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How Much Does it Cost to Transport a Shipping Container?

How Much Does it Cost to Transport a Shipping Container?

Whether you are moving a shipping container full of goods or are building a shipping container home, transportation is a serious consideration. Making sure that you can get your container where it needs to go is a good way to plan out your project. When you transport a shipping container, there are a lot of factors at play. Knowing everything you can about how much it costs to transport a shipping container can help you be prepared and make the most of it. 

transport a shipping container

What to Consider When You Transport a Shipping Container

There are many things you need to consider when you transport a shipping container.


The weight of the container is a big consideration when you have to move it. Depending on the company you are using and your method of transportation, you may have to end up paying more or less. If you are using the container to ship goods, you will want to maximize the weight as much as possible. If you are moving it to build a home, you can transport it empty and end up saving a lot of money. 


When you transport a shipping container, the size is also incredibly important. It will certainly be cheaper to move a 20-foot container than it will be to move a 40-foot container. Knowing this going in will help you plan out your transportation accordingly. If, for example, you can get away with using a 20-foot container, you can end up saving money in the long run. 


The distance that you need to transport a shipping container is probably the biggest factor in the price. Moving a container across the yard is certainly less expensive than moving it across the world. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about the distance you have to transport a shipping container. The best thing you can do for yourself is be ready for the higher cost when it is necessary.

transport a shipping container

Cost By Distance 

Moving a Shipping Container Across your Property

Moving a container across your property is most likely going to be the cheapest job there is. In most cases, you will only need it to be moved a few feet. While you can drag the container with a truck, this will most likely damage the property and could be dangerous, depending on the circumstances. Using a crane to move the container, which is recommended, it will cost less than $1,000 and will usually only take a few hours. 

Moving a Shipping Container Across the City

When transporting a shipping container across a city, you have to get a hauling company to do it. In general, you will also have to rent a crane to get it on the truck unless you hire a company that specializes in containers. Because of this, you will have to pay a setup fee, which will probably be less than $1,000. After that, it will likely be between $2 and $5 per mile to move the actual container and will take a few hours, depending on the distance. 

Moving a Shipping Container Across the State

Having to transport a shipping container across a state for moving or construction is a fairly simple process. Like moving it across a city, you will have to pay the setup fee for loading the container on the truck. You can generally use a regional hauler to do the job as they will be familiar with the process and can help walk you through it. Just like moving it across the city, it will be about $1,000 plus $2 to $5 per mile. 

Moving a Shipping Container Across the Country 

Moving a container across the country is a little more complex. In most cases, you will want to use a shipping broker to take care of everything. Shipping brokers find you the best possible companies to do the work and will usually move your container with other containers at the same time. The cost of this will depend heavily on the broker you use and the circumstances of the move. 

Moving a Shipping Container Across the World

Having to transport a shipping container across the world is even more complicated, but there are a lot of options available to you. In general, you will want to use a freight brokerage specializing in international shipping. They will get your container on a ship along with other containers heading to the same port. From there, you will have to arrange for hauling to its destination. All in all, this will most likely cost a few thousand dollars, but you will have to get an individual quote from the freight broker. 

transport a shipping container

How to Prepare Your Shipping Container for Transport

Before you can transport a shipping container, you have to get it ready. Preparing a shipping container for transport is the best thing you can do if you want it to go smoothly. By taking the time to properly prep, you can avoid the headaches of broken items, extra fees, and lost inventory. A little extra preparation will be well worth it in the long run. 

Achieve the Proper Weight

Before you can transport a shipping container, getting it to the right weight is crucial. You will most likely pay for a certain weight with the freight company, and you do not want to go over that agreed-upon number. The best way to go about it is to know the weight of the container itself and then weigh the items that are going into it. Keep a detailed list of the weights, and make sure you don’t go over your quoted weight by the end. 

Secure Items

You need to be sure that you secure all the items in your shipping container before it leaves. Use ratchet tie-down straps to hold everything in place to the sides of the container. You should also put any heavy items in the container first and put them against the walls. This prevents them from moving around and crushing the more fragile items in the middle of the container. 

Make an Inventory List

Keep a detailed inventory of the items that are going into your shipping container. You want to be certain that you are moving everything in one trip so you don’t waste money on a second one. This list will also come in handy if you are shipping something internationally. The freight company will want a detailed manifest, so making this as you are packing is the right way to go about it. 

