Building tiny homes has become increasingly popular as a way to own a home without taking on huge amounts of debt or mortgages as you would when purchasing a traditional home. Downsizing your home in this manner allows you to simplify your life and spend more time pursuing your passions.
For this article, we will be specifically looking at tiny homes on wheels (THOWs) and we’ll hear from three DIY tiny home builders as well as look at the available options from three well-known professional tiny home building companies.
So, how much does a tiny home cost? Depending on whether you build a THOW yourself or purchase a fully customized luxury tiny home, the price can range from less than $10,000 to $125,000 or more. Factors that influence the price include the size of the base trailer, the type of construction materials and finishes you choose to use, whether the THOW will have off-grid capabilities, the addition of special features like lofts or custom windows, and so forth.
Building vs. Buying a Tiny Home
Building your own tiny home is generally much cheaper than buying one, but it does require space to build, tools, time, some know-how, and a whole lot of elbow grease. If you choose to DIY, you can build your home to your exact specifications and give it unique touches by incorporating salvaged materials or sentimental items.
However, if you don’t have the time, space, physical ability, or desire to build your own tiny home, there are many companies out there who build stunning pre-designed or custom homes, still for far less than the cost of buying an equally well-appointed traditional home.
You can also opt to purchase a professionally framed out tiny home on wheels, and then finish the build yourself. This is an excellent way to ensure that you have a structurally sound base, but still save money by completing all other aspects of the build yourself.
Let’s take a look at some incredible tiny homes, both DIY and professionally built.
DIY Tiny Homes:
Annett and Paul’s Tiny Home: $64,000 AUD ($44,000 USD)
Annett and Paul (@livingtinyandgreen) lived in an apartment in Sydney, Australia but decided that they wanted to live more sustainably and eliminate their carbon footprint almost entirely, so they built a completely off-grid tiny home on wheels in the Byron Shire.
Their THOW is just over 26 feet long which gives them a beautifully spacious living area, and outside their home they have solar panels, a solar water heater, a biodigester to create natural cooking gas, a rainwater collection system, and a permaculture garden.
They have documented the entire process of their build on their blog, and continue to post about tiny living and new features that they add to their home. They started with just a trailer and built everything from scratch! The interior of their home has everything they need to live comfortably, including a lofted bed area, a composting toilet, a kitchen with both gas and induction stovetops, and even a workstation.
Annett very graciously shared some insights with me about the cost and process of building their home. I asked her why they chose to DIY and whether cost was a factor, and she replied:
“Since we couldn’t afford to buy property, tiny houses were the solution. It was clear from the beginning that we would build the house ourselves since it allowed us to be more creative and customise the house to our needs.”
Annett and Paul both had day jobs while they built their home, and working only on weekends, it took them one year to complete. Since they were technically building out a vehicle, they did not have to deal with building codes or permits.
The cost of building the home itself was about $42,000 AUD ($29,000 USD) and the couple spent another $22,000 AUD ($15,000 USD) to implement all of their off-grid systems. Since they get all of their water and energy from nature, they don’t have any utility bills, and only pay a small amount of rent for the land where their home is parked.
Annett also mentioned that they have calculated that they save about $20,000 AUD ($13,800 USD) per year when compared to what they paid for the rent and utilities of their Sydney apartment, which means that, although the tiny home was a significant investment upfront, after three years, it will have paid itself off in savings.
I asked Annett to share some words of wisdom and advice about the process of building a DIY tiny home, and here is what she had to say:
“We recommend building the house yourself rather than leaving it up to tradies. It’s a steep learning curve but also so much fun and really rewarding. Definitely do your research, always measure twice and take your time.
Also, be sure to take breaks from building every now and then. The whole build process can be quite stressful and full on, especially if you’re not a builder by trade. So make sure you take time-outs to recharge.”
Kristie’s Tiny Home: $40,000
Kristie (@fiercelytiny) was inspired to go tiny after she took a trip to Southeast Asia with just a backpack, which prompted her to re-evaluate her lifestyle and make a change to live more intentionally. She opted to start with a 22-foot professionally built tiny home shell, which she then finished beautifully. Kristie now shares her passion for tiny and intentional living via her blog.
When I asked if cost was a significant factor in her choice to DIY, Kristie said that it definitely was, but she has also always wanted to build her own house and her tiny home was the perfect opportunity to do so. It was also important to her to be able to build it out exactly how she wanted it.
It took her almost exactly one year to complete her home, and she just moved into it in November of this year. She did nearly 100% of the work herself, only hiring an electrician to install her electrical panel box and outdoor outlet and check all of her wiring, and MitchCraft Tiny Homes to install her propane lines and connect her wall heater and water heater.
