tiny houses vs RVs

In this episode of Tiny House Chat we talk about the age old questions – maybe even debate – of why not just buy an RV?  What is the difference between a Tiny House and a RV or motor home?   We get into the details of this and what you should consider when choosing an RV or a tiny house.


Show Notes:

  1. I sold my home, bought a Coachman RV and hit the road on January 26, 2006. First discovery, no insulation between furnace and exterior wall. Second discovery, assembly of interior paneling was done with staples. Third discovery, no way to easily access the bunk over driver. Fourth discovery, no real closure lock on cabinet doors (found that when dishes flew out of cabinet on a left turn). Fifth discovery, the support arm of lift door on the rear exterior storage locker had already torn its tiny screws out of back of the door. Without a support arm the heavy door had the potential of cutting off a finger. All this in the first few days on the road. I am a retired construction manager and know crap construction. Unfortunately I didn’t look carefully, too excited about being on the road. I spent a lot of time patching and fixing…not easy when you are on the road. Later discoveries included finding no solid attachment between fiberglass exterior panel (microscopically thin) and structure. Direct sun makes fiberglass sheet lift off backing in places, effectively bubbling. Bottom of outer walls capped with small “c” channel. This is just above ground and takes a lot of abuse from road water, sand and litter. When it fell off I found the insulation between inner and outer panels was 3/4 inch corrugated cardboard which was very wet on a hot dry New Mexico day. My conclusion was even the best RV brands are junk. I plan on building an easily movable tiny house and the difference between my RV and my tiny house will be crap construction vs. a well built durable living unit. The only RV I would buy is the VW bus, all the rest are trash built.

  2. I agree with all of the statements regarding lack of insulation and the poor quality of construction with RV’s. I live in a 2004 26ft Safari Trek in Portland, Oregon and I have replaced many things under the extended warranty and now it is out of warranty and I keep my fingers crossed that nothing huge decides to die. I do have blue prints for a custom tiny home and I would like to build one when I determine where I would like to retire.
    The one caveat I would like to mention, is that living in an RV for a month or a period of time will provide you with invaluable information to determine how you will live in a small space. You could also visit the Tiny house hotel in Portland and stay in several different tiny homes and see how it feels for you.

  3. Tiny House: No engine repair required therefore auto mechanic skills not necessary to be self-sufficient
    Tiny House: Appliances are usually the same (or very close) as in a normal house so it’s easier and cheaper to maintain or replace.
    Tiny House: Care, maintenance and repair are less specialized and skills/experience in normal house care, maintenance and repair will apply.

    I have owned an RV and it was a nightmare for me because everything (EVERYTHING!) was specialized for that year/make/model. Parts were very difficult to locate and very expensive. Every system (stove, refrigeration, HVAC, etc.) required special tools and knowledge that only an RV specialist had. Every system required it’s own monthly/yearly maintenance program. Just like any vehicle the engine needed regular maintenance;OK, fine. Now multiply that times each of the on-board systems.

    Keep up the excellent work!

  4. You were talking about cooling. This is more a difference between (mobile) tiny houses and regular houses, but it seems to me with a tiny house you can site it under a substantial tree to ease cooling loads, both because it is small and because it is movable. With a regular house there are not many trees that can cover the whole thing, and you are stuck with what is already there, unless you want to plant an acorn and wait for a hundred years.

    Also with a tiny house on wheels there is at least the possibility of seasonal movement to take advantage of sun in winter and shade in summer, seems to me.

    This is just conjecture on my part since I don’t have one yet.

  5. I plan to have both. But the 5th Wheel-Toy hauler first. Travel will help me find where I desire a tiny home.
    Tiny home is where I will have a large garden and grow a late harvest crop like cabbages and peppers. which I will sell at local farmer’s markets. And a tiny house will be where I hold up for the winter perhaps if its a blizzard winter. Decorate at Christmas if I expect a guest. Back on the road to fun and warmer places

  6. RV’s seem harder to adequately customize for taste and tend to be cheaply made. Tiny Home on wheels are basically build for the owner/user and always hold a special place in their heart, especially if they are putting labor into building it. Can’t wait till I start one. Only a few items holding back my ideas and building the home: staying legal, finding a good cheap and well constructed trailer to start (can’t afford a 5,000 dollar new trailer), and a final place to park it. Seems there are a bunch of laws prohibiting people from doing such construction and living in Ohio 🙁 Bummer.

  7. There are some good points made here, but I disagree with a couple. RVs are made to live in full time, just get a four-season RV. If your tiny house has R-23 insulation, that’s better than R-10, but my RV has R-38.

    For bathroom size, mine is easily double any tiny house I’ve seen up to 28 feet in length.

    Good point on mobility of a tiny house. If you’re a nomad like my wife and I, buy an RV.

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