Mobile vs. Manufactured vs. Modular Homes

      What is the difference between these 3 types of affordable homes.

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When searching for a new home, there are a lot of terms for different home types. Most understand what a conventional, site built home is. When it comes to more affordable housing options, the terms mobile homes, manufactured homes, and modular homes are used, often interchangeably which can get confusing. What is the difference between those 3 types of affordable homes? Aren’t they essentially the same thing? Is there a difference?

Mobile, manufactured, and modular homes are technically all mobile or movable but each has different degrees of mobility. Visually manufactured and modular homes once placed, can be mistaken for site built homes. And modular homes are technically manufactured in a factory but not the same as a manufactured home. Below we’ve broken down the differences in mobile, manufactured, and modular homes because there are major differences between all 3 of those types of homes. Not just how they are built but what building codes they must meet and inspections needed.

Below is an in depth look into the differences, but if you rather get the summarized version, skip to the bottom of the page.

Mobile Homes

Let’s start with the most common term – Mobile Home or also referred to as trailer homes.

In the early 1900s when work was hard to come by, workers would move to where the work was so they could support their family. Once that job was over, they would look elsewhere for work and often move again. With high demand for affordable housing and difficulty of having to move the whole family, the idea of a “mobile” home gained traction. Mobile homes made overall quality of life easier for families following

When demand for production workers spiked during WWII, factories started buying mobile homes in the masses to provide temporary housing for their workers. Then after the war was over, there was a shortage of affordable housing for all the returning veterans so even more mobile homes were produced.

To keep up with demand, mobile homes were cookie cutter in design. During the early stages of mobile homes and into the 1960s, mobile homes resembled modern day camper trailers in design. This kept them affordable and movable but not so visually appealing to some potential buyers. It wasn’t until the late 1960s mobile homes started having larger square footage options and amenities to attract more home buyers.

Mobile homes had a bright future and were here to stay, or so people thought. Prior to the 1970s mobile homes had little to no oversight in how they were built, which, as you could image lead to a few issues. In 1974 Congress passed the National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Standards Act or also known as the HUD Code (HUD – Housing and Urban Development). This new HUD code was created to improve durability and quality of mobile homes. Not only was the HUD code implemented for mobile home design and construction but also the body and frame, fire safety, plumbing and electrical, and thermal protection and energy efficacy. The HUD act took effect July 1, 1976 and a mobile home has not been built since.

The final blow to the mobile home was in 1980 when Congress mandated the term “mobile home” no longer be used in Federal laws and literature referencing homes built after 1976. The new term to be used was “Manufactured Home.” This term change was to emphasize that with the new HUD code now regulating how mobile homes were being built; manufactured homes were superior to the mobile home of yesteryear.

When you drill down to the bottom of it, the main difference between mobile and manufactured homes is how they are constructed. Mobile homes had no oversight in construction where manufactured homes had to and still are built to a Federal housing code to ensure safety, durability, and quality.

Mobile Home

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Manufactured Homes

Like mentioned above, manufactured homes are built to the Federal HUD Code and because of that they are exceedingly different and superior to mobile homes.

Manufactured homes are built in virtually any size but the most common sizes are single section, double wide, or three or more section. From there, the square footage and floor plan design can be almost whatever the homebuyer desires and there are endless customization options for décor and exterior features.

Where mobile homes were not inspected at all, due to the HUD code manufactured homes are inspected throughout the entire building process. An outside inspector (not an employee of the factory) is inspecting the manufactured home for internal code requirements. Where conventional homes get inspected at the end of the home building process, manufactured homes are inspected during different phases of the building process so inspectors can see not only the finished product but also inside the walls of the home and ensure the entire home is being built to code.

Due to the HUD Code, manufactured homes are no longer as ‘mobile’ as mobile homes were. Manufactured homes require specialized contractors to set-up the home but also take the home apart for transportation. Plus due to the weight of modern manufactured homes, a professional transporting company needs to transport the home. Mobile homes were easily movable by the owner of the home, but today moving a manufactured home on your own is very dangerous.

Since manufactured homes aren’t as easily movable, there are many options for setting the home. The manufactured home can sit on piers or blocks and skirting is placed around the perimeter to give the home a clean, finished look. Piers are the most common in mobile home parks.

Another option for homeowners not looking to move their manufactured home, the home can be placed on a permanent foundation, essentially attaching it to the property. Permanent foundations are often used where the homeowner owns the land where the manufactured home is going to be placed.

One of the biggest differences of mobile homes and modern manufactured homes is that manufactured homes are built just like conventional houses, except they are built in a factory. Manufactured homes use drywall and other materials just like a conventional home.

Manufactured Home

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Modular Homes

Modular homes are just like mobile and manufactured homes in that they are built in a climate controlled factory, often in 2 sections but can be more. The sections are brought to the home site and then joined together.

The key differentiator between modular homes and manufactured homes is that modular homes don’t following the HUD Code, but rather modular homes are built to all state, local, and regional codes necessary for where the final home site is. Modular homes follow the same codes as if a conventional home was to be built at the site.

Since modular homes follow the local codes, not Federal, the modular home is only inspected one time, once the home has been put together and the entire project is completed. The inspection ensures the home is structurally sound and meets the needed construction requirements.

Modular Home

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So to summarize how mobile, manufactured, and modular homes are different, here is an easy chart.

Type of Home

Where Built  

Building Code

Where Placed





No longer built

Very Budget Friendly



Federal HUD Code

Where zoned for living 

Budget Friendly



Local Building Code

Where zoned for living

Cheaper Than Site Built Homes


If you like the idea of living in an established community of manufactured homes, we can help you find one that "feels like home". Let us help you find the space to fit your dream home.


If you would like for us to build a new home on your own private property, nothing beats a manufactured home. We have expert contractors who will prepare the foundation and setup your home.


We are one of a few manufactured home dealerships with display models to view for you to picture what your home could look like. Come to either of your locations to view our display models on our lot!