How Much Do Shipping Container Homes Cost: Make Your Penny’s Worth

Home built from shipping containers
Written by Diana Bennett

For most people, owning a home is a dream comes true. Unfortunately for a lot of people, this dream seems to be reserved for the rich, considering the high costs involved in acquiring a home. This is why shipping container homes have started becoming more popular. The question is, how much do shipping container homes cost?

While shipping container homes are a fairly new concept, they are slowly being embraced as an alternative to conventional construction building options, thanks to their relative affordability.

Stack of shipping containers

Reasons to consider a shipping container home

  • They are a faster construction alternative, taking a duration of between 10 days to 3 months before completion.
  • With 60-70% of construction being done offline for shipping container homes, they are independent of factors such as bad weather that may slow down the construction process for conventional building options.
  • Reduce overall costs of assembling materials especially in rural areas where such materials may not be easily accessible.
  • Customizeable to suit one’s needs and budget.

Factors to consider when budgeting for a shipping container home

Rather than disregarding your dream of owning a home, you can join the emerging trend of planning to and purchasing a shipping container home.

Buying shipping containers

When making a budget based on the cost to build a shipping container home, you would have to consider a few essential factors. Keeping these factors in mind will guide you in making good decisions throughout your whole home buying process.


Think about where you want to have your shipping container home as well as related factors such as the tax rates for that particular location area, the distance from your location to your workplace or children’s school and nearby shopping center.

Two-storey shipping container home

You are trying to save money and hence you don’t want to end up saving on a piece of land that will eventually drain your pockets as you fuel your car to access distant basic amenities.


To be able to have a shipping container home built; you’d have to buy your own piece of land so you won’t encounter any problems once you’ve already settled. It’s quite difficult to estimate the cost of land since different locations would yield different results.

Unmarked land for sale

Also consider the size of land you will purchase, making sure that your planned container home will fit into the piece of land you will buy.


As you think of your land and location, consider your foundation; the flatter your piece of land, the better for you. A piece of land on a slope would need more evacuation, increasing your overall costs, which could be avoided by acquiring a piece of land on a flat area.

Small container home

There are also areas that have building codes that could work to your disadvantage and have you spending more than what you had budgeted for.

For example, some cold climate areas require the installation of “frost walls” below the ground to protect the foundation of footings from frost heaves.

Municipal Water and Sewer

Land in already developed areas will probably have municipal water and sewer readily availed and therefore only requiring you to connect this to your own home.

Iron grate sewer cover

On the other hand, a piece of land in an underdeveloped area would require you to drill a well and install a septic system, which is a costly affair.


This is largely dependent on personal preferences, how much land you have left once you have installed your shipping container home and your budget. If you are planning to rent it out, you could invest a lot in landscaping and then use that to negotiate for higher rental.

Backyard landscaping idea


A lot of people don’t even consider insulation when looking into the cost to build a shipping container home, but eventually they end up regretting that oversight.

Buying a shipping container home without good insulation may turn out to be a bad decision as during the summer months, you might feel like you’re in an oven and during the winter months, you might end up feeling like you’re in a freezer.

Small shipping container house

You don’t have to skip insulation entirely as there are plenty of options when it comes to the kind of insulation you can install. If you’re budget is really tight, you can go for the basic kind and upgrade once you have more.

There are 3 most common types of insulation – panel, blanket and spray foam, which are usually installed in shipping container homes.

You can ask around to know which type would be the best for your shipping container home while still fitting into your budget.

Do Your Research

With all the mentioned factors considered, proceed to conduct your research on the different shipping container home dealers near you, compare their rates and the different duration that they allow for you to pay for your home.

Once you have settled on a dealer, tell him your budget and discuss a way forward. Do not be afraid to negotiate and ask for better deals than the ones being offered.

Shipping container home bedroom

When you’re looking into how much do shipping container homes cost, you’d have to consider all these important factors. Purchasing a shipping container home isn’t as expensive as owning an actual home but for sure, you’d still want to get your money’s worth, right?

Now let’s take a look at the different choices you have for shipping container homes.

Your Shipping Container Home Choices

Having a better idea of the relevant factors to keep in mind can guide you when you start looking for your shipping container homes. The price range for these kinds of homes can go as low as $40,000 all the way to $350,000.

Affordable shipping container housing

The price range is quite wide because there are a lot of variables and factors which can add up to the cost. In the end, you will be making the decision on which materials or variables you will use so that your home will fit into your budget.

To give you a clearer picture of how much a shipping container home will cost you, let’s take a look at the choices of shipping container homes available.

