What is the Difference Between an RV and a Mobile Home?

Many people live in RVs, which have many similarities to mobile homes from wheels to being towable, to having that pre-fabricated feel. But legally and otherwise, are RVs considered mobile homes?

As a general rule, since they are both mobile and can be used as a home, RVs are considered mobile homes.  But true mobile homes have to meet certain regulations that RVs do not in order to live in them. But, most RV campgrounds that allow permanent residents will also allow mobile homes.

But that just scratches the surface.

In this article, we’re deep-diving into the differences between a recreational vehicle and mobile homes and the associated costs of living in both. And it’s worth noting that mobile homes built after 1976 are called manufactured homes.

Let’s get started.

What’s the difference between a mobile home and an RV?

The primary difference between a mobile home and an RV is that RVs are designed to be moved quickly and easily whereas a mobile home is designed to be parked permanently and requires professional movers to relocate it.

You’ll have to pay to park both, but you are only required to insure RVs since it is also considered a vehicle.

Ultimately, living in an RV is not the same as living in a mobile home. Mobile homes are also called manufactured homes. Technically, if it was built before 1976, it’s still called a “mobile home,” but anything built after 1976 is a manufactured home.

Manufactured homes have to meet several federal regulations that RVs do not have to meet.

For this article, I’m going to assume that the RV you are considering living in was built after 1976. Manufactured homes have to comply with federal regulations to design, construct, and install mobile homes. These regulations assure quality, durability, safety, and affordability. They also ensure that electrical wiring, plumbing, and HVAC systems in each home are held to the same standards.

Manufactured homes are homes, and in the same category as site-built homes.

They have living rooms, full kitchens, bathrooms, and separate bedrooms, just like a house made from wood or brick. They are cheaper than a house but are still required to be safe to live in full-time. They are engineered for wind safety, energy-efficient, and secured to the ground by steel anchors.

RVs are vehicles that have a home or living quarters attached to them.

They are not manufactured to be lived in on a full-time basis, and are generally designed for seasonal use. There are several different classes of RVs.

Class A

This is a motorhome that also includes commercial passenger and school buses that have been converted into RVs. Class A motorhomes are generally larger and more luxurious. They have multiple rooms, 2 or more slide-outs, and a full bathroom. But even within Class A, you will find basic models in the $150,000 range and a luxury RV range that can go upwards of $500,000 or more.

Other than 5h-Wheels, these have more square feet than other types of RVs.

Class B

These RVs are campervans with raised roofs. They often have small kitchens with refrigerators and gas grills. Some larger ones will have a water heater, heating and AC, toilets and a shower.

Class C

These vehicles are what many people think of when they think about motorhomes. They have the alcove that fits over the truck cab. They typically have a wider berth for sleeping and entertainment. Many times they also have a small kitchen area and a bathroom area.

Of course, there are many other types of RVs as well. There are 5th wheels, truck campers, pop-up campers, and travel trailers. All of which you could theoretically live in full-time.

Like mobile homes though, RVs aren’t as well insulated as a permanent home. This can be a problem in winter.

RVs are also tough to live in during the winter months, especially in areas that get a lot of snow. To read about living in an RV during the winter, check out this recent article.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Which depreciates faster, a mobile home or an RV?

An RV will typically depreciate faster than a mobile home. 5th wheel RVs depreciate the fastest, and Class C RVs depreciate the slowest. However, supply and demand can impact RV pricing more than mobile home pricing. But both do depreciate whereas regular homes typically appreciate.

But in times when 6-figure RVs are scarce, and demand is high, late-model RVs in that category could easily see very little depreciation.

Manufactured homes are a low-cost, affordable way to own a home. They cost about half as much as site-built construction. Mobile homes don’t always appreciate in value though as more permanent homes usually do. In order to appreciate in value, a mobile home would have to be a newer model, and on the higher end.

But as I mentioned, there are a lot of variables that come into play regarding the value of a manufactured home. Location, maintenance, and age are just a few of them.

Other variables include the housing market, the community, and the inflation rate.

