How Much Does a Shipping Container Cost?

How Much Does a Shipping Container Cost?

Shipping containers are slowly becoming more and more popular.

You can use them as storage, a retail shop or to create a new home with a freshly mown grass to enjoy, but it takes some skill and investment.

How Much Does a Shipping Container Cost? Based on the research for 20 random US states and several companies (table below), the cost is anywhere from $2,800 to $7,500 for a new one, and around $1,200 to $4,500 for a used one, on average – but there is more to this.

(skip to table 1, table 2, table 3)

The size and condition are heavily affecting the price.

Usually 20′ and 40′ storage containers are bought for storage, or repurposed for living spaces. There are other sizes as well, such as 12′ and 16′ tall, but these are uncommon.

Whatever the size, it’s important to get the best deal possible, and calculate the total cost of buying or creating a home.

For simple purchase, your location may be the main factor in the price.

Often, the price doesn’t correlate with the age as much, but with the condition of the container. General advice is, if you are buying shipping containers to build a home, it would be a good idea to get the containers that are brand new (usually marked as “one trip”).

Otherwise, any used ones in a decent condition would do. They are also much cheaper than the new ones, but sturdy and durable. How cheaper?

Let’s take a look…

How Much Do Shipping Containers Cost?

The main factor that affects the price is the condition of the container.

New or used.

The next most important factor is the size of the container.

20ft or 40ft, standard or high cube, or perhaps 10ft size (slightly more expensive). 12′ and 16′ tall ones are uncommon, and hard to get.

The cheapest ones are yellow shipping containers (and sometimes gray).

The cost will not only depend on the condition and size, but also your location. Depending on where you live and where the container will be delivered, the price may vary greatly depending on the state.

The cost isn’t especially high for a used (or even new) container. The real expense comes in if you’re building a home out of containers to live in, or to rent. With the insulation, plumbing, HVAC, etc. – additional costs can skyrocket.

But, it’s still cheaper than regular homes.

I did some research and checked several companies, which sell shipping containers online. Then, used this data, for 20 randomly selected US states, and created a table.

Check it out below:

Shipping Container Cost

ConditionSizeDimensionsWeightCost
New20' Standard20' x 8' x 8'6"4,900 pounds$2,800 - $4,500
Used20' Standard20' x 8' x 8'6"4,900 pounds$1,500 - $2,200
Used - Yellow20' Standard20' x 8' x 8'6"4,900 pounds$1,200 - $1,500
New40' Standard40' x 8' x 8'6"8,200 pounds$4,200 - $7,000
Used40' Standard40' x 8' x 8'6"8,200 pounds$1,700 - $2,500
Used - Yellow40' Standard40' x 8' x 8'6"8,200 pounds$1,400 - $1,900
New40' High Cube40' x 8' x 9'6"8,400 pounds$4,300 - $7,500
Used40' High Cube40' x 8' x 9'6"8,400 pounds$1,900 - $2,600
Used - Yellow40' High Cube40' x 8' x 9'6"8,400 pounds$1,500 - $2,000
New45' High Cube45' x 8' x 9'6"8,600 pounds$7,700 - $8,200
Used45' High Cube45' x 8' x 9'6"8,600 pounds$2,200 - $4,500
Used - Yellow45' High Cube45' x 8' x 9'6"8,600 poundsnot available
New10 ft10' x 8' x 8'6"2,900 pounds$5,500 - $7,500
Used10 ft10' x 8' x 8'6"2,900 pounds$4,000 - $7,000
New - Yellow10 ft10' x 8' x 8'6"2,900 pounds$3,600 - $4,000
The average cost of shipping containers across 20 states in the US

As you can see, the cost of a shipping container varies greatly from state to state.

The cheapest ones are yellow and the most expensive ones are the new 40’ and 45’ sizes, but also 10’.

There are also other sizes such as 12’ and 16’ tall, which can hold one to four rooms of furniture for you to live in. These are difficult to find.

Some of these companies have major discounts for different sizes. Perhaps they’re trying to push the last ones, or the worst ones. Is hard to say unless you go there and inspect the container with your own eyes. But, keep in mind, that just because container has rust and blemishes, doesn’t mean it’s not waterproof and solid.

COR-TEN steel gets rusty, it’s normal.

The price doesn’t just vary in United States only, it varies greatly from country to country. Some of the northern European countries, such as Denmark or Norway can get these containers very cheap, as many companies throw these containers away.

The condition here is questionable.

How Much Are New and Used Shipping Containers?

New shipping container (one trip) in an excellent condition will usually cost $3,000 to $7,000, and $2,000 to $3,000 in a less than perfect condition, depending on the size and the cost of delivery.

