why not an RV?

Why not an RV if you want to be mobile?

We considered buying a used RV or travel trailer and renovating it but after looking at a few we realized that was not what we wanted.  here’s why:

  1. Aesthetics…  RV’s have thin walls and are made out of lightweight, often inexpensive materials.  We wanted to live in a tiny house because it feels like a real home: solid, spacious, well built – high ceilings.  We didn’t want to feel like we were on an interminable camping trip….
  2. Weather and Comfort…  Our tiny home is well insulated to withstand winter and summer temperatures.  In an RV we would have to run the heater or A/C constantly to be comfortable in winter or summer.
  3. Health…  when we viewed RV’s we noticed the unmistakable odor of plastics and chemicals throughout the interior.  We wanted to live in a tiny house because we wouldn’t surround ourselves by man-made toxic materials.
  4. Mobility…  If you want to move your house every couple weeks, then an RV would definitely be better for you.  They are designed to be moved: lightweight and aerodynamic.  We did not need that much mobility.  We envisioned ourselves moving the home maybe once or twice a year so building on wheels allows us to avoid zoning code restrictions and have a beautiful home with the flexibility we need.

I am a huge fan of Airstreams and have seen some beautifully renovated travel trailers, but those were (some of) our reasons for choosing a tiny home.

moving to Santa Fe.


28 thoughts on “why not an RV?

  1. Very good comments on this topic.
    From reading many forums and posts from others commenting on tiny houses on trailers it is obvous to me that many do not understand the concept of building the tiny house on a trailer. It is apparent they don’t get that the idea is *not* to build your own RV, but to build your own HOUSE that just happens to be tiny and mounted on a trailer. And that the reason it is on a trailer of any kind is *not* so it can be regularly towed all over like an RV (as you said ” If you want to move your house every couple weeks, then an RV would definitely be better for you.”) but primarily because of the building codes that are so unreasonably restrictive for minimum size of a house built on a permanent foundation. The trailer simply provides many benefits that building on a foundation doesn’t have, such as the ability to easily transport it to a desired location. In this way a tiny house on a trailer is really much more like what used to be called a mobile home, called a Manufactured Home these days. I never had the stigma that some have calling them mobile homes. The first home we owned… er, were buying with a loan, was a mobile home. Small by today’s standards for a MH but still 720 sq ft. We only moved out of that when our second son was born. We were also caught up in the so called great American dream of accumulating more and more so needed a bigger “storehouse” in which to live. Working on changing that.

    • great summary Bob – it’s right on. tiny housers aren’t trying to create home-built RV’s – they’re creating custom homes that can be small and get past building regulations and restrictions.

  2. I am hugely impressed by the various considerations you have put forward us in relation to the use of RV. Weather and comfort should the major considerations.

  3. makingourlivesawesome

    Very interesting post. My hubby and I have been working on a plan to simplify our lives and move into something that offers mobility. We have considered a tiny house, an RV, a travel trailer, etc. I have horses that I want to be able to transport with me (south for the winter and north for the summer), so we have been looking to horse trailers that have living quarters. They are built MUCH sturdier than an RV/camper with far less plastic but will take quite a bit of modification to feel homey. This post brought up some important points about the importance of your dwelling feeling like a home, weather concerns and mobility needs.

    • Heather

      Hello- have you looked at converting a semi trailer to you home? That is my plan and to pay to have it moved when I need to. Still saving me about 1500 a month, even with moving costs. 🙂

      • I’ve never looked into using a semi trailer, but one of the refrigerated ones could be a cool idea – already insulated…

    • scott martin

      I am for the same reasons as you are. Simplify your life.

  4. Stephanie

    I understand the points of going with a tiny house and not renovating upward an RV. It depends upon need, like the author noted. Me, I want a tiny house, BUT two major things are in the way; I move several times a year, and my Jeep Wrangler can’t really pull a trailer with a dry weight over 2800 lbs (have to factor in your personal stuff, food, water/waste, tools, propane, gas, and your body(ies)).

    BUT, if I ever find myself in a situation where I could establish a home base to travel from, straight-up, I would build a tiny home. Right now, with my being on the road and having some minor problems with my trailer (paid for, by the way), I’ve decided to do renovations like rebuilding the roof from scratch, redoing the front wall to eliminate the fold-out bunk, fixing a hole in the floor from a tire explosion, and rearrange a part of the interior. This is my home until I find myself in the aforementioned situation. I know that my trailer is not meant to take the place of a tiny house, but I do want to make it better than it came out of the factory. I want a good, sturdy “home away from home,” ready to take me away to adventures until the end of my time.

