foot containers take up the space of just one standard parking spot, giving you the amenities of a traditional office but in a smaller size. However, even 20ft converted shipping containers are spacious enough to be comfortable—after all, people build custom container buildings and live inside of them! We also offer 40ft office storage containers to accommodate the customers needing additional space for work. With an office unit, everything is safe and contained.

40ft Office Container / Storage Combo

They’re Movable

We can equip the unit with electricity, heating/AC ability, windows, and a personnel door—providing the comforts and requirements of standard offices, but in portable form. Just load it onto a suitable truck and your converted shipping container can move anywhere. Unfortunately, Container Alliance’s trucks are only able to hold empty containers, but it’s easy to find trucking companies that can help you out with relocating your portable office containers.

They’re Reliable

All of our shipping containers come from overseas in Asia, proving their strong dependability against crazy weather conditions and security against the strong natural elements that could potentially wreak havoc on the content of the container. Our units are all guaranteed to be wind and water tight. Additionally, the insulation provided with all of our office units gives them a one-up over our regular shipping containers in terms of interior quality.

They’re Versatile

Container Alliance’s converted shipping containers are the ideal solutions for essentially anyone needing a portable office, or someone looking for a sturdy way to conduct important indoor work while on site. Some examples of the situations benefiting most are below:

  • Construction offices
  • Home or Business Workshops
  • Sales Offices
  • Laboratories
  • Kitchens
  • Business Kiosks
  • School Yards
  • Emergency Housing
  • Computer Data Centers
  • Garages

20' Office mod before20' Office modification
20′ Office Container Before & After Insulation

Container Alliance is a nationwide network of shipping container and portable storage providers. To find out more information by personally speaking to one of our sales representatives, call 800-386-2345 today—or get a quote now.

What color should I paint my container?

Refrigerated ContainerWhen dealing with new and used storage containers, the paint you choose makes a difference. It’s not simply a question of color preference—different shades can have different effects on the quality of both the exterior of the container and its inner storage abilities. A lighter or darker shade can also mean lots of unforeseen upkeep—to keep a container in certain colors looking like new, extra cleaning and continuous painting of a shipping container will be necessary.

In our years of experience with new and used custom storage containers, the team at Container Alliance has gathered that neutral shades of paint have the best stamina over time, while also giving you the most bang for your buck. Here’s why. 

GLOSS PAINT: While the idea of a shiny container is appealing to many customers, the polished appearance that you desire when ordering gloss paint is generally lost to increased visibility of blemishes. We can always guarantee a reliable structure, whether the container is new or used—but even our prime one trip containers still had to make a trip across the ocean. It’s only natural that they will show some blemishes. To make these marks less conspicuous, avoid gloss paint.

MATTE: The uneven nature of matte paint makes surfaces susceptible to becoming dirty. It’s easy for particles to get caught onto the walls, accumulating into an eyesore over time. If covered in matte paint, even the newest containers will appear like they have been used for years. Some customers find the bumpy effect attractive, but in the end, we recommend avoiding this type of paint. You’ll be more satisfied by standard paint in a neutral color.

DARK OR LIGHT COLORS: Painting a shipping container in bright and light colors require a lot more effort and expense than neutral shades. Neutral colors tend to blend in nicely with the dirt and dust particles that inevitably end up surfacing on the container, while other shades demand constant upkeep. The additional coats of paint needed to make certain shades look attractive must also be taken into account, because the paint order might be a lot more expensive than previously predicted.

Also, consider temperature: dark and light paint can have various effects on the interior temperature of the container. The reflective qualities of light paint allow for cooler temperatures, giving you more of an ability to maintain the temperature despite not ordering insulation. Dark paint absorbs heat and can increase the storage temperature whether you like it or not.

Contact Container Alliance at 800-386-2345 or email to learn more about painting a shipping container and custom storage containers. One of our sales representatives would be more than happy to help you weigh your options.

The Box That Revolutionized International Trade

A Brief History of the Shipping Container

Shipping containers don’t have a very complex past—that’s because as soon as the world realized how much more efficient it was to pack and stack cargo than to ship it loosely, the profit increases were too incredible to deny. 

The shipping container revolutionized the world trade industry by amplifying efficiency of shipping. Prior to the popularization of containerization, goods traveled the seas loosely on cargo ships. When the world shipping industry realized that this was far from the best way to transport goods, contributing to globalization in a major way.

Cargo Ship

Photo Courtesy of Dendroica Cerulea 

North Carolina trucking entrepreneur Malcolm McLean thought up the shipping container, popularizing it in a way never done before with similar structures. The first overseas trip using containers in 1956, according to The Economist, cost McLean only $0.16 per ton to load, as opposed to the whopping $5.83 per ton to load that people were paying when shipping cargo loosely. Combined with speedier loading and unloading of products, retail prices saw massive decreases. Everyone won.

