Why Understanding 40-Foot Shipping Container Capacity is Important

When determining how many cubic feet in a 40 foot shipping container, you might be visualizing those massive metal boxes that crisscross the oceans, carrying goods around the world. Knowing the capacity of these containers is crucial for effective storage and transport.

So, how many cubic feet are we talking about?

Standard 40’ Container
Volume: 2,350 cubic feet (66.5 cubic meters)

High Cube 40’ Container
Volume: 2,694 cubic feet (76.3 cubic meters)

Shipping containers are more than just boxes—they’re key to modern logistics. They offer a practical solution for a range of applications, from personal storage and moving to safeguarding construction materials and vehicles. Designed to withstand the elements, these containers keep your goods dry and secure. They’re highly portable, which means you can easily relocate them as your needs change.

I’m Steve Hyndman, Vice President of Aztec Container. I’ve spent nearly three decades in the industry, helping businesses and individuals make the most of their 40-foot shipping containers. Whether new or used, these containers provide versatile and efficient storage solutions that meet various needs.

Overview of Shipping Container Capacities - how many cubic feet in a 40 foot shipping container infographic infographic-line-5-steps

What is a 40-Foot Shipping Container?

Standard vs. High Cube Containers

A 40-foot shipping container is a versatile storage and transport unit. It’s widely used in various industries for its robust build and ample space. But did you know there are two main types? Let’s dive into the details of standard and high cube containers.

Standard Containers

Standard 40-foot containers are the most common type you’ll see. They measure:

  • Height: 8 feet 6 inches (2.59 meters)
  • Width: 8 feet (2.44 meters)
  • Length: 40 feet (12.19 meters)

These dimensions make them suitable for most goods, from machinery to personal belongings. They can hold a volume of about 2,350 cubic feet (66.5 cubic meters).

standard container - how many cubic feet in a 40 foot shipping container

High Cube Containers

High cube containers are similar to standard ones but with an extra foot in height. Their dimensions are:

  • Height: 9 feet 6 inches (2.89 meters)
  • Width: 8 feet (2.44 meters)
  • Length: 40 feet (12.19 meters)

This extra height increases the volume to around 2,694 cubic feet (76.3 cubic meters). High cube containers are ideal for taller items or when you need to stack goods higher.

high cube container - how many cubic feet in a 40 foot shipping container


Standard vs. High Cube:
Height: Standard is 8’6″, High Cube is 9’6″
Volume: Standard holds 2,350 cubic feet, High Cube holds 2,694 cubic feet
Usage: Standard for general goods, High Cube for taller or stacked items

Fun Fact: About 18 pallets (220 cm tall) or 36 pallets (110 cm tall) can fit inside a standard 40-foot container, while a high cube can fit even more due to the extra height.

Whether you choose a standard or high cube container depends on your specific needs. Both types offer durability, security, and flexibility for various uses.

Next, we’ll explore how many cubic feet in a 40-foot shipping container and how to calculate it accurately.

How Many Cubic Feet in a 40-Foot Shipping Container?

Calculating Cubic Feet

Understanding how many cubic feet in a 40-foot shipping container is crucial for planning your storage or transportation needs. Let’s break it down.

Interior Volume

A standard 40-foot shipping container has exterior dimensions of 40 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8.5 feet high. However, the interior dimensions are slightly smaller due to the container’s walls and door thickness. Typically, the interior measures around 39.5 feet long, 7.7 feet wide, and 7.9 feet high.

To calculate the interior volume in cubic feet, you multiply these dimensions:

39.5 ft (length) x 7.7 ft (width) x 7.9 ft (height) ≈ 2,373 cubic feet

Loadable Volume

While the interior volume gives you a theoretical maximum, the loadable volume is what you can actually use. This is usually about 85-90% of the total volume due to the shape and size of the items being stored.

For example, if you aim for 90% efficiency:

2,373 cubic feet x 0.90 ≈ 2,136 cubic feet

Calculation Methods

To ensure you maximize your container space, follow these practical tips:

  • Measure Your Items: Knowing the dimensions of your items helps you plan the layout.
  • Use a Volume Calculator: Many online tools can help you estimate the volume of irregularly shaped items.
  • Stack Efficiently: Place heavier items on the bottom and lighter ones on top to avoid damage.


Here’s a simple formula to remember:

Interior Volume = Length x Width x Height

And for loadable volume:

Loadable Volume = Interior Volume x Efficiency Factor (0.85-0.90)


Let’s say you have an upright piano that measures 5 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 4 feet high. Its volume would be:

5 ft x 2 ft x 4 ft = 40 cubic feet

If you have 10 such pianos, they would take up:

10 x 40 cubic feet = 400 cubic feet

So, you could fit these pianos in your container with room to spare.

