Shipping container garages are increasingly popular options for utilizing space.
Whether you’re building a container shop or looking at complete shipping container homes, here are some shipping container garage ideas to help you figure out whether it’s a good choice for your property or not.
Pros and Cons of Shipping Container Garages
Here are the basic pros and cons of using massive storage containers for a home project.
Pros of a Shipping Container Garage
Shipping containers have many benefits, including their size and durability. These containers are made to protect cargo out on the ocean for months, so they can withstand practically any regular environment. Even better, they’re big enough to do a lot of stuff in.
Shipping containers are also surprisingly affordable (more on that below), often costing less per square foot than some competing options. That’s on top of generally having metal construction.
Finally, shipping containers are generally easy to modify. Whether you’re putting insulation in your garage or trying to convert it into a shipping container house, the solid walls provide plenty of anchors and make planning the layout easy.
Cons of a Shipping Container Garage
As great as shipping containers are, there are a few negatives to consider before you rush out to create your dream garage. The first issue is size. Most shipping containers are either 20 feet or 40 feet long, which is bigger than most properties allow.
That means they’re most practical in rural and some suburban areas and not practical at all in basically any urban environment.
Shipping containers may also run afoul of HOA regulations or otherwise impact property values. You can mitigate this somewhat if you disguise the outside, but giant metal boxes simply aren’t aesthetically pleasing to most people.
Beyond that, shipping containers are hard to move once they’re in place. The average container weighs 4000-9000 pounds, which is far too heavy for precision placement unless a crane is holding it up.
Finally, you may face environmental issues. Snow probably won’t pack up high enough to actually harm a shipping container, but if it’s exposed to harsh sunlight, all that metal could absorb quite a lot of heat.
Container Garage Options
Here are some things you can do with a shipping container. Remember, while we refer to it as a garage, you don’t have to use a container as a car garage or some other sort of dream garage.
It’s a giant box, so you can use it for storage, daily activities, or even build a full container home.
Shipping Container Barn
Shipping container barns are mainly for raising animals. These can be more durable than wooden structures, especially if you want to keep the rain out. The trick here is to make sure you can regulate the interior temperature of your storage space so it’s more comfortable for animals.
Some people like to connect two shipping containers together when building a house for animals. This may take some time, effort, and metalworking tools, but you can get quite a large barn if you set things up correctly.
Remember that you may need to modify the container roof on a barn, though. Doing this will help provide fresh air and peace of mind for all the animals in the container garage.
Shipping Container Shed
A shipping container shed is a great way to store large garden supplies, especially for larger estates. These containers offer enough room to park and maneuver things without having to get everything else out of the way, which is critical for timely access to them.
This is perhaps the most direct way of using containers for their original role as storage space.
Man caves are recreational areas. Despite the name, they’re not exclusive to men, although guys are more likely to make them. These serve two broad purposes: a private area for guys to relax and decorate as they like, and a place to entertain friends.
Used shipping containers work well for this job because it’s often hard to get a good man cave out of a dream garage. The average used container has almost as much space as a regular 2-car garage, with the added benefit of not being used for anything else when it’s set in place.
Man caves are also somewhat easier to make outside the house. Inside of a home, the opinions of everyone need to come into play. If people agree that a specific building outside the house is just one person’s, they can decorate it however they like without bothering anyone else.
Most people only use one container to make a man cave, rather than two containers. 40-foot containers are somewhat better for this job, but a smaller container will suffice if needed.
Shipping Container Workshop
Workshops are another way to manage a used container or, more rarely, two containers at a time. These offer several advantages, including better ability to limit airflow and dust into its space.
This is particularly useful as a shipping container garage conversion because containers offer more than enough space to replace a garage workshop.
Shipping containers can also help muffle the sounds of power tools, especially those that can annoy others while in use. A layer or two of soundproofing can muffle almost any amount of noise, allowing you to work without annoying your family or neighbors.
Shipping Container Carport
Finally, shipping containers can be a true container garage as they hold cars. This is a great way to extend a garage on your property or help keep a car sheltered and clean.
A container garage is particularly useful if your family wants to use the real garage for other things, such as storage or an entertainment area.
