Container Shipping Costs UK

2021 Rates and Information

That’s right, it’s everyone’s favourite dinnertime discussion topic, UK container shipping costs! Look, we are well aware that this isn’t the most exhilarating subject, but buckle in, because thorough research can help save you both time and money. It is hard to know what size, style or service you need, but by the end of this article you will be experts on the matter!

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Container Shipping Costs from the UK

Let’s get the heavy stuff out the way first, and help you work out how much it costs to ship a container overseas. Unfortunately, there is no one-size fits all answer to this question. Container shipping rates depend on several factors, namely the type of transportation you take, the volume of your move and the destination.

We know this wishy-washy answer is probably not what you want to hear, which is why we have put together the following tables indicating estimates for container shipping costs of transporting a container port-to-port, via sea, for a 20ft container (approx. 3-bed house) and a 40ft container (approx. 5-bed house).

Cost of Container Shipping from the UK to:

USA£1,800 – £1,970£2,400 – £2,600
Canada£1,900 – £2,070£2,500 – £2,700
Australia£1,340 – £1,490£1,770 – £2,000
New Zealand£1,500 – £1,700£2,050 – £2,300
South Africa£1,300 – £1,500£1,700 – £2,000
Japan£1,500 – £1,750£2,080 – £2,300
Dubai£1,200- £1,350£1,800 – £2,000

Disclaimer. These figures are estimates. The actual price will vary depending on port of departure, port of arrival, availability of containers, and services.

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Factors that Influence Container Shipping Costs

Understanding what contributes to container shipping rates is the first step to cutting costs and feeling more in control of your move.

Volume of Your MoveIt goes without saying, that transporting a few boxes will cost less than a 5-bedroom house. For sea-freight, the volume is more important (and it’s very easy to calculate the volume). However, weight will determine container shipping rates for air-freight.

Distance of Your MoveAgain, this one isn’t rocket science: hopping across the channel to France will cost you substantially less than travelling 9,000 miles to Australia. But the choice of port-to-port or door-to-door will affect your international container shipping costs too. While more expensive, we still recommend door-to-door delivery, unless of course you fancy carrying a 20-foot container yourself…thought not…

Exact Departure and Arrival PortThe exact port you are leaving from and travelling into affects your container shipping costs as popular routes will be cheaper than more obscure ones, competition drives down prices. Also, consider customs duties and service can be charged and will vary from country to country.

Time of Year of Your MoveAn easy way to save on your container shipping costs is to avoid the moving industry’s high season. Moving during summer, when demand is higher and therefore capacity lower, tends to be more expensive than other times of the year.

Mode of TransportIs saving on your container shipping costs of the speed your belongings reach you your priority? There is no right or wrong answer, but whether you pop your container in a plane or on a boat will influence your container shipping rates.

Note: Air travel is only an option if you have a small volume of goods, less than a one-bedroom apartment. Otherwise, it won’t fit!

container shipping costs

What Modes of Transport Can You Use?

As we mentioned, the type of transport you opt for will influence your container shipping costs. However, there is more to think about than just money when deciding. Below, you can learn more about the pros and cons of each mode of transport.

Sea Freight

This is what most common method of overseas shipping, and most container shipping costs are based on it. So, if you are completing an international move, which is of significant volume and weight, this is likely to be your only option.

✅ Pros

  • Affordably covers long distances.
  • Usually the cheapest option.
  • Far more eco-friendly than air-freight.
  • Best choice for larger volumes.

❌ Cons

  • Can take a long time for your container to arrive.

Air Freight

This is a good option if you have a small volume of goods, time is of the essence, and the costs of container shipping are not a concern. If you have the budget, it is a very efficient mode of transport.

✅ Pros

  • Very quick; your container will arrive in just a few days.

❌ Cons

  • Expect high costs; up to ten times more than sea freight!
  • Only an option if you are transporting a small volume of things.
  • Bad for the environment.


Virtually all moves will include a truck at some point. Moves within the same country or continent will usually be done entirely by the same company. However, UK container shipping tends to be a little more complicated, given that we live on an island… It therefore goes without saying that this becomes problematic for any international move from the UK, unless you can invent a truck with wings of course!

✅ Pros

  • Can complete the entire move with a single company.
  • Door-to-door delivery.

❌ Cons

  • Only possible for domestic moves, countries with ferry connections or connected by tunnel.


Again, this only applies if you are travelling across land, which is not all that common when relocating from the UK. However, it is something worth considering if you don’t have any oceans to cross!

✅ Pros

  • Usually cheaper than by lorry.

