here is my question. When purchasing an rv, at what length of a loan should we be looking at? the longer the lone the higher the interest rate and the longer to pay down. which also brings up the question of, how long should i expect to keep a motor home before I start to have many repairs? How long do most rv’s keep their rv before they trade in for a new model? I dont want to be upside down when the time comes to trade.
We’re Millenials, so we can relate to the desire to have new and shiny stuff we can’t afford. A lot of Millenials these days want instant gratification: we want what our parents have without realizing it took them 30-40 years to get there. Who wouldn’t want a big $200-300k diesel pusher? As a young, first time RVer, with less disposable income than most retirees, buy used! RVs depreciate faster than just about any other purchase. Buying used can save you a huge amount of money. Most people use their RV about 4 weekends out of the year, so “used” models are almost new. You can save $10k-50k buying a year or two used. Plus, used RVs usually have all the bugs worked out. New RVs have more issues than used ones. Don’t be surprised for your brand new RV to spend 3-4 months in the shop the first year, getting all the bugs worked out from the warranty. If you buy an RV that’s a year or two or 10 old, the bugs will already have been fixed under warranty.
We have setup our lifestyle as a lifestyle of freedom. No set schedules or times that we really need to be anywhere and our reservations can always be changed. This is amazing yet causes problems. Since our time is ALL ours. We could all stay in our pajamas all day if we wanted to every day. Of course we can’t do that because we do have to work and the kids won’t sit still that long.
Fuel – Before entering freezing temps make sure to add a Diesel Anti-Gel Supplement.  Both Cummins and Freightliner recommend the Power Service brand of anti-gel claiming that it works best.  After adding the supplement make sure you drive and run the Generator to get the additive inside the fuel lines.  If possible fuel up with a winter blend fuel which can be found at many truck stops during the winter.
Living in a camper, RV, trailer whatever you want to call it is a wild ride filled with amazing travels! We have also realized that living this life has made us appreciate a lot of things that we took for granted when we lived in a house. RV living is definitely a different kind of living. Being on the road means there are really good times and also times of frustration and struggles where you miss the comforts of a house.
My wife found your site last night and we love it. Next year around June we are looking to go full time RVing. We have a 2013 Tundra with a 4.0 v6 to pull at the most a 22ft. trailer. We’ll probably look to install a larger radiator and tranny cooler first and will be going with the anti sway bars setup. We lived in a 34ft. motorhome for a year in Sacramento in a trailer park in 2007 with 2 dogs and a cat who adopted us (he was left behind from one who moved out, we still have him along with another and a golden retriever). We plan to stay with the truck and smaller trailer for a year or so to see how it goes. We’ll do some boondocking, and mostly look to stay someplace for a month at a time, and work camping.
That’s a pretty big size nut for living in an RV. $1100 for the month for lot rent seems rather against the tenets of tiny house living which seeks to reduce your overhead. Throw in laundry and utils cost and you’re about $1300/month. I can lease a darn nice house around here for a lot less. One other thing I’m confused about is you say you pay $600/year for auto/trailer insurance and then your monthly budget is $196. That doesn’t add up.
O really DO appreciate how you have listed your expenses, especially the “before” posts that listed everything, because we are just in the PLANNING stages of a full time, 3+ month, RV trip. We haven’t even bought an RV or trailer yet; still going through the pro’s and con’s of which way would be best for us. Since budget is a huge concern, we needed to know all the nitty-gritty “small stuff” that still adds up. I’m sorry you have had to deal with the culture of “rude” from people hiding behind a keyboard. I’m sure some questions may have been relevant, but some judgements could be held. You’re just human beings, after all. Not a major company required to do meticulous research with charts, graphs, scientific evidence and everthing else these people seem to require. It’s obviously anectdotal. Thanks again! I truly appreciate it!

