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Learning About Portable Garages and Shelters

Updated on June 18, 2018

The Wonderful, Versatile Portable Garage

Are you ready to hear all about it? :)

I can already see my readers sitting on the edges of their chairs, eagerly awaiting an animated discussion about Portable Garages and Shelters - or, as it is sometimes called "Instant Garage" or "Temporary Garage." Whatever or however you know this unique carport, this lens is completely dedicated to it!

A little bit about how I got into Portable Garages and Shelters

Admittedly, in previous lenses I have been primarily known as the "Resume Gal" who emphasizes important resume writing, as well as cover letter writing, and job interview techniques. What you may not have known is that a few years ago (2007 to be precise), I traded in my regular line of work to embark on the good ship Entrepreneurism.

This voyage has taken me to many places - one of which is a website I ran from August 2007 until early 2012 that marketed the MDM Rhino Shelter brand of ... you guessed it ... Portable Garages and Shelters (Their website is MDM Shelters if you are interested in seeing what they have - this is not my site since I no longer have that particular business, but their official site.

How I Decided on the Content for This Particular Lens

As a result of the website being up back in 2007, I would get lots of phone calls from customers who had questions or concerns about:

1) whether a portable garage is going to be the right solution for their storage situation and

2) what type of unit is best for their needs.

Photo of a 12x20x8 House Style Portable Garage, Resized for free at

For this lens, I decided to do my best to provide some of the answers to these questions. As time allows, I'll add some additional lenses on the topic. Because one of the products I used to carry is a portable motorcycle storage shelter called the CycleShelter,

So, without further ado, let's move on!

Quick Update: In 2012, I handed over the reins of the Portable Garages website to someone who could take the site to the next level. Even though I cannot have another portable garage site for a couple more years, I love "my guys" at MDM so much, and want to keep this page up!

About the photos on this lens: All photos are used by permission of MDM Rhino Shelters. As an independent dealer, I was given access to these photos. Please do not copy and use them. Thanks!

Photo of Cycle Cabana with Lawn Tools-Resized at

Here is a brief run down of why a lot of folks purchase portable garages or other temporary sheds:

  • These structures are oftentimes less expensive than building a permanent garage or shed.
  • In some cases, a temporary garage is not taxed as property since it is not a permanent part of the property (Note that I said, "In some cases..." Please check with your town first!)
  • A portable garage may only be needed for a short time or for a specific project. For example, a contractor purchased one to use as his workshop on a fairly large project. After that particular project, he can remove the structure from the site.
  • Sometimes a customer needs a shelter more quickly than a permanent one can be built.
  • A temporary shelter or garage can save space over a standard building - especially helpful to folks who don't have a lot of room on their property.
  • Ok... This one just in: I've had customers buy them for their Alpacas to run in and to store hay! If they send me a photo of their farm, I'll add it here. But, I also have customers use them for dog run-ins as well (primarily for larger breeds).

12x20x8 1-Car Rhino Brand Portable Garage with Snow!
12x20x8 1-Car Rhino Brand Portable Garage with Snow!

The MOST Frequently Asked Portable Garage Questions I Have Received

Let it Snow...Let it Snow...Let it Snow...

I'm really impressed at how much customers research their options before plunking down a good piece of change on a portable garage.

When I first started the website, and was learning the ropes, I spent a LOT of time on the phone with my account manager at MDM Rhino Shelters, the one-and-only Dave Clayton (who is absolutely marvelous - not only with me, but also with my customers). Oh... And let's not forget Ardita and Steve... oh yeah, and Bill, Donnie, and Barb... Sigh. EVERYONE is awesome over there at MDM! :)

But I digress... I just felt like these guys and gals deserve some applause for all the time they spend wit me and my customers.

Anyway, one of the things I've learned is that the people shopping for a portable garage are truly doing their homework. And well they should. Because this is the type of purchase that really is NOT easily returnable once purchased. So... here are some questions:

Please note that I can only speak about the MDM Rhino Brand Shelter, and not about any other brand since I honestly don't know a lot about them.

Q. How well does the shelter handle snow and wind?

Answer: The MDM Rhino Brand Shelters are not engineered; therefore, we cannot offer a wind or snow rating. What I can tell you is what Donnie (the manager at MDM) has told me. Donnie has mentioned that the shelters up to the 30x30x15 (3-Car Round Top) unit has been known to be able to hold up to 40 pounds of snow per square foot.

Again, this is not a guarantee or engineering specification; rather, it is an observation. Another thing to keep in mind that these ARE fabric, so if you happen to live in a hurricane-prone area, you should not expect the shelter to withstand such winds. However, the portable garage, if anchored correctly, should be able to withstand ordinary weather.

