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The 5 best tiny houses: Modern tiny homes for any space

What is the best tiny house? Escape's Traveler XL is ZDNet's top choice. It's perfect for your next big adventure. If you don't want to use it as your main home, it can double as a dedicated office space or even as your getaway from home. We compared pricing, square footage, and other features to determine our top pick and other honorable mentions.
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Written by Sherin Shibu, Editor on
Reviewed by Elyse Betters Picaro

Tiny houses have surged in popularity in recent years as housing prices rise and environmental concerns become more pressing than ever. Going tiny means reducing your home to less than 400 square feet -- but downsizing square footage doesn't mean downsizing your lifestyle.

TV shows like Tiny House Nation, which is available on Netflix, and YouTube channels like Living Big In A Tiny House, which has 4.33 million subscribers to date, emphasize the versatility and popularity of tiny living. Tiny house owners have paid off student loans, raised children, and found an affordable place to spend retirement, all within a structure that doesn't require an income-sapping mortgage or costly maintenance. The tiny house movement is all about eco-friendly mobility and living within your means. It's also about owning your own home, a seemingly ever-elusive dream.

The main drawback of tiny living is not the home itself, but rather where to put it. Zoning laws can be restrictive in many states, which leads to complications when planning out where to park and connect to the grid. Still, tiny houses allow for a high quality of life that's less about acquiring new things and more about financial freedom and living life on your own terms.

Here are the five best tiny house models on the market today.

Also: The 5 best home kits under $50K: Top houses from a box

Escape's Traveler XL
Escape

Features

  • 30 feet wide
  • 344 square feet
  • 2 beds, 1 bath
  • $88,940

The basic package for the Traveler XL is the most expansive I've seen, including everything from maple composite flooring to a kitchen with cabinetry, stainless gas stove, deep stainless sink, and a butcher block kitchen table. The bathroom includes a vanity with a surprisingly roomy single bowl sink, faucet, tub/shower, toilet, exhaust fan, large mirror, LED lighting, and hardware. That's right, there's a tub in this tiny house! There are options to upgrade from the basic package and they are all transparently priced on the spec sheet.

One thing that appealed to me about the Traveler XL was the comfort it affords to taller people. It contains a vaulted ceiling that makes the space appear roomy, and it places the master bedroom on the first floor instead of limiting sleeping arrangements to just a space-crunching loft. The windows around the bedroom create a cozy nook that also lets you stretch without bumping into the ceiling. You can even make the bed without as much fuss as you would with a loft.

Escape has a cool feature that sets it apart from the rest: Escape Vacations. You can try out the Traveler XL and other units by renting one for a vacation and experiencing living in one yourself. This is a good way to test-drive tiny living without making an investment right off the bat. 

I was ultimately swayed by Escape's YouTube channel, which contains an in-depth walkthrough of the unit. The Traveler XL has an aesthetically pleasing exterior with plenty of windows, including a window that's almost floor-to-ceiling in the kitchen space. I'd rather live here than in a one-bedroom apartment! The price is right too.

Pros

  • Energy efficient
  • There's a full tub included -- and it fits into the bathroom
  • The pricing sheet transparently displays the cost of add-ons, which makes budgeting easier
  • The base price is reasonable, considering everything included in the price
  • You can test out the Traveler XL by vacationing in one before buying

Cons

  • They deliver, but the charge depends on location. This is common for most companies
  • The loft to the second bedroom is accessible with a ladder, which may not be the best option for those with disabilities 
  • This is not their cheapest unit

See more Escape Traveler XL photos here:

Escape Traveler XL

Watch the Escape Traveler XL video:


Incred-I-Box
Incredible Tiny Homes

Features

  • 16 feet long
  • 128 square feet
  • Studio, 1 bath
  • $20,000

The Incred-I-Box has everything you need to thrive, including a kitchen with cabinetry and loft storage. The bathroom is at the back of the unit, which means that the living space is open and encompasses the living, dining, and sleeping areas. There's a lot compacted into one small space, and the video walkthrough of a model unit convinced me that it was no different from an NYC studio apartment -- except with less monthly costs and more mobility.

The kitchen, the heart of any home, looks spacious for such a small space and includes a butcher block countertop, cabinets, and a 30-inch sink. The micro-square footage allotted to this home delivers in the kitchen. The bathroom is tucked away and requires you to add either a door or a curtain to separate it from the rest of the home. The shower is just tall enough and wide enough for the space, but it might not be a comfortable fit for everyone.

