For those with an alternative leaning on living options, this question might’ve popped up: tiny house vs RV, which one should I go for?
You know when you’re trying to decide between two major things and the choice feels impossible? Well, this is one of those times.
The benefits of building a tiny house vs living in an RV are so different that there really isn’t any way I can tell which option would be better for your lifestyle. If you had to pick just one thing though, it might depend on how much time do spend at home each day.
Saving money and going tiny seem like an easy decision, but there are more details to consider than you might think.
There’s a myriad of factors when deciding between building or buying your own home that will affect the rest of your life. Today we take a look at two options for living small: Tiny houses vs RVs. Is one actually better than the other?
Some may say that living in a tiny house is the answer to all of your problems, while others are enamored with the idea of traveling around and explore new parts of the United States.
In this article, we will compare two different options: building and living in a tiny house vs RV travel across the country. We’ll examine what each option has going for it before discussing how these decisions might affect one’s lifestyle goals.
Now, let’s explore the benefits (and drawbacks) of tiny houses and recreational vehicles (RVs) so you can decide which best suits your needs.
Tiny House: Pros and Cons
A tiny house usually ranges between 100 to 500 square feet in size. It’s an alternate way of living for a small group of people, often one or two persons. And at times a small family. Tiny houses are gaining popularity in large part due to their affordability and easy upkeep.
It’s also quite easy to build your own tiny house with the right set of skills, so if you live in Tennessee or Ohio, for example, it might only cost about $30,000 dollars to have one fully furnished. But of course, there are plenty more considerations to a tiny house other than its size and cost. Let’s go through some of them.
Tiny houses look and feel like a house. A tiny house is aptly named because it’s literally a smaller version of a house.
While we’re talking mainly regarding the look-feel or aesthetics of the house, this may be a deciding factor for others who want to feel at “home” while living tiny. Some tiny housers want to feel like their tiny house is a solid, stable, and permanent place.
Tiny houses are highly customizable. Because they’re meant to feel like a regular house (but smaller), tiny houses are usually designed and planned to the liking of the end-user. Both the architectural and interior design aspects of the house can be customized.
To date, we’ve seen modern tiny homes, rustic-themed homes, and even hobbit-themed tiny homes. This is the kind of flexibility you may not get versus an RV. While generally speaking, the interior of an RV is fair game, you’re pretty much stuck with the size and shape of an RV.
Tiny houses can be built to withstand different weather. Regardless of the season, tiny houses are built to withstand the changes in climate.
Because there’s a sense of permanency when it comes to tiny house living, the foundation needs to be planned accordingly to the weather of the location. Insulation, HVAC systems, windows, doors, and other items need to be taken into consideration when building a tiny home.
Tiny houses are not meant for traveling. I mean, you can attach wheels under your house, but it’ll literally be a tiny house on wheels. The exterior and foundation may not be built to withstand the beating it may take while being on the road.
Tiny houses may not be PWD-friendly. Tiny houses usually feature a loft-type bedroom, which means it may only be accessed via narrow stairs or a ladder. This may make it difficult for a person with disability (PWD) to live in. And this also includes temporary injuries for non-PWD persons, like sprained ankles, broken leg, and so on.
Tiny houses usually fall into the grey-area category. Just like the infamous line from Britney Spears’ song: “not a girl, not yet a woman”? You can apply that to tiny houses. Tiny houses are a class on their own – some areas consider it an RV while others don’t. This may pose an issue if you plan on parking it somewhere.
|Look and feel like a house|
|Not meant for traveling|
May not be accessible for all
Fall into a legal grey area in the US
RV: Pros and Cons
RV (recreational vehicle) usually means something that can be pulled by a truck or car. They are also called motor homes.
Previously RVs were made primarily of steel and plastic but newer ones are mostly fiberglass, aluminum, and other lightweight materials with built-in generators and air conditioners.
An RV provides all the features of a home away from home such as cooking, bedrooms, lounge areas, bathroom facilities (shower and toilets), plus televisions and radios for entertainment purposes.
There are also RVs designed to go off the grid which means they will supply all their own power via solar panels mounted on top of wind turbines on poles near the windows.
Depending on the size and specs, an RV can vary quite widely in terms of its cost, features, and maintenance needs. We’ll go through some of its pros and cons in detail below.
RVs are built for the road. One clear selling point towards the direction of RVs is that they can withstand transient living, more particularly long-haul drives.
If you want to pursue your dream of cross-country traveling, buying an RV may be the choice for you. Not only is it build for the road, but it’s also built to provide you comfort in your footstep. You literally travel in style (and comfort!)
RVs can be easily serviced. Because there are tons of people who live full-time on an RV, service stations are easy to find while you’re on the road.
And should your RV stop working and need to be towed, it’s much easier for a tow truck to lift and carry because it’s essentially a really big vehicle. In relation to servicing, it’ll be easier for you to get RV insurance because they are widely accepted by all insurance institutions.
RVs are more available and easily purchased. If you’re in the market for an RV, chances are it’ll be easy for you to find one you like and purchase it. RVs have been around for a really long time – longer than the tiny house living trend. This means that there are more RV suppliers than there are tiny house manufacturers.
RVs do not do well in colder temperatures. RVs are not typically made for cold weather, because it lacks the insulation as part of its foundational structure.