Q. What's the best way to keep the snow off?

Answer: The portable garages will shed most ordinary snows quite easily; however, it is critical that you do not allow a heavy snow to accumulate. If you are expecting a heavy, wet snow or blizzard where a couple of feet or more are bound to accumulate, go ahead and clear the snow from the top and from pushing in on the sides.

Usually a broom is sufficient for clearing snow. In some cases, all that may be needed is to go inside the shelter, and tap the roof and sides with the broom to encourage the snow to shed. Up north where I live, we have "snow rakes," which are a kind of shovel with a long handle that we use to pull excess snow down from our house roofs. That would work too. Just as in a normal home situation, you wouldn't want undue weight or stress on the roof.

Remember, also, that the MDM frames on their portable garages are galvanized steel and quite strong (Note: the party tent and metal carport frames are "powder coated" steel, and not the same galvanized steel as the garages.)

Note: A quick word about the the types of retractable Motorcycle Shelters, like this one - the Speedway Motorcycle Shelter (Amazon): These CycleShelters are NOT meant to be used as a permanent outdoor storage solution for motorcycles since it's more of a "tent" and quite light. But, they are still VERY handy, and because we live in 2 areas where Motorcycle event weeks are really popular (Daytona Bike Week and Laconia Bike Week [NH]), I know people love them!

What do You Think? House (Peak) Style or Round Style for Snow? - Each Portable Garage Will Shed A Little Differently...

Both the Round and Peak (House) Style Portable Garage in Snow
Both the Round and Peak (House) Style Portable Garage in Snow

What is your opinion? I've had customers purchase (and swear by) both the round top as well as the roof (or peak) top portable garage when it comes to shedding snow. Here's your chance to vote.

Do You Think a Round Top or House (Peak) Top is Better for Shedding Snow?

See results

Important to Remember:

Just a quick reminder: Portable Garages are RARELY returnable. PLEASE be sure you get your questions answered and any permits you might need BEFORE you buy. Thanks!

Next Big Portable Garage Questions

These questions are about ordering & shipping outside of the US...

Many of the questions I have received about portable garages have are concerned with shipping. And, since one of these buildings can weigh anywhere from a few hundred pounds to a few thousand pounds, shipping is a very serious consideration. Here, I address the most common questions.

Q. Do you ship to Europe/Africa/UK/South America/Mexico...?

Answer: Although there may be dealers who DO ship to foreign locations (and perhaps MDM itself may do this for their own customers), I did not offer this service. And there are several reasons. The cost is very high to ship overseas. There are also too many horror stories of "the portable garage that never made it to its destination." Here's one my account manager related to me recently: After more than 2 years, a party tent that was en route to somewhere in Africa just didn't make it. There is absolutely NO record of it once it left the US. Sorry folks, I just wouldn't risk it. But others might, so if you're outside the US, search around, or go directly to MDM and ask.

Q. How about Canada? Would MDM ship to Canada?

Answer: Yes, they are able to ship to Canada, but only under very specific circumstances. For nearly all of their portable garages (with the exception of a lightweight item such as the CycleShelter), you must either have, or be willing to get a Customs Broker before you place an order. This is required, and there are no exceptions. MDM Rhino Shelters requires this information from me when the order is placed. For complete information about their policies about shipping to Canada, please see their site, or call them directly Click here to visit MDM directly.

Q. Where can I locate a Customs Broker?

Answer: I had customers from Canada find Customs Brokers in their local Yellow Pages or doing a quick search on line. You can check border towns, as well, since some brokers might be located near ports of entry.

Don't forget the option of having your order shipped to a location near the border on the US side if you live within driving distance!

Q. Is there anything else I should know before I consider purchasing a portable garage from a US based site?

Answer: There are a few things. Again, while there are plenty of independent dealers out there who sell the MDM Rhino Brand line of shelters, I can only speak from my own experience. My site was not set up to accept any credit cards from a non-US account. All credit card purchases from Canadian customers had to be paid through PayPal - via a special invoice that I supply. If a person wished to pay by Wire Transfer in US Funds, that was also acceptable. All payments typically need to clear before any orders are placed.

Also, it is critical that you are aware that the MDM Rhino Brand Shelters are manufactured in China, and the cartons are clearly marked as such. I have had customers ask if there is any way to mask this, and the answer is "No." It is what it is.

Finally, all quotes are typically sent in US Dollars, and I don't know any dealers personally in the US who are able to give you a quote in Canadian Dollars (but everyone's different, and it won't hurt you to ask).

I know that it sounds as though there are quite a few restrictions - and there are. I wish it were a little easier for me to get products to Canada, because there was a lot of interest. Since the time I had my website, I've noticed a few new companies popping up in Canada - so I'm guessing there are more options today than when I had the site.

Portable Garages on Amazon - If you want to shop around a bit more...

