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Just turn on the TV these days and you can’t help but notice the Tiny House craze that is going on across the nation.  While there are definitely some benefits to Tiny Houses, they may not necessarily outweigh the benefits of a manufactured home / mobile home.  The purpose of this article is to point out the major differences between mobile homes and tiny houses so that anyone who reads this can make a better informed decision on which way to go in the future.  

First of all, there are articles all over the internet that talk about tiny houses vs RVs, tiny houses vs mobile homes, tiny houses vs site built houses, etc.  I can’t really go into extreme detail on all of these in this article simply because it would end up being a novel.  I will touch a little on these other comparisons but will focus mainly on Tiny Homes vs Mobile Homes.  Now, getting to the point, let’s look at a few facts about these three and then do a comparison.    


RVs – Not larger than 400 sq. ft. (430 sq. ft. for 5th wheels).  Everyone knows that an RV is the most mobile of all.  RV’s are easy to take down, move and set back up in no time and require no special equipment (other than a vehicle) to get the job done.  Besides that one advantage, I personally don’t see any others that it has compared to tiny homes or mobile homes.  Most RV’s have a lot less insulation so they are not very efficient to heat and cool. The setup on them is that of a temporary nature therefore they wont be as safe in storms as a Mobile Home or Tiny Home (The ones built on slabs).  Finally, the overall structure of an RV isn’t built as heavy as Tiny Homes or Mobile Homes so they are more likely to be destroyed in the event of a major storm.  The name by itself infers its purpose…Recreational Vehicle.  If you want to live in a camper, travel all of the time and pay the associated fees with that then you probably need to buy an RV.  If this doesn’t sound like what you want as a permanent home then read on as we dive into comparing mobile homes and their differences to Tiny Homes.


Tiny Houses (Overview)- Obviously people everywhere are going crazy over Tiny Houses. Compared to a traditional site-built home they are way smaller, therefore they are way more efficient and generally a lot cheaper (NOT ALWAYS) as well.  The movement that is happening right now is one that has energy conservation and a smaller carbon footprint in mind.  Most of these homes are built with the same materials that traditional site built homes are, so they are very efficient in energy conservation due to their smaller size.  What typically happens with Tiny Houses though is that the price ends up not being so cheap.  A lot of the time, these homes cost $125 to $300 per square foot!  Although that may still be a lot cheaper than a regular full sized Site-Built Home, it doesn’t quite compare to the advantages of a smaller manufactured home.

As I mentioned before, there are articles and articles about Tiny Houses all over the internet that talk about their pricing.  Some people say they are building these for $10,000 and under.  I can pretty much guarantee you that most people could never accomplish building a home for this low of a figure. These stories of people building homes this cheap usually spend years in doing so, live in tents or shacks and freeze their tails off in the process.  Unless you have been rounding up a bunch of scrap materials and have managed to scrounge up enough to build a small house then $10,000 is an unrealistic goal.   Generally, there is always something that will have to be contracted out in order to make sure that things are installed correctly.  Electricians, Plumbers, and HVAC installers are three of the main contractors that come to mind and usually they are not very cheap.  Sometimes these homes are built on a slab and sometimes they are built with mobility in mind by keeping a frame under them for wheels and axles.  If a slab is to be used then most generally that would be contracted out as well.  Installing a concrete slab can also make the price go up pretty quick as well.

So, all of that being said, here are a few more of their negative aspects.  Most of the time, people try to build these themselves (DIY) and therefore they are not really built to any building codes per se.  Although a person might be able to build one on their own, it could also turn out to be hazardous.  Proper ventilation, electrical work, plumbing work and even wall structure/roof construction, among just a few things, are all very important things to pay attention to when building any structure.  Improper installation of any of these listed things can cause extreme damage to the home and or to people living inside of them.  There are also builders who specifically build these Tiny Homes for other people.  This helps alleviate the worry and stress of the construction process for the consumer.  In an essence, Tiny Homes are not really a Do-It-Yourself kind of project unless you are a Jack of all trades with a lot of general construction knowledge.  Also, if you talk to anyone who has ever built a home, they will tell you that you generally always end up going over budget.  The reason is simply because there is an unlimited amount of options to choose from.   When building a home a person is generally willing to spend a tad more to get something that they really like than just settle for something generic.  The good thing about Tiny Homes is the amount of customization that can be done…the bad thing about Tiny Homes is the amount of customization that can be done… catchin’ my drift?  

Mobile Homes/Manufactured Homes/Modular Homes (Overview)

Manufactured Home is the current word used for what were formerly known as Mobile Homes.  Manufactured Home is more of a modern term that designates homes built after HUD stepped in and started regulating all of the building codes.  Mobile Home is an older term that encompasses both mobile and manufactured homes.  The problem with mobile homes is all of the issues that have arisen from them in the past before there were strict regulations on building codes as well as setup guidelines.  Mobile Homes have been being constructed since the 50’s.  You can just imagine all of the issues involved with homes built nearly 70 years ago!  Generally, aluminum wiring, bad plumbing, terrible insulation factors, weak 2×2 construction in the walls and ceiling, poor aesthetic look and so on.  This continued to be the way that they were built up to the mid 80’s until HUD intervened.  A lot of these homes, however, are still around today and are being used for permanent and secondary homes.  This is a major cause of the negative impact that affects the Manufactured Home industry.  In addition to those poor building standards, there wasn’t any kind of strict setup laws until just recently within the last decade.  Therefore, according to most news stations, mobile homes are still considered not safe in storms because of all of the past problems with mobile homes and tornadoes (I have another blog that talks more in depth about mobile homes in storms if you want to get more into depth on that subject).  This is why the industry has focused on changing the name of the newer built homes to Manufactured Homes…to get away from all of the past issues with homes that were way inferior in quality and most generally installed incorrectly as well.  The main issue today though is that those older homes are still out there…still being lived in…still improperly setup and tied down and are a time bomb waiting to go off when a strong enough storm hits them.

