How to Pack a Shipping Container When Moving

Is packing a shipping container easy? If it’s your first time, we’re here to tell you that it’s much more than just loading up your belongings. It requires lots of preparation and understanding of loading strategies prior to packing your items into the container.

This ensures you won’t damage your household goods and that nothing moves during transportation. We’ll give you the tips you need to know to become an expert at packing your goods to ensure the shipping process goes smoothly.

How to Pack a Shipping Container When Moving

1. Create a Plan

One of the best tips for moving is to build a plan centered around what you need to get done. Before you decide to pack everything into your shipping container, it’s best to decide what you’d like to keep and what to discard.

Having fewer items to pack just means less time loading and potentially saving on the number of shipping containers or reducing the size of container you need to purchase. For us, we always make a list of all the items to keep such as furniture, TV set, dressers and others.

Also, consider the following factors before packing your household items:

  • Amount of space you’ll need
  • The order of placement that your household items should be loaded
  • Length of time in which you’ll need your items and how long before it ships
  • Weight of your items
  • Layout of your new home
  • Number of boxes you’ll need
  • Any sharp or fragile items like glass jars

Remember to calculate the cost of moving such as buying shipping supplies, boxes, hiring people to help move, and renting a storage facility. It’s best to obtain a quote about the cost of renting a storage container.

For example, a 20-foot storage container costs about $2000 to $3000, while a 40-foot container costs between $2200 to $4500. Gather your quote from multiple sources since one quote may be cheaper than the other. Prices vary based on the condition, age, delivery fees, size, and the seller.

2. Buy Shipping Supplies

girl bubble wrapping items to pack

When boxing up your items, it’s best to label them to avoid being disorganized when unpacking and to handle the fragile items with care. Make sure to organize the cardboard boxes by quantity and size. So what supplies should you purchase?

  • Various size boxes designed for moving
  • Box cutter
  • Bubble wrap
  • Sealing boxes and packing tape
  • Snacks and water
  • Moving blanks
  • Stretch wraps
  • Dollie
  • Furniture pads
  • Paper pads
  • Loading straps

3. Protect Your Belongings

Always remember to protect your belongings to prevent potential damage to your products especially for fragile or heavier items. It’s a good idea to utilize plywood sheeting, so your items don’t move and bubble wrap to add an extra layer of protection.

In addition, you’ll need bungee cords, ratchet straps, and ropes to secure the container in place. The last thing you need is the container doors swinging wide open while traveling to your destination country.

If you plan on undergoing an ocean transit, you can prevent water damage inside your storage container by having moisture control products such as a weather-protected vent, moisture-absorbing poles, dehumidifiers, and a container lining along the wall of the container.

4. Pack Your Items

couple packing a container home

Use bubble wrap to safeguard your items, especially fragile ones. When packing, package small items such as coffee mugs, paintings, and tea bags should include paper filling and a bubble wrap for each box to prevent items from breaking.

While you’re packaging your boxes or anything with an opening like a dresser, seal or tape them shut so they don’t shuffle around on the floor. Another option to ensure everything is protected and fits into your shipping container is to dismantle your furniture in advance.

For example, you can remove the legs from couches and tables or take away the bed frames into a box before you move. Once you’re in your new home, you can put everything back together. You’ll just want to label every box so it’s easy to unload when next to each other.

5. Determine How to Load Items Into Shipping Containers

Everything will run much more smoothly if you plan in advance. Always pack the heavier items on the floor and add the lighter items on top. Leave as little empty space as possible. Heavy items like furniture should go in first and lighter items that fit in a box should go on top or next to each other.

Place mattresses should be placed on one side of the container. Always consider the weight distribution throughout the container. When packing, never load too many heavy items on one side. Instead have hefty items on both sides of the container.

When weight is one-sided, it can easily topple over once the vehicle makes any sudden stops or sharp turns. Ask yourself if you are maximizing your storage space and using it as efficiently as possible throughout the container.

6. Load the Storage Container

Once you know your plan for packing your items, you can easily begin loading everything from the lot into the storage containers immediately. Begin loading your goods onto the floor and check off the items on your list as you go. Remember to load heavy items first.

Pack your belongings tightly to eliminate shifting during transport. Find a way to create more floor space such as by standing furniture up on the wall or the sides of the container. Exhaust every option to fill up space to prevent movement during sudden turns or steep tilting.

Ideally, your driver will transport slowly to prevent things flying from wall to wall. A great way to ensure your furniture stays in one piece is to add plastic sofa covers, packing blankets, and even cardboard sheets placed between any wood pieces on the floor.

