I used to think that mobile homes were universally trashy places that only people with no shame would deign to inhabit. Then, after a six month contracting stint during which I earned a lot of extra cash, I bought a mobile home and have lived in it for four of the last five years. I have seen the other side of the mobius strip.

First, let me acknowledge that there are a lot of mobile home parks that do fit, or at least approach the stereotype--all paved or dirt with little or no grass or trees, and low standards for home maintenance. But they're not all that way.

The park in which I reside has many trees, nice lawns and yards, beautiful rose bushes everywhere, grape vines here and there, and a well-maintained swimming pool. The lot fee is a bit higher than most parks, but at $300 per month, it's less than half the cost of renting an almost comparable apartment in the area. I say "almost comparable", because a similarly sized apartment costing twice as much would not have its own yard, and would share walls and perhaps a ceiling or floor with neighbors, making it considerably noisier and less private.

Unlike real estate, mobile homes do lose value over time, but consider this: over 5 years, I've saved perhaps $18,000 versus comparable apartment rent. My home cost only $14,000. I could give it away and come out ahead, in a manner of speaking. A home owner on a thirty year mortgage, on the other hand, would have been paying mostly interest--tax deductable, yes, but not a tax credit, so it still costs a lot. Okay, so a person buying a mobile home who couldn't afford to pay cash would also be paying interest. But not nearly as high a percentage of their payments would go to interest, because they'd almost, if not always, be paying it off much more quickly. If real estate values rise enough, buying a home could still reap more of a financial benefit, but under some circumstances, and certainly compared to living in an apartment, a mobile home can be a great money saver.

Better than an apartment. More economical than an apartment. Mobile homes aren't just for white trash after all. I'm sure glad I learned to look beyond the stereotype.