Beginner’s Guide to All 27 Types of Tiny Houses (With Pics)


Lately I have started seeing tiny house related magazines, articles, websites, TV shows everywhere. A ‘Tiny House’ craziness is ongoing. And I believe it will continue for a really long time.

Since I am an engineer, I like to agree on the definition at the beginning. What is a tiny house? And is there different types of tiny houses?

In general, a tiny house is a dwelling unit with a maximum 400 sq ft of floor area (not including the lofts).

After I learned this definition, I’ve started to find different types of tiny houses. Honestly, I was expecting 3 or 4, or maybe at most 5 different type. Nope… I was wrong.

Do you have a guess? 10? 15? 20?

There are 27 types of tiny houses!

There are many websites and many companies about tiny houses and tiny house structures. However (unfortunately), each company is creating the tiny house types list based on their products.

Here I am listing all 27 different types of tiny houses. To be able to create this list, I have spent hours in front of computer, and visited dozens of websites, called dozens of companies for some detailed information. And finally I have finished the list πŸ™‚

So, How To Pick The Right Tiny House Type?

All different types have their distinctive advantages and disadvantages. The target should be to find the ‘right one‘ for your needs and ‘right one‘ for your budget.

At the beginning of your tiny house research, better to analyze your needs and purpose. The questions below will help you to decide what kind of tiny house you want (or need):

  • What is your purpose? To live environment friendly? To save money? To travel easily? Payoff your debt? Anything else?
  • Do you want to be mobile?
  • Do you own a land (to put your tiny house on)?
  • How many people will live with you?
  • How many kids will live with you?
  • Do you have a pet? Or planning to have a pet?
  • How long you are planning to live in a tiny house?

I suggest you to get a pen and paper and write your answers before starting to read the tiny house types. Once you have your answers, you can do the elimination easily.

Before jumping into the list, 2 final notes:

  1. Some of the listed groups below can be combined. For example; ADU and Granny Pods are similar tiny houses. However, because of the granny pod special case, I just wanted to list them as separate tiny house types.
  2. The price information is just to give you an overall idea. There are dozens of factors to decide the tiny house prices: functionality, features, size, age, location, etc. Without knowing all these details, it is impossible to give an exact price for each tiny house type. But overall, the price section would give you an idea.

Tiny Houses On Wheels (Trailer Homes)

Definition

Tiny houses built on top of trailers are called as Tiny House On Wheels. The abbreviation THOW is also used for these kind of tiny houses. Another name for THOW is Trailer Homes.

Since they are built on top of trailers, the maximum dimensions are pre-set:

  • 40 foot long (even though 40 is the max length, usually we don’t see THOWs longer than 32 foot, because of the transportation limitation)
  • 8.5 foot wide
  • 13.5 foot height
Tiny House On Wheels – image arizonatinyhouse.com

If you are planning to live full time in a Tiny House On Wheels, you may want to check local rules and regulations. Every state, county, city has different rules and some local governments don’t allow full time living in tiny house on wheels. Better to be safe than sorry πŸ˜‰

Advantages

Mobility is THOW’s main advantage. You have the flexibility of moving your house to another location. What could be better than seeing a new place every day, and still sleeping on your own bed?

However, according to available data, most of the THOW owners are opting not to move that much.

Typically timber used for building the THOW frames, which makes the production cheaper.

The other advantage is not being bound to building rules and codes. Since the houses are on wheels (they are NOT on a permanent foundation), normally they are not governed by building codes.

On the other hand; if you want to get some of the advantages of foundations, take a look our article: Can You Put A Tiny House On Wheels (THOW) On A Foundation?

Price

The average cost of Tiny House On Wheels is $68,000 based on the data that we have collected from 14 different companies across the country.

Obviously that number is an ‘average’. There are cheaper tiny houses, and also much more expensive ones; depending on various factors (size, features, company, etc.)

Shipping Container Tiny Houses

Definition

The Tiny Houses which were converted from old shipping containers called as Shipping Container Tiny Houses.

Shipping Container Tiny Houses – image from cargohome.com

It is assumed that, worldwide more than 10 million, old shipping containers are not in use anymore. If you can find a place that you can buy an old shipping container to build your tiny house, definitely it will give you a head start (from the ‘budget’ point of view).

Advantages

  • Durable
  • Fire resistant
  • Safe against hurricanes
  • More affordable comparing to special design tiny houses
  • Since old shipping containers are used (recycled), it is environment friendly

Price

The base is the shipping container price. Here are some companies and their old shipping container prices (as of 2021):

Company NameContainer SizeContainer Cost
containerdiscounts.com20 ft$1800 – $3600
containerdiscounts.com40 ft$1850 – $5300
westerncontainersales.com20 ftStarting at $2250
westerncontainersales.com40 ftStarting at $3250
cmgcontainer.net20 ft$2,000
cmgcontainer.net40 ft$2,500
Used shipping container quotas from different companies

Obviously, on top of this shipping container cost, you will need to spend money on interior design, utilities, insulation, etc. Since this part is basically depending on the personality and the needs, the price range is huge for a final shipping container tiny house.

There are some interesting and creative designs, which include multiple containers for a single house.

If you want to have basic shipping container tiny house, you may have it around $15,000 – $25,000. However, the sky is the limit for a luxurious one. I have seen more than $150,000 price tags for shipping container tiny houses.