2017 Update – TOTALLY. I still recommend a contract-free approach whenever possible. This gives you the flexibility to sign-up to the best plans (and offers) whenever they became available which has improved our own set-up and saved us many $$ over the years. The whole Mobile Internet landscape has changed dramatically since 2011 (e.g. Millenicom is now caput and gone), but there are still many contract-free options for mobile travelers. You can read about our current internet, phone & boosting set-up HERE.
When we first started RVing we signed up to just about every camping club out there, Sam’s Club, Escapees, Club USA etc. In retrospect (again because of where/how we like to camp) these were not worth it. The only camping club I currently consider is Passport America, mostly for short stops and I do like the Escapees Days End list, but even these have mostly been replaced by overnight “freebies” when we need them. The rest of the time we’re out in nature/boonies where club memberships do not go. For some people clubs are great and they can certainly be cost saving if you make use of them, but for us they’ve simply not made the cut.
Sure, it means you may have to wait a little while ‘till you can afford it, but it’ll be worth it. We all want to be on the road ASAP, and there’s a certain excitement to throwing caution to the wind and going for it, but we always recommend being financially prepared first. There’s no need to add financial stress to your RV experience. Buy what you can afford, or save ‘till you can afford what you want.
We made the transistion slowly. (Our son is very resistant to change.) Each day we’d play out in the camper a little longer and slowly move his toys into it. Finally after about 2 weeks of this and moving things over we spent the night and didn’t have any issues! I’m not sure what we would do differently, we are pretty happy with how everything has gone. Our RV is a 39 foot bunkhouse. (So it has 2 rooms)
I hate to say this, but were I starting all over, I’d go with a 2009 – 2014 or so Ford E150 with low miles (probably run around $15000), build out the camper myself, pay someone to put a pop top on it (that’s big money though, $7k more or less) and spend more of my time traveling than working on this old girl. At this point, of course, I am in love with our VW and wouldn’t make the choice outlined in this paragraph. 🙂
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
The most inefficient part of RVs are the windows, which are usually thin, single-pane windows. Go to a fabric shop and get several yards of really thick, oven-mit fabric. Measure out your windows and cut and sew up some custom curtains. If I did not have really good, thick curtains on my windows, even with the wood stove, I would be really cold. The drafts you feel from the windows alone are pretty impressive, and curtains will help mollify that.

These kinds of activities are difficult to do when you pack up and move every week or two. They require a long term commitment. We could have sat still for months at a time in campgrounds but that isn’t why we bought a house with wheels. And even if we did stay put for months at a time, it wouldn’t address the real issue consistency and friendship. The boys would know that goodbye was just around the corner and that was hard for them.

You could also go the old-fashioned route and pick up some actual board games to take on the road. many lifelong camping memories revolve around evenings spent at the table over a pair of dice, a deck of cards, and a game of chance and strategy. You can’t go wrong with favorites like Monopoly, Scrabble, Sorry or, for younger players, Candy Land — although fun, new games are still being produced all the time. Have you played Speak Out yet?
Departure – Before you depart the campground in cold weather turn on the engine block heater for a minimum of 4 hours and run the generator for 30 minutes with a low-medium load.  This routes the fuel to the generator but not all the fuel is burned.  The fuel that is not burned follows a return line back to the fuel tank, effectively warming up the fuel and giving the engine warm fuel for a better start.  Make sure your engine and transmission have time to warm up before jumping directly onto the highway.
Totally depends on HOW you travel. I have male buddies who travel in vans that live this lifestyle for around $12,000 per year (look up ToSimplify, CheapRVLiving and Van-Tramp in my blog links), and I have friends who use much, much more. I would say you can do it on anything from $1,000/mo to $5,000/mo depending on how far you travel, where you stay, how frugal you are etc.
These kinds of campground membership programs are a complicated, and the companies change the rules as their profitability and growth plan requires. It is best to book your stays 90 days or more in advance and there may also be a complex set of rules to follow regarding staying within the network and outside of it. Sometimes an alternative campground network is offered so you have somewhere similar to stay when it is time for you to stay outside your home network. Two we’ve heard of are Resorts of Distinction and Adventure Outdoor Resorts given as the alternative networks.
When we’re driving in sub-freezing temps we do 2 things: Run the small space heater in wet bay and run a large space heater inside the RV. If you have solar it should keep your batteries charged no problem, otherwise you’ll need to run the generator. We only do this when the temps are around 25 degrees or below outside. Also we have a digital wireless thermometer in the wet bay so we can monitor when it gets too cold.
Good article, I think the initial start up costs (besides repairs to a used unit) could be added to your article. We bugeted $10,000 and after full timing almost a year on the road now, we are fast approaching that number for: tow bar, base plate, braking system, drive shaft disconnect (our choice instead of a new toad) installations, modifications, grill, chairs, road side service, extended warranty, insurance, memberships, hoses, tools, heaters (no lpg available once) fans, tables, ladder, bikes, bike racks, etc.. It adds up fast.
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.

