Hi there, Just stumbled onto your site while looking for info on the best small motorhomes. My husband and I are in our 60’s and want to get our first motorhome. We have hesitated before because I was afraid of taking on the task of driving something big at our age. Then a friend showed me their little Winnebago and said it drove and parked beautifully, and we are thinking that could be a good compromise to a big RV. We will spend extended times at our children’s homes, and travel around California mainly, and perhaps to a few surrounding states. Do you have any advice on purchasing a smaller unit, perhaps other brands, or what we should look for?
She’s a very comfortable fifth wheel with 5 slides and thousands of dollars of upgrades including 600 watts of solar & expanded battery bank. We’ve maintained her well and have the preventative maintenance service records. We’ve never had any major problems and the minor ones the come with buying a new rig have been worked out for you. The back bunk room was modified to have a desk and more storage but it could easily be converted back to a third bunk and even a 4th bunk (trundle). Currently, she sleeps 6. We also modified the front closet where the washer and dryer would go. It is now an office/desk space, perfect for people who want to work on the road.
Having your children sleeping within an arm’s reach of your bed definitely changes your sex life. Here’s where the planning and scheduling comes in, again! Sometimes you get lucky and a campground has supervised activities for kids allowing the parents to enjoy adult activities. If so, ditch the bingo game, and go have some fun in your empty RV. No campground activities? Well then, you just have to get creative!
Hi Nina, appreciate ur list of 10 things . . . We have gone on the road for a straight 3 months then again for 4 months. We have several memberships and we love camping with the conveniences of home so the memberships we have are absolutely wonderful money savers galor. Our main issue has been rushing to get from one state to another so ur comment to slow down and get aquatinted and feel more at home sounds excellent. I was wondering if you have any idea the cost of the 20GB/ monthly cost. We have Verizon and the 5GB is not ever enough for us. My husband both have IPads so we need more GBs and the 20GB with Millenicom is something I too would like to check into after my contract is over. Totally agree with your list.
When we say new, it's only new to us, but that's how we prefer it. Let someone else shake it down. After hemming and hawing over trading in our previous RV, we finally decided to go for it. We knew our old one was too big for us and we didn't want to invest in upgrades like solar when we didn't feel like it was ours. It was the right choice and we're very happy with our current set-up. We installed solar panels, so we didn't have to worry about the batteries overnight or running the generator twice a day like on our old coach. We have more options as to where to stay with our smaller size and off-grid capabilities and that makes us very happy. Now we just need to redo the interior a bit and it will be all ours.
This book is written very minimally and appears to be written by someone with little to no experience in modern RV living. I do not recommend this book even though it has a snazzy cover and seems like a good choice. That's how they get you. It's annoying because there is no real effort put into the writing and no information you couldn't obtain from a Wikipedia article. It actually had very little concrete content and is written like a high school essay where you spend most of your words filling up the paper writing things like "RVS are vehicles that travel with or behind vehicles. Many people enjoy RV Living. There are many challenges to RV Living. Despite this, people enjoy RV living.“
Then there are state parks, which run sometimes $15 / night, typically closer to $20 / night, and that often includes electric & water, but no sewage at your site (you have to drive over to the dump). They typically have a 2 week max stay at any given park, but are almost always more beautiful than private RV parks, with each site tending to have much more space.
Boondocking/Free: We enjoy mixing in a lot of boondocking. This might range from awesome places on public lands (BLM, National Forests, etc), staying in lower cost public campgrounds without hook-ups, ‘blacktop boondocking’ overnight in commercial parking lots or rest stops, to driveway surfing with friends & family (got bus parking? We love invitations!). These low/free cost stays not only bring our average cost down a lot, they’re some of our most memorable stays.
Great question as we have just made some changes in this department. For the past 2 years we’ve been on contract: Me with AT&T and Nikki with Verizon. My phone only worked 70% of the time while hers worked 95% of the time. Now we have just upgraded to Verizon 4G and it’s literally 10x faster than our old 3g phones. Nikki is still grandfatherd in on an unlimited plan with Verizon so we both share her phone and tether it to our computers for internet. It’s a bit of a hassle considering it’d be nice to use the wifi hotspot, but that would be another $20 per month.
