What is a manufactured home, to begin with?
A manufactured home is a pre-built or prefabricated house with a certain degree of mobility. There are two types of manufactured homes: those whose elements are assembled on the building site to create a semi-permanent home and those that are attached to a wheeled chassis instead of a permanent foundation. The fact that most manufactured homes never leave the site of assembly makes the name “mobile home” a misnomer.
And what is a motorhome?
A motorhome is a home on a self-propelling vehicle. The biggest difference between a motorhome and manufactured home is that the former is small and more mobile while the latter tend to be remarkably larger but with a varying degree of mobility (more on this in later sections). Also, manufactured homes need to be towed, while motorhomes are installed on a self-propelling vehicle.
Buyers looking for a movable home are often split between manufactured homes – which are referred to as “mobile homes” among Americans – and motorhomes (also known as RV homes). While both homes provide the buyer with a scaled-down living, they couldn’t be any more different.
Still, there are several differences between them, pros and cons, and a list of factors worth considering when selecting one.
So, how do you choose between a manufactured home vs motorhome decsision? It would be prudent for the home buyer to bear the following factors in mind:
- Your spacing needs (manufactured homes tend to be larger than RV homes)
- Acquisition cost
- Level of stability
- The landlord factor (owners of manufactured homes deal with landlords; those with motorhomes don’t)
- The unexpected costs
- Level of mobility
A big part of this article will touch on the pros and cons of each home category and a closer look at the factors to consider when selecting one.
But before anything, let’s glance at the background of mobile homes:
Background Of Mobile Homes
Mobile homes started with the introduction of the trailer – an independent unpowered vehicle designed in such a way that it could haul cars, boats, and similar objects – in the 1920s. By the end of the decade, vacationers had popularized the trailer by hitching it on cars when traveling.
Then came the Great Depression of the 1930s during which the lifestyle of most Americans changed dramatically. Americans began using trailers as permanent homes owing to their availability and affordability. Even long after the economy had improved, mobile homes continued to serve as permanent homes and their popularity soared.
By the late 1940s, BBC notes that manufacturers across the United States were producing big-sized trailers dubbed “double-wides” to address the high demand. Double-wides consisted of two separate units that formed a bigger home. The shift in purpose was accompanied by a change in name, hence they came to be known as “mobile homes” in the 1950s.
The 1970s saw the introduction of the HUD Code (1976) and a range of other regulation standards by the USDHUD (U.S. Department of Urban and Housing Development). These standards meant that mobile homes were federally regulated regarding their durability, safety, quality, and affordability. Now, such things as plumbing, HVAC systems, electrical wiring, became major considerations to buyers.
After the introduction of federal standards, the industry changed the name of mobile homes to “manufactured homes.” So, today, the term “manufactured home” basically means that the structure was built after the 1976 HUD code and meets all other federal rules.
Differences Between Manufactured Homes and Motorhomes
Size and number of occupants
As mentioned earlier, manufactured homes are remarkably bigger compared to motorhomes, meaning they can hold more people.
Manufactured homes measuring 14’ W and 40’ L are probably the smallest you could see.
An average-sized manufactured home can comfortably hold 7 – 9 occupants while an average-sized motorhome seldom holds more than 5 people.
Motorhomes can be as small as 8’ W and 26’ L.
Degree of mobility
Owing to their size, and the fact that some of them are assembled on a permanent foundation rather than a wheeled chassis, manufactured homes are less mobile compared to their smaller RV counterparts.
Manufactured homes are simply recognized as so by the federal government. Motorhomes, on another hand, are placed in three classes owing to the complexity of their construction.
Class A consists of motorhomes that combine the features of a recreation vehicle and a motorhome and may include school buses and commercial passenger units that have been converted into RVs. They tend to be luxuriously designed with panoramic front windows, solid body, and berths.
Class B consists of campervans that often come with a raised roof. They concentrate on the basics: a small kitchen, gas grills, a toilet, and one bed.
