Shipping Container Cost: A Comprehensive Guide for eCommerce Companies

prices of shipping containers

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prices of shipping containers

In the world of eCommerce, shipping containers play a crucial role in transporting goods across the globe. But how much does it actually cost to lease or buy a shipping container? In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the various factors that influence shipping container costs and provide valuable insights for eCommerce companies. From understanding container sizes to optimizing your supply chain, we’ll cover everything you need to know to control shipping container expenses effectively.

Factors Affecting Shipping Container Cost

The cost of shipping a container can vary significantly depending on several key factors. Let’s take a closer look at these factors and how they can impact your container shipping expenses.

Container Size

Container size is one of the primary factors that determine shipping container costs. The most commonly used sizes in the eCommerce industry are the 40-foot and 20-foot containers. These sizes are ideal for delivering goods to fulfillment centers and distribution centers. While smaller containers may cost less to ship overall, their non-standard sizes can make them more expensive due to the challenges in loading and handling.

Origin and Destination

The origin and destination of your shipment also play a significant role in determining shipping container costs. International shipping fees vary widely depending on the distance between ports and the specific ports involved. For example, shipping a container from Shanghai to the Port of Los Angeles is generally faster and less expensive than shipping the same container to New York. It’s important to consider these factors when estimating your shipping container expenses.

Market Conditions

Market conditions, such as supply and demand, can have a significant impact on shipping container costs. During times of high demand and container shortages, prices can skyrocket. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a shortage of containers, leading to a sharp increase in shipping prices. Keeping an eye on market conditions and working closely with your fulfillment partner or freight forwarder can help you navigate these fluctuations and control your container shipping costs.

Special Handling Needs

Certain types of cargo may require special handling, such as wet cargo or hazardous materials. These additional requirements can increase shipping container costs due to the need for specialized equipment and handling procedures. It’s essential to factor in any special handling needs when estimating your container shipping expenses.

Cost of Leasing a Shipping Container

Leasing a shipping container is a common practice among eCommerce companies. Let’s delve into the various aspects of leasing a container and how it can impact your overall costs.

Lease Price

The lease price of a shipping container varies depending on factors such as container size, duration of the lease, and market conditions. During times of high demand, lease prices can increase significantly. On average, the cost of leasing a container can range from $1,200 to $7,500 domestically in the U.S. for a single shipment. It’s crucial to consider lease prices when budgeting for your container shipping expenses.

Volume Discounts

Many shipping companies offer volume discounts to customers who frequently lease containers. If your eCommerce business regularly ships large quantities of freight, it’s worth exploring these volume discount options. Negotiating favorable lease terms can help you save on container shipping costs in the long run.

Freight Forwarders

Working with a freight forwarder can be advantageous when it comes to controlling shipping container costs. Freight forwarders have established relationships with shipping companies, allowing them to secure better pricing and faster passage for your shipments. While you’ll need to pay for their services, the potential cost savings they can provide often outweigh their fees.

Cost of Buying a Used Shipping Container

Apart from leasing, buying a used shipping container is an increasingly popular option for various purposes, including storage, housing, and office spaces. Let’s explore the cost considerations associated with purchasing a used container.

Price Range

The price of a used shipping container depends on factors such as condition, size, and location. Generally, used containers can range from $1,000 to $2,500, with prices varying based on specific market conditions and the condition of the container. It’s important to consider delivery fees when budgeting for your container purchase, as the container will need to be hauled to your desired location.

Container Condition

Used containers are available in different conditions, ranging from cargo-worthy (CW) to wind and watertight (WWT) to as-is. The condition of the container will impact its price. If you require a container for international shipping or portable storage, a cargo-worthy container is typically recommended. For stationary or portable storage purposes, a wind and watertight container may suffice. Be sure to assess your needs and choose the appropriate condition to avoid additional maintenance and repair costs.

Versatility and Availability

Used containers offer versatility and are easily adaptable for various purposes. They can be repurposed for shipping, storage, housing, and more. The availability of used containers is often higher than that of new containers, as many container users sell their units to avoid additional charges and costs. This increased availability makes it easier for buyers to procure older containers at a reasonable price.

Drawbacks of Buying Used Containers

While buying used containers can be cost-effective, there are some drawbacks to consider. Used containers may come with certain risks and limitations, including leaks, dents, rust, and wear and tear. Their remaining lifespan may also be shorter compared to new containers, which have had limited or no trips. Additionally, customization options may be limited, and they may not meet the latest industry and compliance standards. It’s important to weigh these drawbacks against the cost savings when deciding whether to purchase a used container.

Optimizing Shipping Container Costs

While certain factors affecting shipping container costs may be beyond your control, there are steps you can take to optimize your container shipping expenses. Let’s explore some strategies to help you control and reduce your shipping container costs.

Palletizing vs. Floor Loading

Loading products onto pallets or floor-loading containers can impact your container shipping costs. Floor loading allows for more cargo space and may be cost-effective when shipping prices are high. However, floor-loaded goods are harder to secure and have a higher risk of damage during transport. Palletizing products onto sturdy wood pallets offers protection and easier handling. Unloading palletized cargo is quicker and requires fewer staff, reducing costs. Consider the nature of your goods and choose the most cost-effective loading method accordingly. prices of shipping containers

Strategic Warehouse Locations

Choosing warehouse locations strategically can contribute to cost savings in container shipping. While proximity to a port is advantageous for freight delivery, it may not be ideal for efficient order fulfillment. Consider warehouse locations that offer a balance between port accessibility and proximity to your customer base. Rail and trucking options should also be considered when selecting fulfillment warehouses. This careful consideration can help streamline your supply chain and reduce container transportation costs. prices of shipping containers

Avoiding Detention and Demurrage Charges

Detention and demurrage charges can significantly impact container shipping costs. These charges are imposed when a container is not returned to the port within a specific time frame. To avoid these extra fees, ensure efficient management of your supply chain and choose warehouses close to the port. Alternatively, you can book the container to its final destination at the warehouse to prevent detention and demurrage charges from accruing. prices of shipping containers


Understanding the factors that influence shipping container costs is essential for eCommerce companies. Whether you choose to lease or buy a container, careful consideration of container size, origin and destination, market conditions, and special handling needs is crucial. By optimizing your supply chain, exploring volume discounts, and considering alternative loading methods, you can effectively control and reduce your container shipping expenses. Remember to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of buying used containers and choose the option that best aligns with your business needs and budget. With a strategic approach to shipping container costs, you can enhance your profit margins and achieve success in the eCommerce industry.

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