Packing Recommendations: How much can you fit in a shipping container?

Packing Recommendations: How much can you fit in a shipping container?

Shipping containers are the ideal storage solution. They’re secure, weather-resistant, and mobile – meaning you can safely store a whole range of items wherever you wish. But just how much can a shipping container hold?

Different sizes

Before going into the detail of how much a shipping container can hold, it’s worth explaining the different sizes they’re available in. As shipping containers are the medium of choice for the global transport industry, they come in just a few standardised sizes; this allows for them to be seamlessly passed from crane, to ship, to lorry, and back again.

The most common sizes are 20ft and 40ft containers. These measurements refer to the length of the containers. The height and width of both types, on the other hand, are the same – standing at 8.5ft and 8ft respectively. In terms of volume, a 20ft container holds 33 cubic metres, whereas a 40 ft container holds 66 cubic metres.

How much weight can a shipping container hold?

Whilst the volume of a container is relevant, its weight limit is perhaps more so. If your items are small in volume but very high in density, for example, it wouldn’t be a good idea to pack them into a container.

The maximum payload of a 20ft container is 23,000 kg – that’s around the same weight as 20 Mini Coopers (2012), in case you were wondering.

A 40ft container, alternatively, can safely hold approximately 26,000 kg. This might not be as much as you’d expect (given the difference in volume), but is largely down to the structure of the container. Whilst it’s possible to fit more into a 40ft container because of the extra space, there’s not a huge difference in the maximum weight load it can handle.

How much furniture can you fit in a shipping container?

Now we’ve been over the general numbers, it’s time to look at a more specific example. If you’re looking to store furniture in your container, here’s a guide on how much you can fit in (based on their cubic volumes):

Item Cubic volume (m3) Average weight (kg) Maximum no. for 20 ft container Maximum no. for 40 ft container
3-seat sofa 1.274 159 26 52
Dining room table (Medium) 1.982 220 17 33
Dining chairs 1.133 45 29 58
Computer Desk 0.991 165 33 67
Bookcase (large) 1.133 220 29 58
Armchair 0.765 75 43 86
Double bed 2.18 130 15 30


Storage tip – To keep your furniture fabrics free from mould, ensure your container has adequate insulation. Positioning desiccants inside will also help to avoid ‘container rain’.


A universal solution 


If you’re looking into storage container hire, then you should know that furniture, of course, isn’t the only kind of item that you can store in shipping containers. These reinforced steel boxes are suitable for securing everything from cars to sports equipment and construction gear. Exactly how much they can store depends on the volume and weight of the items in question. With this guide, however, we hope you’ll be able to calculate the carrying capacity of your shipping container storage unit. 


If you’re currently looking to rent or buy a shipping container for storage, get in contact with UnitHire. We’ll be able to talk through your exact requirements, and advise on which units are best for you. 


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