Cost of Building a Shipping Container Home

By PropertyClub Team
May 23rd 2024
Building a shipping container home can cost between $15,000 to $35,000, but if you want a bigger home with more containers, the price can go over $100,000.

This article explains how to build a shipping container home, including costs for land, foundations, and insulation. It also covers the cost of buying new or used containers, and the price of pre-built options. Learn why container homes are cheaper and durable, and find out if they are the right choice for you.

hash-markTable of Contents

How Much Does a Shipping Container Home Cost to Build?
Are Container Homes Cheaper to Build?
How Do You Build a Shipping Container Home?
How Much Do Pre-Built Shipping Container Homes Cost?
How Long Do Shipping Container Homes Last?
Is a Shipping Container Home Worth It?
Building a Shipping Container Home Cost Bottom Line

hash-markHow Much Does a Shipping Container Home Cost to Build? 

Shipping container homes cost between $15,000 to $35,000 to build, on average. However, if you plan on using multiple shipping containers to build a larger home, the price can increase dramatically to over $100,000. The exact price will vary depending on where you want to put the shipping container home, the type of foundation you use, the features you want to put inside, and the size of the shipping container you buy.

Still, it’s hard to make a shipping container home cost as much as a regular home, even with updated features embedded inside.

hash-markAre Container Homes Cheaper to Build?

Yes, shipping container homes are cheaper to build than regular homes. While a single container home might cost around $30,000 to build, a house of similar size would cost you around $90,000 to build, more than 3 times the shipping container home. Shipping containers emerge as one of the cheapest types of houses to build when it comes to price.

hash-markHow Do You Build a Shipping Container Home?

  1. Look Into Land
  2. Set a Foundation
  3. Purchase a Shipping Container
  4. Install Insulation
  5. Find Amenities

If you’re planning on building a shipping container home, it’s critical to understand everything that goes into the process. There are a few steps you should follow to create this space. Each has varying costs that will add to the overall expense. Familiarize yourself before diving into the creation of one of these homes.

1. Look Into Land

First, you need to look into the cost of land in the area you plan to live in. To create a shipping container home, you need to purchase a plot of land. This cost varies depending on the state. Your shipping container will have to stay in one place.

The USDA stated that the average cost of farmland in 2021 was about $3,380 per acre. This number is up from previous years. If you want to live closer to a city or popular tourist area, you can expect to pay more per acre.

The land will also vary in price depending on the type you purchase. Farmland is different from land that already has access to varying amenities.

2. Set a Foundation

Once you have land, you need to lay a foundation for your home to sit on. There are three foundations you can use.

These include:

  • Trench foundations: A hole is dug into the ground and filled with concrete.
  • Slab foundations: Concrete is laid on top of the first, then the shipping home container is placed on that.
  • Pier foundations: Columns elevate the structure off the ground, keeping it safe and dry.

Any of these will keep your home protected from damaging weather and other circumstances.

The average cost of laying a foundation falls at around $4,500. The trench foundation will cost the least, while the pier foundation will cost you the most.

3. Purchase a Shipping Container

You can purchase a new or used shipping container to build your home. The used will always be cheaper. Typically, a used container will have been in service before it arrives at your land. A new container is only used by you.

A new shipping container typically costs between $2,000 to $5,000. Some larger more expensive shipping containers can be as expensive as $8,000. Used containers will vary in price depending on the company and the damage they’ve sustained.

4. Install Insulation

Once you have your container on your foundation, insulation is the next piece in the puzzle. Insulation will keep the interior of your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It’s necessary if you want comfort yearly.

Here are different types of insulation to choose from:

Spray Foam Insulation

Pros: Provides excellent thermal resistance, air sealing, and moisture barrier. It can conform to irregular shapes and is great for tight spaces.

Cons: More expensive than other types, but highly effective.

Rigid Foam Insulation

Pros: Offers high R-value per inch and is resistant to moisture. Easy to install and can be used on walls, floors, and ceilings.

