The Cheapest 5 Shipping Container Homes Ever Built

Posted By: July 15, 2015 In Featured

Want to build your own shipping container home? Start Here.

With US house prices back on the climb and many people being unable to afford rent, it’s no wonder that countless people are now starting to look for a cheaper, more affordable way to build their own home.

I think it’s one of the main reasons why the ‘Tiny Home’ movement has continued to grow and is now more popular than ever before.

For lots of people, shipping container homes can be a cost effective solution for their housing needs. They can be built quickly, affordably and can be eco-friendly.

Today we are going to look at the five cheapest shipping container homes ever built.

#1: Joseph Dupuis’ Container Home – $20,000

I’ve no doubt that if you’ve seen much of the news recently you will have already seen Joseph Dupuis’ home.

Joseph is a 29 year old engineer from Canada who researches renewable energy at Algonquin College in Ottawa. Back in 2012, he was looking for a way to build his own home without racking up debt in the process.

He decided to purchase three shipping containers and build a home on his family’s land which is about 35 miles west of Ottawa. The shipping containers had previously been used to ship cargo from Asia and were purchased from a port near Toronto for $2,600 USD each.

Dupuis built the 355 square foot home during the summer of 2012 and in total it took him three months- at times working up to 14 hours per day.

He said building his home was “like a giant science experiment so I’m observing and making modifications”.

You can see in the photos, Joseph has removed the interior walls of the containers to create one large open plan room. The home containers a kitchen, dining area and a shower stall. Dupuis has made an outhouse which doubles as a complete bathroom.

What makes this home so impressive is the fact that it’s completely off-grid, which means it isn’t connected to local utilities such as electric.

Solar panels on the containers’ roof provide electricity and there is a wood-powered stove to keep the home warm.

Joe is planning to add a fourth shipping container to the home. This container will have a glass ceiling which is planned to allow him to star gaze.

It appears he is a container fanatic as he has also made a workshop out of two shipping containers to allow him to build his motorbikes.

The total cost of this home is $20,000 USD.

Source: Daily Mail

#2: Shipping Container Cabin – $35,000

Shipping Container Cabin One

© Larry Wade

The ‘shipping container cabin’ was built by Larry Wade back in 2010 for $35,000 USD.

Larry’s original plan was to build a shipping container home/cabin that would be suitable to use as a weekend or holiday home. He wanted the home to be self-sufficient yet have all the normal comforts of home associated with it.

This meant Larry was looking for ways to make the container cabin off-grid.

He started off by purchasing two 40 foot shipping containers for $2,000 USD each. The containers were delivered and cited onto several concrete piers. Concrete piers were used instead of a full concrete slab due to them being both cheaper and quicker to build.

Once the containers were levelled they were welded together. To weld the containers Larry placed 2″X1/8 flat steel bars along the gap between the container roofs. These steel bars were then welded using a stitch pattern.

Shipping Container Cabin Two

© Larry Wade

In addition to the roof, Larry welded the floors together and also the doors of the containers to prevent any wind blowing through them.

Foam insulation was then sprayed on the outside of the containers and also in the air pocket between the two containers. Internally rock wool insulation was rolled out in-between battens to provide an additional layer of protection.

You can see inside the containers there is an arch which connects the two containers and creates a living room. In addition to the living room there are two bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen/diner.

The roof of the containers has been fitted with solar panels which provide the home with its electricity. The solar panels are also used to heat the water.

The total cost of Larry’s home was $35,000 USD- this figure includes the cost of purchasing the land.
Source: Sea Container Cabin

#3: Tin Can Cabin – $36,000

Tin Can Cabin was built back in 2009 and is based in the beautiful countryside of Northern Wisconsin.

Steve’s primary concern was security and he said that shipping containers’ large steel doors can be locked to keep his home secure and free from vandals whilst he is away.

Unlike the two homes above, Steve opted to build his home using brand new shipping containers. He chose to use new containers because they are in better condition which makes them easier to work with. Also he mentioned that the risk of chemical contamination in new containers is reduced.

The brand new 20 foot shipping containers cost $2,600 each. The delivery of them from China was free because Steve let the freight company ship goods inside his container (this is commonly referred to as ‘one-trip’ containers).

