Great article, I’m hoping to travel in an RV full-time eventually. In the mean time, I’m still working to support my family and plan for the future. I sell land throughout the western U.S. (those great winter states you mentioned) if anybody wants to own a few acres to park their RV part or full time. See my website, http://www.landparker.com for more details. Thanks!
There really is a lot of variation out there and the variation certainly does match income, as you would expect. Folks on a limited income typically travel more frugally (smaller rigs, more workamping/boondocking, less eating out etc.) and make it work for less, whereas folks on a more abundant income go ahead and spend more. I do think there’s a pretty distinct bottom number (It’s really hard to get below $1500/mo as a couple IMO), but I don’t think there’s necessarily any upper limit. There’s certainly no one answer and no one “right” way…
This RV couple is semi-retired but can’t put the entrepreneur spirit inside of them to rest quite yet. They live in a 1999 Class A motor home, which often needs repairs. However, that is no problem for the mister who is an RV mechanic. Their travel style is very flexible and go with the flow. They typically like to be on the go and tend to travel far and fast, with plans of someday slowing down. They enjoy boondocking as much as possible, particularly where they can enjoy the land and nature and meet interesting people. They love activities of all kinds – outdoor, tourist, city exploration, etc. They are clearly young at heart!
People enjoy the full-time RV lifestyle on all kinds of budgets, and the money full-timers have to work with comes in all kinds of forms. Some retirees have big pensions but not a lot of savings. Others have a nest egg of savings but no pension. Many younger full-time RVers work while they travel, either to cover all of their living expenses or to supplement other income streams.
Inspiring! We are about 6 wks out to our new life on the road (with 3 kiddos & 2 tiny dogs). We are waiting on the final sale of our home, big estate/garage sale (everything will go), sale of our van then bye bye AZ hello open road. Some say we are crazy, many say it’s awesome. I cannot wait. We traveled for almost 4 months several years ago after hubby retired from the USAF & although there were issues here & there, the memories will last & what I treasure most. I love looking back on the photos & reading my posts about what we were doing & where we were. Cannot wait to do it full time for who knows how long. Roadschooling is on my agenda as well. Oh & I agree we can live without so much stuff. What’s the point really?
While some people live with these doubts and continue to chase the same goals pursued by their parents and grandparents as best they can, others are taking a different road—specifically, the highways and state routes crisscrossing the country, on which they travel in their recreational vehicles that they also call home. "A lot of times people view it as running from problems," said Colorado Springs native Dan McKenzie, who along with his wife, Lindsay, (and their two dogs Kyla and Pepper) have embraced full-time RV living. "But it’s actually a strategy for living differently." It's a life free from worries about mortgage payments or keeping up with the rent, and where the glare of the office's fluorescent lighting is replaced by sunshine and open skies.
Switching to an RV lifestyle can be daunting at first, especially with little ones to think about. If the process seems overwhelming, keep in mind that many families have happily lived the full-time RV life before you (check out the ouropenroad or bareneckers Instagram accounts, for example). By considering these seven things before becoming a full-time RV family, you’ll be well on your way to happy travels.
We will be retiring in about 18 mos and my husband has decided he wants us to go full time! Yikes I don’t know what I’ll do all day. We bike, kayak and hike but every day? Will it still be as fun when you can do it all you want? Mainly, I think I’m apprehensive about retiring, I’ve been a nurse 40 years this month and love it, I’ve worked some job or another since I was 16.
The beauty of an RV Extended Warranty is that it picks up where a regular insurance policy leaves off. Our entire trailer is covered for all failures other than regular wear and tear. This includes having the frame crack or slides fail to come in and out or the suspension give up the ghost (it did) or having the air conditioner or refrigerator die (which it did too).
Thank you so much for your kind words! We love to travel to (and hopefully one day we will get to as many places as you’ve been) but having our house on wheels and exploring the USA is wonderful! Congrats on your decision and good luck on your next detour! Thanks so much for reading. If you have any questions about RV life, be sure to check out our resources here https://www.followyourdetour.com/full-time-rv-resources-and-information/
I think a lot of expenses could be eliminated for sure. Dr electric you could easily convert to solar power. Solar panels can be quite inexpensive. The batteries for charging can be costly to purchase but in the long run will save thousands of dollars with solar. You can still hang dry your clothes on hangers in your rv. As far as washing, if you are at a park that provides water/sewage you could easily put in a portable all in one HE washer dryer. May cost around $800-$1200 but again will save $$$ in the long run. Stop eating out. It substandard food anyway and isn’t good for you. If you are all in the rv together on a regular basis, eliminate a phone. There no need for 2phones. If you are writing several letters in a week,unless it’s an emergency, you could have much news to share. I for one would rather have a portable internet connection. That would probably be one of my biggest expenses. Just some suggestions that may cost a bit in the beginning but will end up being the best purchases to save you money over a long period of time.
