So I might know where I am supposed to go but getting there is always interesting – what lane turns right, can I do a U-turn here, I see where I want to go but how the heck do I get in there and where is parking? We eventually find everywhere but it isn’t always easy. Then there is the fun of grocery shopping in a new grocery store every week . . .
I ran across your post during my search for RV cost of living. I just recently semi-retired at 48 and was wondering what this lifestyle would cost. I’m always amused (read frustrated) by how many readers make critical comments about other people’s decisions on how to spend their money. “You pay $1100 for space rent? I boondock in a slaughter house parking lot with a view of a brick wall for free!” or “You spend money on fancy craft beer? I only drink grain alcohol mixed with Capri Sun, or I’ve sober since 1989, you need to meet Bill W.” Myself, I want freedom that’s why I chose to change my lifestyle. That said, I like being near a beach. I like “resort” style living with a pool and a jacuzzi. I love eating in great restaurants. I appreciate you breaking this down in a realistic way, its given me some food for thought.
$2,070 Cat Expenses: For safety we had to board our cats for several days during the festivals we attended, and for 3 weeks during our Best of the Road competition. Singa had to visit the vet for a cut in his eye from chasing lizards into the brush, and both cats got caught up on their shots/vaccinations. This price also includes their Food, Litter, and Wild Caught Salmon from the grocery story (yes they’re a little spoiled)
That said, it is not for everyone. We have met very few full-time RVers who boondock as much as we do. Most people who enjoy boondocking, or “free camping,” do it from 25% to 75% of the time, at most. For full-timers who work, it is hard to find a boondocking location near most jobs, and you have to pack up and go to the RV dump station every 10 days to 2 weeks, disrupting your life. Even if your work is location independent, and you work out of your RV, finding good boondocking locations that have adequate internet access to do that is not easy. During the summer of 2014 we spent 5 weeks camping in places that were 10 miles or more from the nearest internet access.
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.
In fact, we created Finance Your Detour, a 4-step budgeting program to help others implement a budget in order to afford to travel more, or really, do whatever it is that makes YOU feel more alive! The program includes a budgeting tool that we designed, video tutorials on how to use it, as well as video lessons and worksheets to help you understand how to budget successfully in order to reach your financial goals. You can check it out here.
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."
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.
This includes both truck and full-time RV insurance for our 5th wheel trailer. We pay it annually, but the monthly cost is shown. If we had kept our Arizona home address, this line item would have been twice as much. There is more detailed info on the selection of a domicile (home address) and the implications that choice has on your vehicle insurance in the fulltiming section.
4. Skirting as you pointed out is an absolute must: I love the snow piled up, cost effective and highly efficient. What if there’s no snow? Home Depot or Lowes or ? sell the reflective bubble insulation in 15″ widths up to 5′ widths. The narrow widths can be used to skirt the sides and they can be held in place by the basement doors. You may need to make cuts to go over hardware but are very effective.
Love, Love your posts! We have listed our home for sale and are searching for our RV. We are excited with caution. We have children across the USA and found there is no reason to stay put any longer. Because of your posts we have a lot of reading to do. It has taken several weeks to find your blog and thankfully we did. My parents lived in RV’s after retirement until they had to come home for their final journey. So, I remember well their travels. Need more information on the address matters. We were going to have our mail forwarded to us as we will be slow moving from place to place. Thank you for all the information.
I mean come on now, RV living with kids means we are together literally 24/7 so it is bound to happen! And it does. There are days when we are all at our wits end and just don’t want to be together anymore. These are usually the days when we will jump in the car and go for a ride so everyone can be in their car seat, contained, and just relaxing – with the TV on and an iPad in hand. And we don’t feel guilty about it!
So interestingly enough we’ve not seen much of an inflation factor impact in our budget over the last 7 years. For example fuel prices have varied enormously during our time on the road (anywhere from $2.00 to $4.50 per gallon), yet our fuel numbers have not really reflected those changes simply because we adjusted how far we traveled each year. I DO think it’s good practice to add an inflation factor to any budget you look at (we do this in our long-term retirement budget planning too), but you may find the actual impact (once you’re on the road) to be less than you expect.
