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Cost of Building a Shipping Container Home

cost of building a shipping container home

Are you interested in hopping on board the tiny home trend?

There are a lot of advantages to living a minimalist lifestyle. Not only is cleaning your living space easier, but it also allows you to thrive in a smaller space.

Creating a home from a shipping container has become a major trend in recent years. And this could be a good option for you if you have a tight budget and a flair for interior design. 

And planning your shipping container home budget is key…

So, let’s take an in-depth look at the cost of building a shipping container home. I’ll talk about what to expect, as well as the ins and outs and pros and cons of building one.

About Shipping Container Homes 

This type of home uses a prebuilt international shipping container as a metal frame for a new home. These structures are weatherproof, and they also remain free from mold and rot. The typical size is eight and a half feet high by eight feet wide and ten, twenty, or forty feet long.

While most people choose a single container to create a single-story bungalow, you can also layer several containers. This allows you to create a multistory house that is fit for a family. People who have a large budget and design skills can even create an affordable and unique mansion.

How long do they last?

This is one of the most important considerations when thinking about affordability. Shipping containers can withstand all types of weather well. With care and maintenance, they can last around twenty-five years. However, these structures can start to deteriorate after fifteen years if they are not maintained.

The Average Cost of Shipping Containers

If you use a single shipping container, the typical price range is between $10,000 and $35,000. However, the price will rise dramatically as you add extra containers. So, if you are creating a larger house, the price is likely to be more than $100,000.

There are also lots of other factors that will affect the price. This includes the location and the type of foundation. Plus, the size and the features you choose to add. If you are a lover of luxury, you could end up paying more than $175,000 by the time you finish.

And as is true with any building project…

You also need to consider the potential hidden costs before you get started. The types and quality of materials you choose will have a big impact on the total budget. You may also need to pay for permits, land preparation, and builders to help transform the structure.

How to Build a Shipping Container Home?

It is important to plan for each step of the process before you get started. This helps to make sure you are fully prepared and have the necessary budget, including a little extra for the unexpected.

Let’s take a closer look at the main steps in the process and the associated costs.

How to Build a Shipping Container Home

Purchasing the Land for your Container Home

If you already own a suitable piece of land, you’re ahead of the game. Otherwise, you will need to buy some land before you get started. This is one of the main costs you’ll be faced with, and you need to choose wisely.

Once you have chosen the location, your new housing will remain in a fixed position. Therefore, you also need to think carefully about the placement on the land. Consider the direction of sunrise and sunset and the direction of the main windows and porch.

In terms of the land itself…

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the average price for an acre of farmland is around $3,160. However, this price is significantly higher if you choose a plot of land in a major city. The type of land you choose to purchase will also have an impact on the price. 

Although raw land is the cheapest option, it lacks amenities like sewer systems, roads, and connections to the electrical grid. Improved land comes at a higher price because it is ready to build on. It is also important to make sure your land is zoned for residential living rather than commercial structures or farmland.

Laying the Foundations for Your Home

The next step of the process involves laying the foundation on which your new house will rest. There are several foundation options to choose from, and some are more affordable than others. Trench foundations are particularly affordable, and this involves pouring cement into a shallow hole in the ground.

Slab foundations are the best option for soft ground and provide extra reinforcement to prevent your house from sinking. Pier foundations use a series of cylindrical columns to support the structure. This raises the structure a few feet and helps prevent it from sinking.

As you can see…

You need to consider the design of your house and the type of soil carefully when choosing the foundation. While prices can vary, you should allow a budget of around $5,000 for this stage of the container home-building process

Finding the Right Shipping Container

It’s a good idea to check out the different options and pay close attention to the prices. New models have only been used for a single trip and tend to be the most expensive option. A new container model can set you back up to $8,000, depending on the size.

Used models are those that have been used for several months or even a few years. You can pick up a used model for as little as $1,500. While this will save you money, you need to factor in the condition of used models and what it will cost you to make any required possible repairs. 

Finding the Right Shipping Container

Installing the Insulation

Once your structure has been laid on the foundation, the real work begins. You need to work on transforming the steel structure into a livable environment. The first part of this process is insulating your structure.

