Many folks choose to use portable electric heaters to heat their rig. This method of heating doesn't add condensation to the air and depending on the cost of propane may actually be slightly cheaper to run. Great care must be taken to not overload the wiring in your RV or the electrical system in the campground. Most parks will either put you on an electric meter or charge extra for electric heat. Use only UL approved heaters and keep combustibles away.
In a five year period, a brand new rig (that is, a motorhome/car combo or truck/trailer combo) will typically lose 30% to 50% of its value, and by the end of a decade it will be down to 25% to 40% of its original MSRP. The only way to know what the full-time RVing lifestyle really costs is to know both what you paid for your RV at the beginning and what you sold it for at the end. The difference, divided but the number of months you lived in it, is the true cost of ownership.
It’s a part of who he is and who he will be. You can’t tell me growing up and learning to run in sprawling national parks doesn’t leave an impression. We will likely end up in a traditional house again, and our children will likely go back to a traditional school. But travel will remain a priority for us, and we will design our future with that in mind.
We already discussed becoming more social, but meeting other full-time RVers in this community is one of the best things that has happened to us. There are some people we consider friends that we haven't even met in person yet. The RVing community is welcoming and open and we often start friendships online through Facebook groups or Instagram before crossing paths in real life.
We try to find parks that are around $30 a night. We use our Passport AmericaPassport America discount as often as possible, which saved us around $700 during our first 6 months of RVing! We don’t boondock as often as we’d like, mainly because we didn’t consider this when purchasing our first RV. The fifth wheel we bought didn’t have very large holding tanks, which limited us in how many days we could dry camp. If you are shopping for an RV, be sure to read these tips first to avoid making similar mistakes we did.
Many RVers still have storage units where they've kept stuff they just can't get rid of. When we initially hit the road we had some stuff in an enclosed trailer that we parked on a storage lot for $20/month, and we also had a boat that we were storing for another $150/year. Now that we are going to be RVing longer term, we wanted a more permanent solution. In 2017 we went in on building a barn at my parent’s house in Michigan to store our trailer and our boat, so that raised our average up to $82 per month but this will slowly come down over time.
Depending on your RV's design, you may need to take extra steps to protect your fresh water and holding tanks from freezing. In milder climates, where the temperature routinely rises above freezing during the day, you can usually get by with draining your fresh tank and simply keeping both the gray and black tank valves closed until you need to dump them. If it gets down into the single digits at night and rarely rises above freezing during the day, then you will almost have to insulate and/or heat your tanks or use significant amounts of RV antifreeze in them to keep things flowing…. If you are parked for a while, tank insulation for exposed holding tanks can be fabricated from fiberglass insulation and light plywood… just build a small lightweight box around the tank and line it with fiberglass. A small electric light bulb can be used to provide a safe source of heat.
Not everyone embraces RV living out of a desire to opt out of life's rat race—some have the decision forced upon them. "You are insane," Jacqueline LaDue remembered telling her fiancé, Josh, when he floated the idea of living in an RV. "I will never in my entire life do that." The couple and their 4-year-old son Brayden had left a luxury apartment (complete with swimming pool) in Raleigh, North Carolina, after Josh's sales job didn't pan out and temporarily sought shelter at the home of Jacqueline's father near Boston.
Since we started full-timing, we have upgraded both of our DSLR cameras twice and upgraded both of our pocket cameras twice. As for biking, we started out with cyclo-cross bikes but sold those when we found we were almost always camped near very rugged dirt roads. We replaced them with mountain bikes in March, 2014. Bike maintenance isn’t a huge cost, but it’s there. We also upgraded our bike rack a few years ago. And back in 2008 we splurged on a fabulous Hobie inflatable kayak that we loved for several years but eventually sold because we needed more room in the basement.
As for a choice of what type of RV… we’re looking at a diesel-pusher… would love to find one in the 32-34 ft range. Loved your advice about the internet service Millenicom . I’d read about them from another source just yesterday and feel much better about them now that I’ve heard from a 2nd unsolicited source. I didn’t know that they don’t require a contract…that is so much better… I used to drive a truck for a living and have been to almost all the lower 48 states (just missing North Dakota…) I used Verizon while I was on the road and cannot ever remember not being able to get a signal for my phone or my internet connection. Of course, I was mainly on major highways or secondary roads so that sort of explains that… Sorry I’ve gone on and on… just wanted to introduce myself and hope to see you one day once we ever get on the road… Beverly/Wayne
We started to feel suffocated in this amazing house and life we had built. Money was tight. We had to pay for this house and we could afford it, but it didn’t leave much extra. At this point my husband was working a 9 to 5 and I was a stay-at-home Mom with a direct sales business on the side. That did bring in a couple thousand a month to help cover birthday parties, activities, and those trips to the store. But that was it. We were always playing catch-up, and life was so busy with what we came to feel were meaningless things.
