Reefer containers are used to ship perishable goods. Read this blog to find out all about reefer containers. Also, learn how you can source reefer containers at the best price.

Reefer containers make it possible to ship important cargo like medicines, food and vaccines across the globe. They’re, undoubtedly, one of the most important container types in the market. Let’s understand what reefers are and how they work in detail through this blog.

What is a reefer container? 

A reefer container is a specialized container that carries temperature-sensitive goods at regulated cold temperatures. Built to work as a large refrigerator, the container type can usually maintain a temperature range of -30°C and +30°C. So, you can easily use a reefer container to transport frozen, chilled, or cold goods.

Reefer container meaning

A reefer container comes with a refrigeration unit on one end. When connected to a power source, the unit fills the container with chilled air. The airflow maintains the desired temperature, making a reefer container perfect for storing food items, pharmaceuticals, plants, and other temperature-controlled goods. 

Naturally, reefer containers are in high demand. Some businesses rely on their local network to meet their reefer container demands. However, this way they can never be too sure about the prices. And even if they’re willing to pay high prices, their local container sourcing channels may not have specialized containers like reefer. 

Well, that’s where Container xChange comes into the picture. At xChange, we offer an online container marketplace with 10,000+ containers, including reefers. Our platform allows you to lease, buy, and sell shipping containers in 2500+ locations globally. 

And you get to compare container prices before making any decisions. All you have to do is use our trading platform and fill in your desired container type and location. You’ll then be presented with multiple offers to choose from. Want to give it a try? Use the public search below to see reefer container offers today!

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What is a reefer container used for?

Did you know that apart from shipping temperature-sensitive goods, reefers are also used for shipping dry cargo? Take a look at the uses of reefer containers in detail.

For shipping refrigerated goods

If you’ve been to the frozen and chilled section of your grocery store, you’d have seen an assortment of food items from all over the world. Have you ever wondered how they make it to your neighborhood store? 

All thanks to reefer containers! Reefers ship perishable food items that require refrigeration. Some of the most commonly shipped food items are: 

  • Meat (frozen and chilled),
  • Seafood
  • Fruits and vegetables 
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Processed food 
  • Juice and beverages
  • Wine, etc.

Temperature of goods in a reefer container

For shipping pharmaceuticals

Drugs and pharmaceuticals are also primarily shipped in a reefer container. Reefer containers played a vital role in the Covid-19 crisis. As the nations entered into lockdown, reefer containers made it possible to ship medicines and vaccines wherever needed.

To ensure that all safety regulations are met and that reefers are in prime condition to transport pharmaceuticals, these containers also undergo routine inspections. That’s why it’s important to maintain your reefer containers and repair them whenever required.  

For shipping dry cargo as Non-operating Reefers (NORs)

Well, a reefer container isn’t built to ship dry cargo, but it still does. In fact, you’d be surprised to know how regularly reefers carry dry cargo. All you’ve to do is deactivate the refrigeration unit, and voila! Your reefer is now a standard dry container. 

Non-operating reefer (NOR) is a refrigerated container with refrigeration turned off. Now, why would anyone want to do that? The answer is to make the most of repositioning. The nature of the trade is such that almost every third container in the world is shipped empty.

Even then, it’s difficult to get your hands on empty containers in your desired locations within your budget. This is mainly due to having a small local sourcing channel. 

But on xChange, you can expand your sourcing channel globally and connect with 1500+ vetted members. Through our platform, you can find multiple offers for all types of containers, including reefers within seconds. You can then compare the prices and choose the best deals. 

Want to give it a try? Click the banner below and check out the prices of reefers in your location.

reefer container meaning

How does a reefer container work?

You must’ve learned by now that a refrigeration unit is pivotal for maintaining cold temperatures. But several other features work together for reefers to function. Let’s take a few minutes to understand how reefer containers work.

Maintains cool temperature 

The refrigeration unit distributes the chilled air through the floor of a reefer container. If you look closely, the floor of the container has grooves, also known as T-shaped decking. This T-shaped decking allows a constant supply of cool air around the shipment.

reefer container meaning

If you’re planning to use a reefer, you must know that it cannot reduce the temperature of your goods. A reefer container only maintains the desired temperature. So, you’ll have to pre-cool your cargo to the temperature you want the reefer to maintain.

Genset provides electricity 

Genset is short for generator set. It provides electricity to the refrigeration unit to work. A reefer is usually connected to a power source on vessels. But for extremely sensitive cargo that could spoil outside a temperature range, gensets provide a backup power source. It’s best to use a genset equipped reefer to ensure the safety of your cargo.

Ventilation keeps goods fresh 

The entire point of a reefer container is to keep your goods fresh. Fruits and vegetables release heat, water, and CO₂. If these gasses aren’t removed, they can damage the cargo by causing uncontrolled ripening, aging, and altering flavor. Therefore, reefers are kept ventilated by fresh air. 

Maintains relative humidity 

Different cargo needs different humidity levels. So, it’s essential to maintain relative humidity according to your goods. A dehumidification setup helps maintain the right levels of humidity in a reefer. 

Data loggers monitor supply air temperature, return air temperature, ambient temperature, and humidity level continuously with the help of remote modems.

Drainage gets rid of excess water 

A reefer container has a proper drainage system. In case of water accumulation, the drain in the container will remove the waste.  

reefer container meaning

Now you know how a reefer container works, it’s time you started looking for reefer containers for your cargo. To do that, you’d need to know the different dimensions of reefer containers. Read on to find out more.

Dimensions of a reefer container

Most containers are manufactured according to standard sizes set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Although, some may vary depending on the manufacturer and container age. Here are the dimensions of the reefer containers.

