Shipping Container Types and Sizes

40' and 20' Standard, 45' and 40' High Cubes, and 40' Open-Top.


From early wood containers used in coal mining in England in the late 17th century to the modern intermodal container developed in 1955, containers have been essential to the shipping industry.

These key shipping assets come in many different shapes and sizes and each kind has its purpose. Understanding the different kinds of containers and their uses gives you the opportunity to refine your shipping processes, saving you time, effort, and money.



40’ and 20’ Standard 

The most common type of container on the market, the 20’ and 40’ standard containers are usually made of steel and sometimes aluminum. Aluminum usually has a higher payload. These containers have doors on one end through which cargo can be inserted. 

Standard containers are airtight and water-resistant, thus, preventing damage from the outside As the most basic kind of container, they are not very expensive, ranging from $2,000-$4,500 depending on whether you buy new or used. This type of container can carry most types of dry cargo, including boxes, pallets, sacks, barrels, etc. Standard containers can also be customized inside in order to accommodate particular kinds of goods. For example, for retail deliveries, hangers can be placed inside the container to directly transport clothes.







45’ and 40’ High Cubes 

High cubes, or HC, refers to containers that are very similar to normal containers, however, their height is increased. They are the same width as standard containers, but the extra foot of height allows shippers to transport bulky goods that require slightly larger maximum capacity.







40’ Open-Top 

Open-top containers are a container with, well, an open-top! These containers are covered by a tarpaulin sheet rather than a solid roof and can be left covered or uncovered depending on the cargo. The container itself is made of steel, but boasts wood flooring and swinging door heads. Open-top is the container of choice for cargo that is too large for a regular shipping container. This includes machinery and heavy materials that have to be stored upright. Those items can be placed in the container via crane and be lashed into place via lash rings. Pricing for shippers needing these containers can vary. If the cargo is in “gauge,” that is if the height of the cargo sits beneath the roof level then it will be cheaper. However, if the cargo is not in gauge the container cannot be stacked and the shipment will therefore be very expensive to make up for the wasted space.