7 Key Factors in the Cost of Shipping Container Homes

Shipping container homes are growing in popularity, enough so that by 2025, Allied Market Research estimates that the global market for shipping container homes will reach $73.07 billion.

Using these containers for your home can be a great choice. They’re very durable, and they can be less expensive than a traditional home.

Even so, before deciding on this option, it’s important to understand the cost of shipping container home building. Here are 7 factors that impact the price. 

  1. Condition of Container

The first consideration in the shipping container home builders’ cost is the condition of the container.

For a home, a new shipping container is the safest option. With a new container, you won’t have to worry about structural integrity or damages. These will also be weatherproof and free from contamination.

As with most things, buying a new container will cost more, around $3,000-$5,000. Getting one can also take longer, since you may need to wait for it to be built and shipped to you.

Depending on your comfort level, you could also choose a high-quality used shipping container. A used container might be half the price of a new one.

If you opt for a used container, find out as much as you can about it. Some things to consider are:

  • How it’s been used
  • What’s been kept in it
  • What climates has it been exposed to
  • If it has any damages or rust

If possible, inspect a used container before purchasing it to make sure you know what you’re getting.

  1. Size of Container

Size is another key factor in the cost breakdown of shipping container home building.

Shipping containers have three standard lengths, but the most popular for homes are 20 feet and 40 feet. Most are 8.5 feet tall, although you can also go for a high cube, which is 9.5 feet tall. As you would expect, the larger containers cost more. For the standard height, you could get a new 20-foot container for about $3,000, while a 40-foot container would cost around $5,600 more.

Also remember that for a home, you might want multiple containers. You could choose a larger option for the main living space, and smaller containers for an office or bedroom.

  1. Prefabricated Homes

The next question is whether you want to get a pre-fabricated, or prefab, home, or if you want to modify one yourself.

The cost of prefab shipping container homes varies widely. You can get fairly basic ones from Amazon for around $40,000 and up. On the other hand, you can get much more elaborate prefab homes for $150,000 or up. It depends on how much space you need, and how many amenities you’re looking for.

  1. Modifications

If you’re not getting a prefab home, you need to consider the cost to convert a shipping container into a home.

Some of the things you’ll need to consider are:

  • How many entrances you want
  • Number and location of windows
  • Plumbing
  • Electricity
  • Heating and cooling

All of these modifications add up, so you’ll want to compare the costs against getting a prefabricated home to see which is the most cost-effective.

  1. Insulation

Insulation is another important part of your shipping container home. Without this, you won’t have any protection from heat or cold.

You have three main choices for insulation: spray foam, blanket, or panel.

Spray foam insulation costs the most, from around $2-$3 per square foot. This is still worth considering because it provides a vapor barrier, something the other options don’t have. Spray foam is also very thin, at just 2 inches thick, and it’s easy to install. For either of the other options, you’ll first need to attach a wooden frame to the inside of the container. That takes up additional space.

Panel insulation is the easiest to install, and it’s less expensive, at around $0.75 and $1.45 per square foot. It’s also 3 inches thick, which is a bit thicker than the spray foam.

Blanket insulation is the most budget-friendly choice, about $0.30 per square foot. It’s not difficult to install, but if you choose fiberglass insulation, you’ll need to wear gloves when installing it.

  1. Foundation

As with any home, having the proper foundation is important. Even if you get a prefabricated home, you might need to think about a foundation, unless the prefab comes with a foundation.

As with insulation, you have three foundation options to consider: pier, strip (or trench), and slab.

The least expensive choice is a pier foundation, which is around $550 for a single 40-foot container. It’s also the quickest option, and a great choice if you’re working on the home yourself since it doesn’t require special equipment. For a pier foundation, you need a cement block under each corner of the container and potentially blocks to support the middle for larger containers.

A strip foundation, also called a trench, is useful if the ground is too soft to support a pier foundation. With this approach, you put a strip of concrete around the container’s perimeter. This requires excavation, since the trench is typically four feet deep, although it might be more depending on your freeze depth.

The additional effort of a strip foundation drives up the cost. For a 40-foot container, the cost estimate is around $5,400.

The most expensive option is a slab foundation, which involves putting a slab of concrete under the whole container. This requires excavating the ground under the entire container, which means this could cost around $6,000 or more for a 40-foot container. You would typically choose this option if the ground won’t support pier or strip foundations.

  1. Location and Shipping Fees

The final factor in the estimated cost of a shipping container home, is how far the container is from your building site.

You might think you need to order a container from a far off location, but it’s worth looking for local dealers in the Texas region first. If you buy from someone nearby, you’ll avoid the extravagant shipping costs, and you can inspect the unit before you buy it.

If you don’t have a local dealer, shop around to see if you can find the closest one, or one that offers any price breaks for shipping the container to the building site. Otherwise, transportation costs can add significantly to the price of your home. 

Decide the Cost of Shipping Container Home Building

The cost of shipping container home building is partly in your control once you understand all your choices. Make sure to evaluate all your options and then find the best fit for your new house.

Are you ready to bring your shipping container home dream to life? Contact us today, and our container professionals will help you get started.

Comments for this post are closed.