Measurement 20ft Reefer 40ft Reefer 40 HC Reefer
Internal length 17.9 ft / 5.44 m 37.9 ft / 11.56 m  38.0 ft / 11.58 m
Internal width 7.5 ft / 2.29 m 7.5 ft / 2.28 m 7.5 ft / 2.29 m
Internal height 7.5 ft / 2.27 m 7.4 ft / 2.25 m 7.9 ft / 2.40 m
Tare weight 3,080 kg / 6,790 lbs 4,800 kg / 10,584 lbs 4,480 kg / 9,880 lbs
Payload capacity 27,400 kg / 60,417 lbs 27,700 kg / 61,079 lbs 29,520 kg / 65,080 lbs
Cubic capacity 999 cu ft / 28.3 m³  2,093.3 cu ft / 59.3 m³   2,380 cu ft / 67.3 m³ 

How to stow cargo in reefer shipping containers? 

Once you’ve narrowed it down to the right size, the next step is to know how you should stow your goods. You’ll want to utilize all the space, but cargo stowage in reefers isn’t the same as that of a dry container. Let’s see how. 

You know by now that internal air circulation keeps the temperature steady. Now, this flow is affected by the type of packaging and the way of stuffing the cargo. So, accordingly, different goods have to be stowed differently to ensure constant airflow. Let’s see this through an example.

For instance, you have to send a shipment of chilled meat from Australia to South Korea. To retain its shelf life in Korean markets, you’ll have to load and stow the cargo in a way that the air flows through it. This airflow will remove heat and gasses produced by the cargo and keep the reefer ventilated.

Reefer container meaning

Now, let’s look at what happens when you’re shipping frozen goods.

For instance, you have a shipment of ready-to-make frozen french fries. If the frozen food isn’t stowed properly,  its texture, taste, and quality may get altered. And you certainly don’t want that! So, you’ll have to stack the goods next to each other to have no gaps between the cargo as well as the cargo and walls. This blocking of airflow helps the foods keep the low temperature.

reefer container meaning

How much do reefer containers cost?

The reefer container market has been witness to constant highs and lows. However, according to industry experts, 2023 may prove positive for the reefer container market. So it’s a good time to buy reefer containers if you’re planning on buying one. 

But before you buy any container, it’s always a good idea to research the container prices and analyze the market. We’ll discuss more on how you can do this later, but for now, let’s see the prices of cargo-worthy reefer containers in popular locations.

Location 20ft reefer  40ft reefer 40ft HC reefer 
China $4,903 $6,518 $7,516
USA $4,796 $9,325 $7,280
India $5,550 $7,069 $6,357
UAE $5,727 $9,585 $7,503
Europe $2,988 $2,903 $3,609

As you can see, the prices vary significantly from one location to another. To make the best deals, it’s important you stay updated about the current market prices. Read on to know how you can access container prices yourself.

Find up-to-date reefer prices in your location

Being part of the shipping industry, it’s a good idea to maximize your profits wherever you can. Otherwise, the cost of shipping can increase significantly. One easy way to do this is to keep up with the container prices. This way you can determine the best places to buy containers and sell them at the most profitable ones in real-time. 

To help you with this, we developed xChange Insights. On Insights, you get up-to-date container prices in 60+ locations globally. 

Let’s understand how Insights can help you through an example. Suppose you want to trade 40ft reefer containers. With Insights, you see that the price of reefers is highest in UAE and lowest in Europe. So you buy your container in Europe and later sell it in the UAE. With this trade, you’re able to maximize your profit– simply because you were aware of the current market prices in different locations. 

The data on Insights is updated daily. So sign up for Inisghts here and check out the container prices in your desired locations today. If you want more information about Insights, you can click here to get all your questions answered by our experts.

Get best offers on reefer containers on xChange

Now that you know how you can access container prices, it’s time to use our platform to make the best container deals. 

At Container xChange, you can easily lease, buy, or sell containers in 2500+ locations. All you have to do is: state your requirements, get offers from container traders, negotiate with a genuine partner, and get containers anywhere around the world. It’s that easy no emails, no calls, no hurdles!

We offer 100% market transparency on xChange so you can be sure you’re getting the right prices. You can easily browse through all the offers in one dashboard. This way, you can compare the price and choose the deal that suits your budget and terms. You can even negotiate with the seller directly. Plus, we don’t charge any commission on your deals. All 1500+ members on our platform are vetted so you can make risk-free deals. 

Lastly, we manage all your payments through the xChange wallet. This way, you can enable safe transactions and keep track of multiple payments on a single platform. 

So if you need a container type that you can’t find in your current sourcing channels, don’t worry. With over 10,000 containers located across 2,500+ unique locations, Container xChange makes it easy for you to find the containers you need.

Want to try the platform yourself and get specialized containers like reefers? Then, click the banner below to get a tour of our platform today. 

reefer containers meaning

Reefer container: Common FAQs

How much does a reefer container cost?

A cargo-worthy 40 HC reefer container costs anywhere between a range of $3,500 to $5,800.

What does reefer mean in shipping?

A reefer refers to a refrigerated container in the shipping industry. A reefer container is a specialized container that carries temperature-sensitive goods at regulated cold temperatures.

What is a 20ft reefer container?

A 20ft reefer container is a refrigerated shipping container with the standard external length of 20ft. The internal dimensions of a 20ft reefer may not be the same as those of a standard TEU.


What is a Reefer Container? Learn how it works & prices [2023]
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What is a Reefer Container? Learn how it works & prices [2023]
Reefer container ships temperature-sensitive goods. Here’s all the info about reefer containers and how they work.
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Container xChange
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