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How Much Does a Shipping Container Home Cost? (2024 Price Guide)

shipping container house

Shipping container homes are a hot topic among many people nowadays. They have been used as temporary facilities for years. But more and more homeowners are finding ways to use them for permanent residences.

Container houses are cheaper and eco-friendly compared to building a house from scratch. They are ideal for various situations including accommodation at campsites, summer houses, and rural properties.

Many want to know one thing: how much does a shipping container home cost? We are here to answer that and other costs related to a shipping container home. With this, you can decide if a shipping container home is suitable for you.

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Benefits of a Shipping Container Home

A shipping container home is a pre-fabricated structure with recycled steel containers as its primary building material. Shipping containers have been used for decades to transport goods by road, railway, or ship. Today, their use has advanced to the creation of houses.

Below are some benefits of these shipping container homes:

They Cost Less Than Traditional Housing

Shipping container homes cost less than traditional houses. The materials are already on site, and the structure is pre-fabricated. The cost savings can be significant—if you opt for a small house with few amenities or shipping container homes that don’t need extra plumbing or wiring. Shipping container homes also need less labor. You can reduce the customization cost further by DIY.

red shipping container house
Image Credit: ChompooSuppa, Shutterstock

You Can Modify Them Easily

Shipping containers are one of the most versatile building materials available. They are easy to modify. So, you can add windows or doors and create an interior layout that works for you. You can also add insulation if necessary.

Besides, you can use several shipping containers to construct a larger home with several rooms. You can include dining and living rooms, bedrooms, and a second floor.

They’re Durable

Shipping containers are made to be durable and strong enough to stand up to a lot of wear and tear. They have to withstand the elements during transport.

These same qualities make them ideal for home construction. The metal walls are waterproof and don’t need much maintenance once installed. They are even more durable than traditional housing.

Constructing Them Is Fast

You can construct shipping container homes in a few days because they’re pre-fabricated. It makes them ideal for emergency housing or other projects where speed is crucial.

They’re Mobile

One of the biggest advantages of shipping container homes is that you can move them from one location to another. If you need to move your home because you’ve transferred to another city, it’s easy to do so. You don’t have to worry about tearing down walls or rewiring electrical outlets.

container carried by automated guided vehicle
Image Credit: Bernd Dittrich, Unsplash

How Much Does a Shipping Container Home Cost?

Before you actually settle for the idea of a shipping home, it is important to factor in the cost of the overall project.

A shipping container home costs about $30,000. This includes materials and tools involved. Let’s break down this cost based on the dimensions.

Shipping containers have standard dimensions.

  • An eight by eight by 20 feet shipping container has a volume of 160 square feet. This container can cost as low as $1,200.
  • An eight by eight by 40 feet shipping container with a volume of 320 square feet can cost $10,000 or more.

Note that a used container will be cheaper than a new one. That said, you may need more shipping containers to construct a larger home. For instance, if you want to use four 40-feet shipping containers to build your home, they’ll cost you $40,000 or more.

black and white container house
Image Credit: Jed Owen, Unsplash

Factors Affecting the Cost of a Shipping Container Home

In detail, the following are some of the factors affecting the cost of a shipping container home:

1. The Shipping Container’s Condition

Usually, shipping containers are rated according to their condition. They can vary in terms of their quality and usefulness. Generally, the better the container’s condition, the more it will cost. As mentioned already, new shipping containers are more expensive than used ones, but they offer better insulation and durability.

If you want to save money, you can buy an old container at a lower price and have it refurbished. This way, you won’t have to worry about leaks and drafty windows, which may cause uncomfortable living conditions during winter.

If you buy a used shipping container, it’s crucial to ask these questions:

  • How was it used before/what was kept inside it?
  • Are there any damages or rusting?
  • What harsh climates was it exposed to?
shipping containers
Image Credit: Piqsels

2. Container Size

One of the first things you need to consider is the size of the shipping container you want to use for your house. If you want to build an entire house out of shipping containers, check on the different sizes available. Then, choose one that fits your needs best.

For example, if you are building a single-story home, it might be better to choose 20-foot containers instead of 40-foot ones. This way, they fit together better and make up the roof line more effectively.

On the other hand, if you want two stories or more, there’s no reason why you cannot use 40-foot shipping containers. Most shipping containers have a standard height of 8.5 feet. The standard sizes are 20 and 40 feet. Here’s the cost of shipping container homes according to the size.

Container Size Cost
Standard 20-Foot: 20’ x 8’ x 8′ 6″ $2,800 to $6,500
High-Cube 20-Foot: 20’ x 8’ x 9′ 6″ $3,000 to $6,900
Standard 40-Foot: 40 x 8’ x 8′ 6″ $4,000 to $8,300
High-Cube 40-Foot: 40’ x 8’ x 9′ 6″ $4,300 to $8,900

3. Amount of Modifications

You must consider the cost of converting a shipping container into a home if you’re not getting a pre-fabricated one.

