How Long are Mobile Offices Safe to Use?

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Just because mobile offices are temporary in nature doesn’t mean they are jerrybuilt in structure. Since ISO-standard steel and aluminum, vinyl or Hardiplank shiplap siding are now the norms in mobile-office construction, repair or replacement is not a major issue with mobile offices – depending, of course, on the level of usage and TLC they get.


“Many of our trailers have been out for more than 20 years and are still being used,” said Joe Alexander, branch manager for Satellite Shelters Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio. “If they are maintained, they can last for many more years.”


Reasons for this include their in-house fabrication, through which builders constantly refine the construction process and equipment, frequently check each mobile office to see how rigidly its construction specs are being followed, weather-seal them thoroughly, and, of course, shelter them from the elements during construction, which are often not options for a conventional structure built outside, according to Commercial Mobile Systems of Riverside, Calif.


That most mobile offices arrive at their sites factory-fresh also assures their users of their longevity. “We build office containers upon receiving the order,” said Troy Hudson, sales specialist at Container Technology Inc. of Morrow, Ga. “The container may be new or used, but the modifications – framing, insulation, paneling, painting, doors, windows, electrical, HVAC, etc. – are all done once the order has been placed, so those items are brand new. The container overall should last for quite a while, but that could depend on the use.”


Most new mobile office trailers are covered by a one-year factory warranty, during which the company will make any structural and cosmetic repairs the warranty covers in specified situations during its time span (not including light bulb, fire-extinguisher or HVAC air-filter replacements), after which service charges for repairs would apply. Cassone of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., strongly recommends inquiry about the coverage length and specifics of a particular mobile office maker’s warranty, as well as pursuit of a unit with a long-term warranty that has extensive, comprehensive coverage. This is a good sign of construction with top-shelf materials and workmanship, and the company’s confidence in that.


For example, Pace American of Middlebury, Ind., offers a three-year warranty on each mobile office’s steel frame and its ancillary components. These include the skeleton’s main rails and cross-members, structural posts and beams, roof bows and trusses, and door-frame, as well as the trailer’s coupler, headers and welds, in addition to the A-frame on special models. This is concomitant with a one-year warranty covering the office’s doors, windows, aluminum and plastic applications, interior cabinetry, plumbing, electrical wiring and unit(s), floor coverings, stone guard, sealants, paint and undercoat applications, and lighting fixtures.


Used mobile offices, however, have a very limited warranty, given the lower sale or rental rate of a used unit, the less-than-new condition, and the complete inspection each returned unit goes through at the company’s expense. However, refurbished or remanufactured mobile offices may have a longer warranty at a slightly lower price than newbies. For instance, ModSpace of Berwyn, Penn., offers a 15-month warranty on “Certified Remanufactured” units that have been thoroughly inspected, stripped down and reconstructed good as new, but a 90-day one on “Certified Used” units fully inspected but with rudimentary repairs or part replacements.


So before you decide to save money by going for a used unit, consider how long you’re going to use your mobile office, as well as the extent of wear and tear you expect it to withstand in that time frame. Consider, also, that a unit fresh from the factory will likely give you longer-term value.