Transportable Homes: Benefits, Drawbacks and Questions to Ask

Transportable trailer-style home. Photo from Blake Wisz via Unsplash.

With the difficulties young adults are having when it comes to affording traditional homes, small homes and homes on wheels are becoming more popular.

Homes on wheels provide the benefits of a permanent home base while giving people the freedom they need to look for the right place to “grow roots”—which, of course, can depend on where you might land a job or find a soulmate.

There’s quite an array of transportable homes available these days. Some of the more popular choices include:

  • Camper vans
  • Converted buses
  • Mobile homes and trailers
  • Tiny homes on tractor-trailer beds that can be carted around a whole continent

The Benefits of Transportable Homes

First and foremost, the largest draw of a transportable home is that these tend to be more affordable than traditional homes. It’s possible to buy a small home on wheels for well under $50,000 USD. Both the small size and portability of these homes appeal to many minimalists and vagabonds.

Having a transportable home means not having to pack and unpack your home to move—you can just take the whole home with you! This is very convenient for people who may not have a permanent job, such as freelancers, or whose career may take them all over the country. Moving a converted bus or a camper van and settling on a new plot of land really just involves the cost of gas!

Even vacations can become less expensive if you’re able to hit the road in your home. There’ll be no costly flights or hotels, and you’ll be able to buy groceries and eat home-cooked meals to save the money you’d otherwise spend on takeaway food.

The cost of a land lease or “condo fee” to park your transportable home in a trailer park or mobile home community will often be less expensive than renting a house or apartment would be. Plus, with a transportable home, you’ll always be able to maintain a roof over your head, because you’ll most likely own your home outright. Even if you fall on hard financial times and can’t afford condo fees, you’ll be able to find somewhere to park your home so you’ll never be left out in the cold.

On a slightly different note, tiny homes are so easily customizable, and at just a fraction of the cost of customizing a traditional home!

Potential Problems with Transportable Homes

Converted van home on street in winter. Photo from Viktor Talashuk via Unsplash.

Sometimes the expense of moving a certain type of transportable home, such as a small home on wheels, can be higher than the cost of moving between apartments or even hiring a moving company to help you do so. You may need a transport truck to help you move your wheeled home, and if you hire movers, the fees might be higher than those you’d pay when moving from apartment to apartment.

Furthermore, it’s not always easy to find a spot for a transportable home that’s open year-round and has the appropriate hookups for utilities. Some local building codes also require homes to be at least a certain minimum size, which can complicate matters.

Regardless of how well you take care of it, the value of a transportable home will often depreciate over time. While property can fluctuate in value, a transportable home will rarely grow in value—sort of like a vehicle. If you decide to sell, you’ll likely end up selling your transportable home for less than the amount of money (and sweat equity!) you put into it.

Finally, it can be difficult to live in such a small space and utilize every inch of space efficiently. This can be both a benefit and a drawback, though, as it’ll make you seriously consider bringing any new item into your home.

6 Essential Considerations

There are a variety of questions you’ll need to ask yourself once you’ve decided to obtain a transportable home. Here are six attributes that are absolutely necessary to take into account:

The shell – Will you build a tiny home and set it on wheels, or will you find a large vehicle (such as an RV, a bus, a trailer or a camper van) to convert into a home?

The size – How big would you like your transportable home to be? This matters more if you’re custom-building a home to put on wheels, instead of converting an existing structure like a bus. It’s important to consider the number of people and pets that will be using the space, as well.

Your utilities – Will you predominantly live off the grid? Will you need to connect to utilities in a trailer park? Or will you incorporate renewable energy sources to rely on? Your answers to these questions will dictate exactly where you’ll be able to live. In accounting for utilities, you’ll also need to make sure you have the proper appliances (such as heating/air conditioning units, a water heater and so on) so you can live comfortably all year-round.

Your location – As mentioned above, if you need utility hookups, this will potentially make it challenging for you to find a place to park your home. It may take time to find land with the appropriate accommodations, and once you do, you’ll need to make sure you’re permitted to park there. Along the same lines, if you have your own land that you’ll park on, you’ll have to figure out how to connect your home to its utilities.

Your home’s weight – The expected final weight of your home (plus its contents) is an important thing to know when you’re building a tiny home, as this will determine the number of axles you’ll need to have.

The outdoor space – With such limited space indoors, it can be important for tiny home owners to have access to outdoor leisure spaces such as porches, in order to avoid feeling too cramped.

Ask Yourself, “Why?”

SUV pulling trailer. Photo from Benjamin Zanatta via Unsplash.

Before making the switch to transportable or tiny-home living, it’s important that you do extensive research so you know what you’re getting yourself into. Many folks suggest renting tiny homes such as cabins or camper vans to see how well you adjust to living in a small space before making the decision (not to mention doling out a large investment) to get a tiny home of your very own.

You should also come up with a clear reason why you’re making that big decision: Is it to have financial independence? Live a minimalist lifestyle? Decrease your impact on the environment? With that, you’ll have a crystal-clear rationale, and when challenges come up, you can mentally return to your “why.”

Read more about tiny homes in The Tiny Home Trend: The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Downsizing»

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