Standard dimensions of shipping containers

If your business deals with moving goods worldwide, you need to research the logistics and cargo transportation industries. 

Shipping containers are a great idea, and this idea began 60 years ago. A truck hauler named Malcolm McLean came up with a solution to load merchandise onto trucks, trains, and ships without too much stress.

He decided to place the items into containers that could be lifted and loaded from a truck’s chassis. Then he standardized fixed dimensions for them and made them suitable for trains, ships, and ports worldwide. 


The most common dimensions of shipping containers are 10, 20, & 40 feet. The standard inside dimensions of a shipping container are:

  • 20ft shipping container dimensions are 19.4 ft long and 7.8ft wide
  • 40ft shipping container dimensions are 39.5ft long and 7.8ft wide

This article features a chart of specifications of various sizes of containers. Also, how these containers have made it easy to ship the goods across various platforms and become the best choice, has been discussed in the article.

Standard dimensions of shipping containers

20 ft

20 foot shipping container on concrete

The standard 20ft shipping container is a popular choice. They are similar to conex ones, and you will find them almost anywhere. Their popularity increased since they are very easy to maneuver and have a low weight. While they are mostly used for transporting cargo, some people get creative. 

They make tiny cabins out of a 20ft shipping container and place them in remote areas with wonderful views. These cabins are fully equipped, and travelers rent them to enjoy nature more. 

20 foot shipping container

They are cheaper than the 40ft alternative, but the price per square foot is higher. That is why you should choose a 40ft shipping container instead of two 20ft ones, depending on your needs. But if your requirements are not high, then a single 20-foot one will do the job for you. 

You can invest more in the project or product you are shipping by cutting costs. Unless the cargo you are transporting needs 20ft containers, it is better to choose 40ft ones as you get more floor space. 

They are considered the standard size in the industry, and sometimes trade volumes will be stated in TEU. It is short for ”twenty-foot equivalent unit” and uses them as a point of reference. 

20 ft conex container

Exterior Dimensions:

  • Height: 8 feet, 6 inches 
  • Width: 8 feet
  • Length: 19 feet, 10 inches

Interior Dimensions:

  • Height: 7 feet, 10 inches 
  • Width: 7 feet, 8 inches
  • Length: 19 feet, 4 inches


40 foot shipping container

If a 20ft shipping container is not enough for you, then it’s time for an upgrade. The 40ft shipping container is the most common one you can find out there. These are big enough to be used for various purposes, from transportation to accommodation. 

They can be converted into homes. Because of their increased length, they can be separated and sectioned into multiple rooms. However, they can also be combined. 

However, the ceiling could be an issue for taller people as they are not designed with comfort in mind. These modifications are made separately, but the ceiling height cannot be increased for standard containers. 

This height further decreases as insulation is applied, taking up more interior space. As we mentioned above, getting a 40ft shipping container is better than purchasing two 20ft ones. Even if your needs are lower and you don’t need the extra space, you can always divide the interior into subsequent spaces. 

This option is the best if you choose this container for transportation needs. They are designed with high efficiency in mind, and the interior will keep your goods safe and secure. 

They are made of steel and aluminum and will withstand any weather conditions they may encounter along the way. Because they are larger, you can transport more goods and cut your shipping costs by transporting more cargo at once. 

Exterior Dimensions:

  • Height: 8 feet, 6 inches 
  • Width: 8 feet
  • Length: 40 feet

Interior Dimensions:

  • Height: 7 feet, 10 inches 
  • Width: 7 feet, 8 inches
  • Length: 39 feet, 6 inches

Dimensions chart

Maybe you are curious about the standard inside dimensions of shipping containers. Whether they are 10, 20, or 40 feet, we got you covered. Below you can also find a chart explaining these dimensions in a simpler way for your convenience. 

light shipping container

To make it easier for you, we present a chart that features all the key specifications of different types of containers. Their internal length, width, and cubic capacity can be found below. We know storage space is the most important as they have been designed for efficiency. We also calculated and included the square footage for each size.

Internal length9.4ft19.4ft39.5ft
Internal width7.9ft7.8ft7.8ft
Square footage74.26 ft2151.32 ft2308.10 ft2
Cubic capacity563 cu ft1,172 cu ft2,389 cu ft
Payload capacity22,046 lbs55,126.9 lbs61,200 lbs
Tare weight2,204 lbs5,071.5 lbs8,268.8 lbs


10ft shipping containers are compact but highly durable and sturdy in build. Many companies around the world purchase such containers for various purposes. They are often modified as storage units, workspaces, or equipment enclosures. 

You can use a 10ft shipping container in multiple ways as they are not necessarily strictly about transportation. They have grown in popularity recently, especially in specific industries that require them. However, there are still fewer 10ft containers than the standard 20 or 40ft ones. 

That is also a reason why such small ones are harder to find. Remember that finding the ideal one for your business might take additional time. Some companies will use a 10ft shipping one as an open office. 

Modifying them allows for customization options to be implemented. You can create an attractive workspace situated out on the open field. 

Because it is also portable, these open offices can be moved worldwide anytime. This way, you can create professional workspaces for your employees anywhere in the world. 

