This Is How Much It Costs To Live In A Tiny Home

This Is How Much It Costs To Live In A Tiny Home

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You probably have heard about the tiny house movement and how it’s been helping several people obtain a comfortable dwelling place without hurting the bank. Thousands of people have already moved from traditional homes to tiny houses because smaller dwellings are way more affordable. But are they really? How much does it cost to live in a tiny home?

Knowing the actual cost of building, owning, and living in a tiny house will help you determine if it is the right lifestyle to choose, especially if budget is an important factor to consider. 

To answer how much it costs to live in a tiny home, we will discuss the following:

  • The cost of building and buying a tiny home
  • The cost of living in a tiny house

We will also talk about how you can minimize your expenses once you live in it, as well as the possible complications that you may have to deal with that could add up to your expenses. 

The Cost of A Tiny Home: Building

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The cost of building a tiny home depends on several factors, including materials and workforce needed.

One thing that’s really great about tiny homes is that they’re easier to build compared to traditional and large homes. They require fewer materials and less workforce. Moreover, you can actually build a tiny home very quickly. In fact, many were able to put up their new tiny home in just a day or two. 

If you’ve been watching documentaries and TV shows about tiny homes, you’d know that there are several individuals (even kids) who were able to construct their tiny homes alone or with very minimal help. And you can do so, too. Of course, it helps if you have skills and experience in construction. 

If you can build your home alone, then you’ll be able to save a lot of money as you don’t have to pay for professional construction workers. Building your house alone is a money-saver, but sure it might take you longer to assemble it. Consider asking a friend to help you with your project. 

When constructing a tiny house, consider not only how to have it done but also the amount of money you will have to spend to set it up. 

However, there’s no definite answer on how much it would actually cost to have a tiny house built. Several factors could affect the cost, including the size of your house, your location, and the materials you will use. 

Size

A residential structure that’s no more than 400 square feet is considered a tiny house. Tiny homes can even go as tiny as 8 square feet. Any residential homes that are more than 400 square feet but no more than 1,000 square feet are considered small houses. 

The school of thought is that smaller houses are cheaper to build. And, logically, bigger homes are pricier to construct. This is especially true if you’re planning to set up your tiny home over a foundation; land price is usually high, mainly in well-developed areas or states. 

So, if you’re planning to erect your tiny home, consider the size first. Then, see if your finances can keep up with your plan. 

Location

We’ve just talked about how the size of your tiny home can impact the total cost. Usually, the bigger the house, the more expensive it gets to build it. And if you’re planning to construct it on a foundation, then consider the price of the property you’re building the house on. 

However, it’s not only the size of your property that can impact the building cost but the location as well. The land price depends on where you plan to build your tiny house. 

Determining the land price in the US is a bit complicated to understand. Usually, a home’s cost for a square foot is featured on listings that you can find online and in property information sheets. 

The latest estimates show that the median price for each square foot for a home in America is $123. Of course, that can vary widely based on your location and other factors. 

For example, in Detroit, you will have to pay $24 a square foot. And if you plan to buy residential land in San Francisco, that would cost you $810 a square foot. But why the wide range?

It’s because some neighborhoods are way more desirable than others. Hence, they fetch a better price. 

According to Anthony Stellini, a realtor, “the hotter the neighborhood, the higher the price per square foot.”

Fortunately, there are several tiny house communities you can find in several states in America. To get a comprehensive list, read our article: The Ultimate List of Tiny Home Communities

Materials

Another vital aspect to consider when building a tiny home is the materials you will use. The kind, make, and brand of the materials you plan to use will prominently impact the building cost. 

The school of thought is that more expensive materials are more durable and have better lastingness. On the other hand, cheaper materials may be cost-efficient but aren’t intended for long-term use. They are also believed to be less durable. 

While that may be somewhat true, it’s essential to remember that several factors affect your home’s durability — harsh weather conditions, road damages, and maintenance. 

Cheap materials don’t always necessarily mean they can’t last long. In fact, with proper care, they can outlast you. Logically, neglecting your tiny home may result in your house falling into disrepair, even if you’ve used expensive materials. 

