Whether you are a married retiree ready to travel with your partner or a young person who wants to minimize your carbon footprint, you may be considering a smaller living space. If this sounds like you, a tiny home or trailer may be your perfect option.
Tiny homes are better if you are looking for long-term residence, flexibility, autonomy, and will be selling your standard home to transition to tiny living. Trailers are a better option if you will be traveling or taking long trips, or if you want to bring your family on a trip.
To learn more about tiny homes and trailers, their differences, and their specific advantages and disadvantages, keep reading.
What Is the Difference?
Both tiny homes and trailers are great for downsizing or travelers. Most can be moved using the right vehicle, so you can use them for cross-country moves, trips, and adventures. Some people use their tiny home and trailer to visit family members while others use them to follow their favorite weather and keep roots in different areas without buying multiple homes.
Tiny homes and trailers also leave a smaller ecological footprint because they eliminate unnecessary electronic needs. They are easier to maintain than normal homes and minimize unnecessary space. However, deciphering the difference between a tiny home and a trailer can be confusing at first.
A tiny home is, as it sounds, a small house, usually under 400 square feet, built to be portable while providing the comforts of a normal house. They are made of housing materials and are usually adapted to have high-quality insulation and can be made for cold climates and snow.
By comparison, trailers and RVs tend to be tailored more towards travel needs than comforts. They are made to hitch onto the back of a car or truck and designed in a less “homey” manner. Because they are designed for travel ease, they have accommodations to ensure the RV can be easily pulled and stored, such as slide-out features to expand the trailer when you are stopped.
Now, let’s take a look at the specific advantages and disadvantages of tiny homes and trailers.
Pros and Cons of Tiny Homes
When considering tiny homes, it’s important to consider that there are many types of tiny homes, and features will vary depending on the home. Many homes are made to be pulled easily on a trailer and can be used to travel in remote areas or chase views across the country.
Tiny house sizes are variable, and some even come in multiple stories. Some are made to stay in one place while others are pulled on the road. If you want to purchase a tiny house, the advantages and disadvantages will depend on your house selection. However, some pros and cons apply to most tiny homes and can be generalized to help you choose between a tiny house and a trailer.
Tiny homes are beautiful and customizable options for downsizing. They can help you reduce your carbon footprint and live simply while maintaining a lovely,
Variety and Flexibility
As you search for a tiny house, you will have a huge amount of control over the house’s features. Sizes of tiny homes vary largely, although most have similar overall layouts of a main room with kitchen appliances and a living area, then a small attached bedroom and bathroom.
Other tiny homes are single-room and have a kitchen, bed, and living area in one room with an attached bathroom. Others have pull-out couches or lofts that you can sleep on. For storage, tiny homes usually have lofts or storage under furniture. Houses that are built for travel usually come in smaller sizes for easier transport and the ability to be placed on any campsite or RV area.
One feature that stands out when choosing a tiny home is flexibility. Many tiny homes offer options to buy plans and build your own, which grants you a creative license over your living space. Others are built for you but are fully customizable and built for you and your design preferences and needs. Furthermore, tiny homes can be created for seniors and used to stay close to elderly family members.
Made for Long-Term Living
Although tiny houses may be more difficult to transport than trailers, they are very strong and permanent structures. Their weight keeps them stable and strong, so they can rest sturdily on the ground. Moreover, many tiny homes are meant to stay permanently in one location, so you can set it in your desired area and leave it. Intricate designs allow them to blend into their surroundings and fit with other traditional houses.
Tiny homes also tend to be very well-insulated. Compared to trailers, tiny homes have more insulation because they are heavier, and trailers often have poor insulation because they are built for long travel. Especially when tiny homes are built for permanent residence, they have good insulation and can withstand very cold climates.
Better insulation also improves energy efficiency in tin homes. In fact, tiny homes can even be built to include radiant-floor heating or solar panels, which are also great ways to save energy and keep energy bills low. Trailers usually don’t have these options, because they tend to be more mobile and it would be difficult to transport with added features.