❌ Cons

  • Usually takes longer than travelling via truck.
  • Only applicable to moves on specific rail connected routes.

container shipping costs with all the containers

Types and Sizes Available

Types of Container Shipping

So, you thought everything was decided now? Think again…Yes, along with the mode of transport, you also have to choose what type of shipping container best fits your need. Again, what you end up going for will have an effect on your final container shipping costs.

So, before you start discussing this with your mover, it’s better to be informed. Of course, if you don’t have a mover, you should check out our list of top international UK movers!

LCL versus FCL

Sharing is caring! Container shipping companies offere Less Than Container Load (LCL) for those who are only transporting a small volume of things; you can share your container with others travelling to a similar destination. Think of this like public transport!

On the other side, there’s Full Container Load (FCL) which just means that you’ll have the container to yourself. Obviously, this more ideal for when you’ll fill the container and there won’t be much room to spare.

You might be thinking, if it is possible to share a container with someone else, why not always do this? You are right, it seems sensible but as mentioned, it only lowers your container shipping costs if you have a small volume of possessions. Well, price isn’t difference between LCL and FCL, we’ve outlined a couple more below:


SpeedSlower – you need to wait for othersQuicker – Once you’re loaded it’s ready to go
Ideal forA volume of 15m3 or lessA volume greater than 15m3
CostPay for what you usePay for the whole container
SecurityWith more loading and unloading, things can sometimes get damaged or lostOnce loaded, it’ll only be opened again when being unloaded
What about a car?Not recommendedA car can easily fit with your belongings

Container Shipping Sizes

Hang in there, you are doing really well; but you also need to consider what size of shipping container you require. This too will influence your final container shipping cost calculations.

It is both a blessing a curse that you don’t usually have many options in this department as most containers are either 20-foot or 40-foot. A blessing because it makes decision-making easier, but a curse as it can be frustrating if neither quite suit your needs. If you are moving a very large volume, then you may need more than one container.

Typical dimensions of a 20ft shipping container

A 20ft container can hold around 30-35 cubic metres and is normally suitable for a 1-3 bedroom move.

What can you fit in a 20 ft container

Size: 6.1m x 2.4m x 2.6m

Total volume: 33.1 m³

Total shipping load: 28,200 kg

Typical dimensions of a 40ft shipping container

A 40ft container can hold around 65-75 cubic metres and is normally suitable for a 4+ bedroom move.

Tip! While a 40ft container has twice the volume of a 20ft container, it cannot carry twice the amount of cargo weight due to the weight of the container itself.

What can you fit in a 40 ft container

Size: 12.2m x 2.4m x 2.6m

Total volume: 67.5 m³

Total shipping load: 26,600 kg

Loading and Delivery Options

Thought you were done? Think again, but this is the final thing! Loading and delivery options are another thing to factor into your container shipping rates. While these are often incorporated into your removal quotes, it is important understand the specific terms to prevent any miscommunications.

Disclaimer: if you have chosen to go with an LCL, then the following options will not be available to you, so we suggest you skip past this section.

  • Port to portAs its name suggests, your goods will be shipped from one port to the other, but you are responsible for getting your goods to and from the ports. However, it will shave some expenses off your container shipping costs.
  • Drop and fill – This is when the container is dropped off at your house, and you fill it yourself. It’s up to you on how you fill it, but you might want professional help to make sure things don’t move around on the trip.
  • Door to door – Don’t enjoy a logistical headache? You are not alone; despite being the most expensive option, door to door shipping is still the more popular than both port to port and drop and fill. So, unless your container shipping cost budget is really digging for coppers, we strongly suggesting opting for door-to-door delivery.

Other International Moving Costs

Pop on your graduation robes because you are now officially container shipping cost experts! However, there is a little more to moving house than simply container shipping rates, so we have done a brief summary of international moving costs here.

  • Shipping cars – Car shipping costs vary tremendously depending on how quickly you need your car and which shipping method you use. If you want to know more, you can read our page on vehicle shipping.
  • Insurance – There is no beating round the bush here; putting your worldly possessions into the hands of someone else is stressful. Make it a little less so by covering yourself with insurance.
  • Customs charges and taxes – Before you move abroad, check the regulations of your destination country to see if you will have any taxes or duties imposed on the value of your goods.
  • Packing costs – Sometimes this will be included in your removal company costs. If not, then check out our expert packing guide.
  • Storage costs – If you are not relocating permanently, it might be cheaper to put some items in storage than to lug them all with you. Our page on moving items into storage has more information.

Ready for Your Overseas Move?

First of all, congratulations! Even making it to the end of this article is something to be proud of. Moving house is a stressful task, but now that you know everything about container shipping costs, you are one step closer to your final destination. In case you might be in need of further assistance organising your move overseas, we recommend checking out the pages we have linked for you below. 🙂

If you are feeling disheartened, take a leaf out of Confucius’ book and remember: the man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.