Closed Container Car Shipping

Car Shipping Container Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Closed container shipping has been utilized in international auto logistics for several decades. You’ve likely come across barges loaded up with LEGO-like stacks of metal containers. These containers are used all over the world to ship not only cars, but other types of cargo as well. This method for shipping vehicles is most commonly used in the case of overseas or international transport.

What is Closed Container Car Shipping?

Unlike more conventional auto shipping methods where the car is simply drive up a ramp onto the deck of a cargo vessel, closed container car shipping has a more involved loading process. Once the vehicle is dropped off for delivery at the port terminal or a special warehouse, it is rolled into a closed container and carefully secured inside.

The shipping container is essentially a large, rectangular metal box that is specially designed to keep the vehicle in position during the entire transport process. Once the car is inside the closed container, all four wheels are safely braced and lashed to the corners using soft straps. Since these closed containers are frequently moved on and off ships, and from one mode transport to another, it is essential that the car is firmly secured inside.

For vehicles that are not four-wheeled, they can be lashed using the front and rear towing eyelets. Motorcycles must be crated and boats will need to be secured in a cradle prior to being loaded into the closed container. Once properly secured, your vehicle is fully protected from damage caused by both external elements and any undesirable movements while inside the container.

Closed Container Sizes

Since closed container car shipping is used all over the world, there are particular containers sizes that are used. These include:


Container Interior Dimensions Door Opening Suitable For
20’ Standard 19’5” L x 7’8” W x 7’9½” H 7’6” W x 7’5½” Regular-sized sedan
40’ Standard 39’6½” L x 7’8” W x 7’9½” H 7’6” W x 7’5½” Two regular-sized sedans and two SUVs
40’ High Cube 39’6½” L x 7’8¼” W x 8’9½” H 7’8” W x 8’5¾” Two larger vehicles (pickup trucks, vans) or six standard-sized sedans


When it comes to closed container shipping, there are various consolidation options available. For a luxury, or expensive vehicle, you can consider renting an entire 20’ container just for your vehicle.

What Types of Vehicles Can Be Shipped via Closed Container?

As indicated in the table above, closed container capacity allows for the shipment of not only regular-sized sedans but also SUVs, motorcycles, RVs, boats, pickup trucks, etc. However, there are some restrictions for oversized vehicles such as farm equipment or excavators because they generally exceed the container dimensions.

If you’re looking for a cheaper and easier way to ship your family car, consider RORO transport. Whereas, if you’re transporting a brand-new, luxury, classic, or high-end vehicle, you’ll want to choose closed container car shipping for the utmost protection.

RORO vs. Closed Container

The term “RORO” is short for roll-on roll-off auto transport. The name for this service describes the way that your vehicle is loaded on and off the cargo ship. While air freight can also use this method of transport, it is not as common. With RORO auto transport, your vehicle is driven onto the boat, secured to the deck for shipment, and then driven off at the destination port. This method is very popular for overseas and international auto shipping, as it is relatively affordable and fast.

This particular type of auto transport is generally reserved for larger cargo ships since it requires a lot of space and enough vehicles to be moved at once for it to be financially possible. Some ships that offer RORO shipping can haul hundreds of vehicles at once. If you seek an affordable and quick way to ship your car overseas or internationally, RORO may be the choice for you.

However, if you desire more protection for your car, you should strongly Closed Container Car Shipping. With RORO, your vehicle is fully exposed to the elements during its journey across the ocean. Although it is secured to the ship, it is susceptible to damage from inclement weather, flying debris, and any other conditions along the route. Whereas, with closed container car shipping your car is fully protected against the elements while inside of a steel housing. This is arguably the biggest benefit for using this service, as your car will arrive in the same condition that it was when it left. You can, however, expect to pay a higher price than you would with RORO transport, but many agree that the added protection is well worth the additional cost.

Benefits of Closed Container Car Shipping

Although closed container car shipping is not as popular as RORO transport, it offers a number of benefits.

Added safety. When you choose closed container car shipping, your vehicle is safely blocked, braced, and lashed inside of a metal container. During transport, it will be fully protected from movements that occur in route, as well as various ocean hazards and the elements. Additionally, the contents of your container cannot be seen from the outside and cannot be opened by anyone else other than the dedicated personnel. This virtually eliminates the chance of theft during the auto shipping process.

Ability to ship goods. If you purchase an entire container, you have the ability to ship goods along with your vehicle. Regardless of the size, your car will not take up the entire container. You can take advantage of the space to move parts, accessories, or household items to your intended destination. This is not permitted when using RORO transport, as the car must be fully emptied prior to shipment.

Worldwide availability. Unlike RORO shipping, which may not be available in smaller countries, closed container car shipping spans all possible shipping routes and countries across the globe.

Major Ports for Closed Container Car Shipping

Almost every major coastal city has a port terminal that is capable of loading and transporting your vehicle inside of a closed container. The most popular include:

  • Los Angeles
  • Oakland
  • Seattle
  • New Orleans
  • Miami
  • Savannah
  • Charleston
  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • New York

If you are looking to ship a vehicle abroad that is not located near any of the above-mentioned ports, your auto transport company can provide additional services. They can use ground transport to move your vehicle from your front door to one of the dedicated ports, and vice versa.

How Does Closed Container Car Shipping Work?

If you need to relocate your vehicle, the first step in the process is to choose an auto transport company that you want to work with. Once selected, you will work with them to arrange the transport dates and then your car will be picked up for delivery to the nearest shipping port. At the shipping port, your car is loaded into the closed car shipping container. During this process, your vehicle is secured in the container using industrial strength tie downs and blocking to prevent movement. The battery is also disconnected at this point as well.

If you don’t need to use the entire 20’ or 40’ closed container, speak with your auto shipping company about a discount for a “Less than Container Load.” This allows your shipper to combine multiple smaller shipments into one container for a reduced cost.

Ready to get the process started? Give Ship Vehicles a call today or fill out our online request form for your FREE customized closed container car shipping quote.