These are the necessary materials you will need to complete your tiny home: 

  • Wood: exterior and interior siding and trim, plywood, and dimensional lumber
  • Trailer and jack stands
  • Insulation: housewrap, tape, spray foam, and XPS boards
  • Roofing: rain and ice shield, metal roofing, tar paper
  • Strapping and flashing: straight straps, hurricane straps, H Clips, nail plates, flashing
  • Hardware: exterior screws and nails, metal screws, strapping nails, brads, bolts, nuts, washers, finishing nails, and door hardware
  • Electrical: wire, outlet boxes, electrical panel and breakers, lighting, switching plates, wire staples, cable, network, telephone wires, and switches
  • Flooring: tile, flooring transition pieces, mortar, thinset, adhesive, and hardwood flooring
  • Paint: construction adhesive and paints and stains
  • Plumbing: supply plumbing, drain plumbing, kitchen sink and faucet, shower, shower faucet, dryer vent, water heater, toilet, and hanger tape role
  • Millwork: exterior and interior door, windows, and shims

Professional Service

One of the best things about tiny houses is that you can build them all by yourself, more so if you have experience and skills in constructing a home. You can even purchase tiny home kits that you can assemble within a day or two without the need for tools. They come with step-by-step instructions and are specifically designed for quick and easy setup. 

However, if you want a bit more elaborate tiny house, then you might want to get help from professional workers. Getting professional service will help you save time, albeit the cost. 

Constructing a tiny home without any skills or experience may result in costly mistakes.

Companies like Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and Tiny Heirloom offer custom-design tiny homes at reasonable prices. They have designs already available, or you can design your home so you can add some personal touches. 

If you wish to hire a professional construction worker, then prepare yourself for paying the labor. The average construction labor cost is $35 per hour. Note that your location and the size of the crew can impact the cost. 

A tiny house on a foundation

The building cost will also depend on how you will build your tiny home. As mentioned previously, if you wish to construct a home over a foundation, you will have to find and buy a real estate property. 

The price of real estate property varies depending on your location and the current market value. A well-developed neighborhood may price higher. 

Given that your home will be constructed over a foundation, some states require that you comply with their building codes. These standards can also add up to the total building cost. So, when calculating your finances, consider knowing the building code in your local state first. 

A tiny house on wheels

A tiny house on wheels  (THOW) may require you to purchase more durable materials that can withstand road trips and harsh weather. While that isn’t necessarily compulsory, it helps if you choose materials with proven lastingness, especially that you will be living in your tiny home in the long run. 

THOWs are more likely to get damages from road debris. Hence, we recommend that you use better materials. 

Moreover, THOWs need to have a trailer. A trailer is probably the single most expensive item you have to buy. And it’s not that you can just purchase any available trailer. You need to choose the right size. Stability and road-worthiness are also factors to consider. 

You can choose to purchase a used trailer or a new one. You can also buy a customized trailer, so you’ll get what you specifically need. 

A second-hand trailer can cost between $800 and $2,500. Brand new trailers, on the other hand, costs from $5,000 and can go as high as $15,000. For example, Tumbleweed Tiny House Company prices their 20-feet long trailers for $5,779. Customized trailers can cost from $8,000 (low end) and up to $45,000 (high-end).

Remember, when selecting a trailer, you have to consider the right size that can accommodate the weight of the tiny home structure (including the weight of all the materials of your home from floor to roof). You must also think about everything you will put into your tiny home (i.e., appliances, decors, furniture, and occupants).

A new car for your THOW may also be necessary. You see, not all cars have that power to tow heavy trailer homes. Here are some of the best vehicles that can tow 7,000 to 12,000 lbs trailers:

  • Toyota Sequoia – 7,400 lbs
  • Toyota Land Cruiser – 8,100 lbs
  • Nissan Armada – 8,500 lbs
  • Chevrolet Tahoe – 8,600 lbs
  • Lincoln Navigator – 9,000 lbs
  • Ford Expedition – 9,300 lbs
  • Toyota Tundra – 10,200 lbs
  • Chevrolet Silverado – 12,000 lbs
  • GMC Sierra – 12,500 lbs
  • RAM 1500 – 12,750 lbs
  • Ford F150 – 13,200 lbs
  • Tesla Cybertruck – 14,000 lbs

To know more about trailers, read our article: How To Choose A Trailer Size For Tiny Home: Complete Guide

The Cost of A Tiny Home: Owning

Now that we’ve covered the cost of building a tiny house let’s talk about the cost of owning one. It’s essential to make sure that your tiny home is always in peak condition to preserve its beauty, mobility, and stability. 