Practical Tips

  • Use Pallets: They help in organizing and stacking items efficiently.
  • Fill Gaps: Use smaller items or packing materials to fill gaps and prevent shifting during transit.
  • Label Everything: This makes unloading easier and prevents damage.

Next, we’ll convert these measurements to cubic meters and compare the two units.

How Many Cubic Meters in a 40-Foot Shipping Container?

Conversion Formula

To convert the volume of a 40-foot shipping container from cubic feet to cubic meters, you need to use a simple conversion factor. One cubic foot is equivalent to approximately 0.0283 cubic meters.

Here’s the formula:

Volume (CBM) = Volume (Cubic Feet) x 0.0283

Example Calculation

Let’s calculate the volume for a Standard 40-Foot Shipping Container first.

Standard 40-Foot Container:
Volume: 2,350 cubic feet

Using the formula:

2,350 cubic feet x 0.0283 = 66.5 cubic meters

For a High Cube 40-Foot Shipping Container, the volume is slightly larger.

High Cube 40-Foot Container:
Volume: 2,694 cubic feet

Using the formula:

2,694 cubic feet x 0.0283 = 76.3 cubic meters

Practical Tips for Conversion

  • Always Double-Check: Ensure your initial volume in cubic feet is accurate.
  • Use a Calculator: Small errors can lead to big mistakes. Using a calculator helps prevent this.
  • Know Your Container Type: Standard and High Cube containers have different volumes.

Comparison with Cubic Feet

Understanding both cubic feet and cubic meters is useful, especially if you’re working with international shipping where metric measurements are common.

  • Standard 40-Foot Container:
  • Cubic Feet: 2,350
  • Cubic Meters: 66.5

  • High Cube 40-Foot Container:

  • Cubic Feet: 2,694
  • Cubic Meters: 76.3

Practical Examples

Example 1: If you need to store furniture that occupies 1,000 cubic feet, you can convert this to cubic meters:

1,000 cubic feet x 0.0283 = 28.3 cubic meters

Example 2: Let’s say you’re shipping goods that take up 50 cubic meters. To find out how many cubic feet this is:

50 cubic meters ÷ 0.0283 ≈ 1,767 cubic feet

Practical Tips

  • Use Conversion Tables: These can save time and reduce errors.
  • Label Units Clearly: Always mark whether you are using cubic feet or cubic meters to avoid confusion.
  • Plan for Extra Space: Not every inch of the container will be usable due to the shape and size of your items.

Next, we’ll explore the practical uses of a 40-foot shipping container.

Practical Uses of a 40-Foot Shipping Container

Residential Uses

Moving and Storage

A 40-foot shipping container is perfect for moving and storing personal items. With an interior volume of approximately 2,390 cubic feet, it can hold the contents of a two- to three-bedroom apartment. This makes it ideal for families looking to move without multiple trips.

Tiny Homes

The trend of converting shipping containers into tiny homes is growing. A 40-foot container offers a sturdy, weather-resistant structure that can be easily modified. You can add windows, doors, and insulation to create a cozy living space. For instance, some people have turned these containers into eco-friendly homes with solar panels and rainwater collection systems.

Commercial Uses


In the retail sector, 40-foot containers are used for pop-up shops and temporary retail spaces. These containers are easy to transport and set up, making them ideal for seasonal sales or market testing. For example, many brands set up container shops during festivals or busy shopping seasons.


Construction companies often use 40-foot containers to store tools, materials, and equipment. The containers are secure and weatherproof, protecting valuable assets from theft and damage. Additionally, they can be moved around the site as needed, providing flexible storage solutions.


For warehousing, 40-foot containers offer a cost-effective alternative to traditional storage buildings. They can be used to store excess inventory or seasonal items. Their portability allows businesses to adapt quickly to changing storage needs. Some companies even stack these containers to maximize vertical storage space.


The primary use of 40-foot shipping containers is for transporting goods. They are designed to be easily loaded onto trucks, trains, and ships, making them versatile for global logistics. With a maximum cargo weight of 58,863.4 lbs, they can handle heavy loads, from machinery to bulk goods.


Various industries benefit from the use of 40-foot containers. In the oil and gas sector, they are used to store and transport equipment. The agriculture industry uses them for storing produce and farming tools. Even the education sector has adopted them for temporary classrooms and storage units.

In summary, a 40-foot shipping container offers versatile solutions for both residential and commercial needs. From moving and storage to retail and construction, these containers provide secure, flexible, and cost-effective options.

Next, let’s explore how to maximize space in a 40-foot shipping container.

