Tiny House vs RV: Distinctions To Know Before Making The Jump

inside an RV trailer

Downsizing has become a powerful trend in recent years. Homeowners increasingly state that they would rather move into a smaller house than a larger one. However, some people take that trend to the extreme by going even smaller. If you want to join them, you have two main choices: tiny house vs. RV.

Downsizing offers lots of attractive perks for homeowners of all types. Retirees may want a place with fewer stairs and less maintenance. Young people may prefer a smaller place that suits their minimalist lifestyle. No matter what your reasons are, you may find yourself considering the merits of a tiny house vs. RV.

To help you make the right choice, we took a deep dive into the pros and cons of a tiny house vs. RV. Once you’ve made your decision, you’ll be ready to embark on the exciting new adventure of living small.

The Benefits of Downsizing

For many years, the American Dream seemed to revolve around the biggest suburban house money could buy. So why does downsizing suddenly sound so appealing to so many people?

Choosing between a tiny house vs. RV might sound wild until you’ve considered the perks of living in a small space. But once you take a close look at the benefits, it’s hard to imagine wanting to live in a full-size home anymore.

Just a few of the perks of downsizing include:

  • For many years, the American Dream seemed to revolve around the biggest suburban house money could buy. So why does downsizing suddenly sound so appealing to so many people?
  • Choosing between a tiny house vs. RV might sound wild until you’ve considered the perks of living in a small space. But once you take a close look at the benefits, it’s hard to imagine wanting to live in a full-size home anymore.
  • Lower cost of living
  • Less maintenance
  • Easier cleaning
  • Less room to accumulate stuff you don’t need
  • More incentive to explore your city or the outdoors

Overall, many people find that when they live in a smaller home, life becomes easier. Instead of stressing about cleaning, hefty utility bills, and whether or not to upgrade the furniture, you’re faced with fewer options and a lot less work.

Plus, when you live in a small space, you’ll no longer feel pressured to host big gatherings or out-of-town visitors.

What Is a Tiny House?

a wooden tiny house

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When it comes to downsizing, you have several options. Many people simply choose a smaller house than the one they had before. But for those who want to commit to an even smaller lifestyle, your choices are a tiny house vs. RV.

A tiny house can be as small as 100 square feet, and typically is no bigger than 500 square feet. That means you can actually choose from a range of tiny house sizes. The larger ones can feel no smaller than an ordinary apartment, while the smallest ones will challenge you to use every square inch wisely.

Why Choose a Tiny House?

small kitchen

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The popular “tiny house movement” really got going during the Great Recession that started in 2008. The resulting housing crisis forced people to rethink the way they lived. The modern trend towards minimalism probably also got its start at the same time.

Many people choose tiny houses because they retain the perks of a traditional home, just in a smaller format. While they can be put on wheels, people often choose to install their tiny home on a piece of property. You can have your house, your yard, and your picket fence if you’d like -- all for far less than the cost of building a traditional home.

Tiny houses often appeal most to people who want a life in the country, or even off the grid. However, tiny home communities have also cropped up in cities in recent years.

What Is an RV?

an RV trailer

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An RV offers a small-living alternative to the tiny house.

RV stands for “recreational vehicle.” By definition, these living spaces are meant to go places. Some RVs have their own built-in motors, while others let you hitch them to the back of a car or truck when you want to go somewhere else.

RVs also include living quarters inside. RVs have more limited floor plans than tiny homes since they also need to be able to go on the road. They’re designed to hook up to water, sewer, and electric at different locations as you travel. Many people use RVs for vacations. However, some people also make RVs their permanent living spaces.

Why Choose an RV?

Why Choose an RV?Even before the Great Recession’s housing crisis, many people in the U.S. lived in their RVs. While RV living is still slightly niche, it’s been a subset of recreational travel for many years. And today, RV living has become even more popular.

Living full-time in an RV allows people to embrace their nomadic sides. While you can choose to put your RV in an RV park for long periods of time, you’re also free to roam as you please. Once you get used to it, setting up your RV at a new campground and prepping it for the road when you leave becomes a breeze.

You don’t need to have property to house an RV -- you just need to find an appealing RV park and pay the fees. In the tiny house vs. RV debate, RVs usually offer more freedom.

Tiny House vs. RV: How Much Does It Cost?

As you try to decide between a tiny house vs. RV, one question will probably loom: how much does it cost?

Not everyone decides to downsize for financial reasons. But even if budget isn’t your main concern, you’ll still want to know what expenses to expect.

Most tiny homes cost about $30,000 to $40,000. However, they can cost as little as $10,000, and as much as $180,000.

However, keep in mind that you won’t need to pay for only the cost of the home. The cost of the property, zoning fees, insurance, and other typical home expenses will add to the total bill.

For an RV, you’ll pay an average of $122,000 for a new model, and $35,000 for a used one. Your utilities will stay far lower than they would in a home, and the cost of parking your RV depends on where you park it. RV parks can get pricey at $50 a night or so. However, state and national parks are often much cheaper.