The housing market and the community in which the mobile home is located have a significant impact on the home’s future value. For example, a mobile home on its own property will appreciate in value, whereas one in a mobile home park will likely depreciate.

In fact, when properly maintained, manufactured homes can appreciate at the same rate as other homes in the surrounding neighborhood. source

RVs, on the other hand, always depreciate.

In fact, you can expect to lose approximately 20% of your total purchase price of a new RV as soon as you drive it off the lot. It will significantly depreciate every year after that for about five years. After that, the depreciation will plateau.

Fifth wheels depreciate the fastest, while Class C motorhomes depreciate the slowest. But just like with mobile homes, there are certain things that can make your RV depreciate faster.

Brand new RVs and RVs still in the breaking-in period depreciate the fastest. The breaking-in period can last several years! Off-brand RVs, RVs with water damage, and those that have been stored outdoors will also depreciate faster.

Broken or old appliances can also contribute to the depreciation factor. source

While a mobile home may or may not depreciate, it is guaranteed that your RV will depreciate. It is also guaranteed to depreciate faster than a mobile home, no matter how well it’s taken care of.

Which kind of RV holds its value the best?

Class B RVs hold their value best. Generally, the larger the RV, the more quickly it depreciates. On average, fifth-wheel trailers and Class A motorhomes have the most rapid depreciation, while Class B and C vehicles have the slowest depreciation of motorhomes. Travel trailers have the slowest depreciation of towable campers.

However, a luxury Class A RV will hold its value better than economy models, especially if well maintained.

For a 5th wheel, by the time it reaches ten years old, it will decrease in value by 71%. A Class C motorhome, on the other hand, will decrease in value by about 50%.

Several factors play into depreciation.

While mileage doesn’t play a huge role in depreciation, time most certainly does. Just like any other vehicle, brand new RVs lose approximately 20% of their value as soon as you drive them off the lot. source

Almost all motorhomes fall under one of three classes.

Class A, which is the most luxurious and the largest. Think Greyhound bus large. Class B motorhomes are the smallest but not the least expensive. These are more like upgraded vans. Finally, Class C motorhomes are somewhere in between Class A & Class B motorhomes.

Class C vehicles are what many people think of when they think about motorhomes.

They have the alcove that fits over the truck cab. They typically have a wider berth for sleeping and entertainment. Many times they also have a small kitchen area and a bathroom area.

Of course, there are also travel trailers and fifth-wheels.

Is insurance cheaper on an RV or a mobile home?

Insurance on a mobile home is typically cheaper than RV insurance.

On average, RV insurance costs $1,200 to $2000 per year. By comparison, mobile home insurance costs anywhere from $250 to $1,300 per year. Unless required by a lender, insurance is not required on a mobile home but is required on all RVs.

Ultimately an RV is designed to be driven.

And that mileage adds additional wear and tear and the possibility of an accident adds considerable liability as it’s a large, heavy piece of machinery capable of significant destruction and injury or even death. A mobile home, of course, is often just parked in a trailer park. So the risks of damage are mostly from the weather.

There are many factors that determine insurance costs, especially for an RV, such as:

  • Class
  • Size
  • Use
  • Age 

Mobile home insurance is not required by law, but it can help pay for repairs due to damage.

RV insurance covers more than typical auto insurance. And homeowners insurance doesn’t cover moving or travel-related incidents. So if you purchase an RV, you should make sure you have the right kind of insurance.

Just like traditional automobile insurance, you will be required to get liability insurance on an RV.

Liability insurance is required in all states. If you are found at-fault for an RV-related incident, liability insurance can help cover legal fees, property damage, and medical expenses to the other parties. source

You should also get collision insurance, comprehensive insurance, and uninsured/underinsured coverage.

And if you took out a loan for your RV, as most do, this will be required by the lender. All of these are pretty typical auto insurance policies. However, with RVs, you can also get contents insurance.

This will cover any personal belongings you have on board. This is especially important if you live in your RV or just spend a lot of time traveling. This will cover the cost of your possessions in case of an accident or natural disaster.