Kristie has diligently kept track of all of her expenses, and to date, she has spent exactly $39,678 on her home, which includes the purchase of the shell on a trailer, all the materials she used to complete it, the trailer registration, and her annual insurance.
She rents a piece of land for $200 per month, and paid about $50 for her first month’s electricity and water bills. Her only other THOW-related expense is a 100-pound propane tank that she will have filled periodically.
Her tiny home is one of the few I’ve seen that incorporates a real closet space, and her custom windows bring in an abundance of natural light. She has a beautiful lofted bedroom space plus a second loft that serves as a storage space and cozy reading area. Vibrant teal cabinetry and accent walls make the interior pop and allow her personality to shine through.
When I asked her for some words of wisdom, she shared these sage and inspiring words:
“Final thoughts on DIYing a tiny house is if you really want to do, then do it! There are so many resources out there on YouTube and Google searches that you can learn a lot along the way. I spent 5 years dreaming about building a tiny house and am so glad I finally just did it! And if the whole thing seems like too much, then get a shell like I did.
As a single woman working mostly by herself, I knew I would struggle with the framing so I got a shell. And never be afraid to ask for help! My boyfriend helped when I needed an extra set of hands, but I did most of the work myself. If there are any single women who want to do it but think they can’t, they CAN!”
Nicolette and Michael’s Tiny Home: $27,000
Nicolette (@nicolettenotes) and her fiance Michael live in the notoriously expensive Bay Area of California, but their 32-foot DIY tiny home allows them greater financial freedom as well the freedom to live differently and have time to pursue their passions.
Nicolette and Michael spent about $27,000 on their tiny home, and pay $800 each month to cover renting the piece of the land they are parked on, electricity, and water. This might seem steep but as Nicolette pointed out, the average studio apartment in the Bay Area costs about $2,000 per month, so they are still saving $1,200 each month. At this rate of savings, their home will be paid off in less than two years.
Cost was absolutely a factor in this couple’s decision to DIY, and Nicolette shared with me that they always knew that if they were going to go tiny, they would build the home themselves because it would only be about one-third of the cost of purchasing a similar size but professionally built home.
Nicolette and Michael were working part-time for the first five months of their build, and wrapped it up by building for 12-14 a day for the last two months, finishing their home in just seven months total.
Their home is dark and dramatic on the outside but bright and spacious on the interior. The couple used bookshelves and a kitchenette from Ikea to make their home functional and brought it to life with personal touches and accessories. They even have a cozy reading nook/art space. You can check out a full video tour of their home on Nicolette’s YouTube channel.
Nicolette’s advice regarding going tiny is as follows:
“I would say to do your research before you start. Know what you want and what you don’t. What you like and don’t like. Talk to others, go see tiny houses in person and make sure this is what you want because it’s not for everyone and that is totally okay.”
Professionally Built Tiny Homes:
Wind River Tiny Homes
Since 2014, the team at Chattanooga-based Wind River Tiny Homes has been building absolutely incredible tiny homes. The build both from pre-existing plans and on a totally custom basis to ensure that their customers’ wildest tiny home dreams become reality. Their stunning homes have been featured on the HGTV show Tiny House Nation and in Country Living, among other popular publications.
Although their tiny home pricing depends on several factors like the size, amenities, and luxury touches, I’ve selected a couple of their models to showcase to give you a general idea.
The Triton: $67,500-$74,500
The Triton is one of Wind River Tiny Homes’ more basic and budget-friendly models, although it still delivers beautifully in terms of quality and aesthetics. At 26 feet long, it has everything you need to live comfortably: a small but efficient kitchen, a living area, a bathroom, a workspace, a walk-in closet, and a lofted bedroom plus a second storage loft.
The outside of the home features charred wood siding and trim, which make the bright blue door pop beautifully.
The company has since built a Triton 2.0 (currently not yet shown on their website), which is more of an updated, mid-range model. This second edition has a base cost of about $68,000 while the customized version shown in the photo below came in at around $74,500.
The Kubrick: $87,000-$125,000
The Kubrick is a top-of-the-line 24-foot home that starts at $87,000 for the base model, while the home pictured here was upgraded with off-grid options and luxury touches, bumping the cost to about $125,000. Wind River Tiny Homes only does one or two such builds each year because of the time it takes to achieve such a high level of collaborative design.
This home features a hybrid solar power system, a miniature wood stove, custom concrete countertops, and beautiful custom spotlighting. The whole home is an incredible exercise in minimalism, with clean lines and a calm mien. It’s named after Stanley Kubrick, whose use of pioneering and innovative set designs on his most influential film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, significantly raised the bar for the whole industry.
