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What is a tiny house? A Quick and Easy Explanation!

by | Jan 7, 2023 | Must Read, Tiny Houses | 0 comments

The phrase “tiny home” doesn’t always mean a tiny house on wheels!

There are many types of tiny homes; they can float, be on a foundation, or sit on wheels – the latter being popular as you can move without having to swap houses!

Designed to be energy-efficient, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective, they take up less space, resources, and materials to construct and maintain. 

Renowned for their innovative and space-saving design elements, such as loft beds, multifunctional furniture, and built-in storage. 

They’ve gained popularity in recent years as a way to simplify, reduce living costs, and live more sustainably.

What Types of Tiny Homes Are There?

Tiny House on Wheels

Perhaps the most popular type of tiny house, with shows like Tiny House Nation showcasing the magic of tiny living on wheels!

A tiny home on wheels can be compared to a caravan in that it’s a mobile dwelling on wheels. 

However, tiny houses on wheels are designed for long-term living and aesthetically look more like a miniature version of a traditional home. 

These homes benefit from being entirely mobile and can be hooked up and towed by a car. 

Some drivers require additional towing licenses for a tiny house on wheels, but this depends on a few factors, so you’ll want to research what applies to you.

Vanlife Rig

Living out of a vehicle has seen a significant rise in popularity over the past several years, with more people than ever realizing that a rolling home is just as much a home as any brick-and-mortar building!

With the added benefit of being able to head out on adventures and take your home with you. 

Vanlife rigs can be expensive depending on the style of vehicle you go for, with everything from vintage vanlife rigs to ultra-modern sprinters on offer!

Shipping Container Home

Repurposing shipping containers for tiny homes is a smart way to recycle used shipping containers that have been retired from cargo ships. 

Using these pre-made structures can also help cut down on build times and be more affordable than alternative building supplies.

Tiny House on a Foundation

A tiny home built on a foundation can be a more economical option than a tiny house on wheels.

But, this is only really doable for people who own their own land in an area where the local zoning and building regulations allow for tiny home builds.


The ultimate in pop-up tiny living, a yurt is a rounded tent-like structure that features wooden supports and sturdy, well-insulated materials covering the walls and roof.

Commonly these feature open-plan living areas, dome skylights directly in the center of the roof, and a wood-burning stove.


Floating tiny homes can come in all shapes and sizes, two of the most popular being narrow boats and sailboats. 

Narrowboats are commonly seen throughout Europe and commonly moored on inland waterways. 

Sailboats are often used for living and traveling full-time; however, some people choose to live aboard their sailboats at a mooring.

How Small are Tiny Houses?

A tiny house is generally between 80 and 450 square feet, quite the range, I know! But it does depend on which type of tiny house you opt for!

  • Tiny homes on wheels – 200-300 square feet (including loft space).
  • Vanlife rigs – 80-90 square feet.
  • Shipping container homes – 160-320 square feet.
  • For tiny homes set on foundations, the size is usually decided by local zoning regulations and building codes.
  • Yurts – 250-315 square feet. 
  • Houseboats – 175-300 square feet.

Tiny living enthusiasts thrive in a smaller space, and you’ll often find tiny house owners comparing their square footage to see whose home is smaller!

The key to successfully living full-time in a tiny home is not about the size of the home; it’s about how effectively the space can be used, and how much of a minimalist you’re comfortable being.

What is The Tiny House Movement?

The tiny house movement has been around for decades, and if we look back at the history books – living in smaller spaces has been around longer than our current obsession with “bigger is better.”

The tiny living movement continues to grow in popularity as more and more conscious individuals choose smaller living spaces in favor of financial freedom and environmental sustainability.

Members of the tiny living movement often overlap with members of the F.I.R.E. (financial independence retire early) movement, as tiny homes are seen as a great way to facilitate early retirement!

How Much Does a Tiny House Cost?

This varies wildly depending on the type of tiny dwelling you choose, whether you buy new, buy used, or build yourself – and of course, the quality of the home. 

We researched prices for this piece, and they’re accurate at the time of writing – but during our research, we’ve seen that prices of materials have increased dramatically in the past few years, so these are liable to change again.

A rough guide to tiny house prices:

  • Tiny homes on wheels
    • $30,000 – home built with recycled materials.
    • $150,000 – custom built by a tiny home builder.
  • Vanlife rigs
    • $25,000 – budget self-conversion with an older used vehicle.
    • $150,000 – pro build with a very new 4×4 vehicle.
  • Shipping container homes
    • $35,000 – self-built using some recycled materials.
    • $200,000 – custom built by a fancy home-building company.
  • Tiny house on foundations
    • $15,000 – a simple self-build with salvaged and recycled materials
    • $55,000 – using a building company.
  • Yurts
    • $10,000 – for a year-round yurt kit to be self-assembled.
    • $65,000 – a fully assembled yurt with add-ons such as a wood stove.
  • Houseboats
    • $55,000 – for an older narrowboat.
    • $80,000 – simple liveaboard sailboat.

