A Skoolie or a Sea Crate? Which Alternative Housing Option is Best for You?

I’m getting into my final year of school, so a lot of people (family and relatives mostly) are asking “What are your plans once your graduate?”. I’m probably not the only millennial to be asked this question, so I’m sure a lot of you can relate. One of the things that I need to start thinking about is where I will need to live.

As the housing market in many large cities throughout Canada can be compared to an old wooden rollercoaster, many people are turning towards alternative housing methods. These methods can range from sea crates to old school busses. But which one is the best? And how does it compare to your average one bedroom condo in say, Toronto?

Before looking into these new housing options, please note that these costs are estimates only. You should do as much research as you possibly can when looking alternative housing methods like these.

According to recent reports, the average cost of rent in Toronto is close to $1800 a month ($21,600 for a year) for a one bedroom condo, while the purchasing price is over $500,000. The average size of a condo in the city is 723 square feet. However, some personal accounts from the Notable office have told me it can be as low as 500 square feet.

So do any of our alternative housing methods hold up? Let’s take a look.


One method that has been taking a rise is converting old sea crates into homes, which essentially act as building blocks that can be turned into a small modest home or a large mansion. For the sake of keeping things low, we will see how much it cost to convert one, 40’ sea crate into a home.

A 40’ high cube container will generally cost around $2,950. At 40’ long and 7.7’ wide, the square footage is less than that of your average Toronto condo at a measly 308 square feet.

However, that is only the beginning. Other costs to take into account are insulating, foundation,and (depending on zoning restrictions) cladding. Each of these factors should cost around $92.40 and $550.00 for the insulation and foundation respectively. If the zoning restrictions require your shipping container home to blend in with the community, it will be an additional charge of $10 per square foot to add a plaster (Stucco for example) to your home. Adding potentially another $3080.00 to your sea crate. We will also add in $30,000 for additional plumbing, electrical and furnishing costs.

This will bring our new sea crate home to a total of $36,672.40. However, we still have one thing left to consider. The cost of the land itself. According to an article from the Financial Post the average lot sale price in 2015 was $64 per square foot. This means that we will have to add an additional $19,712.00 to our sea crate home. So in total, our new sea crate home will cost us at least $56,384.40.

Many people are also purchasing old school buses and converting them into their homes. This option (often called the “Skoolie” lifestyle) allows people to potentially live anywhere they can park for an extended period of time. An average school bus is normally 8’x40’ giving it a total of 320 square feet to use for your new home, slightly more than the sea crate.


Prices for a school bus can vary from $1000 to over $10,000. However, on websites like Kijiji, you are very likely to find one for around $5000.

The rest of the costs vary depending on what you want to put into your Bus house. For the sake of keeping it simple, we apply our earlier calculations from the sea crate and apply them to the bus.
Since the bus is a moving vehicle, you would really only have to look at adding the insulation. Spray foam insulation is the best option as it is the thinnest at around 2 inches thick. The cost though can get up to $3 per square foot making insulation at around a whopping $960.00.

We will also add on an additional cost of $30,000 for all the electrical, plumbing and furnishing costs for our bus. This brings the total of the bus at around $35,960.00

So it looks like if you want to save some cash (around $464,040.00 to be exact) it looks as though purchasing a school bus and converting is the better of the two options. If you are willing to put in the work, and are enthusiastic about the lifestyle, the skoolie life could just be the one for you!