Tiny house living is still a relatively new phenomenon, and while it’s exciting to be a part of a new wave of residential living, it can be frustrating trying to find ways to legalize your tiny home on wheels. Thankfully, established rules governing RVs are already in place which can help illuminate your tiny house situation.
So, can your tiny house be registered as an RV? Definitely! Most tiny houses are legally classified as RVs and will be treated as one. Registering your tiny house as an RV can make you eligible for insurance policies, financing options, and even open your home to more exclusive RV parks.
On the other hand, registering as an RV can have certain limitations on where you can park your home outside and parks and campgrounds. In this article, we talk about everything you need to know about registration, rules, and where to park your RV-certified tiny house.
Are All Tiny Homes RVs?
All tiny homes on wheels are technically legally classified as recreational vehicles, but not everyone receives an RV certification. Tiny homes come in all shapes and sizes and your local DMV can classify your tiny home as a “self-contained travel trailer” or a “manufactured home” or a “recreational trailer”.
How your tiny home is classified is dependent on the inspector’s discretion. Once you file for registration, the inspector will perform an on-site inspection and give you your license. In general, tiny homes on wheels are classified as RVs and will be licensed as such.
Why Not Get an RV Instead?
If tiny homes are so similar to RVs, why not get an RV instead? They’re cheaper, have clearer regulations, and are ultimately easier to drive.
So, why do people stick with tiny homes?
For starters, people choose tiny house living as a primary dwelling, not a vacation home. As a residential asset, a tiny house with fully customizable amenities is definitely more sustainable (not to mention enjoyable) to live in than a classic RV.
More importantly, tiny house living isn’t really about traveling. RVs are built to withstand the demands of regular travel, whereas most tiny home owners want to enjoy the benefits of mortgage-free living; moving once every three months at most, instead of having to move week after week.
Tiny House VS RV: Is There a Difference?
Tiny homes on wheels are legally classified as RVs, but that’s pretty much where the resemblance ends. Tiny homes have a lot of nifty features that RVs just don’t have:
- Tiny homes are actual homes. You don’t just take your tiny house out every 6 months; you actually live in it. Unlike RV enthusiasts, members of the tiny house community treat their homes as permanent residential areas, not summer getaway vans.
- Tiny house facilities are built with better material. RVs are ultimately designed for travel, so everything about it is lightweight; whereas tiny homes can be built with sturdier materials. For instance, tiny homes are built for year-round travel because they are equipped with proper insulation and can even be outfitted with other heating amenities, whereas standard RVs can’t.
- Tiny homes use greener resources. Standard RVs tend to incorporate materials that are rich in toxic chemicals. For instance, the glues used for particleboard furnishings have formaldehyde that can prove harmful when ingested. On the other hand, the majority of tiny homes are centered on more eco-friendly resources, such as repurposed wood and recycled steel.
The Benefits of Registering as an RV
The reality is that local laws, especially in smaller states, have yet to catch up on the advent of tiny house living by implementing applicable rules more suitable for tiny homes.
It’s usually easier to get an RV certification just to bypass any legal problems in the future.
Aside from practicality, there are other reasons to consider registering your tiny house on wheels as an RV:
- Financing is so much easier: Again, financers usually scratch their heads when you’re talking about tiny homes. Because it’s hard to classify tiny houses, banks and other lending institutions have no idea how to properly navigate your situation, let alone give you a loan.
- Better insurance options: Let’s face it: insurance options for tiny homes are limited as it is. And for the most part, getting an insurance is non-negotiable, especially if you hit the road often. RV certification, specifically RVIA certification, opens doors for easier insurance options.
However, your tiny house on wheels must be built by an RVIA certified builder in order to qualify for available RV insurance policies. Otherwise, non-RVIA certified homes (that includes DIY tiny homes unfortunately) have to look for more inclusive insurance policies.
- Ability to live in RV parks: So you’re renting / buying land in the country, that’s great. But what happens when you want to experience a little bit of city living? While official tiny house villages are still in the making, RV parks have been around for a long time and are becoming more open to tiny house folks. With an RV license, you can park in an RV park and become a part of their community.
Tiny House-Friendly RV Parks and Camps
RV parks and campgrounds are becoming more accommodating. Don’t let the rumors fool you: tiny homes are absolutely welcome in RV parks! My Tiny House Parking is a great resource for finding tiny house-friendly RV parks.
We also recommend joining tiny house Facebook groups to get in the loop on local rules, best places to park, and just about all things tiny house related.