Follow the tips from United Moving Experts to learn how to efficiently load your storage container efficiently with your home goods.

7. Complete a Final Check and Lock-Up

reviewing shipping container packing from employees

Once everything is loaded up, it’s time to do a final check to ensure that you didn’t miss anything. Make sure that everything from furniture to appliances and even smaller things are loaded up. Go through your entire inventory list and cross-check to ensure nothing is in danger of breaking.

Double-check that space is utilized properly and weight is distributed along the floor evenly. Once you’re certain that the contents are safe and secure, you can use a key or padlock to lock the storage container.

Consider keeping the container at a storage facility overnight until the day of transport. When your ready to move off of the lot, check with the driver to see if everything is secure for takeoff. Personally, we like to use a heavy-duty steel combination cargo door lock, since it provides the most security.

Space Requirements

If this is your first time moving, you’re probably unsure about which sizes to get for your shipping containers. Three common sizes for a storage container are 10 feet, 20 feet, and 40 feet. Most people end up selecting the 20 foot or 40-foot container, however, choose the best option that fits your needs.

Here are the basic space requirements for each size:

  • 10 Foot: Hold the contents of approximately two-thirds of a room, a small one-bed flat, or 441 boxes. This storage container is ideal for students.
  • 20 Foot: Fits the contents of up to a standard two-bedroom apartment. For reference, this container holds 400 flat-screen TVs, 60 refrigerators, 200 full-sized mattresses, or 912 boxes.
  • 40 Foot: Holds household items of up to a three-bedroom apartment including items that would belong in your dining room, living room, and kitchen. This is equivalent to 1953 boxes of storage.

Remember to get a quote for each container as prices for them may vary.


Can you put a car in a shipping container?

Cars may be safely packed into a shipping container to transport them to their desired destination. Vehicles must be prepped prior to loading the container to prevent dents, scratches or other damages. Make sure to disconnect the car battery, take out the fuel, and clean the car prior to storage.

It’s helpful to use cleaning products like car wax and window glass cleaners. Most storage containers that load cars are between 20 to 40 feet. For reference, a 20-foot container is equivalent to one parking space.

How do you load furniture in a container?

Load furniture items against the wall and make sure to pack them snugly into the container. Start by placing the larger furniture on the floor first and fill in the gaps with smaller items on top or the sides.

You may use household goods such as blankets, sheets, and pillows to prevent any scratching or excessive movement during transport.

How much weight can a shipping container hold?

Shipping containers may vary in their weight capacity. However, 20 feet containers typically have a higher capacity than 40 feet ones since it weighs much less. Typically, the maximum weight a container can hold is up to 67,200 pounds.

But this will vary, so make sure to check with the seller prior to loading and unloading.

How many boxes fit in a 40-foot container?

A 40-foot container has the capacity to hold about roughly 1953 banker boxes inside. Also, these containers can fit about 23 to 24 euro pallets.


Creating a plan and understanding the entire shipping process helps make the loading and unloading of your storage container much more efficient. Remember to invest in a high-quality lock to protect your belongings from damage. We hope you’ve found our loading tips to be helpful.

If you have questions for us or need more information about how to successfully move your belongings, comment below this post. It’s imperative for us to provide the most up to date and the best strategies to make moving as easy as possible. Make sure to weigh out every option and contact a freight broker if you’re considering using a storage container.

Let us help you make this journey less stressful! As a recap, here’s how are actionable tips to remember when packing your things into a shipping container:

  • Create an inventory list and plan for your move.
  • Remember to determine what things to keep and things to throw away before moving to your new home.
  • Gather shipping supplies.
  • Pack your things securely into boxes or cover them.
  • Begin mass loading your boxes, appliances, furniture, and other things into the storage container.
  • Consider using a storage unit or finding a way to protect your goods such as getting insurance.
  • Lock up your storage container.
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  • 3 Responses

    1. It really helped when you described how we’d pack our belongings and load them onto a shipping container for our move. We’re moving to another city, so we decided to rent shipping containers to help protect our stuff, and we believe your insight will make our packaging process easier. My wife and I are grateful for your tips on creating a shipping plan to make sure we load and unload our stuff successfully.

    2. Thank you for explaining how you can load furniture into a shipping container. We’ve been thinking about using a shipping container for storage and to help with moving. I’ll be sure to keep your advice in mind so we can keep everything organized and intact.

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