Thanks for the tips & thoughts. We’ve had very good coverage with Verizon since we started using them (only a handful of campgrounds where we couldn’t get signal) so for the time being we’re happy w/ their service. I think if we travelled regularly to sites without Verizon coverage we might opt for a movable satellite dish, but so far it’s not made the list.
Propane – If you have propane appliances (stove top, oven, refrigerator, or heater), you will need to budget for propane. This varies depending on usage. We don’t RV in cold climates, but we do use our propane stove top and oven daily. We have 2 propane tanks on our Fifth Wheel, and only need to refill about 2-3 times per year. Still, we average the cost and budget for it monthly.
I hoarded propak fish transport lids from petsmart to insulate my rv windows. Tape them on the inside then stretched shipping plastic wrap to create a seal. I also used these lids to line my spigot well and water entry point. Hit up your petsmart on fridays or wednsdays when they get a fish shipment in and ask the manager if you can have them they just throw them away.
Again, this depends on several factors. What type of RV do you have? The maintenance on a Class A is considerably higher (think tires alone) than on a travel trailer. It also depends on how far and how much you’ll be traveling. For our set up, a new model F350 dually coupled with a 2009 42 Ft Heartland Cyclone, we spend approximately $1,000 per month or $12,000 annually for maintenance and repairs.
You’ve decided to fulfill your heart’s content by exploring the world and being constantly on the move. Nothing could serve you better on the road than a fifth wheel. They’re spacious, durable, easy to tow, and have state-of-the-art features so you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything! For buyers like you, we’ve made our list of the top 5 best fifth wheels for full time RVing. Read on to find out!
Just so everyone doesn’t get the idea that all RV parks in SW Florida are that expensive. We have been living in our paid for RV TT which is 30′, and 4 yrs.old, for 4 yrs. in Central, and SW Florida which is where we currently are, we have never paid that high for monthly fees with or without electric included. The most we have ever paid is $400 a month, which is almost what we pay now. And in the area we are in this is the most expensive park. It is very rural here which is what we choose to do also, as our “little” girl who lives with us is in college locally. Our monthly expenses are well under $1000 a month. And that includes, satellite and internet, and food. So there are alot of options in SW Florida that are alot cheaper. When you have a college student you make different choices. The cost is very high there. It is all about where you choose to park your RV, and what amenities are important to you.
Reluctantly, we arranged his course of study to meet traditional future college entrance requirements and enrolled him in a virtual school for a few classes. It was tough transition. First, it was our first experience with the Common Core math standards. As you know, I question any sort of blanket “standards” and the status quo. However, after a year I think the new standards are beneficial in helping kids gain a true understanding of math instead of relying on memorizing formulas. The virtual school math has also been very challenging because, although he has a teacher he “can” go to with questions, he has been responsible for learning the concepts himself and he has had to be accountable to someone other than me. A good thing! For the most part, it has been a valuable experience as he has learned the hard way to manage his time and seek out resources on his own to help him understand concepts. (Unfortunately, his algebra teacher were less than helpful.)
What has been cool about year 2 is that we have really started to see more transformational type of changes in us as people, as a family, as business owners. It has been quite the journey! Year 1 was about learning how to live this way. In year 2 we already knew how to live this way so it became more about choices, decisions, options, etc around working and living full time on the road.
Our first major engine maintenance, including generator, was about $2k ($1200 parts including lots of spares, $800 labor – which including training us on doing it ourselves) – subsequent general engine maintenance has been much cheaper, as we’ve been doing oil, filter and zinc changes on our own. We spent about $7k in our first year on bottom paint, changing out zincs, divers to clean the bottom ($100/mo), replacing thru-hulls, wash/waxes and other necessary maintenance. We’ll continue to track this and share.
Thanks for your comments Maria. It’s easy to get confused as there is a lot of misinformation floating about. You must have seen the HGTV episode. We didn’t pay $208,000 and we owned our Monaco Vesta for 3 years. Everyone’s budget and spending habits are different. We list our general costs of living, not the cost of our RV (all costs are variable per person, especially RV’s). Yes depreciation is a factor when purchasing an RV, as with anything.
