How Much Is a Shipping Container?

Curious about shipping container prices? Dive into this article for insights on how much they cost and the factors influencing their pricing.

Jim Sharkey
July 9, 2023
Couple of shipping containers

Shipping containers are essential to global trade, allowing goods to be transported across vast distances efficiently. Understanding the factors that affect shipping container prices is crucial for businesses looking to optimize their shipping processes. 

This article will explore the critical considerations regarding shipping container prices and provide insights to help you make informed decisions. Mochila Fulfillment, with our expertise in various shipping solutions, is here to guide you through the complexities of container shipping.

What Factors Affect Shipping Container Prices?

Shipping container prices can be influenced by various factors that impact the cost of transporting goods globally. Understanding these factors is essential for businesses seeking cost-effective shipping solutions. 

Let's explore the key elements that can affect shipping container prices and dive into the intricacies of international shipping economics:


The size of a shipping container is one of the primary factors influencing its price. Standard shipping containers come in several sizes, including 20-foot and 40-foot options, widely used in the industry. 

Larger containers tend to cost more due to their increased capacity and versatility. However, choosing a size that aligns with your shipping needs is essential to avoid unnecessary expenses.


The condition of a shipping container is another crucial factor that affects its price. Containers can be classified as new, used, or refurbished: 

  • New containers are in pristine condition and typically come with a higher price tag. 
  • Used containers may show wear and tear but are still structurally sound for shipping purposes. 
  • Refurbished containers have undergone repairs and maintenance to extend their lifespan. 

Choosing the appropriate condition can help you balance cost and quality depending on your budget and specific requirements.


The location from which you ship your goods can impact shipping container prices. Shipping from busy ports or regions with high container demand may lead to higher costs due to logistical factors. 

Transporting containers to more remote or less accessible areas can incur additional expenses. It's essential to consider the location of your shipping operations and the availability of containers in that region to make cost-effective decisions.


Selecting the right supplier for shipping containers is crucial. Prices can vary depending on the supplier's reputation, quality of service, and the condition of the containers they offer. 

It's advisable to work with reliable suppliers with a track record of delivering quality containers promptly. Building strong partnerships with reputable suppliers can ensure consistent availability of containers at competitive prices.

Market Demand

Like any commodity, shipping container prices can be influenced by market demand. Fluctuations in global trade and economic factors can impact container availability and pricing. 

During periods of high demand, such as peak shipping seasons, prices may rise due to increased competition for container resources. Monitoring market trends and understanding supply and demand dynamics can help you anticipate price changes and make informed decisions.

What Factors Should I Consider When Deciding Whether To Ship Via Air or Ocean?

When shipping goods internationally, one of the critical decisions you'll need to make is whether to opt for air or ocean shipping. Each method has its advantages and considerations, and understanding the factors involved can help you make an informed choice:


Cost is a significant factor when deciding between air and ocean shipping.

Generally, air shipping is more expensive compared to ocean shipping. Air freight rates are typically calculated based on the weight and volume of the goods, which can significantly impact the overall cost.

Ocean shipping rates are usually determined by the size of the container and the distance traveled. 

If you have time-sensitive or high-value goods, air shipping might be the preferred option, despite the higher cost. However, if cost optimization is a priority and your shipment is less time-sensitive, ocean shipping is often more economical.

Environmental Impact

Environmental sustainability is becoming increasingly important in logistics and supply chain management. 

Air shipping has a higher carbon footprint than ocean shipping due to aircraft fuel consumption. If your business aims to reduce its environmental impact, opting for ocean shipping might align better with your sustainability goals. 

Ocean freight generally emits fewer greenhouse gasses per cargo unit than airfreight. However, it's worth noting that advancements in aircraft technology and the use of more fuel-efficient planes are gradually reducing the environmental impact of air shipping.


The speed of delivery is a critical consideration when choosing between air and ocean shipping. Air shipping is the fastest option, especially for long-distance or international fulfillment. Airfreight can often deliver goods within days, making it ideal for time-sensitive products or urgent fulfillment needs. 

Ocean shipping is slower, typically taking weeks or even months for goods to reach their destination. If your fulfillment can tolerate longer transit times, ocean shipping can still be viable and cost-effective.


Another aspect to consider is the predictability of delivery times. Air shipping generally offers more predictable schedules and delivery times than ocean shipping. Airfreight operates on well-established routes and schedules, allowing for greater reliability in terms of transit times. 

Ocean shipping can be subject to various factors that may cause delays, such as adverse weather conditions, port congestion, or customs clearance processes. If timing and predictability are crucial to your supply chain operations, air shipping provides more certainty.

How Do I Prepare for Potential Delays?

Delays in the shipping process can occur for various reasons, ranging from port congestion to unforeseen logistical challenges. It's essential to be proactive and prepared to minimize the impact of potential delays. 

Here are some steps you can take to mitigate the risk:

Have Backups for Ports

If your fulfillment involves multiple ports or transshipment points, consider having backup options if one of the ports experiences delays or issues. This can help you avoid significant disruptions in the supply chain and ensure that your goods continue to move smoothly.

Cost of Delays

Delays can incur additional costs, such as storage fees, demurrage, or detention charges. It's crucial to factor in these potential expenses when planning your budget and pricing strategies. 

Understanding the financial implications of delays can help you make informed decisions and adjust your shipping arrangements accordingly.


Demurrage refers to the charges incurred when a container is not returned within the agreed-upon free period at the port. To minimize demurrage costs, ensure efficient coordination and communication with the relevant parties involved, including carriers, customs brokers, and fulfillment center operators. 

Proper planning and documentation can help streamline the process and avoid unnecessary charges.


Detention charges apply when containers are not returned to the shipping line within the agreed-upon timeframe. Optimize your supply chain operations to prevent detention costs by coordinating closely with your transportation and logistics partners. 

Efficient container utilization and effective communication can help avoid delays in returning containers and mitigate potential charges.

What Other Costs Should I Be Aware of?

In addition to shipping container prices and potential delays, you should be aware of other costs associated with international shipping. These costs can impact your overall budget and profitability. 

Here are some key considerations:


Drayage refers to transporting goods by truck or other short-distance methods, typically from a port to a fulfillment center or vice versa. Drayage costs can vary depending on the distance, location, and specific requirements of the fulfillment. 

It's important to factor in drayage expenses when calculating your total shipping costs to ensure accurate budgeting.

Customs Clearance

When shipping goods internationally, customs clearance is necessary to comply with import and export regulations. Customs clearance involves documentation, inspections, and payment of duties or taxes. 

Customs brokerage fees and potential customs duties should be considered as part of your overall shipping costs. Working with experienced customs brokers or freight forwarders can help streamline the customs clearance process and ensure compliance.

Bottom Line

In international shipping, understanding the factors that affect shipping container prices, deciding between air and ocean shipping, preparing for potential delays, and being aware of additional costs are crucial steps in optimizing your shipping processes. 

By considering these factors and making informed choices, you can ensure efficient and cost-effective shipping operations for your business. For example, here at Mochila, our expertise in ecommerce fulfillment for modern brands can provide tailored solutions and guidance to meet your shipping needs. 

Contact me today to discuss your specific shipping challenges and explore how we can assist you in achieving seamless and reliable shipping operations. Together, we can navigate the complexities of container shipping and drive your business forward.


Shipping Container | ScienceDirect Topics

Demurrage Definition | Investopedia

Environmental Performance: Comparison of CO2 Emissions by Different Modes of Transport | International Chamber of Shipping

Basic Importing and Exporting | U.S. Customs and Border Protection

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