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How Much Does a Shipping Container Cost?

A few years ago, I become obsessed with shipping container homes. They were gaining massive popularity, as they were beautiful, economical, and sustainable.

I spent hours looking at them and their designs captivated my attention. Some homes had shipping containers stacked on top of each other in elegant and modern ways. Others, a single shipping container, with a meticulous and well-planned design, was enough to make a statement.

I was in awe, but I couldn’t help but wonder: how much does a shipping container cost?

The average cost for a shipping container is $3000, though it can range anywhere from $850 to $5,000. In general, the newer the container, the more it will cost. However, a newer container will not necessarily be better. Here’s how to buy a quality container without spending a ton of money.


What affects the price of a shipping container?

The factors that affect the cost of a shipping container include:

  • Size: Shipping containers come in three main sizes: 10ft, 20ft, and 40ft. If you are building a home, any of these will be worthy options. However, keep in mind that the latter two are more common. Therefore, you’re likely to find better deals.
  • Condition: If the container has rust, dents, or holes, it will usually cost less.
  • Age: As a general rule, the older the container, the less it will sell for. Naturally, some will have more wear and tear than others, so this is definitely something to look out for.
  • Shipment method: This considers how the container will be transported from point A to B. Most containers are transported by land, on trucks, or by boat. Generally, the further the distance, the higher the cost.
  • Taxes: No matter what state the container is used in, there are always taxes associated with ordering a shipping container. The taxes do depend on the origination and final destination of the container, but make sure to factor this into the amount the container will cost.

This will vary by seller. Some will overcharge you. Others will price competitively. Do your research before committing.


How much does a new shipping container cost?

As I mentioned, newer containers often sell at a higher price tag. Many companies seek them out because they’re unlikely to have any issues that come with age (such as rust).

Here are some ballpark estimates:

  • 10 ft shipping container: retails at $2,500
  • 20 ft shipping container: retails at $3,000
  • 40 ft shipping container: retails at $4,500
  • 40 ft high shipping container: retails at $5,000

As a general rule of thumb, the bigger and newer the container is, the more it will cost.


How much do used shipping containers cost?

Older, used shipping containers usually sell for less. However, you shouldn’t ignore them completely if you’re looking to buy for a home build. Shipping containers are made of durable, thick metal and they are usually painted with marine-grade paint (heavy-duty stuff).

If maintained correctly, used containers can easily last a lifetime.

A used container can go for as low as $850, which is much less compared to brand new containers that average about $3000.


Is it better to buy a used shipping container?

I recommend used containers because they will often be priced more economically. Retired containers are assigned a grade and marked with specific labels (ex. lightly damaged, ISO approved). You can purchase an almost-new, used container at a fraction of the cost.

This grading system is also very useful for first-time individuals that are unsure how to gauge the quality of the container.

Here are some general things to look out for when buying a used container:

  • Loose floorboards
  • Rust (a little might be okay)
  • Dents
  • Make sure that you can open and close the doors easily. A door may be difficult to open if the container was laid on uneven ground. When placing a container, make sure that the ground is as level as possible.

Make sure to ask about previous repairs. Also, it’s a good idea to check social media and forums to get a general idea of the seller’s reputation. You want a supplier that is easy to work with and honest in their business.


Do you have to pay to ship a shipping container?

There are a few costs that go into shipping a container.

The first cost is for the container on its own. It will depend on the different factors above. There are delivery charges as well. The amount for delivery charges will depend on the size and number of containers and how far those containers need to go.

Get a quote from a company to get a general idea. Some shipping container companies will not offer delivery service at all. They may require the buyer to pick up and drop off the container on their own. Others do offer delivery, but they all offer different costs for the product and delivery fees. Asking ahead of time can help when budgeting the use of this container.

When shipping a container, the costs will vary based on how far the container needs to go. The cost is usually based on mileage so the further the container has to travel, the higher the cost. I found that for longer-distance moves, the cost to ship the container is closer to $2000 or higher. Always look for deals from the moving company to help lower that cost as well.


How much does it cost to ship a shipping container?

Prices will vary by location and shipping company, as well as the size of the individual container. Here’s a map that I made to give you a rough estimate of what it should cost to ship a 20 ft container:

The cost to ship from St. Louis, MO to:

  • Kansas City, KS: The cost is $818
  • Minneapolis, MN: The cost is $1,171
  • San Diego, CA: The cost is $2,360
  • Miami, FL: The cost is $2,420
  • New York, NY: The cost is $2,246

The time of year and the exact starting and ending location can influence these prices as well.


How much does a shipping container home cost?

I have found that there are also some shipping container homes that someone can choose to purchase. These can be really fun to live in with a lot of options.

To build a shipping container home yourself, prices can be as low as $5000, if you can manage to buy a container for a relatively low price and build it from reclaimed materials. Of course, most builders prefer more specific features and custom additions, so prices can go upwards of $10,000.

Manufactured shipping container homes have more variation in price. Because there isn’t a lot of competition, they can build low and sell high.

For example, I saw a few pre-designed shipping container homes that were selling for $15,000. This was a smaller, more basic model. However, I also saw many larger and more luxurious models as well. Many of them were closer to $250,000 in price.

While it is possible to get many homes in this country for that price, this is still a lot less than other high-end homes that are similar in size.

For anyone interested, take a look at different manufacturers out there. See what everything costs, given the size of the build. This will make it easier to find the exact right home and give you a better idea of exactly what it will cost you.


Where can you buy a shipping container?

Here’s where you can find quality shipping containers for great deals:

Of course, be sure to do your research before buying a container!


Final thoughts

Shipping containers can serve as a great foundation for a house, as they are economically priced and incredibly reliable. However, when buying one, it is important to ensure that you’re getting the best quality for your buck. I hope this article was useful in helping you determine the cost differences among new vs. used containers, as well as how shipping costs vary.

If you found this article useful, please check out my other posts. I write about alternative housing, such as tiny homes, conversion vehicles, and RVs.