How much does a shipping container home cost?
How much does a shipping container home cost?
$150 – $350 average cost per square foot
$25,000 – $80,000 total cost to build a single-container home
$80,000 – $250,000+ total cost to build a multi-container home
Cost to build a container home
Shipping container homes cost $25,000 to $80,000 for a single-container model or $80,000 to $250,000+ for a multi-container house. The average cost to build a container home is $150 to $350 per square foot, depending on the size and features. Shipping container prices are $1,200 to $10,000 for the container alone.
|Size||>Square feet||Containers||Average cost|
|Home office||80 – 100||1||$10,000 – $20,000|
|Studio||160||1||$15,000 – $25,000|
|1 bed 1 bath||320||1 – 2||$25,000 – $82,000|
|2 bed 1 bath||640||2 – 3||$80,000 – $130,000|
|2 bed 2 bath||960||3 – 4||$100,000 – $180,000|
|3 bed 2 bath||1280||4||$150,000 – $220,000+|
|3 bed 2.5 bath||1600||5||$180,000 – $250,000+|
|4 bed 2.5 bath||1920||6||$190,000 – $300,000+|
|5 bed 3 bath||2560||8||$200,000 – $400,000+|
Shipping containers are 8' wide by 8.5' high and come in three standard lengths: 10', 20', and 40'.
Compared to a shipping container home, the cost to build a house is $178,000 to $416,000 on average for a traditional home.
Custom vs. prefab shipping container home prices
A prefab container house costs $120 to $300 per square foot, while a custom-designed container house costs $250 to $400+ per square foot. Total costs depend on the home’s size, features, number of shipping containers, and number of stories.
|Type||Cost per square foot||Considerations|
|Prefab container house||$150 – $300||
|Custom container house||$250 – $400+||
Most prefab container homes are single-story, while custom container homes can be configured with multiple stories and in a variety of layouts.
Many builders offer single-container structures for use as a separate home office, guest house, in-law suite, or rental unit placed on the same property as an existing traditional home.
In most states, a single-container residential unit placed on the same property as an existing home qualifies as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU).
Shipping container home cost calculator & breakdown
|Land||$5,000 – $18,000 per acre|
|Foundation||$3,000 – $19,350|
|Roofing||$1,000 – $12,000|
|Door & windows||$1,000 – $6,000|
|Insulation||$1,000 – $8,000|
|Electrical wiring||$1,000 – $7,800|
|Interior framing||$1,000 – $14,000|
|Drywall||$500 – $15,000|
|Painting||$500 – $6,900|
|Flooring||$300 – $4,600|
|Plumbing labor||$500 – $12,000|
|Shower||$300 – $9,000|
|Water heater||$300 – $3,500|
|Toilet||$100 – $750|
|Septic or sewer||$1,500 – $5,000|
|Fixtures (lights, fans, sinks)||$600 – $6,000|
|Appliances||$500 – $5,000|
|HVAC / Ductless mini-split system||$2,000 – $10,000|
|Interior finishing||$1,000 – $10,000|
|Solar panels||$3,500 – $26,500|
|Permits||$500 – $2,000|
|Design plans||$100 – $2,000|
|Utilities hookup||$4,000 – $12,000|
*Including materials and labor.
Shipping container cost
A shipping container costs $1,200 to $10,000, depending on the size and if it’s new or used. A single container can be used to build a tiny home, or multiple containers can be stacked on top of each other or placed side-by-side to create a larger home.
Shipping containers come in 10', 20', and 40' lengths. A standard container is 8' wide x 8'6" high with interior dimensions of 7'8" x 7'10" before adding insulation, framing, or drywall. A high cube container is 9'6" high and provides more interior space for higher ceilings or ductwork.
|Size||Square feet||Average cost*|
|8' x 8.5' x 10'||80||$1,200 – $1,500|
|8' x 8.5' x 20' or 8' x 9.5' x 20'||160||$1,500 – $4,000|
|8' x 8.5' x 40' or 8' x 9.5' x 40'||320||$3,000 – $10,000|
*Empty container only, not including home conversion or interior finishing.
Land, permits, and zoning for a container house
Most shipping container homes are placed on a permanent foundation, requiring land in an area with compatible zoning regulations. Land costs $5,000 to $18,000 per acre on average, depending on the location. Land surveys and site prep involve additional expenses:
A land survey costs $380 to $540 on average, depending on the survey type, property size, and terrain.