We traveled for years for my husbands work. My son spent his first six years traveling with us in an rv. Recently when we found out we are having another baby we decided to not do that anymore. He found another job and we stay home. Let me tell you it is a hard adjustment. We miss traveling more than anything. Life is so much more simple that way. You have less stuff. You don’t have the up keep of a Home and yard. You don’t run around busy every night to a bunch of obligations. Oh how we miss it. So much more time outside. Freedom. Seeing new places. This conventional life is much harder. We miss our rv. We have not sold it yet. The thing is we want our son to go to school and make long term friendships. He made a lot of friends on the road. But it’s different. Most of them he will never see again. Home schooling was fine I didn’t mind. We thought being home was what we wanted. Now all we want to do is go back on the road. Hahahaha. We miss it so much. Plus he made way more money. Not sure we can survive staying in one place like this. Doing for the kids! We saw so many amazing places. Coast to coast.
You can spend your time in fancy RV resorts that cost up to $100 per night, or at state and county parks that are typically $30 or under per night. On-base campgrounds are usually inexpensive, sometimes as low as $20, but they don’t always give you that “local” experience. We chose a mix, mostly staying in mid-range campgrounds both on and off base, as well as some national, state and city parks. We even stayed at a fairgrounds in Mariposa, California, near Yosemite. Boondocking wasn’t for us – we typically stayed in places that had water, sewer and electricity hook ups.
Many RV parks have laundry facilities on-site, and some full-timers purchase RVs equipped with a washer and dryer. We like to use the local laundromat in town. We can do four, five or six loads of laundry in two hours flat. We use the biggest front loading washers in the laundromat we can find because they are usually the best ones both for washing and for spinning dry. Laundromats can be a great place to meet people and learn about an area. In Flagstaff, Arizona, if you want to meet Navajo Indians, go to the local laundromat, preferably on a Saturday when it’s busy!
I love it in Breckenridge! One of our all time favorite places to stop along our route from CA east and back is Copper Mountain .. last time we took the wonderful bike trail from Copper to Breckenridge .. was a lovely ride (until we had the brilliant idea to ride back up .. which I’d not advise unless you’re in amazing shape and / or used to the altitude :P)
But Yankee ingenuity prevailed on the part of our fellow campers. The gang put their heads together to deal with the trials of winter RVing. One guy had a large pickup that was not street legal, but could get around the campground. Another woman had a relative nearby with a big portable water tank they used on their farm. It fit in the back of the truck and held 300 gallons of water. Another guy had a pump that would pump water from the supply tank to RV fresh water holding tanks.
[…] The down-time is also giving us some space to plan our next steps. In the last big storm we discovered yet another leak in…guess what?…our”big” slide on the front drivers side of the rig. This same slide, and the woes of getting it fixed was the very reason we rushed ~1000 miles cross-country to Oregon almost 3 years ago. Back then the main problem was in the back of the slide near the fridge. Now, the front has moved out of alignment with the front edge dangerously close to catching under the rim of the RV. Simply put it’s just a poorly engineered design and we should never have bought a rig with a heavy object like the fridge in it (one of our “10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Fulltime RVing“). […]
The RV furnace is designed to keep the interior warm even under the most frigid conditions. However, the longer the furnace runs, the faster the propane burn. I always lowered the furnace temperature or turned it off when I was cooking, as the heat from the stove more than sufficiently heated the entire RV. At night, I lowered the furnace to 55 degrees and used electric heating blankets. On less cold nights, I used electric space heaters to supplement and conserve of propane burn. Never set the thermostat lower than 55 degrees during cold months. Temperatures below this could cause internal water pipes and tanks to freeze or crack.
First up is getting space heaters for inside your RV. We used a combination of two space heaters, one being our fireplace and the other a small space heater we picked up. For those of you who winter camp you probably already know the cost of propane can add up quick if you are using it as your only source of heat. With space heaters you’re able to generate heat without burning propane. By using space heaters you’ll be able to go longer in between propane fill ups, saving you money and time.
It is imperative to keep one tank full at all times. When selecting which tank is being used, select the option that restricts gas draw to only one tank at a time. This guarantees a full tank is available when the tank in use runs empty. Switch to the full tank, remove the empty and promptly get it refilled. I always kept a small five gallon propane tank in reserve just in case the winter weather prohibited me from getting to a local refill station.
