Sink or Swim: The Rise of Shipping Container Homes

To some, there’s nothing more freeing than being able to pick up and move on a whim, especially when you can tow your home along with you. And when you combine that freedom with the benefits of tiny home living, it’s no wonder that 86% of Americans say they’d be up for downsizing in exchange for the multitude of benefits that come along with alternative home ownership. 

If you’ve been pondering ways to achieve a minimalist, modular lifestyle while also saving a bit on housing costs, a shipping container home could very well be the solution you’ve been searching for. But how can you tell if this alternative home style is the right next move for you? The House Hacks Tips team has gathered the pros and cons of container living to help you decide, starting by answering the most basic question: what is a shipping container home, anyway?

What is a Shipping Container Home? 

As the name implies, shipping container units are homes built from recycled cargo containers, which make for an extremely durable single family residence. Because shipping containers are designed specifically for cross-oceanic trips, these homes, by default, are resistant to corrosion from harsh elements like wind, water, and debris.  

Shipping container units are also extremely modular, and can easily stack and connect with one another to achieve any desired aesthetic, from a tiny house to a larger, multi-story luxury residence.  

The Plus-Side to Pursuing a Container Home 


Shipping containers are designed to move around, which is especially appealing to homeowners looking for the flexibility and convenience when it comes to a build, especially with the option to click and buy a turnkey, delivered-to-you home. Once delivered, container homes are easy to pick up and relocate anywhere. And, if you’re looking to sell in the future, container homes maintain a very high resale value (100% and up, on average)!  

Cost Effective 

One of the most appealing aspects of shipping container homes are their cost-effectiveness, both in construction and maintenance. A 20 foot recycled container averages around $12k, and, because container units are essentially pre-built, homeowners can save up to 50% in building and labor costs compared to more conventional housing options depending on size and amenities.  

Once the shipping container home is built, homeowners can expect a significantly lower energy bill compared to traditional homes, given how resource efficient and durable container homes are. 

And speaking of durability…


Shipping containers are made of metal and designed for cross-oceanic trips. This means, depending on your area’s climate and weather patterns, shipping containers, unlike traditional wood foundations, can withstand harsh storms (like hurricanes, flooding, and tornadoes) and keep your home standing for upwards of 25 years! 

But on that note…

The Cons of Container Living

They Only Last 25 Years

Like most man-made items, shipping containers aren’t designed to live forever, with an average lifespan of about 25 years. Depending on your housing and lifestyle goals, 25 years could be too short a time, especially if you’re looking for a home to call your own well into the future. In that case, you may be better off investing in a traditional home designed to last about 200 years, on average.

They’re Made of Metal…

Metal has its perks, especially when it comes to withstanding harsh elements. However, it also has a downside, especially if you live in a warmer climate. Without proper insulation, the container unit’s internal temperature can get unbearably hot if not insulated properly.  

Permits Can Be a Hassle

Shipping container homes are a relatively new phenomenon, which means obtaining the right permits for your build can be a bit of a challenge, especially in areas without regulations in place.

Be sure to consult with your local city planning office for specifics on building codes, zoning restrictions, and permitting requirements before you start building. 

Content living has its pros and cons, both of which are important to consider before moving forward with a build. If you think a shipping container home is a good fit for you, your budget, and lifestyle, be sure to consult with an experienced contractor who knows the ropes of shipping container homes. They’ll be able to help guide you through your build to achieve the custom modular space of your dreams.

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2 thoughts on “Sink or Swim: The Rise of Shipping Container Homes”

  1. I live in sc. a homested state and they will not let you live in one? You cannot even live in a older[1976 or older managefactory home . I bought this 5.5 ac. to home sted . this state lied [its a controled dictatership state!

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