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What is the difference between mobile homes, manufactured homes, and modular homes?
It’s a very popular question in our industry.

When it comes to factory built housing, you’ll hear all 3 terms, but what exactly do they mean? Aren’t all factory-built homes the same?  The short answer to that question is a ‘no’. But what are the differences, and why the different terms?

When it comes to classifying a home, deciphering between the terms mobile home, manufactured home and modular home is certainly confusing. Visually, manufactured and modular homes don’t appear that different, and buyers will often mistake them for site built homes.

A factory built home is a term used to describe any building or dwelling that comes from a home building facility.

Although they are built to local, state and regional codes, modular homes are even technically “manufactured” in a home building facility. Some say a “mobile home” and a “manufactured home” are essentially the same thing. If that’s the case, then what’s the difference?

Setting Up a Manufactured Home
Setting up a new manufactured home

Mobile Homes

The public uses the terms “mobile home” and “manufactured home” to describe the same type of home. Mobile homes and manufactured homes were distinguished from each other in 1976 when Congress passed the National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Act. In 1976, the HUD Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards (“the HUD Code”) set standards for the following:

  • Construction and design
  • Body and frame requirements
  • Thermal protection
  • Plumbing and electrical
  • Fire protection
  • Energy efficiency

The HUD Code’s goal is to improve the durability and quality of factory built homes. It is also the only home building code that the federal government regulates.

Mobile Home History

Prior to 1976, builders mass produced mobile homes because of a high demand for affordable housing, but they had very little oversight of the construction process. In the early 1900s, workers oftentimes needed to move their families with short notice in search for more work. This need for mobility created the ‘mobile home.’ The structural designs of these mobile homes resembled what we might think of as a modern-day camper with exposed hitch and wheels. The home itself had steel I-beams which ran from end-to-end, and mobile home owners would set it on various types of platforms.

During World War II, industry corporations bought mobile homes and used them for temporary housing for workers. And then after the war ended, veterans returning home needed a quick, affordable housing solution, and mobile homes helped here as well.

In the 1960s, the average American began to look for a larger mobile home. The new mobile homes were bigger and began to look more like traditional homes. In 1974, Congress passed the National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Standards Act, and the HUD code soon followed. Congress passed the The HUD Code in 1976, and then the Housing Act of 1980 said that the term “manufactured” be used in place of “mobile” in all federal laws and literature.

Mobile Home Under Construction
A home building facility

Manufactured Homes

Modern manufactured homes are a significant improvement from mobile homes built prior to 1976. Manufactured homes come in three sizes—single wide, double wide and triple wide. Home building facilities have excellent climate control to avoid weather delays and damage from the elements. They are full of options from luxurious granite to energy efficient appliances.

If the home owner choose to place their home on blocks or metal piers, skirting is an option to customize the look. Builders can also place Manufactured homes on a permanent foundation or on a basement—just like a site-built home. And if you have to move, it is possible to move your manufactured home with the help of a licensed mover.

Modular Homes

Like a manufactured home or a mobile home, the sections of a modular home come from a factory. Factories build modular homes to conform to all state, local and/or regional codes. Modular homes typically come in two sections, but can come in up to 5+ depending on the home design.

Retailers then transport the sections to the final location where a contractor joins the sections together on a permanent foundation. If the local codes require an inspection, the inspector will come sign off once the modular home is complete.

Interested in a manufactured home for your self? Click here to see all of our incredible homes!