For long-term living, tiny homes are perfect- all you need to do is rent or purchase a plot of land to park your home, and you can stay comfortably as long as you would like. For example, you could rent a plot of land in the mountains for half the year and a plot near the beach for the other half.
Usually, tiny homes are made of high-quality materials because they are designed to look like nice houses. Moreover, tiny home creators can usually choose their home’s materials, so they can choose nicer features that improve durability.
Tiny home materials are also less toxic because they tend to be more natural than Rv materials. Tiny homes are often composed of wood, which is more natural than the metal structures of RVs. in fact, if you are creating your own tiny home, you can choose to use recycled materials for a lower carbon footprint if you find a good creator.
Better materials also impact tiny homes’ decorations. Their exterior generally looks like a standard home, which contrasts with trailers that tend to be less decorated. Even trailers made for longer residence are less decorated than tiny homes, which tend to look like smaller versions of normal-sized houses, and could be mistaken for normal-sized houses in pictures!
Many tiny houses even come with external decorations like shutters and window boxes. Because you can customize your tiny home, you can choose your home’s paint colors and design. This will help your home feel comfortable, high-quality, and nice enough that you will want to boast about it to the rest of your family.
Before purchasing a tiny home, you should attempt to reach a rounded understanding of its disadvantages. Compared to trailers, tiny homes are often less mobile and harder to define under certain laws.
Although a lack of regulations may seem like a blessing, it can add logistical difficulties to your tiny living. Sometimes, tiny homes cannot be parked at campgrounds because certain campgrounds and national parks do not allow tiny homes without permits that define these regulations.
Because tiny homes are a newer phenomena, they can also be harder to insure. Insurance is vital before traveling in a tiny home or trailer, but you may face more barriers trying to insure a tiny home. Furthermore, each state’s laws regarding tiny homes are different, so ensure you check the laws before completing your purchase.
Zoning laws usually require buildings to be a certain square footage, so tiny homes may not be allowed in certain areas. Many tiny homes were designed under RV laws to avoid this limitation, but some RV parks do not acknowledge tiny homes because they are not certified as RVs.
Even in RV parks where tiny homes and trailers are allowed to sit for long periods, many parks prevent permanent occupancy and may limit tiny homes.
Again, many features depend on which tiny home you purchase, but many tiny homes are not equipped for long road trips like trailers and RVs are. Generally, they are transportable but are more difficult to transport because they must be pulled on trailers rather than hitching onto the back of your car.
Some tiny homes can be transported across any terrain with ease, but they are usually less well-equipped than trailers for travel. They tend to be heavier and built for more permanent stability, creating more wind resistance. Roof shingles may fall from the top on the road, and flying debris could damage a window.
Furthermore, tiny homes usually require an electric source to function remotely. While this is not always the case, most RVs have generators so you can live anywhere, while tiny homes must be plugged in and do not last as long in remote locations. Most tiny houses also lack large water tanks that characterize RVs, so they need to be connected to a water source and sewer to function completely.
Even tiny homes with wheels are not meant for extensive travel. Even short trips can put stress on the house’s structure, so these homes are better for those who will be staying in one place for most of the year and driving short distances at a time.
Pros and Cons of Trailers
After retirement, many choose the trailer or RV lifestyle as a way to downsize and improve flexibility in location. Others know they want to travel, but do not know if they are financially capable or cannot decide on a location. Traveling in a trailer can help you travel across the country without having to pick a specific location.
Before deciding to travel in an RV, make sure you understand the ups and downs of RV living. While traveling in an RV or trailer can be rewarding, it is not ideal for all locations and may have less flexibility than a tiny home.
To some, trailers may seem to lack sophistication or style. However, there are many advantages to owning a trailer, such as adaptability, accessibility, and cost. At the end of the day, trailers are made for travel and offer travel components with which other structures can’t compete.