Since we rarely move more than two or three times a year, we are huge fans of plywood skirting, most of which we can pick up for next to nothing at building sites and dumps. We tape fiberglass panels, sealed in Mylar. to the wood and it works extremely well. We haven’t found we’ve needed any additional heating under the rig, but then we don’t leave a lot of space for air to accumulate.
I didn’t grow up thinking I would be an entrepreneur and it wasn’t a goal of mine until it was. Now that we have gone down this path it is empowering to see that we can make our own money. That we can set our own schedule, that we can sleep in on a Monday and work on a Sunday or really whenever we want to. The freedom is stressful, but also exciting!
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.
By 2015, our trailer was 8 years old, and signs of wear were beginning to show. Unfortunately, when it rains, it pours, and we had four major unexpected repairs that totaled $6,782. The repairs included a trailer axle replacement, an RV refrigerator replacement, extensive plumbing repairs including a fresh water tank replacement, and a complete suspension replacement underneath the trailer.
Slide outs – Are slide outs a must? If so how many and where? Two slide out bunkhouse trailers tend to put one in the back bedroom and another one in the middle living area. Three slide out trailers have a few more options. Some have one in the back bedroom and two in the middle. Others have two in the back bunkroom and one in the middle. A few have one in each room. Regardless, if we decide we “need” slide outs, we are trying to decide if we want more space in the living room or bedrooms. We are leaning towards extra living room space but trying to decide how important double living room slide outs are to us.
It seems like we are always planning our next move (in more way then one). I am ok with this since I like planning. But it can be overwhelming! When you don’t know where you are going to be parking the next month you need to make decisions and make a plan and it isn’t always easy. But again it is fun and worth it and over time this part gets easier.
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.
Brent and I gave it our best to make full time RVing work for them as teens. We met up with road friends and family regularly. We traveled with other families when the opportunity arose. We spent two winters in the mountains snowboarding. We took Thing 1 to a music camp. We sought out opportunities for Thing 2 to pursue interests like gold panning. We let them have a say in the travel planning. We found online classes when we felt like we couldn’t meet their educational needs.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area experiences hot, humid summers, with temperatures approaching or exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit during July and August. Mild winters offer temperatures from approximately 35 to 55 degrees. The months of May and October typically see the highest rainfalls, up to 5 inches, while January typically experiences the lowest rainfall, with an average of less than 2 inches.
After the holidays we got back at it. People started to show more interest in the house, so we knew we needed to do some drastic clearing out. It was an emotional process. I was so attached to the kids’ toys and things – more so than they were! I had to dig deep to get past that. We included the kids in the process and didn’t just take things away, but instead asked them to help make the decisions. They were great with it. They were much quicker to let go of things than I was. It really helped me with the process and to realize, if they could let go so easily then so could I.
I paid cash on a used F250 and will do the same with the trailer, as well as making some changes upfront that you and Mark recently discovered made vast improvements in driving your rig. While my plan is to boondock more often than not (friends are already beckoning me to their driveways across the country!), there is the matter of being a tech nomad. However, I’ve been living in the country with a Virgin USB stick (and a looped slice of aluminum soda can attached w electrical tape as an additional antenna) about ten miles from the nearest tower for the last few years, so more of the same there. The main budget changes I’ll notice are the absence of an electric bill and addition of laundromats.
Great blog! lots of ideas for “newbies” — we have been fulltimers for almost one-year now and are in agreement with many of the items on your list (size and taking your time especially!) We have also been fortunate to meet helpful people on our travels and certainly fellow bloggers encourage and guide us! Keep up the great posts and we hope to get to meet you in person soon!! Martha
I just discovered your site and it’s awesome! In 5 years I plan on doing what you are doing…..and in the few minutes I’ve spent on your site so far, I’ve discovered I can learn a lot from you. I also like that you focus on staying in/on public lands, etc, versus the “RV PARK”. That is one thing I’ve been hesitating about – finding those more natural places to be, versus in the RV Park…. I don’t want to be in the RV park type thing — at least not the ones that would feel like I’m in just another suburban neighborhood.