There are many companies working on shipping container tiny house business, and you can order the tiny house based on your needs. If you are new to tiny house world, I suggest you to work with a professional company to prevent some common mistakes.

RVs

Definition

RVs stand for “Recreational Vehicles”. The company ‘Pierce-Arrow’ has released the first known RV more than 100 years ago, according to the records.

Since then, many different companies created many different types of RVs. But they have one common point, they are ‘vehicles’ and they are modified for ‘temporary living’.

RV Tiny House – image suttonrv.com (this one is $40K)

One main disadvantage of RVs is, according to the rules and regulations, RVs cannot be used as primary (or full time) living place. They are known as ‘part time dwelling units’.

According to the records, there are more than 10 million RVs in use, only in States.

Advantages

The main advantage is ‘mobility’. It is a great feeling to drive a new location, and sleep in a ‘bed’ that you are already used to (instead of looking for a hotel to spend the night).

Price

The simplest and cheapest RVs price start from around $7,500 and goes up to $200,000.

Similar to many other tiny house types, the sky is the limit for RV prices. Based on the brand, size, living area, features, and the luxury of vehicle; it is possible to find many different RVs which will fit to many different budgets.

Before buying an RV, the ongoing costs also needs to be considered. These are the main ongoing costs of RVs:

  • Registration, taxes and insurance
  • Maintenance
  • Overnight parking / camping
  • Fuel (usually diesel, and usually much higher than a regular car / SUV because of its weight)
  • Storage – if you don’t have a place to store (while RV is not in use)

Yurts

Definition

Yurts are lightweight, portable round structures to live in.

Yurts have hundreds of years history. They have initially created and used at Central Asia by nomadic people.

Yurt Tiny House – image yurts.com

In US, late 1970s is the date Yurts started to be built and used.

Advantages

Yurts are environment friendly and low cost alternatives to traditional housing solutions.

It i possible to install bathroom, kitchen, and lofts into a yurt.

Their frames can last for a very long time. On the other hand, the fabric will need to be changed maybe in after 10 years (weather related wear and tear).

Yurts can be installed and used almost every climate; from Alaska to Hawaii.

They are easy to install and to move to another location.

They can be totally off-grid with proper energy solutions (solar, wind etc.) and water tanks.

Price

The small size (12 foot diameter) yurt prices start around $5,000 and the big ones (30 foot diameter) cost starting $12,000. These prices are for basic standard featured yurts.

Almost all yurt production companies offer various customizations for walls, windows, doors, insulation, roofs. So; the price can be much higher from these numbers. Better to get in touch with couple companies to receive estimations for your customized yurt tiny house.

Houseboats

Definition

An Houseboat is a boat that has been designed (or modified) to be lived in.

Houseboating also have a long history, more than 100 years – like RVs. Initially the idea has started around Seattle area, and moved onto other states later on.

Houseboat Tiny House – image lakepowell.com

At the moment, you can see many houseboats across the country, in lakes and rivers.

One additional option is starting the houseboat tiny house process by using a salvaged houseboat. The houseboat may have run aground, caught fire, or had a mechanical breakdown or equipment failure. It may have suffered significant damage due to a storm or hurricane, and the owners don’t want to deal with it and want to sell it. Sometimes, great deals can be made through salvaged houseboats. However, if you are not experienced on houseboats, I don’t suggest you to go this route.

If you don’t have any experience on houseboating, but still want to taste the living on one, I suggest you to rent an houseboat for a while. There are many companies that you can rent from.

Advantages

Houseboating provide extra privacy to its owners. And also it is more affordable comparing to many other tiny house types.

On the other hand; houseboating is not for everyone; you have to have some ‘boating skills’ to be able to maintain and live in them.

Price

The houseboat prices vary based on many factors; including:

  • Location
  • Season of the year
  • Size of the boat
  • Houseboat features

Just to give you an idea; 3 day weekend houseboat will cost you between $500 – $5,000; in 2021.

Better to check with various options and their prices to find the perfect match to your needs and to your budget.

Floating Tiny Homes

Definition

A tiny house, which is built on top of pontoons, is called Floating Tiny Home. They can float anywhere with water; ocean, lake, or harbor.

This is the second type of Tiny House that you can travel on water. The other one was, houseboats.

Floating Tiny House

Floating tiny homes are being used for a long time. In US, especially after 1930s, the number of floating tiny homes increased.

There are in general 2 types of floating tiny homes; stationary ones and the ones with engines (can move any location).

For the utility services, floating tiny homes are similar to any other tiny house. If they are stationary, they need to have clean and waste water connections, and also power connection. If no such connection is available, then floating tiny house should have water tanks.

Advantages

You don’t need to own or rent a land for floating tiny houses. However, you will need to pay a fee to be able to access utility connections from marinas.

Quiet life is one of the advantages. Sleeping in the middle of a lake should be peaceful… I haven’t tried it yet, up until now. Maybe in the future.

Price

The cheapest floating tiny house that you can find will be around $35,000 – $40,000. Depending on the features and luxury, the price will go to up 7 figure numbers.

Earthships

Definition

Eartships are self sustainable, off-grid living structures.

An earthship has created first time by architect Michael Reynolds about 50 years ago. The idea was to create a living space which will produce its own energy, its own food and drinking water with as much as possible environment friendly materials (except old – hundreds of tires).

Earthship Tiny House – image zackmetcalfe.com

The initial eartships created in New Mexico, and then moved to some other states.

