In this article, we will attempt to compare a shipping container home to a manufactured home. Naturally, I have a strong opinion about manufactured homes but I’ll do my best to keep neutral in this article.
Browsing the web for manufactured home remodels lead me to an article about a couple in Louisiana that took two shipping containers and turned them into a gorgeous home. How awesome is that? They essentially took trash and repurposed it into a home and it only cost them $200,000!
Wait. What? $200,000?
Shipping container homes have been a popular trend in the last few years. People love the idea of taking an old corrugated metal shipping container, 40 foot long and 8 foot wide, and turning it into a stylish, modern, and very tiny home.
I can’t help to wonder why anyone would choose to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to repurpose a shipping container into a home when they could have bought a manufactured home with basically the same shape, size, amenities, and features at a quarter of the price.
Don’t get me wrong, any new home for a family is awesome. A home is a home whether it cost $5,000 (like ours in WV) or $500,000. Getting to choose exactly what kind of home you live in – from the layout to the color of the trim, is an amazing, life-changing experience.
To compare a shipping container home to a manufactured home may open up the discussion as to why shipping container homes are so cool and trendy while manufactured homes are stigmatized. I think we can do that with respect for all choices.
With that said, we will compare a shipping container home to a manufactured home. The areas we will compare include:
- design and style
- permit and regulations
- cost and financing
Let’s Compare a Shipping Container Home to a Manufactured Home by Design and Style
Design and Style of a Shipping Container Home
Shipping container homes are not cheap. Seth Rodewald-Bates and his wife, Elisabeth Davies are a Louisianna couple that used two shipping containers to create their dream home. The total cost of the project was right around $200,000. The land was $5,000 and the 2 shipping containers were $5,000 each. The other $185,000 was spent turning the containers into a home.
Recycling two shipping containers and turning them into a stylish, modern home is commendable. This is not a project for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of planning and preparation to achieve what this couple has achieved.
The home is roughly 720 square feet but it still has enough room for a kitchen island, five chairs, a sofa, a 10-foot desk, two bikes, and a set of bookshelves that hold over 400 books. One of the best features of this shipping container home is the 14′ ceilings.
It’s a beautiful home:
The couple decided to leave the original markings on the outside of their new shipping container home to keep the look original. Rustic metal is the new trend for siding.
Now let’s compare a shipping container home to a manufactured home:
Design and Style of a Manufactured Home
Single wide manufactured homes are probably a popular resource for architects when they plan shipping container homes. The manufactured home industry has certainly perfected small home design and layout over the last 90 years.
This kitchen has all the modern amenities and features as the shipping container home it’s just in a different style:
While you can’t get 14′ side walls in a manufactured home, you can get cathedral ceilings.
For about half the price of the shipping container home above you could buy a new double wide manufactured home that’s triple the size and looks like this:
Permits and Restrictions
if we compare a shipping container home to a manufactured home in the area of permits and restrictions, the shipping container home wins hands down. Container homes have fewer permitting, building, and installation restrictions than manufactured homes.
Container homes do not have the history of manufactured homes so there’s no stigma impacting them. They will be welcomed in many communities and developments.
Many townships and cities won’t even allow a single wide to be installed within their city limits at all. Double wides are a bit more acceptable but they will typically have a long list of requirements that must be met before they can be installed. Common requirements are porch or decks that make the homes look more site-built and specified skirting materials.
Shipping container homes are the clear winner when it comes to permitting and regulations.
Cost and Financing
Manufactured homes have a much lower price per square foot than a container home based on similar specs.
David Price, a shipping container architect, says he can construct a container home for about $175 per square foot whereas a site-built home is around $225 per square foot.
The average manufactured home costs $28 per square foot.
Financing a shipping container home isn’t as easy as financing a true site-built home but it’s not as difficult as financing a manufactured home.
The fact that shipping container homes are easily transportable puts them in a similar category as a manufactured home. An article titled Your Next Home May be a Shipping Container explains:
“…because they are so new, one potential downside is that because containers are mobile, it brings into question how to finance such projects…..Because of their mobility by truck or rail, they’re just as mobile as a mobile trailer home…..Container homes may have the same financing issue. Because of their mobility by truck or rail, they’re just as mobile as a mobile trailer home…”
If the shipping container is attached to the foundation is easier to obtain traditional financing. There are also grants available because of the recycling and environmental benefits of turning a shipping container into a home.
Financing a manufactured home isn’t easy. Thanks to predatory and subprime lending practices over the years the manufactured housing industry has suffered from high bankruptcy and foreclosure rates. Add a fear of low equity returns and a blatant bias and ignorance about the homes and you get a situation where it is difficult to find competitive financing. Read more about financing a manufactured home on HUD.gov.
Simply put, manufactured homes are definitely the winner in the cost per square foot. Shipping container homes have an advantage in financing options, though.
Summary to Compare a Shipping Container Home to a Manufactured Home
There are benefits and advantages for all homes. In this case, I have to let my bias shine and declare manufactured homes as a clear winner over shipping container homes. My reasoning hinges on the cost per square foot though I figure if shipping container homes have just as much trouble getting financed as a manufactured home (and at similar interest rates) you’ll probably be better off just buying a manufactured home at a lower cost.
You can design and choose your layout in a manufactured home just as you can a container home. Energy savings and environmental benefits are comparable. The stigma just isn’t attached to container homes and that’s not enough of a reason to pay triple the price to me. How about you?
What do you think about shipping container homes?
Thank you for reading Mobile Home Living.