The containers were insulated internally with spray foam insulation which was sprayed 3inches thick.

Similar to Joseph Dupuis’ container home mentioned above, all the internal walls were removed to allow for a single open plan home. Inside the house you will find a kitchen, lounge, dining area and a bathroom. The lounge area features a sofa which doubles as a bed to save on space.

For heating Steve installed a wood burning stove which is capable of heating up to 800 square foot. His container home is 480 square foot so the stove is more than powerful enough.

The total cost of Steve’s container home was $36,000 USD. – this price includes all the fixtures, furnishings and fittings.
Source: Tin Can Cabin

#4: Containers of Hope – $40,000

‘Containers of Hope’ is by far one of the most famous shipping container homes ever built. The home was designed by Benjamin Garcia Saxe architects for the Peralta family.

Gabriela Calvo and Marco Peralta wanted to live in the countryside, but they were worried about rising property costs and getting themselves in debt. They decided to build their home out of shipping containers so they could lead a debt free lifestyle that would allow them to spend the majority of their time out in the countryside.

With a plot of land in the suburbs of San Jose (Costa Rica) they wanted a home which would provide them with lots of views of the beautiful natural surrounds.

They decided to purchase two used 40 foot shipping containers and space them 3 feet apart on top of concrete pier foundations.

This gap is covered with a roof which was made from scrap metal taken from the containers.

You can also see on the photos the home has several large glass windows which provide the Peralta family with stunning views out into the countryside of San Jose.

Insulation and heating isn’t as much of a concern in San Jose because their weather rarely goes below 64 Fahrenheit. In addition the roof provides cross ventilation which means they rarely have to turn their A/C unit on.

In total their 1,000 square foot home cost around $40,000 USD.

If you want to find out more about Containers of Hope, we interviewed them in our: what I wish I knew series (They are number 7).
Source: Benjamin Garcia Saxe

#5: Ireland’s First Shipping Container Home – $60,000

This shipping container home was the first built in Ireland and was completed in Christmas 2014. The total cost of the home was $60,000 USD. And before you say ‘that sounds expensive’, wait until you see the spec inside the home!

The 360 square foot home was coordinated by Carol Tallon from Ceardean Architects as a low cost model of housing which she says “was inevitable after the property market crash in 2008”. Carol goes on to say that container homes “are new housing solutions available to accommodate different lifestyle choices”.

This home can sleep up to six people at once, however it’s primarily designed to sleep a family of four people comfortably.

The majority of the home is made up of the living area and kitchen. In addition to these rooms the home also has a bedroom and a bathroom.

There is also an outside deck which could be used in the summer.

As previously mentioned the $60,000 price tag seems expensive, however the home is fitted with solar panels and micro heat recovery units which generates hot water and electricity for the home.
Source: The Irish Journal

Now perhaps you can start to see why people are turning to shipping containers as an affordable housing solution.

Let us know in the comments below if you’d consider living in a shipping container home.

  1. Jason

    How much for 2 bedroom container home with nice size living room an top roof as a deck, in California.

    • Tom

      There are quite a few variables at play that make it difficult to give an estimate. How much (if any) work will you do yourself? Do you want a single or multi-story home? How many square feet? What level of interior and exterior finish quality? How remote is your building site?
      What approvals are needed for construction in your area? Depending on these and other factors, you could end up paying anywhere from $30k to $300k, or more. As you read through more of the articles on our site, you’ll start to get a better feel for some of the costs, especially as you read profiles of real people who built container homes.

  2. Carol

    Hi Tom, would like to know if your offer for plans and guide include shipping container plans for at least 3 or 4 blueprints for one story 1 or 2 bedroom? This is what I am seeking in plans for your shipping containers with kitchen, bathroom and living room. Would like to purchase once you confirm that I have a few options for a one story.
    Thank you,


    • Tom

      Hi Carol,

      Yes we do have several 3 and 4 bedroom container homes in the plans pack 🙂

      Let me know if you need anything else,


  3. Barbara

    Hello all. I am interested in building or buying a container home. Some folks on this forum are so talented. Does anyone know who may have container home plans ranging from 600 sq feet to 2500? Also, might anyone know if any container homes come with walls, flooring, cabinets, etc to be delivered to a slab and made a functional house? thank you, Barbara in Boynton beach, Florida.

