How Much Does It Cost To Transport A Shipping Container Blog Cover

How Much Does It Cost To Transport A Shipping Container?

Posted By: July 22, 2015 In Guides

Want to build your own shipping container home? Start Here.

So you’ve purchased your shipping containers and you need to get them transported to your plot of land so you can start converting them into your new home.

In some situations getting your containers delivered can be very expensive, however if you’ve purchasing your containers locally you can save on the delivery cost.

When arranging the delivery of your containers you need to consider many things, such as: insurance, site access and which company to use. It can seem like an unnerving task but if you follow the steps in this article you will be getting your shipping container delivered in no time.

Today we’re going to look at exactly how much it costs to transport a shipping container and the key things you need to consider when arranging your delivery.

International Vs Local Delivery Charges

The first thing we need to understand is, where are your shipping containers being delivered from?

If you’ve purchased used shipping containers then chances are you purchased them locally whereas if you’ve purchased brand new shipping containers they are likely to be coming from Asia.

This has big implications on the delivery cost.

Locally Sourced Container Delivery Costs

I gave one of my local shipping container suppliers a call to get some estimates and they quoted me $400 to transport a 20 foot container and $780 to transport a larger 40 foot container. This figure included the surcharge of unloading the container and the total journey distance was around 300 miles.

Transporting a Container With A Truck

So for the 20 foot container it was roughly $1.33 per mile and for the larger 40 foot container around $2.60 per mile.

Internationally Sourced Container Delivery Costs

If you have purchased new containers then chances are they are coming from Asia, this means you have two choices.

You can either ship your containers empty and pay the full delivery cost, or you can allow your containers to be used to transport cargo and pay part of the delivery fee (this is known as one-trip containers).

If you pay to ship them from Asia to the US it is extremely expensive. Depending on the number of containers you are shipping and the distance, you are looking at anywhere from $1,900-$23,000.

The cheaper option is to allow a freight company to use your containers for a single shipment of goods (also known as one-trip).

If you do this, then the freight company will pay to ship your container to your local port. You will need to arrange this with them and find out exactly when they are next delivering to your local port, but if you live close to a busy international port they will be shipping their multiple times a month.

All you will need to do is pay for the delivery of your containers from your local port to your plot of land. You can refer to the locally sourced container delivery costs section above to get an estimate for that.

Size of Shipping Containers

So we’ve covered the difference between delivering a container locally and delivering a container internationally. But the other factor that can significantly alter the cost of delivery is the size of the shipping container which you’ve ordered.

Different Sized Shipping ContainersWe mentioned above that the difference between delivering a 20 foot container and a 40 foot container is nearly double. The price rose from $400 to transport a 20 foot container to $780 to transport a larger 40 foot container.

However, in the states you can also purchase 56 foot containers- they aren’t as popular as the 40 foot containers but they do offer an additional 120 square foot of living space per container.

These 56 foot containers are much more expensive to deliver because of their length- they don’t fit on regular rollback trucks and require a more specialised truck to transport them.

One thing I should mention is that in my experience freight companies don’t charge more for transporting high cube containers as they are the same length as regular containers just slightly taller.

Charge for Siting Containers

One thing you shouldn’t forget to include in your calculations is the cost of siting your containers.

‘Siting’ your shipping containers is the process of removing the containers off the delivery truck and onto your foundations.

Most freight companies don’t include this cost in their figures so you need to account for it.

When siting your shipping containers there are two things you need to be aware of:

  1. The accessibility to your plot of land.
  2. The foundations you’re placing your shipping containers onto.

Both of these factors effect which piece of equipment you can use to site your containers and therefore the cost.

If there is good access to your plot of land and foundations then you’re in luck. Assuming the containers are being transported on a tilt flatbed trailer, the driver can back right up to the foundation and let the container ‘slide’ off the trailer onto the foundation; this is by far the cheapest and easiest method.

Shipping Container Getting Delivered On To Foundation

© Larry Wade

However if you foundations aren’t easily accessible then you will need either a crane or a HIAB to lift the containers up and drop them in-place.

A HIAB is the cheaper option however it will struggle to lift anything larger than a 20 foot container, so if you are using 40 foot containers you will need to use a crane. Although using a crane gives you a greater amount of control over the exact siting point, be prepared to pay around $700 per day for one.

Where to Find Companies to Ship Your Containers

The figures mentioned above are very accurate estimates, but the only way to get an exact quote is to find and get in touch with a freight company.

How do we find a freight company?