These are usually a one-trip containers, meaning they only did one single storage trip – they were manufactured (in Asia probably), then shipped directly to your country carrying their first cargo.

They are still considered “new containers”, even with one trip on them.

One of the more popular ones are the ISO containers, which are used by companies for frequent transport of storage across the world. ISO containers are the newest, and most structurally sound units available.

But, even the new shipping container can cost less than that. If it was damaged, has misaligned doors, dents or holes, the price may drop considerably.

Price of a shipping container will depend mostly on these factors:

  • size
  • condition
  • age
  • cost of delivery, and
  • permitting fees

Used shipping container costs anywhere between $1,500 to $2,500 on average (except the ‘cube’ ones), depending mostly on the size and the condition.

The CWO marked ones are slightly more expensive, than WWT ones (what is CWO and WWT).

A used shipping container doesn’t mean they can’t be in good condition. It’s generally still in good condition, just that it has been assigned a grade to mark that it is either cargo worthy, or no longer suitable for transport.

shipping container home architecture example

A standard size of the containers is 8ft by 8ft 6in. Standard size length is usually 20 feet and 40 feet.

But, there are many other sizes, such as cube-shaped containers (also called “High Cube”), which are 9ft 6in tall. The price of these will also vary, but generally, they are slightly more expensive then the regular ones.

To save money when buying shipping containers, always check how much is deliver fee going to be, and are there any permits that you need to take care of. When buying from Craigslist or eBay you may need to buy high delivery fees, which may not be the optimal usage of your finances.

Always ask for any special or hidden fees, such as cost of delivery and permitting fees.

Any extra tasks for the delivery drivers, longer distance covered or difficulty to deliver the container would raise the price of delivery, so you may want to keep that in mind.

What to Look for When Buying Shipping Containers?

As always, you can order a 40′ shipping container from Amazon. There are other companies online selling shipping containers across the US, such as Western Container Sales.

But before you buy, familiarize yourself with the statuses of shipping containers based on their condition.

When buying a shipping container, you’ll usually see 3 types to buy:

  1. One Trip (basically new) shipping container
  2. Cargo Worthy (CWO) shipping container
  3. Wind & Water Tight (WWT) Shipping Container

The first one is obviously the most expensive.

One trip is considered new, even if it isn’t just created and delivered to your doorstep – it did one cargo run. But, it is still almost perfectly new.

Usually, you can’t get a completely new shipping container, that just came out of the factory and dropped on your doorstep, because it needs to be delivered, and when it’s delivered it will be used for one cargo transport. Hence, it’s “one trip”.

The 2nd one, CWO – Cargo Worthy, is a lot more affordable. As you can see from the table above, it’s usually several thousand dollars cheaper than the new one.

And yes, used shipping containers are ugly.

But that’s ok, because what we first need is functionality.

Whether you’re buying it for storage, transport or new home you probably need:

  • the doors to be aligned,
  • no holes in the floor,
  • the roof that doesn’t leak,

and generally you need a shipping container in a decent condition that is cargo worthy, or can be further reinforced for your home or storage.

CWO containers are still certified for overseas shipments. They are made from weathering steel (COR-TEN) for long-term durability. This type of steel is developed to eliminate the need for painting, and form a stable rust-like appearance even after many years of exposure to weather.

CWO shipping containers are usually $200 to $300 more expensive than WWT – Wind & Water Tight.

WWT are similar to CWO in the condition, and slightly older, on average. They are refurbished and patched, but also guaranteed not to leak or have holes. WWT however, might have a bit more patches than CWO, and are generally slightly cheaper. The biggest difference between WWT and CWO is that WWT doesn’t have the integrity to be stacked on a cargo ship, and used as a cargo transport overseas.

Mall made out of shipping containers from New Zealand
Christchurch, New Zealand
By Christina Hendricks – Under CC BY-SA 4.0. No changes made

The cheapest shipping container you can buy is probably the yellow shipping container. As you can see from the table above, they are often a $500 to $1000 cheaper than the regular one. But, it’s not just yellow. Sometimes you’ll find the grey ones to be just as cheap.

Some of the good companies to buy from is Western Container Sales. They cover most of the states and have many sizes.

If you’re buying from a reseller on eBay or Craigslist, they may have a 20-40% markup depending who you buy from.

In general, it’s always better to skip the middleman and buy the containers directly from wholesaler. Middleman might try to push you containers that have been in stock for a long time, so beware and don’t let yourself be pressured to buy a container which is in worst shape than it appears.

All newer shipping containers should have the COR-TEN superior steel. A new (one-trip) container made out of COR-TEN steel should last up to 30 years, when reinforced. It all depends how you use and take care of it.

How Much Do Shipping Container Homes Cost?

