Tiny Houses vs. RV for Full Time Living

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Tiny houses are trendy and adorable.  Television shows parade their affordability and the convenience of living tiny for singles, couples, and families.  That is what lead my husband and I to explore the concept two years ago, when rents were high and the housing market was questionable.

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We wanted freedom from the financial obligation and rigidness of a mortgage or rent.  Our research lead us to several conclusions about tiny houses and RV’s. We decided to share our thoughts below to help you decide if a Tiny house or RV living fulltime is for you. If you want to know what our choice ended up being after our research scroll to the bottom of the post.

What qualifies as a tiny house?

Tiny House

A Tiny house is a home that usually consists of less than 1000 square feet so we thought, but as we researched it more to truly be classified as a tiny house it should be under 400 Square feet. Some Tiny house are as small as 80 square feet. Note that Tiny houses on wheels are considered RVs by most laws. Most Tiny houses consist of one cohesive space, meaning in many cases each room flows or is open to the other room, bathrooms are usually the exception but not always the case. Tiny homes are truly meant for simplistic living while not giving up the comforts of a home. Some tiny homes are built on wheels to get around city laws or zoning code, but is most cases a tiny home isn’t meant to be constantly moved.

What Qualifies as an RV?


Recreational Vehicle, short for RV is typically a motor vehicle or trailer that includes some living or sleeping space and are not usually dictated by square foot. There are several types of RVS; fifth wheel trailers, popup campers, truck campers, caravans, campervans and motorhomes. RV’s can be as simple as room with sleeping and eating quarters to being fully decked out with multiple sleeping and living spaces as well as kitchen and bathrooms. Many Rvs have slide outs or extensions that enable them to be more arrow dynamic for travel while still providing plenty of space at your destination.

Tiny Houses vs. RV

While tiny houses can be built on wheels, they are not meant to travel frequently.  The purpose of building a house on a trailer is to avoid zoning and permitting requirements (sometimes taxes too).  RV’s are designed for the road with lightweight materials and traffic laws in mind.  Some states even require a special permit to transport a tiny house, not to mention a substantial vehicle with the power to pull a tiny house.

RV’s are subject to regulations and tiny houses are not.  For this reason, many campgrounds, national parks and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) do not allow tiny houses to park overnight.  It is also challenging to insure a custom built tiny house because of the lack of regulations.

Tiny houses do not have holding tanks for black, grey or fresh water as RV’s do.  That means they must be connected to a water source and sewer in order for the plumbing to be fully functional.  RV’s afford the opportunity for boondocking or camping without being hooked up to water and sewer making the location possibilities endless.  However, emptying the holding tanks from a RV can be smelly and messy.

The same is true for electric.  A tiny house must be plugged in to an electric source.  RV’s often have generators on board capable of running electricity for the lights, air conditioner, television, etc.

Happiest Camper RV Winterizing

Many RV’s are larger than tiny houses when comparing square footage to include RV slide-outs.  RV’s also have more storage capability, inside and out, and better use of space overall.  More people can be accommodated in the average RV which have couches and tables that convert into beds.

Tiny houses have better insulation than RV’s.  Insulation keeps sounds out and makes it easier to control the temperature inside.  RV’s are more prone to shaking when it is windy or people are walking around in the rig.

RV’s are vehicles by definition.  They depreciate quickly like vehicles.  Tiny houses tend to hold their value or even increase in value as houses do.

If you are looking to live small with minimal travel, a tiny house might be perfect for you.  It can be custom built to meet your unique style and needs at an affordable cost.  They are even becoming more widely available in kits that you can order.  You can find the tiny house you like online and have it shipped to your location. Here is a 300 square foot one that includes a loft or this 275 square foot one with 4 rooms.  Purchase or rent a plot of land in your location of choice, and you’re all set.  If you would prefer to travel frequently, perhaps to visit the national parks and truly experience the beauty of America, an RV is definitely the better choice as most tiny homes are not meant to be moved regularly.

Note that every state and city has different ordinances concerning Tiny houses and due to the popularity of the movement these are changing all the time so make sure to check with your local city or state for updated regulations as it relates to tiny houses and even RV’s.

Tiny Houses vs. RV Our Choice:

After all the research, visits to some tiny home sellers and some RV sellers and after much discussion with others who had lived in a tiny house or an RV we came to a conclusion as what was best for our family. Ultimately, we decided to live in a recreational vehicle (RV). While Tiny houses are appealing we wanted the freedom to travel often and bring our home along. Just because a tiny house wasn’t a fit for us does not mean it’s not a fit for you, or your family as everyone’s preferences are different but if you like the freedom of being on the go an RV is the way to go.

Tiny House vs RV

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