There are countless videos and articles extolling the affordability of building a tiny house, with some people building an entire tiny house on wheels with just a few thousand dollars.
But we don’t often hear about how much you can save while you’re living in the tiny house itself: the daily repairs, the weekly grocery trips, and the monthly bills.
So what is the cost of living in a tiny house? The situation for every tiny house owner is different, and the cost of your monthly living will vary depending on a number of circumstances.
There are considerations such as, do you own the land for your home, how often do you travel, are utilities included in your monthly rent, and so on.
Generally, a tiny house owner can expect their monthly living expenses to range anywhere from $500 to $1000 and above, with most falling in the middle. This includes everything: rent, utilities, insurance, and more.
In this article we will discuss the basic monthly cost expectations with tiny house living, and everything else you need to know about the overall tiny house bill at the end of the month.
Laws, Zoning, and Codes
Before anything else, it’s important to remember that the biggest headache you will have to figure out as a tiny house owner is the laws of your area.
While you would probably have a clear or general understanding of the housing laws, building codes, and zoning issues of your area while building or scouting out a tiny house, there are other issues you might not realize until you start your day-to-day tiny house living.
One law that gets in the way for most tiny house owners is the fact that tiny houses with wheels are considered RVs rather than fixed homes, meaning they can’t be parked in a backyard in many places.
Housing laws and zoning requirements were originally put in place to prevent squatting and unsafe living conditions, but the lack of affordable housing in some cities has forced legislators to rethink their tiny house laws.
For example, one city in California recently loosened tiny house parking laws; another small community in Texas now promotes itself as “America’s First Tiny House Friendly Town” with simpler building code requirements.
In 2018, new additions to the International Residential Code included tiny house guidelines, establishing a universal set of rules for tiny house standards. There is definitely a growing movement by legislators to understand and establish guidelines for tiny homes.
However, there is still a long way to go in most places in the United States. Every potential tiny house owner or family should do the research of their local laws and codes regarding zoning and parking, as these can affect everything from your utilities to your insurance costs.
Tiny House Monthly Costs
Average Price: $40 - $100 per night (for a tiny house); $500 - $1000 per month (in an RV park)
If you own your tiny house and own the land where you intend to park it, and if you are allowed to park your tiny house on your land according to your local zoning laws, then you will have to pay a measly $0 in rent every month. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for most tiny house owners, who generally own their tiny house but don’t own the land to park it. So how much would rent cost?
The interesting thing about tiny house rental and parking prices is that they generally stay consistent across the country. Unlike the rental prices for houses or apartments, you can expect to pay roughly around the same price for most areas where tiny houses are available.
Renting a Tiny House
If you are interested in trying out the tiny house experience before committing to the lifestyle, you might be interested in renting a tiny house for a weekend or a week. On booking sites such as Airbnb or Try It Tiny, the range for a complete tiny house falls from $40 per night to $100 per night, depending on the size and quality of the house.
Renting a Space (Or Campground Fee)
For most tiny house owners (those who do not own their land or wish to travel frequently with their tiny house), parking is the biggest fee as well as the toughest headache.
Firstly, you might consider simply buying your own land and putting your tiny house on a foundation instead of wheels. While this is one option, many tiny house owners avoid this because of building code regulations. As we said above, many local regulations simply do not work with tiny house expectations – rules and requirements regarding fire egress, ladders in lofts, railing issues, head heights, and more.
To get around this, most tiny house owners register their tiny house as an RV, however, this also means that they are forced to move their spot every month or two. This gives you the option of staying in an RV park or a public campground.
Here are the numbers for parking in RV parks per night in the US:
When comparing private RV parks versus public campgrounds, you can expect the average prices:
|Private RV Parks||Public Campgrounds|
|$32.89 per night||$22.15 per night|
|$1000 per month||$675 per month|
|$12,000 per year||$8100 per year|
While an RV park does seem generally pricier, it is important to note that many RV parks include a range of utilities with their monthly rent. This includes sewage, electricity, water, trash disposal, and more, with a variety of other amenities such as gym or pool access.
You should also be able to find RV parks that offer prices anywhere from $400 to $600 in some locations, making them a pretty affordable option. In some places, you may be required to pay a Property Owner’s Association fee, which can range from $40 to $80, but might provide some benefits (such as maintained roads and a communal well).
