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.

Tiny House vs RV Pin

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.

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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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16 thoughts on “Tiny Houses vs. RV for Full Time Living”

  1. We went through the same decision process 2 years ago. Since I move for work every 3 months we could not guarantee being able to find a spot for a tiny home. With our fifth wheel RV, we simply call any local campground and make a reservation. It also allows us to take side trips while on work assignments.

  2. One downside of an RV that I did not see considered is that they are not designed to be lived in full-time. I’ve heard formaldehyde levels are much higher than a home built out of standard home building materials.

    • From my understanding, they stopped using formaldehyde in RV’s around 20 years ago. We traded our old 2004 camper for a new one, no problems. You can smell it if it’s in there.

    • Hi. I’ve lived in my rv 4 a year now. No problems whatsoever, toxicity isn’t an issue. Living full time has allowed me 2 meet others who’ve been doing this lifestyle 4 years. Easily said, nobody I’ve met would ever go back 2 living in a stick n brick abode. It’s not a lifestyle 4 everybody. The most positive part about full time living in an rv, I’m not a slave 2 a huge mortgage, a ton of housework or yardwork. I get 2 enjoy God’s beautiful creation at my own pace. The rv’s of today r more like stick n bricks homes ever been b 4. U usually meet wonderful people n if by chance u meet a grumpy neighbor, u can easily move!

    • Hi Brenda! I think you are asking what to do when threatening weather like a tornado or storm is coming through. Most campgrounds have a safety area for those types of situations. It’s usually in the bath house or some type of community building. However, the best thing to do pull up your jacks and move when you have warning. This is especially true for hurricanes. When your house has wheels under it, use ’em!

      • I agree. We used our RV to leave our FL home every time there was a hurricane in NW FL several years ago. Mostly left because my aged FIL lived with us and couldn’t go for days without power & A/C. When one storm finally hit TN where we went, it was like a good T-Storm but safe and I was sitting under the awning reading my book when the rains & winds came (near Cleveland). If you know a storm is coming, get out early because the traffic to evacuate could leave you stranded. One storm it took us several hours to go a normal 25 minute ride with all 4 lanes heading north and none going south.

  3. Living in an Rv full time can be very satisfying. You’re not a slave 2 housework, yardwork, etc. If u don’t like your neighbor, move 2 another site. Rainy, windy weather is more noisy, so that takes some adjusting getting used 2 that amount of noise. If it’s not windy while raining, I step outside under my awning and enjoy the sites and sounds. Having a large enough awning allows me 2 even have a chair outside while it’s pouring down all around. I don’t think I could ever go back 2 living inside a house, apartment, etc. Be well organized, get rid of excess papers, stuff u really don’t need. It’s very freeing and a more inexpensive way 2 live. Where do I stay in my travel trailer? I bought a Thousand Trails membership decades ago. It’s not 4 everybody but it’s safer being alone with a little dog

  4. The loud rain is the best part!! That and the motor rumble while traveling make for great sleeping! We lived in a bus conversion from the time I was 5 until I married at 21. We moved weekly for my dad’s job and covered about half of the US.
    I want an RV so badly! But with 5 kids and my husband’s job it isn’t practical for us now.

  5. Dear HappiestCamper,
    You have confused me a little – I’m currently having a tiny house being built. It will be fully setup for on and off-grid living with fresh & grey water tanks.
    Since it will have a composting toilet it will not require a black tank. It is also being built to be qualified and insured like an R.V. (in Texas)
    And I am also adding extra structural bracing to handle the bumps of the road.
    So I guess a tiny house, just like an R.V. is only as functional or dysfunctional as it is built to be. Well that’s my 2cents worth… 😉 Thank You !

    • I do believe HappiestCamper was “generalizing” (mainly for regular people). Not everyone has the money or experienced building skills to have a tiny house built for them . Thank you HappiestCamper for a great article that did help with my question. 😉

  6. It depends on the person as to what their personal preferences are for their living set up. I would want to live in an RV because I don’t have to go to an office as I work from home.


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