May 14

Tiny house vs RV vs Mobile Homes

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You may want to purchase a tiny home but want to have the mobility offered by an RV. In this battle royal, we compared living in a Tiny House vs RV, and Tiny House vs Mobile Homes.

tiny home blueprint

Check our table of contents if you wish to jump to certain portions of the article

Zoning Regulations/Building Codes

Before we start, ensure that you check with your state about zoning restrictions and building codes.

For example, in Oregon, it is important to determine its intended use (Permanent, Temporary or Transitional dwelling place) to know if your tiny house is legal or illegal. Read more about Oregon Zoning Laws to know more.

Tiny House Zoning Regulation Oregon

Legal and zoning provisions mentioned herein are applicable to Oregon unless otherwise stated.

Tiny House vs RV vs Manufactured/Mobile Homes

The table below shows a quick overview of our comparison and who wins in each criterion. However, you definitely should read about each type, the pros and cons, and the comparisons we did as priorities and purpose may differ.

CriteriaWinnerWhy?Notes
QualityTie (Manufactured homes and THOWs)As these resembles a house, you will have the opportunity to use higher quality materialsThe higher the quality, the more expensive it becomes
MobilityRVRVs are built to be used for travelRVs are not meant to be used whole-year long
CostRVRVs are more affordable than Tiny Homes and Manufactured/Mobile homeswhile this is more affordable, note that it is not meant to be used for year-long dwelling
Size/SpaceManufactured HomesManufactured homes is not limited to the size of 8 1/2 in width. This makes Manufactured homes less mobile. If you want to move your home, Tiny House is the way to go
MaintenanceTHOWsTiny Homes have the right size and is easier to maintain compared to RVs which requires professionals. Manufactured Homes on the other hand are bigger and harder to maintainTrailer, brakes, lights, wheels and tires must be maintained as well, in addition to the maintenance of the house itself
AmenitiesTie (Manufactured homes and THOWs)While Manufactured homes are bigger, it is less mobile which is one amenity that people are looking for. Choose depending on the purpose of your tiny homes.
Family-FriendlinessManufactured HomesIt has more space and will give you the option to have all features and amenities in one floorManufactured homes are great it you are looking for something permanent, otherwise, it is best to go for Tiny House on Wheels

We did comparison between Tiny House on Wheels and RV, and Tiny House vs. Manufactured Homes. You can read the head-on comparison provided in the table below.

Tiny House/Tiny Homes on Wheels (THOW)

When is a house a Tiny House?

Tiny House/Home is exactly like what its name implies, a smaller house. Tiny homes are in existence for a long time. However, they only gained traction and popularity because of the Tiny House Movement, with people wanting to simplify their lives and reduce their belongings.

tiny house plans with loft farm house

Tiny House on a foundation is similar to a regular home, only that it is permanently situated on land. In Oregon, the government considers Tiny House on Foundation as a permanent dwelling place. This requires that the owner or your tiny home builder must meet the building code and federal safety standards.

On the other hand, Tiny House on Wheels is just like a tiny house on a foundation, but with wheels. It resembles a tiny home with basic amenities but has wheels for mobility. The home usually sits in a travel trailer carrier that is attached to the towbar of the vehicle.

tiny house with wheels for sale in oregon

THOW is towed using high-torque, high-horsepower towing vehicles such as pick-up trucks or high-power SUVs. As a general rule, 1 foot of your tiny home requires 450 pounds of pulling capacity. Check your vehicle specification to see if your truck or SUV can accommodate heavy-class towing or pulling

Because manufacturers design THOWs to be moved often, they must follow the Federal Motor Vehicles Safety Standards (brakes, lights, wheels, tires, rear impact guards, and VIN/Chassis numbers).

THOWs are considered temporary dwelling places. The state limits the width of THOWs to 8 and 1/2 feet.

According to the State’s building code, it will not regulate the construction of temporary dwelling places, including Park Models and RVs. However, certain municipalities may have different standards that manufacturers and homeowners need to consult.

Pros

  • Just like a house but smaller. Has the option for complete amenities and appliances
  • You can use appliances simultaneously without the fear of busting your circuit breaker.
  • Highly customizable
  • More flexible (than mobile homes). Can be moved more often
  • Self-sufficient – you can install RV-type plumbing, and you can also connect to a power source, install a generator or have a solar panel roofing.
  • More eco-friendly than regular homes
  • Able to withstand weather fluctuations

Cons

  • Smaller than mobile homes
  • Not aerodynamic.
  • Requires time to build

Recreational Vehicle (RV)

What is an RV?