So, I figured I’d throw some pointers for those that have decided or are considering a life full-time on the road, because that is essentially the point of this whole blog thing. My biggest piece of advice, if you are thinking about living full-time and think you can commit to it, GO FOR IT!!!! You (probably, lol) won’t regret it! When I first began searching the Internet, I couldn’t find hardly anything on advice or tips for living in a camper in the winter full-time. And when I did find an article, the people living in the camper had a permanent space to park with electricity, enabling them to plug their RV in to an outlet every night to keep their electric space heaters running, which I don’t have the option of doing.
Food — Studies have found that the average home in the U.S. wastes 25 percent of their food. This is due to spoiled food or uneaten food. When you live in an RV, space for food is limited. It is rare to throw something out because you didn't see it at the back of your small refrigerator. I think you also tend to eat healthier since you are hiking in the outdoors more. Assuming an average $440 per month for two people, you save about $75 a month.
*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.
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?
These days, it’s not at all unusual to see young singletons, couples, and families on the road, whether it’s for a summer getaway or a full-time lifestyle made possible by the ever-expanding capacity of remote work. (That’s right: Some people actually make their living while they travel. Don’t be jealous — read more about how you can do it, too, here!)
“I’ve been looking for this!” The spring cleaning also reminded us of things we’d brought that we forgot about. This is also a great time to reorganize and optimize storage. After the initial cleaning, most of our bays, cupboards and drawers ended up half empty. That’s also about the time we realized a small Class A motorhome was too much space for us. Now we travel full time in a Class B camper van.
Once we retire, my wife and I are planning on spending winters (at least) heading south from Chicago in an RV for maybe 3 months at a time. I’m an over-researcher according to her, but also an accountant. 🙂 I’d love to play with your budgeting worksheet. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the link on your website. Is there a specific page where I can find it?
For MVUM maps there will *usually* be an indication of which roads allow camping, but it depends on the individual map. For many of the maps we physically own (I typically pick them up at the Forest Service office when we travel through) the roads are indicated by a series of dots along the side. Look at the map key and hopefully you’ll see it there. I haven’t used the App much myself, but I do think you get a color map there, so that may help.
Campgrounds can vary greatly by state and proximity to highly touristy areas, Earl. To give you some insight into a few places we’ve stayed longer term, we were getting a full hookup spot in Marathon, Texas for under $400 / month. That’s pretty remote, but we love that little town and the surrounding Big Bend region, so it was a steal for us. We priced a few places in Bastrop, Texas (just east of Austin), and full hookups were from $400 – $570 / month (plus paying for your own electric). While we haven’t ever stayed anywhere else for a month or more we have seen prices that range from about $350 at the absolute lowest end (and those places are not always terrible, though usually they are a bit run down) to somewhere around $800 / month for more highly sought after locations. Here in Austin, where some friends are staying, it’s around $670 and that puts you near the highway, ten minutes from Austin, in a relatively luxury place. Most spots will ask you to pay your own electric. Water is usually included, cable, too. I’d recommend getting a cell phone, so whatever you have for that (AT&T & Verizon are the most reliable nationwide) now would be the same, though if you wanted unlimited data on your phone so you can have the Internet, that might raise your bill. You’d know better about your grocery situation that I would be able to guess. No property tax. 🙂
Hey there! We are Kelan & Brittany, high school sweethearts obsessed with personal finance and on a mission to help families learn how to budget their money, save like crazy, and find unique ways to make money from home. After Kelan quit his job to become a full-time personal finance blogger we have been featured on sites like USA Today, The Penny Hoarder, Bankrate, Credit Cards, Discover, Nerd Wallet, Rockstar Finance, Life Lock, Making Sense of Cents, Millennial Money Man, and many more.
Hence the idea started brewing about first downsizing then freeing up time and money and, finally, traveling. We had been planning to homeschool the kids since our oldest was 2, so that opened a huge door since we weren’t stuck on the school schedule. My husband had a job in IT which meant he was working remote 1 day a week and could potentially do more remote work or find another job which offered that.
While there’s no simple answer to that question, there are different answers for different lifestyles and goals. If anything, the range of answers means RV beginners need to start their adventure with a plan. Things like RV size and type, amount of travel vs. parking, and intention to telecommute will all influence a new RVer’s budget. A new RVer needs to determine these things ahead of time.
The answer to this question will vary greatly depending on your RV lifestyle and choices. It really is a highly individual thing. We like full hook-up campsites which cost a bit more. On the other hand, we like to travel slowly staying in an area for at least a month, which costs quite a bit less. In this article, we discuss the typical budget line items. Also at the bottom of the article, we’ll share our average monthly budget expenses.
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.