Some of these homes can look amazing.

The cost to buy such a home will vary depending on the amount of work put in, the price of materials and how long was it made to last.

The cheaper single-family homes made out of one or two shipping containers cost around $20,000 to $40,000 on average.

Add one more container and the price can double.

The more expensive ones, such as luxury container homes, made out of several 20’ or 40’ shipping containers, with a lot of work and materials put in, cost usually $50,000 to $100,000.

They are made to last for decades.

The uses of shipping containers are many. They can be used for creating luxury container homes, retail shops, malls and pretty much almost anything you can think of.

Here’s a nice video on one of the nicest looking homes:

The price of shipping container houses that would last for 20 years, would cost a lot, because it takes a lot of investing to create such a home, to be livable in.

Storage container homes come in various shapes and sizes, which is why the price varies so much.

How Much Would It Cost to Build a Shipping Container Home? (DIY and Builders)

Generally, the idea is, you buy several shipping containers, then connect and repurpose them to build a house.

Sometimes you may only need one or two of them, but even for 1-2 of them, you would need to invest a lot if you intend it for a family to live in, for many years.

First, you would need to buy container itself, probably a new one. Used ones would have extensive amounts of damage (holes, dents, rust, chemical spills) and may not be the best for this project. If you can fixt them – good, if not, then the new one is the only option.

Then, the real costs come into plan.

Let’s take a look at the costs included to build such a home.

Here’s a table of the main costs needed to build a shipping container home, based on 3 different companies I used for reference:

SizeFoundation CostsInsulation CostsOptional
(external cladding)
TypeCostTypeCost (per sq ft)TypeCost (per sq ft)
40 feetPier$500 - $550Blanket$0.3 - $0.45Timber$2 - $4
40 feetStrip (Trench)$5,200 - $5,400Panel$0.8 - $1.40Stucco$6 - $10
40 feetSlab$5800 - $6,000Spray foam$2 - $3

These are the main costs, but there are more.

Any type of complex or custom work will add more to the project. Sometimes, for several containers, I’ve seen prices go above $100k up to $150k. It will depend on many factors, and is difficult to put a price on before you plan.

It’s really hard to estimate without knowing the size and condition of containers, the materials you intend to use, and the overall scope of the project.

You can probably build one with $20,000, but how often will you be spending time in it? What are the temperatures? Do you have proper insulation and HVAC? You could cut down on these costs quite a bit, if you don’t need some of these elements.

Shipping Container Cost Rundown

Here’s the cost rundown based on data from 3 different companies :

Type of CostCost
2x New 40' Standard
Shipping Containers
$8,000 - $14,000
Site preparation$6,000 - $10,000
Insulation$3,000 - $6,000
Flooring$3,000 - $6,000
Roofing$2,000 - $4,000
Plumbing$4,000 - $8,000
HVAC$4,000 - $8,000
Assembly$2,000 - $3,000
Electrical$4,000 - $8,000
Windows$3,000 - $5,000
Doors and hardware$1,500 - $2,000
Shelves and closets$2,000 - $3,000
Finishes and painting$4,000 - $7,000
TOTAL:$46,500 - $84,000

Creating livable homes out of shipping containers is an expensive undertaking, but still cheaper than regular homes.  Once you buy a 20’, 40’ or 45’ shipping container, the next step is to find and hire a commercial developer to convert it into livable space.

Can you do it on your own?

Do you have any experience? Then, maybe. If not, then without the insight and help from an architect and commercial developer I don’t think it’s possible.

The cost will naturally go down depending on how much work you did by yourself, and how much you paid to builders.

The best advice when it comes to buying containers to build a home is to find good and experienced architect and builder to consult and/or to finish it. However, you have the option of building it yourself, and could possibly save some money.

How Much Does a Shipping Container Cost to Rent?

Renting a shipping container usually costs around $75 to $200 per month, up to $500 per month, depending mostly on the size and condition of the container.

If you want the containers delivered to you, then you need to include the cost of delivery as well, and perhaps a few other types of costs.

There are 2 reasons why you would want to rent a shipping (storage) container.

  1. For storage for your business needs
  2. To rent a home made out of shipping containers, to live in it

To rent a storage container for your business, expect to pay around $50 to $300 per month for the empty ones, and up to $500 for the insulated ones.

These generally come in sizes of 20’ and 40’ of height.

To rent a shipping container for home, it would need to be insulated, have HVAC, and all other areas necessary for comfortable living. These would cost $200 to $300 per month to rent.

Whatever it is, I hope you find what you’re looking for.

Credits: Cover photo (Copper & Kings Brandy Distillery retail shop) by Copper & Kings. File on wikimedia.org, CC BY-SA 4.0

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