Made for Travel
Trailers and RVs are ideal for travel because they are usually made solely for this purpose. Unlike tiny homes, they are not meant to stay in one place for long, and usually lack decorations that characterize tiny homes because they focus on travel function.
Trailers are made to be towed and can hitch securely on your truck to maximize ease. Furthermore, they are lightweight so they can be easily towed and are less cumbersome to transport. These qualities also make trailers ideal for long stretches on the road.
Trailers and RVs are designed to stay on highways for long periods of time and can withstand dust and debris that may create challenges on the road. Lightweight technology also makes these structures easier for mountain driving, as you will not have as much weight dragging you back.
In fact, these technologies are tailored specifically to mountain driving, so you can use your trailer for wilderness adventures and camping.
Because they lack shingles and exterior decorations, trailers are much sleeker than tiny homes, so they put up less wind resistance and will be pulled more easily. They are more aerodynamic and can be transported simply while putting up low wind resistance. Overall, trailers are usually made for the road and are light, strong, and sturdy enough to resist adverse weather that may accompany mountain or national park travel.
Finally, many trailers and almost all RVs have generators so you can live in them while staying off-the-grid. Water tanks will allow you to stay out while having plenty of fresh water, and many come with portable sewage systems as well.
While many tiny homes can be tailored towards people with disabilities or the elderly, they also tend to utilize lofts for extra space and sleeping areas. This trait can be inconvenient for elderly people or those with joint problems who want to avoid frequent ladder-climbing. If you are looking for extra space paired with the ability to travel, a trailer may be a better option for you and your family.
Trailers and RVs are often built to have 1st-floor bedrooms or beds that are slightly lower than the rest of the structure. By maximizing space while reducing the number of steps you need to climb, trailers appeal to people of all ages and abilities.
Moreover, trailers often come in two-story options, which is rare for tiny homes. Although these options are usually more expensive than standard trailers, they offer flexibility and the capacity to enable families to have more space.
Compared to tiny homes, trailers and RVs are usually much cheaper, especially when used. Finding a used tiny house can be difficult, but used trailers are abundant and popular. Because RVs depreciate so rapidly after use, you can find a nearly perfect-condition RV for a much lower price than a new one of the same condition.
For example, tiny houses often cost in the $30-50,000 range, while a used trailer can be nearly half that. Even if you need to invest in upgrades for an old or used trailer, it could still be cheaper than a tiny home. This makes trailers ideal for those who want long-term travel at a cheaper price.
Because trailers are made for constant travel, they are very compact. However, this does not mean they lack storage and sleeping space. Most RVs have as much, if not more, storage as tiny houses. Cleverly placed drawers and cabinets save space, and you may find storage space where you would never expect it.
Furthermore, RVs are built for convenience and practicality, so you can fit more people than in a tiny house. If you are planning to travel with your family, many trailers may fit several people. Couches and even tables are made to convert into beds, so you can bring friends and family with you on vacations.
Overall, trailers emphasize convenience, while tiny homes emphasize style. A trailer will maximize storage and functionality in a small space so you can travel and move with maximum ease. However, this creates a tradeoff with interior design and comfort because you need to compromise certain features to increase efficiency.
Cons of Trailers
Trailers may seem like the perfect solution for cross-country travel. However, this is not always the case, and a few key problems with trailers may make them less than ideal for your situation.
Like cars, trailers and RVs depreciate rapidly over time. This means that after they are purchased, they lose value with use. So, if you are only going to live in your RV or trailer for a few years, you should consider that you may lose money from your experience.
As soon as you start using your RV or trailer, its value lowers. Tiny homes are more permanent structures, so they are less likely to cause money loss like trailers, which is an important consideration when planning to spend a short time in a tiny home.
Luckily, if you plan to keep your trailer long-term, this will not affect you as much. Before purchasing an RV or trailer, make sure you are committed to driving it for a long time because as soon as you begin using it, its value will decrease.