Such 10ft shipping containers can also be used as ticket or security booths at festivals or playgrounds. They can be equipped with roll-up windows and can be deployed instantly at security checkpoints or park entrances. 

Exterior Dimensions:

  • Height: 8 feet, 6 inches 
  • Width: 8 feet
  • Length: 9 feet, 9.75 inches

Interior Dimensions:

  • Height: 7 feet, 10 inches 
  • Width: 7 feet, 8 inches
  • Length: 9 feet, 3 inches

What are the internal dimensions?

Many factors could influence the interior dimensions of shipping containers. For example, the thickness of the doors will take up some of the interior space. Because they are made from steel and highly durable, these doors tend to be larger. 

In the case of containers that were converted to homes, the interior space has to be insulated to keep a stable temperature. They are made with efficiency in mind, and they are not designed for comfort. Modifications for increasing comfort might also decrease the interior space.

The internal dimensions of a shipping container are shown in the table below.

TypeInterior Dimensions (LxWxH)
10-Foot Container9’3″ x 7’8″ x 7’10”
20-Foot Container19’3″ x 7’8″ x 7’10”
20-Foot High Cube19’3″ x 7’8″ x 8’10”
40-Foot Container39’5″ x 7’8″ x 7’10”
40-Foot High Cube39’5″ x 7’8″ x 8’10”

You can easily fit the belongings of a 3 bedroom family home. Boxes are ideal for storage since they can easily stack up and save more space. But irregular-shaped items and furniture will take up more of it, so you must get creative with the placement. 

If you want to transport vehicles, 3 to 4 cars can fit inside a 40ft shipping container. When you look to purchase one, don’t pay attention to the external measurements only. After all, you will only use the interior of this equipment. You need to know the interior sizes as well. 

High cube

High cube containers are usually the same as standard ones but provide more space with increased height. They are in high demand because of their height, which adds extra space. They can also be stacked on ships as they share a similar width as standard ones. 

They are used to transport bulky items that don’t fit into normal-sized ones. Construction equipment and industrial machines can be stored inside and delivered anywhere worldwide.

Because they have increased space, they play an important part in the global economy. Companies can transport more goods safely and efficiently from one location to another. 

Because of the increased size, more cargo can be transported at once. It reduces shipment costs. The environment also benefits since the transportation industry still generates a high pollution output. 

Just like standard containers, these are also sturdy and highly durable. Weather conditions or extreme temperatures will not affect the cargo stored inside, which is safely secured. Because of all these efficient conditions, high cube ones are ideal for long-range transportation. 

The tourism industry can also benefit, with travel enthusiasts having the option to stay in a modified high cube container. Because standard ones have a low ceiling, living inside them can be difficult. Luckily, the high cube ones feature an increased interior height. It creates better conditions inside. 


When they first appeared, these 53 feet containers were used for road and rail transportation all across US and Canada. They are much larger than the standard 40-foot ones, and you can transport more cargo with this size. Later, they were also adapted for sea travel. They are often seen on large freight ships. 

They are built to handle the same conditions as 20 and 40-ft containers, featuring the same quality and durability. However, an increased length allows for more storage and a higher cargo load. 

They are large inside, being 53 feet long. But they still feature the same width as standard ones, being limited at 8 feet and 6 inches. The total volume is 4,280 cubic feet, and there is plenty of space inside for all your transportation needs. 

If you want to modify one and transform it into a home, you will benefit greatly from the extra space. You can also install a toilet, a shower, and additional separate rooms of this size. High security is ensured with locks that are very durable but easy to open once unlocked. 

How wide is a shipping container?

Although they can differ in length and height, most containers will feature the standard 8 feet width with some exceptions. It allows for easier storage on large ships or train carts. Because every one has the same approximate width, they can be stacked upon each other and save transportation space. 

blue shipping container

The idea of shipping containers positively impacted the entire global economy. With them, manufacturers can directly ship their goods without unloading or transferring them along the way. It includes everything from dishwashers to bras.

Improved supply chains

Storage containers have benefitted the industry drastically. This allowed companies to supply their products directly to customers in the shortest amount of time. Worldwide shipping also became available, and now we can order anything from any country. Our order will arrive safely, as it is stored in standard containers along the way. 

Standard types

shipping container

It is the most common container companies use to ship their cargo. They are often used because they are made from high-quality metals, such as aluminum or steel. It ensures their durability while also keeping them weatherproof. 

Standard containers are cheaper than others, which is why they are so popular in this industry. They follow specific standards set by the International Organization of Standardization. It’s a global entity that decides the industrial and technical standards worldwide. 

They are large enough to carry furniture or spare parts. At the same time, they are also small enough to fit into most ports around the world. They are made of aluminum and can transport more cargo since the material makes them lightweight. 

Standard shipping containers are waterproof and airtight. That means the cargo is safe and secure inside even during the harshest weather and storms at sea. 

Whenever you see a large cargo ship, it will most likely be loaded with hundreds of such basic shipping containers. They can be stacked in rows and columns. On average, such a container will cost around $2,500. 

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