The unit does not come with a ceiling fan or options for heating and cooling, so you'll have to add those yourself. On the bright side, it can be built quickly and shipped to you. It's ready to customize and personalize as you please.

Pros

  • Includes insulation
  • Storage loft is a bonus
  • Includes six interior plugs: One in the bathroom, two in the kitchen, and four in the living room

Cons

  • Not a good option for families 
  • The shower is serviceable, but not ideal
  • No ceiling fan 
  • The cost does not include taxes, delivery, or setup

See more Incred-I-Box photos here:

Incred-I-Box Tiny Home

Watch the Incred-I-Box video:


Tiny Heirloom's Majesty
Tiny Heirloom

Features

  • 34 feet long
  • 272 square feet
  • 2 beds, 1 bath
  • $129,900

The Majesty is Tiny Heirloom's "Queen of the fleet" and comes in three versions: The classic Farmhouse with white and black themes, the sleek Modern with an orange door and brushed gold accents, and the soothing Craftsman with wood brown shingles and a rustic feel. This model has a master bedroom and a second bedroom, making it the perfect option for small families. 

The trailer, framing, insulation, paint, flooring, cabinets, hardware, countertops, water heater, shower, and many more features are included in the price. Even though the price for this unit is higher than others on the market, the included little touches can add up to big savings. The Majesty has nooks and crannies for extra storage, which is crucial in a tiny house. This customizable model stands out for its roomier shower and extra sleeping space.

Tiny Heirloom has been covered in the LA Times and on HGTV, which lends credibility to the brand. Despite the widespread publicity, the company hasn't lost sight of its customer base: It continues to focus on the client with one-on-one meetings throughout the process of conceptualizing and building the home. 

Pros

  • The second room can either be another room or a full closet, which is a luxury in a tiny house
  • Financing options include down payments as low as 5% and up to 30%
  • In-house engineers and designers for a seamless customizable build
  • 1 year limited manufacturer/builder warranty 

Cons

  • Pricier than other options for a lower square footage
  • Upgrades to pre-set options for doors, paint, cabinets, and more can add up
  • The style of this unit may not be for everyone

Watch the Tiny Heirloom Majesty video:


Rocky Mountain's Wasatch
Rocky Mountains

Features

  • 28 feet long 
  • 224 square feet
  • 2 beds, 1 bath
  • $76,000

A full-size fridge, deep sink, upper cabinets, and cabinet space make the kitchen of this tiny house feel like home. There's a full bathroom too, with a full-size tub that's perfect for relaxing. The company managed to fit everything in without making the unit feel cramped. The home in the video walkthrough was designed for a family of four: two parents and two little girls. The girls had a bedroom on the ground floor with bunkbeds while the parents shared the loft. I admired how naturally the bunk beds fit into the space and how there was still a living area outside of the room. The bunkbeds had built-in storage for ski equipment. 

The model unit featured a higher-than-normal ceiling, which made the parents' loft space appear more spacious. One qualm I have with tiny houses is potentially feeling claustrophobic. I want to wake up in an open, sunlit space and be able to make my bed easily. Most lofts do not meet those standards. This one, however, created a greater sense of openness with the higher ceiling. 

Heat travels up, which could make sleeping in a loft nightmarish in the summer. This family accounted for that by installing a split-system heating/cooling unit within the home. The loft sleeping area also had a small built-in closet, which I appreciated. In many tiny houses that I've seen, storage space is precious, and designated closet space is oftentimes nonexistent. There's room for additional storage in a parallel storage loft, accessible through a ladder. 

The standout feature of this home is how many people it can fit within its walls and how it efficiently uses space.

Pros

  • Comes with a full-size bath and full-size burner stove
  • Custom French doors instead of the standard front door
  • A small closet in the sleeping loft

Cons

  • Storage loft can only be accessed through a ladder
  • Parents may have concerns about the safety of the bunk beds
  • There's still not much headroom in the sleeping loft, even if it's more than expected

Watch the Rocky Mountain Wasatch video:


Minimaliste's Nomad

Features

  • 24 feet long 
  • 165 square feet
  • 1 bed, 1 bath
  • $66,000

This home checks off all the boxes: Bedroom that you can stand up in, a tub in the bathroom, a full kitchen, and much more. The exterior is all steel, which requires less maintenance, and the windows are tempered glass. The Nomad is designed for those who are seriously considering off-the-grid travels. If you choose to upgrade to water tanks, those tanks will not freeze in the winter so you'll have dependable access to water for all of your needs, even if you aren't connected to a main water source.

