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Tiny House vs RV? The Right Call When Going Small

The first step in crafting the life you want is to get rid of everything you don’t”  

Joshua Becker – Author and Creator of Becoming Minimalist

 

Ask yourself: Am I ready to go small? If so, have you considered whether you prefer Tiny House vs RV living? 

If you’ve ever thought about going small, you’re not alone. Many of us are waking up to the fact that we are long on “stuff”, but short on experiences. In fact, a recent study found that a whopping 72% of Millennials would rather spend their money on experiences rather than material goods. 

Would you be surprised to find out that tiny homes cost only about 20% of the price of a standard size home? How about the fact that tiny homes use only about 7% of the energy of a standard size home and can decrease your ecological footprint by 45%? 

 Tiny HouseTraditional House
Cost to Build$23,000$206,132
U.S. Median Cost$59,884$383,900
Avg. Square Footage~250-350 sq ft2,662 sq ft
Mortage32%64%
Statistics from Calculator.me and Visual Capitalist

With TV shows, YouTube vids and Instagram feeds all-in on the movement, what does this mean for you? Is tiny living just a curiosity or is there something inside you screaming for a change? 

Let’s not waste any more time. 

Part I:  Five Big Tiny House Facts 

Tiny House Picture

Tiny house living is not just about downsizing, it’s a philosophical shift away from the consumer-driven mindset that suffocates our adventurous spirit. Going small is about giving up space to gain freedom and giving up “stuff” to gain clarity of mind. 

Let’s learn some basic facts about the tiny house, just so you can appreciate just how dramatic the lifestyle shift can be.

Q:1 How Big Is A Tiny House?

A tiny house is typically between 100-400 square feet (9.3-37.16 m²). Doors are typically 6-8 feet in height and standard kitchen counters are average 3 feet high. 

Q2: How Much Does a Tiny House Cost?

The average tiny home in 2020 costs approximately $60,000. 

Q3: How Long Does It Take to Build a Tiny House?

It takes about 480 hours or about 3 full working months to build a tiny house. 

Q4: How Much Does Tiny House Weigh?

A tiny house can weigh anywhere between 3,000 and 15,000 pounds (without belongings). 

Q5: What Percentage of People Own Their Tiny House?

78% of people living in tiny houses own their home. 

Part II: Why Choose a Tiny House ? 

Living small is not about the physical space – a tiny house represents a commitment to a smaller carbon footprint, less waste and prioritizing freedom over “things”.  If you are not committed to drastically altering your lifestyle to embrace tiny house living ethos, you can end up with a bad case of tiny house regret

Let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons that you may embrace tiny house lifestyle: 

Rustic Kitchen

Philosophy

The biggest reason people choose to go small is philosophical. Space doesn’t = happiness. If you are reading  this article you are likely someone who cares about leaving a smaller carbon footprint, producing less waste and living a less cluttered life.

As Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project puts it:

In the scope of a happy life, a messy desk or an overstuffed coat closet is a trivial thing, yet I find – and I hear from other people that they agree – that getting rid of clutter gives a disproportionate boost of happiness.

The guiding principle of the tiny house movement is moving away from a consumer-driven mindset to embrace a simpler, less burdened existence. 

Environmental Impact

Going small means less natural resources. When you live in a tiny house you are likely to use less water, produce less waste, do less laundry and produce less garbage than a traditional single family household. It’s astonishing just how impactful going small can be: 

  • A tiny home uses about 7% of the energy that a traditional house does;
  • Moving to a tiny home can decrease a household’s ecological footprint by 45%; 
  • Tiny homes emit an average of 2,000 pounds of greenhouse gasses each year; traditional homes emit 28,000 pounds; 
  • Tiny homes use an average 914 kilowatt hours (kWh) each year while traditional homes use 12,773 kWh; 
  • The ecological footprint of the average tiny home is 3.87 global hectares (gha); a traditional home’s footprint is 8.4 gha; 
  • 85% of tiny homes operate at above-average energy efficiency. 