Hey Timmy. Thanks for the article. I moved in a 1954 Fleet Aire slide in pkup camper mounted on a 1978 GMC 4 by 4 last summer and put in my first Mt. winter. Did really we all things considered. Got to do some upgrades though. New thermal pane windows top the list, along with better insulation along the bottom side of the camper. My outfit is strictly run off of propane which mostly is good, although I do wish I could put in a wood stove – but no room. My heat source is a Little Buddy catalitic heater, and it kept up very well at 25 below with a strong wind. And yes, condensation is also my biggest problem.
Note: Although many or even most cold weather RVers use electric heaters, some people say it’s not safe to do so, and there are horror stories surrounding their use. I am comfortable with our setup and willing to accept any associated risk, but please do your own research and get to know your camper or motorhome’s electrical systems before making the decision to use one.
I make some money blogging, but it’s not a significant portion of our income. I could probably make more if I were more aggressive with product promotion/partnerships and advertising, but it’s simply not my style nor is it the style of the type of writing/blogging I do. I’m very picky about the types of products I promote and work hard to keep my blog honest and relatable. It’s primarily about RV travel and sharing that love of travel online. Everything else is a bonus 🙂
I live in Ga and have an open DFCS case because my son and I stayed in a van. I wanted to buy an RV however I do not know how legal it is to stay in an RV, Im unsure about how I will argue that it is a perfect alternatuve to staying in a van. Do you have any advice on how I can get clearance from DFCS so that my son and I can stay in an RV legally do you know anyone I can talk to about it.
You are going to need a set of solar panels. Forget a generator. I don’t know why almost every RV I ever come across is running a generator. I’m here to tell you that a gas-powered generator is almost completely unnecessary. A good set of solar panels placed properly on your roof (you want at least 60 watts, I’d like to have more one day) will give you enough power every day (even cloudy days) to charge your cellphones, power your lights all night, power the propane furnace for increments when the wood stove isn’t running, and watch movies.
Cover Windows, Doors and Stairwell – It blows me away how much cold air seeps in from the windows, the entry door and the stairwell, by adding insulation to these drafty culprits you can keep the inside of the RV much warmer. Purchase a heavy fabric and make curtains to keep the cold from coming in. You can do fun curtains or you can install snaps/Velcro around the windows and doors to add an extra layer of insulation. Some people use bubble wrap, the bubble insulation, or the R-Max Foam boards which are all practical but do not look very good. For the stairwell have a board cut and adhere insulation to the bottom of it, at night cover the stairwell to keep out the cold air.
That said, if you can manage to get a trailer/truck or Class C (though note that Class C’s, unless you can also afford a small car to tow behind you, make it more difficult to leave your “camp” and drive to the grocery store, etc.) and have some money left over…I could easily see living off of $1600 / month as one person. It’s just about putting your expenses down on paper, then really, and certainly depends on what kinds of places you want to stay / live.
Snowed in- snow is a good insulator no choice when it snows 4′ feet in a night. A pipe vent is good to keep the generator fumes away. Bubble insulation custom cut for each window and door. Velcro in place and then stick to walls and ceiling when not in use. Roll up large pieces and put in corners to store. Works great for the ceiling vent too. Battery operated car blankets are great to keep warm. We also have body warmers, hand warmers, and toe warmers for skiing and for sleeping. Check the door for snow build up often, so you can open the door in the morning after a storm. Leave some snow on the roof if you are driving in icy conditions for traction. Shovel often if snowing during camping. Carbon Monoxide will build up around the bottom of the door. Make sure you have extra batteries and an extra carbon monoxide detector in case of malfunction. If only camping for a few days, freeze is okay. The tanks will thaw when you reach warmer temps. Just keep the liquid levels down in the tanks ie.; grey, black, water. No need to use anti-freeze. If the temps warm up during the day above freezing the tanks will thaw too. If you have access to a dumpster, we use the bags and some dry chemical the toilet. When they fill up we just tie up the bag and dump. It saves room in the black tank. We skip showers for a few days of skiing. We carry 2 sets of chains for the front and back tires, for really dangerous snow and ice travel. Keep the thermostat at a min. temp of 50 degrees. Keep a dehumidifier on the kitchen counter. Put a outside windshield wrap for warmth and to keep the snow off. Four people can usually boondock for several days. Enjoy your winter adventure and don’t forget a couple of shovels.