Advantages

Main advantages of earthships are related with environment. They utilize natural sources for energy and also mostly natural resources are being used to build them.

Earthship constructions are easy; and you don’t need any specific training or experience. As long as you are ok to work hard, you will be ok. You just need to follow the guidance, otherwise you may make some serious mistakes (north facing earthship is not a good idea!)

Price

The cost is around $200 – $250 per square foot for Earthships. There are many variables for this cost:

  • How you will carry the recycle materials to construction area (do you have a truck, or you will need to rent?)
  • Where you will get the recycled materials and how much will they cost?
  • Do you have your own tools?
  • Will you do all the muscle-work by yourself, or will you work with someone else?
  • etc.

If you are planning to have 400 square foot tiny house, you can expect a total cost of $80 – $100K. Which is expensive comparing to a simple tiny house.

Usually building a earthship takes at least a year – much longer than a simple regular tiny house.

Bus Conversions (Housebus)

Definition

The tiny houses created by converting busses into living spaces called as ‘Bus Conversion Tiny Houses’. Also they have another name, ‘Housebus’. Basically they are referring to the same concept.

There are 2 types of busses used in these types of tiny houses; regular busses and old school busses. In this section, I will focus on regular bus conversions (though keep in mind that, maybe 90% of the bus conversions are being done by using school busses).

Some people lists bus conversions (housebusses) under RVs. There’s nothing wrong with it. However, since not all RVs are from bus conversions, I just wanted to list this as a separate item in my Tiny House Types list.

There are some super lux bus conversions out there; which costs easily on mid 6 digit range. If you want to have an idea, here’s an interior design for such housebus:

Housebus Tiny House – image Motor Home Specialist

Advantages

The main advantage is mobility, and you don’t need to hook RV to your truck. Your main vehicle becomes your home. You will not need to deal with 2 separate items.

You may see this as an advantage, or disadvantage. Totally up to your personality πŸ™‚

These tiny houses are examples for self-sufficient homes. You can go off-grid for days, and enjoy the nature.

One of the main disadvantages of housebusses are the size. Most of the national parks, and campgrounds don’t allow such big bus conversions into their locations. So; you may have some hard time to find place to park your bus conversion tiny house.

Price

The average cost of bus conversion is between $10,000 – $25,000.

The range is huge, I know. Because of the many variables, the cost can go up easily:

  • Bus type and size
  • Features to be installed
  • How much work you will be doing yourself? Or 100% outsourced?
  • Parking cost while you are building the housebus
  • Interior design elements

Cob Houses

Definition

Cob houses are made of clay-like lumps of soil, sand, and straw.

Cob buildings don’t use dried bricks or blocks. Instead, wall surfaces are built up with lumps of damp cob mixture, compressed, and sculpted into smooth, sinuous forms.

Cob House Tiny House – image greenbuildingelements.com

Another difference is walls. Cob walls are generally not built with wooden frames; instead, special tools are used to scrape a thick wall into the desired shape. A cob home may have sloping walls, arches and lots of wall niches.

Advantages

Cob Houses are one of the most durable and long lasting buildings. With proper care taking, a cob house can stay for a very very long time.

Cob houses are suitable for various different climates; from deserts to very cold places. The main reason for this is the very efficient insulation. Because of the materials used, the energy efficiency is high. The inside temperature is automatically regulated by the walls.

Cob houses walls are not only great for temperature regulations, but also sound proofing as well. If you want to create a silent environment for yourself, cob house is the direction.

Also; cob houses are really cheap to built – especially if you will be doing most of the job yourself and if you are living in place with easy access to required materials (natural resources).

There are some non-profit organizations in US which provide “hands-on” programs to teach cob house building (Aprovecho Opens in a new tab.is one of them). Their target is to promote sustainable living and culture.

Since the cob houses are built by only using natural materials, they are healthier comparing to modern houses (which may use some toxic materials).

Being ‘termit proof’ and ‘fire proof’ also the other 2 advantages of cob houses.

Price

In general; a typical cob house costs between $2,500 – $5,000.

The cost can vary depending on the location, access to materials and the cob house size. Another important factor is the workforce. If you are planning to hire a company to do the job, the cost will go higher.

Vardo Tiny Houses

Definition

Vardos are traditional Romani living wagons. They were pulled by horses historically. The usage of original vardos died pretty much after world war 1 (WW-I).

Lately; vardos are ‘re-invented’ by micro-home and environmental friendly living groups and people. Obviously; instead of horses, the cars are pulling the vardos now.

Vardo Tiny Houses – image Derek Bradley

Maybe the most obvious characteristics of vardos are the rich color schemes.

They have rounded tops to maximize the available space; and to make them stronger for the heavy winds.

There are many vardo maker companies in England, but not as much in US. Nowadays, many people are buying vardos as backyard design, as spare room or hobby room; rather than driving / pulling it around.

Advantages

Vardos have 2 main advantages; cost and traditional design (if you call this as an advantage).

They are very ‘primitive’ and can be built easily; which makes the cost really low.

The vardo design gives them the special look. If your target is to create something special and unique, vardo should be your decision.

Price

If you want to build your own vardo, with traditional style, it will cost you less than a couple of thousand dollars. However, the features and functionality will be limited.

If you want to park your vardo at your backyard, and use as a guest room; most probably you will choose this option.

On the other hand; you can purchase modern vardos, with lots of features with traditional design elements in them; with a price tag starting from $60,000.

