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Shipping container homes are a great entry point into living in a tiny house. They are rugged and durable, as they’re built to withstand 100+mile-per-hour winds, huge waves and long journeys on cargo ships.
What better hardy structure to live in than a shipping container home?
It’s no surprise shipping container homes are popular – videos of tours and self builds generate millions of views on YouTube. According to the Shipping Containers Global Market Report 2022, the storage container homes market is expected to increase to $13.48 billion, at a compound annual growth rate of 7.5%, in 2026.
Shipping containers are stackable, easy to transport and readily available, which means you can easily get your hands on an eco-friendly, affordable, prebuilt shipping container home.
There are millions of shipping containers all over the world, but only a small number of them are in service. That means you can get a used shipping container for a good price.
Often, you can search for used shipping containers in your area and get one delivered directly to your address.
As numerous American cities need to deal with affordable housing urgently, shipping container homes are becoming a popular option to create alternative living spaces, thanks to their durability and convenience. Plus, they’re easy to move around the states, which makes them perfect for digital nomads.
Need help building your own shipping container home? This guide will help:
- Recommendations on building elements like foundations, insulation, walls, roofs, and more
- Instructions on how to correctly prepare your site for the delivery of your containers
- End of chapter checklists to help keep your planning/building on track
- An example budget with pricing breakdowns
Plus, you can add on a book of plans for 50 container homes to get started with your dream build.
Table of Contents
A shipping container home is a house built using recycled (or new) shipping containers. As these are built to hold heavy cargo in rough sea conditions, they are very sturdy, as well as weather and water-resistant. Shipping containers are typically made of steel and are rectangular in shape.
They also come in just two standard dimensions, which makes it easy to stack them up to create a structure. Aspiring tiny home owners can simply turn a single shipping container into a movable home, while families who want to settle in a certain area can create sizable one-story buildings or large multi-storey homes by connecting or stacking multiple containers.
If you’re ready to jump on the shipping container home bandwagon, there are many pre-made, high-quality storage container homes you can buy right now. They are all built off-site and delivered to your property on a truck. Plus, many companies build shipping container homes that pass building code, which is one less thing you’ll have to worry about.
Here are our top picks for shipping container homes for sale.
Backcountry Containers builds custom shipping container homes out of a combination of stacked and adjoined 20 and 40-foot shipping container houses. A single 20-foot container home typically starts at $40,000.
Each container home is unique and designed for the homeowner’s land and vision. First, the company makes sure the shipping containers are water and wind tight, and then insulates them. Before your new home can be delivered to you, you will need to make the necessary site preparation.
Backcountry Shipping Container homes are entirely customizable. Builders can also include decks, screened-in porches, multiple bedrooms, offices, large entertaining areas, workshops and storage areas.
Backcountry Containers will deliver your container home directly to your property in 6-10 weeks. Shipping typically costs around $3-$4/mile. Their build site is in Houston, Texas.
For more info, head to Backcountry Containers.
Meka builds luxury container homes out of San Jose, California. They create both prefabricated and custom units, using both 20-foot and 40-foot steel frames. You can choose between 16 different models, which include luxury residential units, condos and tiny homes.
All their models comply with local building codes and can withstand earthquakes, floods and high winds.
The whole process, from the design and permit applications to the delivery takes about 6 months.
Find out more on the Meka website.
Alternative Living Spaces creates custom homes out of shipping containers. These can be primary residences, second homes, offices or casitas. Customers pick everything from the paint color and finishes, to the fixtures and interior furniture.
These affordable and beautiful shipping container homes come with AC/heat, shiplap walls, a full bathroom, kitchen, barn door and electrical and sewage hookups. The more deluxe version has a queen-size Murphy bed, coffee table, two-burner stove and dresser, among other amenities.
Your new custom shipping container home will be ready in 8 to 10 weeks. If you get a smaller model, you can tow it home with a one-ton truck.
For more info, check out the Alternative Living Spaces website.
