How to Move a Shipping Container

You bought your brand new, shiny shipping container from Rent-A-Container. It was the perfect experience. The container came promptly. It was delivered in the exact spot you scoped out and prepared utilizing our container site preparation overview. 

Then, as you start loading it full of storage materials and valuable cargo, you realize that your location could have been better. No, it needs to be better. Now what? Can you move your container? How do you move your storage container?

Today, we’re going to address how to move your container a short distance on your own property and how to move your container to another piece of property altogether.


What Does It Take to Move a Shipping Container?

How exactly does one go about moving the shipping container? Can you drag a shipping container from place to place, or do you need to use heavy machinery? Turns out, there are a few ways you can move these versatile containers depending on your budget, expertise, or specific needs. 


Know the Weight of Your Shipping Container(s)

Before deciding on any method, consider the weight of a given shipping container. Standard 20-foot shipping containers usually weigh over 5,000 pounds. Meanwhile, 40-foot shipping containers can often weigh over 8,200 pounds. Because of these heavy weights, shipping containers are often transported using semi-trucks or on flatbed trailers pulled by powerful passenger trucks.


Heavy Machinery For Short Moves or To Load Your Trailer

Generally speaking, you have two major choices for heavy machinery that will move your storage container – a forklift or a crane.

Forklifts to Move a Shipping Container


Photo of Parked Yellow Forklift Truck


Some models of forklifts can lift a shipping container by itself, but not your standard, small forklift. Many smaller forklifts are neither strong enough to lift a shipping container outright, nor are they wide enough to prevent buckling or damage to the shipping container. 

Since using a forklift means putting all the weight or pressure of the shipping container on its center, you can easily cause an accident if you use the wrong kind of forklift.

If you do decide to use a forklift, make sure it is outfitted to lift at least 15,000 pounds. This ensures that the forklift’s arms are wide enough and strong enough to lift your shipping container without incurring or accruing damage.

Cranes Work But They’ll Require Special Licensing to Operate


crane to lift shipping containers


A crane can also save you time since it’s usually easier to place your shipping container on your truck’s trailer or flatbed using it. But cranes do require special licenses or operators – unless you use one of these for your job, you’ll likely need to hire someone to do the crane lifting for you, even if you drive the shipping container from place to place.

Consider both options carefully before choosing.


Property-to-property Transport With Large Vehicles and Trailers

You can always move the shipping container yourself using one of the two above methods if you have a CDL, Chauffeur’s License or any other appropriate drivers license for the vehicle and trailer types you’ll be utilizing. You need one of these licenses to safely operate heavy machinery and the large vehicles required to move the shipping container any significant distance.

If you do have a CDL, but you don’t have any of the equipment you need, you can always rent a rollback truck and do the moving yourself. This may be cheaper over the long-term compared to hiring someone to move the shipping container for you (more on that below).


Understand Department of Transportation Regulations In Your State

What if you don’t have a CDL? You might still be able to move your shipping container depending on the Department of Transportation and other state-based regulations.. The DOT has limits on the gross weight you can move when towing a trailer. Since shipping containers are quite heavy, make sure that moving a container without a CDL doesn’t break any local regulations.


Calculating Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

The number you need to calculate is the GVWR or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This is a single number that describes how much weight a truck can carry including its native weight. A GVWR-rated truck with a limit of 10,000 pounds, for instance, can only carry a trailer with a total weight of less than or equal to 10,000 pounds. But you have to subtract the weight of the truck itself, plus any additional passengers or cargo.

Since most states only require a CDL if you want to transport over 26,000 pounds, you may be able to move a single shipping container at a time for a DIY construction or storage project. But remember to keep the weight of the trailer in mind! A typical 40-foot, double axle trailer will weigh almost 9000 pounds by itself. You can easily go over the limit if you aren’t careful.


Can You Hire Shipping Container Moving Services?

Yes, though different companies will offer different services. 

You can hire shipping container moving services for DIY construction projects, or even hire a shipping container company to deliver a container to a new location if it’s in an easy-to-access spot.

If you use a company that is offering strictly transportation services from one place to another utilizing a truck, you’ll need to make sure that they’ll also be handling the loading and unloading of the shipping container. Some will only offer shipping container transportation, leaving you to figure out how to mount the shipping container onto the truck.

In general, most people will find it easier to hire a shipping container moving service. This is because it can take up to several hours or an entire day to get a shipping container mounted on a moving truck and on the road.


What Does It Cost to Move a Shipping Container?

Your total costs will vary based on whether you move the shipping container yourself or hire a company to do so for you.

If you decide to move the shipping container yourself, your costs will be determined based on how much equipment you need to rent. Renting a semi-truck or truck that can pull a flatbed trailer might only cost you a few hundred dollars. But other costs might also add up over time:


  • Renting a truck and trailer, or flatbed truck can range from $50 to $300 per day (also available for weekly rates)
  • You may need to rent a forklift or crane – starting at as much as $500 per day
  • Consider fuel costs, insurance on rental equipment, as well as taxes and fees


A shipping container company’s costs can also vary dramatically. In general, such companies will charge you:


  • Some companies charge $200 flat fees for moving a container to a new spot on your own property (Storage2U)
  • For moving full containers from one home to another with a moving company, it can vary from $2000 – $4,500 depending on the number of containers and weight of your cargo.
  • Some companies will charge a per mile fee such as $4 per mile driven.
  • Don’t forget taxes and fees


Companies and handymen alike are inventing new way to transport shipping container for people at cheaper costs. Be sure to explore your local options and speak with company employees who might be able to creatively help you move your container for the most affordable prices.

If you hire a shipping container transportation company, be aware of a fee for “siting”, or moving a container from a delivery site to the exact spot where you want to use the container to build. That’s because siting a container can be time-intensive, technical, and involve some hazardous terrain.

Moving the shipping container yourself might be slightly cheaper overall, but only if you have the necessary knowledge, licensing, and access to the equipment you might require to move the container.


International Container Moving Costs

If you need your shipping container to move overseas, costs can be either cheap or expensive depending on where the container is going. In general, importing a shipping container into the US is cheaper than exporting a container to places like China.

For instance, importing a container from China to California might only cost you $500 to $600. Shipping that same container from California to China can cost you up to $3000 because of additional fees to cover the costs for US Customs Clearance and other factors.


Major Takeaways

What have we learned from this discussion?

  1. It’s possible to move your shipping container once it’s delivered and setup at your home or business. Depending on what type of a move we’re talking about, there are plenty of different solutions on the market to get your shipping container from point A to point B. 
  2. Depending on the level of service, the distance your container needs moved, and the amount of equipment required for your specific container transport, costs can vary widely. It might be several hundred dollars, or it could be in the thousands of dollars. Do your homework.
  3. Try and get your shipping container exactly where it needs to be the first time your select a site. Not moving it at all will save you money and time.


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