An essential factor to consider before shipping is the weight of a dry shipping container. Before the shipping process can begin in most countries, an official weight for a container must be provided.

The weight of your shipment also influences how much fuel is required to transport it. The greater the weight of your shipment, the more fuel is required to transport it from point A to point B.

Depending on the type of container, an empty 20-ft shipping container weighs between 1.8-2.2 metric tons (about 3,970 - 4,850 lb), and an empty 40-ft shipping container weighs between 3.8 - 4.2 tons (8,340 - 9,260 lb).

High-cube containers, for example, are typically heavier. More height equates to more metal, which equates to more weight.

It is also important to note that a container's tare weight can vary depending on its shape and construction material. The tare weight varies according to the type of container and the items loaded onto it.

Tare Weight, Gross Weight, and Payload Weight

Tare weight is simply the weight of an empty container. Unladen weight is sometimes used instead of tare weight. Tare and unladen weight are synonymous and refer to the weight of a container when it is not loaded with cargo.

Typically, this measurement is taken with the container on a flat surface, such as a scale.

The payload weight is the most weight that can be safely added to an empty container. After the manufacturing process is completed, the tare weight of a shipping container is frequently welded on the container doors.

Finally, the total weight of the container and all of its cargo (including containers, packing, and pallets) is referred to as the gross weight. This is the standard weight used to calculate shipping costs.

It is common practice to subtract the tare weight from the gross weight when calculating the weight of goods. However, when calculating the weight of an entire container, this method can be inaccurate due to other variables such as fuel.

Shipping Container Sizes & Tare/Gross/Payload Weights

Before we get into the specifics of each container size, here's a table that shows the dry shipping container weight capacities for 20ft to 45ft containers:


Container Size

Tare Weight


Maximum Gross Weight (lbs)

Maximum Payload Weight (lbs)

20 ft.




40 ft.




45 ft.




20ft.: A 20-foot shipping container weighs 5,071 lbs when empty. Its maximum gross weight is 55,126 pounds. Because of its middle-of-the-road size, it has become one of the most popular for goods shipment.

40ft.: The 40ft shipping container, like the 20ft containers, is a popular choice for shipments, job site offices, and onsite storage. It has a tare weight of 8,554 pounds, a maximum gross weight of 67,196 pounds, and a payload weight of 58,642 pounds.

45ft.: Due to its 9ft 6in exterior height, a 45ft container is regarded as a high cube container. Its maximum gross weight is 71,650 lbs. Its tare weight is 10,362 lbs.

They are intended for intermodal freight transportation of general freight that is lighter in weight. Due to their maximum cubic capacity, they are the perfect option for industrial, commercial, and rural storage applications.

What are the Factors that Affect the Shipping Container Weight?

Cube Height: The first factor that we should mention is cube height. High cube containers (9ft 6 in) are one inch taller than standard height containers (8ft 6 in). This means they contain more metal and are heavier than standard shipping containers.

Double Doors: A standard shipping container only has doors on one end, whereas a double-door container has doors on both ends. Because more doors on a shipping container require more metal, double-door containers are heavier.

Manufacturing Period: Older shipping containers are often heavier than newer, more modern ones. This is because modern manufacturing techniques have enabled the construction of containers with significant strength using less metal.

Why is the Weight of a Shipping Container an Important Matter?

Knowing the weight of a container is critical since overloaded or unbalanced shipping containers are a recipe for disaster, putting both container ships and shippers at risk.

Due to this, the IMO (International Maritime Organization) in 2016 mandated that shippers provide a Verified Gross Mass (VGM) before their cargo could be loaded onto a ship for export.

This rule was implemented in response to the accidents that kept happening as a result of overweight containers.

To avoid fines and penalties, all shipping companies are required to comply with the SOLAS VGM requirements - Safety Of Life At Sea, as well. This means that they must accurately weigh their shipping containers and optimize loads.

What is More to Know?

  • How to weigh loaded containers?

There are several widely used techniques for container weighing. Some of the ways are:

  • Weighing on the ground,
  • Weighing on a truck (on a chassis),
  • Driving a truck loaded with a container over truck scales.
  • How much does a 20ft shipping container weigh in kg?

The unloaded weight of a 20-ft container is 2,300 kg, and it can theoretically be loaded to a maximum weight of 28 tons (25,400kg).

  • How much does a 40ft container weigh?

A 40-ft shipping container has a tare weight of approximately 8,159 pounds and a maximum payload capacity of roughly 59,039 pounds.

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