For those wanting to downsize and live a less materialistic life, the idea of living in an RV or moving into a tiny house seems quite appealing.
Lowering your cost of living and having more freedom to travel are significant aspects of simplifying your life, but what is the reality of RV and tiny home living?
In this article, I will give you the nine reasons it’s better to purchase an RV over a tiny home. Read on as I discuss cost, space, construction, mobility, and other points that make an RV a better choice.
9 Reasons an RV Is Better Than a Tiny Home
When deciding between an RV or a tiny house, these following reasons put RV living on top.
#1 – Cost
Per square foot, a tiny house can cost between $125 to $300 per square foot to build. This cost doesn’t reflect the price of the lot you plan to set it upon and the fact that most tiny homes fall between 200-900 square feet.
A new 24-foot travel trailer with around 220 square feet of space, comes in on average at the cost of $110 per square foot. This cost drops dramatically when you purchase a used camper just a few years old.
The price of a used tiny home will not decrease like a camper since many people are looking to recoup their investment when they sell or even make a profit since tiny homes are so popular in many areas like the Pacific Northwest.
#2 – Financing
The biggest reason an RV is better than a tiny home is being able to obtain financing if you need it. RV loans are as common as car loans but tend to run for 10-20 years depending on the cost of your recreational vehicle.
Paying for a tiny home will likely have to be with cash since banks shy away from making loans on something that doesn’t quite qualify as a house, nor as an RV.
Since many tiny homes are do-it-yourself projects, there can be no guarantee they meet building code standards and their individuality makes comparable sales to get an appraisal next to impossible.
You can find companies that build tiny homes that offer direct financing on their products, but a bank loan to purchase one in a private sale will be hard to come by.
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#3 – Insurance
Many states are trying to update codes and regulations to deal with the influx of tiny home building to categorize them as a legal residence. But for now, most tiny homes on wheels are difficult to get insurance coverage as a main residence.
The best you can hope for is your insurance carrier covering a tiny house on wheels as personal property if you agree to put the home on a permanent foundation. New problems will arise when you decide to move the tiny home to a different location that your insurance company deems unsuitable for coverage.
RVs are much easier to purchase insurance for, even for those who live in them full-time. Recreation vehicles clearly fit into a category legally insurable through many companies.
Think you can bypass trying to get a homeowners policy and get insurance on your tiny home on wheels as a recreational vehicle?
Expect insurance companies to only cover tiny houses on wheels as an RV if a certified RV manufacturer made it and it carries an RVIA (Recreational Vehicle Industry Association) seal.
#4 – Mobility
RVs are made to be driven to new locations. They are built with lightweight, yet sturdy materials that can withstand the vibrations and bumps of movement. Rvs are streamlined and create less wind resistance, so it’s easier to haul and use less fuel.
Even the longest of RVs will travel smoothly down highways, back roads, and maneuver through parking lots and gas stations. The exterior finish is made to withstand dirt, oil, and other grime that splashes onto your camper. A quick wash will remove road gunk in a few minutes.
A camper can be set up at a variety of locations with little hassle. They do not need to rely on connecting to power, water, and sewer systems to provide comfort.
Rvs also give owners the option of changing the scenery out their window in a heartbeat. You can pack up an RV and be ready to travel in less than an hour.
Exploring the sights and sounds of this country while bringing all the comforts of your home with you is a fantastic experience everyone should try at least once in their life.
In most U.S. states the maximum size for a vehicle traveling down the road is 8.5-feet wide, 13.5-feet tall, and 40-feet long. It cannot exceed 65-feet, including the tow vehicle. When many people build tiny homes, these measurements are not given much if any, consideration.
A tiny home, even one on wheels, is not meant to move about often. These homes are made of durable materials just as you would build a normal house. Wood framing, tile floors, double-pane windows, and shingle roof make the overall weight much heavier than an RV.
In fact, too much movement or jarring can cause severe damage to a tiny home structure. Most tiny homes are built with no thought to height restrictions, so moving them down roads with low bridges can be perilous.
Exterior damage can occur from dirt and oil that gets onto the house while traveling. Wood shake shingles or cedar siding isn’t as easy to remove grime from as the aluminum or fiberglass siding of an RV.
I saw a tiny home come into a campground that had to go the wrong way down the park road because it was too tall to fit under some power lines. Once the unit was in its campsite, the owner found out the sewer outlet, water connection, and the door was on the wrong side.
The park had to stop renting the site next to the tiny house because it was awkward for the people in a camper on the next site to have the owner of the tiny home walk out right onto their patio several times a day.
As shown in the example above, some campground management will allow a tiny home entrance to their park, but most will not because they don’t fit the typical size parameters of an RV and rarely do they carry the RVIA seal.
#5 – Fitting In
RVs are so common; most people don’t pay them much attention as they travel down the highway, or when the owner parks them in a driveway. They blend in nicely at campgrounds since most have a similar look and color scheme.
Tiny home design tends to lean toward the unique, which makes them stand out. Unless you plan to park your tiny home in a private location, expect neighbors or the enforcers of city codes to give you grief if your tiny home has an “out-there” design.
#6 – Interior Amenities
While the average size RV and most tiny homes share close to the same amount of interior space, the layout and design of RVs have been honed over the decades to provide excellent bang for the buck when it comes to functionality.
Beds and Bathrooms
Most tiny homes use lofts or modular sleeping spaces that means a ladder climb or furniture rearrangement when its time for bed, which can be hard on older people, small children, or those with mobility issues. No one wants to go down a ladder if they need to use the restroom during the night.
