How Much Does a Shipping Container Weigh?

The weight of a dry shipping container is an essential element to consider before shipping. In most countries, an official weight for a container has to be provided before the shipping process begins.

Different states have laws governing what they consider to be appropriate container weight and size.

Why the fuss about container weights, you might wonder?

Knowing the weight of a container is essential for safety purposes. Unbalanced or overloaded shipping containers put container ships and shippers at risk.

In 2016, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) established a rule demanding shippers to provide the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) of a shipping container before it is loaded for export. The rule was a response to the increasing numbers of accidents by overweight containers.

Tare Weight, Gross Weight, and Payload Weight

Tare weight, sometimes referred to as unladen weight, is the weight of an empty shipping container. It is calculated by subtracting the payload weight from the maximum gross weight.

Payload weight is the maximum amount of weight you can safely add to an empty container. The tare weight of a shipping container is often welded on the container doors after the manufacturing process is complete.

Finally, Gross Weight is the weight of the container plus the maximum payload it can hold.

Tare weight = Maximum Gross weight – Maximum Payload weight

Shipping Container Sizes

Before we take a closer look at each container size, here’s a table outlining the dry shipping container weight capacities for 10ft – 53ft containers:

Dry Shipping ContainerTare Weight (lbs)Maximum Gross Weight (lbs)Maximum Payload weight (lbs)
10 ft.2,85022,36019,510
20 ft.5,07155,12650,055
24 ft.5,84258,41052,568
40 ft.8,55467,19658,642
45 ft.10,36271,65061,288
53 ft.11,11067,20056,090


The tare weight of a 10 ft. dry container is 2,850lb, while the maximum gross weight is 22,360 lb. A 10 ft. container has a standard exterior height of 8ft 6in and is an ideal choice where space is at a premium.

About the size of a single car garage, the dimensions of a 10 ft. container is ideal for small space storage applications. Due to scarcity, it is often cut from 40 ft. or a 20 ft. shipping container.


When empty, the weight of a 20-foot shipping container is 5,071 lbs. Its maximum gross weight can go up to 55,126 lbs. Because of its middle of the road sizing, it has become one of the most preferred for shipment of goods.


The tare weight of a 24ft. dry container is 5,842 lbs. Its maximum gross weight is 58, 410. It is suitable for projects that don’t require a 40ft container or when a smaller container isn’t suitable.

40 ft.

large 40ft double door shipping container

Just like the 20 ft. containers, the 40ft shipping container is a popular choice for shipments, jobsite offices, and onsite storage. It has a tare weight of 8,554 lbs., a maximum gross weight of 67,196lbs, and a maximum payload weight is 58,642 lbs.

45 ft.

A 45ft container is considered a high cube container because of its 9ft 6in exterior height. It has a tare weight of 10,362 lbs., and its maximum gross weight is 71,650 lbs.

They are designed for intermodal freight transportation for lighter general cargo. Their maximum cubic capacity makes them an ideal choice for commercial, industrial, and rural storage applications.

53 ft.

The 53ft HC container is a high cube dry container with an exterior height of 9ft 6 inches. Its volume is 60% larger than a 40 ft. container making it an ideal choice if you desire some extra space.

Considered one of the biggest shipping containers, it isn’t surprising that its tare weight stands at 11,110 lbs. and the maximum gross weight is 67,200 lbs.

Unlike smaller containers, a 53 ft. container is not used for international shipping. It is, however, an ideal choice for domestic, rail, and over the road services.

For reference, here are the tare, gross, and payload weight capacities for 10ft, 20ft, 24ft, 40ft, 45ft, and 53ft containers:

container weight table

Factors Affecting the Weight of Shipping Containers

  • Cube Height

High cube containers (9ft. 6 in) are one inch taller than the standard height containers (8 ft. 6 in). This means they have more metallic content and are heavier than the standard size shipping container.

  • Double Door

While a standard shipping container has doors on one end, a double door (DD) container has double doors on both ends. More doors on a shipping container come with more metal hence DD containers tend to be heavier.

double door container
  • Period of Manufacture

Older shipping containers are often heavier than newer modern containers. This is because modern manufacturing techniques have made it possible to construct containers of significant strength with lesser metal.


  • How to weigh loaded containers?

You can weigh a loaded container by fitting a weighing system to a truck’s suspension system. This system is unsuitable for a trailer holding more than one shipping container.

Alternatively, you can use a weighbridge, Bison C-Legs or axle weigh pads to determine the weight of a loaded container.

  • Looking for your own shipping container?

When shopping for a shipping container, it’s important to pay attention to its ultimate purpose. 20ft. and 40 ft. containers are ideal for shipping while 10ft. and 53ft. are suitable for storage. Purchase your shipping container from a verified and reputable seller and ensure its weight does not exceed your state’s limits.

Knowing the weight of a shipping container will help you make an ideal decision when making a purchase. You don’t want to end up with a lightweight 10ft container that is barely enough for your storage applications or a heavyweight 40 ft. container that you don’t need. Or, do you?

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  • One Response

    1. Ney Ryan,
      Thanks for writing this, it was really helpful! It’s interesting to see the weight differences between standard and high cube containers.

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