Granny Pod (or Granny Flat)

Definition

Granny Pods are tiny houses specifically designed for seniors, which will allow them to live close to their families and also will provide them the privacy, freedom and independence.

Granny Pods can also be listed under Accessory Dwelling Unit type Tiny Houses. However, because of the specialty of Granny Pods, I wanted to create a separate section for them.

Granny Pod Tiny House – image bobvila.com

Both characteristics are important for seniors’ mental health. Being close by to kids and grand kids will keep the seniors alive and happy. On the other hand, keeping their privacy and independence will keep them self-confident.

Usually they are build (or put on) at backyard, and with features like a regular house; bathroom, kitchenette, and a small living / bedroom space. They are attached to regular city power, water and sewer systems.

Their only characteristic is being small comparing to regular houses; and they have one story with minimal stairs (for easy access to elders, easier wheelchair access etc.).

Advantages

The main advantage of granny pods are having the loved ones in a nearby place. Both parties, you and the seniors, will benefit this situation mentally and financially.

Usually granny pods share the main house’s utility and sewer connections. So; the maintenance will be easier.

Once you have the granny pod built on your backyard, your property value will increase substantially. On the other hand, your annual property tax may increase as well. You’ll need to check with your town’s building management unit for the details and the rules / regulations.

Price

The average cost for a Granny Pod will be between $20,000 – $75,000.

The Granny Pod size and the features will make the price higher or lower. For example; if you want to add proper heating and cooling system, they will make the seniors’ life easier, but will increase the cost.

On the other side, you can have a simple heating system (ie; a gas fireplace) and a window AC unit, the cost will be significantly lower.

Arched Cabins

Definition

Arched Cabins are tiny houses with a special roof design – which goes all the way to ground.

Apart from this design feature, the other features are similar to a typical Tiny House On Foundation.

Arched Cabin Tiny House – image metalbuildinghomes.org

The company that makes Arched Cabins can be reached from archedcabins.comOpens in a new tab.

Advantages

Apart from their arched shaped roofs, their advantages are similar to tiny house on foundation advantages;

  • Energy efficient
  • Environment friendly
  • Budget friendly
  • Simple life

Price

The Arched Cabin kits can be bought for starting $1,500 (8′ * 8′ size, 8′ height) and goes as high as $20,000 (30′ * 40′ with 17′ height).

These prices don’t include the delivery, and also they need to be installed by you or a professional hired by you. So; these prices are ‘starting’ prices.

Sheds (Shed conversions)

Definition

Do you have a shed at your backyard? What are you using it for? Storage for backyard tools or gardening material and tools?

Instead of using sheds with regular way, some people got creative and converted their sheds to tiny houses. And this creativity ended up creating a new type of tiny house line: Shed Converted Tiny Houses.

Sheds (or Shed Conversions) are the tiny houses, which was converted from sheds.

When you go to a Home Depot (or similar store), check the shed designs in their parking lot. You will be surprised the different kinds and designs of sheds.

Shed Conversion Tiny House – image overstock.com

After you have the shed built, you will need to work on these main components to convert your shed to a tiny house:

  • Plumbing
  • Electricity
  • Insulation
  • Windows

Advantages

Believe it or not; using sheds as the base for your tiny house is cheaper.

Let me say this way: If you compare all the materials’ total cost in a shed kit with shed kit price, the kit is cheaper then buying all the materials individually. So; why not to start your tiny house journey with a shed kit?

If you are not experienced DIY, using a shed kit will speed up the process. At least at the beginning, you will build your tiny house by using the pre-made and pre-cut materials. This will greatly help you, believe me.

On the other hand; the customization options (especially in the shed) will be limited. If you are not planning to much customizations, or if you don’t have very specific needs; shed conversions should be your direction.

Price

The cost starts with the shed cost. Here are some example shed prices with their sizes:

CompanySizePrice
Overstock12 * 26$5,800
Lowes12 * 8$1,250
Home Depot16 * 12$3,100
Some example shed sizes and prices

Converting a shed to a tiny house will cost you between $2,500 – $25,000.

If you do the conversion yourself with minimum extra expenses, you can have a shed converted tiny house for less than $ 10,000. If you’re ok with hiring professionals for some specialized tasks (electricity, plumbing etc,); the conversion cost may go up to $25,000 – $30,000.

Compact Cabins (Tiny Cabins, Log Cabins, Remote Cabins)

Definition

Compact Cabin has many different names. Almost every website calls them with a different name:

  • Compact Cabin
  • Tiny Cabin
  • Tiny House On Foundation
  • Log Cabin

They all refer to the same concept:

Imagine removing the THOW’s (Tiny House On Wheel) wheels and putting the house on top of a foundation. Here is your Compact Cabin (or tiny cabin, tiny house, or log cabin).

Removing wheels and putting the tiny house on top of a foundation sounds simple. But, that simple operation changes almost everything; from its registration, to utility connections.

Compact Cabin Tiny House

The Compact Cabin is local building department’s responsibility; and you need to check the local rules and regulations for the details.

It is possible to build a compact cabin off-grid; but especially waste management is important. The local building department may not care about your clean water and power sources, but they surely care about your waste removal process and features.

Usually off-grid compact cabins are called as Remote Cabins

If you decide to build or buy a log cabin, you will need to pay attention to their maintenance details, which are different than regular houses.

