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A Price Point Comparison: Shipping Container Homes VS Stick-Built Traditional Homes

A Price Point Comparison: Shipping Container Homes VS Stick-Built Traditional Homes

If you plan on building a new home, you might be torn between a shipping container home and a traditional stick-built house. Let’s delve into a comprehensive comparison of the costs of these two options.

This article will guide you through a detailed discussion about the prices of shipping container houses vs. traditional homes.

We’ll examine the factors that influence the total cost of both kinds of homes. This includes elements such as materials, labor, and financing.

We’ll also shed light on the unique benefits of both options. With this knowledge, you’ll be well-equipped to make an educated choice.

So, let’s dive right in and find out which type of home suits your needs and financial plan better.

Key Takeaways

  • The main difference between a shipping container home and a traditional stick-built home is the use of construction materials. Shipping container homes are built from used shipping containers, while traditional homes are built with timber frames.
  • Shipping container homes may offer cost savings in terms of land, labor, design, and materials, but additional modifications and maintenance may be needed.
  • Financing a container home may require alternative options, as some lenders may be hesitant to offer traditional mortgage options.
  • Personal loans or construction loans may be more suitable options, and good credit and proper documentation are important for securing favorable terms.
  • The decision between a shipping container home and a stick-built traditional home ultimately depends on personal preferences, budget constraints, and lifestyle considerations. Both options have unique advantages, and individuals can find a home that suits their needs and vision.
container home with glass wondows

Photo from Conexwest

What Is the Difference Between a Shipping Container Home and a Stick-Built One?

If you’ve ever pondered the differences between a shipping container house and a traditional stick-built home, you’re not alone. The key difference lies in the construction materials used.

Traditional homes, often called stick-built homes, are created using timber frames. These frames form the backbone of the house, providing the necessary support and stability for the structure. They are the silent support system that safeguards your home.

Then there are shipping container homes. These innovative structures are built from used shipping containers, which serve as the primary building blocks.

The strength of the containers negates the need for a traditional frame, creating an entirely different type of home.

These cargo containers possess weather resistance, withstanding hurricanes, strong winds, earthquakes, and tornadoes.

This distinct difference in building materials sets the two types of homes apart. It’s essential, however, to delve deeper into the differences.

Shipping container homes fall under the umbrella of prefab or modular construction. This means they’re primarily assembled off-site before being transported for final construction.

Stick-built homes, on the other hand, are constructed from scratch on the site itself. The implications of these different construction methods extend to factors like cost, durability, and design options. Thus, understanding these distinctions is crucial when weighing up your home-building options.

inside of a container home

Photo from Conexwest

What Contributes to the Cost of a Shipping Container Home vs. Stick-Built Traditional Homes?

When deciding between a shipping container home and a stick-built home, the cost will be a significant factor to consider.

For home builders, especially those on a budget, it may result in making sacrifices in certain areas to stay within the spending limit. Your choice between the two will ultimately depend on your needs and lifestyle.

Different factors can play a significant role in determining the overall expense of the home project. These factors are: land, labor, design, and materials used in the construction.

Examining these factors closely can help you gain a better understanding of what contributes to the total cost without overcomplicating the matter.

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Choosing the right piece of land for your home requires careful consideration of several factors.

Top among these are soil quality and the inclination of the land. Both play a significant role in building homes, whether traditional stick-built houses or innovative shipping container homes.

In the realm of traditional, stick-built homes, soil quality is very important. It’s the foundation that supports the entire structure.

The stability of your traditional home rests on the quality of the soil. The land’s slope or angle can also significantly influence the design of the home.

If you’re constructing a traditional home, you often need to buy a new or larger piece of land to accommodate the house plans.

Switching gears to shipping container homes offers a degree of versatility. Since their size is typically smaller than that of a traditional house, they can fit into a wider array of land plots.

If you just want to build a tiny container house, then you don’t have to buy a new plot of land. You can just use the extra space in your backyard for your tiny container home.


In the realm of traditional stick-built homes, labor costs can skyrocket. Why is that? The process of constructing these homes is no easy feat.

Every wall is built from scratch, demanding an intricate framing process. This is a labor-intensive task that requires a team of skilled workers. Consequently, the cost for the homeowner can be hefty.

Now, let’s turn our attention to shipping container homes. Here, the story is quite different. These unique homes offer a cost-saving edge when it comes to labor.

The reason is simple. Shipping containers come with a built-in structural framework. This means much of the labor-heavy building process is already done and dusted.

The result? A potential drop in labor costs. This makes shipping container homes a more wallet-friendly option for those looking to build their own home.

If you’re looking to save on labor costs, shipping container homes might be the way to go.