Whenever possible I always recommend buying the containers and arranging their delivery from a single supplier- it’s much easier to manage a single company.

If this isn’t possible and you are transporting shipping containers from a local port, a good place to find a freight company is uShip.

uShip is “an online marketplace for shipping services” where you can create a job advert and then people tender for your work.

However, if you purchased your containers abroad you will need to use an internal freight company such as Maersk Line to transport them. You can use World Freight Rates’ freight calculator tool to get a quote.

Can I Move The Containers Myself?

A great way to reduce the cost of transporting your shipping containers is to do it yourself.

Unfortunately most people are unable to do this due to licensing issues or not having access to the right equipment.

If you are buying your containers locally and have a commercial driver’s license, you could hire a rollback truck and transport the containers yourself. This would save you several hundred dollars however for most people this isn’t practical.

When Do You Pay For Delivery?

If you are using an international freight company such as the Maersk Line, then you will need to pay in full before your containers are shipped.

If you are transporting your containers locally and are using a smaller freight company, you normally pay an order deposit, and then pay the remaining balance once the containers have been delivered.

How Long Does Delivery Take?

Getting containers delivered from a local supplier is by far the quickest way to get your hands on shipping containers and start building your home.

You will typically have to wait a week to arrange the delivery and then your containers are on site ready to convert.

Unfortunately the international delivery of shipping containers is much longer and can take up to several months.

International Shipping Container Delivery

It takes approximately 35 days for a container ship to go from China to New York. If you add to this, time to order and load your containers, then time to take your containers from the port in New York to your plot of land, you could be looking at 2 calendar months.

Should I Insure My Containers For The Trip?

Before you consider insuring your shipping containers the first thing you need to remember is: what are your containers worth?

If you are building your home using a single used 20 foot container which you purchased for $1000 it probably isn’t worth the additional fee to insure the container whilst it is being transported.

However, if you’ve just purchased several brand new 40 foot shipping containers which are being shipped from China for more than $5000 each then it’s definitely safer to insure them.

Most major freight companies will normally include insurance as part of their fee to transport the containers and the companies that don’t will provide the insurance as an optional upgrade.

With the strange container cargo insurance rules it’s definitely worth insuring your containers if they are going to be travelling by sea.

Let me know below how you decided to transport your shipping containers.

  1. Jennifer

    We are interested in purchasing a container to store our furniture, etc., in and then have it picked up and moved from California to Montana. Based on the previous posts I’ve read, is it the best option to talk to the company we purchase the container from? Will we need to pay extra to have wheels on the container so it is easier to haul on and off our properties? Thanks so much for your help –

    • Tom

      Yes, the best place to start would be the company you purchase the container from. It’s unlikely that they would do such a long move themselves, as they’d lose use of one of their trucks for a few days, but if they can’t do it, they should be able to point you in the right direction. No need to put wheels on the container, as that’s a pretty rare option. The company will need to bring some piece of equipment to pick the container up and put it on a trailer when you’re ready to move. Check out our post of ways to offload containers ( to get an idea for how they might approach this. In your case, the important part is onloading, but it will be the same equipment involved.

  2. deetta gray

    hi –
    moving from CO to TX – will have my own container – who do i contact to move it? Or what would i search?

    • Tom

      The easiest way to find someone to move the container is to find a company that sells empty containers. They either have the ability and equipment to move containers themselves, or they work with a 3rd party company who does this for them. Either way, they should be able to point you in the right direction. A quick Google search should help you find one in your city or a major city nearby.

  3. sheryl loyd

    We would like to get our container from jupiter florida to hillsboro wv. Any idea who could transport and what we might be looking at cost wise?

    • Tom

      Sheryl, your question sort of implies that you have already converted your container into a home. If that’s the case, it’s quite a bit heavier than an empty container, and you’ll need to ensure the company you contact has the equipment necessary to load/unload it. As far as finding such a company, we’d recommend searching for companies nearby that sell shipping containers. They should already have the trucks needed for transport, and should be able to give you a quote!

  4. MR

    You mention a 700 dollar per day for a crane service. Is it possible to sit six 40 footer in one day?

    • Tom

      Providing your foundations are ready, yes very realistic to place the containers in a single day.


  5. DG

    So I want to install two 20′ containers, stacked. I will use footers and my chosen site has decent access for a slide-off. My question is, is there any way to install the top container without a crane? Are containers ever shipped already stacked and then slid into place?

    • Tom

      Hi DG,

      Without a crane you could use a HIAB- they are a lot easier to use and cheaper to hire,