Advantages

The values of the Compact Cabins increase by the years (property appreciation). So; you can see the initial cost as an investment, and in the future you can sell it with a profit (Not like RVs, or Skoolies).

Also; since the house will sit on a foundation, you will not need a big car or a truck to pull the house – it will be sitting on the same location forever. Some may see this as a disadvantage, and some others as advantage. Different personalities πŸ™‚

Not only the building cost will be cheaper comparing to regular houses, but also the ongoing utility expenses will be cheaper (heating – cooling costs, etc.)

Price

A typical tiny house size (around 350-400 sq. ft.) compact cabin will cost $50,000 – $75,000 in average.

If you will be doing most of the job yourself with a log cabin kit, the cost will be lower – around $25,000 – $35,000.

Backyard Tiny Home (ADU)

Definition

A Backyard Tiny House is a tiny house that is built on a backyard of a regular house. Usually they use the main house’s utility lines (power, water, and sewer). They are also called as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU).

ADU Tiny House – image cityofsalinas.org

They are very similar with Granny Pods. Actually many experts group them under the same item, and I am agree with them.

The only reason that I have listed them as separate tiny house types is, giving respect to our elderly parents. I just wanted to have a special group and name for their tiny houses.

So basically, everything that I have listed under granny pods are applicable for ADUs (or Backyard Tiny Homes).

There are multiple different type ADUs:

  • Detached ADUs
  • Garage conversion ADUs
  • Above garage ADUs
  • Attached ADUs

The definition of ADUs and also the limitations vary state to state, and in some cases town to town. So; the best is to check with your building department about the details and required permits.

Advantages

Usually backyard tiny homes share the main house’s utility and sewer connections. So; the maintenance will be easier.

Once you have the backyard tiny home built on your backyard, your property value will increase substantially. On the other hand, -most probably- your annual property tax will increase as well.

With an ADU (just 1 expense), you can increase your property value and also you can have some additional income (by renting it out). Just you’ll need to calculate the property tax increase carefully.

Price

In average, the building cost for ADUs (or backyard tiny homes) will be between $25,000 – $75,000.

The exact price will be defined by the ADU characteristics, features, size, and proximity to utility connections.

A-Frame Tiny Houses

Definition

According to wikipedia definition; A-frame building is an architectural design or building style featuring steeply-angled sides (roofline) that usually begin at or near the foundation line and meet at the top in the shape of the latter A.

Going one step further; A-Frame Tiny House is an house with a maximum size of 400 sq. ft. and built with the A-frame building style.

Usually A-frame tiny houses have 2 stories; first floor is the main living area and the second level is for sleeping loft (smaller space).

A-Frame Tiny House – image avrameusa.com

Advantages

Because of the special structure design, it is easy to install A-frame tiny house kits. If you are ok with handyman work (you don’t need to be great, ok is good enough), you can install the tiny house with a couple of your friends.

And with the same reasons; A-frame tiny houses are cheaper to build and install.

In average; A-frame buildings uses less energy comparing to the same size regular shape buildings. The reasoning is simple: the A-frame shaped house won’t have any walls (except front and back triangle walls), and instead most of the external space is covered with roofing material – which has better insulation. The result? Lower energy bills.

Also; because of its shape, the inside of the house feel much bigger comparing the the same size houses.

If you are living in an area which gets lots of snow during winter times, maybe A-frame shaped tiny house is a good option: because of the roof shape, the snow won’t build up on top of the house and the roofs will have longer lifespan.

This could be considered as a disadvantage for A-frame tiny houses – because the warmer air rises and it becomes harder to heat the first level of the building. However, our focus is tiny-houses, the internal space is not much anyway. So; the heating won’t be a big problem for A-frame tiny houses.

Price

I have researched and gathered some detailed information and prices from top 3 A-frame kit building companies in US:

CompanySq.Ft.Price
bivvicamp.com100$20,000
(starting from)
avrameusa.com250$29,100
everywhereco.com1,943$179,000
A-Frame Tiny House prices

These prices are just to give you an idea. All the companies are providing detailed design options and selections; and based on your selections the final price changes.

Manufactured Homes (Mobile Homes)

Definition

Manufactured Homes are permanent dwelling units which are entirely constructed in factories and then moved to their sites and installed.

There is another related term: Mobile Homes. Manufactured Homes and Mobiles Homes are exactly the same type of homes. The only difference is on the paper.

Mobile Home definition was in use up until 15 July 1976. On that date HUD Code became effective and Manufactured Home definition came into our lives. Manufactured Homes need to conform HUD code (which defines all the aspects of manufactured homes clearly and in detail)

Manufactured Homes – Tiny House – image championhomes.com

Manufactured Homes can be placed different types of foundations:

  • on-site piers
  • crawlspace
  • poured concrete

Once the manufactured home is placed on the foundation, in general, it stays on the same location during its whole lifetime.

You can install the manufactured home to your land; and also you can start living in one of the hundreds manufactured home communities in US.

Advantages

Because of the way they are constructed (in a controlled environment, with pre-defined processes and standards), manufactured homes tend to have less problems comparing to regular build houses.

Moreover, manufactured homes are having higher safety standards. So, they are not only less problematic, but also have higher safety standards.

In average; manufactured homes are 10% – 30% cheaper than on-site build houses. The reasoning is, ‘economies of scale’ (Factories are buying the required materials in bulk, which brings the cost down for manufactured homes).

Manufactured homes, usually, have great warranty packages from the factories. Additional peace of mind for the homeowners.

