Prefabricated homes are a popular choice for many homeowners because of their low cost, fast delivery, and custom options. Both modular homes and container homes are built in an off-site factory and then moved to a final location to be professionally installed. Both options are also typically less expensive and faster to install than traditional, site-built houses.
But there are key differences between the two that will determine which one is right for your family.
How They Are Made
Building a Modular Home
Modular homes are constructed using a factory-based assembly line process in a secure, controlled environment. This not only ensures the homes are of consistent quality and eliminates weather-related issues, but it also allows them to be manufactured quickly. All of the equipment, supplies, and expertise that the builders need are in one location. The standardized build process also eliminates waste, which is better for efficiency and the environment.
Building a Container Home
Container homes are built by transforming repurposed shipping containers into habitable spaces. The containers are modified in a factory setting and customized to fit the needs of the buyer. They can include windows, doors, insulation, plumbing, electrical wiring, and many other amenities that you would expect in a home.
Unlike other manufactured homes, modular homes are built in separate sections that are assembled at the final location. This allows larger, multi-story homes to be built in a factory that can still make the journey to the homeowner’s property on a trailer.
Likewise, many container homes are built from single units, though they can be constructed from several containers to create a multi-story home. This is typically done through a custom process, which can raise the price substantially.
How Much Is a Modular Home?
Because they are built through a standardized process, and they are not tied to a piece of real estate, modular homes have a standardized cost structure. Also, the controlled factory environment where they are built minimizes construction waste and ensures efficient use of materials, modular homes are more cost-effective than traditional on-site construction.
Factors such as the size, design complexity, and finishes will affect the cost of a modular home. The most affordable modular homes can start around $75,000, though the price can range up to $300,000 or more. When you work with a modular homes expert, they’ll be able to find you the right home to match your needs and your budget.
How Much Is It to Buy a Shipping Container Home?
Container homes can vary widely in cost depending on factors like size, modifications, and finishes. While the initial cost of the container may be relatively low, the customization process, additional structural work, and on-site assembly will affect the price.
The smallest and most affordable shipping container homes can sell for around $25,000, though models like that are rarely meant for permanent living. They are typically for home offices, recreational rooms, and hobby spaces. Some people use smaller container homes as hunting lodges or vacation spaces. Larger container homes with more amenities may cost more than $200,000, while custom, multi-story container homes can cost much more.
Durability and Lifespan
Modular homes are engineered to meet stringent building codes and standards, ensuring a high level of durability. They are created with many of the same materials as traditional homes, and they undergo rigorous quality checks during the manufacturing process.
The lifespan of a modular home is comparable to that of traditionally constructed homes. Their materials are carefully selected for durability, and with proper maintenance, modular homes can last for several decades. Regular upkeep, such as roof inspections and foundation maintenance, will also ensure the long-term durability of your home.
The quality of your modular home will ultimately depend on the manufacturer, so it's important to choose a company with a great reputation and strong customer reviews.
Container homes are inherently durable due to the nature of shipping containers, which are designed to be transported across oceans atop a cargo ship. However, cutting into the container for doors, windows, or connecting multiple containers requires careful engineering to maintain strength. Poor modifications made during the conversion process can impact their structural integrity and ability to weather harsh elements, which is why it's important to purchase your home from a reputable company.
The lifespan of a container home will also depend on factors such as insulation quality and rust prevention. Containers are made of steel, which is susceptible to rust over time, especially in coastal or humid environments. Regular maintenance, including repainting surfaces and addressing any signs of rust promptly, is essential for preserving the structural integrity of a container home.
Modular homes are built with a wide range of amenities—just like a traditional home. They are either added to the home during manufacturing or as part of the installation process. The modular home salesperson you work with can explain the process for your home.
Typical amenities in modular homes include:
- Fully finished interiors: The interiors of modular homes usually include completed walls, flooring, and ceilings. This accelerates the move-in process and provides homeowners with a ready-to-occupy living space.
- Plumbing and electrical systems: Modular homes come pre-fitted with plumbing and electrical systems, including fixtures, wiring, and outlets.
- Insulation: Built-in insulation is a standard feature in modular homes. This contributes to energy efficiency, temperature regulation, and overall comfort within the home.
- Interior finishes: Modular homes often feature a variety of interior finishes, including different flooring, countertop, and cabinet options. The customization process allows new homeowners to design the house that they’ve always wanted to live in.
Container homes, while inherently more minimalistic, can be customized to include amenities that cater to the homeowner's preferences. While some features may be more minimalist, container homes excel in providing a unique and personalized living experience.
Common amenities in container homes include:
- Compact kitchenettes: Container homes often feature compact kitchen spaces equipped with essential appliances that offer functional cooking areas within the limited space.
- Custom storage solutions: Given the limited space, container homes typically incorporate clever storage solutions, such as built-in shelving, loft spaces, or under-floor storage compartments.
- Bathroom facilities: Container homes can include bathroom facilities, complete with plumbing fixtures and sanitary arrangements.
- Outdoor living spaces: Some container home designs emphasize outdoor living, incorporating decks, patios, or rooftop gardens to expand the available space and enhance the overall living experience.