Tiny House Vs RV Living: Distinguishing The Differences Between The Two Ways Of Life


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We can hear you now. You’re thinking that surely, when it comes totiny house vs RV living, the difference is pretty simple: do you want your home to go places or not? Isn’t a tiny house just a camper or RV that doesn’t move? Some tiny houses actually can be moved, which might seem to make the differences in the tiny house vs RV question seem even less important.

Yet there are differences, and for the person trying to decide where to spend their hard earned cash and debating the tiny house vs RV question, those differences can be very important. So let’s get into it and try to hash out the similarities and differences, the pros and cons of both lifestyles, and why these things matter.

Why Is This A Conversation Worth Having?

It might seem that the tiny house vs RV question is mostly just semantics, but there are some crucial things to know about each. Tiny house lifestyle and RV lifestyle are not identical, though they have similarities. 

What These Differences Can Affect

The differences between a tiny house and an RV can affect your wallet, your reputation, your future, and the legal situation you and your family might find yourselves in. In rare cases, these differences might even be a matter of serious health concerns; but we’ll get to more on that in a bit.

Making Choices

You wouldn’t (we hope) run out and buy a car without doing some research. After all, a Mini wouldn’t work for you if you have a family of six, and a minivan would be a rather silly choice for a single man who just needs to commute ten minutes to work every day.

Again, you probably wouldn’t go get just any dog without doing a bit of research first. If you have babies around the house, you might not want a pit bull; if you have a lot of allergies, you might want to look for a poodle mix.

An RV and a tiny house are not the same thing, though they have some things in common, and you should put at least the same amount of thought into your choice of tiny house vs RV that you would put into adopting a dog or choosing a car.

Tiny House Living

rv trailer with black car

Image Source: Freepik

The tiny house life has been hugely popular of late, and many people see the movement as a way to a green and sustainable future. There are blueprints, interior design tips, and many other resources freely available online; but before you pull the trigger on this one, you should know about tiny house living.

Tiny Home Life Is A Choice

Most people who choose to live in tiny houses do so for very specific reasons. While this can also be true of those who choose the RV life, there’s something extraordinarily deliberate about the reasons people turn to tiny houses:


With a tiny house, you can live with no mortgage, lower utility bills, and a lot more flexibility. People often choose this lifestyle specifically so they can be free from many of the stressors that we tend to consider a normal part of modern life.

Financial Independence

Many people deliberately choose to downsize into a tiny house so that they can regain financial independence. It’s possible to save so much money that they can quickly get out of debt. For others, a tiny house lifestyle means they can get rid of costly mortgages, landscaping upkeep, and huge utility bills.

Smaller Footprint

Others choose the tiny house life because they’re just tired of consuming and consuming. By moving to a tiny house, they can get rid of stuff, reduce their carbon footprint, and live a minimalist lifestyle.

Tiny Home Life Is Hard

We don’t mean that it’s hard to bear: we mean that it takes hard work to pull off. The key to a successful, long-term tiny house life is making sure that everything has a place and is in its place. Without a commitment to keeping up with the clutter, you will quickly be overwhelmed, discouraged, and frustrated. This can lead to fights and all kinds of relationship trouble. It’s not impossible to navigate these difficulties: it’s just something you should know about going in.

Tiny Home Life Changes Habits

There are some social and lifestyle habits that you’ll have to get used to if you choose the tiny house life. For one thing, you won’t be able to have many guests. You might not be able to accommodate overnight guests at all, and parties and dinners will be very limited.

You also won’t have a separate room to use as office space, do your yoga, or put that stuff in “just until I have time to get around to it.” You won’t be able to play host to family gatherings, either. Though for some people, that might be a plus!

Time Home Life Brings Clarity

To move into a tiny house means getting rid of a lot of junk. A lot. You’ll never realize how much you’ve got until you have to downsize it. This simple act can bring a clarity and contentment to your life that you never dreamed possible. And once you’re rid of all that stuff, you’ll find you don’t suffer so much from stress, either.

RV Living

rv camper on a roadtrip

Image Source Freepik

When we speak of RV living, we’re talking about full-time RV living: not the occasional summer vacation jaunt. The only way to really compare the tiny house vs RV question is to consider permanent RV life.

RV Living Is Mobile

If you like having a different view every few nights, the RV life might be for you. After all, some people pay a lot of money to have homes with spectacular views that you can easily get from the window of a camper van.

RV Living Is Active

This isn’t always a granted, but living in a regular house inspires…television watching? In your RV you’ll learn not to take having WiFi for granted, and instead of your living space inspiring you to sit down, you’ll feel inspired to head out to the lake, ride bikes in the mountains, or just go for a walk.

Granted, some of that inspiration comes from the reality that the inside of an RV simply isn’t always that cozy and inviting: but if you need some help getting up and out, it might be the perfect choice for you.

RV Living Is Dark

In a tiny home, you can put in a lot of windows and position them in the optimum way to get the most natural light. In an RV, your window light is going to be very limited.

RV Living Is Cramped

It’s possible to get a tiny house even smaller than some of the biggest RVs. But tiny homes can be designed and built from scratch into any shape, and they don’t have to worry about being road-friendly. They don’t often feelquite so crowded as an RV. In an RV, every single item and space has to have multiple uses.

RV Life Is Hard: For The RV

To be honest, RVs just aren’t meant to be permanent homes. They were never designed to have people living in them 24/7, and a lot of pricey parts will need to be fixed on a regular basis. Include in this list everything from the seat cushions to the table, the fans to the front door.

How Are These Two Ways Of Living Similar?


Image Source: Freepik

In the whole tiny house vs RV debate, we can come together on some things:


Tiny house vs RV: many people have the same philosophy about living small no matter which life they choose. Both lives usually mean a smaller footprint, less waste, and a less cluttered life.