Cons: Can be more expensive than traditional fiberglass but offers better performance.

Fiberglass Insulation

Pros: Common and widely available, cost-effective, and easy to install.

Cons: Needs to be properly sealed to prevent moisture accumulation and can lose effectiveness if compressed.

On average, insulation costs about $2,000 for a 2,000 sq. foot home. Measure your container to estimate how much you will need to pay for insulation.

5. Find Amenities

Finally, you can install amenities inside your shipping container home. From plumbing to electricity, there’s a lot to cover for the ultimate livability.

Here are some essential amenities to consider:

  1. Plumbing: Functional kitchen and bathroom plumbing, including sinks, showers, toilets, and water heaters.
  2. Electricity: Wiring for lighting, outlets, and major appliances such as refrigerators, ovens, and washing machines.
  3. Heating and Cooling Systems: A reliable HVAC system or alternative heating and cooling solutions like mini-split systems or portable heaters and air conditioners.
  4. Insulation: Adequate insulation for walls, floors, and ceilings to maintain a comfortable temperature year-round. 
  5. Ventilation: Proper ventilation systems, including exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens, and potentially air exchangers.
  6. Windows and Doors: Quality windows and doors that provide natural light, ventilation, and security.
  7. Kitchen Amenities: Functional kitchen setup with cabinets, countertops, sink, stove, refrigerator, and adequate storage.
  8. Bathroom Amenities: Essential bathroom fixtures like a shower or bathtub, toilet, sink, and storage.
  9. Safety Features: Smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, and security systems.

Once you have everything, your shipping container will feel like a home. You can even add flooring and wallpaper to make the space homier.

hash-markHow Much Do Pre-Built Shipping Container Homes Cost?

A pre-built shipping container home typically costs cost between $25,000 to $50,000, depending on the specs you choose. Some very fancy pre-built shipping container homes can cost much more though. Most companies will have a selection of models to choose from, so you can go with a design as simple or complex as you would like. These pre-built shipping container homes come fully equipped with what you need to survive. You can select a home that fits inside your budget, simplifying the process significantly. 

It’s vital to remember that not every pre-made choice will be ideal for your life. Ensure you set some money aside to upgrade and decorate the home to fit your dreams. Customization is a big part of shipping container homes! 

hash-markHow Long Do Shipping Container Homes Last?

On average, shipping home containers can survive for about twenty-five years. They’re inexpensive and durable against all types of weather, making them environmentally friendly. Shipping containers can last for a long time!

If you don’t maintain your home, it will likely last closer to fifteen years. For maximum life expectancy, ensure you keep up with any damage to the house. Being proactive will help the structure last longer.

hash-markIs a Shipping Container Home Worth It?

We’ve talked a lot about shipping container homes and the costs that go into them. Is a shipping container worth it? Should you put money and energy into creating a shipping container home for yourself?

Shipping container homes are cost-effective, durable, and fun to experiment with during your spare time. If you’re living by yourself or with a small family, they provide plenty of room to live comfortably. In a market big on experimental homes, it’s also simple to sell the space if you decide you want to move. Shipping container homes are worth it for the right consumer.

hash-markBuilding a Shipping Container Home Cost Bottom Line

While building a shipping container home costs less than building a stick-built home of a similar size, you'll still need to save up and budget accordingly to make sure you can afford it. To make your shipping container home comfy, focus on basics like plumbing, electricity, heating, and cooling. Add insulation and ventilation for the right temperature all year. Don't forget a good kitchen, bathroom, internet, and safety stuff like alarms. With these, your container will feel like a cozy home sweet home.

As a general rule, the minimum cost for a small shipping container home will be $15,000, while something larger that uses multiple containers will be much more expensive. And if building a shipping container home sounds like a lot of work, or you don’t want to put the effort into building your shipping container home, you can always purchase a pre-built shipping container home as an alternative.