Shipping container homes are dwellings made from containers that transport goods. They’re highly customizable and cost-efficient homes.

But how do they compare to other types of home buildings? Are they better? Should you buy a prefabricated one or build your own?

Look no further for the answers! In today’s article, we have all the pros and cons of shipping container homes that can help you make the right decision.

The Pros of Building a Shipping Container Home

Shipping container homes are gaining more popularity across the world. That’s because they’re cost-efficient, durable, and faster to build than other options.

Let’s talk about the advantages of shipping container homes in detail.

1. Cost-Effective

Container homes can be more cost-effective than traditional housing. In most cases, constructing a container home requires fewer building materials and labor.

Additionally, building a container home isn’t complicated. You can easily do some work yourself if you have prior experience or DIY skills.

Of course, not all container homes are cheap. You can find many luxurious and large container homes. Still, they typically cost less than building a traditional house.

In fact, the average cost to build a house in 2023 in the U.S. is around $300,000.

On the other hand, building a shipping container home can cost around $35,000. Larger and more high-end container homes can cost up to $185,000.

2. Faster to Build

A row of colorful shipping container homes with angular roofs from faraway on a clear blue sky
Shipping container homes build faster than traditional homes so you can move in quick.

Building a container house takes less time than building a traditional one. On average, the construction of a conventional home takes around seven months.

Not to mention the extra time it takes to secure a loan! Therefore, you might wait a whole year until you can move into your traditional home.

On the other hand, building a container home usually takes around a month, depending on its size and design.

Some container home builders can finish your home in less than a month.

You can also choose a prefabricated container to speed things up even more. A prefab only needs some simple installations before you can move into it.

3. Durable

Shipping containers were designed to withstand the harshest conditions and to keep the cargo safe during transportation. Therefore, they’re highly durable.

You might be surprised that a well-built container can survive a hurricane or tornado.

In addition, many manufacturers use Corten steel in their containers, which is self-healing and durable.

Furthermore, containers’ metal frames are often reinforced with additional steel beams. That allows the container to withstand winds up to 170 mph.

4. Highly Customizable

A row of colorful shipping container homes in colors like red, blue, orange, and white against a clear blue sky
You have plenty of exceptional customization options available if you choose a container home.

Container homes are easily adjustable. For starters, you can combine multiple containers to make a large home with numerous rooms.

Moreover, you can adjust the containers’ arrangement in endless configurations.

For example, you can stack them to create multiple floors or connect them sideways for a bigger space.

Furthermore, you get to pick every small detail inside the container. It’s like a big, fun DIY project.

5. Transportable

If you’ve ever decided to relocate, you can take your home with you! You can transport your shipping container home to a new location. You don’t get to do that with traditional homes!

Of course, you’ll have to find a dedicated shipping transportation service, which might be costly. On the bright side, you won’t have to build or buy another house elsewhere.

Additionally, you can sell the container to someone else anywhere in the world.

6. Energy Efficient

These tiny homes can be much easier to heat or cool than traditional homes. For that reason, they may be much more energy-efficient.

Additionally, with the extra money you save with container homes, you can add other energy-saving features. That includes solar panel systems, insulation, and green roofing.

This will help you save even more money since these features don’t cost much to install in a small container.

The Cons of Building a Shipping Container Home

Shipping container homes are great, but they still suffer disadvantages. Let’s check each one in detail.

7. They Tend to Be Small

As you probably know, container homes are often tiny. Most container homes are built with 20- or 40-foot containers, which doesn’t give you much space.

A 20-foot container home provides around 160 square feet of living space, while the 40-foot one offers about 320 square feet.

However, we can’t complain about the small space because of how cheap it can be.

8. They’re Not Always Eco-Friendly

Container homes can be environmentally friendly. However, this isn’t always the case, as some containers aren’t.

In fact, some of them contain volatile chemicals on the interior, which can be harmful. For that reason, you need to inspect the container thoroughly before making your purchase.

Additionally, it’s best to buy your container from a reputable source. Checking out the seller’s reviews and any testimonials can be helpful.

9. Permits and Codes Can Be a Hassle

As you might know, container homes are relatively new. Therefore, many permits and building codes aren’t designed to work with them, which can be a hassle sometimes.

