RV Or Tiny House?

In a previous article, we touched on the differences between RVs and campers. We also explained how all campers are RVs, but not all RVs are campers. In this guide, we would like to explore the differences between an RV and a Tiny House. 

When you are looking at your next recreational vehicle - or perhaps mobile residence - is a Tiny House or an RV better for you? Read on and decide for yourself.

What Is An RV?

To summarize our previous post (mentioned above), a Recreational Vehicle is a motor vehicle or trailer that includes living quarters designed explicitly for accommodation. Essentially, it’s a vehicle used for recreational purposes, built to sleep in and stay overnight. 

Self-propelled RVs can be as small as a panel van or longer than a bus, with some over 40 feet in length. They can be as spartan or luxurious as you desire. Typically called Motorhomes, there are several classes. Campers are RVs too, albeit unpowered ones that must be towed with a separate vehicle. 

What Is A Tiny House?

In many ways, the answer to this question is as simple as you would expect; it’s a tiny house. For the sake of specificity, a “tiny house” can be categorized as a dwelling with an interior floor area of less than 400 sq. ft., excluding lofts. These are homes that are focused on promoting a simpler, minimalist lifestyle. It makes great holiday homes, as they offer a more “home-like” experience.

According to the 2018 Residential Code (Appendix Q), a dwelling with a total interior floor area of less than 400 sq. ft. (excluding lofts) qualifies as a tiny house. These dwellings typically have all the utilities one would expect from a traditional home, such as electricity (which can be off-grid through solar and battery storage), water (which can also be off-grid via rainwater collection), and internet service providers. Some suggest that tiny homes offer a more “home-like” experience than an RV and thus are more appealing to certain segments of the population.

Can You Move A Tiny House?

The short answer is yes, it can - but it must be built on a wheeled chassis. It must also be made to certain dimensions in order to meet specific requirements for highway transportation. The advantage of a wheeled tiny house, in comparison to an RV, is that a tiny home is often custom-built to the owner’s specifications. Thus, it can include any desired amenities, such as heating and air conditioning. 

These homes are also considered to be more insulated and weatherproof than RVs, as they are built more akin to a traditional house. To get around its size constraints, wheeled Tiny Houses can be equipped to have modules that extend outwards when parked, thus expanding the interior volume - similar to the slide-outs on an RV. 

To summarize:

  • Yes, if built on a wheeled chassis. However, it must be made to a certain width and height.
  • Some models feature pull-out sections to increase interior area when parked.
  • It generally offers better weatherproofing and insulation than RVs.
  • It can be installed with amenities such as heating and air conditioning.

Stationary Or Wheeled?

Both options have their advantages and disadvantages. Wheeled Tiny Houses offer excellent mobility but have constraints due to size and shape. They are also considered RVs at locations like RV parks, so you will need to incorporate RV standards. 

You must also consider that zoning and building regulations across the country prohibit you from purchasing land and building a tiny house on it. As an alternative, you must build an accessory dwelling unit, categorized as a secondary residential dwelling unit located on a single-family lot.

Cost

The used RV market is vast, and one can find various options. The process of buying an old RV and fixing it up has become a family activity and growing tradition in recent years. It allows RV owners to attempt some form of customization during the process. In contrast, a tiny house must be constructed from the ground up, though you can customize many aspects. 

Bear in mind that even if a state allows you to build a Tiny House on a plot of land, you can’t just drive to the lumber depot and do it yourself. A qualified and registered contractor must perform the work. All state and federally regulated inspections must also take place to be in compliance. 

If you are building a wheeled Tiny House, bear in mind that it must meet RV codes and regulations, and once again, you will likely need to pay a professional to build it for you. 

Summary

While an RV may be a better option for some - due to cost, inventory, and available options - tiny houses offer their own inherent benefits that may prove ideal for your lifestyle. At the end of the day, you must decide which benefits and drawbacks are most profound in your decision. We hope this guide has provided some general guidance towards making the best choice.