You can also get coverage for emergency expenses. For example, if your RV catches fire and you need temporary lodging or transportation, it will be covered. There is also total loss replacement and campsite liability insurance if someone gets injured in or near your RV while it’s parked.

The cost of RV insurance can vary widely.

It depends on the type of coverage you get, as well as the miles you travel every year, the age of the motorhome, prior traffic violations, and deductible costs.

But for our 2020 Newmar Bay Star Class A RV, we pay about $1,300/year for full coverage.

Mobile home insurance is not required by law and won’t cost anything. But you’ll be paying for any repairs due to damage out of your pocket. The cost will vary based on location, insurance limits, deductible, mobile home age, and the types of coverage you purchase.

Does it cost more to park an RV or a mobile home?

Mobile home parks are typically slightly cheaper than RV parks. Mobile home parks charge an average of $400-$700 per month to park your mobile home. RV parks can cost anywhere from $25-$50 per day with some offering monthly rates averaging between $500-900 per month or more for RV resorts.

Mobile home parks are meant to be lived in.

They are expected to live there permanently and pay rent for the lot that their mobile home is parked on. RVs are usually in the park for a week or less and typically pay a daily parking rate.

Like everything, the cost to rent a lot in a mobile home park varies significantly by state.

Rent may or may not include trash pickup, lawn care, and sewer.

Some of the “high end” mobile home lots may even include a pool and clubhouse. Sometimes they’ll even have a lending library, indoor and outdoor rec areas, and park areas with picnic tables and grills for use.

Campsite fees typically include electric, water, and dumping stations. You’ll also get to use any community amenities. Like bathrooms, rec areas, and clubhouse use.

So, parking in an RV park will cost more than renting a lot in a mobile home park. You’ll also get less for your money.

Because you’re renting, you won’t be liable for property taxes at either of these places, and you may even be able to write them off on your taxes.

Is a park model RV considered an RV or a mobile home?

Park models tend to get categorized with RVs but really are closer to mobile homes.

Let’s review the key differences:

  • Park models, like mobile homes, require professional movers to relocate
  • Park models typically require permanent connections for utilities
  • Park models, like mobile homes, are designed to be parked permanently
  • Park models are often 11 feet wide whereas RVs are typically legally required to not exceed 8′ 6″ in width

Can you park an RV in a mobile home park?

Most mobile home parks will allow RVs as space allows.

However, as mobile homes are designed to be parked permanently, available space can be very limited. The mobile home park may also be reluctant to give a space temporarily to an RV if spaces are limited and demand from mobile homeowners is high.

Additionally, some RV campgrounds that allow permanent residents will allow mobile homes. However, upscale RV resorts may not allow mobile homes due to the perceived effect on their image. This is because right or wrong, many people look down on mobile homes as being for the poor.

Don’t shoot the messenger!

Which costs more to buy; an RV or a mobile home?

When it comes to prices, here’s a breakdown of different types of RVs and mobile homes:

RVs:

  • Class A motorhomes: New units can range from $100,000 to over $1 million. Used models can be found starting from $50,000.
  • Class B motorhomes: Prices typically range from $70,000 to $200,000 for new units. Used models can be found starting from $40,000.
  • Class C motorhomes: New units usually start around $80,000 and can go up to $300,000 or more. Used models can be found starting from $30,000.
  • Travel trailers: Prices vary widely depending on size and features. A small travel trailer can start around $15,000, while larger and more luxurious models can exceed $100,000.
  • Fifth wheels: Prices for new fifth wheels typically start around $30,000 and can go up to $150,000 or more. Used models can be found starting from $10,000.

Mobile homes (manufactured homes):

  • Single-wide mobile homes: Prices for new single-wide units generally range from $20,000 to $80,000, depending on size and features.
  • Double-wide mobile homes: New double-wide units typically start around $50,000 and can go up to $150,000 or more, depending on customization options and features.