Also known as Motorized Homes, Recreational Vehicles have living facilities and amenities such as a sleeping area, kitchen, bathroom, and storage spaces. Thus, they are classified as temporary living quarters and are designed as such while looking for a permanent home.

RV started as a covered caravan or wagon designed to accommodate sleeping quarters and other amenities. Because of its popularity, the caravan or wagon has evolved; making living in an rv bearable.

Throughout time, it has transformed to accommodate the growing number of followers and campers. RV manufacturers have created RVs to cater to customers’ needs. Thus while initially designed as a temporary dwelling, it evolved to become a permanent living space. Manufacturers also make specific design changes to cater to the size of the family.

Since the size of an RV can only go so much, manufacturers think of ways to maximize the available space. Slide Outs become one of the selling points of RV manufacturers as it gives additional space. It works by having certain areas of your RV “slide out”.

This makes RV living comfortable and more enjoyable.

Due to their very nature, they are made from lightweight materials. While some luxury RV manufacturers offer greater quality build, most of the more affordable variants and models on the market are made of cheaper materials.

While RV can vary in length, it should not exceed 8 1/2 in width.

Pros

  • Designed for constant traveling, easier to travel with
  • Aerodynamic
  • Easier to resell in the market
  • More affordable (depending on the size and type)
  • Luxury RVs are available for bigger space with upgraded features

Cons

  • Smaller space
  • Harder to maintain – you need to have your RV serviced by professionals.
  • Not as sturdy as tiny homes
  • Cannot withstand extreme conditions
  • Depending on the model, regular RVs are not designed for year-round use
  • Less customizable
  • Depreciates in value fast
  • Not ideal for larger families

Mobile Home/Manufactured Home

What is a Manufactured Home vs a Mobile Home?

Before we start, let us distinguish between a mobile home vs. a manufactured home.

Mobile homes are small dwelling places that were built before 1976. Mobile homes were built off-site and were transferred to their final location. Because of this, standards were poor and supervision was less, making the quality of the built poor and the house dangerous to live in.

In response to this, HUD passed Mobile Home Construction and Safety Act in 1976. Its goal was to ensure mobile homes are built with higher building standards.

Therefore, “Mobile Homes” built before 1976 are called Mobile Homes, while those that were built under the guidelines of the Mobile Home Construction and Safety act of 1976 are called Manufactured Homes.

The latter is similar to tiny houses in that it is a smaller home and is meant for full-time living. However, contrary to its name, manufactured homes are not meant to be moved on a regular basis. They are termed “mobile” because homeowners can move them once or twice in a lifetime.

Moving this type of home also requires the assistance of professionals because it will need special equipment.

Manufactured homes are also called prefabricated home since it is built off-site and transferred to its final location.

In Oregon, manufactured homes, if attached to a frame or chassis for the purpose of mobility is considered as a temporary dwelling.

Pros

  • More space
  • More permanent
  • Feels like living in a regular home

Cons

  • not ideal for traveling as this is a more permanent dwelling
  • harder to transport and will require permits
  • expensive to maintain

Tiny House vs RV

Quick Comparison Tiny House vs RV

CriteriaWinnerWhy?Notes
QualityTHOWsTiny House offers the same quality as that of a regular homeThe higher the quality, the more expensive it becomes
CostRVRVs are more affordable than Tiny Homes, and depending on the price, easier to finance and insureWhile this is more affordable, note that it is not meant to be used for year-long dwelling, and will require you to spend more on maintenance
MobilityRVRVs are built to be used for travelRVs are not meant to be used whole-year long
Size/SpaceTHOWsTiny House has larger space with higher ceiling. Plus, when stationary, you can use drop down decks and stairs to access your tiny houseLofted bedroom may be a trouble for families with small children or elderly who don’t want going up and down the stairs.
MaintenanceTHOWsTiny Homes have the right size and is easier to maintain compared to RVs which requires professionalsTrailer, brakes, lights, wheels and tires must be maintained as well, in addition to the maintenance of the house itself
AmenitiesTHOWsBecause of the space, you can add more appliances and amenities. Plus, you are not limited to power supply. And you can add RV-type plumbing Larger amenities means higher cost of living.
Family-FriendlinessTHOWsIt has more space and will give you the option to have all features and amenities in one floorLofted bedroom may be a trouble for families with small children or elderly who don’t want going up and down the stairs.
Summary of Tiny House vs RV

Quality

It is hard to compare THOWs and RVs because each has different structures. However, both answer the demands of living tiny and mobile.

