RV vs Tiny Home

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  • 5-400 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 5,000-150,000

The tiny home and minimalist movement is still strong as people look to simplify or take their lives in a mobile direction. Technology is allowing many workers to become digital nomads, ditching the traditional office and working from anywhere they can access internet service. So it makes sense one might want to replace the traditional home with a recreational vehicle or a tiny home, but which is the better choice for you?

Cost

Of course cost is a factor and the truth is, the price range for either an RV or a tiny home varies widely. For a basic travel trailer you could buy used and spend a few thousand dollars or purchase new from $20,000 on up. Larger 5th wheels and motorhomes can average around $40,000 but go to $160,000 or higher.

Tiny homes, on the other hand can be a DIY project with an investment of a few thousand dollars and some recycled materials. Off the lot you can expect to pay at least $40,000 and a custom build will drive the price much higher.

In short, you’ll have to consider what amenities are most important to you in either style to do a proper price comparison. It’s worth noting, however, that RVs nearly always lose value from the first day of purchase while tiny homes often maintain or even increase in value over time.

Construction

When considering durability and efficiency, the quality of the workmanship matters. Some RVs are made using low-quality materials since they aren’t necessarily intended to be used as permanent homes. Others are made with very high quality and strong materials that will last a very long time.

compact kitchen in a small space

The same could be said for tiny homes, but typically the lowest standard for a tiny house is the same as a regular house, so builders take care to use materials that will stand up to the job. Also, tiny homes offer better insulation than traditional RVs and you can customize every stage of the process. You can expect a custom build to provide higher quality in materials such as flooring, wall, and counter coverings, lighting, sound systems, and finishes.

Size

Tiny homes have limitations when it comes to size and you’ll likely find that RVs actually provide more space and storage, especially if they come equipped with one or more slides that increase space once you’re parked.

spacious rv living room

Licensing

RVs have been around a long time so licensing is standard and straightforward. Tiny homes, on the other hand, are still a fairly new idea so every state and city has different ordinances to consider. These laws also affect your ability to properly insure tiny homes.

Mobility

RVs are made for rolling down the road so mobility is high for any type of trailer or motorhome. They are easy to hook up, haul, park, and unload.

tiny mobile home outside a beautiful field and mountain

Tiny homes are less standardized and although they are often built on a trailer for ease of towing, they are made more for living than for moving. In addition, many campgrounds, national parks, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) do not allow tiny houses to park overnight so while you can pull an RV into any available campground, the same is likely not true for your tiny home.

Another issue is that most tiny homes are not equipped with holding tanks for fresh, black, and grey water, which means you’ll need to be hooked up to water and sewer services. Tiny homes also lack the onboard generator common in RVs, meaning the house will need to be plugged in to a power source in order to get power.

Aesthetics

If you plan to live in a tiny space, the appearance may be a significant contributing factor in your decision. Tiny houses will almost always beat out RVs when it comes to visual appeal, since a tiny home is, well, more homey.

In the end, the decision whether an RV or a tiny home is a better decision for you depends on budget, how you plan to use it, where you will park it, and what look appeals to you.