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Garden Suites vs. Tiny Homes on Wheels: Which One is Right for You?

As the popularity of small living spaces continues to rise, many people are considering them as a viable option for their next home. But with two unique options available, it can be difficult to determine which one is the right fit for your lifestyle.

Let's explore the differences between garden suites and tiny homes on wheels, and help you decide which one is the right fit for you.


What is a garden suite?

A garden suite is a type of housing option that provides a small yet fully-functional living space in the backyard of a main house. It is also known by various other names, such as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), a foundation suite, or a granny flat. The concept behind garden suites is to provide an additional living space that is separate from the main house, allowing for both privacy and independence.

Garden suites are typically designed to be self-contained, with their own entrance, kitchen, bathroom, and living area. They are usually smaller in size compared to the main house, ranging from around 300 to 800 square feet. This compact size allows for efficient use of space, making them ideal for individuals or couples looking to downsize or have a more minimalist lifestyle.

What is a tiny home on wheels?

Also known as THOWs (tiny homes on wheels), these innovative dwellings are becoming increasingly popular among those seeking a more minimalistic and flexible lifestyle. A THOW is a small living space that is built on a trailer or chassis, allowing it to be mobile and easily transported to different locations. Unlike a traditional house or ADU, a tiny home on wheels is not fixed to a foundation, giving you the freedom to change your living environment whenever you desire.

They are typically designed to be self-contained, with their own kitchen, bathroom, living area, and bedroom. While the size of a tiny home on wheels can vary, they are generally around 200 to 600 square feet, making them an ideal option for those looking to downsize or embrace a more minimalist lifestyle.


Factors to consider when choosing between a Garden Suite and a Tiny Home on Wheels

When it comes to choosing between a garden suite and a tiny home on wheels, there are several factors to consider. Each option offers unique advantages and disadvantages, so it's important to carefully weigh your priorities and lifestyle preferences.

Purpose and Intended Use

When considering garden suites or tiny homes on wheels, functionality is a crucial factor to keep in mind. Whether you're looking to downsize and embrace a minimalist lifestyle or create a stable home for your in-laws to age in place, it's important to consider the overall use of the space. Will it be a long-term cottage for you to enjoy, or are you preparing for potential relocation due to work or family obligations?

We suggest brainstorming an idea of what your 3, 5 and 10 year plans might be so you can start preparing for them now!

Local Regulations and Zoning Laws

Consider any local regulations or restrictions that may impact your choice. Some municipalities have zoning laws and building codes that limit or prohibit certain types of ADUs, including garden suites or tiny homes on wheels. Tiny homes on wheels often have unique legal classifications and requirements for towing them on public roads. Make sure to do thorough research and consult with local authorities before making your decision.


When choosing a living space, it's important to consider your desired level of mobility. If you crave adventure and enjoy the flexibility to move around frequently, a tiny home on wheels (THOW) may be the perfect fit. This option allows you to travel and explore while still maintaining the comforts of your own space. This is also an ideal option for those who live in climate-compromised areas who may want the option to relocate their home if necessary in an emergency situation.

If a permanent living situation or a fixed backyard appeals more to you, a garden suite might be a better choice. This is also a great solution for multi-generational living, allowing extended family to stay closer to home while still having a space to call their own. This is also a great option if you are looking for an income-generating property.

Space & Size Requirements

Consider your spatial requirements. Tiny Homes on Wheels are designed to be compact and compliant with road regulations (limited in measurements) and are usually more 'specifically built' for their occupants requiring customization. Garden Suites can offer cost savings when you choose model designs with reduced customization expenses.

For those who plan to age in place or accommodate family members with disabilities, garden suites may offer more feasible modifications like wheelchair accessibility since they don't have to be built on a chassis like tiny homes on wheels do.


What about your budget and affordability? Garden suites tend to have a higher up front cost when you factor in foundation building, crane lifts and fees to connect utilities, but are overall more affordable to build than THOWS.

THOWs are built on a purpose-made trailer, so there are no utility connection costs - but you do need to factor in maintenance (as may be needed in between moves), parking costs, permits, tows (if you don't have a towing vehicle), and access to utilities.

When deciding between these options, it's worth researching any relevant financing programs or incentives that could make one option more financially viable than the other. In certain areas with housing shortages, municipalities have launched initiatives to encourage or subsidize building backyard garden suites to help address the problem.

Utilities & Infrastructure

When choosing between a Garden Suite and a Tiny House on Wheels (THOW), it's important to think about how you'll access city connections and utilities. While both options can be off-grid capable, Garden Suites often have the capacity for more amenities storage, meaning water tanks aren't restricted in size due to mobility concerns.


Tiny homes on wheels and garden suites both offer unique advantages for those seeking affordable and mobile housing options. Tiny homes on wheels are a cost-effective choice for those on a budget, while their mobility allows for potential cost savings as you can avoid expenses associated with buying or renting property. Additionally, a tiny home on wheels provides a level of freedom and flexibility that traditional homes cannot. Whether you're a digital nomad or just trying to be climate change-ready, a tiny home on wheels allows you to take your home wherever you go, exploring new places without sacrificing comfort and familiarity.

Garden suites provide a practical and innovative solution for those seeking a small, functional living space, whether it's for downsizing, having an additional dwelling for family members, or generating rental income. This is a wonderful option for anyone who already owns property and is looking to optimize it's use or for those just looking for a more minimal lifestyle.

When choosing between a garden suite and a tiny home on wheels, consider your desired level of mobility, budget, lifestyle, and local regulations. Both options offer unique advantages and align with different preferences and priorities. Ultimately, with careful consideration and planning, you can find the alternative housing option that suits your needs and provides the freedom and flexibility you're looking for.

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