There are several posts out there about how to create DIY skirting on a budget, or you can get fancy with it and pay for professional skirting kits. Keep in mind how long you’ll be staying in cold temperatures and if you’ll need something you can take on the road with you, or if you only need to use it temporarily. I say this because while some materials may be cheaper, they may not be as easy to store later on.
Gift Cards – If the gift card is for a full-time RVer, try to stick to larger national chains or internet stores like Amazon. Even though RVers take their kitchens with them, it’s still nice to not have to cook all the time so restaurant gift cards are nice as well. Or an Amazon Prime Membership is a great gift for full-time RVers if they don’t already have one. Our Prime Membership made getting items while traveling full-time so much easier.
Next came starting a family. We started with 1, then unexpectedly got pregnant with twins, then had 1 more. So, in 4 short years we went from no kids to a family of 4 plus 2 dogs. During this time our house continued to fill up with more and more things. We literally had every toy you could imagine, and our friends would come over to have their kids play at our house so they could figure out what to buy their kids for Christmas. Seriously, we had that many toys.
This number will depend on whether or not they are hitting the road with a job. We’d recommend six months of RV living costs if you don’t have a job, and three months if you do. A lot of things can go wrong during those few months on the road, and you want to be prepared for it. This sounds obvious, but worth pointing out—don’t spend more than you have!
*Most will also utilize a water heating system with radiators (running on propane or diesel), here there is no added humidity from heating with the propane/diesel. Air heating is also used, but the air is collected from the inside, and not the outside of the RV, so no added humidity from the condensation formed where cold air meets warm air. However you do need to ventilate in addition to using the heater, if not your own breathing will use up your oxygen and add a lot of humidity.
Chris, I live in Maine and this will be my first winter in my rv. I’m stationary but running a hose which is all outside, I don’t have the means to run heat tape but really have been looking for any possible way to keep running water. I have skirting the bottom with hay bails and plastic for drafts and wrapped my bump outs with insulation and plastic. I’m hoping to add an entryway with a wood stove for back up heat. do you have any other suggestions on what else to do so I don’t freeze up my lines in the brutal cold ? Thank You 🙂
Our second year of homeschooling, we enrolled the boys in a new a hybrid classical school. It was a fantastic year blending the best of both worlds. The boys were home with us four days a week and went to school three days a week. They got the benefits of a classroom setting, like positive peer pressure (and a teacher who could keep up with Latin) and I got a break. Since I didn’t need to create schedules, choose curriculum, and find social opportunities our homeschool days were even more relaxed. The one thing I would have changed about this year was math. At the time, the school used Saxton which turned out to be a poor fit for both boys. Not only was it boring but it was less advanced than their previous curriculum. When we went back to homeschooling the following year we had to go back a year in Singapore.
Many people dream of living in an RV and traveling full time, and for the most part, it’s retirees who are able to live the RV lifestyle. However, there are many young people who are intrigued by the freedom that RVing full time represents. They are hitting the open road as well. One of the first questions prospective full time RVers of all ages ask is – how much will it cost each month?
One way to go fulltime and cut expenses is work camp. We have met many people that do this and save a lot of money. Food,insurance,any rv repairs,health insurance are really your only large expenses. Only con is if you still have a lot to see or do not want to work at all this will not be an option for you. And thank you for all the work you put into site very informative.
We are all electric with no propane, now what? Hydronic heating (Aqua Hot) can rely upon a diesel burner for furnace instead of propane. As you correctly pointed out diesel additive is necessary to keep the fuel liquid. We have learned that even though we treat our fuel it remains very cold. Cold diesel doesn’t completely burn and the exhaust can be very smokey and very smelly.
Pellet Stove – This device will warm up an RV faster and more efficiently than any other heater we’ve seen. The good news is there is zero moisture produced from the heat, the built in fan uses a fraction of the electricity of a space heater and it’s a pretty eco friendly option for heating. The downsides: Install is a crazy mod to both the inside and outside of your RV. If the fan shuts down (i.e. when boondocking and you run out of battery power) you now have a smoke filled RV. Takes up a lot of space so is best for larger RV’s. You have to carry and store large, heavy wood pellets in your RV. Some models you are required to vacuum out the ashes which can be a pain make sure you look at the pellet stoves with a removable ash tray.
