You’ve probably heard the term “manufactured home” before, and you’ve also likely heard it used interchangeably with the term “mobile home.” For those who are interested in buying one of these factory-built homes, it can be confusing to have to sort out which is which—and there are differences between the two terms that are important to know.
Both mobile and manufactured homes are types of prefabricated homes, which means that they’re assembled off-site and transported to a buyer’s location of choice. However, as you’ll learn in this article, “mobile home” is actually an outdated term that describes a product that’s no longer made. In this quick guide, we’ll talk about what a manufactured home is, why it’s the modern successor to the mobile home, how they differ from modular homes, common features, and more.
What Is a Mobile Home?
The correct definition of the term “mobile home” is a pre-1976 home built on a chassis, equipped with wheels, and intended to be moved from place to place. These homes didn’t have to meet any specific safety standards, and their lightweight construction gave them a reputation for being less safe than traditional site-built construction.
So, what’s so special about the year 1976? That’s when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) introduced its Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards. Post-1976 mobile homes that meet HUD standards are more accurately referred to as manufactured homes.
Generally, a pre-1976 mobile home is not a good investment. In addition to their age, these homes may be built with unapproved building materials and often don’t have modern safety features. Home buyers will have a much better experience buying a modern manufactured home.
What Is a Manufactured Home?
You’ll often hear the term “mobile home” used to refer to many homes that are actually manufactured homes. It’s usually an innocent mistake, and an understandable one since the media often uses the terms interchangeably. Today, they are very different from pre-1976 mobile homes.
A manufactured home is a house built on a chassis and constructed in a factory and then transported to its final location. One of the biggest reasons that the term “mobile home” is no longer correct is that HUD-compliant manufactured homes are almost always only moved once–from the factory to the home site. They are typically built on above-ground pier and beam foundations, but today’s models can also be placed on other types of foundations, such as slab foundations, as soon as they are delivered.
The implementation of HUD code standards also revolutionized the entire manufactured housing industry. Manufactured homes now are much safer and significantly more reliable, following strict standards for fire safety, ventilation, structural integrity, and other key elements of what makes a home. Anyone looking to purchase a home from a reputable manufacturer or dealer can rest assured that they’re getting a durable, permanent home that will serve them well for decades to come.
What Is a Modular Home?
Modular homes are also constructed off-site in a climate-controlled factory, but are built to be placed on a traditional home foundation from the beginning.
Modular homes are typically constructed in sections, which are then transported to the home site and assembled there. Because of this versatile construction technique, modular homes are available in nearly every kind of material and design that a home buyer could want. Modular homes can easily be built with foundation types that are less common in manufactured homes, such as basements.
Today’s Manufactured Homes
Manufactured homes are an increasingly popular option for American home buyers, and there are several reasons why:
- Manufactured homes cost substantially less than site-built homes (an average of $57,022 for a new manufactured home, versus a median price of $255,000 for a home or condo in 2018).
- They are just as safe and secure as site-built homes, and it’s easy to learn about the history of any given home by looking up the number on its HUD tag.
- Modern, state of the art manufactured homes are available with many upgrades and customization features that homeowners love, including a huge range of cabinets, flooring, countertop, and lighting options.
- They can be custom-built and assembled with a turnaround time as short as a few weeks, compared to a site-built home that can take months to construct.
Have other questions? Check out some of our additional buyer resources, including our terms and definitions cheat sheet and our manufactured and mobile home buying checklist to learn all about why these home types are a cost-effective option for homeowners of all kinds.