Last Updated: May 7, 2024

Whether you’re moving freight or household goods to Hawaiʻi, ocean freight containers are the workhorses that keep these shipments safe along their journey.

1.73 million TEU

Hawaii State Cargo Volume in FY ’22

The state of Hawaiʻi saw 1.73 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) of cargo in Fiscal Year 2022. (That’s equal to 865,000 40-foot containers!) These numbers, which include shipments of both personal items and commercial items for sale, demonstrate just how heavily Hawaiʻi’s residents rely on container shipping to keep island life moving forward.

Ocean freight containers, usually made of steel and painted with marine–grade paint in order to weather harsh sea shipping conditions, come in a variety of sizes to accommodate different types of shipments. To give you an overall idea of how much a single ocean freight container can hold, consider these two common types:

graphic image of two containers sized 20 and 40 feet

  • 20-Foot Container (8′ x 8.5′ x 20′)
    Household shipments: Generally fits the contents of a 2BR condo
    Cargo capacity: 1,171 ft3
  • 40-Foot Container (8′ x 8.5′ x 40′)
    Household shipments: Generally fits the contents of a 3BR house
    Cargo capacity: 2,390 ft3

A Note on Container Capacity

We say “generally” because, in our experience, every household move is unique. Some people who live in a 2-bedroom condo have enough to fill a 40′ container. We’ve also seen the contents of a house fit into a 20′ container.  

That’s where our Certified Moving Consultants come in. When you choose Royal Hawaiian Movers for your household move, we’ll offer you a free survey with one of our consultants—either in person or virtually. They’ll help you put together the right plan for your Hawaiʻi move, whether that means a 20-foot container, 40-foot container, or one of our other options.  

Despite these standardized container sizes, the rate for shipping a container to Hawaiʻi varies from shipment to shipment. To give you some insight into the process our Certified Moving Consultants go through when giving you a quote, we’ll start by sharing the three major factors that we consider:

Factor #1: Location, Location, Location

When you quote out a Hawaiʻi container shipment, one of the first questions you’ll need to answer will be:

What’s the origin and destination of your shipment?

For household shipments, the exact location of your current home and your final destination make a big difference in the cost to pack, move, and unpack a container.

The same is true for freight—especially if you’re looking for pick-up and delivery services.

Let’s look at a few examples for shipments originating on the mainland:


The farther you are from a port, the more expensive it will be to ship your container.

By the way, the same is true in Hawaiʻi. Honolulu is the main hub for inbound ocean freight. If you need your container dropped in a more remote area of Oahu—or your container is coming to or from a neighbor island like Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island—that will impact the overall cost of shipping your container.

We also encourage our residential customers to consider access issues carefully. Whereas commercial areas are generally designed for easy truck access, residential areas can be tricky:

  • For example, how difficult is it to get to your current home or your final destination?
  • Is there room to place a container in your driveway or on the street for easy loading or unloading?

Consider the following scenarios, which can complicate your household move:

Maybe your driveway is too small or your neighborhood association won’t allow containers on your street. In this case, we’ll have to put the container as close to your house as possible, and then move your goods in trucks, vans, or with a dolly. This will add to the time and cost of your move.

We’ve done moves where overhanging trees, small access roads, and other obstacles kept us from getting close to a home. In that situation, we’d have to use smaller vehicles to ferry your goods to the container or to a nearby warehouse, resulting in longer moving times and higher costs.

A move like this often means elevator permits, parking permits, reserving an elevator, and moving your items elevator load by elevator load, instead of just, say, walking them down your driveway. All of this adds time, complexity, and cost to your move.

Each one of these scenarios can affect the cost of moving your container.

For household moves, a Certified Moving Consultant can spot issues like these early—and provide you with an accurate quote that takes all these factors into account.

For commercial freight moves that involve pick-ups and deliveries, let us know if there are any access issues that might complicate things. Our Hawaiʻi offices have access to a varied fleet of vehicles that can drop off or pick up freight in areas that can’t accommodate a full container.

Factor #2: The Weight of Your Move

The weight of your shipment plays a different role in Hawaiʻi household moves than in Hawaiʻi freight shipments.

For Household Moves

When most people move, they think about how much stuff they have—the volume of their personal possessions.

When you’re doing a household move, your final price is actually dependent on the weight of your move:

  • For a long-distance household move, you’ll likely be provided with a non-binding estimate.
  • Your final moving charges will be based upon the actual weight of your shipment, the services provided, and the mover’s published tariff. (Note: A tariff is a document that contains the mover or carrier’s rates.)

Weight is the great equalizer. Rather than pricing a move on how well a crew can pack a truck, weight offers a fair and standard method to calculate the cost of your relocation. It’s simple: The more you move, the more it weighs, and the more you pay.