While the upfront cost of an RV compares to that of a tiny house, you have more flexibility in your monthly costs depending on where you park it. But keep in mind that if you travel a lot, you’ll also need to budget for the cost of gas.

Tiny House vs. RV: The Pros and Cons

Still not sure which to pick in the tiny house vs. RV debate? Let’s balance the pros and cons of each choice.

Tiny House Pros

One of the main benefits of a tiny home? Customizability.

While you can find some existing tiny homes for purchase, most of the time, you’ll design the home yourself. That means you can create the layout that works best for you. In an RV, you’ll face more limitations.

You can also easily change the decor in a tiny home to your liking. It’s relatively simple to add a fresh coat of paint or put in a new floor. RVs tend to limit your decorating options more.

Many people also love how environmentally friendly tiny homes are. You can design them for maximum efficiency. And unlike RVs, you won’t often be using gas to move your tiny home to new locations.

Tiny House Cons

While tiny homes offer lots of benefits, you’ll also need to consider these drawbacks.

First, they don’t offer the same portability that an RV does. While you can move most tiny homes without much trouble, they aren’t suited for full-time life on the road. If you’re more of a nomad, the tiny house may not be for you.

With a tiny house, you’ll also face some financing challenges. These homes don’t usually qualify for traditional mortgages. You’ll need to find other lending options to pay for your home.

a tiny house

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Zoning laws can pose another challenge. Some areas actually have minimum required sizes for dwellings. If your tiny house isn’t big enough, you may need to park it on a property that has an existing traditional home instead.

RV Pros

RV trailer taking a curve road

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Does an RV win the tiny house vs. RV debate? Let’s check out the benefits of RV living.

An RV offers the ultimate freedom when it comes to living spaces. If you live in an RV, you can easily travel the country and see new sights. You can make new friends as you go and visit friends and family far away without ever buying a plane ticket.

That also allows you to take control of your monthly expenses. If the RV park you’re at gets too costly, you can just pack up and find a more affordable spot. And your utility costs will stay minimal compared to the costs in a house (even a tiny one).

RV Cons

What’s a benefit for some people can become a drawback for others. If nomadic living doesn’t suit your lifestyle, living in an RV may not work well for you.

For example, many people still have jobs that require them to stay in the same area. If you work a conventional job, you won’t often get to enjoy the nomadic possibilities of RV living. You won’t have the option of traveling far away if the RV park hikes its fees, or annoying new RV neighbors move in.

RVs also offer limitations in lifestyle. In a tiny home, for example, you can install state-of-the-art kitchen appliances and create a layout that maximizes the space.

But in an RV, you’re often limited in what appliances you can get, since the layout doesn’t offer much flexibility. It’s easy to build a luxurious, modern tiny home, but RVs don’t give you as many options.

With an RV, you also tend to sacrifice privacy. In parks, you’re close to the neighbors, with no yard of your own. Other people’s noise, lights, and lifestyles can easily disrupt yours. But you can’t always take an RV too far from civilization unless you’re willing to sacrifice water and electricity.

Tiny House vs. RV: Which One Is Right for You?

So, which choice is right?

While everyone’s situation is different, there are some clues that can tell you how to choose between a tiny house vs. RV.

If you want the traditional feeling of having a house, but simply want to downsize, a tiny house will probably work best. Many tiny homes feel no different from traditional homes, aside from being smaller. You’ll need to use the space wisely, but you won’t sacrifice the traditional comforts of home.

If you’re more inclined to adventure and travel, you may want to choose an RV instead. They’re ideal for people who don’t care too much about a chic, modern living space or lots of privacy. If you want to meet new people, see the country, and gather great stories along the way, RV living could suit you well.

How to Buy a Tiny House

So you’ve made your choice and you’re ready to buy. How does it work?

The main thing you’ll need to secure for a tiny house is the funding. Look into personal loans, or borrow against your current home equity, to finance your new home. Make sure you have a space to put it and check your local zoning laws to make sure there won’t be any problem with the plot of land.

Then, you can either find a pre-existing tiny home retailer or hire a contractor to build the tiny home of your dreams.

How to Buy an RV

When buying an RV, start by looking over your budget and deciding whether a new or used RV will work best for your needs. Then, you can start shopping around at RV dealers -- most dealers will also help you secure financing.

If you do buy a used RV, make sure to also factor the cost of potential repairs into your budget. There may be damage that you can’t see right away.

Consider waiting until the end of “RV season” (when the cooler months arrive), so you can get the best deal. Negotiate to get the best price, and try to be patient until you find the RV that’s just right for you.

Ready to Downsize Your Lifestyle?

Now, you’re completely ready to decide between a tiny house vs. RV. There’s no one right answer -- it’s all about knowing your needs and wants and choosing the new living space that fits them best.

When you downsize, you’ll join thousands of other people who’ve happily done the same thing. While the small space may feel challenging at first, you’ll welcome the challenge before long. The perks of having less space to clean, take care of, and pack with needless stuff will pay off fast.

Tiny house vs. RV -- which will you choose after all you’ve learned? Leave a comment and let us know which one speaks to you!

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