Shipping container homes are an affordable and eco-friendly way to start living the tiny life. Shipping containers are rugged and durable, built to withstand 100+mile per hour winds, huge waves and long journeys on cargo ships. These hardy boxes are stackable, easy to transport and readily available.
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 then get one delivered to your property.
If you want to live in a container home, you can either build one yourself or buy one from a company. Move-in ready container homes usually range in price from $30,000-$200,000.
A container home can be built out of one 20-foot shipping container, or several large 40-foot containers. The modular homes are made from steel, making them extra hardy against earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes.
Shipping container homes have exploded in popularity over the past few years. You’ll often see them as cabins, hunting shacks, tiny homes, pool houses or accessory dwelling units.
The pros of container homes
Like any type of home, shipping container homes come with their own set of pros and cons. Here are the main pros of living in a container home. You’ll have to carefully think about what type of tiny home is best for your particular situation.
Shipping containers are more affordable than many types of homes. Just think about it – with a shipping container home, you already have the steel shell. Next, you’ll have to cut out sections for windows and doors. Also, the container will need insulation, flooring, cabinetry and all the amenities of a tiny home. Still, shipping containers are more affordable than building a frame from scratch.
Shipping containers are made out of corrugated steel, so are exceptionally durable and hardy. They are built to withstand heavy winds and high seas on cargo ships. That makes a shipping container home earthquake, hurricane and tornado safe. Their durability also makes them hard to break into.
Short construction time
If you want to start living in a tiny home right now, a container home may be your best bet. Move-in ready shipping container homes are usually finished in 4-10 weeks. That’s lightening-fast for new construction. Plus, when you order a modular home from a company, they are inspected in the factory and are up to building code.
Millions of shipping containers sit unused all over the world. Many people like the appeal of recycling a shipping container 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.
Since transporting goods is the entire purpose of a shipping container, it’s built to be portable. A home built out of one shipping container is fairly easy to move. Usually, a flat-bed truck can move a shipping container from one place to another. Or, you can put it on a trailer and tow it around. Some shipping container homeowners move their homes in summer and in winter. If you bolt, instead of weld, your container home to its foundation, it can be unbolted and moved.
A shipping container home has a major advantage in that it 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 tiny home.
They’re basically legos
If you start thinking about shipping container homes as legos, you’ll see the appeal. 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.
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The cons of a shipping container home
If you’re seriously considering living in a shipping container home, there are several cons to be aware of as well.
Its structural integrity
To turn a shipping container into a proper dwelling, it needs to be cut. The home will need large holes for the entryway and windows. There are dangers associated with cutting a shipping container too much. Each hole will reduce the structural integrity of the container. Some container homes need to be reinforced to deal with structural issues.
You can’t change the outside appearance
You either love or hate the appearance of a container home. These tiny homes are modular and angular. You won’t be able to change the outward appearance of a container home very much, aside from changing the siding. It is what it is. If you’re looking for a more whimsical home or cabin-type look, a shipping container isn’t for you.
Land permitting issues
Just like any tiny home, you’ll have to get in touch with your local building department to see if shipping container homes are even allowed. Some municipalities allow them as accessory dwelling units. Others allow them as a solo unit on a property. In some cases, counties don’t allow tiny homes at all.
The best shipping container homes you can buy
If you’re ready to jump on the shipping container home bandwagon, there are many high-quality homes you can buy right now. These homes are built off-site and then delivered to your property on a truck. Many companies build container homes that are inspected and pass building code, which is one less thing you’ll have to worry about.
Here are our top picks for container homes for sale.
1) Backcountry Containers
Backcountry Containers builds custom homes out of a combination of stacked and adjoined 20 and 40-foot shipping containers.
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.
Backcountry Container homes are entirely customizable. One even has a putting green! Builders can also include decks, screened in porches, multiple bedrooms, offices, large entertaining areas, workshops and storage areas.
Former aeronautical engineer Jon Meier founded Backcountry Containers after designing his very first bright blue container home.
If you want to order a custom container home, Backcountry Containers will deliver it to your property in 6-10 weeks.
For more info, head to Backcountry Containers.
2) Alternative Living Spaces Container Homes
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 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-sized Murphy bed, coffee table, two-burner stove and dresser, among other amenities.
Your new custom shipping container home will be done in 6 to 8 weeks.
For more info, head to Alternative Living Spaces.
Check out this video of a container home by Alternative Living Spaces:
3) Kubed Living Shipping Container House
Katalina Klein founded Kubed Living because she wanted to create sustainable and responsible living spaces. The company offers predesigned 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.
The photo above depicts a shipping container house currently being built in Joshua Tree featuring several containers.
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.
4) IQ Container Homes
IQ Container Homes is dedicated to environmentally-friendly construction. Each container home is built using low VOC paints, wood sourced from sustainable forests, LED lighting and energy-efficient appliances. Plus, the 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.
The company builds container homes that are up to 3 to 4 bedrooms using multiple shipping containers. Even though these container homes are beautiful, they usually aren’t shipped to the United States.
For more info, head to IQ Container Homes.
5) Rhino Cubed
Rhino Cubed is a Colorado-based company that makes artistic shipping container homes. 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-sized Murphy bed, an option for a bathtub and sliding glass doors.
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:
6) Taynr Container Homes
Taynr is a modular home builder 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:
7) Cargotecture Container Homes
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.
On Cargotecture’s website, it says, “In recent years, architects and builders have come to recognize that these versatile strong platforms represent a way to unite environmental concern with structural integrity. Disused containers can be sustainably recycled into real estate, eliminating waste. Cargotecture was founded to manifest this promise.”
All Cargotecture’s container homes are 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.
To learn more, head to Cargotecture.
8) Custom Container Living
Custom Container Living offers a variety of 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 container homes, which can be shipped anywhere in the lower 48.
It takes between 4 and 10 weeks for Custom Container Living to build a container home.
For more info, head to Custom Container Living.
Check out Custom Container Living in the below video:
9) Honomobo Shipping Container Homes
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.
Honomobo delivers completed homes within 6-12 months.
For more info, head to Honomobo.
Frequently asked questions about container homes
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 questions.
How much does a shipping container home cost?
The true and aggravating answer is this: it varies. If you’re planning on a DIY container home, you can purchase a used container for under $3,000. Then, you’ll have the cost to transform it into a home. 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 and style of the home. Learn more about buying a shipping container here.
The below video shows a shipping container home made for just $40,000.
What type of climate is best for container homes?
You can put a shipping container home in 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 in the home.
How do I finance a shipping container home?
Since 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.
Conclusion on shipping container homes
Shipping container homes are an affordable and easy way to go tiny right away. There are so many companies selling different varieties of container homes that are delivered in as little as four weeks. Some of the more complicated homes take longer to build.
Container homes are made from corrugated steel so are durable and can withstand earthquakes and storms. They are usually built to code in a factory and delivered to your property. This makes them good for properties that are tough to build on.
Shipping container homes are modular and angular, so aren’t the right style for everyone. They can also face structural issues when you cut too many holes to create windows and doors.
The interior of a container home is entirely customizable, so you can make just the right tiny house for your taste.
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