While part-time RVers may love “Home is where you part it” yard signs, cute camper trinkets, and adorable awning lights, the full-time RVer may be less enthusiastic about such gifts. The simple reason most full time RVers are concerned about space and weight and only carry what they really need or love. When your RV is your home, it forces you to be very selective about your belongings. Ask your favorite RVers if there is anything that they need or if you are unsure stick with gift cards or consumables. Please don’t gift your full-time RVing friend or family member large bulky items without asking first. If you really must purchase them a large gift that you think will be just perfect, buy it from a nationwide chain store and include a gift receipt. It’s not that full timers aren’t appreciative, it’s just the reality of living in a small mobile space!
Since selling our house, our monthly bills have decreased. We no longer have utility bills or cable bills. Wahoo! We did finance our RV, but the payment is nowhere near what our house payment was. Spending less on our living expenses has actually allowed us to live more. We are able to travel, have experiences, and buy recreational equipment that we would never have been able to afford before.
If you’re looking to find financial freedom and are willing to make some significant lifestyle changes to do that, then RVing could be a path to achieve that but it is NOT a golden ticket quick fix – it’s a bit more complicated than that. I'd suggest checking out Mr. Money Mustache for some good financial tips and tricks if you're really looking to make some changes in your pocketbook. 
What about carseats? You have young children. Did you tow a vehicle for smaller driving around. My kids r same ages and we are seriously considering doing this. For all the same reasons. I have always considered homeschooling, so that’s not a giant leap. We just started to look I to RVs and 5th wheels. We already have a full sized pick-up our three kids fit in so we wouldn’t need another vehicle. But I’m worried a out the safety of driving a class A without child restraints and wasting valuable schooling time by having then in carseats while driving. How did you make this decision?
Hi! We also celebrated our 2-year nomadiversary the same week as you! I started writing our blog post about it, but realized I was writing almost the exact same points as you did. You really nailed it! So, I hope you don’t mind, I decided to just share your post on my blog post (http://www.liferidingshotgun.com/2016/07/our-two-year-nomadiversary.html). We’re on fb as: Life Riding Shotgun. We wish you all the best and maybe our paths will cross soon!

Great to hear some ideas of traveling in the cold. I will use the skirting idea for sure. This is our first year rving. Never the less traveling from the cold to a warm climate a few times during the winter. I have a smaller motorhome and my water tank is protected already so that is a start. I would like to know if anyone else goes from cold to warm temps a few times in winter and how they plan. As when I get south I would want to use everything as normal. I guess I will try heat tape. Non chemical antifreeze and I have space heaters as well as the furnace. Of course using the skirting as well. Any ideas???
Serge, thanks for sharing your experience / expenses. This is the great thing about travel, it can truly be done on any budget. It’s all about your personal style and what your travel goal is. We are living an affordable luxury lifestyle now but when we transfer to the sail boat in 2014 we are going to try out a super slim buget. It’s going to be all about living off the land (or mostly water). Thanks again for sharing!
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.
Vehicle fuel – If you have a towable, you will need to estimate fuel for “moving days.” This can vary greatly depending on how often and how far you move. Our first year we came up with a rough itinerary with total mileage and an average cost of fuel per mile. In addition, for both tow and towed vehicles, you will need to budget for fuel in the local area.
We only had our little Gypsy cat just over a year when she snuck outside in San Diego during our pre-desert stay. The next month was filled with constant searches, fliers, and talking to anyone in the neighborhood, but we never found her. A short time later, our older cat Dylan was diagnosed with lymphoma. This is something most cats can live with, but six months after losing Gypsy, we lost Dylan, too. We did learn about coordinating intensive long-term medical care for a pet on the road and where all the animal oncologists on the west coast practice. Thankfully, our initial oncologist was so helpful in making sure she was looped in with what was happening along the way that we felt we had a primary vet on staff.
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