Environmental impact statistics from iPropertyManagement

Affordability 

Many of us work the 9-5 rat race simply to pay our mortgage each month. Simply put, tiny houses promote financial responsibility and freedom from debt that many Americans struggle with. A tiny home, averaging just about $60,000, costs less than one-fifth what a traditional home would cost. With a tiny house you have the possibility to live mortgage-free and leave behind  the economic stressors that we tend to accept as a part of modern life. 

Big Facts About Tiny Homes: An Infographic

Tiny Homes Infographic.
Infographic provided by Calculator.me.

Part III: RV Living 

A recreational vehicle or “RV” is a home on wheels. RVs come in all different types, shapes and sizes, but the main defining feature of an RV is that it is mobile – it can be driven or towed from location to location. Unlike tiny homes which come in fairly standard rectangular shapes and sizes, there is more to consider when looking to purchase an RV for living. 

Let’s take a quick look at the different types of RVs: 

Class C Motorhome

Class C Motorhome

The Class C motorhome is your “classic” living RV that typically can sleep 6-8 people. Driving similar to a large SUV or pickup truck, the Class C is a popular choice due to the ample sleeping capacity and easy navigation. 

Characteristics of a Class C Motorhome are:

  • Sleeps 4-8 people
  • Easier navigation than larger Class A’s or towing a trailer 
  • Simpler to drive in bad weather
  • Cozy cockpit design
  • Lower to ground for easier entrance and exit from the vehicle
  • Accessible living area while the vehicle is moving 

Class A Motorhome

Class A Motorhome

Class A motorhomes are the largest and most luxurious of the RV family. With plenty of storage space and high-end luxury features, Class A’s are great for families who want the comforts of home on the road.   

The downside is Class A’s get disgraceful fuel mileage. You can expect only 8-10 miles per gallon meaning that you will spend a small fortune on fuel. Due to the size, length and build of Class A’s, navigation and parking can be quite difficult for the novice. 

Characteristics of Class A Motorhome are: 

  • Larger models can sleep 6-10 people
  • Impressive look and design
  • Luxurious amenities that will remind you of home
  • Ample Storage Space 
  • Smooth ride quality 

Class B Motorhomes (Camper Vans)

Camper Van

Nimble and more fuel efficient than Class A or C motorhomes, Campervans are a compact and affordable option for couples or close friends who don’t mind sharing tight quarters. Self-contained with a kitchen, toilet and shower, the easy-driving Campervan is great for short-term living, but probably too small to live in full time. 

Benefits of Campervan living:

  • Efficient space for 1-2 people. 
  • Easy to drive and maneuver
  • Easy to park in parking lot or garage
  • Ideal for narrow streets and in congested traffic
  • More affordable than Class A or Class C motorhomes

Travel Trailers 

Trailer Parked at Night

Due to their large living space, affordable price and lower maintenance travel trailers are the most popular type of RV.  Travel Trailers come in all different shapes and sizes ranging from retro-looking teardrop trailers to the spacious and luxurious 5th wheel.  The most important thing to know about a travel trailer is that it is towed behind your vehicle. 

Travel trailers don’t have a motor, but are towed by a “hitch” secured to the frame of the towing vehicle. Think of a travel trailer as a portable home you can tow across the country. 

Travel trailers may be the best compromise if you want the mobility of a motorhome, but don’t want to feel like you are living out of your vehicle. 

Part IV: Why Choose an RV to Live Full-Time

While the itinerant lifestyle is not for everyone, living in an RV can be a fun, affordable and freeing way to live. Let’s take a deeper look at why you would want to live in an RV full-time: 

Mobility

The greatest advantage to an RV vs tiny home is the mobility. Yes, you can tow a tiny home, but (a) limitations on where you can park your home and (b) the physical stress you put on your home while moving it – make it an unwelcome proposition. 

