What's the Difference? - Mobile vs. Manufactured vs. Modular
November 1, 2018 | Jeff Hallman
What's the Difference? - Mobile vs. Manufactured vs. Modular

Learn more about the differences between mobile, manufactured and modular homes!
Determining whether a home is classified as a mobile, manufactured or modular is often confusing. Visually, manufactured and modular homes don’t appear that different, and both are often mistaken as site-built homes. However, prefabricated homes differ depending on the codes they must follow.

A Prefabricated home, or prefab home, is a term used to describe any building or dwelling that is manufactured off-site, in a home building facility, and then transported to the home or building site to be set on a foundation.

Although they are built to applicable local, state and regional codes, modular homes are even technically “manufactured” in a home building facility. Some say a “mobile home” and a “manufactured home” are essentially the same things. If that’s the case, then what’s the difference?



Mobile Homes
The terms “mobile home” and “manufactured home” are often used by the general public to describe the same type of home. Mobile homes and manufactured homes were finally distinguished from each other in 1976 when the National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Act became effective. This act, generally known as ‘the HUD Code,’ sets standards for the following:
  • Design and construction
  • Body and frame requirements
  • Thermal protection
  • Plumbing and electrical
  • Fire safety
  • Energy efficiency
  • And other aspects of manufactured homes!
The intent of the HUD Code is to improve the durability and quality of manufactured homes, and it is the only federally-regulated national building code.

What is a mobile home
 Prior to 1976, mobile homes, more commonly referred to as trailer homes, were mass produced with very little building regulation oversight due to the demand for affordable, mobile housing by the American public. In the early 1900s, people found that they needed to be able to move to wherever jobs were available in order to provide for their families, and so the mobile home as we think of it was born. The structural designs of these mobile homes resembled what we might think of like a modern-day camper with an exposed trailer coupler and wheels making the home easily movable. The home itself was built on steel I-beams which ran from end-to-end and could be set up on concrete blocks, wooden blocks, metal stands or concrete foundation at the desired location.

During World War II, mobile homes were bought by factories and used as temporary housing for workers who had to travel a fair distance to aid in the war effort. When the war ended, affordable housing was in short supply for the veterans returning to the U.S., so the mobile home industry provided a quick and cost-efficient solution.

Manufactured home structure

In the 1960s, the public demand expanded from mobility and affordability to larger trailers or mobile homes with more amenities. The new mobile homes were larger in size and more visually appealing while still being cost efficient and mobile. In 1974 Congress passed the National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Standards Act, which created HUD Code regulations. The regulations went into effect in 1976, and the Housing Act of 1980 mandated that the term “manufactured” be used in place of “mobile” in all federal laws and literature that referenced homes built after 1976.

Check out Mobile and Manufactured Home Living or the Manufactured Housing Institute to learn more about the history of mobile homes!

Manufactured Homes
Modern manufactured homes are extremely different than the mobile homes built prior to 1976. Manufactured homes are built in three standard sizes—single wide, double wide and triple wide. They are built entirely inside home building facilities that are climate controlled to avoid weather delays and almost always have countless customizable options such as types of flooring, cabinetry and exterior finish, just to name a few. Each home is internally inspected multiple times throughout various phases of construction to confirm proper construction and quality.

Manufactured home construction

If the home is placed on blocks or metal piers, skirting can be added to make the home more visually appealing. Manufactured homes can also be placed on a permanent foundation or on a basement—just like a site built home. Manufactured homes can be relocated, however, with the help of a contractor that specializes in manufactured home set up and delivery.



For more details on the Clayton home building process, check out how our homes are built.

Modular Homes
Like a manufactured home or a mobile home, the sections of a modular home are built in a climate controlled home building facility. Modular homes are built to conform to all state, local and/or regional codes that are necessary for the final location of the home—just like site-built homes. Clayton modular homes are typically built in two sections, however, depending on the size of the home, it could be built in up to five sections.

What is a modular home

The sections are then transported to the final location where they are joined together on a permanent foundation by a local contractor. If an inspection is required, once the home is completely constructed at the site local building inspectors complete a thorough inspection of the home to make sure the home is structurally sound and meets all construction requirements.


Why Choose Clayton Built®?
Most modular and manufactured homes are customizable from the floor plan to the countertops and everything in between. Modular homes can even be built as two-story homes! Visually, neither modular nor manufactured homes are that different than site built homes. In fact, modular and manufactured homes can be more desirable than site built homes for several reasons:

  1. Energy Savings—Clayton Built® homes are built in a climate controlled home building facilities, reducing the amount of waste produced.
  2. Shorter Build Time—home building facilities run factory assembly lines cutting down on the amount of time needed to build a home. The climate-controlled facilities also cut back on weather delays traditionally associated with a site-built work site.
  3. Structurally Sound— Trained craftsmen use quality materials to build our homes. This ensures that each home, from the engineered flooring system to the durable siding, is built with strength and durability in mind to make each home last a lifetime. Clayton homes are also built to HUD Wind Zone specifications according to where the home will be located as well as wind speeds endured during transport.
  4. Another reason to choose a Clayton Built® home is the fact that our trained team members are committed to helping one another and to building great homes every day for families like yours.
Whether it's a manufactured or modular home, you can rest assured that your Clayton Built® home was constructed by a team of committed, trained and caring craftsmen.
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