Tiny House vs RV Smackdown
“Why don’t you just buy an RV?”
To a tiny house owner, this can be a very frustrating question. In the “Tiny House vs RV” contest, we assume it’s a windfall. In all fairness, though, it’s a legitimate question from an outsider’s perspective. To a non-tiny-home owner, an RV looks very similar… It’s tiny. You can live in it. It can be moved. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…
But, a tiny house is not a duck. Nor an RV. There are specific reasons why we, the tiny house movement, strongly favor a TH over an RV.
If you’re living in, or interested in, a tiny house, you’ve probably had to face this tiny house vs RV battle. Below are the six most significant reasons we prefer a tiny home. If you agree with those below, feel free to store them in your arsenal next time a Tiny House hater questions your choice.
1) It’s a reflection of you and completely unique
There is nothing more uninspiring to the free-spirited dreamer than an RV lot filled with all the same shapes, colors, and sizes. If you want to blend into the crowd, then an RV will win the tiny house vs RV contest for you. To the credit of recreational vehicle owners, self-expression is probably not a priority. Their primary concern is likely “recreation,” while a tiny home owner is most concerned with building a home.
Unlike an RV, a tiny house has the potential to be a complete reflection of your personality. Some owners express their creativity in more obvious ways, like with the house’s exterior. Others prefer the more subtle personal touches, like distinct customization to nooks and crannies. Most of the small improvements and design tweaks won’t even be noticed by others. But, you’ll always know how much consideration went into every inch of your tiny house. That’s a feeling that you don’t get with an RV and one of our most compelling reasons we win in the tiny house vs RV showdown.
2) Tiny Houses are more environmentally friendly and potentially safer for your health
The manufacturing process of an RV involves a wide range of materials and chemicals that contain toxins. For instance, some of the glues and furnishings used in the assembly of an RV contain Formaldehyde (yup… the chemical used to help you dissect frogs in high school). There have even been cases of people becoming ill from time spent in an RV.
Like most mass-produced products, an RV is manufactured with a strong focus on the associated costs. Typically, manufacturers can reduce these costs by lowering the quality of inputs to that process. That’s not to say that every mass producer uses junk materials. It’s more to stress the point that, you don’t know what’s gone into that RV. When building a tiny home, you have complete control of materials and can use whatever you’d like… from sustainable harvested lumber to organic sheep’s wool for insulation.
3) Tiny houses keep you warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s warm
This is one of the biggest advantages of a tiny house over an RV. Tiny homes are built with the same type of insulation that you would typically find in a foundation home. Most RV’s are built with reinforced aluminum sides and have very little insulation.
With a small propane stove and a little space heater, you’ll find that a tiny house can stay surprisingly warm during very cold weather.
And in the summer months, the small amount of space is much easier to keep cool and to stay at lower temps. An A/C unit is a great solution. The limited space will cool down very quickly. But the key is to trap that cold air. Due to the insulation differences mentioned above, a tiny home will stay cooler for much longer than an RV.
P.S. – our favorite tip to keep your tiny home (or RV) cooler in the summer… park under a big tree!
The direct result of this trapping of hot and cold air is that you use less energy. That’s an added bonus for both the environment and your wallet!
4) Tiny houses are easier to maintain
When purchasing an RV, you’re getting everything that comes with that RV. This includes appliances, electronics, plumbing, furniture, etc. What happens when your refrigerator breaks? Who do you call when your TV stops working? If your water pump breaks, what do you do?
It obviously takes a lot more thought and preparation, but the “guts” of a tiny house should be much easier to maintain. Breakers, pumps, and utility lines can be bought to fit your particular needs. You’ll have receipts for your stove, dishwasher, and water pump. You’ll be able to call the guy who put in your cabinets. If something breaks, you can pull out the warranty and deal with it… or, worst case scenario, you can swap it out with a replacement. You’ll have much less flexibility when something goes wrong in your RV.
5) You can be completely self sufficient.
Many people look to tiny houses to get “off the grid.” They want complete self-sufficiency and see this as a convenient way to achieve their goal. Large communities exist out there devoted specifically to achieving this lifestyle like Facebook community, Tiny Houses and Off-Grid Living (one of our favorites with roughly 17k fans).
People have varying reasons for wanting this way of life. We’ve spoken with some who want complete financial freedom and others who don’t trust the government and current infrastructure. Regardless of the reason “why,” the “how” is much easier to achieve with a tiny house vs RV.
This decision comes with a cost, however. You’ll need the proper gear to become completely self-sustainable. For example, a rainwater catchment system can eliminate your reliability on a water source. This can be as simple as a rain barrel or as complicated as a complete underground catchment system. A wood-burning stove can reduce your need for energy as can solar lanterns. We’ll soon be releasing a guide to going off the grid, so make sure to subscribe and we’ll send you that once ready.
Until then, here’s some of our favorite “off the grid” tiny home items.
- Good Ideas Rain Barrel
- RainFlo 350 Gallon Rainwater Collection System
- Shipmate wood stove
- Luci Solar Lanterns
All of these fun options become a possibility with your tiny home. Try asking an RV dealer to put in a wood burning stove and see what reaction you get. In a tiny home, you’re only limited by your imagination!
6) Tiny houses can be more affordable
In our Tiny House Movement Infographic, we found that the average price of a new tiny house is $35k. The average cost for a new, 24 foot (similar in size to a tiny home) recreational vehicle is $50 – $75k. That’s the price to purchase a new home or RV.
We’ve spoken with and read about many tiny house owners who have constructed their own for much, much less by recycling materials. Used materials are significantly cheaper and sometimes even free. just check out these two students who built a tiny house for Less than $500. We have yet to hear about someone who built their own RV for personal use!
So the next time someone asks you, “why not just get an RV,” don’t take offense. Use it as an opportunity to spread some of the many benefits of living in a tiny house. We hope that you’ll use some of our reasons listed above. It’s tough to truly understand the lifestyle until given the opportunity to experience it. Just look at Mike; his first experience with a tiny home was couchsurfing our tiny house just recently. Check out his first impression vs his opinion after experiencing it.
If you believe that a tiny home is more than a recreational vehicle, please help share this with others! If you have any additional reasons why your small home wins the Tiny House vs RV battle, please leave them in the comments below!