    • Tom

      Hi Barbara,

      We do offer plans for container homes- if you click on the plans section on the navigation bar it will take you to them.

      In terms of prefab container homes, this isn’t something I know much about because I focus on DIY, owner-builder container homes 🙂


  4. John Ahern

    Hi Tom,
    I have purchased a plot of land in costa rica and the plan is to move my effects there soon. I live in canada, but the plan is to buuy a container in the usa and to move my belongings to jacksonville and ship them from there to limon, cr. (this will save me about $300o- 4000 in total).
    I recently read a comment in this section by a gentleman who had just took delivery of a container and explained how he received and set it up in costa rica. It would be very helpful if i could get in contact with this gentleman to get a heads-up as to what to be aware of and also get some guidance with choice of shipping agent etc. And in particular reference to obtaining planing permission/permit for a container type home.
    Can you pass on my email address to this person for me.
    Thank you, sincerely,

    • Tom

      Hi John,

      I’m happy to help.

      Please can you email me and we can sort this out for you 🙂


  5. Jocelyn Nyaguse

    Hi there!

    I love this concept.. Would love to pursue it in Zimbabwe but I don’t know where to start. Please help!Where can I purchase your book?

  6. Be

    Hi Tom

    I want to build an off-grid container home on a plot I own in Bathurst, South Africa.

    The plot has a slight slope. Ideally I would like to party bury 2 containers into the slope for water storage/gaplace and place another 2-3 on top for living space on top. Would this be possible?

  7. Belinda Diann wears

    Hello , I would like information on how to build and what I need to build a home for me and my dog!? . Without hooking up to the city/town ? ! Solar , toilets , showers , waters , electric and heat , etc ! I would appreciate any and all help! !!!!

    • Tom

      Hi Belinda,

      Thank you for getting in touch.

      Our blog and resource section is the best place to start. Then if you’re looking for more in-depth information we have a guide and you’re always free to email me any questions 🙂


  8. Bharat Ketkar

    Really great idea. Looking forward to build one similar house in India. Hope I succeed in the same . Thank you for the information.
    Bharat Ketkar

    • Avinash Rane

      Hi Bharat,

      I am also planning for similar house. Have you built it incase if you can help me as well.
      You can contact me on

      Avinash Rane

  9. Leo

    Hi Tom,

    I interested in your book but I can’t obtain a copy. I come from Papua New Guinea, we have a tropical climate.
    I would like to design container homes for average income earners. I’m very interested in how to construct proper insulation therefore minimise thermal discomfort in such container homes.

    Please kindly let me know how to get your book.



    • Tom

      Hi Leo,

      Thank you for getting in touch.

      I’ve sent you an email,


  10. Barbara

    Hi Tom,
    Thank you for providing info that a novice can understand. I’m interested in building housing for homeless veterans in my area (Ohio) Have meeting tomorrow with the city to obtain land. One of my concerns is safety. Which design would you recommend that would be safest because the area may not be heavily populated. Also design best for cold climates. Thank you

    • Tom

      Hi Barbara,

      If safety is your major concern then you can leave the original container doors in tact. This way you can ‘seal’ the containers up when people aren’t living in them…

      Let me know how you get on in your meeting,


  11. Nevada Basile

    Hi thereTom
    Thank you for providing such comprehensive information about shipping container homes,
    Looking for a more debt free lifestyle and being closer to aging parents, we are interested in building something like Containers of Hope in the bottom half of my parents-in-law’s property in Mt Washington, Los Angeles – I think we can make it an Additional Dwelling Unit but there’s not much info about what building permits are required in Los Angeles for a project using containers. The containers would have to be craned in over the top of the house to the site, is there anywhere I can find information on who to talk to about something like this?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated, thanks again for providing clarity on so many commonly asked questions

    • Tom

      Hi Nevada,

      Thank you for your kind words!

      We are currently working on producing a list of contractors however we haven’t finished this yet. In the meantime I would suggest you get in touch with your local container dealers- the larger firms will offer delivery on the containers and they will advise on how to crane the containers into place.

