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Mobile offices are a modern necessity on industrial sites. You’ve probably seen them at construction sites as a comfortable hub within a chaotic work environment. They’re also used in remote areas, such as oil rigs or rural job sites. When selecting a portable office, businesses typically choose between two options: modified shipping container offices and mobile office trailers.
Many companies opt to rent mobile offices. But if you know you’ll need a mobile office for three years or more, it might be more cost effective to purchase one. So, how much can you expect to pay for a mobile office?
Price-wise, office trailers and office containers are comparable. Let’s take a small 20-foot container office and a single-wide trailer office with a similar length, for example. Depending on the interior finishes and customizations, the starting price could be between $15,000 and $25,000.
The comparable upfront price is cause to consider other factors, like transportability, ease of setup, maintenance, and longevity. Keep reading to see how these might influence your decision.
A portable office trailer is relatively easy to relocate. It sits on a chassis, which is a frame with wheels and a towing hitch.
Transporting a modified shipping container office requires a forklift, and in some cases, a crane. Smaller container offices can be pulled on a trailer by a personal vehicle, while larger ones require a tilt bed truck or flatbed truck.
In both cases, deliveries to remote areas tend to cost more. Another cost consideration to keep in mind is the possible requirement of oversize load permits. Shipping containers are designed to fit snugly onto truck beds and rarely require a permit. However, if a prefabricated mobile office trailer exceeded 8’6” in width, it would require a permit to operate on Texas highways.
Once onsite, both office trailers and container offices need a flat and dry surface to act as a foundation. Workers may need to block and level the trailer, then cover it with skirting for aesthetic appeal. An office trailer also needs OSHA-compliant stairs since the doorway is elevated from the ground.
Container offices are true ground level offices. Once removed from its trailer by either forklift or crane, a container office can be set directly on flat and firm ground or a gravel pad. If you’re an industrial business, you may be able to handle container removal if you have access to a heavy-duty forklift (minimum 96” long forks and 15,000 lb lifting capacity). If not, that’s an extra expense to be aware of for each relocation.
Container-based mobile offices offer considerable savings in long-term maintenance. They’re low maintenance by design, created to travel the world several times over in harsh environments with little to no upkeep. The corten steel exterior is known for withstanding all kinds of outdoor elements while protecting interior cargo.
Even once modified into an office, the inherent construction of a shipping container requires minimal upkeep. You might need to perform small maintenance tasks like paint touch-up or roof inspection for debris and snow.
A trailer office requires more regular maintenance. The structure itself isn’t as durable as a container, so you’ll need to check for cracks or shifts in the framing and interior, especially if relocated often. The trailer itself is especially important to maintain. With every move, the tires and axles on the chassis are exposed to wear and tear. If any of these components are overlooked, the entire office trailer could be unusable until repaired.
The lifespan of an office trailer depends heavily on how often it’s relocated. If it’s sitting in one place for 20 years, it could easily stay in good condition. However, every minute on the road takes its toll.
Consider these stick-built structures jostling across rugged gravel roads, or the potential damage to their traditional vinyl siding in extreme weather. While they’re easily movable when attached to a trailer, it comes at the expense of its long-term structural integrity.
Shipping container-based offices are much more resilient. They’ll stay in working condition, even with regular relocation, for 25+ years. The durable corten steel also withstands rainy and snowy climates better than a stick-built structure attached to a trailer. If the containers are weatherproofed, like those manufactured by Falcon, they won’t let water seep in.
The initial costs of office trailers and container offices might be similar, but you should consider the long-term cost of ownership for each. Depending on your industry and how you’ll use your mobile office, some of these factors could influence your decision.
In our expert opinion, office trailers are convenient to transport, as long as the climate is mild and you’re able to stay on top of maintenance. If durability and hands-off maintenance are your priorities, turn to shipping containers.
Are you considering a mobile, modified shipping container office for your company? From rural job sites to apartment leasing offices, we’ve provided hundreds of customers with comfortable, durable container workspaces. Reach out to our team at 512-131-1010 or email us at Sales@FalconStructures.com.
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