Living in a tiny house and living in an RV are both going to be a lot cheaper than living in a traditional home. In fact, many people choose one of these options because it enables them to get debt free quickly or save up for adventures.

Small Features

Whichever side of the tiny house vs RV debate you come down on, you’ll be living with very small features. Small beds, small kitchens, small bathrooms, small microwaves, small cooking areas, small doors; and small amounts of privacy if you’re living with someone else.

Environmental Impact

Both a tiny house and an RV typically have a much smaller footprint than a traditional home. With an RV you do have to take fuel costs into account, but even so the total impact is far less than heating, cooling, and powering a big house all year.

How Are These Two Ways Of Living Different?

white rv

Image Source Pexels

While it might seem that these two types of living quarters have a lot in common, they actually have more in the way of differences than similarities.


RVs are mass produced on an assembly line like cars, trucks, or yachts. They all look quite similar, and while you can modify them, it will be a considerable expense ripping out everything and redoing it. Tiny houses tend to be more unique, cozy, and individualized. Plus, most people design their tiny house from scratch, so making it yours isn’t something that you factor in as an extra cost after purchase.


RVs are not meant for long-term, constant use, and they aren’t meant to be out in harsh weather all the time. Tiny houses are tiny; but they are still houses. They are insulated and made for long-term living.


Technically, you can move a lot of tiny houses, but they aren’t made to be really mobile. The main reason they come on wheels is so you can move them to comply with regulations; but moving them is a pain. They’re heavy, they don’t necessarily fit on the roads easily, and they aren’t made to take the abuse of wind, road debris, and movement. An RV is made from the ground up to move. It is constructed of lightweight materials and shaped in a way that is conducive to highway travel.


RVs are generally cheaper to acquire initially than a tiny house. However, over time, a tiny house becomes cheaper because there aren’t a lot of fuel costs, and the constructions materials are more durable. Additionally, tiny houses are much better insulated than RVs. That usually means they are more energy efficient and easier to cool or heat.


The law is pretty clear when it comes to RVs. We all know where these campers stand; but tiny houses are still something of a grey area. The laws haven’t caught up with the movement. For the most part, you can be sure your RV won’t be subject to property tax, but that’s not a given with a tiny house; especially if you have it hooked up to services.


Again, the tiny house lives in a slightly grey area. It’s pretty straightforward getting RV insurance, but what about your tiny house? Is it permanent? Is it mobile? Are you paying property taxes? All these will affect whether you can get insurance and what it will be like.


This is somewhat subjective, but most people find that a tiny house feels more like a real home, while an RV feels more like…well, like a trailer. Tiny houses can be personalized, and that makes a big difference here; but part of the issue is simply the materials and look.

Suitable Climates

Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, but the tiny house wins the tiny house vs RV debate when it comes to enduring bitter winter weather. Trust us. You might also find and RV utterly sweltering in the hottest places. Tiny houses are often made specifically to endure the harshest of climates. They can also easily be fitted out with solar power, woodstoves, in-floor heating systems, and better insulation than you’ll find on an RV.


When we speak of safety in the tiny house vs RV question, we’re not talking about road safety (though that is a legitimate concern if you’re always driving your RV places). What we really mean are VOCs and chemical exposure. RVs take a lot of glues to put together, have particleboard furniture to save weight, and in general are off-gassing toxins and VOCs for years after you buy them. You can avoid all of this, if you want, as you build a tiny house.

Bathroom Setup

An RV will have the type of toilets, showers, and washing facilities you’re used to from a regular house. A lot of tiny houses use composting toilets and other alternative setups that take some getting used to.


Because the RV has been around longer and is better known, it’s typically easier to sell your RV than to sell your tiny home. This might not matter to everyone, but if you’re not sure you want to commit for the long haul, it could be worth it to get an RV.

​Conclusion: Tiny House Vs RV. Which Is Better?

girl-standing on rv

Image Source Pexels

Now we’re talking about making a personal decision, and in some ways only you can decide which one of these living choices is right for you. What we can do for you here, however, is sum up why you might choose one or the other so you can make a decision.

Choose An RV For:


RVs are made to be moved. If you want to go from place to place, an RV is definitely better than a tiny house.

Blending In

Tiny houses are meant to stand out. An RV, however, is the right choice for anyone who wants to blend in and move around a little more undetected and unnoticed.

Savings on Initial Costs

If you are working with a pretty limited budget, you’ll be able to get a camper van to fix up a whole lot cheaper than you’ll be able to get a tiny house.

Navigating Legalities

Whether you’re trying navigate complicated building codes or worries about getting insurance, it’ll all be easier with an RV.

Choose A Tiny House For:


It’s easier to secure your door, easier to protect yourself from the weather, and easier to avoid costly repairs with a tiny house than with an RV. This is especially true if you need a place to hang out for the winter.


If you’re worried about toxins and VOCs, you’ll be a lot better off with a tiny house than with an RV. You can choose the materials that make up your interior and furnishings, and you can choose the paints, the varnishes, the glues, and the finishes.


If you want something that looks and feels like a real home, a tiny house will be better than an RV. It feels and looks more solid, permanent, cozy, and homely (in a good way!).


You certainly can customize your RV to look any way you like, but you’ll have to rip out everything and do it after you’ve bought. It will be much easier, and cheaper, to customize your tiny house right from the start.

Making A Choice

If you’ve read this far and still don’t know what you want, you’re not alone. There are pros and cons to both choices, and the tiny house vs RV choice isn’t always an easy one to answer.

For our money, the tiny house is the winner. We’re just swayed by the combination of customization, security, no VOCs or toxins, and the feeling of being in a real home. It might not be for everyone, but thankfully we’re all free to make our own choices.

Feautured Image Source: ​Pexels

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