Suddenly, it started getting dark. Being in denial that the Bigs are actually pretty grown up, I was still worried about them frying their eyeballs. Then someone said, “The sunset is all around us!” I stopped worrying about the Bigs taking off their glasses to soon and spun around to take in the most amazing 360 degree sunset. Next someone else shouted, “Look at the corona!” I pulled off my glasses and, overwhelmed by the beauty and the most pure light I’ve ever seen lost my mind. Lost. My. Mind.
Now, we’re not full-timers, but here’s how we keep our monthly expenses down when we are on the road: Budget, Book Early and Save $$$! In order to save money to increase our travel, we launched a new budgeting strategy several years ago. We began our plan, believe it or not, by shifting our yearly spending. It all began in the fall of 2008 when we completed our holiday spending several months early… by the end of October! Honestly, this is a terrific idea as you will find that most Black Friday Deals have the same pricing for sales offered in October. Seriously! Putting this away early allows us to begin to save and prepare for the following year’s travel season ahead of time. We then start to save money from November through January to use for RV travel! We are always ahead of the game! We book our vacations early and ask for “Early Bird Specials”/ AAA/ Good Sam Member/ or Military Specials for trips we plan to take starting in March and we plan trips through October.
Propane Heater – This device sips propane compared to the furnace installed on your RV, yet it keeps the inside even warmer. Best part is this heater doesn’t use electricity like a space heater but it heats just as well. The downsides: There is no anti-tip shutoff so it’s not good if you have pets. The install can be simple but should be completed by a professional. The propane is un-vented and therefore produces deadly Carbon Monoxide so you must keep a vent open at all times and constantly check your CO detector to make sure it is functioning properly. Also as discussed propane heat produces humidity. Our friends the RV Geeks use this propane furnace and swear by it in their Winter RVing post
The choice between a motorhome and a 5th wheel is very personal. Both have advantages and disadvantages. For example a motorhome is easier to set-up and take-down (very easy for either partner to do alone), but a 5th wheel is cheaper on maintenance (only one engine to take care of). I’ve written a bit more about the pros/cons in other comments (above). Good luck and best of travels to you!
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.
2. Make a plan for your kids’ education: Living in an RV is a rare learning opportunity. Your kids will be home schooled, the only difference being that their home will be on wheels. Your travel destinations are an important part of your kids’ education, so take advantage of historical, geological, and cultural sites as you travel. Alongside math, reading and writing, there are some great on-the-road learning activities you can do with your kids. See Fulltime Families for some great examples of fun DIY activities.
But more important to her than saving money has been the wealth of experiences living in an RV has given her, especially with her son. "We’ve been way more creative about everyday things, making them more fun," she said. "If we lived in a house, I wouldn’t be taking him outside to look at bugs. It's definitely forced me into a whole different level of parenting."
I believe the owners told me everything they new about the RV and weren’t trying to pull the wool over my eyes in any way. They just didn’t know. They only drove it a few hundred miles a couple times a year and probably figured they didn’t need to do a bunch of maintenance on it. Had I known ahead of time all that it needed, I could have offered less or continued looking. – Lesson learned.
Jay, glad to see you decided to write back! Maybe you are referring to the sponsorships we get like our solar from Go Power or our Thousand Trails membership? We do a lot of writing, testing and documenting in exchange for those sponsorships…so it’s a lot of work, not freebies. As for the different ways we have found to save money or great discount programs we do write about those. For example: how to find free camping, fuel saving tips, mexico for dental and the list goes on. If you haven’t already, spend some time on our RV’in page and you’ll learn about a lot of the ways we keep our expenses down. If you can think of some specific questions, please ask away. We are happy to help put you at ease or help prepare you for those unexpected expenses.