Traditional stick-built homes require meticulous planning. Every inch of the structure, including the integral framing design, must be mapped out in detail. This level of precision contributes to the overall cost.

In contrast, container homes offer a more straightforward design process. The primary task is to plan how to configure the actual containers. This streamlined approach significantly trims the design cost compared to a stick-built home.

Container homes are also in demand as a budget-friendly alternative. They fall under the category of prefabricated homes, which are typically more cost-effective.

Prefabricated container homes are quick to assemble and can be ready for occupancy in a fraction of the time compared to traditional homes.

These prefabricated container homes are highly customizable and can be designed to fit various sizes and layouts, allowing for flexibility in terms of floor plans and interior designs.

You also only need to plan the configuration of the actual containers. This cuts back on the design cost of a shipping container home vs. a stick-built one.

Container homes are a sustainable choice. This blend of cost-effectiveness, versatility, and sustainability makes container homes an attractive option for many.

worker placing glass door in container home

Photo from Conexwest


Shipping container homes enjoy a notable advantage when it comes to materials. They’re fashioned from shipping containers, which are comprised of solid steel.

This material is known for its durability and resistance to weather conditions, making it an excellent choice for home construction.

Unlike their traditional counterparts, which require copious amounts of lumber for framing, container homes already have a robust structure in place. Therefore, fewer materials are needed, directly reducing construction costs.

However, it’s not all smooth sailing with shipping containers. They have a tendency to rust over time. Therefore, it’s crucial to maintain and treat the steel properly to prevent this issue.

Additional modifications are also often necessary with container homes. Things like insulation, plumbing, and electrical work can cause the overall price of the home to climb.

Financing a Container Home vs. a Traditional Stick-Built Home

There are key points that you should be aware of in regards to financing your container home project. Let’s break it down.

Determine Your Budget

Calculate how much you are willing to spend on your container home. Consider costs such as purchasing the container, necessary modifications, permits, land, utilities, and other expenses.

Compare these estimated expenses with your total budget to determine if it aligns with what you can afford.

If the costs exceed your budget, you may need to reassess and either adjust your budget or adjust the design and complexity of your container home.

Explore Your Loan Options

Container homes are still somewhat of a novelty. Given their relative newness, some lenders might hesitate to offer traditional mortgage options. This is where the financing landscape for container homes diverges from that of conventional homes.

In such cases, you may need to consider alternative financing routes. Personal loans or construction loans may be more appropriate.

Don’t forget to do proper research on the terms, interest rates, and requirements of each option to find one that suits your financial situation.

Complete Your Requirements

A good credit score is also important for securing favorable terms and interest rates. Review your credit report to ensure its accuracy and take steps to improve your score if necessary.

Most lenders will require a down payment to finance a container home. Start saving money to cover a portion of the total cost. The down payment amount depends on the lender and your financial situation.

Lenders will also require specific documents when applying for a loan. These may include proof of income, tax returns, bank statements, employment history, and any other relevant financial information. Prepare and organize these documents in advance to streamline the application process.

Seek Expert Advice

Seeking expert advice can also be beneficial. They can help you make an informed decision that aligns with your financial situation and goals.

A financial advisor can provide valuable guidance on financing options and budgeting and help you determine the best course of action for your specific financial situation.

They can help you explore different loan options, assess the risks involved, and tailor a financial plan that suits your needs.

person using tab

You can also reach out to expert container home builders to discuss your project details and seek advice on costs.

During the consultation, ask specific questions about the factors that can influence the overall cost, such as materials, level of modification, location, permits, and any additional services they provide (e.g., plumbing, electrical).

Be transparent with builders about your budget limitations and clearly communicate your financial goals.

Ask them to provide an estimate or range for the overall cost of the project based on the information you have provided. This will help you evaluate if the costs align with your budget and if any adjustments need to be made.

Final Thoughts

key in hand

Regarding cost, a clear winner emerges when comparing shipping container homes and traditional stick-built houses. Shipping container homes are, by and large, the more cost-effective option.

Ultimately, the choice between a shipping container home and a stick-built traditional home boils down to personal preferences, budget constraints, and lifestyle considerations.

In the ever-evolving world of housing, both shipping container homes and traditional homes bring something unique and captivating to the table.

Each offers a distinct lifestyle and set of advantages, ensuring that individuals can find a place they can truly call home, built and designed just the way they envision.

If you are interested in more container home guides, please visit our site here.

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Container Home Hub is not a shipping container home construction company. While we do our best to make sure our information is accurate, please contact a professional shipping container home builder for information. Container Home Hub is also a blog and does not independently sell shipping container houses and/or shipping container house plans. Container Home Hub currently uses advertisements from a third-party advertising site in addition to occasional affiliate links.