Tiny House vs RV – 6 Reasons a Tiny Dominates

TinyHouseFran Tiny House Tips 10 Comments

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.

tiny house and personality fourstjames

From our friends at FourStJames

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.

tiny home off grid

Image above from our friends at TinyHouseTalk.com

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.

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!

Comments 10

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  1. T5e are now looking for an affordable tiny home hopefully on wheels so that we can take our dogs with us. Our problem is we cannot physically build our own although we can help a lot and they’re starting to get very expensive. But we still have hope that we can find one with the downstairs bedroom and stairs to The Loft as Both of us have physical difficulties

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  2. Hi Fran,

    Great points on RV vs Tiny House living!

    I lived on 500 acres in a 35 ft. RV for 4 years, off grid, in the high desert of Nevada. I loved living in a smaller space as it really afforded me more time to enjoy my work and play. The biggest problem with the RV was mice! They love chewing copper wire and taking up residence in the walls and ceiling insulation. Two examples: 1. those tiny critters chewed through the built in sound system wiring…leaving it inoperable and unrepairable. 2. The smell of “mice-ville” was a frequent issue that was none to pleasant and impossible to stop. Perhaps tiny homes have this same issue!? I hope not as I am in the beginning stage of designing my tiny home and hope that because it is built more closely to a traditional home it will be less likely to having mice eating through wiring and taking up residence in the insulation of my walls and ceiling (or any other place for that matter).

    My conclusion based on my experience:
    I spent 15 years living abroad in the jungles of Southeast Asia, in the bush on the eastern coast of Africa, the highly populated big cities of the Far East, Central Europe as well as on the coast of the Mediterranean – in small and large dwellings – and all came with their own local critters and taking the appropriate steps necessary to solve each intrusion…awareness, acceptance and action!

    RVs do not not make the best full time living as they succumb too easily to the environment around them. I’m willing to bet tiny homes stand a better chance!

    As in any home of mine the priority has first and foremost been the health and safety of all who enter it’s doors!

    Look forward to your TinyHousehold insights with regard to this particular “creature” issue!

    Have a great Tiny Home day!!!

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      Rosemary,
      Wow you have had quite the experience living in all different places around the world. You are primed to live in a tiny house. The sound system problem is a bummer, especially because you probably could not figure out exactly where those little critters got to it, I hate the feeling of not being able to repair something, so I feel for you! When it comes to the “mice-ville” smell I have not encountered living in my house for two years. I think that problem maybe more of an issue in an RV is because of absorbent materials used in the RV in places you may not be able to access like you can in tiny houses. This could potentially be a problem if you create those spaces in your own tiny houses. What I have seen in many tiny houses is that everything is so accessible and even if you saw a critter, you would be able to address the problem much quicker.

      “Awareness, acceptance, and action” is probably the best three words to describe when dealing with any problem! Those three words are so universal but when applied to a tiny house setting you will live a happy tiny life. Moving from Massachusetts to Florida I had to figure out which pests where going to be an issue (cockroaches and little geckos) but with each pest there comes a solution. For me there are ultrasonic plug in devices to drive everything from cockroaches to mice away. Spraying around all the potential entrances with a bug guard is a great start as well. Also the tiny house does not allow the same real estate for these critters to shack up and managing them is much easier than if there were crawl spaces that go unseen for years.

      Once again you hit the nail on the head when you said “”they succumb too easily to the environment”. They are not suitable for all year living and if you decide to do that you could be putting your health in danger with the exposure of chemicals over a prolonged period of time.

      Rosemary I think you have a good start on the “creature” issue before you are even living in a tiny house. Be aware of what could potentially be a problem, so you are prepared rather than having to “deal” with it. Use material that is more resistant to molds, to pests(cedar is tough for termites), and can handle the climate you will introduce your tiny house to.

      You are giving us a good idea to have a post related to materials used on tiny houses that are located in different areas. So stay tuned!

  3. I have a question…we are looking at traveling with our children (6 &9)…where can I find restrictions for traveling.

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      Robbie thanks so much for checking out tinyhousehold.com. Could you please be more specific with the question? What type of restrictions are you looking into? RV or tiny house size? Thanks so much and look forward to hearing from you.

  4. Not a great article. About 3 of these are not true. There are so many valid reasons that could have been used. Yes, I’ve lived in a RV and a tiny house.

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