A Customized Shipping Container Home

You can choose to order a shipping container home which will be customized and built according to your preferences, specifications, and budget. Out of all possible choices, this is probably the most expensive one as you will be starting from scratch but you will be able to choose everything which would go into your home.

Custom made homes also come in two options – you can either buy one which already has a base which you can then customize or you choose a completely customized home.

Shipping container homes complex

The price range for customized homes is fairly wide but you can still save a lot of time, effort and money when you compare it to buying an actual house.

You also won’t have to deal with consequences of building a house especially if you are inexperienced. People who buy homes without doing the proper research often end up spending too much while not being entirely satisfied with what they end up with.

However, since this is still the most expensive type, you may not be so keen on choosing this. Fortunately, there are other more affordable types to choose from.

An Existing Shipping Container Home

When you’re looking for a home on a budget and you don’t know exactly how much do shipping container homes cost, you can choose to buy an existing shipping container home. This would be a lot less cheap, though it would still be more expensive than building one yourself.

Shipping container sheds

One good thing is that buying an existing shipping container home would take a lot less effort from you as you would be able to know what features you would be acquiring with your purchase before it arrives.

You have the opportunity to choose from a selection so you won’t end up dissatisfied when your home isn’t built the way you wanted it to be. Though there may be parts and features of the home which you don’t actually like, if you’re working on a budget and there are more pros than cons, this type would be the best one for you.

Build Your Own Shipping Container Home

This is the cheapest option, though it would entail a lot of time and effort from you as you would be building the home yourself. A lot of people opt to build their own shipping container home especially when analyzing the cost to build a shipping container home is a lot less than buying one which is already built.

If you choose to build your own home, you would be able to make all the decisions and control everything that goes into your shipping container home. You would be able to build your dream home according to your preferences and you would know exactly how all the functions in your home would operate.

You can choose materials which are safe and durable and you won’t have to deal with contractors who you don’t really know. Yes, it can be a stressful process, but it can also be a very rewarding one in the end.

Building a shipping container home

When you choose to build your own shipping container home, you would have to look into the prices of the following:

  • The base price for shipping containers so you can decide how many you will be using for your home.
  • The price for preparing the site of your home such as the price for laying the foundation, excavation, etc.
  • The price for assembly of all your materials and equipment.
  • The price of systems to be installed in your home such as plumbing, electricity, as well as heating and cooling systems.
  • The price for the main structure of your home – the flooring, roofing and type of insulation.
  • The price of other essential items such as doors and hardware, windows and glass installation and the closets and shelves which will go into your home.
  • Also keep in mind that you would have to consider the price of the land you would need to build your house on as well as any permits you would need for building.
  • The most important material for building a shipping container home would be the shipping containers themselves and you would definitely need more than one to make up your entire home.

Customized container home siding

So when you buy shipping containers, you would also have to consider how much the commercial shipping would be for your shipping containers. Aside from that, you would also have to consider costs for transporting and setting up the shipping containers while you are building your home.

  • The land where you will be building your home is also very important. If you already have a piece of land, that would be great. If not, you’d also have to include the price of the land in your budget.
  • Zoning and building permits can get quite costly and you would have to do research on how to acquire them so that you don’t end up getting penalized for breaking any rules.

You’d have to know the rules for building a home and comply with all of them when you would be building the home yourself.

  • Finally, you would have to obtain a building plan before you start building your own shipping container home. You can either get these plans by making them yourself, getting the services of an architect or searching online.

As you can see, there are different options for you to choose from when you are planning to get a shipping container home for yourself. Think about what kind of home you’d like to buy or if you want to build one yourself then start planning the budget for it by listing down all the possible costs.

Low cost shipping container home

To give you more information about shipping container homes, let’s take a look at the different advantages of owning a shipping container home.

Advantages of Owning a Shipping Container Home

Now that you know all the factors to be considered as well as the different types of shipping container homes you can choose from, it would be a lot more helpful for you to learn about the advantages of actually owning a shipping container home. Learning about these advantages may encourage you to start considering buying one so read on!

It’s More Environment Friendly

Companies use a lot of shipping containers when they are transporting materials and products and the fact is that it’s much more expensive to ship back empty containers than it is to throw them out and purchase new ones.

Interior of small container home

This means that a lot of shipping containers end up unused and are melted down. The process of melting down the shipping containers makes use of a huge amount of energy and can be quite harmful to the environment.

Finding a new purpose for the shipping containers – such as using them for building materials for shipping container homes, would be a lot better for the environment.

It’s a Lot More Affordable

Since there are a lot of shipping containers which are left unused, they end up being sold at a very affordable price. Since the shipping containers are used as the basic materials for the whole structure and framework of the house, you would be able to save a lot of money on these materials alone.