Land clearing costs $1,500 to $6,700 per acre to remove trees, stumps, brush, and rocks.
Excavation costs $1,000 to $2,500 to dig a foundation for a tiny home.
Grading land costs $500 to $1,000 to level a small area or contour the slope for proper drainage.
A building permit costs $500 to $2,000 for new construction.
Many cities do not allow tiny shipping container homes. Check local zoning regulations and building codes before investing in a container home.
Shipping container home foundation cost
A shipping container home foundation costs $3,000 to $19,350, depending on the type and size. A concrete slab foundation is the most common and cheapest at $5.75 to $13.50 per square foot, while pier footings and crawlspace foundations are priced at the higher end of the range.
Container home labor & materials cost
Designing, planning, and constructing a shipping container home involves professional labor from a variety of industries:
General contractor – A general contractor charges $50 to $150 per hour on average or 10% to 20% of construction costs.
Designing a custom house
Architects charge $2 to $15 per square foot or 8% to 15% of the construction cost.
A draftsperson charges $0.35 to $5.00 per square foot to create blueprints.
Roofing – Roof installation costs $3 to $6 per square foot. A shipping container is weakest on its top surface and typically requires the addition of an extra roof structure above the home.
Insulation – Insulation costs $0.80 to $4.50 per square foot, depending on the type. Shipping container homes require extra insulation to compensate for the heat and cold transferred through the steel exterior.
Wiring a house costs $1.56 to $3.75 per square foot or $1,600 to $7,800 total.
Electrician rates are $40 to $100 per hour, depending on their location and experience.
Plumbing pipes cost $4 to $6+ per square foot installed or $450 to $1,800 per fixture.
Plumbers charge $45 to $150 per hour or $500 to $3,000 total for labor.
A traditional water heater costs $300 to $1,800 installed, while a tankless water heater costs$800 to $3,500 installed.
Flooring – Flooring costs $6 to $10 per square foot with installation, depending on the material and type.
Doors and windows – Holes cut into the container’s steel exterior for doors and windows require reinforcement with extra framing to prevent weakening the container’s walls.
Door installation costs $230 to $820 each for interior doors and $500 to $1,900 each for exterior doors, including labor and the door itself.
Window installation costs $400 to $650 per window.
Framing – Framing interior walls costs $18 to $24 per linear foot, depending on the ceiling height.
Drywall – Drywall installation costs $1.50 to $3.50 per square foot of wall or ceiling area.
Painting – The cost to hire a painter is $20 to $50 per hour or $1 to $4 per square foot of wall surface, including labor and materials. Painting a shipping container’s exterior is crucial to prevent rust.
Heating and cooling – A ductless mini-split AC costs $2,000 to $10,000 on average installed, depending on the system size. These systems are ideal for shipping container homes as they don’t require sacrificing wall or ceiling space for ductwork.
Landscaping – Landscaping costs $4 to $12 per square foot to install plants and sod around the home.
Container house appliances and furnishings
Keep these considerations in mind when buying appliances and furniture for a tiny shipping container home:
Interior designer – Interior designers charge $50 to $200 per hour or $500 to $1,500 to design a single-container house interior, not including furnishings or appliances. Look for an interior designer with extensive experience designing small, multi-use spaces.
Appliances – Many manufacturers offer smaller versions of appliances that are ideal for tiny homes, though the smaller size often comes at a premium price.
Furniture – Consider multi-purpose furniture that doubles as storage space, a convertible couch that can double as a bed for guests, and fold-down tables or desks to maximize space usage.
Shipping container house utilities cost
Connecting a shipping container house to local utilities involves additional costs:
Water and sewer
Installing a new water main costs $32 to $53 per linear foot, not including the new meter. Some cities charge as much as $2,000 to $3,000+ for the meter itself.
A septic tank system costs $3,300 to $5,000 installed.
A sewer line costs $50 to $200 per linear foot
installed, depending on the pipe width and the distance from the home to the street. A house without a septic system typically must be connected to the city's sewer line.
Connecting a house to the local electrical grid costs
$250 to $1,500+, depending on the distance to the nearest utility pole, and typically requires installing a new utility company meter. Running new lines to a house on rural property may cost $2,000 to $5,000+.
