Mobile Homes vs Tiny Homes

Recent world events have many of us looking for cheaper housing options. Both tiny houses and mobile homes can serve people looking for a cheaper option, but the building requirements for each are markedly different. Your options for customizing a mobile home are limited, while your risk of unstable construction in a tiny house is higher because of the difference in building code.

Mobile Homes vs Tiny Homes - image of a mobile home

Tiny Houses

The tiny house movement of the last few decades has a strong emotional pull for those who are interested in minimalism and in ecologically friendly living.

There are also people drawn to the tiny house movement because they can build off-grid and not have to deal with building permits. While there are indeed building permits that standardize the building of manufactured tiny houses, there are many regions of the United States that do not require a permit for a house that is under a specific number of square feet.

Depending on where you choose to locate, your tiny house doesn’t even have to be on a trailer, though most are. It should be noted that, in addition to tiny houses on small trailers that are road-worthy and fairly easy to relocate, you can build a tiny house from a garden shed plan mounted on bricks or on a concrete foundation.

tiny home on a trailer

A truly mobile tiny house will be safer on a high quality trailer. For best portability, there are also upper limits for how tall your tiny home can be so it can be safely moved on a major highway. It’s also possible to live in a tiny house that can be moved seasonally to help you live comfortably and not deal with temperature extremes.

The population of your household will have a huge impact on whether or not a tiny home will work for you. Current recommendations are that people need from 200 to 400 square feet per person to live comfortably.

Modern housing offers more, often up to 600 square foot per human in a home. If you are part of a couple and want to go tiny, it’s a very good idea to be close to that 400 square foot maximum to provide everyone with the space and privacy they need.

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For those who live with their pets, it’s also a good idea to have a space for your animals to get out and play; a tiny house doesn’t really offer enough running room to get around and romp. Another challenge with a tiny house is storage. There is no traditional

  • basement
  • attic
  • garage

If you are responsible for maintaining your tiny house lot, you will likely need a space to store gasoline powered tools. This means a garage or a shed, which could well be larger than the house.

Mobile Homes vs Tiny Homes

Basic Differences

No matter the reason for your attachment to tiny houses, there are many structural differences available between the two different construction styles. Because mobile homes are built to a national code, someone buying a mobile home can expect to have easy access to

  • outgoing wastewater hookups
  • electrical connections
  • income freshwater hookups

It is entirely possible to build your own tiny house, live off-grid and not have standard utility connections as described above. Someone looking to purchase a second-hand tiny house needs to carefully review the quality of the original build and the utility connection options.

Someone interested in living in a very rustic situation could well thrive in a simply built tiny house. However, if you’re interested in moving into a home and hooking up to the grid, you should buy a mobile home.

Another large difference between a tiny home and a mobile home is the exterior treatment. A mobile home has been built to specifications and will include insulation, standardized roofing materials and generally metal cladding, though some manufactured homes have wood or hardboard.

There are movements among tiny house builders to construct the structure from recycled materials. This means that, from the exterior cladding in, the wood holding up the roof of your tiny house could be brand new or it could be aged and hard.

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While older wood may look terrific as an exposed beam in your tiny house, these two woods will continue to change as they age and may put unnecessary stress on your home.

If you are a taller person in need of a more movable house, a mobile home could well be a better choice. In regions where building codes are consistently applied, the minimum standard height of the habitable space in a tiny house is 6 feet 8 inches tall.

mobile home and tiny home images

Mobile Homes

Mobile homes are a more standardized style of construction. This standardized building code has been in place since the 1970s. Those who manufacture mobile homes must meet that standard for purchasers to be able to get funding.

While tiny homes are 400 square feet or less, mobile homes can actually be quite expansive in comparison.

For example, you can get a mobile home up to 28 feet wide and up to 74 feet long. Generally, these are only “mobile” in the sense that they can be put on a trailer and moved to their permanent installation site.

A 28 foot wide mobile home would be hauled in two 14 foot wide sides. Once it’s on the foundation and those two sides are connected to each other, the home is no longer mobile.

Mobile homes are also often referred to as manufactured homes. They are pre-built off-site, loaded onto a trailer, and relocated. Once it reaches the final destination, the manufacturing process is completed. This manufacturing process may also include final changes to the roof and electrical connections to be manufactured.

Both tiny homes and mobile homes can be an ideal fit for anyone looking for lower cost housing. If you have more than one person in the household, if you have children or if you have no construction skills, a mobile home is probably a smarter buy.

mobile home with landscaped yard

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