Widespread use of the modern shipping container took a few years to take off, but it sure did. Between 1966 and 1983 the share of countries with container ports rose from 1 percent to almost 90 percent. Ports got larger, both in the US and abroad, allowing more trade with more places. This international expansion aptly corresponded with a major period of economic growth in China. Looking at the United States’ trade relationship with China today, the increased efficiency provided by the shipping container was monumentally beneficial to both parties.

Cargo Ship 2

Photo Courtesy of International Labour Organization

Before McLean popularized the shipping container that’s now a staple in modern industry, similar structures were used to transport goods by both land and sea.

The life of the shipping container:

1795: Horse-drawn wagons in the form of containers carry coal through mining regions of England

1830s: English railroads begin carrying semi-portable containers

1929: Seatran Lines carries railroad boxcars on ships between new York and Cuba

1940s: US Army uses containers to load and unload ships during World War II

1956: Malcolm McLean’s first shipping container takes its inaugural voyage

2006: California architect Peter DeMaria creates the first shipping container home in Redondo Beach


To rent or buy a new or used shipping container today, call Container Alliance at 800-386-2345 or email us at Get a quote now.

The Cargo Freight Container : What’s inside

When a Cargo Freight Container is brought over from the major manufacturing facilities in Asia and China, often times they are made available for sale after just one Cargo Load, hence the term “One Trip Container”, or they are used to ship materials back and forth from Asia or other countries for years and then retired as a “Used Cargo Freight Container”. In the container sales industry, where typical consumer use is for storage and portable offices, there are a lot of questions from consumers regarding what has been inside these cargo freight containers. Additionally, with the onset of sustainable housing, containers are being used more frequently for living quarters, and the same question is being increasingly scrutinized. With containerized cargo boxes, it can be very difficult to track the history of the contents, however there can be some light shed upon the typical materials that are being carried overseas.

There is a wide range of cargo handled at the shipping line terminals. Depending on the size, weight category and destination. Automobiles are handled at many ports and are usually carried on specialized roll-on, roll-off ships. Break Bulk Cargo is typically material stacked on pallets and lifted into and out of the hold of a vessel by cranes on the dock or aboard the ship itself. The volume of break bulk cargo has declined dramatically worldwide as containerization has grown. A safe and secure way to secure break bulk and freight in containers is by using Dunnage Bags. Bulk Cargo, such as salt, oil, tallow, and scrap metal, is usually defined as commodities that are neither on pallets nor in containers. Bulk cargoes are not handled as individual pieces, the heavy-lift and project cargoes are. Alumina, grain, gypsum, logs and wood chips, for instance, are bulk cargoes. It all boils down to size and weight, when determining what can be transported in a Cargo Freight Container.

A Cargo Freight Container or Ocean Freight Containers are the largest and fastest growing cargo category at most ports worldwide. Containerized cargo includes everything from auto parts, machinery and manufacturing components to shoes and toys to frozen meat and seafood. Project cargo and the Heavy Lift cargo include items like manufacturing equipment, air conditioners, factory components, generators, wind turbines, military equipment, and almost any other oversized or overweight cargo, which is too big or too heavy to fit into a container. A shipping container, or a Cargo Freight Container is a container with strength suitable to withstand shipment, storage, and handling. Shipping containers range from large reusable steel boxes used for intermodal shipments to the ubiquitous corrugated boxes. In the context of international shipping trade, “container” or “shipping container” is virtually synonymous with “standard intermodal container” (a container designed to be moved from one mode of transport to another without unloading and reloading).

The discussion of the contents of the Cargo Freight Container really has come up based on health standard issues. If containerized cargo boxes have had automobile parts inside that have oils, or lubricants within the parts themselves, they can be disrupted during the shipping process, intermodal transit or trucking. When they are off-hired and go on the open market for sale, there can be a smell on the interior or a justified concern about whether or not something including lead based paint, asbestos or any hazardous material for that matter, was inside the container they are now using to store their animals’ food, spending time, or even living.

There are many more examples of and plenty more information regarding the concerns people have for utilizing a used Cargo Freight Container for something where health and safety standards need to be met. It is my personal feeling that, as we move forward into a more eco-friendly society, awareness is being raised around the world as to how things are manufactured, as well as how things are transported. I truly feel it can only get better. As for the old used containers, just step cautiously… Buy “One Trip Containers”, or do what you can to clean the containerized cargo boxes as well as possible if they are going to be used for something that involves long-term physical contact like housing.

Stay posted, as there are many more informative articles on the way regarding Shipping Containers and Containerized Cargo Housing: past, present and future…

Written by Gabe Crane, Container Alliance