top of page

Different Shipping Container Sizes and What They Can Be Used For

Shipping containers are convenient and affordable if you’re looking for practical storage solutions. However, they are not one-size-fits-all solutions. Several different sizes are available, so, when searching Conex containers for sale, you will encounter containers of different dimensions.


Modern shipping containers have been in use since 1955. While similar types of storage boxes had been used since the late 1700s in England, and smaller standard sized containers were used during World War II in the U.S., trucking entrepreneur Malcolm P. McLean realized the idea of a container that could transport cargo via truck, ship, or train. The age of intermodal transport was born.1.



orange, green, brown shipping containers

Standard intermodal containers didn’t give rise to trade—people, regions, and nations had been engaging in trade long before the mid-20th century—but standardization did give rise to different shipping container sizes. Several standard sizes are available, while larger containers and oddly shaped ones are as well. Cargo containers are often referred to as sea, ocean, or ISO containers, meaning they meet the tight standards of the International Organization for Standardization, from dimensions and specifications to identification, marking, sealing, and tracking.


The most common sizes of dry containers, or standard storage containers for shipping, include:

20-Foot Containers

A standard-sized 20-foot shipping container has interior dimensions of 19-feet, 3-inches long; 7-feet, 8-inches wide; and 7-feet, 9 7/8 inches high. The total internal capacity for cargo is 1,165 cu. ft. The floor area is about 150 sq. ft., while the door opening is 7-feet, 8-inches wide by 7-feet, 5-inches tall.


A 20-foot container is used for general cargo transport. When equipped with liner bags, it can be configured for bulk cargo. The structure can be fitted with forklift pockets so loaded containers can be more easily handled. This size is among the most commonly seen on the road and is well-suited for use with ship or rail transport or across different modes of transport without having to load, unload, and reload cargo.

40-Foot Containers

The cargo space inside a 40-foot shipping container is 39-feet, 5-inches long; 7-feet, 8-inches wide; and 7-feet, 9 7/8-inches high. Cubic capacity is 2,350 cu. ft. with a floor area of 305 sq. ft. and a door opening of 7-feet, 8-inches wide and 7-feet, 5-inches tall. It is suited for general cargo shipping requirements and, like its 20-foot counterpart, a 40-foot shipping container can be fitted with liner bags.


These larger containers allow for more goods to be stored at a time. Whether your business prefers to house smaller goods in larger quantities or needs to move larger items, 40-foot containers can get the job done economically with fewer hurdles and expenses along the way.

High Cube Containers

The standard intermodal container height is 8-feet, 6-inches. A high cube container, on the other hand, is 9-feet, 6-inches tall. A larger volume of contents can be stored in its interior, which has a length of 39-feet, 5-inches; a width of 7-feet, 8-inches; and a height of 8-feet, 9 15/16 inches. High cube containers have a total cubic capacity of 2,694 cu. ft. The door opening is also increased to 7-feet, 8-inches wide by 8-feet, 5½ inches tall.


High cube containers are also suited for general purpose contents. You might even find different standard lengths, including 45-foot high cube containers that can hold up to 64,050 pounds of cargo. Taller containers are intended to support a higher content volume. You’re, therefore, not limited when storing extra-large items or housing goods in such high bulk that using a smaller container isn’t possible or practical.

standard type shipping container

Other Standard Types of Containers

Made of steel and designed to be wind-resistant and watertight, shipping containers are durable and hold up in any type of environment. However, the standard 20-foot, 40-foot, and high cube containers aren’t the only ones you’ll find. Some other examples include:


  • Open top containers are available in 20- and 40-foot sizes and loaded from the top by lowering cargo via a crane. These are suited for timber, scrap metal, or contents that exceeds the height of the container.

  • Flat rack containers can hold heavy machinery, construction equipment, building supplies, and other oversized items. Two sides of the container fold up or down; there’s no top, and the unit can be top- or side-loaded.

  • Tunnel shipping containers have openings on both ends, so can be loaded and unloaded from either side. Dual openings led to the container being compared to a tunnel; hence, the name.

  • Side open containers open on the side, instead of opening from one or both ends, so contents can be loaded and unloaded sideways instead of through the narrower end.

  • Refrigerated containers are designed to preserve fruit, seafood, and other temperature-sensitive goods, including medical supplies, in a strongly sealed ISO container.

  • Insulated containers also feature temperature control systems to maintain proper storage conditions and keep cargo viable during long-distance transportation.

cargo ship carrying shipping containers

Non-Standard Containers

Highly versatile and just as durable, storage containers in non-standard sizes and configurations can suit your needs under specific circumstances. These include small containers. A 10-foot container is called a bicon, while a one-third-size container is a tricon. The name for a one-fourth-size container is a quadcon. At 8-feet tall, these ISO containers are most often used by the military.


High cube containers may be found in alternative 48- and 53-foot sizes, which are also six inches wider than standard units. A 48-foot container, used exclusively in the U.S., increases capacity by 29%. The 53-foot container used in the U.S. and Canada increases capacity by 60%.


Other unique container types include cargo storage roll containers, which have foldable mesh rollers to help transport stacks of heavy materials. Half height containers, at half the height dimensions of full-sized dry containers, can simplify loading and unloading, while car carrier shipping containers protect cars over long distances. They also have collapsible sides. Another type of container is the 20-foot ISO tank shipping container, which may be used to transport chemicals, oils, or certain types of food goods.

train carrying shipping containers

Get New or Used Storage Containers from High Plains Holding Company

If you’re wondering how to buy a new shipping container or are looking to save and buy a used shipping container, High Plains Holding Company LLC can help. We can provide standard-sized 20-foot, 40-foot, and cubed containers, as well as other sizes and configurations by request. Each is constructed of durable 14-gauge steel and designed for long-term use. Call 888-826-4100 for more information on different shipping container sizes or submit your details to receive a quote on Conex containers for sale today.

Container Home.jpg
Storage Containers
Shipping Containers
Storage Container
Storage Container Yard
Storage Containers on Ship
Shipping Containers
bottom of page