Know Your Rights as a Consumer

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration oversees moving companies in the U.S., including how moving companies handle non-binding estimates and calculate final moving invoices. To learn more about your rights and responsibilities as a consumer, visit the FMCSA website.

read more

Want Some Tips for Lightening Your Load?

Our guide to downsizing before your Hawaiʻi move will make it easy—and help you save money.
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For Freight Shipments

If you’re shipping a container full of freight to Hawaiʻi—as opposed to household goods—weight isn’t as important a factor when calculating your cost.

Instead, the size and type of container you’re shipping will impact your price, as will the commodity you’re moving. We’ll explain more in the next section.

Factor #3: The Type of Goods You’re Shipping

Before we dive into this section, some quick background:

  • The pricing for international ocean freight shipments is generally based on the size and type of container you’re shipping. (Unless, of course, you’re shipping hazardous materials.)
  • Where domestic ocean freight shipments are concerned (to and from the mainland, for example), rates for shipping a container vary based on the commodity shipped. (You can see this for yourself by visiting the Matson or Pasha website and viewing their tariffs, which show their rates for various commodities, origins, and destinations.)

Let’s talk about how all of this applies to your container shipment.

For Household Moves

There’s a specific commodity for household goods shipments. Your carrier or freight forwarder will select this commodity and use it to put together a quote for your container.

Note: Household goods shipments are generally free of hazardous goods, so they don’t require special handling—unless you decide to include your car in your container.

Cars holds gasoline and oil—as well as a battery—so this decision will change the type of shipment you’re sending. The container will be classified as containing hazardous materials, which and requires special handling to ensure safe transport of your items and the items around yours. For this reason, a container with hazardous materials costs more than one that simply contains household goods.

Does Your Shipment Contain Fragile Items?

When pricing out your container of household goods, there’s one other consideration your moving company will take into account: any delicate items that require special handling. For example, are you planning to ship any items like the following?

  • An antique grandfather clock or other antique furniture
  • A grand piano
  • A flat-screen television
  • Crystal, glassware, or art glass

These items will need special packing and handling to ensure a safe journey from your old home to your new one. Remember that your container will be moving across the Pacific Ocean, and the vessel carrying your auntie’s piano may encounter rough seas along the way. Our movers will do everything they can to ensure its safe passage by taking the utmost care to pack and secure your special items so they arrive in great condition.

Since we’ll spend significant time and energy keeping your most precious items safe during their voyage, this extra care can increase the cost of your move.

For Freight Shipments

Where international freight is concerned, the commodity of your shipment is less important, as we mentioned above. Your pricing will largely revolve around the size of the container you’re shipping.

When pricing domestic freight container shipments, you’ll need to tell your carrier or forwarder what’s in your container. The commodity you’re shipping will factor into the final rate for your container.

Matching the contents of your container with the right commodity in a carrier’s tariff can be tricky. For example:

  • A search on “mattresses” brings up 23 commodities in the Matson tariff. Pasha lists 5.
  • Even a search as straightforward as “tires” produces 14 commodities in the Matson tariff. You’ll find 16 items in the Pasha tariff when you search for “tires.”

Each one of these represents a different price for your container.

So which commodities will be used to calculate your shipment? That’s something you need to discuss with the carrier or with the freight forwarder who’s handling your FCL shipment. They’ll match your shipment with the right commodity in the carrier’s tariff and use that to calculate your final price.

So, Bottom Line: How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Container to Hawai’i?

Now that you understand the factors that go into pricing a container, let’s look at a couple of ballparks.

But, first, we want to be clear: These numbers are simply ballparks for sending a container of household goods to Hawaiʻi. They don’t resemble a firm quote in any shape or form. After all, as you’ve discovered, there are too many factors involved to give you a blanket quote that works for everyone’s situation. Additionally, flights of stairs, long carries, and elevators—as well as costs related to moving the container to and from port via rail and truck—will cause prices to fluctuate.

With that, here are two ballparks for the cost to ship a container of household goods to Hawaiʻi, using Royal Hawaiian Movers’ full-service option:

  • Cost for a full-service move of a 20′ container from the LA area to Oahu: starting at ~$9000
  • Cost for a full-service move of a 40′ container from the LA area to Oahu: starting at ~$13,000

Note: A full-service move means that we provide all moving boxes and materials, pack all of your belongings, load and unload your items, and handle all the logistics of your shipment from door to door.

Want a More Exact Number for Your Shipment?

The best way to get an accurate quote for your Hawaiʻi container shipment is to reach out to us.

We’ll schedule a consultation with one of our experts. They’ll put together a custom quote so you’ll know exactly how much it will cost to ship your container to or from Hawaiʻi.

We’d love to assist with a simple and affordable container shipment to or from Hawaiʻi. Request your quote today!

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