About Park Models
It is quite difficult to find good
information on park models. After a lot of searching we
have located some sites that provide information but even those
tend to be more generally about mobile homes and/or
The average park model is really very
inexpensive. (see: h
ow much will it cost)
A basic new unit can be
purchased for as
little as $30,000. But ... like buying a car
... that can rise quickly. Many used park
'rented' lots are available for anywhere from
$5,000 and up. Most are priced in the neighborhood of $15 to
$25,000 but can range
much higher with a lot of extras.
In resident-owned parks the whole cost
changes because you are now buying not
only the actual
trailer but also your share
in the park itself ... with
an assigned lot.
They are all about the Same
400 Square Feet
But that can be Misleading -
The park models all start out at
about 400 square feet. But then a storage room gets built and
maybe an Arizona Room. There are all kinds of
creative modifications done to enhance the living
space. The climate allows for some pretty basic enclosures to be
added that functionally serve as an addition to living
quarters. But still generally retain the legal
status as a vehicle.
Park models in Arizona cannot exceed 400 square
feet if they are to benefit from vehicle status and not be
subject to standard residential taxes.
We eventually learned why that is. It seems that there was a
municipal taxing issue of
how to tax a
park model (trailer) if it is essentially permanently parked on
what point is it a
'trailer' (classed as a vehicle) and at what point is it a
residence. It still has
wheels and can be moved.
A method was needed to distinguish between the more
permanent mobile homes in a
standard trailer park and those classed as vehicles. It was
decided to use square
400 square feet is a vehicle and legal ownership titles are
by motor vehicles.
The diagram shown here is a very typical
park model design. This layout is very common, at least
before any modifications or additions.
A standard layout consists of
bedroom, bathroom, and open
The front door is typically
and the rear door opens to the
or Arizona room. They are
well designed and make good use of the space
The common width is 12 feet so the
length is normally just over 30 feet. But there are still
some that are narrower.
Some very old units are only 8 feet wide and
tend to resemble a standard older traveling trailer. Then
additions were designed to expand to a 12
foot width. That resulted in what is called
'slide outs' or 'tip outs'.
The basic unit
is 8 feet but there are sections expanded
by (usually) an additional four feet.
Some run the length
of the trailer
and some less.
The unit shown here is an early '80s model. In the
'80s and early '90s the
manufacturers began making
park models a full 12 foot wide.
The most common park model are the
standard 12 foot width and are designed to
appear more like a permanent
dwelling with standard pitched and
Windows and doors are more like
house and interiors also more
typical unit may be
10 to 15 years old. The
at the left are
Then there are the 'higher end' units that have
been added to and modified.
These tend to be more common in the
resident-owned parks (but not exclusively).
The owners in these parks have a much
higher investment and monies spent adding to the unit represents a
far smaller percentage of the unit total cost and possibly
A variety of modifications and additions have
added a lot more space and may even include a regular attached
The end result is some pretty elaborate
set-ups for what began as a 400 square foot park model.
The Inside Living Space
the Park Models have that standard layout (as already shown in the
diagram) of the living, dining, kitchen area at the front of the
unit. Bathroom, storage, and rear/side door in the
middle and bedroom at the back. There are some variations on this
but those are pretty rare. (The Park Model used in the
following section is about 12 years old.)
p; Front Living Area
Probably more than half of the
space is the front living, dining,
The open design adds
versitility. It is a
Most units have ample
combined with the front
doors they are very
The kitchen setup makes good use
of space and generally there is ample cupboard
Most units also have some type of china
cupboard and extra storage.
The appliances are pretty well what you
will have at home with possibly one exception. Propane
is not uncommon.
The dining area is usually set up for
two or four
people. There is often a second china cupboard
possibly additional storage
in this area.
The dining area can be
quite small but is really all that
most need. Most units are only occupied by two people
and most of the entertaining is done
outdoors in the
patio area or Arizona
Bathrooms are pretty standard four piece.
Usually quite small,
at least compared to todays large
facilities in many homes. But they have come a long way from those
tiny old travel trailer bathrooms.
They are certainly very functional and are
getting a bit larger
in newer units. They also have pretty
Bedrooms tend to
have quite a bit of closet
storage space. Usually one wall is
dedicated to double closets and drawers.
The standard bedroom
is probably in the
range of 110 to
120 square feet. They are
adequate. Although a king bed may be
a tight fit.
The Outside Living Space
Nearly all the park models sit on a lot that provides anywhere from
about 15 to 25 feet of side
yard. Normally that side yard is covered
'patio style' and serves outdoor living and vehicle parking.
Some parks have deeper narrower lots allowing
parking in the front while others are wider and allow parking at
The climate is so conducive to outdoor life
that the patio area can become like an added living room.
It is possibly the most common area used for
entertaining and maybe even regular dining. (No bugs remember)
Shed - More living space
An important part of the park model. When you
consider the limitations on unit size the storage shed
becomes far more valuable than your old shed in the back
yard at home.
