A shipping container home typically costs $30,000.
Shipping containers come in two standard sizes, which can be connected together to make larger rooms.
Size, materials, finishes, and accessories will impact the price.
A shipping container home is an eco-friendly, small-space living solution for homeowners who don’t need a lot of space or don’t want to be tied down physically or financially by a more traditional and costly house. Before you start a new build, here’s everything to consider as you budget for all the shipping container home costs you’ll encounter during your project.
How Much Does a Shipping Container Home Cost per Square Foot?
The standard dimensions of a shipping container are 8 feet wide and either 20 or 40 feet long so that they can be easily transported on roads and cargo ships. A standard 8-by-8-by-20 shipping container (160 square feet) costs as low as $1,200 while an 8-by-8-by-40 shipping container (320 square feet) costs as much as $10,000. Ordering a used shipping container is usually less expensive and is more sustainable than buying a brand new one.
Most shipping container homes combine multiple shipping containers together to create larger rooms, so when you decide what you want the square footage of your house to be, then you can calculate how many containers you’ll need to purchase.
In addition to buying the shipping container itself, you have to think about the costs of professional services you’ll need to make the space into living quarters as well as tools and materials to build it.
Shipping Container Home Cost Breakdown
Several factors can increase the price of your shipping container home. Typical costs are contingent on the size of the shipping container, the number of shipping containers you connect together, the structural elements that make the home safe, and the materials and finishes you use on both the interior and exterior.
Size and Number of Containers Used
Shipping containers typically come in two sizes: 8-by-8-by-20 and 8-by-8-by-40. The smaller ones are less expensive than the larger ones, although many people who build these homes tend to connect several shipping containers together to make a larger space. The side panels can be removed in order to make larger rooms.
A concrete foundation is generally the best option for building a sturdy shipping container home. Concrete foundations cost anywhere between $4 to $25 per square foot depending on the thickness and cost of the pro you hire to pour it.
Materials and Finishes
Like any other home you build, you’ll need to install electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling, insulation, and drywall in order to make your shipping container home a functional living space. You will also need a roof on top of the home to withstand the elements.
Cost of new electrical wiring: $600–$2,300
Plumbing cost: $1,500–$15,000
HVAC system installation cost: $5,000–$12,500
Insulation cost: $4–$15.56 per square foot
Drywall installation cost: $1.50 to $3 per square foot
Roof installation cost: $5,000–$45,000 (depending on the size and materials)
Other factors to consider that would affect the overall price of a home would be exterior elements like the windows, doors, and exterior paint, as well as interior finishes like the cabinetry, countertops (if applicable), appliances, interior paint colors, bathroom, and kitchen fixtures, doors, windows, hardware, and furniture and decor you furnish the home with.
Can You DIY a Shipping Container Home or Should You Hire a Pro?
Unless you have experience working in construction, building any house from scratch generally always requires a licensed general contractor or custom home builder. Because this will be your home and primary shelter, you likely won’t want to take any chances for things to go wrong during the build. In addition to the home builder, you will also need to hire professionals who specialize in interior necessities such as an electrician, plumber, and heating and cooling contractor.
To save money and time, you may be able to find a home builder who offers prefabricated shipping container homes, which cost more up-front but won’t require hiring as many pros to complete.
Frequently Asked Questions
It is a good idea to check in with your local city and state regulations before committing to building a shipping container home no matter where you live. This concept is pretty new across the country, and many places won’t let you build one.
The International Code Council (ICC) offers guidelines for home builders on the safe use of ISO intermodal shipping containers repurposed as building components, which can be helpful to review when planning or designing a shipping container home.
A shipping container home can be completed from start to finish more quickly than a traditional home, in as little as 90 days.
You can inquire with a shipping container company or a trucking company if they are selling any used containers or sometimes you can find them being sold on a site like eBay or Craigslist.
Shipping container homes are made from metal, so, over time, they can rust. Climate plays a big part in this; for instance, shipping containers in high-humidity, high-rainfall areas will rust faster than ones in a dry climate. There are maintenance steps a homeowner can take to prevent rust, and a well-maintained shipping container home can last around 25 years.
Yes, shipping container homes have a very high resale value if they’ve been well maintained over the years.