I once read an article that said having adventures, big and small, were the secret to long lasting happy marriages. I think about all the people I know who are happily married, not the ones who manage to get along and check off life’s boxes like efficient business partners, but the ones who delight in each other, the ones who share a certain noticeable energy that seems to propel them through life. I’ve noticed most of these people make adventure a way of life whether it’s driving across the county to see an iron bridge, taking a different way home just because, trying new restaurants, challenging their minds together, or spontaneously flying to France because they found cheap tickets online. (Umm…that would be my crazy parents.) This past year we’ve been so overwhelmed by adjusting back to a normal life with things like electric bills and school commitments that we’ve almost forgotten to have fun. It was like suddenly after 16 years our honeymoon was over.
For those who travel a great deal, it is a good idea to purchase emergency coverage that will not pay medical costs, but will, under the appropriate circumstances, provide regional medical referrals and oversight as well as a means of getting travelers and their vehicles back to their home bases at no cost. Good Sam Club sells one that costs around $110 per year and covers all travelers.
As for Thing 2, the goal has continued to be keep learning as fun and interesting as possible. He reads, reads, and reads. He isn’t crazy about math but I’ve insisted that he keep up with “requirements” because math is one subject that is hard to catch up should we decide to stop homeschooling. He, too, enrolled in a virtual school math class and also received an A both semesters. The biggest change for him was more independent learning. The previous 5 years I was more hands on but with Thing 3 in the picture it became increasingly difficult. Thing 2 really stepped up and took initiative to complete assignments on his own.
Yes, we'd say having our car catch on fire in west Texas definitely ranks as a low point. We had stopped at a pull off area in between the small town of Alpine and the smaller town of Marfa looking at wildflowers when Brandon noticed the car smoking. Brandon ran back and found a fire in the engine compartment. We pulled our small fire extinguisher out of the trunk and knocked the flames down. Brandon was able to pull everything out of the car while Kerensa called for help. The signal is very spotty out there and we were able to maintain signal just long enough to get our location to the operator. When she asked for a call back number in case we were disconnected, the line died and the signal never recovered. Thankfully, the sheriff and fire department were already on their way and they were able to put out the fire and take us back to the campground.
Having a wood stove allows you to heat and cook without propane, oil, or electricity, which means you truly have an off-grid setup. A wood stove will keep you warm, the wood heat will dry the air out in the RV, which will help get rid of condensation from breathing and cooking. There are not many wood stoves out there that will work in an RV. I personally chose a Kimberly wood stove, because it only weighs 56 lbs and it’s extremely efficient. There are a few other companies out there (such as Marine wood stoves, which are a little cheaper, but you get what you pay for).
Before starting a life of adventure, it may be hard to imagine that you will need or want to have any hobbies. Sightseeing ought to be enough! But it isn’t. After a while, you will want to have pursuits that complement your travels in one way or another or that perhaps are not even related to your travels at all. Our hobbies are photography, writing and mountain biking, and these all cost money.
In our situation my husband was able to go remote with his job. He did have to do some work to make this happen, since no one at his company was working remotely full-time. But, through being a hard worker and them wanting to keep him on board, he was able to make it work. The only problem was he had to work 9 to 5 everyday and actually go into the office for a week every couple of months.
Well…that was an error!! I’ve fixed it, thanks to you. That’s what happens when you stay up past midnight finishing posts after working a 15 hour day!! So we appreciate your comment. Love that you mentioned that its all about balancing expenses and income flow. We are working on building a program to teach our budgeting strategies, as well as share the tool we created that we use to budget each month. It’s not about how much money you make, its about how you manage it and control it. RV life allows a lot more flexibility in monthly expenses, we… Read more »
For a period of time, we also had a gym membership to Planet Fitness. It cost $20/month and we had access to over 800 locations across the country. If you’re trying to stay in good shape while you’re traveling I would definitely suggest Planet Fitness. They typically have really nice facilities for showering and workouts, plus free massage chairs and tootsie rolls. Need I say more?
I’m recently widowed, May 2017. This idea has been tugging at me for years! Do you see women traveling alone? Everyone has told me, don’t make any big decisions for a year. He didn’t leave me with extreme wealth, but I’m really thinking this would be good for me right now. I am 58, not very active, but I need to come out of this with some new perspective and zest for a more natural peace. What is your view on this idea?