Price

When I started the research for the manufactured homes, I decided to check the factory websites and started calling them. Soon after I learned that it is NOT possible to buy the manufactured homes directly from factories. You have to find a retailer to purchase the manufactured home (similar to car dealerships).

To just give you an idea; I can say that manufactured homes’ prices start from $40,000 and go higher based on number of levels, bedrooms, bathrooms.

Modular Tiny Houses

Definition

Modular Tiny Houses are very similar to Manufactured Homes. We can use almost the same definition:

Modular Tiny Houses are permanent dwelling units which are entirely constructed in factories based on local residential building codes and then moved to their sites and installed.

Modular Tiny House

While both manufactured homes and modular homes are built in a factory environment, there is one main difference between the two: The code to which they are built:

  • Manufactured Homes are built to a federal HUD code,
  • Modular Tiny Houses are built to state or local residential building codes.

Advantages

The advantages of Modular Tiny Houses are similar to Manufactured Homes’ advantages:

  • Higher quality (controlled manufacturing environment)
  • Cheaper cost (economies of scale)
  • Warranty packages

Price

The cheapest (new) Modular Tiny House that you can buy is $35,000. Based on the features and the size, the price goes higher.

Geodesic Domes

Definition

Geodesic Dome is a special architectural design: A dome shape structure, and made of triangles.

Geodesic domes are strongest and lightest structures. They create the biggest interior space by using the minimum supporting structure.

Geodesic Dome Tiny House – image moderntinyhouse.org

You have to have a solid foundation for a geodesic dome house. But once you have a foundation, it is super easy and fast to install the home; usually it takes only a couple of hours.

Advantages

Geodesic homes are environment friendly; they use minimum amount of materials. Because of this reason, they are cheap as well.

Geodesic homes are energy efficient; easy to heat and cool the space.

They are strong, and can stand even in hurricane level winds.

On the other hand; the special shape of the architecture makes the life a little harder comparing to regular architectural designs:

  • It is not easy to hang something to walls,
  • lots of waste space behind the cabinets,
  • etc.

Price

Geodesic home kit prices are between $5,000 – $60,000:

  • the $5,000 version is like a tent, so maybe not ideal as a tiny house
  • the $60,000 version is 2-3 bedroom, 2 bathroom size

You should take into the consideration the shipping and foundation costs as well (Geodesic homes need strong concrete foundations).

Van Conversions (Camper Van)

Definition

You want to go out to nature for a couple of days, or you want to live away from your real home for a while. And you don’t want to live in a tent, or move an RV around. Then Van Conversion is your solution.

Van Conversions are vehicles originally built as van, and later on became tiny houses by going through some modifications inside.

When we start talking about the ‘modifications’, there’s no limit. Removing the back seats and putting a mattress is the most basic modification. High end modifications are really luxurious. There are van conversions with bathroom, shower, tv, air conditioner etc.

Van Conversion Tiny House

Advantages

Mobility is the main advantage of van conversions. They are easy to drive, and easy to find a spot for overnight parking.

You can use your regular car driver license, no need to get any special license for driving vans.

Price

If you don’t expect much luxury for it, the simplest van conversion price is around $5,000 – $7,500.

If you are a good handyman, you can build your own van conversion even cheaper.

How about an expensive one? If you want to see $1,7 million Van Conversion, take a look: EarthRoamer XV-HD Super CamperOpens in a new tab.

Skoolies (School Bus Conversions)

Definition

Skoolies are old school busses, which are modified to be used as tiny houses.

Basically, once an old school bus converted to a tiny house, it becomes an RV. Then, why to have a separate heading for skoolies? Because they are special, and they have some serious advantages comparing to any old bus or old van conversions.

Skoolie Tiny House – image skoolie.com

School busses are built to last a long life. However, usually, school districts are retiring school busses much earlier. In average; after spending 12 to 15 years with school age kids, the busses retire. You can expect to find a retired school bus, as little as $3,000 in an auction.

In average; $5,000 – $10,000 range is reasonable to find a good deal.

There are different size and model school busses (small, big, flat-front or dog-nose school busses). You would want to decide which version would you want (or need), and then start looking for an old one to buy.

You need to take into consideration some important points before starting your skoolie project:

  • You may need a special driving license (for big size busses), check with DMV
  • The school busses are reliable, but they use lots of gas. You would need to forget about your car’s 15 – 20 mpg average.
  • Bus maintenance is expensive. Considering you will be getting an old school bus, you may get some surprise (!) maintenance bills. Better to check old maintenance records of the bus before buying.

Like many other tiny house types, the rules are regulations are (unfortunately) not clear for skoolies. There are different rules in different states. So; better to check with your local DMV, before starting to this journey.

Advantages

School busses have great ‘bones’, so you may expect a long skoolie tiny house life from an old school bus.

School busses have good engines. Even though they consume more than regular cars, they tend to live for a long time. In case the engine has any problems, they are easier to fix (usually they have diesel engines, which are easy to and cheaper to fix).

With the same amount of money, you can get a bigger school bus (comparing to a van, or regular bus).

Price

If you are starting from 0, meaning you don’t have an old school bus yet to convert, the full cost of a skoolie will be in between $12,500 – $30,000.

Like many projects, if you have the knowledge and if you are willing to do the work by yourself, the price tag will come down significantly.

Motor Coach Conversions

Definition

Motor Coach Conversion is modifying an old motor coach (or bus, or shuttle) with the purpose of creating a tiny house.

