Reefer Container vs. Dry Container: What’s the difference?

Reefer Container vs. Dry Container: What is the difference?

Ever wondered about the differences between reefer containers and dry containers in the world of shipping? It's a bit like choosing the right toolbox for your cargo. Reefer containers and dry containers play different roles in getting stuff from one place to another, and knowing when to use each is pretty important. In this blog, we're going to break down the basics, so whether you're a shipping pro or just getting started, you'll have the lowdown on these containers and be better equipped for your cargo adventures. Curious about the differences? Let's find out together!"

What is a Reefer Container?

A reefer container, short for refrigerated container, is a specialized container designed to transport and store perishable goods under controlled temperature conditions. These containers are equipped with excellent heat insulation and airtight features, allowing them to maintain the specific low temperatures required for various perishable foods.

Reefer containers come in different types, such as built-in mechanical reefer containers with freezers and external mechanical reefer containers without freezers. They are particularly suitable for transporting goods like meat and fruits that require specific temperature conditions to prevent spoilage.

It's important to note that using reefer containers comes with higher costs, both in terms of initial investment and operating expenses. Given the sensitivity of perishable goods to temperature fluctuations, users need to pay close attention to the technical condition of the refrigeration device within the container. Maintaining the required temperature for the specific goods being transported is crucial to ensuring their quality and safety during the shipping process.

What is a Dry Container?

Dry containers are a standard type of shipping or cargo container primarily designed for transporting dry goods that don't require specific temperature controls. Typically available in 40-foot sizes, although 20-foot options exist, these containers are constructed with sturdy steel to withstand harsh weather conditions like wind, rain, and saltwater exposure. They provide a secure environment for a variety of shipments.

Customization options allow for additional security features, catering to specific needs for certain types of cargo. Various types of dry containers are used across industries, including storage roll containers, half-height containers, open-top containers, double door containers, open-side containers, tunnel containers, and flat racks.

One noteworthy aspect of dry containers is their versatility. Beyond their primary role in bulk international shipping, businesses often repurpose these containers for creative and practical applications. They've been transformed into workstations, mobile clinics, retail stores, restaurants, food trucks, storage solutions for heavy equipment, warehouses, and even residential living spaces. This adaptability makes dry containers valuable not only in transportation but also in creating diverse and functional structures across different sectors.

Reefer Container vs. Dry Container

Reefer containers and dry containers differ in various aspects, including cost, durability, purpose, and technology.


Reefer containers are more expensive to hire, maintain, or purchase compared to dry containers due to their specialized electronic components. However, their long-term cost-effectiveness stems from the technological benefits they offer.


Reefer containers are highly durable, even in adverse weather conditions, although they might be slightly less durable than dry containers. Dry containers, made predominantly of aluminium or steel without specialized electronics, are designed to handle large payloads and may exhibit higher durability.

Purpose and Application of Reefer Containers:

Reefer containers are specialized for the transportation of perishable and temperature-sensitive items. Their applications extend across various industries, ensuring optimal conditions for different types of cargo.


Reefer containers are crucial for transporting pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and medical supplies that require specific temperature controls. This ensures the integrity and effectiveness of the medications during transit.

Food and Beverages:

The food industry heavily relies on reefer containers to transport perishable goods like fruits, vegetables , meat , seafood , and dairy products . Maintaining precise temperature settings is essential for preserving freshness and meeting quality standards.

Disaster Relief Supplies:

In times of natural disasters, reefer containers play a vital role in transporting emergency relief supplies. These containers can carry essential items like medicines, food, and other perishable goods to affected areas quickly and efficiently.

Military and Government Applications:

Reefer containers find applications in military and government operations. They are utilized for transporting sensitive materials, medical supplies, and equipment to testing sites, deployment areas, or locations that demand adherence to strict safety standards.

Purpose and Application of Dry Containers:

Dry containers, in contrast, are versatile for transporting a wide range of non-perishable or dry items. Their applications include the following:

Books and Paper Products:

Dry containers are suitable for shipping books, paper products, and stationery items without the need for specific temperature controls.


The toy industry utilizes dry containers for transporting a variety of toys and play equipment.


Dry containers are ideal for shipping furniture, ensuring the protection of items from external elements.

Vehicle Parts:

The automotive industry often uses dry containers to transport vehicle parts securely.

Coal, Grains, and Building Materials:

Dry containers are well-suited for transporting dry bulk goods like coal, grains, and building materials.


The textile industry relies on dry containers to transport clothing and fabrics.

Tools and Equipment:

Dry containers provide a secure environment for transporting tools, machinery, and equipment.


Reefer containers incorporate various technological components, such as controller units that adjust temperature, humidity, and ventilation settings for different cargo types. In contrast, dry containers typically lack electronic components, coming in standard formats without the need for controller units, making them simpler in terms of technology.

In summary, while reefer containers may entail higher initial costs, their advanced technology and suitability for specific cargo types make them cost-effective in the long run. Dry containers, on the other hand, excel at transporting a wide range of non-perishable goods and are known for their simplicity and durability. The choice between the two depends on the nature of the cargo and specific transportation needs.

Which shipping containers are best for my business?

When considering the ideal shipping container for your business, the choice between reefer and dry containers hinges on the unique needs of your products. While both containers facilitate fast and efficient bulk shipping across land and sea, they diverge in their features.

Reefer containers stand out with multiple temperature control mechanisms, making them the go-to choice for transporting perishable and environmentally sensitive goods. If your cargo includes items that require specific temperature conditions to remain fresh and compliant with local and industry regulations, opting for a reefer container is crucial.

On the other hand, if your products are non-hazardous and don't necessitate temperature control, a dry container may be a more cost-efficient option, especially when dealing with heavy loads. Dry containers, while lacking the advanced temperature features of reefers, provide a secure and economical solution for various non-perishable items.


The decision between a reefer and a dry container depends on the nature of your cargo and your business priorities. Consider the specific requirements of your products, local regulations, and your budget constraints to make an informed choice that aligns with the efficient and safe transportation of your goods. For easy and efficient reefer container bookings, real-time tracking, and temperature management for perishable exports, Citrus Freight is your go-to solution. Streamline operations and ensure safe transportation with this user-friendly app.