If you are not interested in living in a bigger community setting, a third parking option that some tiny house owners choose is parking in the backyard or farmland of private landowners. In some areas in the United States – where the zoning rules allow it – private landowners offer their land to tiny houses and other mobile homes for as low as $12/night or $250/month.
Food and Utilities
Average Price: $50 - $70 on the lower end; $200 - $300 on the higher end
While tiny houses do save money on utilities, there are of course still utility bills to be paid. Just because you move from a 2000 square foot home to a 100 square foot home doesn’t mean your utility worries disappear.
When it comes to utility prices, there are a number of considerations that will determine your monthly bills. These include:
|Tiny House Consideration||Possible Issues|
|Compost Toilet||Do you want to use a compost toilet? Some people are uncomfortable with compost toilets and require sewage and flushing needs.|
|Hot Water||How much hot water do you need for your showers? This will determine the size and energy requirements of your hot water storage.|
|Your Location||Your location is an important factor in your utility costs. How cold are your winters and how warm are your summers? How much heating and AC will you need?|
|Insulation and Wood Stove||For heating requirements, do you have a wood stove and is it enough? Will you chop your own wood or will you pay for it (which can cost an average of $100 for a full winter)? Secondly, how effective is the insulation in your home?|
|Other Power Sources||How many devices do you have, and how many of them can be powered by propane? Do you have solar panels, and how much support will they need during low-sunlight seasons?|
For average prices for food and utilities in tiny house living, you can expect the following:
|Utility||Cost (Per Month)||Notes|
|Electricity||$30 - $60. Areas with harsher winters (-10 F) may end up paying $100 - $200 to keep warm (as compared to $400 - $600 in an average sized home)||Even if you have solar panels, many places will still require you by law to have other sources of power in your home. This is what makes it impossible to live legally off-grid in most parts of the US, particularly along the coasts.|
|Internet||Hotspot Plans: $20 - $80 (lower end); $75 - $100 (unlimited plan)Wireless Plans: $70 - $120||The cost of your internet access will most depend on the plan you choose, as well as any mobile inclusion it may have.|
|Propane||$10 - $15 (Depending on the size of your propane tank, you may only need to refill or replace it once every 2-4 months. You save $5 - $10 by refilling instead of replacing)||The amount of propane you need will depend on the number of devices you are powering with propane, such as a propane stove or a propane water heater.|
|Water||$0 - $10||Water is generally not a concern for most tiny house owners, as they will usually be provided free water with their parking rent or they can haul water from a nearby well. A compost toilet also means no required hookup for sewage.|
|Groceries||Your current grocery bill (+ possible 10-15%)||One downside of tiny living is not having a lot (or any) storage space. This means that tiny house owners do not get the discount benefits of buying bigger items of food or bulk food from the store. While this may not apply to most tiny house owners, some do report having to pay 10-15% more than their previous monthly grocery bills.|
Average Price: Depends on a number of factors
Taxes can be either very simple or very tricky when it comes to tiny houses. There are two major factors that will determine whether your tiny house will add to your taxes and how much you will be required to pay: the state your tiny house is parked in, and the type of tiny house you have.
Firstly, a tiny house is generally registered as a mobile home/motor vehicle or a fixed home. If your tiny house is a fixed home built on a foundation with no wheels (meaning you also own the land that it is built upon), then there is a possibility that you will have to pay a slightly higher real estate tax, depending on the value of the land.
However, if the tiny home is built with wheels and is registered as a mobile home, then you might have to pay a personal property tax, if you live in a state that charges it. This is also known as an ad valorem tax. There are two kinds of personal property tax, and these are:
- Local Property Tax: The tax is based on the value of the mobile home
- State Tax: The tax is based on the weight, value, type, and other factors of the mobile home
Here are the states that require residents to pay local property tax, state tax, or neither:
|Local||State||No Local or State Tax|
|North Carolina||Mississippi||New Hampshire|
|Rhode Island||Utah||New Mexico|
|South Carolina||New York|
The exact rates of these taxes vary by state, so it’s important to check out your local tax rates to understand the exact amount you would pay.