The process and the idea is almost same as skoolies. The difference is; instead of using old school bus, you would use and old bus.

Motor Coach Conversion Tiny House

Used old busses are usually more expensive comparing to old school busses. The reasons are simple:

  • The busses have more features comparing to school busses
  • The busses (usually) have better a/c systems
  • The busses (usually) have plumbing already installed
  • The busses have much more storage capacity

If those items are not important, you can definitely prefer an old school bus for conversion – with much cheaper initial bus cost.

On the other hand; if you are ok budged wise and you want to have som luxury in your motor coach conversion, you can pick an old bus for the conversion.

(Personally; i prefer to buy an old school bus, and using the extra money for special customizations)

Some people group RVs and Motor Coach Conversions under the same umbrella. For me; they are different:

  • RVs are designed to be used temporarily. Maybe a couple of weeks in a year. Maybe each trip will add a couple of thousand miles on it.
  • Motor Coaches are designed to be on the roads all the time. They are built to last millions of miles.

If you are planning to spend lots of time and hundreds of thousands of miles on your ‘mobile tiny home’, better to have a vehicle, which can handle this heavy load: Motor Coach Conversion is your solution.

Advantages

Long lasting and easily handling millions of miles is definitely an advantage for motor coach conversions.

Some of the important features may have been already in the bus (bathroom, a/c piping, heating etc.)

Comparing to school bus conversions, it is much faster to convert motor coaches to tiny houses.

Price

There are 2 components for a motor coach conversion; buying a used coach bus and changing the interior as a tiny home.

  1. Based on the mileage, year and model the price range is huge for used busses. The prices start from $15K and goes up to a couple hundred thousand US$ level. If you want to complete the motor coach conversion in a reasonable budget, you need to spend $ 20-30K min. for a ok used bus.
  2. The conversion may cost between $10,000 – $30,000.

So in average; you will need to spend minimum $30,000 – $50,000 for a motor coach conversion tiny house.

Grain Bin & Silos

Definition

One of the most environment-friendly tiny house type is Gran Bin (or Silo) Tiny House.

Grain bins are tall round metal silos with conical roofs commonly used in farms. When an old grain bin is redesigned with the purpose of living in it, the gran bin becomes a tiny house.

Grain Bin (Silo) Tiny House – image newsdesignlist.it

There are different size gran bins (different diameters, and also different heights); so based on your needs you can find a proper sized one as a first step of your tiny house built.

For example; if you want to build a multi-story grain bin tiny house, the first should be t find a tall grain bin. Or if you don’t like the idea of going up and down, a big diameter grain bin should be the target.

Advantages

Since you will be using an old grain bin, you are actually recycling this huge structure. An huge advantage for the environment.

Also; comparing to many other types of tiny houses, the initial cost will be cheaper.

Price

You have 2 options at the beginning of the process: using an old gran bin (or silo), or buying a new one.

For creating a tiny house; you will need to find an old grain silo (rather than buying a new one). However, there is no standard pricing for used gran bins. The price range is huge; $1,500 – $75,000.

I checked eBay, and it seems 40′ diameter used grain silos are around $3,000 – $8,000 range.

On top of the grain bin cost, you will need to calculate the ‘conversion to tiny house’ cost. In average this conversion costs between $25,000 – $40,000.

Underground Tiny Homes

Definition

When I give this definition, maybe you will laugh at me, but this is what underground tiny house is: A tiny house, which is constructed underground is called underground tiny house. No surprise, right πŸ™‚

There are different approaches to create the underground tiny house. While some prefer to bury containers (or old school busses, busses, vans, etc.) and redesign them as houses, the others build the underground house similar to creating above-ground houses.

Underground Tiny House – image livabl.com

It’s much better if you can have a light well for an underground tiny house. Daylight makes a huge difference.

If you dig into a south facing hillside, a glass wall can also serve as a solar wall. You can create a vegetable garden on the roof. Wouldn’t it be cool to pick your fresh tomatoes from your roof?

People have been living underground for -literally- thousands of years. Some used caves for this purpose, some created living spaces on a hill.

At that time (thousands years ago), maybe the people didn’t have the technology or tools to create above ground houses. Why would we want to build a house under ground? 2 reasons: initial cost and energy efficiency (ongoing cost).

Maybe the most important design element of underground tiny houses is ventilation. Otherwise, it will take a really short time for you to inhale all the available oxygen and replace with CO2. So; pay extra attention to ventilation system throughout the underground tiny house.

Advantages

If you design your underground home properly it will cost far less money than a conventional above ground home.

Moreover; the heating and cooling will be a virtual free ride if you design the underground tiny home properly. Have you ever been in a cave during in a really hot summer day? Do you remember the cool feeling? Basically the same happens in the underground tiny houses.

Price

As I mentioned at the beginning, there are multiple options to create the underground tiny house: you can bury a school bus, van, motor coach, or a container and convert it to a tiny house.

Or you can create the underground tiny house just like building a regular above-ground house.

In general; you will need to consider spending $25,000 – $40,000 for the underground tiny house (This price does not include the land cost).

Railroad Car Conversion Tiny House

Definition

Converting old railroad cars into living spaces and creating your Railroad Car Tiny House is a cool idea. However, the process is not easy and only with lots of ‘love’ and ‘dedication’ it can be completed.

