You might think that living in a tiny house, especially a micro house, would be like living in a motorhome. There are similarities, but there are also stark differences in ways you might overlook or not know.
I’m going to divide this comparison into two categories.
- Living in a micro house (75-250 sq.ft.) versus living in a small (Class B) motorhome.
- Living in a tiny house (250-400 sq.ft.) versus living in a medium (Class C) to large (Class A) motorhome.
Living in a micro house vs. living in a small motorhome
A micro house offers the best comparison because some of them that are below about 200 square feet can be built on a trailer. This makes them more like a motorhome.
Although both are mobile, a small motorhome is probably better suited for regular travel. I can’t imagine how a micro wooden house that is built on a trailer could have all the latest automotive innovations for safe travel, especially over rough terrain, that a motorhome has. So this is a significant advantage of a small motorhome.
The other benefit of a small motorhome over a micro house on a trailer is that it can be fully self-contained. A mobile micro house may have some self-containment features, but nothing as advanced as a high-end small motorhome.
The biggest advantage that a mobile micro house has over a motorhome is its cost. A fully self-contained small motorhome can cost many times more than a mobile micro house.
Update: The Tumbleweed Tiny House Company is now a Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) certified manufacturer. Check out Tumbleweed’s micro house RVs here.
I’ve read about mobile micro houses being outfitted so they can connect to city utilities. I’ve also read about others that are equipped with RV components for motorhome-style utility hookups and for self-containment.
I think the small motorhome comes out on top in this comparison.
Living in a tiny house vs. living in a medium to a large motorhome
I’ve never lived in a motorhome, but I’ve lived on a nice 38’ boat with two cabins and two heads (bathrooms). I’ve discussed my experience of living on a boat with people who have lived in a motorhome and found that we had many of the same unpleasant issues to deal with.
When you’re not hooked up to utilities at an RV park or boat marina, you have to regularly refill your fresh water tank and empty your sewage tank. Finding a place to do these things properly can be a challenge. You also have to generate your own electricity, which can be noisy.
The other issue is privacy. If you’re parked in an RV park or docked at a marina, both of which usually have utility hookups, the distance between other visitors or residents can be small. At a boat marina, the distance is almost always short. Being that motorhomes and boats typically have a lot of windows, there is little privacy unless all the curtains are closed. If you have them closed throughout the day, it sends up a red flag indicating that you’re either antisocial, hung-over, or hiding something.
The biggest advantage of a medium to large motorhome is its mobility. If you want to live near the ocean, in the desert, or in the mountains for a while you can. If you have noisy neighbors or your in-laws are giving you trouble, you can move to a new city with the turn of a key. They also tend to have the latest equipment and luxury appointments. And as you would expect, medium to large motorhomes have robust self-containment features and utility hookups for everything imaginable.
The biggest disadvantage of a medium to large motorhome is its cost to buy, maintain, and fuel it. This can be many times the cost of a tiny house. And the cost of a new motorhome jumps up substantially with each increase in size.
A tiny house has three huge advantages over a medium to large motorhome. I already mentioned the biggest one: the cost. The second advantage is that it will most likely be connected to city utilities, which permanently fulfills this need. The third is the ability to design or redesign the interior and exterior of the house.
I know that you can have a new motorhome customized to a certain extent for a fee and that you can change the interior decor or exterior paint (new exterior paint would be costly), but you cannot do these things anywhere close to the degree that you can with a tiny house.
Since the cost is far less than many medium to large motorhomes and medium to large houses for that matter, you can afford to design a tiny house to your exact specifications. If you change your mind later, no problem! You can remove a wall, cut a window opening, or add an outdoor living space.
I think the tiny house comes out on top by a wide margin in this comparison. And if you buy a tiny or small house instead you could easily afford a small motorhome and have the best of both worlds!
I’m still a fan of motorhome living, but only on a part-time basis. And I would only buy a small motorhome because it’s much more economical than a large one.
At one point I was on a quest toward full-time motorhome living. These three issues changed my mind: (1) having to continually deal with utility hookups or the absence of them, (2) the inability to design every aspect of my home (which has been a lifelong dream), and (3) the lack of complete and constant privacy when I want it.
So I gave up my pursuit of full-time motorhome living in favor of a part-time arrangement. I reasoned that I could travel part-time in a motorhome and design my house if both of them were small. This would work since I was already living the tiny lifestyle. I discussed this strategy in an article entitled, “Small House + Small Motorhome: The Ideal Setup.”
Which would you rather have: a stationary home, a motorhome, or both by buying small?