What Is The Difference Between An RV And A Mobile Home?

Whilst RVs and mobile homes sound like they are the same thing they are actually quite different, so what is the difference between an RV and a mobile home?

In a nutshell, the difference between an RV and a mobile home is the difference in transportation. An RV can be towed easily by a vehicle (travel trailers) or can be powered itself (class A,B or C RVs). A mobile home can be transported, but not easily. Mobile homes have to be moved on the back of a flatbed truck and the onloading and offloading has to be done by a crane.

You could also define the difference between an RV and a mobile home as the availability of wheels. RVs have axles and wheels for easy movement, mobile homes do not.

Until the 1950’s RVs and mobile homes were considered the same thing and even today the water is a bit muddy as to what the difference is.

In this article, we look at the differences between RVs and mobile homes as well as a few other RV and camper-related differences. 

Is an RV considered a mobile home?

This is where the terminology gets tricky because of course, an RV is a mobile home, it is a house on wheels. What’s more mobile than that?

Up until the 1950’s the terms motorhome, RV and mobile home were all used interchangeably.

However, there are now new names. A motorhome is now commonly called an RV (recreational vehicle) and a mobile home is not called a manufactured home.

Both mobile/manufactured homes and RVs offer great downsizing options, but they are different and shouldn’t be considered as the same thing.

RVs are homes either in a trailer or self contained in a motor vehicle. Mobile homes are typically larger and don’t have wheels and can’t easily be moved without a flatbed truck and a crane.

In the article below I’ve outlined the main differences between an RV and a mobile home, let’s delve into the details..

Difference Between An RV And A Mobile Home

What is a Mobile/Manufactured Home?

After the depression during the1930’s, Americans were in desperate need of more affordable housing. To meet this demand the trailer manufacturers started to make larger trailers called “double-wides”. These double wides proved popular and as more and more were produced they were renamed mobile homes.

A mobile home is a self contained home that is built in a factory on a chassis, so it can be transported to site on a flatbed truck as a whole unit. When on site the utilities will be connected and the home is not easily movable.

After almost 30 years of growth in mobile homes, in 1976 the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) established the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards (MHCSS), commonly known as the HUD code. 

These federal standards regulate all aspects of the manufacture of mobile homes, including design and construction strength, durability, transportability, fire resistance, and energy efficiency. [1

The mobile homes that have been manufactured since this code has been enforced are called manufactured homes. These new manufactured homes are therefore built to a higher standard than mobile homes.

Manufactured homes are popular in the US as they offer a low cost, affordable way to own your own home. Manufactured houses are less than half the price of the average home in America, the average house is $295,300 and a double mobile home is $111,000.

There are two main sizes for a mobile home, single-wide and double-wide. You can get larger mobile homes like a triple-wide or even four and five, but these are far less common. The dimensions for the units are:

Living SpaceBedroomsBathrooms
            Single-Wide                       500 to 1,200 square feet                       1-2                       1-2           
            Double-Wide                       1,000 to 2,200 square feet                       2-3                       2           
            Triple- or Multi-Wide                       Over 2,000 square feet                       3+                       2+

What is an RV?

An RV or recreational vehicle is a motor vehicle or trailer that has accommodation and a living area incorporated. There are a wide range of RV types including motorhomes, campers, coaches, travel trailers, fifth-wheel trailers, popup campers, teardrop trailers, truck campers and many more.

RVs have developed from the horse drawn wagons from the 17th century, these covered wagons helped the early settlers in North America move around and create settlements.

Through the ages RVs have developed and the first motorized RV was built in 1915. It was a far cry from the RVs we see now, as it was 28 feet long and could sleep up to 11 people. But this model was developed on and in the 20s RVs started gaining popularity with RV clubs and camping sites popping up.

From the 1950s RVs became more centred around the idea of being self contained motorhomes that can be easily moved, either by being towed or with their own motor.

Difference Between An RV And A Mobile Home

What Is The Difference Between An RV And A Mobile Home?

So now that we know what a mobile home and an RV are, what’s the difference?

The biggest differences between the two are:

  • RVs are more mobile and have wheels and axles so they can be moved easily. They are either in the form of a trailer that can be towed or are motorized themselves.
  • Mobile homes are larger and modern ones are now so large that they can be classed as permanent housing. They are built in a factory and incorporated into a chassis. They can be moved but only on the back of a truck, and when on site can not be easily moved again.
  • RVs are best for people who enjoy traveling and want home comforts whilst on the move and at campsites.
  • Mobile homes are best for people who want affordable housing in a specific location. They can enjoy all the amenities of a home and have a comfortable family living space at a low cost. It’s a more permanent living solution than an RV.

If you are still unsure of which one suits your needs best, here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each one.

Advantages of an RV VS Mobile Home

The biggest advantage of RVs is their mobility, you can move and set up home in another location whenever you want. The transportation cost is low and easy compared with a mobile home where it can cost thousands of dollars and lots of planning to move.

The mobility of RVs gives you the freedom to travel in your home, which will cut down on holiday costs like hotels and flights.

Another advantage of owning an RV is the sheer number of different RVs on the market. There are so many different types and models at different price points, that you are sure to find one that’s perfect for you.

Disadvantages of an RV VS Mobile Home

There are also downsides to owning an RV which you will need to consider before making your choice.

The biggest disadvantage to owning an RV is that it comes with a lot of unexpected costs when compared with a manufactured home. You will need to factor in maintenance costs, repairs, roadside cover, utilities, insurance, etc. You will have to pay some of these costs for a mobile home, however they are a lot more predictable and less can go wrong – like breaking down.

Whilst we’re talking about costs, you will also need to consider the depreciation of the RV as the value of the RV will decrease. Mobile homes can also decrease but you can easily perform upgrades to increase the value like a typical house.

Also believe it or not, RVs are typically more expensive to buy new, than a mobile home. Especially if you are looking at top end RVs – they can cost more than a house. A new RV will set you back anywhere in the region of $50k to $200k, whilst a new single-wide mobile home is around $47,000 and a double-wide $111,000.

Mobile homes also don’t require as much upkeep as an RV and daily chores, such as emptying your sewer tanks and fueling up etc.

Mobility/FreedomExpensive to buy new 
Large Choice of types Unexpected Costs like repairs
Low cost to moveDepreciation
Mobile Homes
Cheaper to buy newHigh cost to move
Predictable bills and costsHard to Move
Less maintenance costs and more stability as it’s stationary.

Difference Between An RV And A Mobile Home

Final Thoughts

The difference between RVs and mobile homes is that RVs have wheels and can be easily driven to different locations. Mobile homes are stationary and can be moved but have to be moved on the back of a truck which is difficult to do and expensive.

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