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RV vs Tiny House: 6 Reasons a Tiny Home Is Better Than an RV

This post was updated on June 5th, 2020

In today’s culture, it’s becoming a lifestyle choice to bypass the more material things in life and focus more upon experiences and relationships instead.

One way to accomplish this is to downsize living arrangements and live in a tiny house or RV. Choosing a small residence can free people from the financial burdens that occur with typical home ownership, and the time it requires to maintain it.

So what is the better option for those looking to downsize, a tiny home or a recreational vehicle?

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Follow along as I give you the six reasons a tiny home is better than an RV as a permanent residence like:

  • Customization options
  • Weather protection
  • Maintenance
  • Outdoor space
  • Plumbing/Electrical systems
  • Location

I even discuss three of the best places in the country that welcome tiny home living.

Customization Options

Tiny home in better than an RV

A tiny home can be made on a flatbed trailer with wheels so you can transport the house to its permanent site, or move it between properties. Once you buy the heavy-duty trailer to build your tiny home on, you can create any type of atmosphere you desire both inside and out.

For tiny homes built on a cement foundation, the layout and design can be even more unique. Flexibility in the tiny home’s footprint can allow for more of a broader, square shape, a large bathroom, and windows that make the most of the views.

A tiny home is built like a standard frame home and has all the appeal of a stable, cozy structure. Customization in the cabinetry, exterior siding, roof lines, tiling, and options for bed locations make a tiny home much more suitable to your taste and needs.

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RVs have come a long way in design and amenities, but you’ll never escape the feeling of being inside a tin and fiberglass box. Lightweight materials are a must when constructing a camper, to keep it fuel-efficient. Ceilings must stay below a certain height for the RV to travel under bridges and power lines.

A tiny home makes you feel like you are in a real house, not taking a weekend camping trip. Solid walls and roof, lofted ceilings, and small porches add a sense of security and space not found in an RV.

Building or purchasing a tiny home will be more expensive than buying an RV with the same square footage, but the quality of materials used in the house construction cannot compare with those put inside an RV.

You can reduce the cost of a tiny house building project by using reclaimed materials, doing most of the work yourself, and eliminating unnecessary amenities that you’ll probably never use, like a dishwasher.

There’s plenty of craftsmanship that goes into a tiny house, with builders coming up with clever solutions to storage dilemmas. The appeal of a tiny home is you can make it anything you want it to be like a house with a beachy vibe, a rustic cabin, or a modern dwelling with walls of glass.

Even the most expensive of RVs cannot give you such a unique living space unless you decide to spend plenty of money to make major renovations inside your camper. Unfortunately, the outside of your RV will have to remain the same.

RVs are vehicles by their definition under the law, and you can expect campers to depreciate quickly like a vehicle. This reason is why buying a new RV is a poor investment if you don’t plan to live in it full time.

Tiny houses can hold or increase their value to the right buyer, much like a standard home.

Weather Protection

Tiny home and weather protection

Tiny homes are built strong and can withstand seasonal weather fluctuations. These homes have better insulation than an RV, which helps in heating and cooling costs.

Solid roofs and walls will give you a sense of safety you’ll never feel inside an RV during a terrible thunderstorm.

You certainly won’t feel your tiny house rocking in the wind, especially if it’s on a permanent foundation. Lightning seems less daunting when a solid roof is over your head, not a thin layer of metal.

A large branch falling onto your RV during a storm can cause a whole lot of damage, whereas a tiny home structure can withstand this barrage of the elements much better.

You may only have to repair a small section of a tiny house roof, unlike an RV where you not only have to replace the metal roof sheeting, but also any rubber roof on top of the sheeting, as well as damage to the air conditioner or vents that are on top of the RV.

RVs do have a propane furnace option that will work to keep your camper warm during cold spells, but recreational vehicles are not made with the intention of full-time, cold-climate living.

For those who want to live in a region of the country that experiences many months of cold to freezing temperatures, a tiny home is a much cozier choice over an RV.

