What's the Difference? Mobile vs. Manufactured vs. Modular Homes

What's the Difference? Mobile vs. Manufactured vs. Modular Homes Hero

Want to learn more about the types of prefabricated housing? We have your answer to the commonly asked question: What are the differences between mobile, manufactured and modular homes?

If you’re looking at information about off-site built housing, you’ll probably see several terms used. Simply put, off-site built homes are constructed inside a facility and then transported to the home site for final assembly. You may also hear them called “prefabricated” or “prefab” homes.

Types of prefabricated homes include manufactured, modular and mobile homes. We’ll also briefly discuss CrossMod® homes, which blend off-site and site-built construction methods. Visually, manufactured and modular homes don’t look that different from one another, and both can look very similar to traditional site-built ones. The main difference between manufactured and modular homes is the codes they’re built to, which we’ll talk more about below.

You may also be wondering where mobile homes fit into these definitions. So, let’s break down the details about the differences and what they mean for you.

Black and white photo of the exterior of an old mobile home from the 1960s

What is a Mobile Home?

Some people will use “mobile home” or "trailer" to refer to modern manufactured homes. However, mobile homes and manufactured homes were distinguished from one other in 1974 with the National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Act. This act was followed in 1976 by the HUD Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards — usually called the HUD code — which set federal construction standards for manufactured homes in areas like:

  • The home’s design
  • Home body and frame requirements
  • Thermal protection
  • Plumbing and electrical systems
  • Fire safety
  • And energy efficiency

Before 1976, mobile homes were mass produced because of high demand for affordable, moveable housing after World War II, but there wasn’t a lot of oversight when it came to the building standards and materials.

The structure of these early mobile homes looked a lot like a camper or trailer, with an exposed trailer coupler and wheels to make the home movable. The home itself was generally built on steel I-beams that ran from end-to-end, and could be set up on concrete blocks, wooden blocks, metal stands or a concrete foundation at the desired location.

And after the HUD Code was created in the 1970s, the Housing Act of 1980 later mandated the term “manufactured” be used in place of “mobile” in all federal laws and literature that referenced homes built after 1976. These new codes and standards then quickly gave rise to the beautiful, quality manufactured homes that are being built today.

Kitchen of a Clayton manufactured home with green cabinets, stainless steel appliances and neutral decor.

What is a Manufactured Home?

Modern manufactured homes are extremely different from mobile homes built prior to 1976, both in terms of construction and design. Manufactured homes are constructed using quality materials inside climate-controlled building facilities and according to the HUD Code. They also typically come in three sizes — single, double and triple section — and can range from under 1,000 sq. ft. to over 2,000.

When it comes to comparing manufactured and modular homes, another factor that can set them apart is the type of foundation typically used for each. If your manufactured home has a pier and beam foundation, it can usually be relocated by a specialized contractor. Depending on factors like where the home will be located, manufactured homes can also be placed on a permanent foundation, crawl space or basement.

Exterior of a Clayton modular home with green siding, stone accents, white trim and a gray roof.

What is a Modular Home?

Like manufactured homes, modular homes are constructed inside building facilities and then transported to the home site. The main difference between manufactured and modular homes is that manufactured homes are built to the national HUD code, while modular homes are built to all applicable state and local building codes. This is similar to the way traditional site-built homes are constructed.

The codes and standards a modular home is built to can vary based on the state as well as the county, city or township the home will be located in. For example, some states, like North and South Carolina, have standards about the appearance of a modular home that regulate the minimum roof pitch, overhang length and foundation wall requirements. Some areas may also require modular homes to be permanently installed at the home site without a steel frame, while others allow on-frame foundations and lower pitch roofs.

A row of CrossMod homes from Clayton seen from the side in a neighborhood.

Why You Should Consider a Prefab Home

A prefabricated home from Clayton can be a great choice for you and your family for many reasons. We construct our homes across the country inside of our home building facilities, using a streamlined process that allows us to reduce waste and delays because of factors like bad weather. This also means we can offer you a more affordable home.

Clayton also uses materials from some of the world’s leading home building brands, so you know your new home will be equipped with long-lasting, quality products, right down to details like the windows, door hardware and appliances. We also build with energy efficiency and sustainably in mind and include smart home features like an ecobee smart thermostat® in all our new homes to help you save energy and money over time.

Many of our manufactured and modular floor plans also offer several different options when it comes to flooring, cabinetry and the exterior, as well as the ability to add customizable features like kitchen islands or standalone bathtubs. From five-bedroom homes full of farmhouse details to single-section models that incorporate tiny home design, we’re all about offering you options that are designed to fit your life and your needs.

Innovation with CrossMod® Homes

As part of our commitment to innovation in the prefab housing industry, Clayton has taken part in an initiative by the Manufactured Housing Institute to build a new category of off-site built housing, called CrossMod® homes. CrossMod® homes combine features of both off-site and site-built homes. Clayton CrossMod® homes are constructed inside of a building facility like a manufactured or modular home and include features that make them look more like a site-built home, such as:

  • An elevated roof pitch
  • A garage
  • A covered porch
  • And a permanent foundation

Because of the features this type of home has, they can appraise similarly to a site-built home and increase in value over time, depending on the housing market. You can learn more about CrossMod® home details on our website.

Since 1956, Clayton has made the dream of homeownership possible for more people by offering affordable, stylish homes that are built to last. Want to see more of what we can offer you? Head to our Find a Home page today to see manufactured and modular home models that are available near you, with all the features and details you’ve been looking for!

CrossMod is a registered trademark of the Manufactured Housing Institute. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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