Class C is characterized by an alcove that fits over the vehicle’s cab.
Because motorhomes sit on a regular vehicle with an engine, they are self-propelled. Manufactured homes, on other hand, sit on an engineless chassis or, sometimes, a permanent foundation hence they must be towed by a second vehicle to move.
You don’t need to register your manufactured home even if you intend to move with it from place to place. The fact that motorhomes are built on a regular vehicle creates a need for registration with the department of motor vehicles.
Manufactured Homes vs Motorhomes
Advantages of Manufactured Homes over Motorhomes
If you are after a spacious home that’s easier to move from place to place and one that doesn’t require expansion or addition of luxurious add-ons, you may want to buy a manufactured home. Here are the advantages of manufactured homes over motorhomes.
Don’t want to live in an overly limited space? Buy a manufactured home.
It is possible to get a 500 square-feet manufactured home, but there is no RV home close to that size. If you consider the fact that both manufactured homes and RV homes are mobile but the former is larger, it only makes sense to buy a manufactured home.
Do you want a tiny home that comes pre-installed with everything? Buy a manufactured home.
Manufactures will put everything you need in your manufactured home – you don’t need to add anything else after the purchase. RV homes seldom come pre-installed with all the stuff you need. If you want to upgrade your RV home from the basics, you will have to incur huge extra costs during the process.
Do you want a home that’s more advanced than RVs but cheaper than traditional homes? Go the manufactured home way
If you are hard on cash but still want to own a modest home that’s close to a traditional home, but more advanced than an RV home, you may want to buy a manufactured home. The cost of an average manufactured home in the United States is $62,000 while the cost of an average single-family house is $272,200. The cost of a decent RV home falls between $50,000 and $300,000 although it’s possible to find one priced as low as $10,000.
The power of customization
If you want a home that permits a greater degree of customization then you may want to buy a manufactured home. Because manufactured homes are large, you can repurpose parts of the huge space or switch things around quite easily. The small size of RV homes is a major hindrance when it comes to the ease of customizing the interiors and the number of options available.
Manufactured houses are made from low-quality materials compared to traditional houses, but high-quality materials compared to RV houses. The fact that manufactured houses don’t move around much like RV houses means the construction materials won’t wear out fast. Therefore, a manufactured house is more likely to outlive an RV home within the same period.
Manufactured Home Disadvantages
A manufactured home, whether it’s on a wheeled chassis or fixed foundation, isn’t meant to move much
Yes, a manufactured home is fixed on a semi-permanent foundation or wheeled chassis – you only move when it’s very necessary, so you won’t be moving around as much as you would’ve had with an RV home.
There is a strong chance you won’t like the factory layout of your manufactured house. Because of their large size, the cost of dismantling the prefabrication and installing your layout is higher than that of dismantling the RV home’s layout.
RV Homes vs Manufactured Home
Advantages of RV homes over Manufactured Homes
Do you want a versatile home? Choose an RV home.
RV homes come in different shapes and sizes – you are free to choose a home from three classes: Class A, Class, and Class C (see above). Manufactured homes, on another hand, don’t come in a variety of shapes, but rather emphasize internal styling.
If you are after a minimalistic lifestyle, RV homes are a better alternative to manufactured homes. This is especially true if you are not willing to part with extra dollars for that extra space that you won’t even need.
Perfect adventurous living
RV homes tend to trade comfortable living with adventurous living – you can move around easily and explore places that are far and wide. Manufactured homes don’t move around much.
Ease of cleaning and maintenance
Because of their small size, RV homes are much easier to clean and maintain compared to larger manufactured homes.
One of the biggest problems of manufactured homes is the need to hire a towing company or having to unhook from electricity supplies whenever you want to move. RV homes are the only alternative that effectively gets rid of this problem – they are self-contained.
The cost of acquiring an RV home is low compared to that of acquiring a manufactured home. That’s partly because manufactured homes are more advanced than RV homes.
