At a time when paring down your life is in fashion, tiny homes are more popular than ever — and being able to move them anywhere, at any time, is an added appeal for many aspiring tiny home owners. Here’s a look at both the benefits and drawbacks of a tiny home on wheels.
Unlike a tiny home built on a permanent foundation, a tiny home on wheels offers incredible mobility and flexibility. And unlike mobile homes, which are often moved only once, tiny homes on wheels are designed to be relocated as often as desired, hence why so many are built on a customized trailer and hitched to a truck. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons people are drawn to the lifestyle.
“The reason we don’t just call tiny homes cottages or cabins is because one of the founders of the movement built a tiny cabin and put it on a trailer,” says Zack Giffin, a tiny homes expert and the host of the A&E Network and Netflix show Tiny House Nation. The result was a cross between a mobile home and a recreation vehicle (RV), but with much more charm and smarter, space-saving design elements.
Whether you’re a 20-something or preparing for retirement (or both!), tiny homes on wheels are ideal for anyone whose life isn’t set in stone. The freedom and flexibility to move when an opportunity (or a whim) presents itself is part of the appeal, even if ultimately you move your tiny home just once or twice.
It’s important to remember, though, that moving will still require you to disconnect utilities and secure your tiny home for safe transport. Depending on the size of your tiny house and where you live, you may not be able to move it at all without a special travel permit.
For those with jobs that require a lot of moving around, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the costs of buying and selling houses repeatedly, or paying high rent for short term leases. Tiny homes on wheels are a great antidote to that, but keep in mind local building codes can be finicky.
That’s because tiny homes on wheels aren’t regular permanent homes, nor are they mobile homes or RVs. They’re stuck somewhere in the middle, which makes classifying and building them to code difficult. This is something Giffin and others are working to change over the next few years. “We’re trying to get tiny homes designated as moveable housing units intended for permanent habitation. Right now there aren’t a lot of places where it’s OK to live in anything on wheels, which restricts homeowners to places they may not necessarily want to live.”
If you plan to move your tiny house around, you’ll need a truck strong enough to pull it, a trailer hitch, and a place to park it, whether you buy or lease private lots that allow tiny homes or you look for RV parks that accommodate tiny homes. Even if you find a piece of land that accepts tiny homes, local zoning codes may not allow for one that’s on wheels.
Some places also have minimum maximum building requirements, and you can’t build smaller than that unless you apply for an exemption, if it’s even possible. Exemptions for tiny homes on wheels are even harder to deal with because they tend to be grouped with RVs, which aren’t intended for full-time occupation. “As a result some tiny homes get RV certified, which restricts homeowners to living in RV parks,” Giffin says. “That’s typically not the dream of a tiny home.”
If you plan to live in your tiny home on wheels permanently, you’ll find that many zoning ordinances require it to be a certain minimum square footage to be permitted. On the other hand, using it for work or a hobby may not require a permit at all. In that case, having the tiny home on a trailer with wheels is ideal.
In areas where your tiny home on wheels is considered an RV, keep in mind RV parks can limit the maximum number of nights you can stay, and some jurisdictions require that any RV used for camping or sleeping be certified by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, which means it would have to have been built to those standards and inspected. Sure, you won’t have to deal with local building codes, but you’ll be forced to comply with a whole other set of rules—possibly each time you move it.
At the end of the day, your tiny home has to suit your life. That’s why it’s key to take your time and consider what’s most valuable to you. If being easily mobile is important, think about where you want to live both now and in the future, and spend some time getting to know the building and zoning requirements in those areas. As the movement grows, so do the opportunities for tiny home owners, which will continue making it easier to live the lifestyle.
Ana Connery is former content director of Parenting, Babytalk, Pregnancy Planner and Conceive magazines as well as parenting.com.
While editor in chief of Florida Travel & Life magazine from 2006-2009, she covered the state’s real estate and home design market as well as travel destinations.
She’s held senior editorial positions at some of the country’s most celebrated magazines, including Latina, Fitness and Cooking Light, where she oversaw the brand’s “FitHouse” show home.
Ana’s expertise is frequently sought after for appearances on “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America” and CNN. She has interviewed the country’s top experts in a variety of fields, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and First Lady Michelle Obama.