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Mobile, Manufactured & Modular, Whats the Difference?

Updated: Feb 20, 2019

The Original Mobile Home

Mobile homes are prefabricated homes built prior to 1976. These early ‘trailers’ of the past tended to be thought of more like the RV’s and campers of today. They first came into the market in the early 1900s, gaining popularity due to transient jobs; many men needed to frequently move their family to be able to support them with various trade jobs. So the car auto hybrid was born.

Moving past the 1920s, the design evolved into pull-trailers, that would be towed behind your car. When they first came into the market and gained popularity, vacationers would use them for camping and travel, often times bringing the whole family along (Think of ‘The Long, Long Trailer’ with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz from 1953).

Trailer ad in the March 9, 1946, edition of “Saturday Evening Post (From Don’t Call Them Trailer Trash, courtesy of Schiffer Publishing)

As the market continued to grow through the 40s and 50s, these trailer homes started becoming bigger and better, offering more conveniences that ended up having people use them as permanent residences, as opposed to weekend getaways. Affordable housing was in even higher demand as the men who fought in WWII started to return home in the masses, so the industry really began to flourish. As people started using them more and more as permanent residences, these ‘trailers’ turned into mobile homes, garnering their own VIN number like a car.

Moving through the 60s, demand for larger trailer homes grew even more. The new homes being built became more visually appealing as they were larger in size, while still retaining their cost efficiency and mobility.

Manufactured Homes

In 1974 the National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Standards Act was passed by Congress, which developed a set of regulations called the HUD Code. When the regulations went into effect in 1976 the ‘manufactured’ home was born. Post 1976 HUD homes were built to a higher standard, in areas such as design, construction, body frame, plumbing, electrical, and efficiency. As the only federally-regulated national building code, the purpose of the HUD Code was to improve the quality and longevity of these manufactured homes, and in addition the perception of the manufactured home improved as they were built to a much higher standard.

Clayton Homes manufactured home building facility

Manufactured homes are built inside climate-controlled factories, where the homes can be built and inspected without weather delays. Manufactured homes have seemingly endless customization features as well; customizable floor plans, granite or quartz counter tops, hardwood and tile flooring to name a few.

Modular Homes

MHE Inc. Modular Home "The Cottonwood Forest"

Modular homes, like manufactured and mobile homes, are built in a climate-controlled off site facility. Different than manufactured homes, they are built in multiple sections off site, only finally joining into one permanent home at the final destination, where the home is permanently affixed to the building site. While manufactured homes follow federal guidelines, modular homes are built to state, local and/or regional codes.

For more information on the HUD code and answers to some frequently asked questions click here

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