Shipping Container Dimensions and Uses – Which is Right for You? | 40 ft Containers

Shipping Container Dimensions and Uses – Which is Right for You? | 40 ft Containers

Jul 25th 2022

40ft Shipping Container

The 40 ft shipping container is the 2nd most common shipping container used. You can use a 40 ft storage container for all the same uses as a 20-foot container, including:

Shipping container Container at construction sites
Shipping and transportation of goods and possessions. Storage at home, construction sites, warehouses, or anywhere else.

Office container Modular building
Office, retail, and other business space. Modular building block for construction.


External: 8ft wide and 8ft 6ins high.
Internal: 7ft 9ins wide and 7ft 10ins high.
The external length is 40ft, but inside you get a little less at 39ft.

40ft Container External and Internal Dimension


The entire volume of a 40-foot shipping container for dense packing is 2,367 cubic feet, but if you choose standard shelving for access to the contents, you can realistically store 810 cubic feet of possessions. You get approximately 296 ft² of floor space.


The maximum weight of a 40 ft shipping container is 61,000 lbs., but if you have a fully loaded 40 ft storage container, it needs to remain static – the maximum 40 ft storage container weight on most US roads is 41,000 lbs. The tare (empty) weight of this storage container size is 8,554 lbs. In rigidity tests shipping containers withstand wind speeds up to 180mph without issue – that amount of steel will always be heavy even when the container is empty.

What Can Fit Inside?

The straightforward answer: over twice the contents of a 20-foot container. However, it is hard to visualize what that means. The type and quantity of items you can fit in this storage container size include:

The impact of the shipping container shortage is:

• 1,953 bankers’ boxes – more than twice the number (912) you can store in a 20-foot container.
• Telephone poles – standard telephone poles are 36 ft long.
• Two average-sized cars with room to spare.
• Car and household furniture for a small apartment.
• Contents of a 3-4 bedroom family house.
• 20 standard pallets.
• Large machinery like an excavator – although you may need to disassemble.
• 400 mattresses.
• Comfortable office space for three people.
• Five extra-large fully made-up beds with space to get in and out.
• Two adult male crocodiles - separated.

Although 40 ft containers give you plenty of storage space, you need to account for the space lost for access, shelving, packaging, and any climate control equipment.

Why Choose a 40ft Container?

The primary reason for choosing a 40 ft shipping container is the increased storage space. If you have more stuff than you can fit in a 20-foot container, a 40-foot container is the better option. If you plan to move your goods or possessions by road, the weight limit is essential. If you need to transport heavy goods, you may need to use two 20-foot containers to stay within the legal limits. If you need to transport a high volume of relatively light goods, the 40 ft shipping container is the more affordable option.

Compared with smaller sizes, a 40 ft container requires more access and ground preparation for delivery. However, the 40-foot container gives you more office space or office space combined with storage space and bathroom facilities.

The 40-foot container gives you more space and room to grow.

What You Need to Know Before Getting a Quote

Before you request a quote, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

Should I Rent or Buy?

For long term use – you may find it better to buy than rent but buying means:

• Greater upfront cost.
• Maintenance and eventual disposal
• Moving expenses.
• Loss of flexibility if you want to swap for a smaller unit.

If you intend to use the 40 ft shipping container as a building unit or plan extensive modifications for your project, then purchasing will always be your best option.

For short-term storage on construction sites, renting is the way to go. The added flexibility of having it only when you need it makes renting the perfect option for temporary storage spaces.

Is The Container the Right Size?

A half-empty container, like a half-empty freezer, is expensive – you are paying for space you don’t need. If you need additional flexible space during peak demand, you may prefer having the 40 ft storage container available. Having the larger container on standby may be worthwhile if you regularly need overflow warehouse space.

The 40-foot container gives you plenty of capacity with easy access if you choose to add shelving for storage purposes. Access is a crucial feature when using a storage container to store regular-use items. Unpacking everything to get to the item at the back isn’t feasible for most purposes.

The useable square footage is equivalent to a studio apartment in some cities, so for a building project like a workshop, garage, or summer cabin, you get plenty of space to express your creativity.

Are There Legal Issues?

If you use your 40 ft shipping container as a building module, you may need planning permission for your project. Although most states accept container storage as a legal, temporary building, local regulations may require permits to position a 40 ft container on your land.

Areas under the control of an HOA (Homeowner Association) may have specific rules relating to using shipping containers. Other zones may have legislation protecting your neighbors right to light or some other requirement.

Do You Have Enough Room?

The amount of level land you need for a 40 ft shipping container isn’t limited to the 320 ft² container footprint. You need space around the container for deliver and access to the doors.

You will need 100 feet to let the trailer back up and unload the container. You need a width of about 12 ft and overhead clearance of 20 ft to unload the container and get it into its position safely. If you intend the 40 ft container to be a permanent fixture, you will need extra site preparation.

40ft Container Required clearance zone

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