Hey, I recognize that shopping for a portable garage is not an "impulse buy" (or at least it SHOULDN'T be!). It's a decent sized investment. I also recognize that there are other options. And you should be able to see who and what they are! So, with that in mind, here are a few other deals to ponder!

Instant Garage Round Style 14x24x10 - Tan
Instant Garage Round Style 14x24x10 - Tan

This was always an especially popular model.

MDM Rhino Shelters Round Style Three Car Portable Building in Green
MDM Rhino Shelters Round Style Three Car Portable Building in Green

A lot of people purchase this model for larger workshops. Several municipalities use them to store road equipment as well.

MDM Rhino Brand's Galvanized Frames
MDM Rhino Brand's Galvanized Frames

About the Frame Structure on the Portable Garages

How are the Frames Made?

The tubing on our instant garages are high quality galvanized structural steel tubing that is designed not to rust. The frames are also pre-drilled and are assembled with carriage bolts so that there are no power tools required during assembly.

Diameter of the Frame Members

The shelters from the 5x10x8 "Cycle Cabana" up to the 14x24x10 "Mariner" size frames use a strong 1-5/8" diameter tubing. All the larger shelters - from the 12x20x12 Gambrel style on up to the 40x60x18 Domed Truss Building use an even stronger 2-3/8" diameter tubing. (On the website, whichever product you click on will have a Specification Table below the description, giving the frame diameter as well as other technical information).

Which Shelters do NOT use Galvanized Steel?

Please note the the lighter weight shelters such as the party tents, party canopies, and Metal/Steel carports use powder coated finish on an all steel frame.

How do they Galvanize the Frame Members>

The process for making these strong frames is as follows:

- The "flat strip steel" is cold-formed and induction welded (I don't really understand what this means, but if there are any steel workers out there who can explain this to me, I'd love to include the information! I did work in Sheet Metal during my years in Antarctica, but I am unfamiliar with this terminology.)

- Then, there is something called "coating baths." In the first "coating bath" the process bonds zinc to the hot tubing - and then there is a "conversion coating" that gives the steel an additional layer of protection. This helps the frame resist corrosion and rust.

- Finally, a second (and final) protective coating bath offers an additional barrier to protect the frame further from corrosion. This "bath" involves a clear organic polymer, which also helps give the frame a brighter finish.


Let's Talk about the Material Used in the Rhino Brand Portable Garages

MDM Rhino uses 10-ounce per square yard material

Another question I am frequently asked is "How strong is the material in the portable garages?" or a variation of the question - "What is the material made of?"

The Weight of the Material

The material used in the MDM Rhino portable garage buildings is a 3-layer Polyethylene fabric that weighs 10 ounces per square yard (or 12 ounces per square metre). In thickness, this is 24 mils thick.

Three Different Layers

The exterior layer - the Green, Grey, or Tan that you see on the website - and the interior layer - the white layer that adds a nice bright tone to the inside of the shelter - surround the all-important middle layer of the fabric. This middle layer is what MDM calls "Inner Black Scrim."

This middle layer, the Inner Black Scrim, is treated with a UV coating that blocks 100% of the sunlight from penetrating through the material. If you picture a typical tarp baking in the sun, year after year, you can probably visualize what would happen to the tarp before long since UV rays can harm material. In the case of the Rhino portable garages, the Inner Black Scrim helps to protect the fabric from this type of harm (not to mention the rip-stop quality of the material, which helps keep it from shredding), thereby extending the life of the covers and door panels.

But wait...There's More (about how the material is treated!)

The cover - both inside and outside - is treated chemically as well which not only protects the material from UV rays, but also makes the material waterproof. And since a lot of people use the Rhino Shelter instant garages for temporary work spaces and workshops, and also use heaters during the winter months, the main covers and door panels are also treated with a chemical that makes them fire retardant in a way that meets even the California building code called CPIA-84.

What about STRONGER or LIGHTER Portable Garage options?

I also get questions from people asking if this is the strongest portable garage fabric available. The answer is no - there ARE heavier duty covers (12 ounces per square yard) out there that I am aware of. There are also LIGHTER covers. For example, our party tents and greenhouse covers are lighter - 8 ounces per square yard - and these structures are typically used seasonally or for backyard parties and the covers are easily removed and stored.

There are several portable garage brands out there that use the lighter weight 8 ounce per square yard fabric for the GARAGES - so, be aware of that in the event that you see an instant garage that looks very inexpensive. Likewise, be aware of the higher cost that will be incurred if you are looking at a heavier weight (12 ounces) shelter. Be sure you are comparing apples to apples.

Cool Video about "Heat Welding"

To see how the fabric is "heat welded" and processed, take a look at the YouTube video below!

Then, of course, there's always eBay for Portable Garages! - Some people offer Portable Garages on eBay

I don't personally sell portable garages on eBay, but there are some who do! So, if you would like to compare prices and other brands, this is a good place to start!

