Build or Buy a Tiny House RV? 4 BIG Things to Consider

Ok, so you’ve fallen in love with tiny houses and have started downsizing. Now you need to decide if you should build or buy. The difference between the two options is huge, and your budget and available time loom large as you decide.

The dream of building your own is greatly idealized. Is it feasible for you?

4 Things to Consider When Deciding to on DIY or Pro-Built Tiny House

  • What’s Your Budget?

Costs vary greatly based on size, materials used, and level of customization. Of course, labor is also a significant factor. If you are able to do-it-yourself, you can save up to 30-50% of the overall cost.

How much do tiny houses cost?

While the savings can be huge, a tiny house build will require months, or even years, of your life to complete. Not to mention the stress. On the other hand, for many, building your own is incredibly fulfilling, both in the life learning experience and priceless satisfaction of living in space built with your bare hands.

Importantly, the cost of a professionally built tiny house is much higher but fortunately there are now more financing options than ever before. Though, you might not be able to afford $60,000 upfront, a $483 monthly payment could be. Even buyers with no credit history can now obtain loans for a Tumbleweed.

A tiny house shell is a semi-DIY option, great for those desiring hands-on experience. The exterior is completed, and the interior is mostly unfishished. The cost is similar to a do-it-yourself build but less than most professional models. The best part? Some most difficult aspects of the build are done for you, like framing and electrical. Additionally, you can even purchase a certified RV shell. Financing for shells is available, but strangely, banks are more willing to lend on finished builds by a ratio of about 8 to 1.

  • Choosing Your Tiny House Size and Design

Deciding on the size and design affects all aspects of your build, whether DIY or professionally built. Of course, this includes cost. For instance, a 30’ trailer is thousands of dollars more than a 20’ trailer. As you can imagine, that 10’ makes worlds of difference when comes to usable living space.

How tiny is right for you? To help make this crucial decision, begin by identifying your needs and priorities. Your tiny house layout can be designed around these. That’s just what Claire and Seth did. Watch their tour to learn more.

Tools to help your tiny house design process:

  • Make a list of need and wants. For example, do you love cooking? If yes, then prioritize ample kitchen space—need. Enjoy taking a bath? A bathtub may be a want, unless this plays a significant role is your health and wellness.
  • Create dream board on Pinterest. What designs resonate the most with you? As you droll of the pretty pictures, really think about why it appeals to you so much. One thing this will help with is determining the look and feel of your Tiny House RV. Do you love the charm of reclaimed wood? On one hand, they can add charm and provide cost savings, if building yourself. But keep in mind if choose to work with a professional, many tiny house builders will not work with reclaimed materials.
  • Make your best effort to stay in a rental. Also visit a tiny house festival. First-hand experience perhaps the best way to determine what works for you and what doesn’t.
  • Feeling Determined to Do-It-Yourself? Don’t Forget These Build Essentials.

Access to build location, as well as tools, are necessities for any tiny house build. If you’re lucky, maybe a family member has an available driveway. Make sure you discuss rules, like not hammering after 9 pm to be respectful to the neighbors. You’ll also want to review any HOA regulations.

If you don’t own the necessary tools, remember to budget for them. Or you can ask friends about borrowing theirs. Kill two birds with one stone, by building at a Makerspace. These often offer both build sites and access to a wide array of tools. Even better? They offer a sense of community, with free-flowing advice and moral support from other DIYers.

Additionally, network with local tiny house Meetups for potential build sites and helping hands. Don’t know how to do something? Research can make a huge difference, if you don’t have the building skills. It takes time to learn.

  • Start saving!

We all know saving is easier said than done. Gathering materials over time, as deals arise, is a great way to reduce upfront expenses for DIYers. And for those struggling to have enough for down-payment for a tiny house purchase, there’s two options available:

  1. Well qualified buyers can purchase a Tumbleweed for just $500 down. Learn More.
  2. If you have been impacted by a natural disaster, you may be eligible for a down-payment grant through Operation Tiny Home! Details available here.

Do you want to build your own or buy a tiny house?

Tiny House Expedition

My partner, Christian and I are DIY tiny house dwellers and the cofounders of Tiny House Expedition. Together we’ve been on the road for four years and have traveled over 54,000 miles across North America—humbly, the world’s most traveled tiny house on wheels! We share tiny house resources, create educational events and thought-provoking storytelling, including the educational docu-series, Living Tiny Legally.  We live, breathe, dream the tiny home community every day. We are very grateful to be able to experience this inspiring movement in such an intimate way and to be able to share our exploration with all of you.

Follow our adventures on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.