What is The Difference Between a 40ft Container and a 40ft High Cube Container?

When we talk about shipping containers, we have one image in our minds for the most part. We often tend to picture the typical 20 or 40ft versions that are found all over the US in the cargo niche. That said, there is another version of this storage tool that can rival it in popularity and that is the 40ft high cube open side shipping container in the United States according to Pelican Containers.

Why is this the case? Well, it boils down to one thing and that is the extra space that they provide. You’re probably thinking that this is where the story ends, but this topic is a little broader than that and it has to be as you may need these tools in time.

The standard variety

The typical 40ft container is about the most common variety in the US alongside its 20ft counterpart. Apart from being 40ft long, they are also about 8ft wide and stand at 8 ft6 high.

Other dimensions are considered when measuring them and these include those things of their interior and their doors. These will often read as:

  • 39ft5 for the interior length
  • 7ft10 for the interior height
  • 7ft9 for the interior width
  • 7ft9 door width
  • 7ft6 door height

Two other important parameters for these tools are their volume and their weight which are measured in cubic feet and pounds respectively. Their volume roughly equates to about 2,350 cubic feet. Their weight is usually split into three areas which are:

  • the tare weight which is around 8,550 lbs
  • the maximum gross weight which is around 67,200bs
  • the payload weight which is around 58,659 lbs

As they were mainly built for cargo transfer, these storage facilities have to be made of the most resistant steel to survive the journey at sea. This sturdy build also allows them to contain almost 30 tonnes worth of cargo. This, however, is discouraged because the cargo is also supposed to be kept safe and any overloading could risk them being damaged.


The most productive way to store merchandise in these containers is to leave some spaces between the goods and the interior wall. Doing this will make things easier to offload and allow enough space to place any other equipment that will keep goods such as food viable upon delivery.

The regular 40ft variety also comes in various forms, just in case you’re interested in exploring your options, these include:

  • the brand new version is known as “One trip”. These are the most expensive;
  • versions that have been used frequently are known as “As is” (these are the least expensive and may need to be mended);
  • versions that are of high quality, but have been used regularly are known as “Cargo ready”;
  • The wind and watertight versions are built specifically for items that can rust.

The high cube variety

While these containers act in just about the same way, they are significantly larger, at least volume-wise. Because they are about a foot taller than their counterparts, their volume is around 2,700 cubic feet.  Outside of that just about everything is the same. From their builds to what they are built with and how to best deal with:

  • loading
  • offloading
  • machinery

These versions have one other key thing that sets them apart from other containers and that comes in the form of an open side. Open sides are doors that are placed on one side of the containers in addition to the ones they already have at the end. This door is much larger than the other and encompasses the entire length and height of the containers.

The reason these containers are the ones that have these doors for the most part is that they tend to house larger cargo. Removing such cargo from them is easier with this door being there.

As far as the types of 40ft high cube containers there are, this also corresponds with the ones for the standard variety. However, this type of container has a general size range between 20ft and 45ft.

Their use cases

Outside of the obvious size difference, these two container types were designed to do one thing and that is the storage and transportation of goods. Having said that, many people have found another use for them fairly recently and that is in building homes and other facilities. Let’s look at these two uses to see just how they work.

Storage and transportation

We already talked about how these tools are built for this job and we are also aware that they operate in essentially the same way. While they can carry just about the same cargo, standard containers will usually carry things that are packaged in both North American and European pallets.

The high cube containers can do the same thing, but the extra space that they offer makes it so that they can carry even more things. Because of this extra space, they are always more expensive.

Container house or constructional purpose

Building with your typical materials can cost more than anyone is willing to spend. This is why containers of any sort have been used in this way.

Because the structural base is already there, all you have to do is find and buy land, build a foundation on which the container will be secured and fill it with amenities. Granted, this is going to cost money, but it is nowhere near the cost of building a wooden house or structure.

Final thoughts

Now that you are aware of the differences between these two container types, which one will you go for and how will you use it? In any case, they are both quite useful as well as being beneficial to those that hold them.

If you are looking to buy them for whatever use, it is possible to find them at reasonable prices concerning their condition. All you have to do is find the right dealer, make sure they have options you can inspect, and buy the one you need.


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