What is a tiny house, and what makes it different than an RV, park model, or mobile home?

Currently, the term "tiny house" remains undefined.

For some this amorphous idea of a tiny house provides for convenient loopholes in laws, for others the lack of definition leaves them along the roadside -- and living elsewhere full-time.

So it might be better to define a tiny house by what it's NOT.

Recreational Vehicle (RV)

A recreational vehicle (RV) is intended for non-permanent living situations like camping. They are up to 8'6" in width and do not require special licensing to drive (motor home) or tow (travel trailer).

In many states, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) only recognizes RVs that were built by members of the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). For now, a tiny house wheels may be deemed a "Home-built RV" and licensed as a utility trailer.

However, folks have been stopped at the borders of states and told they can't haul their tiny house through the state as its no longer a utility trailer once it resembles a house on wheels. Additionally, some states may require a change of status when licensing in another state, and seek proof of inspection and certification of its construction by certain recognized standards.

Park Model RV (PMRV)

Park Model Recreational Vehicles (PRMV) are sometimes called "park model mobile homes" or simply "park model" for short. Park model homes are actually a specific type of recreational vehicle (RV) and is intended for non-permanent living in campgrounds or RV parks.

Park model RVs are larger than regular RVs, usually no more than 12' wide and up to 400 sqare feet. While they are considered "temporary" in their status as RVs, many park models are towed only once in their lives - from manufacturer to leased camp site. Once properly anchored, many park model owners extend the footprint of the base park model with decking, sun rooms, and other outdoor living features.

Most campgrounds require park models to be built by certified manufacturers, and in some cases only specific manufacturers are allowed in the park to maintain consistency of the park's look, greater impression of quality, and high profit potential for parks that sell park models to their members.

According to the RVIA: "Park model RVs are actually titled and registered just like any other RV. Due to their design, small size and use as recreation, vacation and seasonal units, PMRVs are explicitly excluded from being considered or used as a manufactured home under the codes and regulations of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) specifically because they are a type of recreation vehicle (Title 24 § 3282.8(g))."

Many tiny houses are built to park model size, but certification from a third-party agency, like Pacific West Associates (PWA), is widely accepted as the ideal approach for securing hassle-free parking a tiny house at a dedicated campground.

Manufactured Home

Most tiny house on wheels (THOWs) are not currently considered manufactured homes as most are less than 320 square feet (HUD Minimum) and/or custom built by professionals or DIY home owner/builders. Some tiny house builders are starting to construct park models, though few have bridged the manufactured home classification due to stringent HUD guidelines.

National manufactured home standards specify that manufactured homes must be at least 8 foot wide, or 40 feet long, for a footprint of at least 320 square feet. A manufactured home and modular homes (formerly known as a mobile home) are built to the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards (HUD Code) and displays a red certification label on the exterior of each transportable section.

Each model of manufactured home is inspected by a third-party inspector, and built in the controlled environment of a manufacturing plant. One or more sections are built on a permanent chassis, with modules attached on-site. "Single wide" manufactured homes are approximately 13'-8" wide, and fully self contained. "Double-wide" manufactured homes are transported in two sections (hence "double wide") and attached together after towing to the site.

While some manufactured models are fully turnkey (move-in-ready), like single-wides, other components of the finished home may be conventionally constructed or installed on-site prior to an official Final Inspection and receipt a Certificate of Occupancy.

Questions or Comments

Contact us to discuss the differences and ways we can help you plan a home that meets your needs, RV standards, and local codes.