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5 Tiny House Design Tips

Are you already planning roadtrips for your future tiny house? Well, listen up kids, because I have a few tiny house design ideas for you! Read on for 5 tips on how to design your tiny home for travel.

1). Think about your overall weight

Seriously, think about it. My tiny house weighs 10,100 pounds when fully loaded with fresh water and my belongings. That’s 4.5 tons! The average tiny house of my size weighs about 8,000 pounds, so my girl is a bit chunky. I won’t go into why she weighs so much (a girl has her reasons), but it’s impossible to put her on a diet now. My trailer axels are rated for 10,400 pounds, so I am cutting it close. That being said, 10-15% my tiny house weight rests on the hitch of my tow vehicle.

If you are building off of a set of reputable plans, be sure to follow the materials list. Or, if you like to live dangerously, at least consider the weight difference between your chosen materials and the materials typically used in tiny house construction. The lighter and smaller the tiny house, the easier and cheaper it will be to tow.

2). Think about your weight distribution

The overall weight of your tiny house design is important, but don’t ignore your weight distribution. Tiny houses tend to be tongue heavy. This is due to the fact that many designs have the loft and kitchen over the tongue. Make sure your tow vehicle can support the overall weight AND tongue weight of your trailer. This is very important. I purchased a weight distribution system, which I suggest doing regardless of your tongue weight. It has helped immensely with towing.

The sweet spot for tongue weight is between 10-15% of your total weight. My tiny house tongue weight is 1500 pounds. Again, cutting it close. For more towing gear, check out the “towing” section of our materials list.

3). Create a space that is easy to secure for travel

Who wants to spend more than 30 minutes setting up every time they park? Not me! I designed my interior to have shelves with ledges, hook & eyes, or bungie cords. All of my belongings can be secured in 30 minutes or less. Consider your light fixtures carefully – will they swing? Hanging plants, sports gear and musical instruments should have clamps or bumpers to prevent damage or spills.

It’s also a good idea to design your tiny house to be both off-grid and on-grid. This will increase your flexibility when finding parking options. For example, because my tiny house design can be off-grid, I parked on Crown Land in Canada and at BLM campsites in the USA.

4). Build within highway restrictions

Make sure your tiny house design does not exceed 13’6″ tall and 8’6″ wide, including fenders, solar panels and chimney pipes. As far as I know, there is no restriction for length. If you build wider or taller you will be forced to get a special permit to tow in many states. Also, you may end up with a convertible tiny house.

Even if you build within the parameters, you still need to keep an eye out for low bridges, wires and branches. I’ve also seen many tiny houses built on very low trailers to increase living space. While this is a great idea, it will make towing more difficult.

5). Attach outdoor lights for night driving

Aside from the standard lights required for towing, I suggest attaching a few mounted solar lights to your tiny house. Not only will this make your home look super cool on the road, it’s a safety factor.

Tiny House Insurance

Here’s the deal: insuring a self-built tiny house is challenging. I’ve struggled. Others have struggled. Insurance companies don’t know how to categorize our strange, rolling homes, let alone insure them for damage and theft.

Luckily, with the popularity of the movement growing, it is becoming easier to find tiny house insurance.

Insuring a Tiny House as an RV

When it comes to tiny house insurance, classification is important. In the past few years, RVIA (or Recreational Vehicle Industry Association) has started classifying tiny homes built by approved manufacturers as “certified RVs.” In the tiny house world, only a few companies are licensed to build RVIA certified tiny homes. The easiest way to determine if a company is certified is to look them up on the RVIA website. If your tiny house is going to be built by a RVIA company, it will be legally categorized as a Recreational Vehicle. Insurance companies understand this classification and it will be easy to secure RV insurance.

But what if you’re not an RVIA approved manufacturer? Well, your tiny home will not be RVIA certified. You can not get an RVIA certification after the fact. The DMV will categorize your tiny house however they please upon registration. For example my tiny house was registered as a “Recreational Trailer” in Illinois and as a “Coach Trailer” in California. These classifications are more difficult to insure.

nsuring a Tiny House as something other than an RV

I have heard of tiny housers finding insurance by categorizing their tiny homes as additional dwelling units, pieces of art, or something else altogether. If you do not intend on traveling with you tiny house, this is a real option because these types of policies are state by state. They will not include travel. 

My Tiny House Insurance

Back in 2014, when I finished my tiny house, I searched for insurance. It was important for me to get a RV policy since I was using my tiny dwelling for travel. I also needed multi-state coverage, which further complicated my search. Every company would either refuse to insure me or quote some absurd number. Eventually I gave up.

For two years, I put my faith in the liability coverage offered through my truck’s policy. My tiny house was insured as a “tow load” when traveling down the road. Once I disconnected my tiny house from my truck, I had no insurance at all.

This summer I decided to take another look. I visited insuremytinyhome.com and applied for coverage. After multiple discussions with Darrell Grenz, my insurance rep, I was able to secure a policy that includes travel. I was thrilled!

Do you want details on my policy? I bet you do! My annual premium is $903, which I pay up front to reduce costs. This might seem expensive, but I do have a beefy insurance policy that includes multi-state travel. Also, I can adjust my policy at any time for a lower rate. I believe the average premium for Tiny Houses through this company is $600.

As with my Tiny House Costs, I’m sharing this personal information because: 1) I think the data should be available and, 2) I want everything to be easier for you than it was for me. Since I just secured this policy, I can’t say whether I’m happy with it or not. I do feel a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. Check back later for a breakdown of my policy