It may have a heating system, but this is not the ideal living situation if you’re going to move towards colder climates. (You can always pack up and drive to a warmer place though!)
RVs are tedious to maintain. Unless you plan on being on the road 100%, just like any car, if it sits too long on your driveway, you may have problems with your engine or battery.
It needs to be regularly driven around. Like with any vehicle, you’d need to have the components checked out once in a while to keep things running in its best conditions.
RVs can limit where you travel. Some places don’t allow RVs to enter their premises – it could be a size concern or a road concern, but it’s definitely not allowed in all of the United States. You have to plan your trips and stops according to where you’re allowed to drive and park your RV.
|Built for traveling|
More choices in the market
|Not suitable for colder temperatures|
Limited design options
Tiny House vs RV: The Basics
Since we’ve looked at the advantages separately, this section will put tiny houses and RVs head to head with each other.
I’ve identified key criteria, which will hopefully help you decide why one is the better option for you. These criteria are mobility, comfort and durability, time horizon, and we can’t forget about the cost.
While tiny houses can be created to be movable, RVs (by a landslide) take the cake for this part. RVs are built to be always on the move and are designed for travel. It’s as simple as that.
Tiny houses can be built movable, but are definitely not easy to move; they’re typically built with more materials, which means they are heavier and would need a heavy-duty truck or car that can support their weight to move it.
Depending on how often you plan to move around in a tiny home, a good rule of thumb is: the more you move, the smaller (and lighter) your tiny house should be.
RVs carry their own weight and the engine is strong enough to take the weight on. Granted that there are weight and height limitations, but that’s definitely a workable limit. RVs are meant to be on the road, which is why if we’re basing this discussion on mobility, RV takes this round.
(Generally speaking, in order of length to stay in one area, this would be the way to choose: Permanent Tiny House > Movable Tiny House > Recreational Vehicle)
Comfort and Durability
Both tiny houses and RVs provide you with comfort but are dependent on the amount of customization that goes into work in providing you that comfort.
Because of the way tiny houses can be customized and their apparent purpose, they are usually more comfortable and durable, especially in changing weather conditions.
Tiny houses perform better when the winter months kick in because of the amount of planning and work that goes into proper insulation and HVAC systems.
While RVs are comfortable as well, they’re built mainly for the road. And realistically speaking, RVs are not meant as permanent living situations. They were built for people to travel for long periods of time, but they don’t offer the same comfort as a tiny house.
Short Term versus Long Term Living
Realistically speaking, RVs aren’t meant for long-term living. If you plan to have a permanent dwelling, buying an RV may not be the best option. Don’t get me wrong: there are a lot of people who live in RVs for years, but it is unlikely that you will see an RV as a final destination for a home.
On the other hand, tiny houses provide a more permanent solution as it is manufactured to be a home, which means it’s planned and built to withstand the climate that it is on.
It typically calls for more investment in being stationery. This brings me to my next comparison: How much it will set you back.
Purchase and Maintenance Cost
There are two sub-criteria we base this round on: upfront cost and maintenance costs
On the basis of upfront cost, building or buying a tiny house (depending on the level of customization you will be doing) may be more expensive than the cost of purchasing an RV.
Because tiny houses are built for minimal movement / stationary living, you typically have to invest in the land where it stays most of the time.
And even then, tiny houses are usually constructed with more heavy-duty and better quality materials than an RV. Insulation, HVAC systems, roofing windows, plumbing systems, or even a deck, to name a few, ultimately bloat up the upfront cost.
On the other hand, RVs have more operating expenses. However, if the goal is to purchase and own a tiny home, this may be your option since they are typically cheaper. However, you need to take note that RVs typically have more operating expenses.
They have extra systems that need to be maintained (drive train, suspension, generators, holding tanks, et cetera) and checked regularly to ensure smooth operation and living.
You would also need to customize the RVs based on the climate and weather that you will be in – RV’s that are bought as-is are typically lower build quality.
If you want to see how much the upfront cost of a tiny house would be, you might want to check out our other article: The Ultimate Guide to Financing Your Tiny Home.
Final Decision: Tiny House or RV?
In the battle between tiny house versus RV, there is no omnibus winner – that is, if we are deciding on a general set of criteria. As you can see by the arguments made above, it is very much dependent on the lifestyle that you envision while you live tiny.
|If you’re looking for:|
Something that feels more permanent and stable
Something that you can customize to your heart’s desire
Something you can build a home in
Something that’s less costly to maintain
|If you’re looking for:|
Something that matches your sense of adventure and wonder
Something that’s more or less ready for your use
Something that will give you a bang for your buck with the experiences you’ll have.
|You’re better off choosing a Tiny House||You’re better off choosing an RV|
If you’re still not sure which option to choose, then it may be time for a test drive. That’s right! Tiny houses and RVs are both available for rent or purchase. This way you can see firsthand how they work with your own lifestyle before making the commitment of purchasing one.
So, what would it be? Would a small house or vehicle best suit your needs? You’ll need to consider who in life you want to be and what kind of long-term accommodation matches that.
Dan Mehta’s story is a cool mix of architecture and marketing – an architect’s eye for detail and a marketer’s knack for storytelling. Dan’s been on board with the tiny house movement right from the get-go, always keeping an eye on how these pint-sized spaces evolve. But what really gets him jazzed is finding creative solutions to decorating small spaces.