RV Parks: Intro to Living Like the Other Other Half.

Part 1 (Link to Part 2)

By A.R. Bunch

What comes to mind when I say RV Park? It’s probably a range of things from fond memories visiting senior relatives on summer break, to scary, eye-soar, down by the train tracks where that weird kid in grade school went until he dropped out in fifth grade to get a job. 

Whatever you think about them, there is probably a trailer park that fits your opinion–or even a few that do. Why is that? Why is there no national organization of trailer park owners trying to improve the image of trailer parks everywhere? 

It’s one of the oldest forms of mobile living, long before it was “fashionable.” Is the idea that someone who lives in one automatically poor, a correct and fair assumption? 

This series in our Mobile Living Category takes a closer look at the RV Lifestyle.

First some distinctions and definitions.

Marium Webster defines a trailer park as an area equipped to accommodate mobile homes, which is simple and straightforward. We get a little bit more detail from this definition, courtesy of yourdictionary.com “An area containing mobile homes for rent or places to station them if owned; normally providing utilities and services.” 


The use of the word park is pretty intuitive as a trailer park can be thought of as a parking lot for less than permanent houses. 


The term trailer could mean anything that gets towed behind something else. There are cargo trailers, cattle trailers, and even trailers for camping. The trailer in “Trailer Park” is in reference to a mobile, or manufactured, home (see our post on the difference between mobile and manufactured homes).

In a sense, these trailers only get towed onto and away from the park. The Brittish call them caravans, which is an okay term, except it conjures up images of a wagon train crossing the plains, or perhaps camels carrying spices from far away India. 

Regardless, these abodes are less than permanent and more than truly temporary. They are almost disposable when compared to a “regular” house on a permanent foundation which is meant to be repaired for at least 30 years. 

Because they are cheaper to make, and cost less to buy, trailer parks cater to cost conscious buyers. This means trailer parks are high density and low barrier to entry. Expect speedbumps and unattended children. That said, many are well maintained with a strong sense of community among residents. 

Recreational Vehicles

Since RV stands for recreational vehicle, and there are many kinds of recreational vehicles you’d guess there are a variety of definitions of RV Park. But everyone assumes you’re talking about the type of vehicle in which you’d live temporarily for the purpose of recreation. Think a step up from a tent, and it probably includes wheels. So the obvious distinction between a trailer park and an RV Park is the length of time someone is intended to (allowed to) stay.

However, it’s not quite so easy. 

The blog site NW Adventure Rentals splits the RV site category three ways.  

RV Campgrounds

Pretty obvious; it’s rustic and low frills. Often called glamping, this is your chance to get back to nature without roughing it–too much. In terms of living, your stay is meant to be short–a few days to a week. It might not include power at the site, and no hookups for water or sewer, though you will often find a dumpsite for emptying your tanks. 

Definitely check before booking, what size of RV they’ll accommodate.

RV Resorts

On the other side of the equation is an RV resort. As the name suggests, the frills set them apart. In addition to the main hookups (H2O/sewer/power) you might have cable TV, and WiFi. The community amenities upgrade from shower & dumpster, to propane refill stations, swimming pools, club houses, laundromats, and more. You may have fewer trees, but you’ll gain space between each pad and the pads themselves will be level (which saves a lot of time and effort.) 

Definitely check before booking, what age of vehicle they’ll allow. Many restrict to less than 10 years old. 

RV Parks

Hitting the sweet spot in between resorts and campgrounds, RV Parks offer the most critical amenities of a resort, but in a more park-like setting. You can anticipate paved roads, and graveled, level pads, along with a nicer feeling of privacy. Many still have age restrictions on your vehicles and some have size restrictions as well. 

This is where the waters get a bit murky. There are RV parks, and quite a few, that allow tenants to stay long term. Living in an RV Campsite would be like camping through the winter, not very exciting. Living in an RV resort would be like living in a hotel year around–way too expensive. But an RV park? To quote Goldie Lox, it’s just right. 

So the big difference between a trailer park and an RV park is probably in practice more than by anyone’s intent. Trailer Parks want mobile or manufactured homes, which are meant to move less and live more. RV Parks get recreational vehicles which are designed to move more and live in less. (There is also a difference in their official paperwork which is a topic for another post.)

What’s the allure? 

Well it’s not just sketchy people who end up living in trailer parks, or long term RV park reputations. A lot of seniors choose to live there in order to stretch their retirement income. A lot of singles chose to land in a park after divorce. It’s a way to financially recover and it’s an okay standard of living when you’re middle aged and living alone. 

One could see a young married couple buying a mobile home in a park as a transition away from apartment living. Sometimes where the work is, isn’t a place you intend to live forever and the housing market is in decline. It’s a smart idea to keep housing less than 30% of your total income and if you’re starting a family that can be tough to do.

An RV could be extra appealing to contract workers who relocate every couple years, despite being highly educated, experienced and well paid.  

It may feel strange to buy a home and then rent the land under it, but it’s an option. It’s also odd to think about moving and taking your home with you, but it’s one way of doing things. 

It also lacks the investment benefits of a standard home as manufactured homes seldom go up in value. In the case of an RV, the loans can be spread over 15 years which also makes them more affordable than a standard car loan. 

We’ll dig deeper into this question in our next installment, “RV Parks: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.”

PS – A Second Opinion

If you want to get very granular about the differences between RV Parks and Mobile Home Parks MHU (Mobile Home University) is your authoritative source. 

Other Relevant Posts: See Mobile Living Part 1 & Mobile Living Part 2.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.