      Best of luck Nevada,


  12. John


    I am building a resort on the beach in Vanuatu, I am a little worried about the rusting underside of the container villas I wish to build, as Vanuatu has cat 4-5 Cyclones and earth quakes to cat 8 I am extremely interested in using containers my thought is to split a 12 container and opening it up to 5 m internal width and installing a high part dome steel frame roof and after placing color bond roof install thatching to give a tropical look, I will also use unique type cladding external. I have read a lot about ceramic external paint which may help keep out the heat ( I will be cladding external also).

    • Tom

      Hi John,

      To prevent the underside rusting you could always insulate the base of them as well. You can just use spray foam insulation and this should do the trick!


  13. Leigh taylor

    HI there
    so happy to find your site. We have just purchased a small plt of land and hoping to build a container wood combo home. Our budget is super tight, so any and all inspiration is appreciated. Great site ! 😉

    • Tom

      That sounds fantastic Leight!

      Make sure to keep in touch and let us know how you get on,


  14. Dawn

    Hi we live in the state of Texas. We have a plot of land and are looking into building a container home. I was wondering if you have any floor plans for sale. We would love to keep the cost around 100,000. Any info or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

  15. Joseph Miles

    I’m interested in creating several units in hopes of building affordable housing for the masses. I’d love to get some insight on the process and whether or not you think this will be feasible in major metropolitan areas such as San Francisco, CA or Seattle, WA?

    Happy New Year


    • Tom

      Hi Joseph,

      Thank you for getting in touch.

      That sounds like a very interesting project. Shipping container homes are cheap to build, however my concern with building them in major metropolitan areas is that the land is very expensive there. So if you already own the land then sounds great, but if not I think it would be tricky to build due to the expensive land there…

      Your alternative could be to build the homes on the outskirts of these areas, so the land would be cheaper.


  16. Betty

    Hello Team,
    I am from Uganda East Africa, i have been searching through how i can build an affordable home debt free and also stop renting possibly this year.
    I love your ideas because here we have freight companies i can buy from used containers.
    I look forward to more new ideas as i embark on this project.
    Kind regards,

    • Tom

      That sound fantastic Betty!

      Really looking forward to hearing how you progress,


  17. Maria

    Ever considered creating a home for low income families? This is what I would like to do in the future, but need guidance to see my plan go into motion. Where can I get information?

    • Tom

      Hi Maria,

      Please send me an email and maybe I can be of some help!


  18. Gus

    Hi Tom,

    I’ve just gotten to youtr website after researching about building a home using containers.

    I am in the process of purchasing a plot and I am looking into all my options. The fact that containers are building blocks and are easily sealable makes them tremendeouly attractive to build durable homes. I live in Wellington NZ where unfortunately earthquakes are a constant threat making containers even more attractive.

    I read the first 2 free chapters of your book and if I continue moving towards building a house with containers I will definitely buy your book.

    The house above designed by Benjamin Garcia Saxe is the type of house I am looking into build as I don’t have neighbours and will be overlooking open field and the sea so the more glass the better 🙂

    It won’t be a walk on the park from the the very begining because I plan to use 40ft containers but they can only be delivered to my site with a crane and using containers to build a house in NZ can be more expensibe than building with wood framing or steel framing as the idea pretty much has just arrived here. I need to find the right people to do the job. They must share the same dream 🙂

    Thank you for all the info.

  19. Bob Young

    We are currently purchasing 5 acres east of Yakima, WA, on a slightly sloping hillside. We are currently working on floor plans for a 4-45′ container home, with 2 sides & roof earth bermed. I plan to be totally off-grid. We already have a good well for water, & are working on a septic system that will be acceptable to the county, perhaps a sand-system or bermed-system. We are hoping to keep our costs under $50,000 for the house (& perhaps garage from 2 containers). This is going to be an adventure in progress.

    • Tom

      Hi Bob,

      This sounds very exciting!

      Keep in touch because I’m sure everyone here would love to know how you get on.


    • Wayne

      Hey Bob, any update? I’m in Oregon and i’m doing some research. Any pic’s?

    • Mica

      Hi there! Also in WA…Seattle area. Looking into building cheap. Would love an update! travelwithmica at yahoo