Check out this video of a container home by Alternative Living Spaces:
Katalina Klein founded Kubed Living because she wanted to create sustainable and responsible living spaces. The company offers pre-designed shipping container homes, as well as custom builds. These container homes are made either out of one container, or several to make a larger living space.
Kubed Living can also turn a shipping container into a gorgeous office, artist studio, home gym, pool house, or wine cellar.
When you order a shipping container home through Kubed Living, the company submits the construction documents to local governments for the proper permitting.
For more info, head to Kubed Living.
MODS builds modern container buildings of all kinds – from pop-up stores and offices to residential units and tiny homes. While they’re located in Appleton, Wisconsin, they ship worldwide.
They take care of the whole process, helping you design and install the structure to make sure it meets all your specs.
All MODS container buildings are custom, so to get an estimate on any build, you’ll need to give them a call.
Read more about their container homes on the MODS website.
IQ Container Homes is dedicated to environmentally-friendly construction. Each shipping container home is built using low VOC paints, wood sourced from sustainable forests, LED lighting and energy-efficient appliances.
Plus, the shipping container homes are equipped with solar power and rainwater harvesting systems.
The New Zealand-based company’s container homes feature layouts opening on one side for indoor-outdoor flow. This also lets you make the most of your view of the outdoors.
Even though these container homes are beautiful, they usually aren’t shipped to the United States.
For more info, read more on IQ Container Homes’ site.
Rhino Cubed is a Colorado-based company that makes artistic shipping container homes. On their site, you will also find existing properties for sale. The company believes spending more time in nature enriches the soul, and that container homes provide simplicity in a complex world.
Rhino Cubed shipping container homes are flexible, simple and secure. They include wardrobe closets, a queen-size Murphy bed, an option for a bathtub and sliding glass doors. The company can connect you with local contractors and architects for a custom build.
You can pick between a one-container “micro cube” that’s just 160-square feet or a home built out of several containers that’s 800 square feet.
For more info, head to Rhino Cubed.
To see a tour of a Rhino Cubed home, check out this video:
Price: $200-300 per sq ft
Based in Austin, Texas, Logical Homes builds anything from workshops and tiny homes to multi-storey houses and condos. While the units aren’t fully customizable, there are plenty of personalization options, such as exterior cladding, interior cabinet choices, benchtop surfaces and more.
Typically, Logical Homes takes approximately 12 weeks to build a container home.
Want more info? Check out the Logical Homes website.
Taynr is a modular home builder based in Sacramento, California, that builds new structures out of recycled shipping containers.
The company offers several models of shipping container homes. You can choose between a 160-square foot home made from one container, or a larger home constructed with several containers.
These homes are durable and affordable, and ideal for residential, commercial or industrial use. Several are already being used as accessory dwelling units in California.
For more info, head to Taynr.com.
Check out this home by Taynr:
Custom Container Living offers a variety of shipping container homes using 20′ and 40′ shipping containers. The Missouri-based company works with you to customize your home.
You have your choice of siding, colors, flooring, cabinets, countertops, lofts and kitchens. Then, browse the selection of floor plans to pick the best one for your situation.
Custom Container Living offers single, double or multiple shipping container homes, which can be shipped anywhere in the lower 48.
It takes between 8 and 12 weeks for Custom Container Living to build a container home.
For more info, head to Custom Container Living.
From: prices available on request
This Toronto-based company builds residential, experiential, commercial and industrial container buildings. These are modular and stackable and can be simple one-storey buildings or big condos. Their builds look very modern and their floor plans are very space-efficient.
Giant Containers ships all over the world. They have offices in the U.S., Canada and China.
Find out more on the Giant Containers website.
Joel Egan founded the Seattle-based Cargotecture back in 2003. The company got its name from the practice of creating buildings out of steel intermodal shipping containers, a concept it helped pioneer.
All Cargotecture’s shipping container homes are fully insulated to 15% above building codes in the walls, floors and roofs. The buildings include plumbing if your model has a kitchen or a bathroom.
