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20ft containers VS 40ft containers (Full Guide)

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    After ordering products in China, you need to transport them to your country. Dry and general goods are the most common ones that a businessman or businesswoman wants to forward.

    A vast majority of containers have a standardized size, and each is designed for one type of goods.

    This article aims to talk about “20ft containers VS 40ft containers”. After finishing this article, you will have enough information.

    Shipping containers size and type

    Before we start to talk about 20ft containers VS 40ft containers, it is better to talk a little about the size and type of containers.

    If you, as a businessman and businesswoman, wants to ship containers, you should organize for full container load, which among freight forwarders, it is FCL.

    The general standard containers for freight forwarding are 20ft, 40ft, and 40ft high cube.

    It is essential to consider the volume of your goods to choose the most suitable one.

    Please pay attention to this matter; if your goods are cumbersome or something odd, you must consult with the supplier or freight forwarder to offer the best choice.

    20ft containers VS 40ft containers

    Why Size Matters: The Practicalities of Shipping Goods in 2023

    Size truly matters when it comes to shipping goods. In 2023, with the rise of global e-commerce, more businesses are shipping products internationally than ever before. This makes choosing the right container size crucial.

    For small and medium-sized businesses, the compact size of 20ft containers makes them ideal. They are easier to fill to capacity, reducing the risk of goods moving around during transit, which can cause damage.

    However, for larger businesses or those dealing with bulk goods, 40ft containers are more practical. They can accommodate a larger amount of goods, reducing the number of containers needed for shipment and ultimately lowering transportation costs.

    The key is to choose the size that will ensure maximum efficiency and safety of your goods during transit, based on the specific needs of your business.

    Choosing Between 20ft and 40ft Containers: A Detailed Comparison

    When choosing between a 20ft container and a 40ft container, you need to consider several factors, such as the volume and weight of your goods, the cost of shipping, and the shipping route.

    20ft containers are ideal for smaller loads and can handle about half the volume and weight of a 40ft container. These containers are the more cost-effective option for lighter, less voluminous goods, and are easier to handle and load, making them a popular choice for many businesses.

    On the other hand, 40ft containers can accommodate larger, heavier loads, making them suitable for businesses with high-volume shipping needs. Although they cost more to transport, they are generally more economical for large-volume shipments, as you’re essentially getting twice the space for less than twice the price of a 20ft container.

    Benefits of 20ft Containers: Advantages and Disadvantages

    20ft containers are often the go-to choice for many businesses, and for good reason. Here are some advantages of using 20ft containers:

    Size and Manageability: As the smaller of the two, 20ft containers are easier to handle and maneuver, making them a practical choice for locations with limited space.

    Cost-Effectiveness: If you’re shipping a small to medium volume of goods, 20ft containers can often be a more cost-effective choice. They help avoid the issue of paying for unused space that might occur when a 40ft container isn’t filled to capacity.

    Versatility: Due to their smaller size, 20ft containers can be easily converted for other uses, such as storage units or mobile offices.

    However, there are also some disadvantages:

    Limited Capacity: If you have a large volume of goods to ship, a 20ft container might not be enough. In such cases, choosing a 40ft container could be more efficient and cost-effective.

    More Handling: If you are shipping a large quantity of goods, you’ll need more 20ft containers. This could increase handling and transportation costs.

    Comparative Analysis of 20ft VS 40ft Containers

    Features 20ft Containers 40ft Containers
    Length 5.9 m/19.4 ft 12.03 m/39.5 ft
    Width 2.35 m/7.8 ft 2.4 m/7.9 ft
    Height 2.39 m/7.9 ft 2.39 m/7.9 ft
    Weight 2300 kg/5071.5 lbs 3750 kg/8268.8 lbs
    Payload Capacity 25000 kg/55126.9 lbs 27600 kg/61200 lbs
    Cubic Capacity 33.2 m^3/1172 cu ft 67.7 m^3/2389 cu ft
    Pros Easier to handle; Cost-effective for smaller loads; Versatile for various uses Higher capacity; Economies of scale for larger loads; Accommodates larger items
    Cons Limited capacity; Increased handling for large quantities Requires more space; Can be less efficient for smaller loads

    Why Opt for 40ft Containers? Advantages and Disadvantages

    40ft containers offer their own set of benefits:

    Higher Capacity: The most apparent advantage is the doubled capacity compared to the 20ft containers, making them ideal for shipping large quantities of goods.

    Economies of Scale: While a 40ft container might be more expensive to ship, the cost per unit of volume can be lower than a 20ft container, offering economies of scale for high-volume shipments.

    Greater Flexibility for Large Items: For bulky or long items, a 40ft container provides the necessary space to accommodate such goods.

    However, there are also potential downsides:

    Requires More Space: Due to their length, 40ft containers need more space for loading, unloading, and storage. This could be an issue in space-constrained areas.

    Less Efficient for Smaller Loads: If not filled to capacity, a 40ft container can be less cost-effective compared to a 20ft one. This could lead to higher costs for small to medium-volume shipments.

    The appearance of 20ft containers VS 40ft containers

    For 20ft containers VS 40ft containers, the first things that should be compared are these two containers’ appearance.

    These tow containers, such as other containers, are made of steel or aluminum. They must be according to the standard. These standards are determined by the International Organization for Standard (ISO).

    It is better to know that these containers are famous as “Dry Van.” Because they are the most common containers for shipment, they can ship almost all types of boxes, pallets, etc.

    Another critical point is that you, as a businessman or businesswoman, can customize the inside of these containers according to the type of goods you have!