Anyway, what a great life you are living, I love it but want to be more stealth than you are so I can park anywhere. I just spent a few months off and on in Canmore Alberta and you could tell who the guys in the campers were and I met a few who had stealth down to a science. They were totally off the grid and didn’t leave their unit physically where they slept and the vehicles just looked like PMVs with a couple of quirky things on them like low stacks and vents. The cube will look just like a work truck with exterior tool box doors except for the furnace exhaust but many work trucks are heated so I will have an edge.
Hi Jill, I pinned a picture you have on pinterest. Bright orange poppies with LOTS of ruffled petals. Love them!! My grandmother had them in her yard when I was a child. I cannot seem to find any seeds like them for sale. All other types of poppies but not these. Interested in selling a handfull? Please le me know. I will pay for the seeds, the envelope, postage and your time!!
For my kids, having friends that dont change with the scenery and being involved in extracurricular activities is something that I consider essential to their development. Is it possible to live and travel in an RV full time and still give your kids the social experiences and social stability they’d have if they were living full time in one community?
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Thanks for the financial breakdown, it’s very instructive. I appreciate your honesty! while I may think you spend some more than I may spend, I fully see the needs, that you guys have considering your particular circumstances. I am also a full time RVer. 32′ ’84 Itasca WindCrusier I love the old aerodynamic body style, but it’s nowhere near as roomy as the newer boxier models w/ slideouts. Because of it’s age and condition I’ve had to rebuild or repair or replace: Transmission, brakes, powersteering pump (includes power brakes), batteries, gas gauge sender, damaged ceiling from too heavy of a factory ac unit, Fridge. yet to repair: Fridge again, (gas side), furnace motor, cab heater to floor control (defrost works just fine) At this time in my life I do handyman work, currently doesn’t allow much full timing on the road. although I have taken time off between jobs to travel all over the Pacific Northwest from my base in Auburn, WA to Coeur d’Alene, ID, to Mountian Grove near Grant’s Pass, Or to Corvallis, to Portland to Windward near Goldendale, WA and back to Auburn for most of last summer.
Diesel can freeze! Make sure you fill with winterized diesel which you can find at most truck stops. If you can’t find winterized diesel you need to purchase an additive that will keep your diesel from freezing (you can find this at auto part stores and truck stops). Before you depart your destination you should plug in the heating element found in your diesel engine (most diesel engines have a heated core that you can plug into a wall to keep them from getting too cold) to warm up your engine at least 4 hours before taking off.
Neither of us knew anything about RVs. My parents and I lived in a small travel trailer off and on for three years when I was in elementary school, and Mark’s family lived in one for a few months while his dad was transferring jobs, Other than that, neither of us had spent any time in an RV since we were kids. While Mark had towed several big boats and U-hauls, neither one of us had ever towed even a small camper, let alone a king-sized RV like those you see on the roads today.
I remember reading this a few years back when purchasing our first second hand motorhome and finding it most helpful. I was wondering if you still felt the same so thanks for your updates! Based on our experience at this pointI would make a minor qualification to #4 regarding heavy items on the slide out. And this probably varies between makes, models, and slide mechanics. I would avoid a design with heavy items on a “ramp” slide, but don’t feel it really makes any difference on slides that stay level and travel in and out on strong rollers. The ramp slide has to go uphill when retracting and that causes a lot of strain on the motor and rails, the others though slide easily even with a heavy load. Our large passenger side slide has the entire galley, a 20 cu ft fridge and a pantry filed with a lot of bottles and cans. Large rollers and a tile floor allow it to move easily and without strain.
First and foremost, not all RVs are ideal for full-timing. The most common types of RVs that full-timers use are Class A motorhomes (which can be powered by gas or diesel fuel), Class C Motorhomes, Fifth Wheel Trailers (including Toy-Haulers), and lastly, Travel Trailers. Truck Campers, Class B motorhomes, and Tent Trailers are not traditionally good choices for full-timers.
We’ve got the Optimus heat dish and yes it is kinda big. But we are in a cold wet environment so we put up with the large size because is works so well. It will not fit in a compartment. A guy I used to work with was an RV tech, who lived in his RV for two years up here in the Northwest, and he told me to get a light bulb (one with the grips on it) and put it in your compartments. I did that this winter (our first in the RV) and we withstood temps down to 15 degrees F. This friend also recommended heat tape on the fresh water line. That worked great too.