Each shipping container home is inspection-approved and move-in ready. Shipping is about $1.20 per mile per truck (up to one 40ft unit on one truck).
To learn more, check out the Cargotecture website.
Honomobo designs sustainable and modern shipping container homes with a lot of windows so you’ll feel connected to the outdoors. These aren’t your typical shipping container home. On the H series, the exterior is painted with industrial epoxy paint. The M series has an entirely different siding altogether made from 4′ x 8′ sheets of hardie panel siding.
The interiors of Honomobo container homes are luxurious. You can choose your interior finishes, and countertops are made of quartz. Flooring is durable and water-resistant vinyl plank.
The H3 series are three shipping containers that create a private full bedroom, a kitchen with an island and a 21′ wide front window.
All the container homes designed by Honomobo are ready for solar power if you want to take your tiny home off-grid.
While construction only takes 10-12 weeks, Honomobo delivers completed homes within 10-12 months.
For more info, head to Honomobo.
Cost: From $15,500
This UK-based company builds affordable container houses, which are fully customizable – from the external paint color to the floor plan. Their biggest model is a 48’ x 12’ unit block.
You can choose between temporary or permanent buildings. The first can be placed on a plot of land without gaining any permissions in much of the country. The second need to comply with building regulations and require planning application.
MAC doesn’t ship outside the UK. You’ll find more details on the MAC website.
From: prices available on request
This Ohio-based company builds high quality container homes on one, two or three levels. All their buildings are fully customizable and come with garages, workshops, decks, gyms, walk-in closets and more.
Container Homes USA doesn’t list their pricing on their website. Head to the Container Homes USA website to find out more.
You may think a steel box doesn’t make for a good home, but just think of the many advantages of owning a container home.
Shipping container homes are more affordable than many types of buildings. The container itself costs between $1,400 and $6,000. Even though you will need to add windows, doors, insulation, flooring, furniture and more, a container home is more economical than building a tiny house from scratch.
Shipping containers are made out of corrugated steel, so they’re exceptionally durable and hardy. They are built to withstand heavy winds and high seas on cargo ships. That makes shipping container homes earthquake, hurricane and tornado safe. Their construction also makes shipping container homes harder to break into.
If you want to start living in a tiny home as soon as possible, a container home may be your best bet. Move-in ready shipping container homes are usually finished in 4-10 weeks. That’s lightning-fast for new constructions.
Millions of shipping containers sit unused all over the world. Many people like the appeal of recycling one and turning it into a home. Each time you build a house out of a shipping container, you’re reusing 7,700 pounds of steel. This makes a shipping container house eco-friendly.
Since shipping containers are built to transport goods, they are inherently portable. For this reason, shipping container homes are fairly easy to move. To be able to do it, you will need to bolt, instead of weld, the container to its foundations. This will allow you to move your home in different seasons – spend the summer on the Lakes and the winter in the South.
Shipping container homes can be built off-site in a factory. This is ideal for plots of land where construction is difficult. Off-site construction means you won’t have to hire builders to drive out to remote land to build your shipping container home.
If you start thinking about shipping container homes as legos, you’ll see the appeal of this design. They can be stacked, placed side-by-side, or at angles to create your perfect abode. You’ll be able to configure these modular homes into any design you like, which makes them entirely customizable.
Not sure you want to live in a container home for many years to come? Don’t worry – they are usually resold for 100% of their value (or more!). Plus, you can simply deliver yours to the buyer on a truck, which makes the sale even easier.
Of course, there are some downsides to making a shipping container into a home. Let’s look at them below.
Just like with any tiny house, you’ll have to get in touch with your local building department to see if you can build shipping container homes in your area. Some municipalities allow them as accessory dwelling units, others as a solo unit on a property. In some cases, counties don’t allow tiny homes at all. You may not be able to make your container home come true where you live.