Shipping Container Garage Ideas
Here are some ways people can use containers, both for storage and other roles.
A luxury carport is made up of five connected shipping containers, making a total interior area of 40 x 40 feet. This requires a lot of cutting, welding, and painting, but the result is a massive interior space that’s perfect for showing off luxury cars.
The real trick here is knowing where to place the doors. A good luxury carport will have at least three ramps for entrances and possibly more on other sides, making it easy to get cars in and out of the cargo containers.
The thick walls also help protect luxury vehicles regardless of prevailing weather conditions, which is a major positive.
A standard carport is similar to a luxury one but has three large containers next to each other to create a floor plan of 40 x 24 feet. Completing the port are two wide garage doors on one side.
The result is enough room to park four regular cars next to each other, with door access through the sides. This isn’t as much space as a luxury carport, but it gets the job done.
This idea is a little different and involves placing two containers parallel to each other, then building a roof between them. The result is a large covered area resting on extremely sturdy walls, which means it’s unlikely to collapse even under rather severe shaking.
This is particularly useful if you’d have a hard time getting a concrete slab foundation under them.
If you want to get particularly fancy, you can add doors or other openings to the small sides of the container. However, try to avoid removing any load-bearing areas because you’re holding something on top of the container.
A two-container garage is similar to our first two options but has just two containers set side by side. This setup requires removing one long wall from each area, then using other resources to reinforce the top and bottom of the workspace.
Once you’re done, you have a 16-foot wide storage area. A smaller container size works well for this setup, as 40 feet is just too much.
Tiny sheds are made with 10-foot shipping containers. These aren’t common because shipping containers are all about bulk transport, but you can find them if you’re persistent enough.
Tiny sheds have the added benefit of being too small to trigger regulations on new structure sizes in most areas.
A 10-foot square space isn’t as much as it could be, so you can’t make a true workshop or man cave out of it. However, you can put in drink storage, backyard equipment, tables and chairs, or similar things. Just don’t expect to fit a car in one, ever.
Home Office With Deck
While most people think about putting a garage door on a shipping container, openings don’t have to be that big. A much smaller glass door can do perfectly well for a project, especially if your budget is limited or you don’t need such a large opening.
A good home office in a shipping container makes use of the container’s size to fit things like a desk, a printer, and other basic supplies. An outdoor deck just past a good provides a place to meet with clients and chat with them somewhere besides on social media or through email.
This is particularly useful if you’re looking for a mobile solution. It takes a little care, but you can transport a home office (with or without the deck) between work sites, letting it serve as a mobile command station for jobs.
The hard metal structure may be more useful around construction sites and similar dangerous areas, too.
Living Roof Shed
A living roof is essentially a garden atop the container. This is a great way to maximize the use of space, especially if you bury the container halfway down or more to help with insulation.
Living roofs can vary in design from simple grass to intensive gardens, but one thing they have in common is that they rarely require more than 150 pounds of support per square foot.
Modern shipping containers usually exceed that limit by more than twice the carrying capacity, and they get even stronger if you can structure your garden so that it puts all the weight on the corner posts.
Living roofs are a great way to help containers blend into the neighborhood, too, especially if you can paint your container buildings the same color as your house.
Motorcycle Maintenance Shop
A motorcycle maintenance shop is a twist on installing a garage door and using the container to hold cars. Instead, it holds everything you need for a maintenance project for motorcycles, including tools and replacement parts as appropriate for your budget.
While motorcycles are relatively common choices because they’re narrow, you can make a maintenance shop for almost any type of motorized vehicle, including garden equipment, if you’re so inclined.
Glass-walled offices have a few benefits that other containers don’t, mostly in how much you can see outside. These are great relaxation hubs for looking out over gardens or green belts. Alternatively, you can use a glass-walled office to look at a workspace while reducing noise.
Most of these offices only have glass on one side. Unlike regular container offices, glass-walled offices are somewhat hard to move because any impact could shatter all the glass. Mobile versions usually remove the glass first, then reinstall it on-site.
Shipping containers also make a great choice if you’re trying to build an exercise studio as your project. These offer a solution for exercising in privacy, especially if you’re conscious about your appearance, and the size of the garage gives you enough room for practically any activity. Check out our post on shipping container gyms for some inspiration!
