learn the differences between a tiny house and rv

The Debate Between A Tiny House & RV If You Want To Live Small

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The Tiny House And RV Debate: Are The Differences Significant Enough To Make A Difference?

As more people embrace the lifestyle of living remotely, they encounter the tiny house and RV debate.

In fact, living remotely continues to grow in popularity and not only living in an RV, but living in a van or on a boat (which is for another article!)

People are loving the idea of total freedom, leaving behind the traditional 40-hour work week, and enjoying spending time not only on the mainland but sight-seeing around the world.

learn the differences between a tiny house and rv

In recent years tiny homes have become all the rage, while RVs have been around for many years. Thus, the tiny house and RV debate was inevitable.

Despite the differences in a tiny house and RV, there are also features that are similar.

In fact, many who contemplate life in an RV consider moving into a tiny home and often wonder if the tiny house and RV debate is relevant to their situation.

If you find the tiny home vs. RV debate confusing, you are not alone!

Before you jump head first into the purchase of one or the other, understanding the differences will help you make a solid decision on which one is best for your situation.

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The information in this article will give you a solid understanding of both tiny homes and RVs. It includes their likenesses and differences. In addition, the major points of interest for each are outlined so you can compare the pros and cons of each and finally solve the tiny house and RV debate.

Whether you opt for a tiny home, RV, or another way of remote living, gathering information about this unconventional lifestyle is sure to be helpful as you explore the various opportunities!

Tiny House And RV Debate: What Is A Tiny House?

A tiny house is typically defined as a house that is less than 500 square feet. With the size and many features being similar, accessories for set-up are also going to be similar.

However, when most people think of a tiny house it is one that is mobile, meaning it can be hitched to a truck and pulled down the road, similar to an RV. This type of tiny home is built on a trailer with wheels to allow the mobility.

Tiny houses are almost always custom-made, and they are often DIY projects completed by the owners themselves!

Tiny homes are designed to look like real homes rather than vehicles (think RV). Even though most are mobile, many owners opt to stay on a given property for months at a time.

Tiny House And RV Debate: What Is An RV?

RV stands for recreational vehicle.

RVs don’t have size limitations in the same way as tiny homes, although they certainly are compact and must be built to be legally driven on the road.

As suggested by the name, ‘recreational vehicles’ are designed primarily as vehicles, meaning mobility is a key feature. They are made in a variety of styles, designs and sizes. However, they are typically manufactured by companies that specialize in making RVs.

comparison of tiny house and RV

So, what are the pros and cons of each?

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The advantages and disadvantages will give you a more in-depth sense of what you can expect from tiny homes and RVs.

Pros Of A Tiny House

Blogs, vlogs, TV shows, books and more have been dedicated to tiny homes because of the widespread fascination in these structures. But, what is so special about tiny homes?

There are many advantages to choosing to build a tiny home such as:

  • Aesthetics Most tiny homes are designed to be attractive. Natural wood siding, vinyl siding, appealing windows, and pitched roofs are some common features of tiny homes. Builders make tiny houses full of character and may even model the houses after log cabins and other attractive styles. Some tiny homeowners have built using unique shapes and designs or even used unique starting materials such as an old school bus or shipping container. Because tiny homes are often custom-made, the aesthetic aspect, both outside and inside, is easy to line up with your preferences.
  • Weather Proofing/Insulation When compared with RVs, tiny homes often have much more robust weatherproofing and insulation. This means temperature may be easier to control and requires less energy. Tiny homes are usually designed with year-round weather in mind. This means they can generally accommodate a wider variety of temperatures and seasons than RVs. Of course, this is generally speaking, as RV packages can include an upgrade to be safe in extremely cold temperatures.
Tiny homes have gained a following because of their many endearing qualities. Click To Tweet
  • Customization If you decide to build a tiny house, you can make it however you would like! Even if you start with pre-made plans, you can work with your builder to make adjustments. Choose to incorporate a loft, hidden storage areas or include a custom skylight. There’s virtually no limit to the customizations you can request when building your tiny house.
  • Hookups Along the lines of customization, you are also free to include built-in waste tanks like those used in an RV, or you have the option to go green with composting toilets. As far as other utilities, many tiny homes incorporate off-grid options like solar panels. They are also designed to be easily hooked up to municipal water systems. Depending on the design, tiny homes can be as convenient as RVs. In other instances, they may require a hookup to municipal waste, water, and electrical systems. It all depends on how they are built.
  • Green Factor If the environment is an important issue to you, tiny homes offer the opportunity to use recycled materials and incorporate other green features such as solar power, gray water systems and more.
  • Hold Value Because tiny homes are residences rather than vehicles, they tend to steadily hold their value. For this reason, a tiny home can easily be called an investment.
  • Simplicity One of the main reasons people choose to build or live in a tiny home is to simplify their lives. Minimalistic living in a small space means fewer belongings, a smaller ecological footprint and freedom from the trappings of a large property that must be maintained.
tiny home on trailer

Cons Of A Tiny House

Despite their many enchanting qualities, there are some down sides to tiny homes, especially when compared to RVs.