The Padgetts quickly reined in their spending by ceasing to treat their new lifestyle like a vacation, where they could always eat out, go on tours of local points of interest and hit up the night life. Their new frugal habits helped them pay off nearly $30,000 in student debt in four years. Their yearly budget in 2014, during which they visited all 48 states on the continent for a documentary, broke down to the following:
The following comparison shows precisely what would be typical for me and my family, which includes mom, dad, three kids (two toddlers and a teenager), and grandma, a family of 6. Your results may vary. The “Home” table reflects averages for the entire US. We then compare it against our own costs, and those of average prices for new and used RVers, except where those costs wouldn’t change based on the rig you have. Links to sources inline.
The key to maintaining a comfortable full-time RVing lifestyle is how they plan to earn money on the road. If they have an online business, then they are in luck, as it is very easy to run an online business from your RV. I easily run our website while traveling for several months in our RV. In some cases, I am sitting by a pool with my laptop and an adult beverage, writing articles and answering Rving questions and uploading them Everything-About-RVing.com.
Looking at 3/4 time RV-ing to start with. Still have a home place to go to with the plan of selling down the road if we like full timing. Presently have a Lance camper in the bed of my truck. have had it for 21 years and has worked great. Would like to go bigger (35′ range) Also would like to tow a small Jeep. any thought on towing and hanging on to a home base for awhile. My wife and I retired in April and took a 2 month trip in the Lance. Had a Great time and we didn’t kill each other. How nice is that. We did put on a lot of miles and next time would spend more time in one spot. We did put on over 450 miles on the ATV during that time and got to see a lot. Thanks.
Prices for LP are all over the map, and we haven’t been very diligent about shopping around. We just buy it when we need it from whoever has it nearby. We’ve been paying anywhere from $2.59/gallon to a little over $4.00 a gallon in 2014. We use about 15 gallons per month: a little more in December/January/February when we use our vent-free propane heater to heat the trailer, and less in summer. RVers that stay in RV parks and campgrounds with electric hookups use a lot less propane than this, because they don’t run their refrigerator on propane 24/7. If you have hookups and don’t have metered electricity, you can save on propane costs in the winter by using an electric space heater.
Fast internet access: You know that smokin' fast internet connect you have at home? You can pretty much forget about that as a full-time RV camper. Yes, there are options for getting reasonable internet speeds while on the road, but none of them matches the speed and simplicity that comes with a home broadband connection. Decent campground wifi access is a luxury, not the rule. Some places offer wifi for a fee; some offer it for free. A lot of campgrounds don't offer Internet access at all. Since we are working, we tend to plan our route around where wifi is offered, or where cellular signals are strong. There is a lot of thought and a fair amount of equipment that goes into keeping connected while on the road. That's a blog post for the future, by the way.
Just wanted to thank you for all the really helpful info here on your website- We just recently have made the decision to sell the house , take an early retirement and dive into the rv life full time. Problem was we didn’t know didn’t know diddly! We have a 5 year plan to get all our ducks in a row to full fill this dream but need to know so many things before hand.and you both are a goldmine of useful experiences and information- if you don’t know something you lead us in the right direction and that is all one can ask.
There is an RV ready to match your dream. Use your vacation RV trips to test different rigs. If you are visiting off-the-beaten-track tourist nooks and wilderness sites a more maneuverable RV could be preferable to a motorcoach. Or your dream RV just may not have as much room as you need to live on the road full time comfortably. Be honest with yourself up front and you will save yourself the hassle of trading up or down in your first few years untethered from a home base.
Lovely to “meet” you on the blog! You know regarding safety the *only* time I’ve ever felt even close to unsafe is in the center of big cities. We had one incident (in San Antonio) a few years back that sent us running, but other than that I’ve never felt unsafe. Whenever we’re in smaller cities or the boonies I’ve always felt perfectly fine. So, I guess I’d recommend getting out of the bigger spots and into some more rural areas…more space for the boys too?
• We are NOT living on a shoestring budget. We work on the road, so we need special items to keep our business growing, and since we’re in front of the camera we need nice looking clothes so we’re presentable and respectable. We enjoy a bottle of Champagne and a fine dinner once and a while, granted we cook in most nights but we do splurge every now and then. In our opinion we’re living modestly and we’re sharing our expenses so you can learn from our budget and hopefully it will help you project yours. Let’s call our style of living AFFORDABLE LUXURY!
