Tiny House vs Van Life – We Compare 2 Polarizing Lifestyles of 2021

Many peoiple have been asking how Tiny House vs Van Life compares and if there is a viable comparison between the two lifestyles in 2021. We answer all your questions and more in this guide.

We all want to go tiny as a method of reducing our debts and search for a more sustainable life. There are countless other reasons to think about Van Life and Tiny living such as the inability to afford a conventional home, going through a life crisis and even preparations for an uncertain occasion. An important first step in these two instances is taking your time to compare different options available in the market and getting the first impression about life in a van or tiny house living from people on the internet.

In most instances, most tiny houses refer to some degree of mobility which is not very different from Vans or Recreational Vehicles (RVs). A recent survey by the Australian Tiny House Association shows that 78% of all the 109 respondents live in tiny houses and a great number of them live in converted vans, buses and Caravans. If you have recently considered going tiny, it’s important to read along and get all the information you need before making the decision.

cheaper to live in a tiny house or van

Tiny House vs. Van Life: Overview

Tiny House

The trend towards tiny living has picked a new path during the coronavirus pandemics. More people are choosing to downsize the space they are living in and live simple lives with less. People are currently embracing having tiny spaces for their offices and study areas. Currently, the average size of an American house is 2,600 square feet which is the main reason why more people are opting for better living. Tiny houses on the other hand are defined as all the housing structures below 400 square feet.

Tiny houses can either be rented or owned. Some people can also choose mini homes on wheels or set tiny houses on a permanent foundation. In other situations, tiny houses are independent structures meaning that they can easily be parked on land with other buildings or large homes. Some tiny houses are designed for easy building meaning that you can build them on your own. Other tiny houses are built from Trailers and built after purchasing a tiny house kit. Tiny house plans are available in different sizes, forms, designs and shapes. However, the main agenda of trying tiny houses is to enable easy living and simpler living.

What tiny house living looks and feels like

Tiny living is living on your own which means that there are definitely commonalities amongst the homeowners. There are impressive savings with time. If you want to know what living in tiny houses feels like, then you have to check with what other people living in the same place are saying about the same.

More than 68% of tiny homeowners have no mortgage and they definitely have more savings than a typical household. If you are accustomed to living in larger spaces, it might feel kind of restriction and less freedom to live in tiny houses.

Pros and cons of living in tiny houses

Pros

  • Modern appliances are very friendly to tiny living
  • Tiny Houses costs lower than regular homes
  • Tiny houses on wheels are ideal for travellers
  • There’s less to clean
  • They’re sustainable

Cons

  • Tiny house laws vary greatly
  • The resale value is lower
  • Getting financed is difficult

van life vs tiny house

Van Life

Van Life simply means living in a van and checking for parking from time to time for different purposes. Van Life is not for everyone but the souls that are ready to spare their space freedom and the ones that are ready to live with little stuff. If you are one of them, you will definitely find van life very interesting.

Pros and cons of van life

Pros

  • You save more
  • Financial freedom
  • Convenience for your stuff
  • You have the ability to travel more
  • You can customize the space

Cons

  • The possibility of a van breaking is high
  • The space is limited
  • It’s not weatherproof

So, why do you want to go tiny?

Every person going tiny has their own reasons which range from the cost of living, search for sustainable living, inability to raise the money for a regular house, lack of mortgages and financing and uncertainty in the future. So what are your personal reasons for going tiny? This is the most important question that you should ask yourself before going tiny. The answer to this question will inform your decisions on whether to choose a Val life or a tiny house experience.

Is the reason that you want ultra-Mobile and live like a digital nomad? Do you lack land and wants to live in a home on wheels perhaps in a ‘’stealth van” in your city where you can change parking every night? Do you want to travel around the country like a grey nomad as you stay in roadside camps or caravan parks for weeks?

Or are you just looking for a tiny house for a small family or for retiring? The good thing is that everyone with all the different reasons can find either a tiny house of Caravan life entertaining. However, if you have a relatively larger family, you can have the challenge of moving along with them. Luckily, you can choose a relatively bigger living area. As a matter of fact, there are one-bedroom tiny house plans, two-bedroom tiny house plans and small home plans that you can go for right now.

Depending on what you want, you can be able to choose between Tiny Houses and Van Life. So do you want to feel more settled with your family, perhaps moving more occasionally with your children for school, work or medical purposes? If yes, then a tiny house plan will work for you. They are perfect for people that want to travel between the houses of adult children or those that want a space for their friends or in-laws to visit.

