What is a mobile home?

Thu Mar 2 2023

There’s a lot of misconceptions about mobile homes. Let’s fix that.

Since Kin broke the news that our insurance company now offers mobile home insurance in Florida, we noticed some confusion. Folks asked us if we could cover RVs (that’s a job for auto insurance). Some people rejoiced and sent photos of their campers (sorry, friends! Those aren’t mobile homes either). Some wondered if log cabins count as mobile homes (they do not). It seems the public at large may still have some misconceptions about what a mobile home really is.

So let’s clear things up once and for all.

Here is your official guide to everything a mobile home is – and isn’t.

Mobile homes vs. manufactured homes: An origin story

This is a mobile / manufactured home. Pretty cozy, right?

The confusion over mobile homes largely stems from their origin. Prior to 1976, prefabricated, factory-built trailer homes were massed produced and marketed as mobile housing. These were like campers and travel trailers in that they could be transported and moved thanks to their trailer frames, axles, wheels, and tow-hitches, but they were different in size and furnishings.

But then the federal government stepped in to make sure affordable housing was safe for the American public. It passed the 1974 National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Act, followed by the 1976 HUD Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards. These created federally regulated national building codes for all mobile homes to make them safer and more durable to the whims of Mother Nature.

Post 1976, mobile homes are legally referred to as “manufactured homes” and must adhere to the HUD code building specifications. These factory-built homes are often moved to a location and kept there permanently.

Fun fact: The HUD Code is the only federally regulated national building code.

Mobile home vs. trailer

“Trailer” is a slang terms that often refers to mobile homes built before HUD began to oversee their construction. Trailers are small units with wheels attached permanently so they can travel. The photo here is probably what you picture when you hear this term.

By contrast, modern mobile homes are usually permanently installed with a masonry foundation. They can be moved, but it’s very difficult and expensive to do so.

What about modular homes?

Modular homes are homes that are designed in a special facility away from the homesite, which makes them similar to manufactured homes. However, these homes are designed and built in sections. The sections are then transported to the homesite, erected, tied together, and hooked up to utilities.

While modular homes are designed and constructed off-site like manufactured homes are, these structures are generally considered sturdier than manufactured homes – in part because they’re often attached to a foundation. As a result, most insurance companies cover these homes using an HO3 policy. That’s the same type of homeowners insurance you’d get for standard home.

You might have a mobile or manufactured home if …

If you’re like a growing portion of US homeowners, you may well have a mobile home. In Florida alone, more than 800,000 folks live in mobile homes. Florida is second only to Texas for most prefabricated housing shipments in 2018, according to Census data.

Newer manufactured homes may look identical to site-built homes, but your home may be considered a mobile or manufactured home if:

  • It is a dwelling of at least 320 square feet
  • It was built in a factory (not on site)
  • It was transported as a complete unit to its current site for installation
  • It has a permanent chassis
  • It is constructed according to federal building code

Your home is NOT a mobile home if it is:

  • An RV
  • A camper
  • A trailer
  • A modular home (these are built in factories, but transported in sections and constructed together at a permanent site)

This is a camper. It is majestic, but it’s not a mobile home.

Insuring a mobile home

A mobile home is insured as real estate, not as a vehicle like a camper or RV.

Half of Florida’s mobile homes are uninsured, and we want to change that.

While it has been historically difficult for Florida mobile homeowners to get affordable home insurance, Kin is excited to offer replacement-cost coverage for dwellings plus coverage for your belongings, other structures (e.g., fences), additional living expenses, personal liability, and medical payments.

Replacement-cost dwelling coverage offers you the means to buy a new home if yours is destroyed by a covered event. It’s security and peace of mind that every homeowner deserves.

Get a quote and see for yourself.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in November, 2019. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.