Shipping container homes are modular and angular; you either love or hate their appearance. Bear in mind that you won’t be able to change the outward appearance of yours very much, aside from changing the siding – you can add wood paneling throughout.
If you’re looking for a more whimsical home or cabin-type look, a shipping container isn’t for you.
To turn a shipping container into a proper dwelling, it needs to be cut. You need to make large holes for the door and windows. Each hole will reduce the structural integrity of the container. There are dangers associated with cutting a shipping container too much. You can, however, reinforce the structure to avoid issues.
Many container homes are made out of containers which have been used only once. This is because the unit needs to be in good condition with no dents and rust, as opposed to out of service. A shipping container can be used on many trips over its lifetime and, if recycled traditionally, it could make enough steel studs for multiple framed houses. So if you’re environmentally conscious, make a point of looking for a container that’s been used for some time.
If you’re considering building a shipping container home, you’ll probably have a lot of questions. Here are the answers to the most commonly asked ones.
You can put a shipping container home in either a cool or a hot climate. That’s because shipping containers aren’t insulated from the get-go. You’ll get to decide what level of insulation you’ll want to install.
You can find cheap containers on Craigslist and eBay. If you live near a warehouse, get in touch to see if they’ll sell you some old ones that are lying around in their lot.
If you live near a harbor, you will find plenty of used containers for sale. If you don’t, you will likely need to travel or get it shipped. Renting a truck can sometimes cost less than getting it delivered to you.
Before agreeing to the sale, make sure the seller owns the container. Oh and remember to negotiate!
The realistic answer is this: it varies. If you’re planning on building a DIY container home, you can purchase a used container for under $3,000. Then, you’ll have to face the cost to transform it into a home – think of materials and tools.
If you buy a move-in ready shipping container home, costs will range anywhere between $30,000-$200,000, depending on the number of containers used and the style of the home. Learn more about buying a shipping container here.
Luckily, with the huge popularity of container homes, there are lots of vlogs and blogs dedicated to the topic. You can even buy pre-made plans on Amazon.
Before you look for a container, you will need to purchase land and gain the relevant permits, approvals and utility hook-ups. In the meantime, design your ideal container home. Next, purchase one or more containers, as well as the materials and tools you need. Start constructions by cutting holes in the structure, then add insulation and flooring while placing the plumbing and electricity in the right spots. Finally, add furniture.
Since shipping container homes you buy from a company are built in compliance with the building code, you can usually get a mortgage from a bank. To get a mortgage, your container home will need to be on a permanent foundation, making it a residential structure. A shipping container home on wheels is considered an RV.
Yes, they do. And rust can weaken their structure. However, there are ways to prevent and minimize rust. Protect the home from moisture by installing a good gutter system, adding a protective coating to the roof, fixing overhangs to windows and doors, and using galvanized steel fasteners.
Yes. Container homes typically retain 100% of their value and sometimes they resell for more. Moreover, you can always rent it or put it up on AirBnB.
First, you will need to apply for supply with a local company and gain any relevant permits. Next, design the plumbing routes and locate the line. Dig up the main line and create a pathway to the back of your container. Once this is in, you can install pipes throughout the house and connect to the water supply.
This job can be fairly complicated, so if you don’t have any plumbing or construction experience, you may want to hire a company to get it done.
Shipping container homes are an affordable and easy way to go tiny quickly. As you’ve seen there are so many companies selling different kinds of container homes; the smaller, less complicated ones, can be delivered in as little as four weeks.
Container homes are made from corrugated steel, so they are durable and can withstand earthquakes and big storms. They are usually built to code in a factory and delivered to your door. This makes them good for properties that are tough to build on.
Plus, the interior of a container home is entirely customizable, so you can make just the right tiny house for your taste.
However, shipping container houses are modular and angular, so they aren’t the right style for everyone. They can also have structural issues when you cut too many holes to create windows and doors.
Before you start making plans of buying your new tiny home, don’t forget to check local laws to verify if you can proceed and what requirements you need to fulfill.