Assembling an MDM Rhino Party Tent - This is us!

Hi folks,

John & I got ourselves a party tent from MDM Shelters - this is the company I was a rep for - and since I sold a bunch of these, we decided to make a quick video of how to put one up!

It's not quite the same as putting up one of the heavy duty portable garages, but hopefully you'll find it informative!

Links pertaining to Portable Garages - Additional Information about Portable Garage and Shelter Buildings

As I find and write more information about the portable garage and shelter business, I'll add the links here!

A Few Quick Points about the MDM Rhino Portable Garages

Really...I'll try to be brief!

- All MDM Rhino Brand temporary garages and shelters are manufactured in China.

- While some of the lighter products are shipped via UPS or FedEx, the garages are shipped by freight.

- Give yourself a good full afternoon (and 2 people) to assemble the 1-car garages; a good weekend for the larger units.

- Be sure you check with your town BEFORE PURCHASING in case you need a permit, or have questions about property tax.

It's only fair to let people voice their opinions about what I've written thus far, as well as their own experiences. Your comments might help others who are purchasing - or considering the purchase of - a portable or temporary garage shelter. Please, I only ask that you be kind! :) I will let the owners of MDM know if you have any thoughts, suggestions, or ideas about your experiences with portable garages. Thanks so much for reading!

Do you have a portable garage? Like it? Don't like it? Feel free to share your thoughts! - Even if you DON'T have a portable garage - please let me know how els

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    • lucille12 profile image


      3 years ago

      Do I need additional shelves, open or bin type shelve storage.

    • norma-holt profile image


      4 years ago

      I have a portable carport and it faces strong winds. We don't have snow but the winds have been up to around 120 km or more in the area. Enjoyed this report and the difficulties some locations present. Well done.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      5 years ago

      I wonder if I should get a portable garage to store my eBay stuff in before it sells. :) I don't have any alpacas and hay. Very nice review Kathy.

    • HomeStuff profile image


      5 years ago from Canada

      We are just waiting for our 12 by 25 foot round top cover to be delivered. We got a door at each end for easy access as it is so long and thin. We went with the round top as we can have up to 3 feet of snow on the ground (due to squalls) at a time up here and it can be breezy too. It has a lifetime guarantee, and we are excited to have all that extra storage at our new home (despite getting rid of 3/4 of our belongings) as we were used to having a 60 foot by 80 foot bank barn at our last place. Nice lens!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      This looks like an excellent idea for many purposes. This is the first time I've heard of them but they are great when you can't build a permanent structure or want something portable.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I'm at a bit of a disadvantage here. I don't have a portable garage and I don't have snow. I do own a conventional garage (with a house attached).

    • writerkath profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @tonybonura: A lot of my former customers bought them for exactly those purposes! :) Thanks Tony!

    • tonybonura profile image

      Tony Bonura 

      6 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

      I do not have a portable garage, but I have a friend who has one for two of his antique cars. The cars fit in the garage nicely and he also has covers for the cars to keep dust, insects, rodents etc. out of his cars. He loves it and swears by it..


    • writerkath profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @Scarlettohairy: Thanks so much! :)

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      These look like great options for sheltering whatever you need to cover.

    • salele profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens on portable garages. very detailed too. For me, i only feel comfortable if i use them very temporarily.

    • writerkath profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @xriotdotbiz lm: Yes, there are a lot of people who use them seasonally.

    • xriotdotbiz lm profile image

      xriotdotbiz lm 

      6 years ago

      Looks great, I can think of a number of seasonal uses for these.

    • JohannDog profile image

      Johann The Dog 

      6 years ago from Northeast Georgia

      We've been staying in a cabin in the mountains of GA for almost the past year, as part of our Adventure Living Experiment. We get worried about our car and the hail. Wonder if one of these would help? Great info!

    • writerkath profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @senditondown: Thank you so much for visiting and for your comment! :) Kath

    • senditondown profile image


      6 years ago from US

      I don't have one but could have used one (or more many) times throughout the years.

    • writerkath profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @kathysart: Oh wow, Kathy... THANK YOU so much for your kind words and encouragement AND blessing! You just made my Christmas! :) Hugs, Kath :)

    • kathysart profile image


      6 years ago

      No I don't have one but you shared some great info in case I ever need one. THUMBS UP ANGEL BLESSED

    • writerkath profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @Virginia Allain: Hi Vallain! Thanks so much for commenting! I've actually learned a lot from my customers over the last few years - sounds like a good idea to remove the cover if you're not going to be there during the winter! It would be terrible to come back in the spring to see that 6-feet of snow crushed it! :) People up in my neck of the woods definitely tend to go out and clear the heavy snow from them right away.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      Ours is just used at a summer cottage so we remove the cover in the winter and leave up the framework. Works for us, but I can't comment on year round use.


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