Tip: If your tiny house is registered as a mobile home, it will only qualify tax-wise as a mobile home if you maintain the following criteria:
- Current license plate and registration
- Has undergone an annual safety inspection (if required by the state)
- If built on chassis of a truck, the tiny house must have automotive liability insurance
However, if your tiny house is connected to a septic system, electric grid, or fuel tanks sitting on the ground, it cannot be considered a mobile home and must now think about house and property taxes, safety and health codes, and zoning laws.
While this may seem like another tough issue, remember that more rural areas will be more lenient with their regulations when it comes to tiny houses, so there might be some leeway with every individual situation.
Average Price: $20 to several hundred dollars for gas
Travel expenses for a tiny house are simple after you’ve accounted for the locations to park your tiny house and truck. Assuming you already have the truck (ideally a V8 gas engine truck for enough power), your only travel expenses should consist of gas and vehicle maintenance.
Depending on how much you travel, this can fall in the area of $20 to several hundred per month (frequent tiny house travelers report upwards of $700 per month on gas). However, expect to use more gas in the winters for backup generators, as there is a possibility that your solar panels won’t get enough light.
Average Price: $10+ per month
Things in your tiny house will break down, no matter how big or small. While it can be difficult to estimate how often you might need to replace or repair something, remember that your maintenance costs will depend on the quality of the items you fill your tiny house with. Higher-quality materials means longer lifespans.
One tiny house owner claimed that her average maintenance costs amounted to roughly $10 per month, with the repairs and maintenance mostly consisting of replacing water pumps (as RV water pumps aren’t very durable), and staining the exterior of the house.
Another tiny house couple mentioned that they barely ever need maintenance, and only mostly during the winter to winterize their home and replace hoses, sewer lines, and tires (as they travel quite often) at an average of $35 per month.
Average Price: $50 - $150 per month (charged annually)
Tiny house insurance is another tricky matter, as it still falls in that grey area where some insurers don’t have the proper protocol to process it. The best tip we can give you to make sure that you have an easy time acquiring insurance is making sure that your tiny house is certified or built with a certified builder.
According to Mike Schmidt, director of business development for the Tiny Home Industry Association, “There are challenges associated with obtaining homeowner’s insurance for these petite palaces.”
Insurers are much more likely to cover tiny houses that have been certified by the National Organization for Alternate Housing (for houses built on foundation), or mobile tiny houses that have been built by RV-certified builders, or at least got RV certification after it was built. Your insurance agent will ask a number of detailed questions on your tiny house, including:
- The construction process of the house
- Its weight
- Your travel plans (if any)
- The number of people living in the house
- Your average utility costs
- Other details of your tiny house
Another potential problem that some tiny house owners run into is the fact that insurers are more reluctant to insure a tiny house if it hasn’t been insured in a long time. The longer you go without insurance, the more difficult it can be to acquire it.
So how much does insurance cost if you can get it for your tiny house? The cost of your insurance will depend on your location, your travel lifestyle, your insurance plan, and the tiny house itself, but tiny house owners can expect anywhere from $50 to $150 per month (charged annually).
Tiny House Overall Monthly Costs
So how much does it cost on average to live in a tiny house every month?
|Rent||$500 - $1000 (Although utilities are included in most rent fees)|
|Food and Utilities||$50 - $300|
|Travel||$20 - $500|
|Insurance||$50 - $150|
|Overall||$630 - $1950 (without tax)|
Remember that the cost calculated above includes every possible payment you might have to make. In many cases, tiny house owners can find themselves with free utilities (packaged with their rent), more affordable rent, and many other ways to cut costs.
Your Tiny House, Your Life
Like anything, your tiny house cost of living will depend mostly on your lifestyle and your goals. If your goal is to save as much money as possible, living in a tiny house can cost as little as $630, or less if you can secure more affordable rent.
In some cases, entire families live off of just $200 - $300 per month in a tiny house. There are always ways to shave off costs from your monthly tiny house bill.
If your goal is to travel and live without caring about your expenses, you can still live much more affordably in a tiny house than in a regular house or apartment. That’s the beauty of a tiny house – you can have as much freedom as you want.
Your tiny house, your budget, and your life. So what are you waiting for? Start preparing your tiny house lifestyle today.
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.