Are Prefab Garages Any Good? (Spend Money on Better Alternatives!)
garagemadesimple.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com . The website is also an affiliate of a few other brands.
Are Prefab Garages Any Good?
There are times when you do need a garage in a hurry. Or in a location where construction would be very difficult. The option of a modular or a prefab garage may come to your mind. Or it may be suggested by a friend. But the question is, “Are prefab garages any good?”
In most situations, it is better not to waste your money on a prefab garage. The prefab or modular garage is cheap, easy & quick to install and functional. However, it is no match to a constructed garage on quality, durability and aesthetics.
I like to think of a prefab garage as fast food and a constructed garage as a tasty, nourishing, home cooked meal. Both will fill your stomach but what is really good for you?
I think you should spend your money on better alternatives. Spend a bit more and go for a detached, freestanding garage. But if you are on a budget a simple protective carport will get the job done.
Read this post to find out more about a prefab or modular garage, the pros & cons and the cost involved.
What is a Prefab Garage?
“Prefab” is short for “prefabricated,” which means “made beforehand,” and not “before fabulous.” Prefab things are made in sections that can be easily shipped and put together to form a finished product. Some buildings and houses are prefab.”Vocabulary.com
Prefab garage differs from a constructed garage by the fact that a prefab garage is designed and constructed in the manufacturer’s factory. The prefab garage may be available as fully constructed, in sections or even as kits that you can assemble yourself.
You pick the one you like from the available options. The garage is then transported and placed on foundations or a concrete slab that can take the weight, on your lot. Almost as simple as grocery shopping.
Types of Prefab Garages
The term “prefab garage” can be used to describe all the 3 subcategories within this category. The 3 subcategories are:
A pre-built garage is finished completely in the manufacturer’s factory. They will load it onto a trailer and deliver it to your location. All you need to do is to have a pad (gravel or concrete) on which it can rest and an electrical connection. It can be set up in a matter of hours
The prefab garage is semi-finished. Each section is actually fully finished. Bigger garages are broken up into sections to make the transportation by road possible. The crew will put together the sections on-site. All this can usually be done in 4-8 hours.
A prefab garage that comes as a “kit” is usually a DIY project. You get all the pieces, drawings, instructions and basic tools. You can assemble it yourself, much like IKEA furniture.
The prefab garage could be made out of wood, vinyl or steel.
What Are The Pros and Cons Of A Prefab Garage?
To be fair, prefab garages have their pros & cons. You need to evaluate the usefulness of a prefab garage based on your specific requirements.
So, yes the prefab garage has a few pros. There would be no market for prefab garages otherwise.
PRO: Are Prefab Garages Cheaper?
The cost of a prefab garage can be pretty low and affordable.
The price of a basic single car prefab garage could start from as low as $5000. What you might get at this price is 160 square feet of floor area, just enough to park one car!
The price starts going up as the size goes up. You could be paying around $30,000 for a 600 square feet, 2 car, prefab garage.
According to HomeAdvisor
A prefabricated garage costs $2,000 to $150,000 but most fall in the $5,000 to $30,000 range, or $15,000 on average. That doesn’t include the foundation, delivery or assembly.
You must keep in mind some of the other essential costs.
Foundation pad can cost between $1,500 to $5,000 for a concrete slab. You can save some money by opting for gravel, which costs only $600 to $900.
Delivery costs run between $4-$6 but can be higher for difficult to reach locations or bigger prefab garages.
You will certainly need to hook up your prefab garage to electricity by installing a subpanel. This could set you back by $1,200 to $2,500. Plumbing, HVAC will cost extra, but I guess you will skip them.
Why Are Prefab Garages Cheaper?
Manufacturers can keep the price of prefab garages low because:
They design a few models and then sell hundreds of pieces of that model. The design costs can be spread across many pieces and hence it is lower per piece.
They can get much better prices on raw materials and parts because they buy in bulk.
They save on labor and production costs by using heavy machinery & automation in their factory.
They have a tight control on wastage because they have perfected the production process through experience.
They use materials that are not of high quality or durability.
PRO: Is It Easy To Install a Prefab Garage?
A prefab garage is easy to install because almost all the work has already been done off site. A complete one car prefab garage, is simply loaded onto a truck brought over to your lot, unloaded and placed on location.
A larger 2 car garage will come in two units. They are placed side by side on location and joined in the middle.
Modular garages will require some assembly on site. But even this is a relatively simple affair as the modules are designed to lock into place with the minimum of fasteners.
Actually the only difficult and time consuming process is the preparation of the pad on which the garage will sit. A gravel pad should be good enough for a one car prefab garage. For a heavier and larger prefab garage, you should build a concrete pad with a minimum slab thickness of 4″.
PRO: How Long Does It Take to Build a Prefab Garage?
A prefab garage takes very little time to install because all the work has already been done off site. A one car prefab garage, which has been fully assembled off site can be set up in your yard in a matter of hours.
