Full-Time RVers: A 5th Wheel vs. Tiny Home

In October of 2019, we decided to become full-time RVers. For five years, we had spent occasional weekends in our RV, in a campground not far from home. Whenever we’d arrive on a Friday, the stress of the week would gradually slip away during the last mile of the ride.

On these weekends, there was always time to read, do a Sudoku puzzle, or sit and do nothing. What little housework that needed to get done, didn’t take much time. And even when I needed to work, being able to do so from a spot surrounded by nature, made it seem less of a burden.

We’d joined the one million other Americans who live their lives in an RV full-time. But unlike most, we are stationary RV living. We’re not traveling the country, moving from state to state. We’ve settled in southeastern Virginia, surrounded by a wildlife refuge.

Why Live in an RV Full-Time?

Full-time RVersSadly, due to financial circumstances, many folks are forced into living in their RV full-time. Although the cost of living is now less, it was not the reason we chose to do it. For seven months in 2004, we lead a nomadic RV life, exploring the country. We loved it but had never planned on doing it long term.

During the following fifteen years, we often spoke of wanting to live in the RV again. It wasn’t so much the travel, but the environment of an RV, being in a campground. Yes, that may sound strange, but it was what we enjoyed. It’s also why we loved our weekends at the seasonal site.

And who knows, in a year or two, we may purchase a vehicle big enough to tow our fifth wheel and again become nomads. But for now, we’re stationary, full-time RVers.

Tiny House Option

Tiny House
The Triton 2.0 from Wind River Tiny Homes

Last summer, a tiny house arrived at the campground and stayed a couple of months. I wanted to see the inside but never had the chance. When TV shows about small homes started appearing a few years ago, I became addicted. It was fascinating to see how ingenious both the builders and homeowners could be about getting the most out of not too much space. And the interior designs were very homey, yet minimal. I loved them!

Some may wonder why we didn’t consider a tiny home rather than staying in our RV full-time. Primarily,  it was because we already had the RV and are very happy with its location.

Tiny House vs. RV

In retrospect, I wanted to find out if we had made the right choice. When watching all the TV shows about tiny homes, I noticed that the bedroom area inevitably ended up being a loft, with stairs or a ladder to climb. In some of the lofts, a person couldn’t even stand up fully. The novelty would have worn off very quickly for me. We have just three stairs up into the bedroom of our fifth-wheel, where I can stand up straight and have enough clearance around the bed to easily make it up.

I discovered I am not the only one who finds the bedroom loft unappealing. But there is more than this to consider in making the final choice. Here are some of the things I learned.

Tiny House Pros and Cons

In the plus column for a tiny house, you’ll find:

  • Aesthetically, a tiny house looks and feels more permanent.
  • They are easier to customize than an RV.
  • Tiny houses are better insulated and waterproofed.
  • They tend to retain and even increase in value.

In the negative column, there are these concerns:

  • They are heavy and not built for lots of miles on the road; wind, oil, and road debris can cause damage.
  • They don’t have holding tanks for black, grey, or fresh water.
  • Bathrooms are less traditional, having composting toilets.
  • Tiny homes are more difficult to find than an RV.

During my research on tiny homes, I stumbled upon Caravan- The Tiny House Hotel. It’s located in Portlan, Oregon. It would offer someone the opportunity to give one a try if they are thinking about getting one.

RV Pros and Cons

Starting with its price in the plus column for an RV (if used),  there are these other advantages:

  • RVs are much easier to find than a tiny house, and resale is also much easier.
  • Getting insurance is less complicated.
  • They are built to move!
  • Many RVs come with generators.

And in the negative column, the RV falls short in these ways:

  • Like cars, their value depreciates quickly.
  • RVs are not as well insulated as tiny homes and can be uncomfortable in cold weather.
  • They are prone to shaking in the wind or when people move around.
  • In a rainstorm, they can become noisy.

RV Right Choice for Us

To be considered a tiny house, it must be 400 sq. ft. or less. Our RV qualifies on this point, but unlike an actual tiny home, ours was built to be on the move. Although we are currently stationary, full-time RVers, that may change someday. With a tiny house, the possibility of becoming nomads wouldn’t exist. And if we grow tired or dissatisfied with the layout or looks of our RV, without too many hassles, we can find another one to replace it.

For us, we made the right choice.

Our tiny house: RV Floorplan, Keystone Everest 305T

2009 Keystone Everest 305T