Some regions in the US have dedicated regulations for them. That includes California, Texas, Oregon, and Colorado.

However, many other regions don’t have regulations in place for container homes.

Before planning for your dream container home, contact the local authorities to check the required permits and regulations.

10. They Sometimes Need Reinforcement

Generally, containers are durable, but modifications like cutting holes for windows or doors can compromise their structural integrity.

For that reason, they might require reinforcement according to their design.

Additionally, you should reinforce the roof if you live in a snowy area. That’s because the snow’s weight can be too heavy for the roof.

Building Shipping Container Homes vs. Other Types of Homes

Let’s compare building shipping container homes to other types of homes.

Traditional Homes

Traditional build-on-site homes tend to be costly. The following table compares building a shipping container home to a traditional home.

ComparisonShipping Container homeTraditional Home
CostAround 15% to 50% more affordableMore expensive
Building TimeAround one monthAround seven months
DurabilityCorten steel is more durable than lumberLess Durable

Prefabricated Homes

Prefabricated homes, or prefabs, have all their parts made and ready to install before they’re shipped to you.

For this reason, they can be relatively inexpensive, and they take a few days to be fully ready.

Let’s check out how they compare to building shipping container homes.

ComparisonShipping Container HomePrefab Home
CostBetween $10,000 and $30,000Between $75,000 and $150,000
Building TimeAround one monthA few days
Energy EfficiencyEnergy-efficientHighly energy-efficient
SizeTends to be smallerLarger
CustomizationHighly customizableNot customizable

Modular Homes

Modular homes are similar to prefab homes, as they’re built off-site.

These homes are made in small sections called modules. These sections are then transported to the property, where the builders can assemble them.

Typically, they’re made with energy efficiency and environmental friendliness in mind.

On the other hand, shipping container homes requires some adjustments to be energy efficient, and sometimes they can harm the environment.

Let’s see how modular homes compare to container homes.

ComparisonShipping Container HomeModular Home
CostCheaperMore expensive
Building TimeAround one monthAround one week
Energy EfficiencyEnergy-efficientHighly energy-efficient
Eco-FriendlinessNot always eco-friendlyHighly eco-friendly

Considerations Before Building a Shipping Container Home

A woman wearing a white tank top and a black skirt in no shoes stands in the entryway of her Indiana shipping container home looking outsie
Investing in a shipping container home is a big decision that requires a lot of careful consideration.

Before building your dream container home, here are some things you need to consider.

Factor in All the Costs

Container homes are highly customizable, so you can have many choices. Keep your budget in mind and adjust it to any changes you make.

Find the Right Contractor

Shipping container homes are relatively new, even to some contractors. Therefore, finding the right contractor, particularly with experience in this field, is essential.

An experienced contractor can finish all the work in significantly less time. It’s also best to find a contractor that oversees the entire process.

Examine the Container Thoroughly

It goes without saying that buying a container without inspecting it is a recipe for disaster. Although examining the container yourself might take extra time and effort, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

A container can be rusty, malformed, or dysfunctional.

In addition, any siding, leaks, or dents can be expensive to fix during construction.

Plan Ahead for Electrical and Plumbing

While it may not sound like a big deal, planning for plumbing and electrical can make a big difference.

Know where the electrical lines and plumbing will enter and leave the container, especially when working alone. Otherwise, you’ll have to cut through the interior after finishing it to install a pipe you forgot about during construction.

Insulation Is Crucial

Container homes are made of steel, which is a good thermal conductor. For that reason, you need to plan ahead for insulating your container.

You’ll need to thoroughly research the best type of insulation according to your budget and location.

Don’t be afraid to spend some extra dollars for better insulation. It’ll be worth it in a hot summer or an icy winter.

Don’t Overspend

Shipping container homes tend to be cheap, so don’t fall into the trap of overbuilding. Instead, limit your budget and save money to make your container home more modern or energy-efficient.

Wrapping Up

A shipping container home can be cheap compared to other types of homes. You can do some work yourself and save more money on labor.

Additionally, they’re highly customizable. So, you can design and customize every little detail in your container home any way you like.

Unfortunately, they suffer from some cons too. Therefore, you need to plan everything ahead and do your research thoroughly.

We hope our comparison helped you make the right decision!

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