How to Choose the Right-Size Dumpster

You’re finally inspired to tackle the garage and clear out years of junk and clutter. Or maybe it’s time to remodel that outdated 1980s guest bath. Whatever the project, a dumpster rental is a good choice to help you get rid of the resulting debris.

But how do you know which dumpster size is right for the job? Sometimes it can be difficult for even an expert to estimate the correct size. But Captain Hook has tips to help you determine which dumpster suits your needs.

Consider Capacity

We offer three dumpster sizes:

  • 10 cubic yards (7 x 12 x 3.5 feet)
  • 20 cubic yards (8 x 16 x 6 feet)
  • 30 cubic yards (8 x 16 x 8 feet)

To figure out how many cubic yards you’ll need, we recommend using the pickup truck analogy. As a rule of thumb, a 10-yard dumpster is the equivalent of 4 pickup truck loads, a 20-yard dumpster is equivalent to 8 pickup truck loads and a 30-yard dumpster is equivalent to 12 pickup truck loads.

When in doubt, size up.

It’s better to make sure you have enough capacity upfront than to have a surprise later and possibly incur additional costs. All of our dumpsters have doors on the back, so you don’t have to worry about the height of a larger dumpster.

And remember, it’s always more expensive to have a dumpster emptied and brought back than to simply rent the next size up in the first place. The difference in the next size up could be just a few dollars, so be sure to ask before you order!

Fit Your Space

When selecting the best dumpster capacity, consider the location where the dumpster will be placed. Be sure to consider the footprint of the dumpster, as well as the vertical clearance required for delivery.

Can I place a dumpster on the street?

Most cities, HOAs, and neighborhoods restrict placing dumpsters on public streets. They may also limit the number of days onsite or may require a permit that is complex and costly to obtain.

Can I place a dumpster in my yard?

Dumpsters are heavy so they can’t be placed onto bare ground without the risk of getting stuck and causing property damage. You’ll need to have the dumpster placed on a more solid surface such as your driveway or another asphalt, concrete, or gravel surface.

Can I place a dumpster next to a tree?

Dumpsters tilt up behind the drop-off trucks so you need space to accommodate a minimum of 18 vertical feet of clearance. Look above the delivery location. Are there branches or low-hanging wires that could get in the way? If so, you’ll need to find an alternative site.

Consider the Contents

Consider the weight of materials you plan to put into the dumpster. Dirt, brick, concrete, gravel, and other “heavy fill” materials can easily create loads exceeding the dumpster’s 10-ton weight limit. Those materials cannot be placed in 20- or 30-yard dumpsters.

So while “sizing up” is usually the right move, if heavy fill materials are in the mix, contact our team. We can work with you on options that can not only save you a trip fee and the labor of having to offload an overweight dumpster but also just might save you money on disposal fees!

Plan Ahead and Don’t Overfill

When choosing dumpster size, keep in mind that you can’t pile materials in the dumpster higher than the sidewall. Each dumpster must be secured with a tarp before being transported to the landfill. Material exceeding the height of the sidewall will get in the way of the tarp.

Level filling and secure tarping is required for a few reasons:

  1. It’s unsafe to allow materials to fall or blow out of the dumpster, especially since most loads will need to travel at highway speeds to reach the landfill.
  2. DOT regulations prohibit the transport of an unsecured load and violations could result in a fine.
  3. Waste is meant to be disposed of at the landfill, not by the roadside. Help us keep your town clean by keeping the load low and level.

Summing it Up

Choosing a dumpster size is a bit of an art, but there are ways you can estimate the right size for your project. Based on the volume and type of material you are disposing of, and the space you have to work with on your property, you can pick exactly what’s best for your next project.

And if you miscalculate on size, don’t worry. The process for swapping out a full dumpster for an empty one is simple and can usually be done with as little as one business day’s notice.

Still have questions? Give us a call at 512-719-4172 and our friendly customer service agents will be happy to assist you. You can also check out our articles on Tips for a Better Experience With Dumpster Rentals. or learn more about Captain Hook at