Modular vs. Manufactured Homes: What’s the Difference?

Most Americans don’t understand the differences between modular homes, manufactured homes, and mobile homes.

According to, the manufactured housing industry produced 105,772 new homes in 2021, and there are nearly seven million manufactured homes in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Approximately 9% were new single-family homes.

They’re Both Considered Prefab Homes

Both modular homes and manufactured homes (also known as mobile homes) are prefabricated, meaning they are either partially or fully constructed in an off-site facility.

The Primary Differences

Modular homes are not necessarily mobile and held to the same local, regional, and state building codes required for on-site homes. Manufactured (or mobile) homes are held to federal standards by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

This legal distinction is important, but it doesn’t mean much to folks who aren’t in the home industries. 

What is a Modular Home?

Like a traditional home, a modular home is placed on a permanent foundation on a conventional site, and then construction is completed. A modular home is partially built in a factory and shipped to the homeowner’s lot in modules. Modular home construction must comply with local building codes. 

They are available in many different styles and floor plans and designs, and many contain basements.

Like traditional homes, modular home values will fluctuate with the housing market. Many banks and lenders offer modular home financing, so buyers typically have several mortgage options.

Also Read: Six top options for purchasing a modular or manufactured home with bad credit

There is a lot of misinformation floating around about modular homes. To learn the truth, check out this video:

What is a Manufactured Home?

Manufactured homes, sometimes called mobile homes or trailers, are constructed in a factory and built on a steel chassis instead of a permanent foundation. They are often made with wheels, detached after the home is towed to the home site, and the land can be either privately owned or leased by the homeowner. Manufactured home construction must comply with HUD building codes. A manufactured home will have a HUD tag.

Newer manufactured homes will look significantly different than the traditional double-wide trailer. They are not as customizable as modular homes, but manufactured homes also come in various styles with diverse home designs and floor plans, with extra add-ons like redwood decks or porches.

Manufactured homes have an unfair reputation for being unsafe or poorly built. The passage of the National Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974 required rigid construction and safety standards for all HUD-certified manufactured homes. Manufactured homes built before the law went into effect on June 15, 1976, are not considered compliant with the HUD code.

The most significant disadvantage of buying a manufactured home is that getting a mortgage can be more complicated. While some local lenders and dealers may offer financing programs, few lenders offer mortgages for this type of housing. Though conventional Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans are available for manufactured housing, government-backed loans like FHA and VA loans are more common because underwriting standards differ.

Also Read: 5 Best Conventional Mobile Home Loans + 6 Other Options

Modular vs. Manufactured

A modular home is primarily constructed in a factory, but the house is transported in pieces to the home site, where construction is finished. Once built, a modular home can’t be moved and comes in single-wide and double-wide. Most banks and mortgage lenders offer to finance modular homes, meaning buyers will have a more diverse range of options when it comes to purchasing. Mobile homes do not have the same wide range of options.

In general, banks like lending to less risky investments. From the legal standpoint, the primary difference between modular and manufactured homes is that modular homes are held to the same local, state, and regional building codes required for on-site homes. At the same time, manufactured homes are held to a federal code set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Mobile and manufactured homes are the same. They are prefabricated homes constructed in an off-site facility. Manufactured and mobile homes are regulated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The only difference between the two types of homes is the building date. A factory-built home before June 15, 1976, is a mobile home. Any structure built after June 15, 1976, is a manufactured home. If you own the land that the manufactured home will sit on and is affixed like real property, you will have an easier time finding lenders with better rates and financing options.

Many homebuyers choose a manufactured home over a modular home based on price alone. Manufactured homes tend to be more affordable overall. A modular home might offer better financing options and simplified loan processing that boosts the home’s affordability over the long run.

Also Read: How to Refinance a Manufactured, Modular or Mobile Home

The Bottom Line

Despite both modular and mobile homes being built in factories and costing less than their site-built counterparts, modular homes are generally more expensive to construct than manufactured homes.

If you can afford a modular home, this would be hands down the better investment because they are held to the same building codes as traditional houses and can be as high quality as site-built homes. You will also have an easier time securing financing.


What is the Difference Between Single-Wide and Double-Wide?

Single wide homes are narrower, while double wides are wider and shorter, which looks more like a site-built home. Single wide mobile homes are typically 14’-18’ wide and 52’-80’ long. These can also range from 700 square feet to 1200 square feet. Because many rooms can be packed into a single-wide unit, the building, delivery, and installation costs can be significantly less than a double-wide. You will pay 10-25% less per square foot in a single-wide.
A double-wide mobile homes range in size from 28′-36′ wide and 52′-80′ long. The house is transported in two sections and installed at the home site into one seamless unit. This option gives the residents more space to add extra bedrooms and choose from several configurations to make the home more comfortable living space.

Can I Refinance a Modular or Manufactured Home if I Don’t Own the Land it’s On?

Yes, but your loan options will be limited. A manufactured home that’s not attached to the land is not considered real property. Instead, it’s considered chattel or personal property. So, if you lease the land your mobile home is on, you still have a couple of options.

What is the Purpose of a Crawl Space?

A crawlspace is a narrow area between the ground and the first floor of a home. It is typically unfinished, with a dirt floor. In some cases, it can be as narrow as 2-ft. x 2-ft., just enough room to crawl around inside — hence the name. 
Manufactured home crawl spaces buffer the house, its inhabitants, and the damp, wet earth below. A crawl space is similar to a basement. It is vented to outside air and is primarily used to promote air circulation throughout the home and allow easy access to plumbing and electrical systems. A house built over a crawl space sucks up water vapor from the earth and keeps it from entering the home.

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