  5. Clifford

    I’m no stranger to living in small places as I have lived in 220 square foot apartment for 5 years, a 19 foot travel trailer for 5 years. I am a big fan of living tiny. However I am also a big fan of living as green as possible and that’s where me and the current trend of building a tiny house conflict with each other. So many people are claiming they want to reduce their carbon foot print by building a tiny house to live in.

    The reality is they are actually doing just the opposite by building a new structure they are increasing their footprint on the world. Seriously just buy a used travel trailer thus reducing the need to use more natural resources. OK I get it… “But they are not insulated and I will freeze to death”. LOL Seriously! I’m still alive!

    There are ways to make it warmer by adding a little insulation here and there. Heck get one that someone else gutted and build it back the way you want it with more insulation. Also the toilet, come on folks if you are living in a tiny box just put a real toilet in it. That’s what I did in my travel trailer and never had one issue with it.

    My expenses when I lived in my travel trailer were $65 lot rent (water, trash & sewer included) phone $18 and electric average of $35 a month. My monthly total was $118 on average. I used antenna for TV.

    The world needs more people to recycle housing and not build more houses. Just my thoughts folks.

    • Stephanie

      Problem is, Clifford, the maintenance requirements on RVs are outrageous, especially the roofs. I don’t care about freezing, because my travel trailer, measuring 8X13, has a full-size AC and furnace always stays comfortable in the temperatures in Texas. My complaint is the poor construction methods and lack of durability. I’ve replaced the toilet and the freshwater tank, resealed the roof three times, and now my water heater needs repairs. Not worth the hassle…

    • Tiffanei Terrell

      Hi I am interested in your response. I have been researching mobile and nomadic lifestyle for almost ten years and I am getting antsy because I am ready to just do it. For me student loan debt is making traditional mortgage difficult and I honestly don’t want more debt. I am a female though and a single parent to boot. Safety is a big issue for me as well as real toilet and shower/bath and access to Internet. Lol. I have never owned an rv but that’s what I lean towards because it’s cheaper and literally would allow me to have my own space. I am a 41 year old teacher loving with my mom which I hate for obvious reasons but would love your thoughts on investing in either 5th wheel rv or another type where I can truly be a homeowner without having to pay rent or a mortgage. Where do I start? Thanks in advance

  6. Jan

    1st, I want to have a tiny house built for me. I live in the Dallas Tx area. Can you suggest how to find a builder in my area? 2nd, when insuring a tiny house, is it classified as a recreational vehicle that loses value?

    • Hi Jan,
      first, the only builder I know of in Texas is Tiny Texas Houses – they use a lot of reclaimed materials. there might be others.
      you might also check Tiny House listings.

      secondly, insurance is an issue with Tiny Houses. if you google this you will find that tiny houses can NOT be insured as RV’s … OR as houses. essentially, you cannot insure them. I’ve heard Lloyd’s of London will insure them, but it’s expensive. we checked with State Farm and Progressive, who would not insure them. It’s stupid, because they’re built better than RV’s but they don’t have the manufacturer’s warranty of a factory built RV.

      good luck!

  7. My bank considers my tiny home a travel trailer. It has a VIN number — that’s all they cared about. I told State Farm it was a travel trailer. I’m waiting to hear back. After being told by Tumbleweed that I couldn’t get a loan for a tiny house, I was pleasantly surprised to find this wasn’t true. Banks may differ, but mine didn’t think it was any different than pulling a trailer. Which it isn’t. I got the loan and hopefully I’ll find insurance, too. I would advise not calling it a house when you talk to insurers. Tell them you’re using it for traveling and find another address to give as your permanent one.

    • Michael

      Tumbleweed’s website classifies their Tiny Houses as RVs. That means a RV loan could be obtained.

      • This is a good point, although RV’s are built according to a code that might be a hindrance in obtaining a loan for a home-built RV / tiny house…

  8. I did a lot of research on tiny homes, but it was out of reach financially and not practical because I wanted to split time between two locations. I believed the hype about how uncozy and frumpy they were. I’d given up on tiny home living until I went to an RV show on a whim. RVs have come a very long way since the 90’s, not your grandparents tacky on wheels. Thank you baby boomers!

