People venture into the tiny house lifestyle for a variety of reasons: some do it to save money and cost, others want the experience of DIY labor, hiring builders for a bit of help here and there. But when deciding whether to plunge headfirst in the DIY tiny house challenge or pay the cost of a pre-built tiny house, there are some considerations you have to make.
So building vs buying tiny house: which is better? The answer ultimately depends on you, and the involvement you expect for your tiny house adventure.
You have to consider whether cost is a crucial factor, whether you can do much of the labor on your own, and whether you will ultimately prefer to save money and learn new skills by building a tiny house or just buy something ready today.
What is Your Goal with Your Tiny House?
When deciding whether to build or buy your tiny house, the first question you should ask yourself is: what is your goal, and what is the main reason for moving into a tiny house? Here are the likely answers to that question, and what it means for you:
With the housing market as difficult as it is, many would-be homeowners are looking for alternative means of owning a home they can call their own. Dropping a few hundred grand on a home just isn’t an easy thing to do.
If you want the cheapest option possible, then putting together your own tiny home will probably be the more affordable option; however, this only applies if you believe you can do most of the work yourself. You might end up actually spending more by hiring individual contractors and experts for separate tasks.
Part of what makes living in a tiny house so fulfilling is knowing that they put the house together on their own. The journey of building your own tiny house – which for some people is a process that can last years – is one that many tiny house homeowners wouldn’t do without.
But for others, the journey of living in a tiny house is more about actually living in it rather than putting it together yourself. So it’s up to you: do you want the experience of building your own home, or are you fine just skipping straight to the lifestyle?
One great aspect of tiny house living is the fact you can do whatever you want with it (as long as it fits within any existing regulations and house codes). Many people like to use the DIY tiny house build adventure as a way to express and exercise their creativity through labor – adding in new ideas and unique set-ups to pieces of furniture and unused space in a new and innovative way.
Some of the things you can customize if you build your own tiny house include:
- The number of rooms/sleeping areas
- The size of certain pieces of furniture
- Any custom design furniture for multiple uses
- Building materials
- Utilities and how the house is wired or hooked up
In a pre-built home, these can be difficult if not impossible to alter, and you will be forced to live with whatever you buy.
If you are looking for a tiny house that fits your needs down to the wire, then it might be better to build your own tiny house rather than purchasing a readymade home built by a tiny houses builder, where the tiny houses are built according to general needs and expectations rather than any customized needs you and your family might have.
Comparing Prices: Building Or Buying
How much does it cost to build a tiny house?
The cost to build a tiny house depends entirely on what you want from your house and how you go about building it.
If you plan on saving as much money as possible, it is feasible to draft up a cost-plan that adds up to just under $10,000 for the whole house; if you want to go all out and build using only premium materials and customized designs, your costs can rack up to $50,000, $100,000, and even more.
The average first-time tiny house builder with little-to-no background in construction can build it for anywhere from $12,000 to $38,000. Alex Chegne on YouTube talks about how he built his 20-foot container home for just $13,000; at Tiny House Giant Community, the host discusses her $31,106 home.
Looking to go cheaper? Follow Macy Miller’s example, who built a home of 196 square feet for just $11,416. This was done through the restoration of a used trailer and using tons of reclaimed and free materials.
All in all, you can expect the following range of costs when building tiny homes:
|Trailer||$3000 - $7000|
|Wood Stove||$2000 - $5000|
|Windows||$500 - $4000|
|Flooring||$300 - $500|
|Lumber||$2000 - $5000|
|Solar (Electric) System||$2500 - $4000|
|Siding||$1500 - $2500|
|Water Heater||$500 - $1500|
|Insulation||$800 - $1600|
|Compost Toilet||$500 - $1200|
|Roofing||$500 - $1000|
|Refrigerator||$300 - $900|
|Build Plans||$400 - $800|
|Shower||$300 - $600|
|Mattress||$100 - $500|
|Plumbing||$500 - $800|
|Light Fixtures||$100 - $500|
|Propane Heat Blanket||$200 - $400|
|Propane Equipment||$300 - $400|
|Kitchen Sink||$100 - $200|
|Countertops||$100 - $300|
|Stovetop||$100 - $200|
|Total||$16,600 - $38,900|
On average, owners estimate the material cost of building tiny houses to be around $25,000. This doesn’t include the trailer and any furnishings to the house.
How much does it cost to buy a tiny house?
With the quick growth of the community over the last few years, tons of professional tiny house building companies and specialized builders have sprouted up for people who want the complete package but don’t want to build their own home, or prefer to have their home built by professionals.
When comparing the prices for pre-built professionally-made tiny houses on the market, we’ve found that the average price of a home on wheels with all the essentials is roughly $60,000.
For that price, the type of home you can buy includes The Shonsie by 84 Lumber – a 206-square-foot home in the style of a cottage, equipped with all the basic essentials with its own patio exterior.
However – remember that the average price is slightly inflated by luxury houses with all the works, tiny houses that cost as much as fully-sized homes. One high-end tiny house is New Frontier Tiny Homes’ The Alpha, which is built with only premium materials and includes two king-sized beds, a full-size jacuzzi tub, a fold-down deck, and other luxury amenities.
You can buy pre-built tiny houses for as low as $20,000 to $30,000, so pre-built homes aren’t always as expensive as you might think. One example is this $25,500 144-square foot tiny house built by Little Digs Living. Again, the money you pay for your pre-built tiny house will depend on how thorough, big, and unique the tiny house is.
Third Option: A Tiny House Shell
A third option that many people are not aware of is buying a tiny house shell. This gives you the freedom to try out the DIY adventure of customizing, designing, and building the interior of your tiny house, without the heavy lifting of starting your tiny house with a naked trailer.
If you’re interested in getting the best of both worlds, there are plenty of great tiny house shell options on the market, with prices ranging from $10,000 to upwards of $35,000. More expensive shells even come with the utility lines preinstalled, meaning you don’t have to worry about water, sewage, and electricity.
Start Your Big Tiny Adventure Today
Whether you decide to go for building a tiny house or buying one on the market is up to you: your needs and expectations, and what works best for your family. The tiny house lifestyle can be tough work, whether you DIY your own house or not. But once you get the hang of it, there is nothing more rewarding than living in your own tiny home.
Hey, there! We're Ivan and Manuela from Croatia, and we're crazy about tiny houses. We don't own one (yet).
This website is a result of our passion to share all the knowledge, photos, tips and tricks that we were able to learn while studying everything possible about the tiny house movement.