Like the big roof insulation R-factor that doesn’t account for the hatch vents, the well advertised high R-factor in the walls doesn’t account for the windows, which is where much of the heat in a rig escapes, especially at night. Closing the blinds makes a difference. When we’re in a remote area with no one around, we prefer to keep the blinds open so the first light of morning fills the rig. But we can’t do this in the wintertime unless we want to wake up to a rig that is 5 degrees cooler than it could be.
Everyone has heard the age-old packing tip for a trip – “pack half the clothes you think you need – and then get rid of half of them.” When you are preparing to live on the road you need to amp up those percentages even more, way more. Only you can make the determination of what is truly “essential” but come be prepared to attack your first “must have” list with an arsenal of scissors and black pens.
One very last thing to think about before you decide whether you can afford to fulltime RV is income. Whether or not you currently have an income, creating some $$ on the road can greatly ease the constraints of a tight budget and radically change your available budget. If you are pre-retirement and have an online job that you can take on the road, then absolutely do that. Otherwise there are lots of opportunities to create some income on the road. We’ve met folks who workamp, edit, write, invest, compose music, create art, make jewelry, tattoo, run online businesses, take on temporary jobs (Amazon, Beet Harvest, Christmas Tree sales etc.) or do a slew of other creative things on the road for money. Some make only a little money while others make pretty significant $$. And these opportunities are not just for young folks, either! We’ve seen all ages making money on the road.
We recommend spending a small-enough amount that they don’t have to finance it. From what we’ve seen, a lot of full-timers change their rigs (typically downsizing) after the first year on the road, and this is easier if you’re not over-extended on your current rig. It’s very hard to know what you’ll really want until you’ve tried it. We don’t believe in purchasing a new RV (at least not for the first rig). They depreciate so much, and they have more problems than they should for the money spent.
There are so many wonderful things about RVing full time with kids and teens but the fact of the matter is full time RV was beyond amazing when they were younger but RV life could no longer provide for their expanding needs and interests. (Disclaimer: The pursuit of the following activities is a struggle because we are fully aware these actives are a privilege that comes with being middle class and certainly not necessary for a fulfilled life but they are fun, rewarding, and teach their own lessons.)
You must spend more time in open or private sites than we do. We spend most of our summers in forested public parks and we were almost never able to get a satellite lock on that roof dish. We honestly couldn’t use it more than half the year. Last year we completely ditched the roof-dish (in fact we ditched Direct TV altogether) and it’s been a great decision for us.
2. I would have taken it to a mechanic before buying it – Being a 23 year old RV, I knew I’d have to put some money into it and I budgeted for that. But knowing WHAT I’d have to repair would have given me much needed peace of mind. Every time I took it out the first few months, I lived in fear of breaking down on some country road in the middle of nowhere. Knowing what was likely to break (and when) would have been comforting and allowed me to budget better.
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.”
Thank you a summary of your “road” costs. What folks generaly believe is somehow life is cheaper doing something else then what they are doing now. But we have a perpensty to do what is always do no matter what. Just because you are on the road dosn’t mean you have changed your personality. My wife and I are more like you folk so I’m guessing my expenses will be more in line with your summary.
loved seeing your post, I am a homeschooling widow mother of a 10 years old girl and would love to get on the road in an RV, I did have a truck and travel trailer but could not go very far, I just do not feel safe traveling by ourselves and would love to meet other homeschoolers and travel and explore this wonderful country together, have you met families traveling together?
Within the last month I moved out of my apartment, purchased a new tow car and a 21′ travel trailer (monthly financing less than what I was paying for rent, and I will own them). I was really excited and didn’t quite think things through about where I was going to boondock. I work for Wal-mart and made arrangements with my store manager, but it is an awkward experience. Now to the point, I can’t be without internet. I use non contract boost mobile and pay $50 a month, this includes “unlimited” call, text and date plus my phone has hot spot capabilities. It allows for 2.5 gig a month of data and then when you reach the limit it slows your speed but you still have access to internet.
Most fulltime RVers sign up with a mail forwarding service and use that as their main address (and also often as their official domicile address for taxes, health insurance etc.). We have our service in SD (with DakotaPost), but there are many other good services out there (e.g. Escapees in TX, St.Brendans Isle in FL). Basically all our stuff gets sent to the mail forwarder where it’s collected and held. Whenever we want the mail we just ask for it to be forwarded from there to wherever we are. If we’re in a place that doesn’t accept mail, we’ll get it sent to the nearest Post Office as General Delivery and go pick it up there. We typically get our mail ~once per month.