How to Maximize Space in a 40-Foot Shipping Container

Using Pallets and Shelving

Packing Tips and Organization

Maximizing space in a 40-foot shipping container isn’t just about cramming everything in. It’s about smart packing, organization, and efficiency. Here are some tips:

  • Plan Ahead: Sketch a layout before you start loading. Think about weight distribution and the order of loading and unloading.
  • Stack Smart: Place heavier items at the bottom and lighter ones on top. This helps maintain balance.
  • Fill Gaps: Use dunnage or cushioning materials to fill gaps between items. This prevents movement and keeps everything stable during transit.

Pallet Types

There are two main types of pallets used in shipping containers: Standard Pallets (1.2m x 1m) and European Pallets (0.8m x 1.2m). Standard pallets fit better in ISO containers, allowing you to fit between 20 and 21 pallets in a 40-foot container.

Shelving Systems

Adding shelving can help you use vertical space effectively. Here are some tips:

  • Built-in Shelves: Install built-in shelves along the walls to keep the floor area clear.
  • Adjustable Shelves: Use adjustable shelving systems to accommodate different item sizes.

Protecting Your Items

Packing Materials

Using the right packing materials is crucial to protect your items:

  • Bubble Wrap and Newspaper: Great for wrapping fragile items.
  • Masking Tape: Secures wrapped items.
  • Towels and Blankets: Use these if you run out of standard packing materials. They help avoid scratches on furniture and mirrors.


Disassembling large items can save space:

  • Furniture: Take apart bed frames, tables, and other bulky furniture. This can save countless cubic feet.
  • Label Parts: Keep screws and small parts in labeled bags to make reassembly easier.

Securing Items

Ensure everything is secure to prevent damage:

  • Straps: Use straps to secure items to the container’s built-in lashing points.
  • Block Wheels: If you’re shipping a vehicle, block the wheels and secure it with lashing.

By following these tips, you can maximize the space in your 40-foot shipping container and ensure your items are safe and secure during transit.

Next, let’s dive into some frequently asked questions about 40-foot shipping containers.

Frequently Asked Questions about 40-Foot Shipping Containers

How many pallets can fit in a 40-foot container?

A 40-foot shipping container can fit a significant number of pallets, which makes it a popular choice for transporting goods. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Standard American pallets (40″ x 48″): You can fit about 20-21 pallets.
  • Euro pallets (31.5″ x 47.24″): You can fit about 23-24 pallets.

If you’re using a 40-foot high cube container, you can fit a bit more due to the extra height. This allows for better vertical stacking, accommodating more pallets if they are not too tall.

What is the weight capacity of a 40-foot container?

The weight capacity of a 40-foot container depends on whether it’s a standard or high cube model:

  • Standard 40-foot container:
  • Tare weight: Approximately 8,333.5 lbs (3,780 kgs)
  • Max cargo weight: About 58,863.4 lbs (26,700 kgs)

  • 40-foot high cube container:

  • Tare weight: Approximately 8,862.6 lbs (4,020 kgs)
  • Max cargo weight: About 58,334.3 lbs (26,460 kgs)

These containers are robust and can handle a substantial amount of weight, making them ideal for heavy cargo like machinery, bulk goods, and vehicles.

Can a 40-foot container hold vehicles?

Yes, a 40-foot container can easily hold vehicles. In fact, you can fit:

  • Two standard passenger vehicles with room to spare.
  • If carefully packed, even a small car and a motorcycle or additional items.

When shipping vehicles, ensure to:

  • Empty the fuel and disconnect the battery.
  • Block the wheels and secure the vehicle using lashing to prevent movement during transit.

Using a 40-foot high cube container can provide extra vertical space, which can be useful for taller vehicles or additional storage above the vehicles.

By understanding these key aspects, you can make the most out of your 40-foot shipping container. Whether you’re shipping pallets, heavy cargo, or vehicles, these containers are versatile and highly reliable.

Next, let’s explore the practical uses of a 40-foot shipping container.


A 40-foot shipping container is a versatile and reliable solution for various storage and transportation needs. From moving household items to storing commercial goods, these containers offer ample space and durability.

Aztec Container is your go-to source for high-quality shipping containers. We offer a range of options, including standard and high cube containers, to meet your specific needs. Our team is dedicated to helping you find the perfect container for your requirements.

For more information and to explore our offerings, visit our 40-foot containers service page.

If you have any questions or need assistance, contact us at 1-800-399-2126 or email us at [email protected]. We are here to help you make an informed decision and ensure your storage and transportation needs are met efficiently.

Thank you for considering Aztec Container. We look forward to serving you!