What's the difference between a manufactured home and a mobile home?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

There is none. Manufactured home is just a new name for the same product: a transportable home made in a factory on a steel frame with wheels, to a national building code standard established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), that is towed to a homesite, where it is set on a foundation and the wheels removed. In the industry, it is also called a HUD-Code home.

   The evolution of the name is an interesting bit of American history.  The surge in popularity of automobile travel in the 1920s provided the impetus for the first “trailers,” a name coined because early camping vehicles “trailed” behind vacationers’ motorcars. They were homemade, with wood frame set on a salvaged auto chassis, and became instantly popular. 

   Manufacturers began producing trailers in the 1930s. They became a familiar sight, especially on highways west like Route 66, and the size and sophisticated features of travel trailers expanded over the years. Soon families, especially those of itinerant workers in industries like road and bridge construction, began to live full-time in their trailers, which had grown to a then-amazing 8-feet wide. The bigger versions became known as “house trailers,” and appeared in Hollywood movies like The Long, Long Trailer, starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz

    State highway restrictions limited the width and length of trailers until an industry veteran, Elmer Frey, found a loophole in the law that allowed him to begin selling his new “TenWide” model. The innovation caused a furor at the 1954 Florida Mobile Home Exposition, with some manufacturers claiming he was destroying the industry by breaking through the 8-foot width barrier.

    But the Trailer Coach Manufacturers Association had just changed its name to the Mobile Home Manufacturers Association (MHMA) the year before, with manufacturers of travel trailers (called “recreational vehicles” today) breaking away to form a separate association.   Change was happening rapidly in the industry, and manufacturers had renamed their new, larger product a “mobile home”—primarily to create some distance from the shoddy reputation that trailers and, specifically, trailer parks had acquired over the years.

    The shape of the homes was changing too; away from the aerodynamic, rounded corners to a more house-like design. Further image buffing occurred in the 1975, when the MHMA changed its name to the Manufactured Housing Institute. It also managed to get HUD to mandate a few years later that HUD-code homes formerly known as “mobile homes” could only be called “manufactured homes.”

   So, over the course of the 20th century, trailers became house trailers, which became mobile homes, and finally manufactured homes. If you want to read more about the colorful history of the manufactured home industry, we suggest getting a copy of Wheel Estate - The Rise And Decline Of Mobile Homes, by Allan D. Wallis (Oxford University Press, 1991).

    Also, see our blog post When were the first double-wide mobile homes manufactured?

 
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Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about MOBILE/MANUFACTURED HOMES:

Where can I file a complaint if I have problems with my new or used manufactured/mobile home in Florida?

 What are the most common defects in mobile/manufactured home foundation piers?

How do I determine the age of a very old mobile home?

What is a "HUD label verification letter" for a mobile/manufactured home?  

When did a ground cover vapor barrier (plastic sheet) become required under a mobile/manufactured home? 

Is it safe to go under a mobile home? 

Are older mobile homes unsafe? 

What do I need to know about buying a foreclosed mobile home? 

Does it make sense to buy an older mobile home and remodel it? 

Where do I find the vehicle identification number (VIN) on a mobile home? 

How do I find out how old a mobile home is and who manufactured it?

What is the right price for a used mobile home?

How energy efficient is a mobile home?

How do I upgrade my old (pre-1976) mobile home to meet HUD standards?

What size air conditioner is right for my mobile home? 

Can you move an older mobile home in Florida? 

What does the HUD tag look like and where do I find it on a mobile home? 

Can you put a zone 1 mobile home in Florida?

How can I remove water under my mobile home?

What is a D-sticker mobile home? 

What are the tie-down requirements for a mobile home?

How fireproof is a mobile home?  

Can I install a mobile home myself?

What is a Park Model mobile home?  

Does an addition to a mobile home have to comply with the HUD Code? 

What walls can I remove in a mobile home?

What can I do to prevent dampness and mold in my mobile home? 

How can I tell if a mobile home is well constructed?

• How can I tell the difference between a manufactured home and a modular home?

       Visit our MOBILE/MANUFACTURED HOMES  page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles. 

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