Tiny House Mobile Alternatives

This is a continuation from my last post.

Talking about tiny house trailers and weather they are worth it money wise. A tiny house can be many things and does not necessarily need to be portable, however this post will focus on movable tiny houses as this is my desired specification.

House on skids

Portacom is an example of one NZ company that produce temporary buildings on metal slides. These are geared towards temporary offices, living and working spaces. 

These can be lifted on a truck with a crane or Hiab and moved on. These units will generally be hooked up to all or some utilities like water, black and grey waste and power. By no means does this need to be the case as things like composting toilets and solar panels can be added. The issue here is regulations which I will talk about in my next post. 

Refrigerated truck trailer

Option two is to find a used refrigerator truck trailer and modify it to suit. The cost of these range from $3k to $8k for a end of life unit, but there seems to be a pretty limited supply. Parts of the trailer like the refrigeration unit, the axle, or wheel or two can be removed and sold which would make back some money from the purchase price. The lengths range from about 6m to 12m with a width of 2.5m and height around 2.5m.

You will need a truck unit for transportation which is relatively cheap due to high volumes of trucks, a tractor would also do the job. Of course manoeuvring and access could be an issue. The best thing I see with this option is you get a very strong structure that is super insulated and much of the build is already done for you. The deck sits at around a meter high meaning access into the house is could be compromised and possibly a negative aesthetic created. A pit could be dug to reduce deck height but requires work and money for each move. I think this is a great option if you are looking at staying in one place for a number of years.


Used container houses are quite popular because again the structure is already built and there is a large international system to transport and manoeuvre at a reasonable cost. Containers come in many formats as shown below.

Steel boxes like to condensate in the weather, meaning they need excellent insulation to combat this. I would lean towards the refrigerated route over the container as the insulation work has been done for you. For me the standard sizes of 6m by 2.4m or 12m by 2.4m do not suit. Also your design is more limited and a wheel system will need to be added in my case.

Mobile Homes

These types of units are known as a mobile homes, transportable homes, portable cabins, and relocational homes. This type of unit is popular at campgrounds, holiday homes and as extra accommodation. They range from small sleepouts with no amenities to anything that you can fit on the back of a house moving truck. Generally the construction is a very simple flat trailer with small wheels. Sometimes suspension and lights are added, but its generally not necessary because the units are designed to be picked up and transported by truck. If the unit is under 3.1m width no pilot vehicle is required while transporting. They tend to be simple, plain, economical constructions, either semi finished or fully furnished.

Some companies I find in NZ:

Leisure Time Caravans

Leisure Built

Cabins To Go

What I am going to do

Since we plan to only move the house every year or so, I dont think its worth spending $6-8k on a road legal trailer. It is hard to justify spending money on electric brakes, lights, suspension and WOF's when it is going to get very little use and deteriorate in the weather. So we have slightly changed course with the project design and have now decided to build a portable home. These are the new specs:

  • Width 3.1m max

  • Height 3.3m max

  • Length 7.5m

  • Weight 3.5 tonne

  • Area 22m²

One of the big reasons for the choice is the extra width from 2.5m to 3.1m. The extra 5m², means it opens up the space creating the illusion of it being larger and it also helps with fitting the appliances. From researching it is apparent that the cost to move the house from A to B in the Napier area by an insured professional mover will be around $600 per shift. The new cost for a custom built trailer will be $3-4K, saving us around $5K from the original trailer I was looking at. In our case this is a big cost saver even if we move the house a number of times. Of course costs of the build are going to increase with the larger size of the house which is something we have considered. We are also aware that now we can't just hook the house up and drive off, but having said that we don't want a V8 Nissan Patrol either which would have been required to tow the original design. In the next blog post I will discuss the legality of living tiny.