Emergency Fund – The most important part of savings is your emergency fund. Conventional wisdom suggests you should have at least six months of expenses in a savings account. I know a lot of people scoff at the idea of a traditional savings account where you might only earn 1% interest annually. However, if you think about it anything is better than earning 0%, or not having savings and going into credit card debt for emergencies, which will cost you 10% in interest or more.
I was really disappointed with this book. As a few others have stated, it's very poorly written, with many many repeated sentences and concepts. The Chapter 2 "111 tips to get you started in our New RV Lifestyle" are inane, in no discernible order and include such gems as: 77: HOT RUNNING WATER-Most RV's have a boiler to heat up water. 78: SHOWER-Larger RV's have a shower with hot running water. Or 81: COLD FOOD-The larger your RV, the better your kitchen facilities will be. A fridge is top of the list on most kitchenettes, some even have freezer compartments. I literally read the entire book in about 30 minutes between clients at work. Most of the time with an open-mouthed, "DUH" expression on my face. *sigh*
Been trying to convince my husband for YEARS that we should do what you are doing. I just recently got him to start the process of selling our “big-popular-neighborhood-expensive-house-that-requires-two-incomes-but-we-really-can’t-afford-anyway” and buy a fixer-upper on more land with no HOA. We already have a buyer (our neighbor’s inlaws) and just need to settle on a price which is hard considering the foreclosures in the last few years. While we’ve been looking at what is available in our north GA area, we have literally turned up our noses at the listings that are “just a trailer” on land. What a snob I have become. Time to change the way I look at these things.
When the temperatures dip below freezing, we make sure to run our propane heater so it can blow into our storage bay and keep our pipes and tanks warm. But we use electric heat as backup for when we run out of propane in the middle of the night (because sometimes we are irresponsible and forget about our propane tanks) and because it’s cheaper for us as a main source of heat when the temperatures are above freezing.
How do we do it? We do 99% of our spend through credit cards (where we actively collect points too**) and I’m old-fashioned so I import all my bank & card data into an Excel spreadsheet. I do this every month, allocate each line to a category (e.g. entertainment, RV parks, insurance, groceries etc.) and then churn out a pretty pivot table to display it in one place. I’ve been tracking our spend this way for over 13 years and before that I used paper, so I literally have detailed spend numbers going back to when I was around 17 years old (crazy, I know).
Variable expenses are the ones that fluctuate from month to money and in RVLife you actually have a LOT of control over these expenses. As you’ll see in our Lodging/Camping expenses category, we have been able to significantly decrease this expense over the years by getting better at free boondocking and utilizing RV Clubs like Boondockers Welcome, Harvest Hosts, and Thousand Trails. However, if you decide to park in an RV Resort in downtown San Diego for example, it could cost you upwards of $1000 per month.
Theresa first let me say YOU GO GIRL! Lots of women travel alone, so you won’t be the only one but many women are too afraid to travel alone, so yeah for being brave! I would join a group like NuRvers and/or fulltime families. There are lots of great people to meet up with along the way so you will feel a part of a community and it gives you a broad group of people to reach out to if you are having any issues or questions.
This is an excellent post, Nina. People ask us all the time what it costs to RV full time, and we’ve come up with just about the same answer as you —we figure $3500 for a comfortable and varied lifestyle that includes a mix of state and federal parks, some boon docking, occasional expensive RV resorts, and camp hosting. We travel a lot of miles every year driving from the Pacific Northwest to Florida and back, which I realize isn’t typical.
Since our business is cutting edge technology, this is pretty essential stuff to our livelyhood and keeping up to date is what allows us to be mobile. We upgrade our tech early and often. Our computers are rarely more than 3 years old and we usually have the latest iGadgets released (we are app developers and need to test on the latest and greatest after all).
When you live in an RV, you adopt a mantra: one in, one out. There just isn’t the room to collect things. We started paring down our collection of stuff in preparation for living in an RV, but once you're in it, the lack of extra storage space really helps to curtail any retail therapy you may employ. The fact that we no longer watch much TV and even fewer commercials means we're not as bombarded by messaging to buy, buy, buy and have less impulse to go shopping. We now collect memories and sunsets with a few smashed pennies and stickers thrown in for good measure.