A two car modular garage that requires some on site assembly may take the whole day. Larger modular garages with many sections require a fair amount of on site assembly. They could take a few days to set up.
Anyway, like to like, a prefab or modular garage takes a lot less set up time than a constructed garage.
CON: Will a Prefab Garage Add Value?
A prefab garage is designed to be low cost, functional, easy & quick to install. It is not designed to look elegant or beautiful or pretty. You can be quite sure that a prefab garage will not add to the curb appeal of your home!
Have you seen those modular offices, made out of old shipping containers, that engineers & supervisors use at construction sites. They serve a function, but by no stretch of imagination are pleasing to the eye.
A prefab or modular garage is almost like the modular office at the construction site.
Functional but with poor aesthetics.
An attached garage can increase the sale value of your house by around 80%. A detached garage can increase the sale value of your house by around 60%. A prefab garage on the other hand is unlikely to add any value to your house.
A prefab garage may even be considered as a liability. A part of your house that the prospective owner does not want and will have to spend money to remove!
I must admit that aesthetics may not be the most important factor for a garage in all situations. Maybe you have a very basic cottage by the lake that you use for your fishing vacation. A prefab garage may be just fine there.
Sometimes you may have too much stuff to store during off-season such as canoes, camping gear, jet skis, etc. A functional prefab garage may just be the right choice for you on these occasions!
CON: Is a Prefab Garage Durable?
Manufacturers will claim that their prefab or modular garage is pretty durable. They will say that. After all they have got to sell the stuff they are making.
Just think about it. Probably the most important selling point for a prefab garage is its low price. Bulk production does give the manufacturers some advantages. But the numbers are not huge so there is a limit to the benefits of mass production.
Manufacturers have to, and will, cut corners on the quality & specifications of the material used to reduce costs to the bare bone. They have to be competitive.
So do not expect to get a high durability prefab garage at a really low price. You get what you pay for.
A prefab garage will work for you if durability is not high on your agenda. Sometimes you just need a shelter for your car for a couple of years. The interim period, till you build a new garage or buy a new house with a convenient attached garage.
CON: Is a Prefab Garage Customizable?
Manufacturers have to stick to a few very basic, functional designs. This is the only way they can keep costs low.
They are open to a degree of customization. Of course none of that is free. Every little customization will push the prefab garage price up. Too many customizations and you may be better off going for a constructed garage.
What Alternatives Do You Have For a Prefab Garage?
There are situations when you need to protect your car from the elements but you do not need a permanent and expensive structure.
For example, let’s say you have a log cabin in the woods and drive up to it on weekends. You do need to park your car and keep it protected from rain, snow, falling leaves, even bird poop. But you don’t need a garage, not even a prefab garage for that.
There are many other alternatives that are cheaper and pretty workable. They are as easy to remove and get rid off as they are to put in place.
Here are some of the alternatives that will cost you a lot less than a prefab garage.
Car covers are easy to put on and easy to remove. You can buy them in a size that exactly fits your car model. Best of all you can store it in the boot of the car so it is available whenever you need it.
A car cover will protect your car from dust, UV rays, rain and snow melt. You need not worry about your car being scuffed or scratched. Just make sure to park it on a concrete, asphalt or gravel driveway and your car will be fine.
A telescoping tent is similar to a camping tent, only large enough to cover the car. Telescoping tents are easy to set up and dismantle. They are portable and can be stored in the car. Very affordable too!
Telescoping tents are a great alternative to a prefab garage, especially if you like camping or cross-country travel. Just take them wherever you go.
If you are looking for something more permanent than a telescoping tent, then a tent canopy is what you need. It does take a bit more time to set up and dismantle. But then you can leave it in the same location for a few weeks or even months.
You need to watch out for strong wind gusts though. Tent canopies can easily fold up or get blown away during wind or rain storms.
I admit that tent canopies don’t look very pretty. So why not go for an awning instead. You can attach the awning to the side of your house that is adjacent to the driveway. A perfect place to park your car!
Awnings can be quite classic in looks!
Carports are certainly a bit more expensive than the previous alternatives. However, they are also more rigid and can, therefore, protect your car better.
A carport can be attached to the side of the house or can be an independent structure. It just needs to comply with the code.
As per Section 309.2 Carports of the 2021 International Residential Code (IRC)
Carports shall be open on not less than two sides. Garage floor surfaces shall be of approved noncombustible material. Carports not open on two or more sides shall be considered to be a garage and shall comply with the provisions of this section for garages.
The area of floor used for parking of automobiles or other vehicles shall be sloped to facilitate the movement of liquids to a drain or toward the main vehicle entry doorway.
Exception: Asphalt surfaces shall be permitted at ground level in carports.
The bottom line is that a prefab or modular garage is cheap, easy & quick to install and functional. However, it is no match to a constructed garage on quality, durability and aesthetics.
There are a few occasions or locations where a prefab garage is a better, or possibly the only option. But in all other situations, it is better not to waste your money on a prefab garage.
Thank you very much for reading the post. I do hope you found it informative and useful.