Cost Comparison: Mobile Office Trailers vs. Shipping Containers

Cost Comparison: Mobile Office Trailers vs. Shipping Containers

If you need an office for your oil rig, construction site or industrial site, you may be considering ground level offices (GLOs) made from shipping containers or mobile office trailers. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks. Here’s a look at some considerations.

Upfront Costs

Many people don’t realize that the upfront costs of a shipping container-based ground level office are comparable to an office trailer. Other cost considerations, such as your intended usage and budget, may make a container the best long-term choice.

Set-Up and Accessory Costs

Your costs will be less if you already have resources for set-up. For example, If you own an oil and gas company, you’ll have access to jacks and a forklift or crane. In this instance, the only added cost is perhaps some OSHA compliant stairs for your mobile office trailer.

If you do not have access to the necessary equipment, the price increases for both options. Trailers have to be jacked and blocked, which could cost a few hundred dollars. Ground level offices have to be taken off truck beds with a tilt bed, crane or forklift, which can cost up to $1000.

Depreciation Schedule: Taxes

Both ground level offices and office trailers have a depreciation schedule of seven years, which is not a measure of actual longevity, but a component of accounting.


Container-based mobile offices offer big-time savings when it comes to long-term maintenance. Not only do they feature sturdy steel walls, they don’t require a chassis and the maintenance that comes with it to keep up the tires and axles.

Life Span Comparison

The life span of an office trailer will depend on how often you will have to relocate it. An office trailer could spend 20 years and up in good condition just remaining in one place. But keep in mind, every minute it spends on the road will take its toll. An office trailer relocated just a couple of times over gravel roads will show wear and tear.

Shipping container-based ground level offices tend to be more resilient and will remain in working condition for 25 years and beyond, even with regular relocation. Shipping container offices also fair better in rainy and snowy climates, as the steel keeps out most leaks and won’t allow water seepage between vinyl or paneling.

Transportation Costs

The cost of each delivery varies with the distance; estimate between $2.50 and $5 per mile as a base price. Deliveries to more remote areas will cost you more. The most significant cost difference between trailers and container-based GLOs is the potential need to obtain oversize load permits. Shipping containers are designed to fit perfectly onto truck beds, which means they don’t need oversize load permits.

Office trailers that exceed standard width or height limits will require a permit, which can be a few hundred dollars if you’re staying in state.

As stated above, both options offer benefits. A mobile office trailer is good for short-term use in mild climates; shipping container-based offices are good for companies that plan to put their offices through several years of intense use. If durability is a concern for your business, shipping container offices are the best choice.

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