7 Things to Think About When Choosing a Shipping Container Garage
Here are some things to think about when buying a garage for any purpose.
On average, shipping containers cost somewhere between $2000 and $4500 dollars. That’s extremely low for the amount of space you’re getting, especially when you compare it to pre-built sheds and similar alternatives.
This low cost is one of the main reasons why people consider making a car garage, workshop, or another facility out of a few containers.
Container Size Options
Containers come in several sizes, but for all practical purposes, there are really only two sizes that most people care about: 20 feet and 40 feet.
The actual containers are slightly shorter than these designations, helping account for exterior components, but that’s what you can expect to see when you’re buying.
Outside of these standard lengths, most containers are about eight feet wide and eight or nine feet tall. Companies aggressively try to keep these standardized because too many changes in size impact how easy it is to load and ship the containers.
Nobody wants their name and email address associated with throwing off an entire trip.
Shipping Container Garage Style
Shipping container garage styles vary greatly. The key consideration here is how many vehicles you want to store and how easy you want it to be to move them in and out of it.
Generally, you can fit a two-car door on the long side of a 40-foot container, so use that as your estimate when planning. Don’t forget to leave at least a few feet of space for maneuvering.
Land preparation is crucial to getting a good shipping container garage. This may require installing a pipe footing foundation, taking pictures of the property to consult with an expert, or sending an email to your city or county to help get permission to add a structure.
The important thing to keep in mind about your garage is that you need a solid footing beneath it. Some people use concrete slabs for their garage, while others use crushed gravel. Either way, make sure the ground won’t sink beneath it and put the weight in weird places.
Make sure you think about any upgrading plans before you buy and install a container. Do you want to add lights and electrical components? Do you want to add more shipping containers over time? Upgrades can be challenging, so the further you plan ahead, the better.
Additional Items/Accessories to Add to the Space
Finally, what sorts of additional items do you want to put in your shipping container, and how will you get them in? This isn’t normally a problem because the side doors will fit almost anything, but you should consider it before you start moving things in.
Consider making a drawing or a mock-up of the layout.
Here are some common questions people have.
What are the Widest Shipping Containers?
Most containers are about eight feet wide, but occasionally, you can find options that are as much as twelve feet wide. They mostly don’t vary any more than this, however, because too many size changes make it hard to pack containers evenly.
If you need more space, the best option is usually cutting out one or more sides from a container and putting them together.
Don’t forget to reinforce the joined areas if you’re linking containers together. This may require welding or specialized tools, and it’s usually worth hiring an expert to ensure it’s structurally sound.
How Do You Move a Storage Container?
There are two practical options for moving storage containers.
The first is using a forklift, but you can’t use just any forklift that happens to be around. They need to be rated for at least 15,000 pounds, which means having a wider lifting area that can distribute the weight better.
If you try to use a smaller forklift, you’ll put too much weight on the middle of the container and end up damaging it.
The second option is using a crane to lift and drop the storage container into position. This offers somewhat more precision than forklifts, and it’s a great way to get shipping containers up or down hills. Some cranes can put a storage container into position without leaving the street.
Moving containers long distances usually involves trucks or trains, but once you’re close to your destination, forklifts and cranes are by far the most practical options. You can try to kludge it with trucks and trailer beds, but these often have a hard time getting the container to its rightful position.
How Do You Repair a Shipping Container?
The main damage most shipping containers will experience is rust. You can mitigate the chances of this by applying anti-rust layers on the outside, but once it starts rusting, the only real option is cutting out the damaged area and welding a new section of steel in.
Floors can also get damaged if you’re moving heavy objects in and out, but this is a simple replacement job and barely qualifies as a repair.
If the doors seem to stick a lot, they probably need new grease. Adding some lubrication to the joints usually solves the problem right away.
Finally, damaged seals can stop the doors from closing properly. Make sure to check and replace those as needed.
Shipping containers are useful for more than shipping items overseas. You can place, cut, and modify them to suit almost any purpose, from an exterior garage to a mobile workplace.
Ultimately, all of the ideas here are meant to spark your imagination and help you decide what sort of relaxing, working, or creative place to make.