RVs are built for mobility, thus will have lighter materials compared to their counterpart. And since most RVs are not meant for year-round use, manufacturers don’t consider the year-long wear and tear these vehicles may are exposed to

On the other hand, THOWs are designed exactly like permanent homes. In addition, you can customize and choose which materials to use. Thus THOWs are sturdier and more durable than RVs

Winner: THOWs

Cost

Trailer RVs are mass-produced with a little option for customization. While the same is true for THOWs, buyers have more flexibility to add higher-quality materials.

Because of the size, RVs are more affordable than THOWs. That is also because of space, and amenities you can add to your tiny homes, but not to your RV (more about it below)

Apart from the upfront cost, you also need to consider the cost of financing and insurance.

RVs are easier to finance and insure because of 1) the cost of the product being insured, and 2) the availability of the product in the market. RVs are insured similar to motor vehicles. THOWs on the other hand are riskier to insure. However, there are exceptions to financing and insuring THOWs. The key is to find a certified and trusted tiny home builder.

Winner: RV

Mobility

Both vehicles are designed to be mobile, but one more than the other.

Because of the weight, square feet, and overall design, RVs are easier to move and travel with than THOWs. It is designed as a pack-up-and-go living trailer.

In addition, because they are for traveling, they are made with materials that can withstand vibrations, bumps, and turns.

Similarly, THOWs can be moved without requiring permits, provided, that your THOW follows the prescribed limit. However, THOWs are heavy and less aerodynamic than RVs.

Because of these differences, RVs are easier to haul. It also doesn’t hurt that they use less fuel.

Winner: RV

Size/Space

Tiny houses have larger square footage than your traditional RV. This makes the former a more comfortable living space than a trailer camper.

It is true that RVs have become more complex and spacious. However, luxury RVs are really expensive, almost the same cost as a regular home.

A THOW, on the other hand, is more spacious. It features complete amenities such as a bedroom, kitchen, and full toilet and bath, with ample storage and closet space.

Note that most THOWs also have a high-ceiling feature making it, bigger, but spacious.

Winner: THOWs

Maintenance

Certified RV Manufacturers should maintain your RVs.

However, for the tiny home trailer, wheels, brakes, lights, etc, ensure that these are regularly checked and maintained.

Winner: THOWs

Amenities

Tiny Homes have larger space, giving you the freedom to add amenities and appliances not typical to an RV.

tiny house floor plan oregon

THOWs can be fitted with RV plumbing (gray/black tank, or better option, composting toilets).

For electrical, THOWs are better as they offer much safer options. You can use all appliances without the fear of short-circuiting your circuit breaker. You also have the option of adding solar panels or attach them to the power and plumbing source if parked.

Tiny homes are also better against weather fluctuations. THOWs have better insulation than trailers, which many people will find appealing.

Winner: THOWs

Family-Friendliness

Because of the size, tiny homes can accommodate bigger families than RVs and can have ample space if parked.

The only downside is the bedroom especially if it features a lofted bedroom.

On the other hand, RVs are smaller and feel cramped. While there are slide outs, it still feels like living in a tin box with limited moving space.

Therefore, while both have certain limits, It is more friendly to live in a THOW than an RV

Winner: THOWs

Tiny Houses vs Manufactured/Mobile Homes

Quick Comparison between Tiny House and Mobile Homes

CriteriaWinnerWhy?Notes
QualityTieAs these resembles a house, you will have the opportunity to use higher quality materialsThe higher the quality, the higher the cost
CostTHOWsTiny Houses are more affordable because you are limited to its size, thus forcing you to make do with what is available. You may not also be bound with certain regulations and taxes (check with your government to see what’s applicable)Cost of ownership may increase if Tiny house on wheels are used for traveling more often
MobilityTHOWsTiny House on Wheels are meant to be moved oftenMay require a permit if width exceeds 8 1/2 feet.
Size/SpaceManufactured HomesManufactured homes are just like regular homes. Thus you can have bigger space to your likingNot meant for mobility and is hard to transfer
MaintenanceTHOWs Tiny Homes have the right size and is easier to maintain compared to Manufactured Homes Trailer, brakes, lights, wheels and tires must be maintained as well, in addition to the maintenance of the house itself
AmenitiesTieWhile Manufactured homes have larger spaces, it is not as meant to be moved often. You are limited with the space to be able to move your vehicles often without requiring special permits
Family-FriendlinessManufactured HomesIt has more space and will give you the option to have all features and amenities in one floorIt is not as mobile as THOWs
Summary of Tiny House vs RV

Quality

Comparison of the quality depends on the year the mobile home was built. If it was built after 1976 under the Mobile Home Construction and Safety Act, then the quality of THOWs and Manufactured Homes should not differ.

