How Long Do Shipping Container Homes Last? (Updated For 2023)

Rose Morrison

Mar 21, 2022

how long do shipping container homes last?

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People build homes with the hope they last a lifetime or more. Many of the homes you see while going through a neighborhood may have been built decades ago. People move in and out of houses all the time and others choose to build new homes meant to last generations.

One new trend in housing has taken over recent years. That trend is shipping container homes. However, new home-seekers often wonder whether they should invest in one and if they should be concerned about its longevity.

If you’re investing in a new place to live, you want to ensure it’s going to last for a while and that it holds up long enough until you move out. Learn more about shipping container homes and their life span.

What are Shipping Container Homes?

Shipping container homes are exactly as they sound — they’re homes fabricated out of those large steel shipping containers on trains, boats and semi-trucks. The military used these shipping container homes for emergency housing. However, they’ve become a standard housing option for many people.

Shipping container homes can be anything from a single shipping container meant for minimalistic living or they can be stacked and soldered together to make a shipping container mansion. These homes comprise of recycled containers. However, some people would rather have their homes built from new shipping containers, which is also an option.

Other uses for homes built from shipping containers have included apartment complexes and even student housing. Perhaps sometime in the near future, there will be communities of shipping home containers.

The Lifespan of a Shipping Container Home

There’s really no definite answer to the question of how long shipping containers will last. It depends on the type of container you have and where you live, plus other factors that either limit or expand their life span.

Shipping containers are generally very sturdy and stable. They’re built to withstand all kinds of conditions while holding items to be shipped throughout the world. On ships, they experience rough waves and salty air. On trains or trucks, they may experience all kinds of weather and also intense ultraviolet rays.

Water on steel mixed with sunshine often results in rust. People who are interested in purchasing a shipping container home often worry about this the most. They don’t want their homes to rust over a few years.

Those shipping containers that have experienced harsh weather can still be used for a home and it’s great to repurpose them as a part of sustainable living. Just make sure to treat it for rust and that it’s still sturdy.

Other storage containers are only used in warehouses to hold items, so they’ll last much longer since they aren’t exposed to the elements. These usually last around 25 years or more. If you intend to purchase a shipping container specifically designed for home use, they generally last way over 30 years — depending on the environment and other factors of course.

When purchasing a shipping container, especially if you will use it as a space where you’ll sleep, eat and work, you want to ensure that it will last. That’s why it is vital to ensure that you buy from a reputable supplier.

Pros of Shipping Container Homes

Shipping container homes have become a sought-after way of living. Here are just a few of the advantages they offer:

Eco-Friendly

For those who are looking to be eco-conscious, you can purchase a used shipping container. You’re repurposing something that would otherwise be sitting idly. Rather than using all new materials, the shipping container is already in a condition to be made into a home.

Affordable

Considering all the costs homeowners face, they are always looking for ways to save money. This is where a shipping container home can help. That said, the cost of such a home can vary just like any other real estate.

Container homes come in multiple sizes and can provide decent living space — a single container’s living space can range anywhere from 160 to 320 square feet. While they are not cheap, they typically cost less than general housing.

There are several factors that can influence the cost of a container home, but in general, they are considered affordable investments.

The price usually starts anywhere around $25,000 and can exceed $250,000. On top of that, you will need to add in all of the furnishings, but you can make it relatively inexpensive. There are ways to make it cheaper but will depend on other considerations such as the contractor you choose and the building materials used in the build.

Moveable

Shipping containers were built to move. You can move a shipping container almost anywhere to make it your home. Once they arrive at your destination, they’re simply set onto a foundation. Because they are essentially modular homes, you can easily stack several containers on top of each other to expand it.

Durability

Shipping containers are built to withstand harsh weather conditions. They are primarily constructed of corten steel — also sometimes referred to as weathering steel. This type of material offers more protection against the elements and has a lower chance of corrosion taking place.

Cons of Shipping Container Homes

Although shipping container homes are great for the environment, affordable and easy to move, there are a few cons:

Prone to Rust

Let’s face it — shipping containers are made of steel. Steel is a metal that is prone to rust over time. Although the steel used for the containers is more rust-resistant than most other metals, that doesn’t guarantee that it won’t rust.

However, there are ways to reduce this risk. One of the best ways is to choose an environment where rain won’t be a continuous issue. Another method is to perform frequent inspections and to check for signs of corrosion.

This way, if rust has started to form, you can hire a professional to deal with it before it becomes a serious problem.

Not Always Structurally Sound

This con typically only applies to recycled containers. Used shipping containers have been near and far. They may have been on the rough seas or even through the mountains on a train. There may be some dents and dings in the container when it arrives to you if it’s a recycled one.

Durability Can Be Compromised

While containers are made from durable materials, turning them into a livable home can compromise parts of their strength. For example, cutting out the necessary sections to make way for a room or door can cause problems in the future such as the wall not having enough strength to carry its weight. Therefore it is best to consult a contractor as your home might require reinforcement.

A Home Shipped to You

There’s a lot to consider if you’re thinking of getting a shipping container home. Shipping containers are available almost everywhere, and they’re relatively affordable. They would certainly make a great starter home. You can start small and slowly expand to make your home a shipping container mansion. 


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