Also, consider buying a used RV or trailer to save money, because many gently-used trailers come at large discounts due to their tendency to depreciate. If you do this, it’s best if you have some handyman skills, as many used trailers come with problems that need fixing.
Lack of Flexibility
Although trailers and RVs come in many makes and models, they are much more limited than tiny homes in terms of flexibility. Usually, you cannot customize your trailer, and they already come in specific models. This trait can be attributed to the trailers’ tendencies to be specifically engineered for driving, which limits flexibility when it comes to exterior design.
Also, trailers have a less attractive design and usually have metallic exteriors. This feature keeps them aerodynamic but prevents them from blending into normal communities or sitting attractively in one place for long periods of time.
If style is important to you, you may discover a tiny home is a better fit for you due to their interior and exterior design and their style, which parallels an actual home.
Trailers are great for the road because they are light, aerodynamic, and efficient. A car or truck can easily pull them, and you can bring them through rough terrain. However, these features also decrease the trailer’s overall stability.
Compared to tiny homes, trailers are lighter, so they will move and shake more when it is windy. This can make it difficult to sleep or be comfortable during storms. Furthermore, because they are meant to be transported frequently, they are more prone to shaking when people move around in them, lacking the sturdiness of a tiny home.
Thin materials also decrease the trailer’s insulation capacities, so they can get very cold if you bring them into mountains or adverse climates.
Which Should You Pick?
Overall, your decision will depend on your own situation and needs. When contemplating a trailer or a tiny home, you should consider cost, duration, intention, and preferences.
If you are planning to use your structure for travel, a trailer is a better option because it has better mobility and is specifically built for being on the road. Especially for large, cross-country trips, an RV will travel much easier than a tiny home, and tiny homes should not be used for extended travel.
Using a tiny home for long trips will ultimately damage it and may be inconvenient because it must be put on a trailer to move.
When considering cost, a trailer will likely be cheaper. If you are concerned about money or want to save, a used RV may be the solution to your problems. Since RVs lose value so quickly, you can buy a gently used RV at a low cost.
However, if you are not planning to use your RV or tiny home for longer than a year or two, you should choose a tiny home. Buying an RV to travel for a short duration may lead you to lose money because they lose value with use and over time. A tiny home can be a great way to get away for a while without losing money, as these structures often have consistent pricing or even gain value over time.
Therefore, you should choose an RV for long-term travel or when planning extensive trips, and a tiny home if you want to move to, say, a seaside for the year.
Tiny homes are also a better option for anyone looking to permanently downsize. They have the benefit of looking and feeling like an actual home and are made to be permanently stationed in one or two locations. With a tiny home, you can downsize and reduce your environmental impact while still feeling the comfort of a standard house.
Moreover, if you have specific preferences, whether it be for design, appliances, or external appearance, you should choose a tiny home. These structures are customizable and can usually be designed by the purchaser. You can even purchase plans and materials to build your own, adding a personal touch and a sense of accomplishment to your residence.
With high-quality materials and modern design options, tiny homes are perfect for those desiring autonomy.
Finally, your decision will depend on your space needs. If you want to bring your whole family on a trip, an RV is better because it often has accommodations for extra people, such as convertible couches or sliding compartments that expand from the side. These expanding compartments are also preferred by many older people who do not want to climb the lofts that often characterize tiny homes’ sleeping areas.
Whether you purchase a tiny home or a trailer, you will be able to downsize from your traditional home and save time cleaning while preserving energy. While neither option is innately better, one may fit your needs better than the other.
Usually, trailers are better for travel, less expensive, and are more compact and convenient while offering options for expansion. Tiny homes are better for people who want flexibility over design and decor, as well as those who are focused on style or plan to sell it.
Lastly, tiny homes are best for those who will be settling into a location for long periods of time while trailers are best for travelers who won’t stay in one place for long and will frequently be on the road.