Before you jump on the tiny home bandwagon, consider these disadvantages:

  • Limited Mobility Yes, many tiny homes are technically mobile, but most aren’t designed with that specific intent. They aren’t built for a life of moving on the road in terms of aerodynamics or how items are secured. So, while tiny homes are mobile, they aren’t mobile in the same way that RVs are designed to be on the move at the drop of a hat.
  • Building Codes There aren’t as many building codes and regulations surrounding tiny homes as there are for RVs. This is partly because tiny homes are a relatively new type of structure. While some may view this as a plus, ultimately, safety may be compromised due to the lack of regulations and protections around tiny homes. RVs are much more heavily regulated regarding safety standards and codes, especially for complete mobility.
  • Insurance Because there isn’t as much of a legal system regarding tiny home building, insurance can be difficult to obtain for one of these properties.
  • May Not Be Allowed on Campgrounds Safety concerns and a lack of regulations means that many parks and campgrounds won’t allow you to park your tiny home at their campsites. RVs don’t face this problem (unless they don’t meet the RV park criteria, such as parks for motor homes only, for example.)
family in front of RV decide between a tiny house and RV

Pros Of An RV

Just like tiny houses, RVs have a lot to offer.

A large community of enthusiasts use their RVs throughout the warmer seasons, while others enjoy RVing full time, meaning their RV is their residence and they don’t own an actual home.

But, what are the best advantages RVs can claim?

  • Regulations RVs are much more heavily regulated when compared to tiny homes. This means there are many rules in place to make sure manufacturers produce safe RVs. In addition, tax laws and responsibilities are clear cut and easy to understand. In general, regulations can greatly simplify your life.
  • Mobility Because they’re vehicles, RVs are designed with movement in mind. If you want to be on the road for significant amounts of time, RVs are adapted to do just that. Moving from place to place in any style RV is easy.
  • Quick to Acquire When compared to tiny homes, RVs are easy to acquire. You can simply purchase a ready-made RV and make any adjustments or decorate as you please afterward. On the contrary, tiny homes may take months or years to build, meaning it can be a long wait to move in. Of course, you can always opt to purchase one for sale if you choose not to design your own, or if you are in a hurry without time to wait for a builder.
  • Space Efficient RVs are arguably excellent at space efficiency and keeping things compact. Over the years, manufacturers have developed endless genius space-saving solutions and engineered excellent hidden storage compartments. While tiny houses are also efficient, just how well space is used really depends on the skill of your builder.
  • Easy to Reserve Campground Spots Given the recent trend of more full-time RVers, many campgrounds and parks now offer long-term options for parking your RV. If you’re looking for a short-term stay, you’ll never have to worry about being turned away. This is not the case if you show up in a tiny home. On the contrary, there are a wealth of RV-friendly parks out there.
  • Hookups or Not Thanks to holding tanks and generators, RVs can easily provide all services without being hooked up anywhere at all (called boondocking.) While some tiny houses also offer this level of freedom, it’s something you’d have to plan for in the initial design.
RV camper for travel and mobile living

Cons Of An RV

Not everything about RVs is perfect. Unfortunately, they come with these disadvantages:

  • Not As Easy to Customize RVs typically come already built. So, customizing major aspects can be difficult. However, there are also many skilled mechanics and RV specialists who can help with minor modifications and remodels. When compared to tiny homes, though, you don’t have the same level of control. This is because you won’t be building the RV from scratch.
  • Toxic Chemicals Newer models of RVs should be fairly safe, but especially in the past, off-gassing of toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde in RVs has been a targeted problem. These chemicals are often used as components of glue and may reach unsafe levels in your RV. While it shouldn’t turn you off from owning an RV, it’s certainly something to be aware of and to consider researching before purchasing your RV.
  • Insulation Issues RVs are typically built for use in warm weather. So, if you plan on living full-time in your RV, you’ll have to head south during the colder months. The other option is to make sure you have a good plan for heating your RV. If you plan to RV during colder months, be sure your RV is equipped with the proper winter package to prevent frozen pipes and other issues.
  • Depreciate Like Vehicles Unfortunately, just like vehicles, RVs depreciate over time. On the contrary, houses are known to grow in value.

Final Words: Solving The Tiny House And RV Debate To Determine Which Is Right For You

Solving the tiny house and RV debate for your personal circumstances comes down to weighing the pros and cons of each.

Each advantage or disadvantage will be more or less important to different people. Depending on your goals, personal preferences and needs, you’ll find that one of these small living options seems better for you than the other.

Whatever you decide or whichever is your preference, the freedoms and charms of living in an RV or tiny home are numerous, as many newcomers to this type of living are finding out.

If you are struggling to make a decision, my article 21 Most Asked Questions About Living In An RV might help.

Once you make your final decision, you are sure to love your new lifestyle!

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