Many Caravans are extremely designed and customized and they are accepted everywhere in Australia and United States. Most Off-the-shelf caravans are accepted in the roadside parking spots, caravan parks and every other unmanaged packing.

Moving on, a tiny house on wheels is less mobile and not a perfect match for people that wants to move around more often. This is mainly because they are extremely heavy and not aerodynamic. They are also large houses built with heavy materials that can easily be damaged when in motion. Tiny Houses on wheels are also less accepted in most councils and caravan parks. Some local jurisdictions also restrict the occupancy and onerous conditions of caravans and tiny houses on wheels.

In this instance, Caravans and buses are more flexible and very acceptable. In the van life movement and stealth Van, people usually live rent-free by mainly parking illegally in industrial estates. You might be wondering what they usually do and where they go for bathrooms. In many instances, the Van Life movement can use public and work/GYM bathrooms.

However, Vans are extremely small and they might never work for a family of more than two people. If you are planning to live in a van like Celebrity rock climber Alex Honnold, it might be very practical for your family.

Tiny Houses vs. Vans: The cost

The next most important factor to consider when choosing between tiny houses and the van life is what you can afford. You might have to pay up to $120,000 for ready-built tiny homes. DIY tiny house plans cost less and they are generally cheaper. You might not pay more than $2,000 for a DIY tiny house. But for the architect-designed tiny houses, you might have to dig deeper in your pockets.

Vans and converted caravans are relatively cheaper. The cost of the vehicle is likely to be under $20,000. But unless you are living in free camps or under the radar, you will have to factor in a lot of other costs such as renting an extra land or someone’s backyard or the park.

How sustainable is your life

Sustainability is a nuanced aspect of tiny house living, as a matter of fact, living small means less energy and waste. The space is small and you are likely to require little energy to heat, cool and light the space. There’s also less storage which enforces a minimalist lifestyle. Moving on, most tiny houses on wheels and converted vans are off-grid which means you are more likely to rely on rainwater, composting toilets and solar power. The vans and tiny houses on wheels are made using entirely reclaimed materials.

But it’s very important to underline the statement ‘’ Caravans and vans are not very sustainable”. This is mainly because they are built out of mass-produced materials and they are very likely to produce more gases and paints to the environments.

What Kind of Life do you want?

To determine which of the two perfectly fits your lifestyle, you should ask yourself the kind of life you want. Tiny Houses are as tiny as they feel and space is premium and living requires reduced stuff. You will definitely not need a lot of clothes, hobby equipment and sporting equipment. If the tiny houses on wheels are packed more permanently, they will definitely allow for decks and even sheds. But caravans and vans are self-sustained unless they are in a permanent Caravan park.

For people that are used to living in large spaces, it will definitely take a lot of time to adjust. This is mainly because the practicalities of tiny living can be challenging.

Mobility

Vans are relatively more mobile, especially when compared directly to tiny houses on wheels. The fact remains that vans were designed for travel and hence you are going to get better gas mileage as a van dweller than when you have a tiny house on wheels. With the tiny houses on wheels, you can average 9 mpg but with a van, travelling 80mpg without any damages is very easy and faster.

Vans are smaller

In some instances, it’s very hard to stand out tall in a Van. Even though Vans are faster and usually better for mobility, the space is limited and not ideal for long stays inside. Some of the vans such as the popular westfalia are very short and they might not allow enough standing room or even a loft. If space is what you have been looking for, then you might have to change and go for tiny houses because they have relatively larger space.

Tiny Houses have more amenities

In most instances, you might not have space for a shower and a toilet meaning that most dwellers will only rely on public restrooms and showers for services. In vans, the kitchens are very tiny and it might not be enough for a standard duo. The kitchens are too small to even hold a stovetop or a mini-fridge.

The beds in most instances double as coaches and the passage seats double as chairs for the guests. This means that almost every item in the van has two or three jobs. In a typical tiny house, space is relatively larger. As a matter of fact, you can come across 2-bedroom tiny house plans and 2 story tiny houses with enough space to hold enough space for the living room. The washroom is enough for a shower and a tiny toilet and even a small sink and storage for toiletries and skincare products.

In the case of a 2 story tiny house, space can be enough for a dining room, a study area, an office and a loft. The entry to the living area is also big and there is less hassle.

tiny house vs van life compare

Tiny Houses are better Insulated

The tiny houses are built with 2X4 framing which means they have a good amount of insulation. The vans can as well insulate as much as they can but with limited space. Because of their space, they will mainly not see the same R-Value as a tiny home meaning you might be more comfortable in a tiny house during extreme weather seasons such as summer or winter.

