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Mobile Home vs. Manufactured Home: What’s the Difference?

Mobile homes and manufactured homes may seem the same but there are key differences. Learn the difference and see which is right for you.
Updated Jan 01, 2018
If you are in the market for a new home, it is critical to know the difference between a mobile home and a manufactured home. The good news is that Cottage is here with the expertise you need to find the perfect solution for your property and needs.
Here’s what you need to know:

What Is a Manufactured Home?

A manufactured home is a home that is entirely constructed in a factory before it’s transported to a home site, where it is then assembled. These homes are constructed according to standards and regulations set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD enforces these standards and regulations by inspecting factories and retailer lots to hold companies accountable and protect consumers.
Manufactured homes usually stay in a single location, although they may be moved. At the same time, moving a manufactured home isn’t as easy as you’d think—it requires a great deal of time, planning, and money to do it right. Most states require that you use a licensed, bonded, and insured professional moving company to transport the manufactured home from its origin to its new destination.

What Is a Mobile Home?

While the term “mobile home” is often used to describe prefabricated homes across the board, the term actually only refers to manufactured homes built before June 15, 1976. After that date, HUD enacted construction and safety standards for these homes that required the home to be built on a permanent chassis.
Before this date, mobile homes largely looked like trailers and were frequently moved from place to place using trailer frames, axles, wheels, and tow-hitches. This made them mobile but also potentially dangerous.

What Is a Modular Home?

Another term that’s often conflated with manufactured homes and mobile homes is a modular home. And at surface level, manufactured homes and modular homes look the same since they are both constructed in factories before being transported to the home location and assembled. The difference comes down to standards and regulations.
A modular home is built according to applicable state and local building codes rather than the federal codes for manufactured homes set by HUD. While this may seem like a strange concept, this is actually how most traditional homes are built. These homes must meet varying standards set by the state, county, city, and/or township they’re located in.

What’s the Difference Between Them?

As you can see, the difference between mobile homes, manufactured homes, and modular homes comes down to regulations. Mobile homes are not required to follow HUD regulations set in 1976, whereas manufactured homes are required to follow these regulations.
On the contrary, modular homes are required to follow state and local regulations rather than federal regulations set by HUD.

Is Prefabricated the Right Choice for You?

All of these options are examples of prefabricated homes that are built in a factory rather than on the actual home site. In some cases, prefabricated homes can save you a lot of money. In other cases, they might not be the most cost-effective option.
For example, if you already own a home and are looking for more space, you should consider an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). An ADU is a secondary housing unit on a single-family residential lot that has its own living, kitchen, and bathroom spaces. There are three types of ADUs to consider—attached, detached, and conversion.
A prefabricated tiny home or cottage would be an example of a detached ADU. A converted basement or garage space would be an example of an attached ADU. Suppose you already have the space in an attic, garage, or basement. In that case, an attached ADU might be ideal if you’re looking for extra space for entertaining, accommodating guests, or housing extended family members.
If you don’t have the space inside but have space outside in your yard, then a detached ADU might be ideal if you’re looking to earn extra income from a separate rental unit. That way, you can keep a distance from your tenants while collecting rent every month.

The Prefabricated Price Tag

At first glance, you might assume that going with a mass-produced prefabricated home that comes from a factory would be faster, cheaper, and easier than going with a traditional ADU that’s constructed directly on your home site. However, that might not be the case.
This is because the pricing for these prefabricated options only includes the actual unit, meaning that you would pay separately for site prep, utility connections, and foundation. Ultimately, these costs can quickly add up to make up a large portion of your overall budget.
Furthermore, if you want to make any changes or customizations to your home, it would be very difficult to do so with a prefabricated home. For instance, if you want to increase the size of your closet or upgrade your finishes, it would cost you a lot more.
For instance, say that you’re looking for a prefabricated ADU and find one for a seemingly reasonable price of $190,000. While this price looks relatively affordable, it only includes construction and engineering.
Site prep will cost you an extra $5,000, utility connections will cost you an extra $10,000, and foundation will cost you an extra $20,000, adding up to $35,000 in extra costs for a grand total of $225,000. At the end of the day, these options are generally less affordable.
Building a custom ADU from the ground up is often more affordable and easier in the long run.

The Cottage Solution

So, instead of going with a prefabricated home that’s more expensive than it looks and cannot be customized, you may want to consider going with a professional and experienced custom tiny home builder like Cottage. Cottage is able to help you design the perfect space to meet your needs and budget with our in-house team of designers.
Cottage is also able to bring this design to life thanks to our vetted team of contractors. We also handle the intensive and paperwork-heavy processes like permitting. On the other hand, when purchasing something like a prefabricated home, this is something the homeowner would likely need to supervise themself.
It can be hard to visualize the difference between a prefabricated ADU and a customized ADU if you’ve never built one before. It can help to take a look at successful examples of custom ADUs.

Redwood City Backyard Cottage ADU

Cottage helped a homeowner in Redwood City, California, construct the perfect backyard cottage for their property. A prefabricated home would have never worked on this property due to the protected redwood trees. Cottage saw these trees as a major asset and worked to incorporate them into the space with an intelligent L-shaped design.
This design consisted of two bedrooms and two bathrooms that totaled 742 square feet. This space included a full-sized kitchen with high-end appliances, under-counter storage, and open shelving. Both of the bathrooms are also full-sized, complete with full showers and tubs.

Oakland Garage ADU Conversion

Cottage helped an Oakland, California homeowner transform her old two-car garage space into a livable and rentable ADU. Instead of taking up valuable space with a prefabricated home, we worked with this homeowner to take advantage of existing space and assets.
This design consisted of one bedroom and one bathroom that totaled 364 square feet. The bedroom was big enough to fit a queen-sized bed and a full-sized closet. The kitchen included a beautiful peninsula—perfect for food prep, eating, and entertaining.

Los Altos Custom Craftsman ADU

Cottage helped a multi-generational family in Los Altos, California design and construct the perfect space for an adult daughter living at home. The unit was designed to feature the property’s heritage oak tree as well as block out the view of a neighbor’s two-story home.
This design consisted of one bedroom and one bathroom that totaled 748 square feet—well above the average apartment size in the Bay Area. This space included a full-sized kitchen with a custom island, a laundry room, an oversized bathroom, a custom pantry, and a custom built-in desk—features that would not be possible with a prefabricated home.

Unique ADU Options

Perhaps you have been inspired by these projects and are ready to get started on an ADU of your own. To take the first steps, reach out to Cottage for a complimentary ADU consultation. This can either be done over the phone or at your home.
From there, we can provide you with some general estimates and get started working on your design so that you can have the space and features you need with an affordable price tag.

Get your free consultation and estimate today!