Pros and Cons of Building a Tiny House on a Trailer

I was ready to buy my trailer, the foundation of my tiny home. I had spent hours scanning through craigslist ads for options. I researched what axels were needed and found out that I needed to be worried about the tires–like, a lot. I was considering going vintage, buying one new from the factory floor, or ripping up an old RV for the trailer hidden underneath. I finally decided to consult an expert–Darby from Tiny Texas Houses to see which of my options would be best for building with salvage. His response: Are you sure you even want to build on a trailer at all??

Before I get into the tizzy that sent my brain into, I must say I’m thrilled to be purchasing materials for my home from the Tiny Texas House salvage warehouse, because building with salvage aligns so beautifully with the principles of permaculture.
For instance, the principle use and value renewable resources would favor the choice of wood rather than materials like vinyl siding, because the trees, which are the single source of wood, can be replanted, while the plastics in vinyl siding are produced using oil, and has been said to exemplify “all that is wrong with modern residential architecture.” Really valuing that resource, though, is to repurpose that wood so that it’s life cycle as construction material might allow for fewer of the resources to be needed in the first place.

Back to my tizzy. No trailer?? After spending untold hours researching trailers, I realized I had never questioned the trailer in itself for my tiny house, and questions are a big part of what this is about for me. I think it’s important to ask yourself if the norm is right for you–for example, for me, the “normal” home I’d mortgage my life away for and feel trapped with is not a good option.

Questioning the tiny house with that same critical thinking approach only makes sense, and when Darby wrote back he kindly pointed me toward his own blog post on the subject of trailers for tiny homes.

So let’s break it down. This list is customized for me, but perhaps might be useful to others planning to build in coastal areas.

Pros and Cons: Tiny House on a Trailer?

Pros

  • Mobility–I do plan to move around often. I count myself lucky to be a part of some very exciting communities between Galveston, Houston, and even Mexico. I’d love to travel so that I can continue to learn from others and see more of the states. Having the house on a trailer would be mighty convenient…
  • Hurricanes- Let’s be real, I live in Galveston. A hurricane is coming, we just don’t know how soon. I might just spend each hurricane season off of the island. A house on a trailer would make a yearly move easier.
  • Legal issues- On wheels a house on a trailer usually counts as an RV, and I might only be able to stay in trailer parks, however Galveston is more or less strict about RV rules due to the above mentioned hurricanes.
  • Easy to find plans-There seem to be a plethora of plans already out there for me to riff with as I begin to gather materials for my home. There are only about a million other blogs on people building their homes on trailers.

Cons

  • Cost– A trailer will probably run me $2,000 at least, although it’s possible to buy an of RV for less, if I don’t mind taking the time to tear into it to free the used trailer underneath…Tires are expensive to replace as well, which adds up.
  • Steal-ability- It is not out of the realm of possibility that someone might just hitch up to my trailer and take my tiny home away with them. However, I could buy a hitch lock to protect myself, or even put a boot on my trailer tires.
  • Waste– If I do end up in one place for more than a year, which I could see happening down the road, it does add up to an awfully big waste not to use the trailer sitting under my home for its intended use.
  • Driving in a storm…or basically anytime- I’m not exactly famous for my awesome driving skills, and a trailer would only make things more difficult.

So that’s just looking at the trailer. When considering alternative foundations, Tiny Lake House sang praises for a “hybrid” portable house on piers, which can be moved when needed to it’s next spot. Still, she seems to recommend this for tiny house owners that plan to move every few years.

I love the hybrid idea, but if I do plan to park myself in Galveston, I would MUCH rather brave the elements in the “near absolute protection” of a monolithic dome structure, which I would happily build on the tiny side using natural materials and nerding out like the permaculturist I am. In fact, I’ve already got a design in mind for just such a home, I’m just not ready to settle down just yet.

So far I’m still leaning toward a trailer, I think it would be a good starter tiny home that would suit my nomadic lifestyle. Still pondering though, and please leave a comment below if I forgot anything!

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