Damages are inevitable. Your kids may punch a hole in the wall, your furniture may scratch the floor, harsh weather may damage your roof, strong winds may break your windows… the list goes on. 

Maintenance, repairs, and renovations can cost a lot. The good news is that because your tiny home is technically small, you won’t be spending as much as you would in a traditional large home. 

The Cost of A Tiny Home: Maintaining the trailer

When you live in a tiny house, it is very easy to overlook what should be the most meticulously maintained part: the trailer. 

The structure and engineering of a tiny house are pretty basic: some wheels, a couple of axles, and some breaks. Yet, a trailer in a tiny house plays the most crucial role. The steel frames are the tiny home’s foundation, which means they are the very things we lay our homes, families, and lives on. 

The trailer is what allows us to sit still without motion. It also lets us relax comfortably while allowing us to travel at whim. Hence, maintaining the trailer is a top priority. 

These are the things you must check in your trailer:

  • Tire pressure

Before going on a trip, make sure to check your tire pressure in all tires. Inflate the trailer tires to the maximum inflation indicated on the sidewall. You should also check the inflation when the tires are cool and have not been exposed to the sun. While it may seem fine to underinflate, it can actually cause tire failure. 

  • Lighting

Your lighting is very crucial for your safety (and everyone else’s that’s in your trailer home). If you have failing lights, you are at risk of being pulled over and getting a ticket. Before zipping the road, make sure to connect the plug from your trailer to your tow hitch. Check if the turn signals and brake signals are fully functional. 

  • Lug nuts

Loose or improperly attached lug nuts can put you at major risks. Make sure to check lug nut tension at least twice during the first 1,000 miles of the trailer. From then forward, you must check the lugs each time your vehicle and trailer serviced. 

  • Bearings

Bearings play an important role in your trailer’s performance. When the bearings have proper grease levels, it keeps your tire from overheating and your breaks from wearing unnecessarily thin. Mechanics suggest checking your bearings every 12,000 miles or so, but there’s really no definite time as to when to do it. 

  • Grease your hitch

When the trailer ball and the hitch aren’t regularly greased, they may cause loud sounds and bad friction. As a result, there would be a buildup of heat around the distribution area, and your turn radius will be limited, along with other issues. Greasing your hitch is an easy task to do.

On average, tire repairs will cost you approximately $200 per month. Meanwhile, routine trailer maintenance will cost around $100 per month. The maintenance cost depends on several factors, including the age of your trailer, the technology used, and the use of your trailer. 

As your trailer ages, mechanical problems become more prevalent. Trailer repairs and regular inspections become even more necessary. 

The Cost of A Tiny Home: Maintaining the vehicle

Not only do you need to maintain the trailer but the car you use to tow it as well. Your vehicle needs as much maintenance as your trailer. 

And the same with the trailer, the more your car ages, maintenance becomes even more needed.

It’s essential to maintain your car to keep the engines running smoothly and other car problems at bay. Also, it’s relatively inexpensive. In fact, basic car maintenance only costs about $100 per year. 

Thankfully, modern cars do not need as much maintenance as old models, thanks to the increased computerization and improvements made in engine design. But of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t require regular inspection. 

These are the basic car services and their cost:

  • Oil and filter change

Dirt can cause corrosion and, thus, decrease the life of an engine. Hence, it’s important to perform routine oil and filter changes to remove particles and keep the engines in the best condition. 

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You must perform oil and filter change every 5,000 to 7,000 miles. The estimated cost would be between $20 and $100. 

  • Tire rotation

Tire rotation is important to ensure even tire wear. Yes, tire wear is actually desirable to extend the useful life of the tires as a set. That’s because the front of the car often carries more of the weight.