It’s important to note that these price ranges are approximate and can vary based on factors such as location, manufacturer, optional features, and local market conditions.

Additionally, prices may change over time due to fluctuations in the housing market and industry trends. Therefore, it’s always recommended to research current prices from dealers, manufacturers, or online listings to get the most accurate and up-to-date pricing information for the specific type of RV or mobile home you are interested in.

How does a mobile home differ from a manufactured home?

Mobile homes and manufactured homes are often used interchangeably, but there are subtle differences between them. The main difference lies in their construction standards and legal definitions.

Mobile homes refer to homes built before June 15, 1976, when the construction and safety standards were established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These homes were primarily designed to be movable and were commonly found in trailer parks.

On the other hand, manufactured homes are built after June 15, 1976, adhering to stricter construction and safety standards set by the HUD code. These homes are constructed in a factory and then transported to a site where they are permanently installed. The term “manufactured home” is used to emphasize that these homes are not site-built.

The biggest difference between mobile homes and manufactured homes is the construction standards they follow. Manufactured homes are built to meet national building codes, while mobile homes may not meet the same standards.

Another difference is that manufactured homes can offer larger living spaces and more modern amenities compared to older mobile homes. Newer manufactured homes often feature open floor plans, upgraded finishes, energy-efficient appliances, and improved insulation.

While mobile homes were commonly associated with trailer parks, manufactured homes can be found in various communities, including manufactured home parks, subdivisions, and even on private land.

It’s also worth noting that modular homes are another type of factory-built home. However, modular homes are constructed in sections or modules, which are then transported and assembled on-site. They are not the same as mobile or manufactured homes.

In summary, the main difference between mobile homes and manufactured homes lies in their construction standards, with manufactured homes adhering to stricter codes. New manufactured homes also offer more stylish designs and amenities, and they can be found in a variety of settings beyond trailer parks.

SHOULD I BUY AN RV OR MOBILE HOME!!?? (A few things to consider!)

Final thoughts

Mobile homes are homes. Just like site-built houses, they are specifically made to be lived in.

RVs are not made with the intent of being lived in full-time. RVs will never appreciate in value, but a mobile home can and will appreciate under the right conditions.

If you want to travel, then living in an RV is a great way to go. But if you are looking for affordable, permanent housing, you’d be better off purchasing a mobile home.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of owning an RV over a mobile home?

Owning an RV offers several benefits compared to a mobile home.

First, RVs provide flexibility in terms of travel and exploration. You can easily move your RV to different locations and enjoy new experiences. Secondly, RVs are not subject to the same zoning restrictions as mobile homes, allowing you to park and stay in a wider range of places.

Additionally, RVs often have better energy efficiency due to advancements in design and technology.

Furthermore, RVs typically require less square footage and maintenance compared to mobile homes. However, it’s important to note that mobile homes are designed for permanent residences and may offer more space and stability for those seeking a fixed living arrangement.

What are the disadvantages of owning an RV over a mobile home?

Owning an RV has some disadvantages compared to a mobile home.

First, RVs generally have limited square footage, which can make it challenging to accommodate larger families or store belongings. Secondly, RVs may not meet the same federal standards as mobile homes, potentially leading to fewer amenities and comforts.

Additionally, RVs are subject to varying regulations by local governments, which can restrict where you can park and stay.

While RVs offer mobility, they lack the stability and permanence of a mobile home, making them less suitable for those seeking a fixed residence. Lastly, due to their design, RVs may be less energy-efficient compared to mobile homes, leading to higher utility costs in the long run.

Which is more popular for permanent housing in the US: a mobile home or an RV?

Mobile homes are generally more popular for permanent housing in the US compared to RVs.

Mobile homes provide a more traditional and stable living option with larger square footage and dedicated permanent locations. They are designed specifically for year-round living and offer a wide range of amenities and floor plans.

On the other hand, while RVs offer mobility and flexibility, they are primarily used for recreational purposes rather than permanent residences. RV living tends to be more common among individuals or families seeking a nomadic or transient lifestyle rather than a fixed home.

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