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Even the smallest of RVs have at least one bed on the main level that sits permanently on a frame. When it’s time for bed, there is no hassle to get there. Night time bathroom visits require no acrobats, with most RV bathrooms just a step or two from the bedroom.
RV kitchens can be minimalistic but provide everything you need to prepare meals. Convection/microwave ovens, large refrigerators, stovetop burners, and plenty of cabinet space with well-thought-out design make the space function better than you would expect. Better yet, manufacturers construct these elements with travel in mind, so they are more durable than standard equipment.
In a tiny home, you can expect extra counter space and all the typical kitchen amenities found in a home. The problems begin because many who build a tiny home think they must go “small”, so they install mini-fridges, “micro”waves, and two-burner stovetops, only to find out it doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to meal prep.
Spending more to renovate a bad kitchen design in a pricey tiny house can seem foolish, while the value of an affordable RV keeps increasing as you realize how well laid out they are, which makes your daily tasks easier.
Both RVs and tiny homes count on the great outdoors to expand the living area, since interior space is limited. In cases where a tiny home is in the 300-400 square foot range, you can find an array of RVs that offer more space and comfort than its tiny house counterpart.
There is something psychological that makes you feel less claustrophobic inside an RV. It may be the number of windows or just the feeling of freedom as you travel the country. Plus, you expect a camper to be small, so it seems like less of a big deal.
A tiny home looks and feels so much like a standard house that your mind tells you something isn’t quite right when it comes to the tight space. You begin to feel you are stuck in one room, which I suppose you are.
#7 – Bigger Selection
Tiny homes tend to be either cookie-cutter or extremely unique. A person has specific needs in mind when they build them, which makes it hard for a buyer to find one that fits their budget and lifestyle.
There will be a small inventory of tiny homes for sale in any region at any given time, making it hard to locate the perfect one.
In comparison, recreational vehicles come in hundreds of shapes and sizes, with just as many amenity choices, so it’s much easier to find a camper that’s perfect for your needs.
You can find new and used RVs at camper superstores, local car lots, for sale by owner through craigslist or other online posting sites, or just sitting near a busy road with a for sale sign in the window. You can easily find hundreds of RVs to choose from within a specific region of the country, making comparison shopping a breeze.
You can pick up an older RV in excellent condition for well under $10,000 and have plenty of money left to add the special touches to make it your own. The ability to locate even the largest of camper at an incredible deal is what makes RVs a step ahead of tiny homes when it comes to purchase options.
RV specific furniture, appliances, and decor make shopping for and installing new items simple. Even plumbing changes are more straightforward in an RV, and a job most RVers can tackle themselves.
Changes in a tiny home can be as basic as buying a gallon of paint, but other changes may need the skills of an expensive carpenter or plumber. Unless the original owners leave you with blueprints from the building process, you will be having to make educated guesses about where the location of the water, electric, and other utility lines are within your tiny home walls.
#8 – Heating and Cooling Efficiency
RV heating and cooling works wonderfully to keep people inside comfortable.
While no RV has insulation like a standard home, newer models are quite efficient since manufacturers know more and more people are camping year-round in all types of climate. Small rooms and low ceilings keep the cold air or heat just where you need it.
Tiny homes and their 2×4 framing allow for more and sometimes better insulation options than you find in an RV. The biggest issue with a tiny house is that most have a cathedral-style ceiling, which is a design feature that makes the interior feel larger.
Peak ceilings make the interior loft area, where they locate most beds, to feel hotter during the summer months because running the air conditioner makes cool air pool down low. Even the use of a good fan can’t alleviate the stifling heat felt when trying to sleep in a loft bed.
Tiny homes with peak ceilings also hold the heat near the roof during the winter, instead of down near the floor where most of your time is spent. So plan to feel snuggly warm when sleeping in a loft space during the winter months, but for most of the day, you will experience a bit of chill.
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#9 – RV Resale Is Easy
There are always a new group of people ready to join the RV community and are on the lookout to purchase a new or used RV.
With so much information on RV values available online for the different makes and models of campers, customers looking to buy have a good idea of what price is fair to pay.
Most RVers never make drastic changes to their camper that would make it less appealing to a buyer. Once an owner removes personal belongings and cleans, an RV can look pretty much like it did when new. This “generic” style makes it easy to sell at a nice price.
Finding buyers who like the look of your particular tiny house can be hard. Finding a buyer who has an available piece of property they can legally place it on is another matter entirely.
Knowing a fair price to sell your tiny home can be problematic. Unless a buyer falls blindingly in love with the design of your tiny house, you’ll have a hard time proving its value.
Just because you hire a designer and contractors, and spend top dollar on lumber, supplies, and appliances doesn’t mean someone else wants to help you recoup your initial investment.
When you decide to downsize, going with an RV is the better choice over a tiny home for most people. An recreational vehicle gives you the freedom to travel when you want, yet remain in one place for months on end is an option you have in an RV that you won’t find when living in a tiny house.
You can always choose to go down the tiny house route if you love RVing but want a more permanent living situation in the future. Watch the short video below to learn more about the differences between a tiny home and an RV.
What experience do you have when it comes to the benefits of an RV over a tiny home? Share your knowledge and help those who are unsure about which route to take!
Charles Joseph is one of the original authors of Camper Smarts from when it first started.
Product data was last updated on 2023-06-03 at 17:52.