How much does a shipping container cost?

Building shipping containers into homes and restaurants are all the rage right now so lots of folks are wondering how much does a shipping container cost?

Before we get into that let’s cover some of the reasons why shipping containers are so popular, outside of their low costs.

Eco Friendly

With global warming on the rise and just more overall awareness about our environment, folks are cozying up to the idea of any and all ways to make a positive impact on the environment.  With a simple rectangular design, very specific and intentional HVAC systems can be designed and implemented to ensure the best energy efficiencies.

Say goodby to routing venting tubes all around a two story “modern” with all it’s twists and turns.  All that extra venting and circulation material adds to the costs and potential “leakage” of any HVAC system.

Whether you’re building for a home or restaurant, you want yourself or your patrons to be comfortable while dining.  And because shipping containers tend to be small in space than your traditional restaurant or home, you can easily get away with a fireplace or ventilation and fans over an all-out HVAC system


how much does a shipping container cost

Overall Design

We have seen some beautiful shipping container restaurants over the last 5 years or so.  And there have been some amazing ways in which designers have been able to “stack” these geometrical shapes in order to bring new life to an otherwise boring little box used for shipping materials.  Check out our gallery below for some incredible inspiration for your restaurant venture.

Buildout Time

Other than cutting out all the window spaces and other functional areas, as you drop your “box” in your spot…you’re almost half way there to a functional restaurant.  The majority of the time is then spent on the interior build out.

Another time saver is that you can use your own favorite contractor and don’t really need to find one that specializes in restaurant build outs.

Off the Grid: Pop! Pop!

Planned correctly, you can literally take your restuarant with you across the country and perform restaurant “pop ups” in your favorite places.  Tow the container behind a truck and set up shop wherever you can.  You can leverage solar panels and stored battery juice for energy and create your own portable water system too.

How much does a shipping container cost

So How Much Does a Shipping Container Cost

The quick answer is, “next to nothing.”

Shipping containers cost around $2,000 or less depending on where you’re buying them from.

If you live near the coast then you’re in luck because you can start your journey for the perfect shipping container at your local port.  An example location would be the Los Angeles area and ports of Long Beach, California.  Seattle, Miami and anywhere along the East Coast are other cheaper places to find your shipping containers as well.  Here is an example ad we found on the Los Angeles Craigslist:

But if you’re more inland like the Midwest, Arizona, Rust belt, etc then you’ll end up paying more because of shipping.  But ultimately it boils down to supply and demand and supply is abundant right now because of macroeconomic trade conditions or simply, trade imbalances with the US and other countries.  As a matter of fact, shipping containers are piling up.

9 things you need to consider before you buy a shipping container

Before you whip out your credit card however, we want you to consider these 10 things.

1. Consider your location

We just spoke about this but worth repeating.  Expect higher costs if you live inland and expect to be able to bargain if you live near the coasts and a port city.

2. Avoid prefab containers

If you’re on a budget, avoid these “construction site” shipping containers that are usually prefabricated.  They were made with a specific layout on the inside and you’ll most likely need to rip it out and they just plain cost more too.

3. Start your search on Craigslist or eBay

Good ol’ “tried and true” Craigslist and eBay are your best starting points for shipping containers.  These online garage sales are the where old dreams die and new ones begin.  Lot’s of people came into ownership of their containers somehow and now they need to off load them.  Don’t ask why, just make a smart buy.

4. Save even more with a “used” container

You can find these around too.  Local warehouse and corporate parks often have some for sale and if they don’t…ask them if they’ll sell it to you anyways.  Just be careful and ensure you ask them if the container is on contract or not.

5. Not all shipping containers are the same

When you’re out shopping make sure you look for containers that are made from corten steel.  The name is short for “corrosion resistance” and “tensile strength” and is essentially the best type of steel to consider when either planning a shipping container restaurant or house.

6. Hire an inspector

Consider hiring an inspector from the Institute of International Container Lessors (IICL) to inspect your container.  They’ll ensure your not buying a “hunk of junk” and the shipping container will stand the test of time.

7. Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate

We’ve covered this a little bit already but worth mentioning again.  You lose nothing by asking for a discount but what you really want is FREE delivery.  Do you really want to try and figure out how to get that big sucker back to your spot you’ve selected?  What if you’re planning a hide away cabin or hipster coffeehouse off the beaten path?  Either way, try to stay away from planning delivery.

8. Finish it off site

Consider having your shipping container shipped directly to your contractor or builder so the interior can be fabricated in a stable weather conditions.  If you’re going to do it yourself then maybe you’ll want to consider the weather where you place it.  A 40 foot container can fit in a friends barn or something similar if you have such a friend. 🙂

9. Call your insurance company

You still have to insure these suckers but make sure you’ve alerted them that your cute little box of imagination is a ISBU or Intermodal Steel Building Unit.  They are made to last so the downside risk to the insurance companies is low so you should be getting a great rate.

Here is some shipping container inspiration to send you off with:

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