Long Term Value
If you consider the long-time term value of both manufactured homes and motorhomes over the same period, manufactured vehicles remain valuable longer. That’s because of two factors: the quality of materials used to make the semi-permanent body and the fact that they don’t move around much.
RV homes don’t offer the best “on-the-move” living because of the limited space, especially when compared to the more spacious manufactured homes.
Can be stressful
That fact that you’re always on the move and changing residences so often quickly takes a toll on you both mentally and physically.
Guide to Selecting the Best Manufactured House
The same way you would make a shopping list when going to shop in your local store, you need to list down your specifications before going out to buy a manufactured home. There are several things to keep in mind.
What floor plan and size of home do you want?
Manufacturers produce homes in a range of sizes and floor plans. Be sure to put into consideration the size of your family and the number of household items you own. Also, bear in mind the total area or site where the home will be installed. The sizes of manufactured homes range between 900 and 2,500 sq-ft
What special features do you want your home to have?
You can tell the manufacturer to add custom items on your home including walk-in closets, custom cabinets, and whirlpools. You can as well choose from a range of exterior and interior designs that fit your budget. Be sure to list these special features on paper and hand it to the manufacturer.
Work out your finances
It is very much possible to find a decent manufactured home with a price tag between $15,000 and $100,000. The most important thing, however, is to work out your finances and budget appropriately.
What financing options do you have?
If you haven’t saved for it then you should probably find the proper financier, like a mortgage firm, local lender, or retailer. However, you need to be careful when committing to long-term loans as you don’t want your home to be repossessed due to default.
Also, have a second look at the terms of the loan and rates (a reasonable loan would call for a down payment of about 5 – 10% the home’s sale price and lasting between 15 to 25 years).
If you are thinking of buying the land on which your home will sit, traditional mortgage financing would be a better option.
Is the dealer qualified?
You are more likely to acquire a home through a dealer. Take a moment to establish the qualifications of the dealer and determine if the dealer is licensed. The best dealer will have their equipment, after-sale warranty, and experienced staff. You want your dealer to uphold the highest quality standards throughout the process.
What does the manufacturer have to offer?
Once you’ve picked the right dealer, the next important thing you can do is to look at what the manufacturer has to offer. What are the materials used? What are the weather variations? What are the available architectural designs and floor plans?
Guide to Choosing the Best Motorhome
There are several types of motorhomes each with its benefits and setbacks. For this reason, I recommend renting the home for about a week before committing yourself to buy one. Here is how to choose the best motorhome:
What type of motorhome fits your needs?
Your choices will be limited to three options Class A (large bus-like motorhomes), Class B (caravans with raised roofs), and Class C (vehicles with an alcove on top). If you have a family, for example, you would choose a Class A motorhome. If you are a lone adventurer then Class C motorhome would be best for you.
What’s the cost?
Motorhomes don’t come cheap. A decent campervan may cost you slightly over $100,000 in Washington State. Those sold in luxury markets can come with a price tag as high as $250,000. Therefore, it is important to put into consideration your savings or source financing when selecting an RV home.
Is it the right time to buy a motorhome?
There is actually the right time to buy a motorhome. The best time is when prices are low because of the low demand for these homes. What time could it possibly be? You guessed right: November or October when everyone has returned from summer camping. What other time would be better than the autumn when campers are dumping their used homes into the market?
Not just any motorhome of any weight would be allowed on roads in the United States. All motorhomes are required to fall below the quoted maximum weight for them to legally drive on public roads. Weight protocols are a bit intricate but can be read in-depth here.
Beds and berths
How many people will occupy the vehicle? How many will sleep there? Beds and berths are a major factor when it comes to selecting a motorhome. Consider the size of your family or number of your fellow adventurers when selecting a home on the wheels. You also need to understand that the size of such spaces as the kitchen, bathroom, and dining area should be determined by the number of occupants of the home.