Annual maintenance costs will vary depending on the type of RV, age, mileage, driving conditions, and other variables. If you are towing a trailer, the maintenance costs for the RV could be less, but you need to maintain the tow vehicle, too. A used motorhome might require more maintenance expense than a new motorhome would, simply due to age. And the more mileage you put on the tow vehicle and/or RV, the more frequently the routine maintenance expenses add up. You also need to consider things on the RV or tow vehicle that wear out over time, like tires, brakes, windshield wipers, and the additional expenses for emissions testing, inspections, license plate renewal fees, and taxes.
For toys/kids stuff we are building a special area for his clothing. Baby things are hard to hang up so I’d rather have drawers. Toys will have one area in the camper. That way it’s all contained in one spot, we can have minimal things, and there is always a place for the toys to go back to. I also plan on having a special area with learning things. Paper, markers, stickers, any activities that we will do together. We can think of this as our “school drawer.”
I’m still unsure how to do the RV thing with a loud, hyperactive, VERY PHYSICAL little boy and his currently-learning-to-crawl baby sister, particularly in inclement weather (including not just storms but 110 F with a furnace breeze, or stupid-cold and wet). And how does a little one play outside safely without a fence at times when the parents have to be doing something else (cleaning, cooking, whatever) and he has no older sibling? Hubby and I want to travel for a good chunk of each year and homeschool/roadschool, but we’ve never traveled with little kids and we’re kind of grimacing at the thought of some of the practicalities, though I’m sure some of it is just a matter of having so little insight into a whole new paradigm :-1
However, this is extremely personal. We are of the mentality of having a solid savings account before heading off. Stuff is going to come up: you’ll need new tires, or a new transmission, or you’ll decide you want a huge battery bank with solar and a monster inverter. You’ll want some money socked away to handle these issues as they arrive. A lot of young RVers are living paycheck to paycheck, and they have a tough time making their savings account grow. While that can be fun and exciting (and it certainly works for some people), we recommend having a solid amount of money in savings first. We didn’t feel comfortable leaving until we had $20k+ in our savings. What if you’re unemployed for a few months? What if something big goes out? We think it’s better to be prepared. There’s no one dollar amount that’s going to be ideal for everyone, but we think it’d be smart to have 6-12 months of living expenses in your savings account before heading off.
Enjoy your thoughts and insight. BUT…..(yes, I’m a BUT gal), you obviously have plenty of finances w/cushion should you have unexpected expenses on the road. It is not so “go for it” when one is a BABYBOOMER, widowed Gal, whose main income is Social Security ($1500). It gets tricky. I’ve lived from Tokyo to Stockholm and all over the USA. Full timed a while crossing the country 12 times. Currently stuck in South Texas and loathe it. (formerly resided in Las Vegas, Beverly Hills, Miami, Honolulu, Tokyo and Palm Springs – the total opposite of anything in Texas. It’s a long sstory.) So, tell me where should I begin? I’m thinking New Mexico or north Arizona. Avoid DRUG TRAFFIC is an obvious concern; yet, too isolated places are risky ALONE for a petite gal. Not interested in mid-west/east coast: been there done that. Need SUN. That limits much of the US. Any advice or introspection welcome. Guess it’s a future choice of in the “rocking chair or on the road”.
I’ll never regret our four years of full time RVing. The education and life experiences the boys received are priceless. The memories are too numerous to count. Our relationships grew in so many ways. We squeezed every last delicious drop out of full time RVing. So far they have been the best four years of our life but I’m hopeful we will seek out new adventures and the lessons we learned we will carry into our new chapter.
Great article! We have 2 young boys (4 and 8 month) and we are strongly considering this full-time. Working in a downtown setting feels like my soul is being sucked out of me everyday. We were originally inspired by the documentary Surfwise. Must be great to sit around a fire every night or lay under the stars with your kids instead of staring at a TV. Im in the middle of launching 2 online businesses and planning on quitting job in July. Maybe we’ll see you out there!
Use your andriod phone for internet service it’s extremely cheap if you have a prepaid cell plan. you pay extra $10 for hotspot unlimited cell and net service.There’s a device called autonet which can provide 4g speed to for asmall fee.The device it self seela for under $300but, it’s worth it cause you move from the rv to the house.The best part is with autonet you can access any tv shows via the net.
Were newbies and it feels like a whole new life style. Pro’s and con’s are always welcome! Based out of Fla. was the first right thing we did! Just finding the right camp ground in northern Fl. is a hassle. Does anyone know which are the best? We like the social life style. We have dogs and would love to hear from dog lovers as to which parks are the best dog friendly parks?