How to Buy a Shipping Container Home?

While building or living in a shipping container home seems like a novel and an exciting idea, it can get daunting especially when you’re already seriously considering getting one. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the nitty-gritty such as where and how to buy a shipping container home and what kind of help are available.

This article is especially dedicated to helping you advance to the next step in your journey of finally owning a shipping container house! And depending on the degree of involvement you want, we hope that you’ll find a path that will work for you.

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What Are the Different Shipping Containers that You Can Buy?

Before delving into the question, it would be helpful to know the different types of shipping containers available for your project so that you’ll have an idea of what to look for when buying a shipping container home.

Types of Shipping Containers by Size

A familiar classification of shipping containers is by their lengths. Under this category, the two common types that you hear in shipping container house building are:

  • 20-Foot Containers

These shipping containers are almost 20 feet long with heights ranging between 4 feet and 3 inches to 9 feet and 6 inches, with 8 feet six inches as the common height. Each offers a floor space of around 144 square foot.

Smaller than their 40-foot counterparts, they are easier to transport and maneuver and, of course, cost less. This makes them the go-to choice for those who are considering building in a difficult-to-access location and those looking to build a tiny home.

  • 40-Foot Containers

These shipping containers are exactly 40 feet long and are the more common type used to transport goods. Each affords you an internal space of around 300 square foot.

When bought per piece, a 20-foot shipping container will beat the price of its 40-foot counterpart. But if you’d compute the cost per square foot, the 40-foot container comes out cheaper. So, if you’re thinking of buying more than one 20-foot shipping container, it would appear that you’d be spending more than if you get just one 40-foot container.

Another advantage to the 40-foot version is that they can be divided into smaller rooms. And because they are larger, it means you’d need fewer of them and that they’d be quicker to set in place. Transporting them, however, can be more expensive and difficult.

Other Classifications of Shipping Containers

Besides being categorized according to size, shipping containers are also classified by design or purpose. Here are some of them:

  • Dry Freight Containers

Also called “general purpose containers.” Most of the shipping containers produced, around 80 percent, are of this type. They have the corrugated metal sheet for the sides and roof for rigidity and stacking strength. These are the ones commonly repurposed into houses.

  • Reefers

Otherwise known as refrigerated containers. They are used for perishable goods and, unlike other shipping containers, they don’t have the trademark corrugated sheet. With pre-existing insulation and good airflow design, they are better materials than the dry freight types albeit more expensive.

  • Open-Top Containers

As the name implies, these containers don’t have a roof. They’re designed that way for easy loading. These types are not often used in shipping container houses, but they seem to be perfect for swimming pools though!

  • Open-Side Containers

Obviously, this type of container opens to the side. They are used for easy loading and unloading of heavy equipment or machinery. They’re great for shipping container homes with an open or glass front design.

How to Buy a Shipping Container Home?

There are three options on how to get a shipping container home:

Option 1: Go the DIY route.

Buy a new, one-trip, or old shipping container. If you’re planning to make the shipping container house by yourself or with the help of professionals and contractors, then you can purchase a shipping container online, a local reseller, or directly from a shipyard.

This method entails hours dedicated to research, from locating resellers down to learning how to convert a shipping container into a home and finding the right people for the job. But if you’re quite the handyman, then you’ll enjoy the process.

Remember not to treat the project as a typical DIY project. Shipping container home construction has more in common with steel building assembly than a carpentry project.

Option 2: Order a prefab kit.

Although it does not literally arrive at your place ready for occupation, a pre-fab kit will save you time—and perhaps money, especially on welding costs—since major modifications have been done offsite.

However, it is still going to cost you a lot. Some prices can even soar higher than conventional homes. A single 40-foot repurposed steel shipping container from Custom Container Living starts at $56,400, while MB Architect’s 2-bedroom 2-bath Insta-House costs a whopping $169,000.

There are models, on the other hand, that can be purchased with a lesser budget just like Nova Deko’s $24,000 one-bedroom, one-bathroom home, The Monaco.

If you don’t like having the same design as everyone else, then some companies offer customized modifications based on an agreed design.

Option 3: Purchase a property with a shipping container house.

Presently, there are shipping container houses up for rent in different parts of the world. So, it’s not unlikely to find a property with a shipping container house for sale. If you are not so keen about building or supervising the construction of one but would love to live inside the cube, then you can look up properties for sale in this department.

Final Thoughts

So there goes the different ways on how to buy a shipping container home. Whether you want to simply move in a shipping container house, happy to give a personal touch to it or be hands-on all the way from the conceptualization to construction, it can be done.

With some research, you’re sure to find one that works within your budget. Additionally, compared to a few years back, you have more tools as well as experienced professionals and contractors in this specific building method to provide you the support you need.

Our top pick for container home designs

If you're looking for the best container home designs, look no further!

Learn More

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