If you want to modify a shipping container, how extensive will these modifications be? Will they need extra framing or other structural changes? Will they need extra insulation? Will they involve adding heating or cooling systems? All these are questions you should ask yourself, and all these factors can add up fast!

Significant modifications translate to higher costs. We shall cover this in detail in the section for extra costs to anticipate.

three storey container house
Image Credit: Hithesh S, Unsplash

4. The Shipping Fees

If you buy your shipping containers locally, there won’t be more costs involved in getting them to your land. But, if you want to buy shipping containers from another state or country, the cost of transporting them to your destination will be high.

It can quickly increase the total cost of your home by thousands of dollars.


5. Prefabricated Homes

If you don’t want to modify a shipping container on your own, you can buy a prefabricated shipping container home. These homes are built offsite and delivered as pre-fabricated. Then, they’re assembled on-site. This process reduces the time needed to construct the home and can reduce costs.

home office in container house in backyard
Image Credit: Ground Picture, Shutterstock

Extra Costs to Expect

Besides buying shipping containers, there are other costs that come with the container modification to make it a habitable home. You also need several materials and tools. Here are several extra costs you can expect.

Foundation

Before you even contemplate buying your shipping container home, you’ll need a strong foundation and floor. It’s the base of your home and frames the entire structure, so it must be sturdy.

When building on a new lot with an old foundation, you may want to hire a foundation contractor to clear off the old foundation and install a new concrete foundation that can support the load of the container.

There are three popular types of foundations for a shipping container. They’re slab, trench, and concrete pier. The average cost of these three types of foundations ranges from $4 to $25 per square foot. The cost of laying a foundation depends on the concrete’s thickness and the cost of hiring an expert.

concrete house foundation
Image Credit: FOTOGRIN, Shutterstock

Materials and Finishes

The shipping container home is not the only thing you’ll need to consider. A lot of money goes into making the container livable. You need to budget for windows, plumbing, wiring, and more.

Let’s break down several costs associated with materials and finishes.

Materials Cost
Plumbing $1,500 to $15,000
Installing HVAC System $5,000 to $12,500
New Electrical Wiring $600 to $2,300
Installing Drywall $1.50 to $3 (For every square foot)
Insulation Spray Foam ($2 per square foot)

Panel ($1.20 for every square foot)

Blanket ($0.45 per foot)

Installing the Roof $5,000 to $45,000 depending on the materials and the size

Don’t forget to factor in the cost of other materials, such as doors, windows, and paint. After completing the construction of your shipping container home, interior finishes are next. They include countertops, kitchen fixtures, cabinets, interior paint colors, and furniture.

Tips for Buying a Shipping Container

  • Inspect the container thoroughly to avoid buying a faulty one that could cost you more money in repairs later on.
  • Be ready for the costs involved including the purchase price of the container itself and any modifications you make to it.
  • Get in touch with your city planning office. This step may seem obvious, but it can be challenging if you don’t know where to start. The best thing that you can do is contact your city planning office or building department. Ask them what they recommend for preparing a shipping container house. City planning offices provide information about building codes and regulations. They may also point out any local businesses that could help with the project or offer suggestions on other ways of preparing a shipping container home.
person handing over building permit and helmet
Image Credit: DmitryStock, Shutterstock

Disadvantages of a Shipping Container Home

Before you decide to go with this type of home, you must know its disadvantages also. Here they are!

They Usually Need Reinforcements

Shipping container homes need extra reinforcement to make them safe and structurally sound. For example, they need extra steel beams, cross beams, and flooring to support the building.

You’ll have to pay extra money for these additions or do them yourself. Reinforcement is also ideal because cutting holes to make windows and a door weakens the container structure..

They Have Less Living Space

Shipping containers are used for cargo transport, so the interior space is limited. The walls are made from corrugated steel. It adds strength but reduces the amount of usable space inside the container.

It makes it challenging for large families to find affordable housing options. You can use many shipping containers to make rooms larger, but it’ll cost more.

interior of a container house
Image Credit: Jed Owen, Unsplash

You Must Get Permits

Before building a shipping container home on your land or property, you must obtain a permit from local authorities. Many factors come into play when getting permission from the authorities. They include zoning regulations and environmental impact assessment.

Some states don’t allow people to build their homes out of shipping containers unless they obtain these special permits.

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Conclusion

As you can see, there are many advantages to buying a shipping container home, both for residential and commercial purposes. In terms of price, cost, and value, these homes can be the ideal alternative to traditional building materials.

Building a home with shipping containers is a viable option that can work well if you’re on a budget and space is an issue. If this sounds like something you would consider in the future, it may be time to take the plunge!

See also: Are Shipping Container Homes Legal in Nevada? Everything You Need to Know!


Featured Image Credit: Tillo2015, Shutterstock

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