Solar panels cost $10,600 to $26,500 for a 6 kW to 12 kW system with installation after subtracting the 30% federal tax credit.
Shipping container house taxes and insurance
Shipping container houses are subject to local property taxes, which vary by location.
Homeowners insurance for a shipping container house costs $50 to $150 per month, depending on the home’s size and features. To qualify for standard homeowners insurance, the home must meet all local building codes. Some insurance companies only allow mobile home policies for shipping container homes.
Shipping container home prices vs. tiny house
A tiny house costs $30,000 to $70,000+ on average, depending on if it’s a prefab model or custom-built house. A standard tiny house can be constructed in different sizes and dimensions with a variety of building materials, while a shipping container home is limited by the container’s steel exterior.
Container home building FAQs
What is a container home?
A container home is a house built with one or more shipping containers forming the home’s structure. Because shipping containers are designed to transport cargo around the world, they are made of heavy-duty steel and are durable and weather-resistant.
Shipping container homes are considered modular homes but differ from manufactured homes. A shipping container house must meet traditional building codes, while a manufactured house may follow the U.S. Department of Housing Development (HUD) code instead.
Are shipping container homes worth it?
A shipping container home is a cost-effective alternative to a traditional house and may be worth it for those seeking an eco-friendly building option. However, heating and air-conditioning a steel container home is costly, and the thick insulation required reduces the amount of available living space.
Which states legally allow shipping container homes?
Though most states allow shipping container homes built on a permanent foundation, the regulations and zoning restrictions vary in each city and state and are typically strictest for tiny container homes. Check your local zoning laws and building codes before investing in a shipping container house.
How long does it take to build a container home?
Building a container home takes 3 to 6 months on average, depending on the size, style, and features. A prefab shipping container home typically takes less time to build than a custom-designed home.
How long do shipping container homes last?
A shipping container home lasts 25 to 30 years on average without requiring major maintenance, depending on the local climate and weather. Regular maintenance, inspections, and painting prevent rust and extend the home’s lifespan.
Do shipping container homes appreciate in value?
Shipping container homes typically hold their resale value or appreciate in value if well-maintained. Reselling a single-container home that is not permanently attached to a foundation is often easy because it can be loaded onto a truck and transported to a new location.
Are container homes safe?
Container homes are as safe as traditional homes in extreme weather, tornadoes, and earthquakes, and are highly wind-resistant. However, a used shipping container may have transported toxic chemicals or pesticides that can cause health issues. Test the container for contaminants before purchasing it.
Can you finance or mortgage a container home?
You can finance a container home if it meets all local building codes and zoning regulations. However, financing options depend on the home’s size, features, and location:
A large, multi-container home typically qualifies for a standard mortgage because its size is comparable to a traditionally built home.
Most mortgage lenders will not finance a shipping container tiny home. Tiny home financing options include builder loans, mobile home loans, or unsecured personal bank loans.
Some lenders treat container homes of all sizes as mobile homes, limiting the available mortgage options.
A shipping container house built as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on property shared with an existing home may be eligible for mortgage financing through Freddie Mac.
Getting estimates from container home builders
Before hiring a container home builder near you or purchasing a prefab container home, be sure to:
Search online for container home styles and models that appeal to you.
Look for builders specializing in container homes.
Read their reviews on HomeGuide and Google.
Browse the builder's online portfolio and tour their house models in person.
Ask for references from past customers. Contact each reference and ask what they are happy and unhappy with about their home, what it was like working with the builder, how the team handled problems, and whether they were communicative.
Discuss your space needs and lifestyle with the builder.
Get a complete set of architectural drawings and specifications.
Get a detailed contract, schedule, materials list, and warranty in writing before the project begins.
Develop a payment schedule tied to progress. Don't make the final payment until the home has passed all inspections and you are completely satisfied.
Questions to ask
How long have you been in business?
How many container homes have you built?
Are you licensed, bonded, and insured?
Do you have a portfolio of homes I can review?
Do you have any pre-built models I can tour in person?
Can you provide references I can contact?
What is and is not included in the estimate?
Are there any finishes, fixtures, or appliances I'll need to purchase separately?
How long will it take to build my home?
Will you handle all the permits and inspections?
How much do you charge to deliver the finished home to my location?
Do you offer financing?
Do you offer a warranty, and if so, what does it cover?