RV’s vs Tiny House – What’s the Difference?


RVs and tiny houses

By Guillaume Dutilh via Wikimedia Commons

The Tiny House Movement is in full effect as tiny houses are becoming increasingly popular across the Pacific Northwest. We still live in a society that teaches us that more is, well, more and more is always better. However, those who don’t want to succumb to the burden of traditional housing now have a viable living alternative. Tiny homes have captured the hearts of people around the world, and the movement is quickly gaining momentum.

On the other hand, recreational vehicles, also known as RVs, have been around for a long time, and are designed to offer all the commodities of a home in a motorized vehicle. RVs themselves became popular in the early 1900s, but the concept of a vehicle equipped with living facilities date back to the mid-1700s. Covered wagons were the inspiration behind RVs, both of which were designed to satisfy the wanderlust for conquering the outdoors.  

RVs & Mobile Homes

There are many types of RVs out there, but they all fall under the category of motorized homes. An RV is any motorized vehicle with living facilities and amenities: kitchen, bathroom, beds, and storage spaces. However, the idea behind RVs can be traced back to the wagons used to settle the midwest United States. Covered wagons were equipped with living quarters that settlers used while in search of a new home.

Modern RVs can be used for both permanent living space as well as a home while traveling. One of the great American traditions is to travel the great highways in an RV. The RV market has grown to cater to all families, so they now come in different shapes and sizes:

Class A- The biggest, most spacious, and most luxurious types of RV. They are usually converted busses and custom models loaded with appliances and other features.  

Class B- Usually referred to as a camper van, these are smaller vehicles that qualify as motorhomes. These are often built on a standard van frame with a raised roof.

Class C- Medium-sized RVs ranging from 20 to 33 feet. They usually sit on a van or truck chassis and are equipped to host an entire family.  

Towable RVs- Detachable trailers that offer similar advantages to that of motorhomes, cost less money and are just as reliable. They can be towed by a number of vehicles and can be detached, to use the towing vehicle independently. New models are being designed with amphibian capacity and other new features.

The Tiny Home Movement

The tiny house movement is the term used to describe an architectural and social preference that has gained a substantial amount of attention in the last two decades.

Like the name implies, the movement consists of reducing living space to the bare minimum and living in small (or tiny) homes. There is no official guideline, but any house that is 500 square feet or less is normally considered a tiny home.

Tiny homes were designed to counter the notion of needing a huge living space. They are built using similar designs to houses but are substantially smaller. TIny homes can even be built on a trailer frame and be moved towed around.

In comparison to traditional homes, tiny houses use a fraction of the energy in order to maintain the house. They are usually equipped with composting toilets, solar panels, and wood or gas heating. Despite their size, they offer kitchens, sleeping areas, and other common amenities.

The Similarities Between RVs and Tiny Houses

RVs and tiny houses are very similar, although they look completely different from the outside. The idea behind them is the same — downsizing on living spaces, becoming more eco-friendly, and being able to travel without leaving home behind.

There are other key similarities between tiny houses and RVs. They range from inspiration to usability:

The Philosophy of Living Small

RVs and tiny homes are often associated with similar philosophies. Tiny homes usually appeal to people who don’t believe society’s concept of big living areas, who are striving to become more eco-friendly, or who desire their own mobile living space.

Some tiny house enthusiasts are fueled by environmental reasons, as the amount of energy needed to support a tiny house is minimal compared to traditional housing. Tiny homes are often built on a trailer and van frames for mobility and can be attached to a variety of vehicles.

RVs are also designed to be self-sufficient mobile living spaces that can cater to entire families, depending on their size. An RV is synonymous with exploring new lands and living an adventure-filled way of life.

Environmental Impact

Both RVs and tiny houses are much more environmentally friendly than traditional housing. For mobile tiny houses and most RVs, you should also consider fuel costs. If they are constantly being moved that is.

Heating and cooling costs are also reduced as the house’s total area is considerably smaller in both tiny houses and RVs. Some RVs and tiny houses are equipped with solar panels to power their electronics, adding another level of independence.

Small Living Features

One of the things that set RVs and tiny houses apart from other motorized homes is that they are equipped with everything you need to live. All RVs and tiny homes come equipped with sleeping areas, kitchen/cooking facilities, and storage space. Most of them are also equipped with water features such as running water, showers and plumbing, lighting, and stoves (electric or gas).

Low Cost

Traditional houses usually translate to years of saving, followed by mortgages and real estate commissions. However, motorized homes and tiny houses offer a great option for long-term financial commitment. The cost of both RV and tiny houses varies tremendously, ranging anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 for a fully-equipped model. This, however, is still considerably lower than buying a traditional house.

The Differences Between a Tiny Home and RV

RVs and tiny houses are also quite different, and although they both come in all shapes, colors, and styles they can be quite different. These vary from functional to aesthetic differences, and even materials used.


Both RVs and tiny houses can be customized, however, RVs are often limited in comparison to tiny houses. Most tiny houses are tailor-made to the owner’s requirements, unlike RVs that can be modified but not ordered from scratch.


RVs are off-shelf products, so they have that mass-produced air around them. However, modern finishes and amenities are often found inside their aluminum shell. Tiny houses have a cozy feeling about them and usually feature beautiful wood finishing. They can be modern or rustic — it’s all left up to the owner’s decision.


Although RVs can be just as spacious as tiny houses, they are not as weatherproof as the average tiny house. RVs are great ideas for most places, but, depending on your model, may struggle to keep warm in harsh northern winters. Tiny houses typically have the same type of insulation as regular homes.

Designed to Be Mobile

Tiny homes are heavier than RVs, making them more expensive to transfer. In addition, RVs are aerodynamic: they are designed to travel at high speeds and on highways. Tiny houses are built like a house, so they are not always aerodynamic. This decreases their durability if moved on a regular basis, and also means they are more expensive to move.

Paperwork & Legal

There is no clear piece of legislation in place for tiny houses, so they are often left up to local decisions. There are several loopholes to prevent your tiny house from being charged with property tax. However, it’s always a risky, grey area you will be gambling with.

RVs, on the other hand, don’t usually incur property taxes (may depend on the state), so it makes it an easy choice if you don’t want to pay property taxes and cruise through paperwork smoothly.

Who’s Living in What?

RVs are usually used as travel houses for vacationers and retirees. However, they are becoming more and more popular as a permanent residence alternative. Most RV owners also own a traditional house and use the RV on road trips and special occasions.

Tiny houses are always built as a permanent home. Most tiny house enthusiasts sell their traditional homes (or see off their mortgages) in exchange for a minimalists lifestyle. Most tiny house owners live a completely different lifestyle than what society deems as normal, so moving to a tiny house is about making a statement.

Stay tuned for more information and tips about RVs and other motorized homes. If you are interested in finding and RV feel free to check out Kirkland RV’s local listings and find your dream recreational vehicle today. Contact us today and our team of qualified professionals will be glad to assist you and help you find the best RV for you!