If you’re reading these, you’ve probably already fallen in love with tiny houses. Maybe you’ve even got plans to build or buy your own. But there’s something bugging you: mobile homes. Are they the same as tiny homes? Could they – perhaps – be better than tiny homes?
While the tiny house movement has boomed in the last decade, they are not actually the first ‘little houses’ to ever exist. Mobile homes got there first, appearing on the scene back in the 1950s – initially as accommodation for returning WWII veterans, before becoming an option for anyone on the hunt for inexpensive housing.
The quality and size of mobile homes have increased dramatically since then, making mobile homes serious rivals to tiny homes. In fact, it was estimated in 2019 that 5.6% of Americans already live in mobile homes.
So what’s the difference between a tiny house and a mobile home? Are tiny houses just mobile homes with a different name? And if not, which one is better?
7 differences between mobile homes and tiny houses
Tiny homes are designed to be just like a real house – but smaller. Therefore, the quality should, in theory, be the same standard as a traditional house. Of course, this depends on who built it. And, because tiny houses are not subject to the same number of building regulations as normal houses, there is no guarantee of high quality (also a reason why getting insurance for your tiny house can be difficult).
Mobile homes are often not of a comparably high standard. Many were originally built in the last century and feature poor-quality aluminum wiring and badly-designed insulation, as well as out-of-date furnishings. Many owners attest to constant problems with leaks, high energy bills due to inefficient construction, and the danger of damage during storms.
However, the HUD Code established in 1976 meant manufacturers were forced to improve the quality of their structures. Mobile homes created according to these standards are known as Manufactured Homes and are of a higher quality and efficiency. They’re also more expensive.
On average, a tiny house on wheels will cost you around $60,000 – although this price varies hugely, and depends on materials, appliances, land costs, and so on. You can find tiny homes for as little as $10,000 and as much as $200,000.
On the other hand, while new mobile homes range in price from $50,000 to $250,000, you can buy a second hand one for around $25,000.
A large number of tiny homes are built on wheels – often to bypass certain planning restrictions, but also because being able to change location whenever you want is a huge perk.
Despite their name, mobile homes aren’t designed to be moved around frequently, and moving them can be expensive. You legally need to enlist professional help to transport it, and you’ll also need a moving permit first.
Mobile homes are nearly always bigger than your standard tiny home. The smallest mobile home is at least 14 feet wide and 40 feet long. Tiny homes are more like 8 feet wide and 26 feet long. So we’re talking about 784 vs. 560 square feet. This is why smart storage solutions are key to tiny house living 😉
- Speed of build
As Manufactured Homes are built on an assembly line in a factory, you can get one in a matter of weeks. Simply go online and order one.
Tiny homes can take much longer to build, especially if you’re doing it yourself. It’s estimated that professionals can build a tiny home in around 120 hours. But if you’re doing it yourself, it’s at least 500 hours – possibly more like 1,000 hours.
Beyond the choice of size (single wide, double wide, or triple wide), mobile homes tend to all look the same. They’re single-story, box-shaped, and often feature a veranda or terrace.
Although there are increasing numbers of companies offering more interesting designs, because mobile homes are built in a factory, there’s inevitably a mass-market, production-line vibe about them.
Meanwhile, tiny homes are tailored to your unique design preferences and choices. You choose everything, from the size and shape to the furnishings and fittings, from timber cladding to toilet model.
This means massive flexibility when it comes to the aesthetic of your tiny home. No tiny home is the same.
- Being part of a movement
The trend of trading traditional houses for tiny homes has become a movement in and of itself, complete with books, blogs, Instagram pages, and influencers.
In essence, the Tiny House Movement is about living more simply. It’s about choosing financial freedom over the stress and burden of a mortgage. It’s also often about minimizing your carbon footprint, using recycled materials, and living in a more environmentally conscious way – whether totally off-grid and self-sufficient or ensuring optimum energy efficiency.
What’s better: a tiny house or a mobile home?
Choosing between a tiny house and a mobile home ultimately depends on your priorities.
If your focus is affordability, then mobile homes are often the most cost-friendly choice, especially for second-hand bottom-of-the-range models. However, it’s worth remembering that the value of mobile homes tends to go down over time.
Plus, mobile homes are nearly always bigger than tiny houses, making them a better choice for families.
However, if you’re all about flexible living, then tiny homes win, hands down.
You can move them around more easily and can adapt the design according to your own needs and tastes. Plus, if environmental concerns are top of your list, tiny homes are often designed to be eco-friendly and self-sufficient.
There are clear differences between tiny houses and mobile homes in everything from price to aesthetics.
However, as the Tiny House Movement continues to grow in popularity, the Manufactured Home industry might start to realize the potential of offering people high-quality and affordable prefab homes, and may join the trend, with mobile homes becoming another type of tiny home on offer.