With remote work becoming the new norm in 2020, there has never been a more flexible time to consider RV living.  The ability to travel from state to state on a moment’s notice is an incredible freedom that many of us dream about, but not many of us have the guts to do. Just imagine waking up at the ridge of the Grand Canyon in the morning and going to sleep the next night under the bright lights of Las Vegas. 

For Baby Boomers it’s a great way to see new sites, retire debt free and travel to see grandkids and friends who live across the country.  In fact, many Baby Boomers are now buying RVs to live on their children’s property (yes, we’re aware this might send shivers down some of your spines). 

Affordability 

Class A or Class C RVs can cost upwards of $100,000, but with patience you can find a good-quality used RV or trailer for between $20,000 and $50,000. While you may end up financing your RV, it will be significantly less than a monthly mortgage on traditional home and you can expect your expenses (taxes, insurance, etc.) to be much less. Trailer In Woods

Your upfront initial costs might be moderate, however, over time you will need to invest in things like fuel, maintenance and parking/camping fees to keep your RV on the road. 

Readiness 

Are you ready to downsize now? A quality tiny home can take anywhere from 3-6 months to build, whereas you can purchase an RV today and start your new, smaller life tomorrow. 

Most pre-built RVs and livable trailers come equipped with showers, toilets, sleeping quarters and appliances that allow you to immediately hit the road. You sacrifice customization for immediacy, but one of the big attractions to RV living is the ability to quickly and comfortably move from place to place with all the comforts of home. 

Part V: Tiny House vs RV – How Do They Compare?

Now that we’ve looked at both Tiny Houses and RVs, it’s time to do a side-by-side comparison to see how they stack up against each other. There is not “right” or “wrong” answer, the most important thing for you to do is weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision: 

 TINY HOUSERVWINNER
CostLarger upfront costs, but once built, low maintenance and utility costsLower upfront costs, but maintenance, fuel and unexpected repairs add up over time TINY HOUSE
CustomizationHighly customizable by owners with features that suit individual tastes and needs to make it feel like homeTypically come pre-built with standard features with opportunity to add-on features at additional cost TINY HOUSE
MobilityCan be towed from location-to-location, however, durability and legality are a concernCan be driven/towed anywhere in the country and parked for free or a fee at a campsite RV
Resale ValueThe market for tiny houses is still in its infancy. The high level of customization may hurt resale value.RVs will typically lose 30% of value after three years and 50% after a decade, but still do well on resale market. RV
Community While the tiny house community is strong in some regions, remote locations and lack of room for visitors can be isolatingLiving on the road can be isolating, however ability to visit friends/family and strong bonds with other RVers can make for strong communityRV
ComfortabilityAt 250-400sq feet, tiny house are tiny and privacy is scarce. However, tiny houses can still feel like home.RVs may provide bigger living space than tiny houses, but can be cramped and don’t do well in extreme heat or cold. TINY HOUSE
Environmental ImpactTiny homes are very energy efficient and naturally lead to eco-friendly behavioral changesRV living is more ecologically alternative to standard homes, however massive fuel consumption is a negative.TIE
DurabilityIf built professionally and kept up well, tiny houses can be very durable, reliable and energy efficient structures that last years.RVs experience a variety of frustrating maintenance issues throughout their lifespan. 20 year or 200,000 miles is life expectancy of RV. TINY HOUSE

 

Part V: The Final Word

It’s amazing that you are thinking about going small. In a world with driven by rampant consumerism we all need to step back and evaluate what we are doing to preserve our precious resources for future generations, 

Just as important, we need to look inward and ask: Is all this “stuff” making me happy? Is your house putting you in debt? Are you feeling increasingly anxious about possessions that no longer serve their purpose?

If so, what are you going to do about it? 

We cannot fix the world without first fixing ourselves first.  A decision about a Tiny House vs RV is one step in a much bigger process to change our habits, our comfort levels and ultimately our happiness. Before making the big leap to tiny living you can change small habits to align your integrity with your actions

Ask yourself: Am I ready to go small? In my humble opinion, the answer should be yes

 

    Easy Travels, 

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