A storage shed is common fare and they are
usually about 8X10 feet or larger. They are extremely valuable,
especially when you consider you have no basement and
the unit size is limited. In fact I don't know what you would
do without one.
The storage shed is rarely just a place for
storage. Of course they are used for storage but the
creative uses are pretty wide ranging. They are a
natural location for a workbench and a common use as a place for
your own washer and dryer.
But sometimes larger sheds are almost used as
extra living quarters ... TV or computer rooms and even
the odd one with a mattress for extra visitors. Although
probably against some rules they do tend to serve in an emergency.
Room - Even more living space
Many people add a room at the side of
the unit to provide some extra living space. These rooms are
known as 'Arizona Rooms'. They are constructed in varying sizes
over part or even all of the side or patio area. (Apparently in
Florida they are known as a 'Florida Room')
bsp; There are many different designs and
layouts, some quite
basic and others much
They serve a
variety of purposes including
for guests with some even adding
the most common is for the
Arizona room to serve as a type of
similar to the one in your house
It seems every park
model has a sofa bed (or whatever they are
called in your area) to accomodate extra guests. They are pretty
well standard fare in the living room. And just as common in the
Visitors are common in the
parks and it is easy to tell when it is 'spring
break' or (naturally) Christmas and other holidays. The
kids and grandkids come to visit. And of course friends
from 'back up north' will visit to experience
some winter getaway.
Most parks have a variety of plants and some
lots may have small growing spaces. And of course there are the
Citrus Trees, Palm Trees, and the Cactus.
in the Back Yard?
The citrus trees are commonplace
throughout the parks. It is quite common for a lot to have mature
grapefruit and orange trees.
They are a
very special treat for us northerners who can't imagine going out
in the morning and picking off some grapefruit and oranges
breakfast. But that is pretty normal for many RV
Palm Trees - the unofficial emblem
of RV Resort Parks
And of course a symbol of
the south to us northerners are the palm
trees, a common site in the parks.
They epitomize a warm
holiday place for those of us who only see
them in pictures. And that is
probably why they are used as an
attraction for the northerners.
If you can't find the
park just look over the landscape for a collection of
Palm Trees and that may be it.
And the cactus is also
It is a symbol of the desert. There
are many varieties, some only found in desert locations. They
are a common fixture on RV lots.
There are wonderful cactus blooms in the spring
and they certainly add to the flavor of the desert location.
The larger cacti often take on the role
of Christmas trees when that season roles around. (The
picture on the right was taken last Christmas in an RV Park in
Checking Park Model Condition
The condition of the park models will
of course vary widely. Older units can have some real serious
problems. They are generally not constructed to the same standards
as most houses so judging the expected condition of the unit by
age is different than for the typical house. (A
twenty year-old park model is viewed as much older than
a 20 year-old house ... also see watch out for the rules section about
impacts of park model age.)
A couple key items to look for are the
condition of the roof and the floor. Roofs
are most vulnerable. They can certainly be prone to leaks and
weakened by previous water damage.
Older park models came with metal
roofs and a common site is an old roof with
patches over patches. Newer units have
traditional shingled roofs and are really not much different than
your normal house roof.
Floors can become weakened
from previous water or termite damage. What
seems like a simple floor squeak can be a sign of bigger problems.
It is a good idea to have a look under the unit to
see the condition of the floor.
Electrical wiring can be somewhat less
than up to normal household standards as well. Again, this can be
more of an issue in older units where modifications may have
been made over the years.
Plumbing in park models is
often done using plastic water lines and over time some of this
older plastic becomes hardened and can easily break, especially at
or near joints. Plumbing is usually not that hard to access and
lines can be repaired and even (quite easily) updated.
Another common issue in the Phoenix area is the
termites. They can really wreak havoc with a park model.
They are common and if the owner hasn't done proper prevention
they can infest the unit.
If you are not familiar with what to look for
it may be a good investment to have an inspection by a pest
Heating and cooling equipment should also be
examined closely. There are a few differences in what is used in
park models and this can impact your operating costs.
Cooling is by central or window air
conditioners and an item we had never heard of before,
the 'swamp cooler'. Swamp coolers are most
common in much older units and are quite a reliable and
inexpensive method of cooling. But they only work in very dry
Swamp coolers use water
evaporation to provide cooling that is then blown throughout the
The best explanation I heard
to describe the concept is to imagine putting on a wet t-shirt on
a hot day and then blowing yourself with a fan. The rapid
evaporation of the moisture provides considerable cooling effects.
Swamp coolers became quite
out of fashion and almost suggest 'old'. But there may now be some
resurgence. They can be more economical to operate than air
conditioners and will save on energy. They require some regular
maintenance but do seem to be quite an affordable means to provide
some relief from the heat in earlier fall and later spring.