Savings on home cost

Remember that building a home entails a lot of costs as you would need a lot of materials aside from the shipping containers so saving wherever you can is essential.

It’s Easy to Use

Since building a home using shipping containers doesn’t require much structural work, even people with limited knowledge on building as well as architectural experience would be able to do it.

Shipping container apartments

This is why shipping container homes are gaining momentum. Being able to save a lot on building materials to be able to own a home is very appealing to people and the ease in which you can build with shipping containers is really a big plus.

It can Provide You with a Sustainable Way of Living

If you build or choose a small home which is properly built and has good insulation, you will be able to save a lot of energy and a lot of money in the long run. Not only that but shipping containers are durable so you are sure that your home has a tough exterior structure which will last for a long time.

Container homes in Cuba

It’s Possible to Transport

A huge benefit of owning a shipping container home is its possibility to be transported. Depending on how you’ve built the home, you may be able to move it to another location if the need arises.

Three-storey container home

It’s Structurally Sound

Shipping containers are used for transporting different products which means that they were designed and built to be extremely durable. These containers must be able to endure vast weight loads, harsh weather conditions and being handled by heavy equipment such as cranes.

Shipping container apartment complex

Because of this, building a house with these containers, whether small or multi-story, would ensure that your home would be hurricane proof, earthquake proof and would remain standing even through harsh weather. This would definitely give you a better sense of safety and security.

It can be Built in a Short Amount of Time

In building more traditional houses, making the framework and the structural part of the house can take a lot of time. Shipping container houses don’t need this which means they can be built a lot quicker.

Not only that, but they are typically a lot smaller which is why they can be built in less amounts of time.

Custom shipping container home

There are a lot of benefits to buying or building your own shipping container home and it’s very good to know them. However, before you start the process of obtaining your own home, let’s first look at some mistakes you have to avoid when you are either planning to buy or build a home.

Read on to learn about these mistakes and prevent them from happening.

Mistakes to Avoid When Buying or Building a Shipping Container Home

Whether you choose to buy a customized shipping container home or an existing one or you choose to build one for yourself, you’d have to know these common mistakes which occur throughout the process. Learning about these mistakes can help you avoid them and lessen any issues in the process.

Purchasing the Wrong Shipping Containers which Would not Suit Your Needs

The fact is, there are a lot of options aside from the more typical kinds of shipping containers and not a lot of people know that. You can do research on the different kinds of shipping containers so that when you make a choice and buy them, you are sure that you’re getting good quality.

Tiny shipping container house

For instance, a “high cube” container may be more expensive than more common containers but they are about an inch taller which in the long run can give you more room in your house.

Making Purchases Without Inspecting the Materials

Those who are working on a tighter budget often tend to choose used containers instead of new ones. If you plan to do the same, it would be vital to inspect the containers first before actually making your purchase.

Stacks of shipping containers

You have to make sure that the containers you get have no dents, rust or damage which might potentially cause health problems to you or the rest of your household in the long run. Be sure to know what containers you are buying or it might end up costing you more in the future.

Not Doing the Proper Research in Regards to the Local Regulations

Before you even think of starting to build your own shipping container home or choosing one to purchase, you would have to contact the local public works department.

Inspecting a shipping container

Learn everything you need to in order to be able to build your new home. This is so that you won’t encounter and have to deal with big delays or potential disappointments in the process.

Making Too Many Changes in the Structure of the Containers

You may choose to customize your home and the containers you would need for it. Keep in mind though that if you make too many changes such as cutting away too much of the material to fit your custom design might have an impact on the structural integrity and the strength of the containers.

Shipping containers to be sold

Selecting the Incorrect Contractor for the Job

Be extra careful in selecting a contractor to work with in building your home. Do your research on the reputation of the contractor you plan to work with so that you will be sure that your home is built well.

The Choice is Up To You!

Now that you know the answer to the question “How much do shipping containers cost,” as well as a lot of other helpful information, all you have to do now is make a decision. You can choose to buy or build your own shipping container home rather than buying a more traditional home which costs a lot more.

Shipping container home rental

If you do decide to own a shipping container home, you’d have to consider a lot of factors as well as the cost to building a shipping container home. In any case, the choice is up to you and now you are armed with all the essential information to guide you through the whole process!


Diana Bennett

Diana is passionate about interior and architectural design and wants to dedicate her life to the transition of living space to more practical and affordable but elegant and cozy at the same time. Her father is a developer, so she was raised on a construction site learning all the details of the construction process. Later she got involved in design industry and received a degree in journalism. As a result she knows how to build an amazing home and writes about it.