How Much Does a Shipping Container Weigh?

Visualizing the size and volume of a cargo container is a challenging. Just how much can you put in them? How much does a shipping container weigh?

The good news: Every shipping container – regardless of where it’s manufactured – is built to a standard size.

Most are 20 or 40 feet in length, 8 feet wide and 8.6 feet tall. These dimensions are dictated by the International Standards Organization or ISO. Therefore, any ISO certified container you buy will be built to these dimensions. As far as weight, shipping containers vary by the material they are made of and their size but average about 2.5 tons per 20-foot container.  

If you’re shopping for a container for storage, shipping or for building, it’s crucial to recognize available shipping container weights and sizes. This will ensure you find the right container for your project. Here’s a quick overview of sea container dimensions:

How Much Does a Shipping Container Weigh?

Although sea container dimensions are almost all standardized, there are variations. For example, 45-foot or 10-foot containers are used for particular purposes.  

For the most common 20- or 40-foot containers, weight varies by the container. But many of these ISO containers have the same average weight. When looking at shipping container weight, there are a few measures to be aware of, including:

  • Tare Weight: This is the container’s empty weight.
  • Max Payload: This is the maximum amount of cargo by weight that can be packed into the container.
  • Max Gross Weight: This is the maximum weight of the container + cargo. The payload can be found by subtracting the tare weight from the MGW.

Average Cargo Container Weight                    

Size Tare Wt. Payload MGW Cubic Capacity
20-foot  4,585 lbs 48,325 lbs  52,910 lbs   1,172 cu ft.
40-foot  8,268 lbs 61,200 lbs  69,468 lbs   2,389 cu ft.

These are average cargo container weights, which can vary slightly. The manufacturer is ultimately required to provide the tare, payload and max gross weight, and it is printed on the side of the container. This ensures containers are not overfilled, which can damage equipment or result in fines.

How Much Can You Put in a Cargo Container?

You can fit roughly 48,000 pounds of goods – equivalent to about 8 Ford F-250s – in a 20-foot container. But how does that relate to what can fit in the container?

There are a few ways to look at this question. If you’re shipping goods, a 20-foot container can fit about ten standard-sized pallets; similarly, a 40-foot container holds about 21 pallets.

Therefore, a 20-foot container can hold about:

  • 50,000 bananas
  • 15,000 T-shirts
  • 400 TVs
  • 900 Desktop Computers
  • 500 bicycles

Alternatively, if you’re using the container for storage, a 20-foot container can hold the contents of a 2-bed home plus a car, according to

Frequently Asked Questions About Shipping Container Weights

How heavy is a 40ft shipping container?

A standard 40ft shipping container, which is one of the most commonly used sizes in the shipping industry, weighs between 8,000 to 9,200 pounds when empty. This weight can increase significantly when the container is filled with goods. 

How heavy is a 30ft shipping container?

A 30ft shipping container usually weighs less due to its reduced dimensions. The average weight for this size is approximately 5,000 to 7,500 pounds when it’s empty. 

How heavy is a 53ft shipping container?

A 53ft shipping container can weigh as much as 10,000 pounds when empty due to its increased size and capacity.

How do you lift a shipping container?

Lifting and moving these hefty containers requires specialized equipment and expertise. Tilted bed trailers, forklifts, and cranes are the most common solutions for lifting containers. 

How do I move a shipping container by myself?

If you’re considering moving a shipping container by yourself, you must understand that this isn’t a task for the unprepared or inexperienced. It requires careful planning and access to appropriate heavy-duty equipment such as cranes or specialized trucks designed for this purpose. Safety should always be your primary concern when handling these large structures.

Can a forklift lift a 40ft container?

A forklift can be used to lift and move smaller containers or empty larger ones; however, it’s important to note that not all forklifts have the capacity to lift a fully loaded 40ft container. The weight of such a container when filled can easily exceed the lifting capacity of many standard forklifts.

Always work with qualified service providers and contractors when moving a container to avoid injury to yourself and others, as well as any damage to the container. 

Contact us for a free quote or with any questions you may have!

Tags: Shipping Container Data, Shipping Container Industry

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