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Tiny homes are not subject to the continual movement that causes wear and tear as it does on an RV. Even when you do move a tiny house, it typically only travels a short distance to its permanent site.

Quality construction keeps walls and roofing materials intact on tiny homes, so cracks and leaks occur less frequently than you would find in an RV. Windows are built within strong framing that keeps them from warping and not closing correctly.

Tires will not get worn as fast since you seldom move the home. There may be no tires at all if you place the home on a foundation. There is no engine to worry about, as you would have with a motorhome.

If a tiny home is not on wheels, you don’t need a vehicle registration, tags, or insurance as you would an RV.

Cleaning and the occasional inspection of the roof, appliances, and water lines are all you need to take care of when you own a tiny house.

Maintenance on a camper is a routine chore with weekly inspections of roof seams window trim water fittings, and more to keep water damage from leaks occurring.

Washing and waxing of an RV are another frequent task owners must deal with to keep dirt, road grime, and harsh UV rays from the sun ruining the RVs exterior surface.

Quality stain or exterior paint on a tiny home will hold up to the elements for years.

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Outdoor Space

Tiny home on wheels

Another great reason a tiny home beats out an RV for permanent residency is the ability to create an outdoor space that you don’t have to pack up, as you would every time you move campsites in your RV.

A patio, vegetable garden, flowers, or even a pond can be a daily pleasure when you landscape around your tiny home. You can invest in a bit more personal outdoor comfort because you have no concerns over the size of your patio furniture, firepit, or grill.

If you have pets, a tiny home is less stressful for you and the animal. You can set up a fence or have a larger area for your dog to roam when you leash them up to a post.

Many campgrounds forbid pet fences, and you must keep your pet on a leash and within the boundaries of your small campsite at all times. You’ll also have the noise of other campers and pets on walks near your campsite that can rile up or stress out your pet.

For those who love gardening, living in an RV means lugging around potted plants. Like most full-time RVers, you’ll find dealing with watering and moving them in and out of your RV when traveling is more hassle than it’s worth.

Most tiny homes are set on a private piece of land, with plenty of outdoor space to set up exactly as you wish. While many campgrounds offer cool amenities such as a pool, you must share them with other guests, which can offset the relaxation value.

When you fulltime in an RV you’ll find most campgrounds will have a neighbor within 20 feet of your front door. Campsites in favorite tourist locations will be even tighter, with the camper in the next spot a mere ten feet away.

Plumbing and Electrical

Some tiny home builders select RV-type plumbing like holding tanks for wastewater, hose inputs for fresh water supply, and a composting or RV style toilet. This choice makes it easier for them to take the tiny home to a campground if they so choose.

Electrical lines put inside conduit are safer than wires held in place with staples as you would find inside most RVs. You can install a breaker box with enough amperage to run all your appliances inside your tiny home.

A tiny home can hook directly to a town’s power grid, or they can go with a solar-power option if they wish to be off the grid.

When you have grid power to your tiny home, you won’t have to juggle summer meal cooking because you can run the air conditioner, microwave, and crock pot at the same time. A state-of-the-art solar-power system can provide all the electricity you’ll ever need.

In an RV, you have to pick and choose which appliances you can run at one time. If you overdo it, expect to have to either reset your breaker inside your camper or at the power pedestal when it blows from too much amperage pull.

When an RV is set up for a solar-power option, there will be limits to the power it can create because solar panel installation is limited to the size of the RV roof, and the space available to place the bank of batteries you’ll need to store the power.

For anyone who has experience with the typical RV toilet, sink, and shower set up you’ll know why it’s more comfortable to have the standard plumbing fixtures found in most tiny homes.

You won’t have to worry about how full your RV grey and black water tanks are or worry about clogs in the toilet from low water-flow flushing that you find in most camper toilets. You won’t have to squish into a shower/tub combo barely big enough to sit in, let alone stand in and still have the room to wash.

A tiny home affords you plenty of space to place a full-size shower or bathtub inside. A standard flushing toilet reduces clogs. Sewer and water lines, if readily available, can be hard-piped in to provide the most comfort for your tiny house and eliminate the dumping of tanks and hooking up of hoses for water.