Winner: Tie

Cost

Depending on the quality of the materials used, prices may not very much. However, since manufactured homes are considered as regular homes, the cost may shoot up especially if it is bigger.

If you are buying a mobile home, then quality will be inferior to the more modern manufactured homes and tiny homes with wheels.

As for subsequent costs of financing/mortgage and insurance, technically the bigger the property, the higher the cost.

Since manufactured homes are semi-permanent, you also have to consider the applicable taxes and permits that go with owning a house.

Winner: THOWs

Mobility

Manufactured homes, while can be transferred, are difficult to move or transport because of their size and construction. As mentioned, you will need to hire professionals to help you move it and acquire different permits.

It may also require you to coordinate with different municipalities.

On the other hand, Tiny houses on wheels, because of their size and built, are more mobile than manufactured homes.

Also, as THOWs have lighter materials than your traditional manufactured homes.

One thing that you need to consider is the width limit. To aid mobility, regulations limit the width of the THOWs at 8 1/2. Any wider than that and you will need to get a special permit to travel your home.

Therefore, it is more expensive and time-consuming to move a manufactured home vs. a THOW

Winner: THOWs

Size/Space

Tiny Homes on Wheels has a set width limit of 8 1/2 feet. However, there isn’t any limit for Manufactured Homes as they are built with the intention of being transferred or moved only if needed.

Manufacturers usually build THOWs with a cathedral-style ceiling to make the space look larger. While an added benefit, bedrooms are usually located at the loft.

This becomes an issue for some people especially since 1) you cannot stand on your lofted bedroom, and 2) if you need to use the bathroom you have to get down the ladder or stairs.

Also, because of this feature, it will not be advisable to have small children sleep in lofted bedrooms.

Therefore, considering size alone, there is more flexibility with manufactured homes than THOWs

Winner: Manufactured Homes

Maintenance

Maintenance for both may be similar since they are both built with the aesthetics and functionality of a house in mind.

However, maintenance may differ between THOWs and Manufactured homes, again depending on the types of items used.

Maintenance for Manufactured homes, is the same as maintaining a regular home.

On the other side, Tiny Home on Wheels’s maintenance involves the usual wear and tear of a moving building, plus the usual tidying as a result of movement. In addition, since this is on Wheels, the maintenance of the brake lights, chassis, wheel, and tires.

Because of the size alone, it is more expensive to maintain a manufactured home

Winner: THOWs

Amenities

Again, since tiny home builders designed manufactured homes and Tiny Houses on Wheels similar to their regular counterparts, they feature similar amenities.

One major difference that you have to consider, however, is the space. In a manufactured home, you have the option to have it wider and longer, thus giving you the flexibility to put in more appliances. It also gives you the option to have bigger bedrooms and bathrooms.

Winner: Tie

Family-Friendliness

While both cater to growing family size, Manufactured homes are better for bigger families mainly because of the size and space available. Bedrooms, bathrooms, and other amenities can be situated on the ground floor which is more ideal especially for families with children.

Tiny houses, on the other hand, featured lofted bedrooms which are not ideal for small children. And because of the size, THOWs cannot accommodate bigger families.

Winner: Manufactured Homes

Which one is for you?

Choosing between these 3 needs to be carefully thought of. All three have benefits and limitations you need to consider.

The best way to know if something is right for you to to understand your lifestyle and the purpose of having one. We at Tru Form Tiny hope that we made the decision easier for you.

Should you wish to go for THOWs or something larger, like a park model, we got you covered. You can enjoy both RVs and Tiny Houses in one! The best part is, since we are RV and NADA certified manufacturers, Financing and Insurance are easy!

tiny houses builders

Our Travel Trailer models start at 16ft and can be easily towed by SUVs and Trucks. Longer models (such as the Payette and Kootenay) are also built to be traveled often. Want something larger? We build our park models with wheels so it can also be moved if needed.

If you don’t fancy moving, we build Tiny House on Foundation!

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About the author 

Jen Carroll

Jen is one of the founders and has specialized in tiny home production. At times he breaks away and contributes to the conversations about tiny homes. When not building tiny homes Jen is enjoying his kids trying to keep up with the endless creativity and boundless energy.

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