Guide To: Container Car Shipping

Car Shipping Container Guide: Everything You Need to Know

In regards to worldwide vehicle shipping, shipping your vehicle in a container may be a better solution for your individual situation than the more common Roll on Roll off (RoRo) shipping method. Your motive for opting for container car shipping could be based on safety, the type of car, the intended destination or other various reasons. While not the most common method for shipping vehicles, it is used occasionally and especially for international or overseas transport.

Unlike RoRo shipping, if you have any personal belongings that you need to ship as well, they can be loaded into the vehicle and transported along with it in the container. Container shipping is also the ideal option for those looking to ship vintage, exotic, classic or any other vehicle that needs an extra level of protection.

At Ship Vehicles, we have extensive experience with container transport and can be your one stop shop for all your shipping needs. Let’s examine some of the most common questions we receive from our customers in regards to container car shipping to help shed some light on the process as a whole.

What is a Car Shipping Container?

A shipping container, often referred to as an intermodal container, is an oversized, rectangular steel box used by the cargo transport industry to ship various items. The expression “intermodal” describes the fact that these shipping vessels can be moved from one sort of transport to another: they can be moved by rail, ship, plane or truck.

Average vehicle shipping containers come in two sizes: 20’ and 40’ in length. A 20’ container is appropriate for the transport of a 4×4, or one vehicle. Whereas, a 40’ shipping container has adequate enough space to fit two standard sized cars and may be more cost-effective if you need to ship more than one vehicle.

The container is designed specifically to keep the vehicle safe and secure during its entire journey. Since vehicle shipping containers could potentially be moved from one method of transport to another during its trip, it’s very important that the vehicle is completely protected and held firmly in place. Containers offer peace of mind to car owners that are especially concerned about the safety of their vehicle during shipment.

Shipping a vehicle in an enclosed container? We recommend getting shipping costs using our cost calculator, or use the one on

Why Ship a Car in a Container?

The container shipping method is most often used for transporting vehicles internationally and overseas. When a car cannot be shipped over land, boat transport is generally the most logical option. However, you could always choose to transport your vehicle via air freight; but you can expect to pay a substantial amount of money for this service.

One of the most common reasons why container car shipping is a popular, preferred method is because you can ship personal items along with the vehicle. While Roll on Roll off shipping is the more affordable way to ship a car overseas, if you choose this method you are not permitted to load your vehicle up with personal belongings. This aspect of container auto shipping can be a major benefit if you’re moving some where long-term or permanently.

Another reason why container shipping can be a great choice, is the guaranteed protection of your vehicle. Special care is taken to ensure that your vehicle is safely loaded into the container and well secured for the duration of its shipment to the established destination. With Ship Vehicles, our team of container shipping experts will drive your car into the container, make sure that it is carefully positioned for optimal security and then safely unloaded when it arrives.

Additionally, since your car is housed in a large steel box as it travels over the ocean, through the air or by rail, it is completely protected against the elements. Rain, snow, any other inclement weather conditions or road hazards will not pose a threat to the exterior of your vehicle.

How Does Container Auto Shipping Work?

Your first step in the process of shipping a car via the container method is to choose an auto transport company. They will manage the shipment, process any required paperwork and ensure that your car arrives to the anticipated destination safely, securely and on-time.

You will work with your vehicle shipping company to arrange the transport dates and establish the pick-up and drop-off locations. Your vehicle will then be picked up for transport and delivered to the nearest port where it will be driven into and secured in the shipping container. During the process of securing the car in the container, the battery will be disconnected and the vehicle is strapped down using industrial strength ties and blocking devices to keep it in place.

If you do not need the entire 20’ or 40’ container for your particular auto shipping situation, inquire about receiving a discount for a “Less Than Container Load.” This specific discount allows the transporters to combine smaller shipments together in one container at a bargain price.

How is Container Car Shipping Price Calculated?

The price to ship a car in a container is determined based on various factors. These include:

  • The ocean freight. The particular ocean freight that your vehicle ships on is dependent on the route and size of the container, 20’ or 40’.
  • Distance between ports. The overall distance the vehicle has to travel will determine the price you can expect to pay for container shipping.
  • Export/Import shipment fees. The fees for import and export of your car’s shipment include gate fees, security fees, document fees, clearance charges and Terminal Handling Charges (THC).
  • Haulage fees. Any associated haulage fees will depend on where the container is loaded and unloaded.
  • Additional fees. This may include, but are not limited to the Low Sulphur Fuel Surcharge (LSF) and Bunker Adjustment (BAF).

For your free container car shipping estimate, fill out our online quote request form.

 What Type of Vehicles Can Be Shipped in a Container?

Shipping a vehicle via the container method comes with some limitations. While this method of transport remains an option for most types of vehicles, the ability to ship a car in a container will depend on the car’s size. Most car shipping containers are 8 feet high and 8 feet wide. These dimensions offer ample amount of space for most conventionally sized cars and trucks.

As previously mentioned, the containers come in both 20-foot and 40-foot lengths. In general, you can expect that most car shipping containers will be closer to the 20-foot range. Though, either option makes it simple to transport multiple cars at a time, if needed. Shipping containers may also fit boats, campervans and some other non-conventional vehicles, depending on their size.

What Are the Other Options Besides Container Car Shipping?

For shipping overseas, instead of container auto shipping, you can have your vehicle shipped using the RoRo method. With RoRo auto transport, the vehicle is driven onto the shipping vessel, housed in a holding area on the ship and secured to the deck. Once the car reaches its destination port, it is unsecured and driven directly off the boat.

For domestic, or cross-country, auto shipping you can opt for open-air vehicle transport. In this case, your car is shipped on a 75-80-foot transport truck that hauls a two-level trailer behind it. The trailer has no roof or sides and arranges the vehicles in two rows: one on top and a shorter row on the bottom. Although your car will be exposed to the elements, this is the most affordable way to ship a car.

If you’re ready to begin the container car shipping process, fill out our online form or give our office a call at (888) 231-0113. You will be connected with one of our auto transport experts to start scheduling your shipment and answer any questions you have about shipping a car in a container.