The vans are typically off-grid

While many vans are off-grid as well, more van dwellers live almost 100% off-grid. I personally don’t know which of the two lifestyles is more eco-friendly. But still, Van dwellers seem to travel more than tiny house dwellers meaning that they’ll automatically burn more fossil fuels.

Vans have an Engine

Unlike tiny houses on wheels that will automatically have to be towed, Vans come with their in-Built engine. Tiny Houses are trailers and come all in one package. Some relatively larger tiny houses cannot move. With a van, if you want to go to a grocery store, you can easily drive back home with your home. With a tiny house, this is not very possible and you might have to cope with some local restrictions before you do that.

Van dwellers offer more parking options

In most places, tiny houses on wheels are not very acceptable in parking spaces. This is the catch of owning a tiny house. Van dwellers on the other hand can easily park anywhere and sneaky campout. If you visit some of your friends in town, you can easily park in coffee shops and spend the night. This is a clear indication that Van dwellers have more flexible options when it comes to parking.

Van’s attracts more maintenance

With Vans, you will definitely have to pay more for maintenance. Tiny houses built on a permanent foundation will require little maintenance. Tiny houses are weatherproof meaning that they will not be significantly affected by the changes in weather, especially during winter and summer. Another reason why Tiny House requires minimal maintenance is that they usually don’t move long distances. Due to the amount of travelling, and the fact that there’s an engine involved, the amount of maintenance is always high.

Purchase price vs. Resale Value

In this category, it’s always very hard to determine which of the two the best investment is. Some of the vans and latest models have a large following and their resale price is expected to be higher than the tiny house resale prices. However, in case the tiny house is built on a permanent foundation, this will be the best investment because its resale price will always be high. It’s also important to note that tiny houses are new in the market and hence very difficult to determine their resale price for the coming few years.

The vans are purchased and converted for much less than the tiny homes. You can actually purchase and convert the van for less than $6k. The tiny houses depending on where your life can be built for almost 30k dollars. You can sell the tiny house for more than the van but still, the cost of purchasing a tiny house is relatively higher.

The resale value and the time it takes to sell a camper van might be faster than selling a tiny house. However, it’s important to note that camper vans depreciate faster than a tiny house. The cost evaluation of a tiny house is also very difficult and for that reason, you might get a price you didn’t expect.

Which one is better?

Living in a van or a tiny house is a personal lifestyle choice. What this means is that you will have to determine a couple of personal aspects before you make your decision. Any of the two will work best if your driving factor is not doing it because someone else is.

The decision, in this case, should be more of a conscious decision to lower the cost of living and cause less stress to the environment. But still, the minimalist lifestyle will not make you an environmental crusader if you are not very comfortable with your living. However, if you are comfortable with space and everything else, it can make the planet a little healthier and greener, something that the entire world is striving for. Before you buy, start with renting a camper from a reputable site and feel how it’s like living in such a place before you purchase one.

Which lifestyle is right for me?

As shown in this brief, there are a couple of differences and similarities between tiny houses and van dwelling. The people that live small are more likely to save more money in the long run but the cost of establishing a tiny house or maintaining a van is very high. If you are interested in financial freedom, then you will find these two as the best alternatives to regular homes.

To make your decision, here are the considerations. Ask yourself whether you want to be nomadic or you want to park in a single location and move periodically. Do you need certain amenities that you cannot find with the Van? The last consideration is the amount of money that you are willing and able to pay for this project.

Is a Van Dwelling for you?

Van dwelling is not for everybody especially the ones that are accustomed to posh living. I specifically wouldn’t want to live in the van because of the limited space and all the other disadvantages stated above but I’ve come across many people that are comfortable with this. What this means is that the decision here will come down to personal needs and preferences.

compare tiny house and van life

FAQs

Is Van Life legal?

Yes, most countries don’t have serious regulations concerning van Life. They are treated as normal vans and will have to adhere to the traffic act.

How long do tiny houses last?

Tiny houses can last for long but they are not going to last longer than the regular homes on a foundation. They can last for more than 10 years.

Why is a tiny house not an RV?

While it’s easy to find tiny houses on wheels, they are not categorized as RV and they usually face more restrictions to use the highway. RVs unlike Tiny houses are created for recreational purposes.

Conclusion

Despite the growing popularity of tiny houses, very few people are willing to live in them specifically because of the limited spaces. Nonetheless, the few that are willing to live in them view the experiences very personally and positively. Most of them claim that living in tiny spaces has greatly enriched their life and helped re-evaluate their life choices.