    However, in 20ft containers VS 40ft containers for the appearance, you should know the difference in length, width, height, and capacity. They are as follows:

    • Length: 5.9 m/ 19.4ft for 20ft and 12.03m/ 39.5ft for 40ft
    • Width: 2.35 m/ 7.8ft for 20ft and 2.4m/ 7.9ft for 40ft
    • Height: 2.39 m/ 7.9ft for 20ft and 2.39m/ 7.9ft for 40ft
    • Weight: 2300kg/ 5071.5 Ibs for 20ft and 3750kg/8268.8 for 40ft
    • Pay load Capacity: 25000kg/ 55126.9 Ibs for 20ft and 27600kg/ 61200Ibs for 40ft
    • Cubic Capacity: 33.2 m2/ 1172 cu ft for 20ft and 67.7m2/ 2389cu for 40ft

    How much load is placed in 20ft containers VS 40ft containers?

    Then, in 20ft containers VS 40ft containers, it is time to talk about how much load is placed in each of them.

    Please pay attention that in both containers, the packages don’t hang over the sides!

    For better understanding, some standards are described to know how much load you can ship. Consider a pallet. These standards are as below:

    • EU pallet ( it is the European pallet that is 1.2x 0.8m)
    • EUR2 pallet ( it is 1.2x 1m)
    • North American Standard Pallet Type ( it is 1.016mx 1.219m)

    According to these standards, in 20ft containers VS 40ft containers, the pallets in each container are as the following:

    • According to the EU, 11 Euro pallets in 20ft container and 23 or 24 pallets in 40ft container
    • According to EUR2, 10 to 11 pallets in 20ft container and 20 to 21 pallets in 40ft
    • According to North American Standard, ten pallets in a 20ft container and 20 pallets in 40ft container

    All freight forwarders suggest that to put the pallets in one row along the container’s length and another row along the width. It is the smartest way!

    Understanding the Logistics: Loading and Unloading 20ft VS 40ft Containers

    The process of loading and unloading containers is an integral part of the logistics chain. The time and effort required can impact the overall efficiency and cost of your shipping operations.

    With 20ft containers, the loading and unloading process can be quicker and more straightforward due to the smaller size. This can result in lower labor costs and less time wasted on handling, making it a more efficient option for shipments with a tighter schedule.

    Conversely, loading and unloading 40ft containers can require more time and manpower, due to the larger volume and potentially higher weight of the goods. However, the larger capacity means fewer containers to handle for the same volume of goods. This can reduce the complexity of logistics coordination and potentially lower the total handling costs if you have large-volume shipments.

    In conclusion, understanding the characteristics and capacities of 20ft and 40ft containers is crucial to optimize the loading and unloading process, and thus, your overall shipping operations.

    20ft containers VS 40ft containers

    Other types of containers!

    We tried to talk about 20ft containers VS 40ft containers to make the difference between them more transparent.

    However, there are many other types of container that you can choose; here, we briefly point to them:

    • Open Top / The Convertible of Shipping Containers (it is suitable for heavy or awkward goods)
    • Ventilated/The Breathable Container (it is ideal for goods that may be damaged easily)
    • Insulated/The ‘Thermos’ Flask Container (it is perfect for pharmaceutical and food processing)
    • Reefer / The Floating Fridge Container (it is perfect for all goods such as food that need a lower temperature than 15 degrees)
    • Flat Racks / More Dance Floor Than Container (this container has no roof, it is suitable for oversized cargo)
    • Flexi Tank / An Inflatable Within a Container (it is ideal for liquid)
    • Dress Hanger/ The Floating Wardrobe (it is perfect for luxury style garments)

    Concluding remarks

    In this article, we tried to talk about 20ft containers VS 40ft containers and indicate their difference, but, again, remind you that if you are inexperienced or don’t have enough information in this field, it is better to consult with a professional one.

    It will help you to save money. Because if you make a mistake in choosing a container, you will lose a lot of money! No businessman or businesswoman likes to experience such a terrible thing!

    Therefore, try to gather information as much as you can and pay attention to professionals’ words!


    Dear customers

    If you need an impressive rate and competitive offer for Door to Door Rail and Trucking service from China to European countries, please contact our Sale Team.

    Can you stack a 20ft container on a 40ft container?

    Absolutely. new containers can be stacked 9 high.


    The standard sizes for shipping containers are 20ft and 40ft.

    It’s more economical to use a 20ft container when shipping smaller to medium volumes of goods, as it avoids the cost of unused space in a 40ft container.

    Generally, yes, but some large or awkwardly-shaped items may require special arrangements. Always check with your freight forwarder.

    Depending on the pallet size, you can fit about 23-24 standard EU pallets in a 40ft container.

    The cost varies greatly based on factors like shipping route and cargo weight. However, the cost of shipping a 40ft container is generally less than twice the cost of a 20ft one, providing economies of scale.

    Yes, there are several other types of containers, such as the open top, ventilated, insulated, reefer, flat racks, flexi tank, and dress hanger containers.

    The inside of a shipping container is measured in cubic feet or cubic meters, giving you the total volume of space available.

    The choice depends on the volume and weight of your goods, your budget, and the shipping route. Consulting with a freight forwarder can help make the decision easier.

    Yes, due to the standardization of shipping containers, both 20ft and 40ft containers are widely available worldwide.

    Yes, both 20ft and 40ft containers can be customized to suit the needs of the goods being shipped. Always consult with your supplier or freight forwarder to ensure the modifications meet safety and shipping standards.

    A 20ft container can hold a maximum payload of approximately 25000 kg or 55126.9 lbs.

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