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RO/RO Shipping vs. Container Shipping: Which?

When you’re moving your vehicle overseas, one of your toughest choices is the right method of shipping. RO/RO shipping is considered convenient while container shipping is thought of as the safest choice. The truth is that each suits specific needs, and you must evaluate both to make the best decision.


What’s the Difference Between RO/RO and Container Shipping?

Can’t decide between RO/RO and container shipping? Here’s how they compare.



The basic difference between RO/RO and container shipping is their process of loading, unloading and transporting vehicles.

When shipping via the RO/RO (roll-on/roll-off) method, the cars are driven, using a platform, directly onto vessels designed specifically for this purpose. Similarly, vehicles are unloaded at the destination port on their wheels.

Container shipping, as the name suggests, involves deliver goods via a shipping container. The cargo is loaded into the container which is then loaded onto the ship by crane. There are two subcategories of container shipping: Full Container Load (FCL) and Consolidated Container Shipping. The former allows you to book the full container and use the entire space to load your goods whereas you share the space with other shippers in the latter.


Arrival and Departure Dates

Arrival and departure dates are guaranteed with the RO/RO method because the vessels generally follow a fixed schedule. Container shipping doesn’t guarantee a shipping schedule which can be a problem if you need your vehicle to be shipped on or by a specific date.


Personal Belongings

If you choose to ship your vehicle via RO/RO, then you’ll have to remove all personal belongings. With container shipping, you can ship personal items like spare tires, repair tools and other accessories along with the vehicle. In fact, depending on the container size, you can ship furniture too.


Type of Vehicles Shipped

Another major difference is the type of vehicle you can ship through each method. Apart from regular vehicles like cars and motorcycles, RO/RO vessels are designed to accommodate heavy-duty vehicles, like trucks and buses, that are too big to be loaded into a container.

In other words, if you’re sending a sedan, it can easily be accommodated inside a container, but if you’re shipping a boat or ATV, RO/RO is best.



Container shipping is a safer way to move your car overseas as it’s well braced inside an enclosed container which protects it from sun, storms and dust. It also significantly reduces the chance of damage during transit.

That’s unlike container shipping in the RO/RO method where your car is parked on open decks and can be damaged by exposure to harsh weather.


Number of Vehicles

When choosing container shipping, you can ship up to two mid-size cars in a 20-foot container and four mid-size cars in a 40-foot container. Therefore, to ship more vehicles, you need more containers.

But with the RO/RO method, you can move many vehicles at once. In fact, modern RO/RO vessels can carry up to 8500 cars per sailing, making it the preferred choice of car manufacturers that move product in bulk.

Container shipping, by contrast, is the go-to option to move small orders, like three to four cars.


Time Frame

RO/RO shipping is faster than container shipping as the vehicles leave for their destination country on the next available ship. That’s as opposed to waiting to be packed inside a container and then loaded with the help of a crane.

Also, if you choose a consolidated container, you will have to wait to fill the rest of the space in the container before it’s shipped.



Not all countries offer the deep-water berthing facilities needed for big oceangoing RO/RO vessels. This limits the reach of this method. Therefore, if your destination country doesn’t have a port that supports RO/RO vessels, you can’t choose this method.

However, container shipping can be used to move vehicles to all international ports provided you have the necessary documents and follow shipping rules and regulations.


Why Do the Costs Differ in RORO and Container Shipping?

Let’s find out the reason. RO/RO shipping is a more cost-effective method, especially if you’re shipping one car, since you share port fees, customs and other costs with your fellow shippers. Container shipping can be expensive if the consignment contains only one car. The cost of loading and unloading a container is slightly higher than driving the cars on and off. However, consolidated container shipping is less expensive than full container load.


Which Should You Choose?

Simply put, your choice depends on your shipping requirements, including budget, destination, number of vehicles, type of vehicles and urgency. Each method has its benefits and drawbacks. For example, RO/RO shipping is convenient if you’re looking for a cost-effective option and have to ship multiple vehicles as soon as possible. Container shipping is an excellent choice if you want to safely ship other personal belongings along with your vehicle without considering budget or time.

Hopefully, this comparison will help you choose the most convenient shipping method for your auto transport needs. Consult your freight forwarding company for professional advice and then make an informed decision. They will help you evaluate all aspects of international vehicle shipping and take care of all documentation so you have a smoother shipping experience.

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