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How Many Cars Can A Cargo Ship Carry?

What's in this article?
  1. What Are Shipping Containers And How Did They Get The Duty Of Hauling Cars?
  2. Revealing The Exact Number Of Cars A Cargo Ship Can Fit In
  3. Shipping Cars Of One Model
  4. Shipping Cars Of Different Types And Models
  5. The Advantages Of Moving Cars In Cargo Ships
  6. How Do Cargo Ships Transport Cars Securely?
  7. Conclusion
How Many Cars Can A Cargo Ship Carry?

Before you throw your hat into the shipping arena to start shipping your car or car collection, you should think seriously about how many cars will fit into the cargo ship. What is the capacity of a cargo ship? And a lot more.

Many car shippers are out there with multiple itching questions in their minds but don't find the right answers. Hence, to help, we went through the trouble of talking to a few cargo ship crew members online and one of the ships' captains to figure out the answer to that entire question list. So, if you want the responses and don't mind reading a few hundred words, this article is for you.

But before we give you an idea of the number of cars a shipping cargo can accommodate, let us take you back – a bit in the history of the unhappy union of the duo –the vehicles and the cargo ships.

Shall we?

What Are Shipping Containers and How Did They Get the Duty of Hauling Cars?

Shipping containers are the boxes you see on ships, trains, and trucks. They hold cargo and can be moved from one mode of transportation without unloading the contents. It is known as containerization or container shipping.

Because of its efficiency, containerization has been adopted by businesses worldwide. And you've likely seen a container or two in your lifetime.

Everything got a story, and the shipping container's story goes way back—all the way to 1956.

That's when truck drivers in the U.S. began to figure out that it was more efficient to drive straight through from one port to another rather than making several stops along the way. This method was called containerization, and it revolutionized shipping and the world economy.

Soon, other types of vehicles were being containerized as well.

The most significant change occurred in the 1960s when the first RoRo (Roll-on/Roll-off) cargo ships specially fitted for transporting large quantities of cars came into service. And the RoRo method is famous to date because of its spectacular space, cost-efficiency, and minimal damage risk.


Revealing the EXACT Number of Cars a Cargo Ship Can Fit In

Cargo ships carry a lot of stuff. That's because cargo ships are enormous. With so much stuff, it's no wonder that cargo ships have to have a long journey to deliver their goods… So how many cars can a cargo ship carry?

There are many different kinds of vehicles, and they have different sizes, shapes, and weights that all would impact their ability to cram into a container.

There are even things like wind resistance, which means that tall and pointy SUVs wouldn't fit as well as more aerodynamic sedans.

Well, it's time to answer the REAL question.

Typically, the number of cars that can fit in a shipping container when shipping overseas will depend on three factors:

  • The size of the container itself
  • The size of the vehicles themselves
  • The type of vehicles being shipped

Cargo ships are designed to carry specific car sizes. The most frequently used sizes are 10 feet, 20 feet, and 40 feet, although a few shipping companies customize them to some extent (as short as 5 feet or as long as 45 feet).

When determining how many cars will fit in a shipping container, height is only slightly important.

We are giving you a general idea of how many cars cargo ships can fit in (based on their dimensions). So here it is…

A 20-foot container can lodge two standard-sized vehicles placed end to end. Similarly, a 40-foot container can board four standard-sized cars.

But, if you want to dig a bit deeper, we'd look into it based on the types of car you are up to shipping through cargo ships. For example:

  • Shipping Cars of One Model
  • Shipping Cars of Different Types and Models

Let's throw light on these categories one by one.


Shipping Cars of One Model

If you are up for shipping cars overseas of one particular model in one container, it will all depend on the size of the vehicle.

So, here's a breakdown of what you can fit in a standard 40' cargo container.

  • 5-6 small cars (Smart, Fiat 500, Smart, Tata Nano, etc.)
  • 4-5 middle-class cars (Skoda Octavia, Honda Civic, Volkswagen Golf Hatchback, etc.)
  • 4 big cars (Hyundai i40, Ford Mondeo, BMW 5 Series, Mazda 6 Tourer Estate, etc.)
  • 3 pickups/SUVs (Range Rover Sport, Nissan Qashqai, Volvo XC90, BMW X5, etc.)

Shipping Cars of Different Types and Models

Shipping companies have been getting creative with shipping cars for ages. But, of course, it's not easy to squeeze a car into a box and mail it across the country, so you've got to get a little creative sometimes. That's why shipping companies use vehicle racks, which effectively distribute different cars in one container. They're just really efficient.

They allow you to ship your vehicles all at once. You can save money by sharing shipping costs across multiple models of cars instead of paying exorbitant amounts per vehicle.

As you can see, using racks allows for more versatility with where you store your items within the container. And it opens up opportunities for shipping different models of cars at once. As a result, they effectively keep cars together without worrying about other sizes or models. This makes the journey much more straightforward and opens up opportunities for companies to ship multiple vehicles in one container.

They can keep cars safe during transportation and even protect them during the entire trip.

Plus, proper load planning can also do wonders while you ship vehicles of different models in one cargo ship.


The Advantages of Moving Cars in Cargo Ships

There are several benefits of shipping a vehicle on a cargo ship. First, it's very safe. Most cargo containers are designed with ample interior space so that your car has plenty of room during transport. Once your vehicle is loaded into the container, it's secured tightly in it so that it would barely make a budget—which means no chance of accidents while the ship is moving.

The second benefit of shipping by the container is cost-effectiveness. Shipping a vehicle by cargo ship is much cheaper than other options like air freight or trucking.

Finally, if your car needs any transportation after delivery, it's much easier to move your containerized vehicle(s). As your car (s) is secured appropriately in the container, there'd be no chance of anything being damaged in transit!

How Do Cargo Ships Transport Cars Securely?

It should come as no surprise that the ability to properly move automobiles is crucial to the success of cargo transportation companies. Most customers go with them because they are the most reliable in terms of safely transferring their vehicles. The auto industry relies heavily on cargo ships to transport vehicles, and these ships play a key role in this process. Cargo transport firms take their responsibilities to deliver vehicles safely very seriously.

Their job goes beyond simply loading a ship with cars, though. Cargo ships have to secure the vehicles while they're in transit with tie-down straps connecting each vehicle, as well as to anchor points on the boat itself so that in case of severe weather or other problems.

Cargo shipping companies deliver many different vehicles, ranging from small cars to large trucks. To get the right fit for your car, they have several different sizes for you to choose from to make sure it's secure. Then, once your vehicle arrives at its destination, they ensure it's stored in appropriate conditions until you come to claim it.

The way your vehicle is loaded on the cargo ships is always carefully planned out by their team to ensure that there are no problems along the way. In addition, they use specialized tie-down straps and other equipment to ensure your vehicle stays safe and secure throughout the voyage.


Shipping cars has become a prevalent option in the U.S. and worldwide in recent years. Many customers ship their vehicles with cargo shipping carriers because they demand high-quality services at an affordable price when you want to send a car overseas. But you come across thousands of vessels and shipping companies – each one has a different price and rate structure. You can find the best-fitting cargo shipping company by conducting your research, requesting quotes from a few shipping companies, and comparing and contrasting their services. That's the only spot-on way to ship your car damage-freely and at the best prices.

Happy Shipping!

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Joe Webster always knew the auto transport industry would be a great career option. And with decades of experience, Joe is now an established consultant for A1 Auto Transport.

Joe was born in Santa Cruz, California. During high school, Joe worked as a mechanic; a job continued to work part-time during his bachelor's degree.

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A-1 Auto Transport is a disclosed agent for the following shipping companies:

Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus Drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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