Some of the perks of getting older are the sweet discounts you can get! You’ve weathered through some of life’s toughest storms and seen a few of its biggest triumphs. We think you deserve a break, and so do some of our favorite campgrounds. Check whether your AAA or AARP cards are accepted at local campgrounds and put some change back in your pocket. You’ll never know if you don’t ask. What’s the worst that will happen?
To make sure our hose drained quickly, we built a downhill track for it out of cheap vinyl guttering and cinder blocks. (We did have one of those accordion folding type of sewer hose supports, but it was constantly falling over and we wanted something sturdier.) Additionally, our sewer hose runs under the bottom of our RV and is fully enclosed with skirting, so frozen sewage hasn’t been a problem for us.
3. Keep the fresh water and pipes from freezing: In my humble opinion your tips and tricks are spot on. I do have an observation and suggestion to make. Your efforts are targeting the “sewer bay” on the driver side of the RV. When we froze in Louisiana, it was the passenger side that was vulnerable. Our fresh water tank has an overflow vent on the passenger side. When the water in the tank freezes, like a pond the top of the water freezes first. In our case that prevented us from putting water into the tank and we ended up with a small crack in the tank. Fortunately, it was on the edge and was easily fixed. I think the freezing occurred because our efforts were on the “sewer bay” side and not the other. I think the answer here is another small space heater on the passenger side of the RV.
We made the transition not long after college, so we really hadn’t accrued a lot of stuff. We had to get rid of a TV, few pieces of furniture, and a lot of our clothes, but other than that—not too much. This was probably much easier for us than it would be someone who has lived in a home for 20-30 years. I can understand the difficulty of what that might look like when I see my parent’s home where my brothers and I were raised. I can only imagine how hard it must be to give everything up.
The following is a summary of how the various quotes I received were explained to me. I list the specifics here not so much to suggest one company’s product over another but so you can see just how much you need to press for the exact details if you really want to understand the insurance you are buying. Obviously, the companies mentioned may change their policies, and it’s possible I misunderstood something.
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Just like anything in life, you can’t please everyone and everyone doesn’t have the same amount of money Which makes this country great. In the US you can work hard and succeed. And those that don’t have nobody to blame but themselves and government that takes so much from those that do work hard. I just found your site and am hoping to find out the cost of going full timing. My hubby and I have no idea what the costs would be or how to determine how much we will need to live our life on the road. I’m hoping reading your site will give me more insight. What would be really nice is a book that gives a good idea what to expect. We have our unit already, after many tries I think we found the one that will serve us the best. If anyone knows of any books on this matter please let me know.
Have a “fun fund” for those spur of the moment adventures. If you decide that today is the day you want to go for that hot air ballon ride, do it! Having money set aside for these experiences will make that transition to RV living more enjoyable and fun. We always seek out free and cheap things to do in our travels, but there are some experiences that are worth the splurge.
Once again, the answer may not be what they want to hear. The amount a young couple should spend on their first RV is what they can afford. It’s really as simple as that. Unless they know they can afford and support debt, then they should buy what is affordable, whether it’s a smaller used RV or something new. It’s much easier to upgrade than downgrade, so think about what is actually needed versus what is wanted. We sometimes get caught up thinking we need all those fancy gadgets and toys when it may be possible to get on the road much sooner if we become more realistic with our needs.
Just found your site. Wish we had found it sooner. Just sold our home to go fulltime rving. We have signed up with Dakota Post. Started to change addresses with credit cards and banks and they want a residential address. We could give sons in CA but then will have to pay taxes there and we had planned to domicile in SD. I was told this is part of ” The Patriot Act” Do you have any suggestions for us?
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?
Wow! and Yikes!! Camping in Massachusetts will be far far different than where we’ve winter camped in the southernmost states. Our stints in snow storms in Colorado and New Mexico have never been longer than one week and we quickly moved to a much warmer place. I lived on a sailboat in Boston Harbor for four years and that was the coldest I’ve ever been. After that I promptly left New England moved to Phoenix Arizona to thaw out! Good luck to you!!