The discussion of modular vs. manufactured homes confuses many people. The primary differences are attributed to how the home is assembled and erected on the site as well as the building codes each building process must follow.

Let’s explore these two types of home construction in more depth.

Modular vs. Manufactured Homes: The difference

Manufactured homes are constructed with a permanent chassis designed for over-the-road transportation and delivered to the home site in one or more sections according to the National Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1976 enforced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This is why they are also called HUD-Code homes. Prior to this act, the common term for this form of housing was mobile home (or trailer).

HUD regulates the home’s design and construction, strength and durability, transportability, fire resistance, energy efficiency and quality control. It also sets tough performance standards for heating, plumbing, air-conditioning, thermal and electrical systems.

Manufactured homes historically have been popular in rural areas on private land with minimal land use restrictions or in land-lease communities. However, today many high cost-of-living areas are finding this alternative to be an acceptable form of affordable housing.

Modular home construction is based on the same codes as a site-built home. Various building codes set forth by local government and state requirements in which the home will be located, to include National Electrical Code (NEC), International Residential Code (IRC) and the Uniform Building Code. The modular home is transported on a carrier; the home is then taken off of the carrier and transferred onto a foundation.

A modular home is typically very customizable and built to exacting tolerances, which make them very energy efficient. These homes are virtually indistinguishable from traditional onsite construction of custom homes.

Modular vs. Manufactured Homes: The Similarities

There are many similarities with the biggest one being cost. Manufactured and modular homes typically cost less than regular stick-built homes.

Another similarity is quality control. Because 70 to 90 percent of the home is completed in a factory, a modular or manufactured home is built under controlled conditions and strict quality control standards.

Speed of construction is also a factor. Factory-built homes can be erected onsite in 1-2 days, as opposed to 3-6 months for a site-built home.

What Are Modular Homes?

  • Modular homes are built in sections at a factory.
  • Modular homes are built to conform to all state, local or regional building codes at their destinations.
  • Sections are transported to the building site on temporary carriers, and then joined together by local contractors.
  • Local building inspectors check to make sure a modular home’s structure meets requirements and that all finish work is done properly.
  • Modular homes are generally less expensive per square foot than site built houses.
  • A modular home will have the same longevity as its site-built counterpart, increasing in value over time.

What Are Manufactured Homes?

  • Formerly referred to as mobile homes or trailers, but with many more style options than in the past.
  • Manufactured houses are built in a factory.
  • They conform to a Federal building code, called the HUD code, rather than to building codes at their destinations.
  • Manufactured homes are built on a non-removable steel chassis.
  • Sections are transported to the building site on their own wheels.
  • Multi-part manufactured units are joined at their destination.
  • Segments are not always placed on a permanent foundation.
  • Building inspectors check the work done locally (electric hook up, etc.) but are not required to approve the structure.
  • Manufactured housing is generally less expensive than site built and modular homes.

Each state and/or the Federal government requires a label to be affixed in the home to tell you what type of factory built home it is. You can usually find the label in the master bedroom closet or in a kitchen cabinet near the sink.

Remember, when determining whether it’s a manufactured or modular home, it’s all about the building code it was constructed to meet.

Modular vs. Manufactured Homes: Which is Best for You?

If you are considering the purchase of a new home, take the time to explore the benefits of both modular and manufactured homes.

If you are looking for a lower cost home that offers an abundance of flexibility, then a modular home might just be the perfect answer for you and your family.