    I was blown away. Most trailers are made of fiberglass and have slide-outs. Doubling the kitchen and dining space in smaller trailers, and doubling living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms in the bigger bus sized RVs.

    Within my budget I found an eco friendly, no toxic gassing, eco friendly, solar ready, four season, full bathroom, full queen size bed, 32″ TV, and tons of storage. It’s well built and designed. I’m actually not using all of the storage. I have all my bicycle touring and camping gear with me too.

    I’ve been toasty warm camping with the trailer 10 below zero and cool with 110 temps.

    If I don’t want neighbors I can set up in remote wilderness. I can visit friends and family and park in their driveway. I can volunteer at preserves or parks and get a free site and stipend and call home beautiful wild places others only get to visit.

    I was able to customize the interior upholstery and exterior. I opted for a simple tasteful interior and plain exterior without the vinyl decals. It’s super cozy and I have my Persian and Tibetan rugs left over from when I had a house.

    For a fraction of the tiny house cost I have a cozy home, a small footprint and can move at will. No worries about zoning regs.

    An RV can be a tiny spacious and practical home. It’s not for everyone, but for me it ended up being a perfect fit.

  9. Trevor Lemay

    I don’t mean to sound rude, but.. ah hell. Didn’t you convert something to make a tiny home anyway? and “Chemicals”. Pompous as hell for someone who has a “Man made” ford truck. I was really hoping to find some information here on why more people aren’t renovating RV’s (Which I might add is way more budget friendly for those of us who can’t just up and afford a house plus a truck)… To find out it’s literally PRETENSE. The difference is pretense. For all the “simple” worship out there, I’m beginning to think this whole thing is a trendy redressing of the same thing hippies and old folks have been doing for years. People just can’t stand to look “Uncool” in an RV. I’m sure you’re nice cats and all, but this post really means literally nothing. Can someone please explain to me why people aren’t just making clever remodels of RV’s that doesn’t boil down to they “Smell of mankind” or “It looks cuter.” ?

    • you brought up some very valid points, I loved your comment. however, I think the difference between tiny houses and RV’s goes beyond mere pretentiousness.
      here’s why:
      1. chemicals are real! and I strongly disagree that mankind smells like evaporating petroleum!
      example: an RV provided to a friend by an insurance company after his house burned down was so “toxic” he would get horrible headaches and couldn’t even live in it. he camped.
      2. tiny houses have higher ceilings – feel more spacious than RV’s (though some newer RV’s with higher ceilings and slide-outs definitely rival any spaciousness merit of a tiny house.)
      3. tiny houses have thicker walls and can be better insulated than an RV making them more comfortable in freezing climates. in fact, I don’t know of any RV that is designed for winter living without cranking the heater constantly. which = discomfort.
      4. tiny houses are built of “real” house materials and feel more like a real home than the paper board / fiber board / polyester fare RV interiors are covered in. in addition, their materials make them more durable and structurally sound. (though RV’s are mos def more mobile.)

      we looked at renovating an Airstream before building our tiny house because they are awesome and beautiful (pretentious?!) but it felt so small inside with the low ceiling. I couldn’t have lived in it full time. with another human.
      So. it’s not just because they look cuter. though form (cuteness) is equally important to function!
      there are pros and cons either way.

      • I have a four season RV and even in the ‘teens the heat wasn’t “cranked on all the time.” Perk: the heat ducts are below the floor acting also as radiant heated floors. No chilly toes.

      • Rick

        so why not buy an old rv and strip it and use the frame to build a tiny house?

  10. Jason

    As someone who is building a house I still don’t understand why I can not “legally” put an rv on my property and live in it while I’m building but a tiny house is ok..? I cant apply for a power hook up on my property, which happens to be out of city limits in Oregon, without having a building permit in hand. County says I can temporarily “camp” on my property but can not hook up to water, septic or power. Seems a little unfair that because rv’s aren’t quite as cute or trendy the same rules don’t apply.

  11. … In Oregon… Where there are more homeless people than available dwellings. SMH (And I’m not surprised.) Good luck, Jason.

  12. Some good conversation here. Why did it stop well over a year ago? Anyway would like to add my two cents by offering another concept. It offers instant shelter and is built like a brick —– house. My website is a work in progress, just like my “house””. Canversions.com

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