Limitations of Registering as an RV
Registering your tiny house as an RV isn’t the end-all and be-all solution to your housing problems. Unless you’re planning to live in an RV park indefinitely, there are a few other things you should consider when traveling with your tiny house.
Because RVs are not considered permanent dwellings, states have varying rules on how long residents can live inside their homes. This could go anywhere from 30 consecutive days to 1 to 2 weeks max, and that includes living in a tiny home parked on your own property.
Although the rules sound a bit disheartening, the truth is that these regulations are typically overlooked and only ever enforced when complaints are filed and called in. As long as you park somewhere legally and follow the policies, you should be able to circumvent some policies and live in areas for extended periods of time.
Normal RV Certification VS RVIA
You have your RV certification, great - but why aren’t you allowed to take out insurance or park in certain campsites? It’s probably because you’re not RVIA certified.
The RV Industry Association or RVIA is a national association representing certified manufacturers of RVs and similar home-vehicles. Having an RVIA seal is a vote of confidence that your tiny home was built by experts, making it easier for you to secure loans, acquire financing, and secure a good resale price on your tiny house.
The only thing is you can’t get an RVIA certification as a DIY builder. One way around this is by becoming a certified RV builder first, and then building your own tiny house. Another way to acquire an RVIA certification is by purchasing a house from a certified RVIA builder.
Obviously if you’re planning to cut costs and want to have 100% control over your home, you’d rather build a tiny house from the ground up than work with a contractor - and that’s a plausible option too. Just keep in mind that it will be harder to acquire some paperwork if you plan to go the DIY route.
How to Register Tiny House on Wheels as RV
Registering your tiny house involves a visit to the DMV and an on-site inspection. In general, you are required to take full measurements of your tiny home, including its weight. Schedule to have it towed to a weighing station to get its official weight.
Keep in mind that registration and requirements for tiny homes vary depending on local laws. Talk to your local DMV to understand what to prepare for your tiny house.
Here are some general guidelines in registering your tiny home as an RV:
Registering Self-Built (DIY) Homes
Acquiring an RV certification for a self-built tiny home requires proper documentation. Make sure to have the following on-hand just to be ready for anything they ask of you:
- Documentation of build. This involves receipts, pictures, and plans from start to finish. The inspector will want to see everything, including a VIN (your trailer’s special identification number).
- Manufacturer’s statement of origin. Also known as the MSO, this receipt usually accompanies engines, frames, and other foundational parts upon purchase. These receipts are used to certify that home-made vehicles were not stolen and were acquired legally.
- Visit the DMV and have a site inspection. After filing your application, an inspector will visit your tiny house and check your trailer for emergency lights, breaks, axels, as well as other fittings in order to classify your home properly. They will also be looking at amenities (plumbing, electricity) in order to properly categorize your tiny home.
Registering Purchased Homes
Registering purchased homes are so much easier than registering ones you built yourself. Some manufacturers even offer to do the job for you, so make sure to ask whether that is inclusive in their services.
Purchased tiny homes will need to be weighed as well. Documentations include identification, bill of sale, and official build receipts which you can ask from your contractor.
Where to Next? The Optimistic Future of Tiny House on Wheels
Thanks to the constant rallies of the tiny house community, the future of zoning classifications don’t look so bleak. In 2015, the city of Rockledge in Florida dedicated two districts as proper zones for tiny homes, including tiny house on wheels.
This initiative includes the development of tiny house pocket neighborhoods, which will enable tiny house owners, both stationary and locomotive, to live year-round on designated zones, without fear of eviction.
The City of Rockledge’s official amendments can be found publicly, which include these notable changes:
- Pocket homes are defined as a minimum of 4 tiny homes and a maximum of 12 tiny homes, 25% of which could be tiny house on wheels.
- Tiny house on wheels are eligible for full-time residence and even rental opportunities provided they meet the following guidelines:
- The trailer must be registered with the local DMV
- The trailer must have a towable bumper hitch
- The home must follow the recommended THOW size
- The home must have at least 170 sq. ft. of livable space
- The home must include basic amenities for cooking, toiletry, and sleeping
It’s not just Rockledge that’s leading the tiny house revolution. Fresno, California, Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon have all made tiny house-friendly amendments regarding zoning codes and tiny house classifications.
As more people transition from traditional housing to tiny living, we’re confident that governments will be forced to reevaluate zoning policies and open up permanent residential opportunities for tiny house dwellers, including tiny house on wheels.
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.