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Cost Comparison: Mobile Office Trailers vs. Shipping Containers

2 minute read
May 15, 2019
Cost Comparison: Mobile Office Trailers vs. Shipping Containers

When it comes to offices for oil rigs and other industrial sites, businesses often choose between ground level offices (GLOs) built from shipping containers and mobile office trailers. There’s a case to be made for each option depending on the circumstances. Ground level offices prove more cost-effective if the business plans to relocate the structure over many years, while mobile office trailers are a good solution when they won’t have to make long journeys on the road. Here’s why.

Upfront Costs

Contrary to popular belief, the upfront costs of a shipping container-based ground level office are comparable or even greater than that of an office trailer. However, other cost considerations may make a container the better long-term choice.


Set Up and Accessory Costs

We can assume that the user is an industrial company with readily available resources for set-up. For instance, it’s reasonable to assume that an oil and gas company creating a man camp has access to jacks and a forklift or crane. When the appropriate equipment is available, the only added cost is a set of stairs for multi-level structures.

If the business does not have access to the necessary equipment, the price will go up, no matter the choice in strucutre. Even trailers must be jacked and blocked. Either purchasing a jack or hiring a service to set up a trailer will cost a few hundred dollars. Ground level offices must be removed from truck beds either via a tilt bed, crane or forklift. This will require renting a crane or forklift.


Container-based mobile offices offer considerable savings in long-term maintenance. In addition to having sturdy steel walls, they don’t require a chassis and the associated maintenance for the tires and axles. 

Life Span Comparison

The life span of an office trailer depends heavily on how often it is relocated. An office trailer could easily spend 20+ years in good condition sitting in one place. However, every minute on the road takes its toll. An office trailer relocated just twice over gravel roads would have noticeable wear and tear.

Shipping container-based ground level offices are much more resilient and will stay in working condition—even with regular relocation—for 25+ years. Shipping container offices also do better in rainy and snowy climates. The steel is tight against most leaks and won’t let water seep between vinyl or paneling.


Cost of Transportation

The cost of each delivery will depend on the distance. You can estimate the price per mile as you make transport plans. Generally, deliveries to more remote areas will cost more. The greatest cost difference between trailers and container-based GLOs is the possible requirement of oversize load permits. Because shipping containers are designed to fit snugly onto truck beds, they usually don’t require oversize load permits.

Office trailers that exceed standard limits in width or height will need a permit. The costs will vary with location.

In summary, an office trailer is a good solution for short-term use in mild climates, while shipping container-based offices are a good fit for companies planning to put their offices through many years of intense use. When durability is a concern, turn to shipping containers. To learn more about containerized offices and shipping container comparisons to other modular structures, check out the following:

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