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Another thing that makes a tiny home better than an RV is the space to install a stackable washer and dryer in the home, simplifying laundry duties.

You won’t have weekly dragging of your dirty clothes to the campground laundry room only to find out all the machines are full. When they are empty, you can expect to pay $3-$6 to wash a dry each load.


Tiny house shed on wheels near lake

A safe, affordable, and comfortable tiny home will only be a dream come true if you can place it in an ideal location. The location must meet local codes to be a legal residence and for you to acquire a homeowner’s insurance policy.

Many parts of the country are behind the times when it comes to tiny homes and having them categorized, so everyone is happy. Communities are missing out on residents being able to live a more simple lifestyle that puts less stress on the town infrastructure, while the county collects property taxes.

Luckily, many jurisdictions are putting new rules and regulations in place to deal effectively with the influx of people who wish to live in tiny homes.

A tiny home has to be less than 399 square feet to avoid all the current federal regulations on home construction. If a home has less than 200 square feet and is stationary, a good number of local governments will consider the structure a shed, and therefore be under no regulation restrictions at all.

If you place a tiny home on private land that already has a principal residence, the tiny house can be either be cast as a shed, guest house, studio space or another type of structure allowable under local codes and that can carry personal property insurance.

So if you can’t afford to purchase land to place your tiny house, consider building it as an accessory dwelling on someone else’s lot. The Federal Housing Administration consider accessory dwellings as a habitable living unit sitting on a property with a single-family home.

For those looking for a location that embraces the tiny house movement, look into the cities below for the least amount of hoop-jumping when it comes to owning and living in a tiny home.

The Three Best Cities for Tiny House Living

1. Fresno, California has encouraging zoning laws for those with tiny houses. The town appreciates the needs of its constituents when it comes to small homes, and wants to promote a more sustainable lifestyle.

Fresno, in the San Joaquin Valley, has some of the most tolerant and groundbreaking local ordinances when it comes to tiny home dwellings for permanent residency. The city was one of the first localities to get onboard with the tiny home movement.

In 2016, the city’s codes for zoning and development let tiny houses to be considered backyard cottages, even those built on wheels. This change in the law means tiny homes can now be constructed or set up on the property as a permanent living space in a single-family home’s backyard.

The zoning and development code even allow tiny houses with wheels, which are usually treated like RVs and have parking restrictions, to be able to reside in traditional neighborhoods.

Tiny houses in Fresno do have some requirements, like having a 100-square-foot minimum on the first-floor living space and having a bed, cooking area, and a functioning bathroom.

2. Rockledge, Florida has made it legal to place a tiny house on wheels or a foundation within its city limits.

The home has to have a minimum of 170 square feet and must be at least 8.5 feet wide. Any tiny home on wheels must be towable by a bumper hitch and register with the local DMV.

3. Durango Colorado chose in 2014 to allow accessory dwelling units to offset the high housing prices in the area that made home ownership out of the reach of many.

Tiny homes can now legally be set in a single-family home backyard as long as they are on a permanent foundation. Tiny homes on wheels are still under restriction from this code, but they are now able to park the units in some manufactured home neighborhoods.

Escalante Village is a new riverfront tiny house community set to open this spring, for anyone looking to find a place near other like-minded individuals.

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Tiny houses are a much better choice for those who intend to stay in one location for at least several years. For those wanting to downsize, but want to keep working at their present job, a tiny home can reduce monthly expenses dramatically. This extra income can be set aside for retirement, or put in use for more travel experiences.

A tiny home is also ideal if you find yourself returning year after year to the same location to camp. Buying a tiny home at that location is a smarter move than traveling back and forth with an RV.

I hope this article provides you more insight into the reasons a tiny home is better than an RV. For more of what to expect with the average size tiny house, watch this video that tours models people are building themselves or that you can purchase ready-made.

Why do you love your tiny home? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Product data was last updated on 2024-04-17 at 20:43.

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