The bedroom is another main attraction. It is located at the back of the house and has a spaciousness unseen in most tiny houses. I like the way the bedroom is designed with a barn door and its size means that a queen bed can fit in this space. The lighting and wood choice appear contemporary and clean. This house is visually appealing. 

The kitchen has the best sink of any tiny house on this list, and the couch can double as a kitchenette. The bathroom has a vanity and a shower tub. Even though the Nomad is one of the smallest homes on this list, it packs in quite a bit of value and makes use of clear, clean interior design. 

Pros

  • Space for a living room couch/dining room table that converts to a sleeping area
  • Durable, especially for off-the-grid adventures
  • Bedroom exists at a decent height with space for a queen bed
  • Tub in the bathrooom
  • Double sink in the kitchen

Cons

  • Going off-the-grid in the Nomad means adding costly fixtures
  • Too small for the needs of some
  • No loft area for storage or sleeping

See more Minimaliste Nomad photos here:

Minimaliste Nomad Tiny Home

Watch the Minimaliste Nomad video:


What is the best tiny house?

Escape's Traveler XL is ZDNet's top choice.

Tiny house

Price

Square Footage

Escape's Traveler XL

$88,940

334

Incredible Tiny Homes' Incred-I-Box

$20,000

128

Tiny Heirloom's Majesty

$129,900

272

Rocky Mountain's Wasatch

$76,000

224

Minimaliste's Nomad

$66,000

165

Which is the right tiny house for you?

Every tiny house buyer has unique needs and expectations from their purchase. Here are some general guidelines for the homes on this list:

Choose this tiny house kit…

If you want…

Escape's Traveler XL

A comfortable tiny house with plenty of options

Incredible Tiny Homes' Incred-i-box

An affordable option right out of the box

Tiny Heirloom's Majesty

Something more luxurious, but still functional

Rocky Mountain's Wasatch

A tiny house for your family

Minimaliste's Nomad

A rugged tiny house for every adventure

How did we choose these tiny houses?

Choosing a home is an intensely personal process, a balance between financial considerations and aesthetic tastes. I chose these homes based on why tiny houses may appeal to people in general: Perhaps its the affordability, the adventure, spending more time with your family, or the luxurious elements built into an eco-friendly spatial footprint. I looked at specification sheets, walkthrough videos, and, in general, all available materials for the homes on this list. I only picked homes that I could see myself living in, which meant that I prioritized affordability, ground floor bedrooms, and workable kitchens. I wanted to highlight companies that go above and beyond to create quality homes. Thus the choices were high-level, in what appealed to a broad demographic, personal, in what I could see myself inhabiting, and also company-level, in that I considered the reputation of the companies on this list when making my selections.

Are these tiny houses customizable?

Yes! All of these homes are built for clients from scratch, so you have room to make adjustments. You could even draw up custom plans of your own, based on your needs and yours alone, and ask a company to make the home for you. 

Are there financing options?

Yes there are. All of the companies on this list offer financing options.

How does the value of a tiny house compare to the value of a regular home?

Tiny houses exist independently of the land they're parked on, so some may say that they depreciate in value as they are used. It ultimately depends on what you value -- if it's a mortgage for a regular home, albeit one that may gain value depending on the market, that's up to you. If, however, you have student loans or credit card debt and you don't want to add a mortgage on top of everything, tiny houses could be a way to obtain the dream of homeownership on your own terms. 

What should I keep in mind if I decide to make the move to tiny living?

Make sure that you're able to park your tiny house in a convenient location. The land that you're on matters, so the cost of renting or purchasing it should be accounted for in your budget. Consider how you're going to hook up to the grid or go off-grid. What do you need to make that adjustment? Finally, if you plan on traveling with your tiny house, make sure that you have a vehicle that can tow it on the road.

Are there alternative tiny houses worth considering?

Yes there are. These didn't make the top five, but they're still noteworthy.

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