The 40 ft Shipping Container. How Are Australians Using Them?

20ft_gp_new_greenRead about the 40ft shipping container and how it is used in Australia. We look at the types of 40 ft container and the different ways in which they are used and re-purposed. 

Shipping containers come in several different sizes. The standard cargo container sizes are 10ft, 20ft and 40ft. Among the different size variations, the 40ft shipping container is considered the most cost-effective as it allows users to carry significantly more cargo while only adding about 15-25% more to what you would pay for a 20ft cargo container.

A 40ft container can carry double the volume of a 20ft cargo container and about 3,000kg more than its smaller counterpart making it the ideal choice for users who want to move large-volume cargo by land or sea.

Jump To:
What are the types of 40ft containers?
How are 40ft shipping containers used?
What determines the cost of shipping containers?

What Are The Types of 40ft containers?

types of 40ft containersSimilar to the 20ft container, the 40ft container also does come in a number of variations to make it more suitable for carrying different types of cargo. The different types of 40ft containers are:

  • General purpose. These are the normal standard types with no additional modifications. These are used for shipping dry goods that do not require any special storage.
  • Temperature controlled/reefers. These are either refrigerated, insulated or heated and are used for shipping sensitive cargo that needs to be stored in a temperature specific environment. The added insulation does, however, eat into the interior space making temperature controlled 40ft containers to have smaller internal dimensions as compared to the general purpose 40ft container.
  • High cube. This is a slightly taller (by a foot) variation of the 40ft container. The extra height provides more room for bulky cargo without adding to the containers base footprint. High cubes are available both as temperature controlled and general-purpose containers.
  • Flat rack. These look like the flatbed of a truck and are used for the transportation of out-of-gauge cargo such as processed timber, machinery or semi-finished goods.

All these containers share similar dimensions in terms of length and width. It’s only the height and internal dimensions that vary among the different types; thus, they all retain the standard base footprint of a 40ft container.

How Are 40ft Shipping Containers Used?

While clearly a winner at shipping, the 40ft container is not limited to one trick. The larger shipping container is being used by Aussies for a myriad other purpose with their size providing the versatility needed for container conversions.

Here are some of the more popular ways Australians are putting these large steel boxes to use for both their businesses and domestic needs:

Houses and accommodation

The cargo container has long been used for providing quick and affordable accommodation the world over. Australians are, however, going a step further by modifying these containers to become comfortable and luxurious houses for themselves and their families.

Because of its larger size, the 40ft container makes container house construction easier by reducing the number of containers you will need to join together when larger housing units are desired.

For smaller housing units such as granny flats and tiny apartments, the larger container unit is particularly popular as it provides adequate room to include all the amenities people have come to expect from a modern accommodation facility without making things too cramped for comfortable living.

Using 40ft shipping containers for building accommodation units also keeps costs low as a single container can provide living space equal to two 20ft containers at a lesser price.

Office construction

Need affordable premises for your business operations? The 40ft shipping container can easily be converted into a single large office building or subdivided to create several smaller offices.

The weatherproof construction of the shipping container and its robust build ensures that your property is kept safe from both the weather elements and burglars even when situated in remote areas. And when you need to move to a new location, all you’ll need to do is load up your container office on a flatbed and move it wherever you want which makes them perfect for on-site use such as in mining and construction.


Australians looking to expand their storage facilities have found the 40ft shipping container to be particularly useful as it provides a quick storage solution that is both cheap and secure. General purpose shipping containers can be used for storing all sorts of items from office files and paperwork to furniture for home and office evacuations.

Furthermore, refrigerated containers (or reefers) are being used by hoteliers and caterers for the storage of perishable goods where they work just as well as a regular cold-room.

Car storage is also another area where the container is getting a lot of use with the 40ft container having the ability to store up to 4 cars of average size.

Ablution units

The 40ft container has also proved a popular choice for the construction of ablution blocks. Their large size enables constructors to fit a clean water tank as well as a septic tank for the waste making this kind of units completely self-contained and perfect for off-the-grid use.

Ablution blocks constructed using this large container can be used as portable washroom facilities for parties, large gatherings and even in remote worksites where decent washrooms are hard to come by.


At 12.192 m, the 40ft container is pretty long which makes it ideal for constructing bridges over creeks and canals. For bridge construction, you can either use a general-purpose 40ft container or the 40ft flat rack depending on the kind of vehicles that will be using it.

Container bridges are cheaper and faster to put up than regular bridges and can be removed just as easily as well.

Popup shops and restaurants

These are quite common in Australia. The 40ft container with its extra capacity provides the perfect space for pop up shops and restaurants. The extra space can be used for a sitting area or for storing inventory for the operation.

Being based on the intermodal shipping container, these types of restaurants and shops can be moved easily making them perfect for events, promotions and exhibitions.


Another area where the 40ft container is being utilised is in the construction of kitchens. The container can be easily modified and fitted out with all the kitchen appliances and facilities you’re accustomed to in a modern kitchen.

These kinds of kitchens are mobile (of course) and can be used for both commercial and domestic purposes. A shipping container kitchen can be especially useful when you’re looking to clear out your kitchen for remodelling.

While these are the most popular 40ft container conversions around, there are numerous other uses for these versatile items. Most container suppliers will provide customisation options to help you modify your 40ft shipping container to suit your specific needs.

With the added capacity and comparatively lower cost of purchase (as compared to buying two 20ft containers), the 40ft shipping container has established itself as one of the top picks for Australians looking to undertake a container conversion project.

What determines the cost of shipping containers?

What Determines The Cost Of Shipping Containers?

Image source: Tiger Containers

Tiger Containers Supplies 40ft Shipping Containers In Australia 

tiger containers


guide to buying shipping containers in aussie blogpost

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