Insulation is important because it helps to keep the interior cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Moreover, without proper insulation, you will end up spending extra cash on heating and cooling bills. The cost of insulation varies from $0.50 to $2 per square foot. 

Adding the Amenities 

You now need to add all the features that will transform the steel container into a cozy home. You’ll need to carefully consider all the features you will want when setting your budget. If you overlook certain elements, you are likely to end up overspending. 

Some of the main types of amenities you are likely to want to add include:

  • Plumbing
  • HVAC systems
  • Electricity
  • Interior doors and walls
  • Shelving and closets
  • Windows
  • Flooring
  • Roofing and rooftop features

Once you have added all these features, you will have a livable home. For each of the features, the price can vary considerably. The quality and style of materials you choose will also have a big impact on your overall budget. 

The Pros and Cons of Building a Container Home

Part of planning for the cost of building a shipping container home is weighing up the pros and cons of this type of housing carefully. Be aware of the hidden costs as well as the potential drawbacks. Here are some things to bear in mind when working out if this type of housing is definitely for you. 



One of the main advantages of this type of housing is customizability. You have the chance to design and modify these structures to very closely meet your specific needs. 

Durability and strength

These steel structures are designed and constructed so that they can carry heavy loads and be stacked. They are also designed to resist harsh environments while transporting their precious cargo. This makes them especially strong and durable. 

Durability and strength

Shipping and availability

Because they already conform to shipping standards, getting these structures transported is simple. They can easily be transported by rail, ship, or truck. Additionally, because they are widely used, there is generally a large number of new and used ones to choose from. 


Choosing and adapting one of these structures is much cheaper than building a house from scratch. So, this is generally an excellent option if you are on a tight budget. As long as you create a realistic budget and stick to it, the price is roughly a third of building a house. 


Upcycling an old shipping container saves thousands of kilograms of steel. This also reduces the need for traditional building materials like cement and bricks. 


Temperature Control

Temperature is an important consideration when choosing this type of housing. Steel conducts heat well, which could be a real bonus in the winter. However, you are likely to need to crank up the AC in the summer to stay cool and comfortable.

Temperature Control 


These steel structures conduct heat, and moist interior air condenses and becomes humid in temperate climates. This can cause rust to form and eat into the steel. Therefore, it is essential to make sure the structure is well-sealed and insulated. 

Lack of flexibility

Although you can stack these structures, the available dimensions are limited. While you can soften the interior, the exterior will remain quite stark and uniform.


Although choosing an old model will save you money, it is more likely to be damaged. Handling collisions, friction, and heavy loads can all take their toll on the structure. Fortunately, most structures are not made available for sale if they feature twisted frames, pinholes, or cracked welds.

More on Home Projects and Budgeting

If downsizing is on your mind, you may also be interested in our guide to How to Turn a Closet into a Home Office. Or perhaps you want to find out more about the Home Depot Project Loan and how it can help you with financing your container home project. We can also give you tips on saving money, like only eating out at the Best Cheap Restaurants for a Group.

Side gigs to save for your new container home?

We can help you there too! Start by realizing that what can seem like a low hourly pay rate can add up quickly when properly managed over a year. Even a dog-walking side gig can help you compound your savings faster. Find out $13 An Hour Is How Much a Year, and then check out these Legit Online Side Jobs.

Or take a look at How to Make Money on Instacart, these Top Easy Jobs That Pay Well, the Best Remote Jobs That Pay Well, these High-Paying Tech Jobs You Can Get Without a College Degree or even these Jobs That Can Make You a Millionaire in 2023!

Ok, back to today’s container home budgeting guide

Final Thoughts

Shipping container architecture has become very popular in recent years. While these structures are often transformed into houses, they can also be used in other ways. They make great remote offices, medical clinics, cool cafes, recording studios, and even shopping malls.  

If you decide to choose this type of housing, you’ll need to calculate all the expenses carefully. In addition to the actual shipping container, you will also have to pay to adapt it. This can end up being quite costly if you have a love for creature comforts and need to hire builders. However, hopefully, this guide has given you a better idea of what to expect and what to budget for when planning a container home building project.

Happy container living!

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