Most people have already heard of the growing phenomenon of tiny houses, but did you know that there is more than one type?
Are all tiny houses built on wheels?
Not all tiny houses are built on wheels. Tiny homes can be built upon permanent foundations or on trailers for easier transportation. Many states decide what constitutes as a tiny home and what is a travel trailer.
If you have been considering building your own tiny house, there are a few things you should know about tiny homes built on wheels.
Here is the breakdown of all the advantages and disadvantages you can expect with these tiny houses on wheels (THOWs).
What are the Benefits of Building a Tiny House on Wheels?
When you are in the first stages of building your tiny home, you will be faced with the decision about whether to build on wheels or a permanent foundation. Many prospective tiny homeowners agonize over the choice but ultimately settle on a mobile tiny home or a THOW.
There are some major benefits to choosing this style beyond just the obvious. You can take your home wherever you want to go, parking it in RV campgrounds or a friend’s backyard as you make your way across the country. While it is surely convenient to be able to move your home around on a whim, there are some other benefits that you should be aware of.
First and foremost, a tiny home on wheels is not subject to building codes in most locations. Many states and counties do not view tiny houses as legal structures, particularly if they are not installed on a permanent foundation.
Keep in mind that just because you can build a tiny home without adhering to the building code does not mean that your structure can count as a legal residence.
That is up to the zoning ordinances and the county you live in.
Related Article: How Much do Tiny Houses on Wheels Cost? (5 Examples)
Families & Travel
A THOW is a great option for families who need to accommodate guests or visitors temporarily.
For example, an aging parent may need to move in for a while or an adult child may have recently graduated from college and still be in search of the perfect job.
A tiny house on wheels can give them their own space while they need it.
Even better, they can take the tiny home with them to a new area if they need to. It allows them to relocate without having to move all of their belongings and change their living situation.
Another key benefit of building a tiny house on wheels is the ability to rent land instead of making a purchase. While buying your land can certainly be seen as an investment that can build equity, it may not be feasible for every tiny homeowner.
By putting your house on wheels, you can rent land and easily relocate if your landlord ever changes their mind or sells the property.
Just make sure you know the rules and laws of where you can park your tiny home!
While it does go along with being mobile, a THOW can be a great thing when there is a pending natural disaster. A hurricane or a flood might be coming your way, but you can quickly move out of the line of a direct hit with a mobile home.
This helps you to better protect your investment.
What are the Disadvantages of Building a Tiny House on Wheels?
While there are some definite advantages to building your tiny house on wheels, there is another side to the story. You should consider the potential disadvantages that you will encounter as well.
In many areas, your tiny house on wheels will be categorized as an RV. This means that you are free to camp in your new home, but you can’t live there permanently. Your state or jurisdiction may place limitations on the number of nights that you can legally stay in your THOW.
They may also require it to be certified by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). This means it will have to be built to certain standards and inspected to prove that they were enforced.
While you may avoid building codes that can be quite cumbersome, RVIA certification can be equally taxing.
Furthermore, tiny homes will require permits to build and park them, which you will need to know fully for your state.
If you plan to live in your new tiny home, you are going to want insurance to cover you both during travel and parked periods. Most tiny homes on wheels are classified as RVs so you should be able to get RV insurance on your THOW. However, they too might require that RVIA seal of approval before granting you a policy.
Another issue comes with the design of the tiny house itself. Generally speaking, these homes are built on trailers so that they can be towed with a standard vehicle without requiring any special permits or licenses. Most states allow for a maximum width of eight to eight and one-half feet before a special permit is required. This can dramatically impact the design of your tiny home.
Moving & Storing Your Tiny Home
Keep in mind that moving your tiny home can result in damage to sensitive parts of the home.
Not only can your belongings come loose and roll around in the trailer, but you might see damage to things like concrete, brick, plaster finishes, and even large sheets of glass.
While a mobile home is excellent, you should take caution when moving it from place to place.
While you do have the freedom to leave in the event of a natural disaster or inclement weather, it may come without warning. If you do not have the option to leave, a tiny house on a trailer is actually at a disadvantage. They lack a solid foundation that could keep your home tethered to the ground during high winds.
Equity is another area where a tiny home on wheels does not win over a tiny home on a foundation. Tiny houses are built on a trailer which often depreciates over the years.
Wear and tear are more common with these types of homes, particularly if you are moving them around often. As a result, you get a minimal return on your initial investment. On the other hand, a tiny house built on your land will typically appreciate.
In addition to your new tiny home, you might also need to be in the market for a new car.
You are going to need a car that can tow your tiny home trailer. For most people, this means purchasing a reliable truck. If you do not already own this type of vehicle, it can be added expense that many people forget to factor in.
Do Tiny Houses Have to Be on Wheels to Classify as a Tiny House?
No, a tiny house does not have to be on wheels to classify as a tiny house.
There are two distinct categories of tiny homes that you can choose from: those built on a permanent foundation and those built on wheels. There are a lot of pros and cons to each side of the argument.
Check out our awesome article on why tiny homes on wheels are very portable!
However, both of these types of homes will be categorized differently depending on your jurisdiction.
A tiny house on wheels does not often get categorized as a home.
Most states and counties prefer to label them as RVs and require them to be RVIA certified.
A tiny house on a permanent foundation is often labeled as an accessory dwelling unit. This is particularly true if it is installed on a property that already has a single-family home or primary dwelling unit.
How Many Houses are Built on Wheels Per Year?
Unfortunately, knowing the exact number of tiny homes that are built each year in the United States is next to impossible. There are too many factors that make it difficult to track the exact numbers.
For example, many do-it-yourselfers purchase their trailers and complete their entire home start to finish. There are also a wide variety of certified tiny home builders who specialize in the construction of new homes on wheels. Many people choose to take their tiny home off-grid, making it even more difficult to track just how many homes there are.
Between the two, it is estimated that there are roughly 10,000 tiny homes in North America.
Of that number, we expect to see approximately 700 tiny homes from certified builders each year with that number steadily increasing as tiny homes on wheels grow in popularity.
In addition to those 700 homes, we also estimate that just as many are completed privately. In other words, more than 1,400 new tiny homes are added to our country every year.
For more statistics about tiny homes, read our other article “Tiny House Statistics: 8 Really Encouraging Numbers & Facts,”!
A tiny home on wheels has a lot of advantages for the right type of person.
If you are looking to do a good bit of traveling and want to take your home with you wherever you go, then this is definitely something you should consider.
Of course, make sure to weigh all of your options before you make such a major investment in your next property!
Maria is the founder of GoDownsize. While studying architecture in Denmark she became fascinated with designing living spaces for boats, tiny houses, RVs, and other small spaces.
She mainly writes about space optimization, interior design, and downsizing. She’s also in charge of our YouTube channel. Read more about Maria here.