Railroad Car Tiny House

You may think that most of the work is already done in a railroad car. for example some already have rooms, bathroom, and even kitchen (For example, if you start the conversion with a caboose, you may have less work to do).

So; -in theory- converting old railroad cars or cabooses to tiny houses would be peace of cake. Unfortunately; there are multiple problems for railroad car conversions:

  • They weight a lot (typically 20,000 pounds or more)
  • They need special equipment to move to their final location
  • Their insulation is not good. You will need to pay extra attention to insulation, if you want to have a proper living space during summer and winter times.
  • Usually they are really old, and you will need serious restoration budget and work.

However, the work is not impossible. With some dedication, the conversion can be completed and you will have one of the coolest tiny houses.

Railroad cars don’t have standard sizes. Different companies created different sized cars:

  • 30 – 50 ft length
  • 9 – 10 ft width
  • 10 – 14 ft height

You can find an old railroad car online on ebay, or craigslist. And there are some companies, dedicated for this business. http://www.cabooses4sale.com/Opens in a new tab. is one of them. The advantage is, their only business is selling railroad cars, so you will be dealing with experts and they will be able to answer your questions properly.

Advantages

Unlike many other tiny house types, you will start the conversion with a shell. If you can find a good deal, this will be an advantage for you.

Check with your local scrap yards. Sometimes you can get a great deal through your local scrap yards. Visit them and tell them you are looking to buy an old railroad car. You may find a gem with this way.

Price

The railroad conversion cost is not cheap. Especially moving the car to your location and creating a foundation will cost you serious money.

Moving a railroad car thorough highway will cost you around $1.10 / mile.

Addition to this cost, you may factor in to spend additional $10,000 for building the foundation and tracks, and putting the railroad car to tracks.

And after this you can start working on the tiny house conversion; which may cost additional $10,000 – $15,000.

So; you will need a total of $25,000 – $30,000 for the transfer and the conversion of an old railroad car to a tiny house (railroad car price is not included).

Park Model Tiny House

Definition

A temporary living space, built on a metal frame, under 400 sq ft and usually bigger than RVs are called as Park Model Tiny Houses.

The word ‘temporary’ in the definition is important. park Model Tiny Houses (or Park Model RVs, or Destination Trailer) are designed and build for temporary living. Officially, they cannot be used as full time dwelling.

Park Model Tiny Houses (or PMRVs) are actually titled and registered exactly like RVs. So, they have more common points with RVs, comparing to Tiny House on Wheels (THOW).

Park Model RV Tiny House – image dicksrv.com

Usually they are located at RV parks; and hooked up to water, power utilities just like RVs.

If all these definitions confused you, don’t worry. You are not alone. I was also confused when I first started the research.

The bottom line is; Park Model Tiny Houses (or Park Model RVs) are actually bigger RVs. They have to follow RV rules and regulations.

Advantages

They are bigger than most THOWs; so, PMRVs have size advantage (if downsizing is making you nervous).

Usually Park Model Tiny Houses have regular size appliances. Again, if you are just starting the tiny house journey, using regular sized appliances will definitely help you mentally.

Since Park Model Tiny Houses have RV registration and official titles, it is easier to find parking places for them; comparing to THOWs. Many national parks and RV parks don’t accept THOWs, with the reasoning they don’t have any quality and safety standards.

With the similar reason (binding to official rules and having proper RV registration), usually it is easier to finance Park Model Tiny Houses.

Price

You can find a reasonable shape Park Model Tiny House for $10,000. If your budget lets you go higher, for $75,000 – $80,000 you can buy a new PMRV.

There are multiple online sites that you can check new and used PMRV prices. rvtrader.com is my favorite.

Tree Houses

Definition

Who hasn’t imagined to have a tree house in their young ages? And whose kids don’t ask for it? The answer is, none. Every kid wants to have a tree house to play. But this desire disappears for many of people when the years pass.

How about the others – who keeps the inner child alive? They build a tree house as a tiny house πŸ™‚

A tree house is a platform or building constructed around, next to or among the trunk or branches of one or more mature trees while above ground level.

While most of the tree houses are simple, and just for fun purposes; in recent years, professional tree houses started popping up everywhere.

Tree House Tiny House

Tree houses mostly used for recreation, work space, habitation, a hangout space and observation.

And yes, tree houses can have all the features that a tiny house can have; bathroom, bedroom, living area, etc.

While building a tree house, the important point that needs to be kept in mind that, trees are alive and they keep getting bigger. If you don’t take into consideration this, in a couple of years, branches or tree trunk may create structural problems for your tree house – because they keep getting bigger.

Advantages

The unique experience that staying in a treehouse can bring different feelings for adults and children. For children, tree houses bring their imagination to life. For adults it can bring back memories from one’s childhood.

Tree houses are one of the most environment friendly structures.

Tree houses provide high privacy. Living above from your neighbors’ houses definitely increase level of privacy.

Price

I’ll give you maybe the biggest price range for this type tiny house. You can build a treehouse tiny house for yourself for $2-3,000; as a reading room, or for your kids play area with minimum features (no running water, no bathroom, no windows, etc.).

If you want to have a real tiny house, then the cost will go much higher. You will need to spend min. $50,000 realistically.

Kutluay S.

Kutluay is a typical family man, with a wife, 3 kids, and a dog. And he has dreams - like everybody. He loves sharing his knowledge with the world, and here is the architecturedecor.com website. His latest passion is Tiny Houses.

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