Equipment Needed to Move Your Container

Depending on where you are going to transport a shipping container, you have a variety of equipment to choose from. Things like the weight, distance, and contents will all dictate what equipment you need. If, for example, you are moving a shipping container home, you will want to pick the most stable method. A freight broker will help you find the perfect solution for your particular situation. 

Container Gantry Crane

Perhaps the most popular way to transport a shipping container is with a container gantry crane. However, these cranes are massive and are usually permanently fixed at a port where containers come off and go on ships. A container gantry crane will be used if you are shipping a container across the world and it can be done in just a few minutes. They are incredibly stable and will keep all the contents in place as the container is moved. 


Most of the time, you will use a standard crane to move a shipping container across your property. Renting a crane and an operator is fairly inexpensive and will be the easiest way to go about the process. A crane will attach to the bottom of the container and can usually keep it stable as it is moved. This eliminates the need for securing things too tightly and makes the whole transportation very simple. 

transport a shipping container

Truck Mounted Crane

In some cases, you can use a truck-mounted crane to transport a shipping container. However, this will only be appropriate for moving the container a few feet and there are fairly strict weight limits. Because of this, you may only want to use a truck-mounted crane if you are moving an empty container. However, it can be very inexpensive to transport a shipping container this way, so it can end up being well worth the restrictions. 

Container Chassis 

One of the more common ways to transport a shipping container is to use a dedicated container chassis and move it with a truck. Oftentimes, when you see a big rig on the highway, it will be using a container chassis instead of a dedicated trailer. These chassis can have the container loaded right onto them and eliminate the need for filling a trailer. Plus, you can move it just a few feet without having to worry about renting a crane for the whole day. 

Tilt Bed Trailer Side Loader / Lifter

Some containers can be moved with a tilt bed trailer on a truck, which is specially designed for moving heavy items like shipping containers without having to lift them off the ground. Instead, the bed can be tilted and the container can be towed up onto the bed, which is then flattened again. This can be a fairly simple way to transport a shipping container but it has to be a small one and it most likely will have to be empty so it can be light enough to get on the trailer. 


If you want to transport a shipping container that is very small, you can use a forklift that is heavy-duty enough for the job. For short containers, you can use a forklift to engage with the bottom bracket and transport a shipping container from a very small distance. This is perfect if you are just moving it a few feet and don’t want to bother with an entire crane that will be a big expense and a difficult process. However, the container needs to be small and it needs to be empty if you are going to be able to move it effectively and safely. 

Hydraulic Lifting Jack

For very small containers, you can sometimes move them using two hydraulic lifting jacks. These jacks are like small forklifts that are pushed instead of driven. It is entirely possible to transport a shipping container a few feet using two of these jacks on either side of the container. In fact, many containers have bottom brackets that are specifically designed for this exact purpose. It is very important, though, that you adhere to all the proper safety regulations and that you are certified to use the jack in a professional capacity. 

transport a shipping container

Mechanical Lifting Jack

Just like a hydraulic lifting jack, a mechanical lifting jack can be used to transport a shipping container. However, this method is not recommended. There are very few mechanical lifts that are rated to move something as heavy as a steel shipping container. That being said, if you have a small container that is completely empty and need to move it only a few inches, this could be a viable solution. Just make sure that you are not exceeding the weight limit of the jack and that everything is done correctly before you begin and risk hurting yourself or others. 


Knowing how much it costs to transport a shipping container can be incredibly helpful when the time comes to move one. While the true cost will depend heavily on things like the size of the container and the distance you want to move it, you can have a rough estimate based on the methods. Being as prepared for the transportation as possible will help you save money and make sure that everything gets to its destination in one piece. 

If you would like more information, check out the rest of There, you will find all kinds of tips and tricks from the pros as well as our new complete program for building a shipping container home. This comprehensive guide will give you step-by-step instructions for every aspect of the build. Using this program, you can build the home of your dreams!

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Container Home Hub is not a shipping container home construction company. While we do our best to make sure our information is accurate, please contact a professional shipping container home builder for information. Container Home Hub is also a blog and does not independently sell shipping container houses and/or shipping container house plans. Container Home Hub currently uses advertisements from a third-party advertising site in addition to occasional affiliate links.