You must have your tires rotated every 3,00 to 7,000 miles, and it costs about $20 to $50 only. 

Other than these, you must also replace the parts of your car that have worn out already. 

  1. New tires cost around $50 to $300 per tire. 
  2. Wiper blade replacement costs between $7 and $15 and must be replaced every six to twelve months. 
  3. Brake pad must be replaced every 30,000 to 50,000 miles. The price is approximately anywhere from $100 to $350. 
  4. Engine air filter replacement must be done every 20,000 to 60,000 miles, and it costs around $20 to $75.

To better know the cost of maintaining your car, it’s essential to understand what your car needs. You can check the maintenance schedule indicated in your owner’s manual. For example, if you own a 2015 Nissan Armada, you must follow these maintenance schedules:

  • Conventional oil change every 5,000 miles.
  • Tire rotation every 5,000 miles.
  • Flush or replace the coolant every 75,000 miles. 
  • Replace the air filter every 30,000 miles.
  • Have the spark plugs replaced every 105,000 miles.
  • Replace the cabin air filter every 15,000 miles.

The Cost of A Tiny Home: Living

The daily or monthly expenses depend on several variables, including your location, the size of your home, the number of appliances being used, the number of occupants, the structure of the tiny house (if it’s on foundation or wheels), and if the home is in or off the grid. 

We can’t definitely say that living off-grid is way cheaper because, as just mentioned, the costs of everyday living depends on so many factors. 

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But one thing is for sure: tiny homes are more affordable and sustainable than traditional homes. 

For example, most tiny houses use a solar panel system as a primary energy source, instead of hooking to an electrical grid. The home being totally reliant on the sun means you won’t be spending anything on electric bills. 

But let’s also not forget that although you’ll be saving a lot every month, having a solar panel system installed in your tiny home requires you to pay a huge amount of upfront fees. The average cost of a solar panel system goes up to $6,500 or higher, depending on the brand, market value, and demand. 

Water is another thing to consider. You can choose to connect to the local water system or live off-grid and rely entirely on your water tanks and rainwater collection. 

Your appliances also do play a role in your expenses. We highly recommend that you purchase home appliances that are energy-saving, compact, and functional. Check out our highly recommended appliances in our article: 10 Home Appliances Your Tiny House Needs

Living in a tiny home doesn’t mean you have to live small. You can live big in tiny living space by making sure you’ll get the utilities you need, including electricity, water, and internet. 

[Must read: How Do Tiny Houses Get Utilities?]

Parking fees are also another thing to consider. The cost to park a tiny home depends on the period you’re going to use the spot, the location, and the time of the year. Short-term parking may cost between $10 and $12, while monthly parking fees can range between $600 to $1,200. 

Final Takeaway

There’s a ton of things to consider if you’re planning to transition from a traditional home to a tiny house. The cost to build, maintain, and live in a tiny home may be larger than what is usually advertised in TV shows and documentaries. 

You can buy pre-manufactured tiny homes or have them built either by yourself or with help from a professional crew. Remember, your location can impact the building cost. Land properties in well-developed neighborhoods can be very expensive. Building codes can add up to the total cost as well. 

It doesn’t matter if your tiny house is constructed using the finest and most expensive materials, if you’re not maintaining it, it can still fall into disrepair. Maintenance is even more important if your tiny home is on wheels. 

Don’t forget that your towing car needs regular inspection as well.

Lastly, your monthly expenses would depend on how you live in your petite dwelling. Guaranteed, you’d be able to save a lot of money if you go off-grid and rely on renewable energy sources like a solar panel system. 

Related Questions

Is it cheaper to buy or build a tiny house?

The cost of a tiny house depends on if you purchase it or build it. Tiny homes with luxurious and elaborate designs can go as high as $150,000. Some individuals were able to assemble their tiny homes with only a $12,000 to $35,000 budget.

Can you park a tiny house on your own land?

There are zoning laws and building codes across the country that prohibit you from buying land and building a tiny house on it. What you can do instead is that you will have to build an accessory dwelling unit — a secondary dwelling unit located on a family lot. Ask your local state regarding the zoning laws and building regulations you must comply with. 

All About Tiny Houses is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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