How Much Do Mobile Offices Cost? How Much Will Maintenance Cost?

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“Mobile” and “affordable” have become synonymous in the minds of many who think setting up a mobile office or home is as easy on the pocketbook as crossing the country in a Winnebago or hitching a trailer to your minivan. But not only can the costs of setting up a mobile office rise beyond expectations; they are never clear-cut.


For mobile office leasing, “price is determined by the size and lease duration,” said Kristina Weinrich, account manager at ModSpace of Berwyn, Penn.


For purchase, “the cost starts at about $10,000 and up, depending on the size of the office and the options desired,” said John Rogers, owner of Affordable Portable Housing in Kailua, Hawaii.


But that’s no package deal. The overall cost of a unit varies according to dimensions, physical requirements, auxiliary service fees, site conditions, transportation distances, regional markets and their fluctuations, and more. “We have four sizes of office units: our 20-foot offices rent at $200 a month, our 40- and 45-foot offices are $235 a month, and our 48-foot offices are $260 a month, plus a delivery and pickup fee, depending on where exactly it is being set,” said Erica Labiak, consultant at Best Value Mobile Storage in Springfield, Mo.


Which brings up the question: to rent or buy? Purchasing a mobile office will generally cost more than renting, even if you sign a multi-year lease, according to Acton Mobile of Baltimore, Md. In contrast to the monthly rental payment reductions generally offered for longer-term leases, the cost of a 60-by-12-foot trailer tends to range from $28,000 to $30,000 (depending on the regional market it’s sold in), which are the approximate costs of leases of nine years or more. In addition, mobile office ownership entails the expenses of trailer relocation, setup and takedown after every jobsite is concluded, so if you no longer need the trailer, you will have to dispose of it at a financial loss, like a used car.


Furthermore, renting reduces liability, as the mobile office supplier is responsible for repairs and maintenance covered under a lease, whereas warranties on purchased trailers tend to run 1-3 years, meaning more upkeep costs for owners once the warranty ends. However, customizing your office space for a particular use, capacity, etc. is more possible when you buy a trailer than when you rent — but that, again, adds to the cost.


If you insist upon buying, $50,000-$60,000 is a good budget figure for the whole kit and caboodle of your mobile office, including transportation and setup, foundation and skirt, plumbing, electricity, gas, phone/Internet, ramp construction, permitting, site and building inspection, site preparation, etc. – but NOT including ongoing maintenance, the cost of which depends on the level of care you and your coworkers give your treasure box. “There isn’t a maintenance fee; however, if there is any damage to the unit while in your use, we will charge you an hourly rate based on the time it takes to repair any damage,” said Erica Labiak, consultant at Best Value Mobile Storage of Springfield, Mo.


As mentioned, most mobile office warranties cover maintenance costs on any damages or defects resulting from normal use of the units. The rugged, durable materials used to construct modern mobile office units – ISO-standard steel, aluminum, vinyl, Hardiplank, rubber-and-steel roofs – minimize their maintenance over time with proper care. The most common maintenance is the monthly replacement of the air filters in the unit’s HVAC systems. The high-efficiency filters cost around $25 apiece, but, with a MERV rating of between 14 and 16 (16 is highest), they remove up to 85 percent of a unit’s air toxins, according to Angie’s List, helping you save on office-cleaning costs in the long term.


To save money on long-term maintenance, stock up in advance on supplies of caulk, paint, screws, air-filters, lightbulbs, tools and other repair needs so a handyman will be less necessary. Also, clean your office monthly, especially its carpets, for which Cassone of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., recommends a HEPA filter vacuum (ranging in price from $250 to $1,600), which filters the air while picking up the grime. These tips, coupled with gentle use, will bring your mobile office closer to its promised affordability.