Who Can Live in a Tiny House?

Not everyone!

Living tiny is NOT suited to everyone; many are drawn to tiny living as it’s often seen as a cheap way to live – and while, yes, it is more affordable – it’s rarely cheap!

For those intrepid and minimalist souls who crave a tiny space, prioritize adventure, and are happiest with the simple things in life, tiny living could be a great fit for you. 

Whereas if you have no interest in tiny living, have a bit of a shopping addiction, get cabin fever easily, and you’re only considering tiny living to save money – it doesn’t sound like a good fit for you.

Benefits of a Tiny House

Quicker Cleaning

A quick tidy-up in a tiny home can take 15 minutes, and a full cleaning session can take only a couple of hours. 

So you can say goodbye to the endless chores after work when living tiny! 

Own Your Own Home

It can feel downright impossible to get onto the property ladder in this day and age.

But many people are out here wondering how you’re supposed to save up a down payment on a home when you have such high rent to pay.

A tiny home with a lower price tag has a much lower barrier to entry.

Invest in Stocks

Some folks scoff at the idea of owning a tiny home over traditional real estate. 

They often argue that it’s a bad investment, as real estate generally goes up in value, and tiny homes go down in value.

I’m not arguing that fact…

However, if the options are owning a tiny home and saving money every month to invest in the stock market – which also generally goes up in value.

Or throwing money away on rent every month and having far less to invest or save for the future. 

Well, I know, which makes more sense to me! 

Energy Efficient

Electricity prices are jaw-droppingly high in many nations around the world, and many home owners are struggling to heat their homes. 

Tiny homes, with a much smaller footprint, have the advantage of being far quicker and more affordable to heat. 


Living tiny, not only encourages you to live more sustainably but pretty much makes it a requirement. 

Most tiny homes have water tanks, making tiny home dwellers incredibly considerate of their water usage. 

Leaving lights on in another room isn’t really possible as you’ve only got two – the living area and the bathroom!


Less is more, and that certainly rings true when you’re living in a tiny house. 

While tiny homes have more storage space than many people think, you still have to be considerate of what you buy – and you don’t have room for unnecessary items.

Negatives of a Tiny House

Working From Home

If you’re living in a tiny home with a partner – working from home can require juggling your calendars to ensure that meetings don’t overlap. 

Having Guests Stay

There’s definitely room for a guest bed in most tiny dwellings, but you might find that some of your guests aren’t quite as accustomed to or keen on the lifestyle!

Re-Sale Value

Tiny homes tend to hold their value pretty well for a while, but they don’t go up in value like traditional real estate. 

Plus it can be much harder to sell your used tiny home than a regular home.

Zoning Restrictions 

Not every area allows tiny dwellings. 

The laws vary in every area, and they can be complicated and time-consuming to navigate.

Limited Storage

For the minimalist, you may find that moving into a tiny home requires no downsizing whatsoever. 

However, for the maximalist, you will need to pair down to fit your belongings into a tiny living space.

Wrap-Up: TL;DR What is a Tiny House?

Tiny homes are generally designed to be cost-effective, energy efficient, and environmentally friendly.

Tiny houses on wheels aren’t the only option for living tiny, and there are many types of tiny houses to choose from.

Including vanlife rigs, shipping containers, tiny homes on a foundation, yurts, and houseboats.

They ordinarily range in size from 80 – 450 square feet.

The tiny house movement has been around for some time and continues to grow, overlapping in some ways with the F.I.R.E. movement.

Prices range from $10,000 to $200,000 for tiny living spaces.

Tiny houses are not for everyone, they’re better suited to the adventurous minimalist than the picky maximalist.

There are many benefits to living tiny, with less time on chores, home ownership, more savings, energy efficiency, and a more sustainable lifestyle.

But there are downsides too, with sharing one space for working from home, guests being unfamiliar with the lifestyle, the difficulty of re-sale, zoning restrictions, and less storage space.

I hope this post has helped you to understand what a tiny house is and whether it might be something that could work for you!

Keep Living Tiny xx



Founder of TLS

Hey I’m Nadia, your tiny house obsessed friend, helping you discover alternative and tiny living solutions that can help you achieve financial freedom.

If I can go from renting to buying my own home, heading towards semi-retirement in 3 years then so can you!

Read more about my story here