So, with all of that being said, mobile homes have evolved into the Manufactured Homes of today.  They are built with the same materials as any typical site built home.  They use the same kind of plumbing, electric wiring, flooring, studs, appliances, insulation and so on.  Also, the construction code on these homes is ever changing for the better.  This gives consumers the assurance that what they are buying is up to the most recent standards in building code rules.  On top of these things, manufactured homes have increased dramatically in size and weight compared to their ancient ancestors.  In the 50’s, mobile homes were 8′ to 12′ wide and generally 60′ or under in length.  There are homes now that are 42′ to 48′ wide and up to 84′ long and weigh over 100,000 pounds!  Now, of course, that is way bigger than a Tiny House so I’m not trying to focus on those kind of Manufactured Homes but using it simply as a reference to how these homes have evolved over the years.  A small manufactured home these days is 14′ to 18′ wide and typically 40′ long and over.  They are built with choices of vinyl, concrete, rock or wood siding, shingled or metal roof, granite countertops, and so on.  In essence they are similar to a tiny home but a tad larger.  Modular Homes aren’t a lot different than a Manufactured Home except that they are built to the IRC code instead of HUD code.  The differences are minimal but I can tell you that the price is not.  To change a home to modular it is around a $10,000 increase or more.  The building costs go up and so do your excise taxes making them overpriced in my opinion.  Unless you are required to have a modular in whatever area you are in, they are an unnecessary waste of money…according to me!


What type of foundation is required?

Manufactured Homes – Dirt but concrete runners may be used.  Slabs can be used but are unnecessary since blocks are still required for setup.

Tiny Homes – Dirt but a slab may be used

How much do they cost?

Manufactured Homes –  New homes can generally be purchased, setup and installed with HVAC for around $27,000 and up

Tiny Homes – Minus the rare occasional jack of all trades builder, these homes generally cost $25,000 and up.  Most of the time, a completed house that looks nice and is built properly will cost $50,000 to $70,000 (according to the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company which is one of the largest suppliers of Tiny Houses)

How big are they?

Manufactured Homes – 14′ wide and 40′ long is about the smallest that you will see.  Most 2 Bedroom homes are 14′ to 16′ wide and 48′ to 56′ long.  That equates to 560 to 784 square feet for smaller singlewide homes.

Tiny Homes – Generally 8′ wide and no longer than about 26′ long.  That equates to 189 to 298 square feet.

How much do they weight?

Manufactured Homes – Smaller homes usually weigh 25,000 to 30,000 pounds.

Tiny Homes- Most common sizes weigh 8,000 to 10,000 pounds (Yikes!!)

How much do they cost per square foot?

Manufactured Homes – Cheaper and smaller homes generally cost $30-$40 per square foot ( YES you read that correctly)

Tiny Homes – Who knows?  Its a broad range depending on what quality you want.  For the most part $100 per square is a good average for the most basic small house.  Some homes are upward of $300 per square foot (YES you read that correctly as well)

How long does it take to build them?

Manufactured Homes –  About 1 week.  They are built on an assembly line so they are are very efficient in getting them built quickly.

Tiny Homes –  Around 1 month for a professional and 4 months for a DIYer that knows what they are doing and works at it on their off time.

Are they safe in storms?

Manufactured Homes – A properly tied down home is able to withstand F3 tornado winds…YES!  They can actually withstand as much or more than a lot of Site-Built Homes.

Tiny Homes – All that I will say is that when these things start getting placed in neighborhoods all over the place and tornados start hitting them, the news will start including Tiny Homes as not safe in storms…. Just a prediction!  They are basically a glorified camper when you compare them in size and weight.  Tiny Homes built on slabs like a traditional house, however, won’t blow over like their counterparts that remain portable but I would still be cautious until they have been proven to withstand what manufactured homes have.

Are they efficient to Heat and Cool?

Manufactured Homes – Yes.  They are insulated to HUD codes based on the region that they are in.  They can also be ordered with upgraded insulation which makes them even more efficient than the required baseline.  Many studies go into manufactured homes every year trying to make them nicer and more efficient day by day.

Tiny Homes – Their small size will naturally make them very efficient as long as they are using good insulation and the proper values required for whatever region they are in.

Can they be financed easily?

Manufactured Homes – Yes.  The home is the collateral.  If it is setup permanently on land then it can easily be finance as a land/home loan.  They also are approved for Conventional, FHA, and VA financing since they are built to HUD code.  25% of all homes in the U.S. are manufactured homes so finding a comparable sale for an appraisal is generally pretty easy.

Tiny Homes – Not really.  Companies that build them are now offering financing on them.  There aren’t a lot of Tiny Homes out there yet so selling them and finding a comparable sale to get them to appraise for a loan would be quite difficult.  This also makes banks reserved on loaning money on them to begin with.  This may change in the future but for now, finding good financing will be a challenge.


In my totally biased opinion Manufactured Homes win of course!

Here are my reasons:  

  1. They are two or three times the size of Tiny Homes.
  2. They are two or three times cheaper than Tiny Homes.
  3. Although maybe not quite as efficient as Tiny Homes, they are still very efficient so the difference over time would be minimal.
  4. They can be bought, moved, setup, and ready to be moved in to in a fraction of the time.
  5. They are built using strict codes.
  6. They are set up using strict codes
  7. They are easy to re-sell and get financed.

Of course there are more reasons than what I listed above but I think I have made my point now several times over!

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