In parallel, Wind River Tiny Homes and their customer pushed the boundaries of tiny home construction and design with this model.
Tiny Heirloom is a family-run business, and their intention with tiny home building was to create homes where ‘downsizing’ was not synonymous with ‘downgrading.’ They’ve certainly nailed it, offering a Signature Series of pre-designed homes as well as fully customized tiny homes. Plus, they have “pre-loved” tiny homes available as well.
Signature Series: $45,000+
The company currently offers five models in the Signature Series, many of which come in several size options, ranging from 20 to 45 feet in length. The Vantage model is their most budget-friendly option, starting at just under $45,000. It features three stunning picture windows surrounding the main-floor bed, as well as all the amenities you could wish for in a tiny home that’s optimized for travel and adventure.
If you need space for a growing family, the Cayman model is an incredible option. It starts at just over $100,000 and comes in four lengths ranging from 34 to 45 feet long and can be configured with two or three bedrooms. The Cayman can be customized with solar power, a fireplace, skylights, and so much more.
Custom Tiny Home: $89,000+
Tiny Heirloom’s custom tiny homes start at $89,000 but the sky is the limit. Their in-house team of engineers and designers will work with you to create the home of your dreams.
MitchCraft Tiny Homes
MitchCraft Tiny Homes offers tiny home shells in various sizes and levels of completeness, as well as fully finished, customized tiny homes.
Their focus is creating homes that are livable, have excellent space efficiency, and are completely customized to each customer’s needs. MitchCraft Tiny Homes has been featured on the HGTV show Tiny House Hunters and they are certified by the National Organization of Alternative Housing (NOAH).
They offer three tiers of finishes, with Tier 1 including only basic finishes, Tier 2 including nice finishes with no luxury add-ons, and Tier 3 including high-end finishes plus some luxury add-ons. Luxury add-ons include things like a dishwasher and/or microwave, a garage door, an air conditioning unit, a roof-top or fold-down deck, and so on.
Standard Bumper Pull Tiny Homes: $58,000-$102,000
MitchCraft Tiny Homes offers nine different sizes of standard bumper pull tiny homes, ranging from 16 feet to 32 feet long in two-foot intervals. The price estimates range from $58,000 to $102,000 based on average material and appliance choices, but they can increase or decrease based on the customization choices you make.
Goose-neck Tiny Homes: $67,000-$115,000
Goose-neck tiny homes are available ranging from 23 feet to 39 feet long, also in two-foot intervals. These trailers have a main level and a raised seven-foot-long goose-neck deck and range from about $67,000 to $115,000, again depending on the level of customization and the materials you chose.
Tiny Home Shells: $19,000-$55,000
Finally, they offer three different levels of tiny home shells, which you can then build out and complete on your own. The first option is a basic shell, which is framed out with windows and doors installed and a metal roof, and which range from $19,000 to $35,000 depending on the length of the home.
Next is a shell with a completed exterior that can be fully customized, and those range from $23,000 to $41,500 on average. The final option is a “ready to roll” tiny home that is fully insulated and has plumbing and electric already roughed in. These run between $28,500 and $48,000.
Tiny Home Shells are a wonderful option if, like Kristie, you are largely working by yourself, or if you don’t have the skills or desire to learn how to frame a structurally sound house. You can still exercise your creative freedom as you complete the interior but you can rest assured that your home is built to last.
Cheap Tiny House Kits (Under $5,000)
Some companies also offer inexpensive kits that you can purchase and then assemble on a trailer base to create your own tiny home on wheels. One such is example is the cabin kits from Arched Cabins. The maximum width for road-legal THOWs is about eight feet, so if you select one of the Arched Cabins that is eight feet wide, you could easily assemble it on a trailer that you purchase separately.
They sell cabins that are 8 x 8 feet as well as 8 x 12 feet, both of which would work on a trailer, with the most expensive option only ringing in at $2,760. This is an incredible way to build a tiny home on a tight budget, although the trailer itself might run you another $5,000 unless you can find a used one.
Is a tiny home a good investment?
Since tiny homes on wheels are technically personal property rather than real estate, they depreciate over time similar to cars and RVs. So, while they aren’t great as long-term financial investments, they can still benefit you immensely in terms of your own lifestyle and quality of living.
Do tiny homes appreciate in value?
Unfortunately no, unless your tiny home is so unique and incredible that it appreciates along the lines of a collectible car. However, this is only true for tiny homes on wheels. Small traditional homes on foundations appreciate just like any other home, due to the fact that they will be sold with the land on which they sit, and the land is actually what appreciates in value, not structures.
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