For us, living mobility has been substantially less expensive than when we lived in fixed homes with rent/mortgage, upkeep, utilities, travel, etc. But of course, we were on opposite coasts when we met – Chris living in a penthouse apartment in San Francisco, and Cherie in a beachside home in Florida. For us to live in an area of the country that would keep us happy long enough to stay put, we’d be paying a pretty penny in cost of living – plus we’d still be traveling anyway because we have serious wanderlust. A mobile lifestyle suits us quite well instead!
Seems like you have came to the same conclusions as we have for winter AK living! Only one disagreement: solar. Nice, love it, but we actually found our honda eu1000 generator to be more cost effective for the initial purchase and more reliable. I think that is why so many rvers go that route. I really want to try a wind turbine although! We both know how much wind we get.
@Chris: Wood stoves have killed many an unlucky sleeper. Combusting wood in sleep quarters can kill in a multitude of ways. Of course, wood smoke is an established carcinogen. Wood stoves in a small mobile high vibration environment are double jeopardy. Fail to be vigilant in the daily maintenance and wake up dead. On the bright side all the bumps on the road might knock the creosote build-up off the stack walls, but then again it might not. Probably the biggest risk with a wood stove is human nature/carelessness/extenuating circumstances/etc. At some point the operator will be tempted to operate the vehicle with live coals in the stove…
(In fact, we had a Big Horn 3670 2008. Went to our dealership for some warranty work and was informed that the 2010 BH's were "in". This was about 5 months ago. Well, hubby and I know to never go into a pet store, because we will walk out with a pet. Same way with a trailer. There were just enough changes in the 2 years, that we decided to purchase the newer trailer. We love it.
Now there are a lot of factors that go into domicile choice and there’s not one, single right choice for everyone. But for the purposes of this post what’s important for you to understand is that that domicile DOES have a significant impact on your RV budget. Not only does it affect your take-home $$ (due to state taxes), but it also affects your health insurance costs, RV/car insurance costs, RV/car registration costs and business costs (if you have any). And the difference in these $$ between different states can be significant!
12. Consider how many people will be with you. Many people who RV full time are married couples who have retired. However, there is an ever-increasing population of couples with families who are hitting the road. Regarding the latter, you need to keep in mind that in addition to having less space for belongings, there is also less space for privacy. Learning to live together, and get along, is an absolute necessity and if that isn’t possible, it’s time to rethink your decision. One way around this is to make sure your rig is big enough to assign certain areas for certain children and their belongings, off limits to siblings. That personal space can mean the world to some people.
Gear / Modifications – Your RV dealership may or may not provide some of the basic “gear” that is needed to live and travel in an RV (see our Gear Guide here). You may also want to complete certain upgrades for safety or convenience. For example, we were not happy with the tires that came on the Fifth Wheel, and purchased all new tires (at our own expense). Many RVers like to boondock, or camp off-grid, and outfit their RV with solar. Others remodel and paint, change flooring or fabric to make it their own. This is often an ongoing expense that you should budget for as just like in a sticks and bricks home, people like to upgrade and make changes to improve their daily lives.
Hey there Mama and Jill, what an inspiring story! Because of a downtown in my hubster’s work, last year we nearly lost our house. We were able to keep paying the bills through God’s grace and our hard work, and paring our expenses to the bone. It is possible to live on much less, if you don’t look around at what other people have and/or do. Your story is inspiring and I’ll look forward to following your blog!
Some years are worse than others, but it averages $1791/year, which includes optional equipment, maintenance (tires, oil changes, batteries, etc.). Also includes roadside service insurance payments, vehicle insurance, registration, specialized and optional RV expenses (club memberships), paint & body work, and the expense of two major breakdowns over the years. This was for a ‘94 36 foot, Class A, diesel, RV.
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.
To make money blogging you need a very significant traffic flow, first and foremost. Plus you need to partner with advertisers and such. It’s possible, but I would certainly not rely on this as your main source of income in the beginning of your travels. It can take years to build up the traffic levels & SEO on your blog so you can create the types of partnerships you need to make a living. So my advice is to have a plan to make money elsewhere, especially in the beginning. As time goes on and you create enough valuable content to build your blog traffic, you can start to rely on some income from it, but be prepared for some growing pains to get there.
I’ve heard that vehicle insurance rates are based on the demographics like population on a county-by-county basis (as well as each person’s age, driving record, etc.). Are you aware of any significant differences in insurance rates between the counties in South Dakota where the mail forwarding services are located? A couple of them are in very sparsely populated counties, but I haven’t seen them promoting this as a reason to choose their services.
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.
Pete, the ugly truth is: RV MSRP is a joke. Most people end up purchasing a new RV for 20%-30% off the MSRP. If you purchase a unit that’s new and last years model you can expect to get 35% – 40% off MSRP. Of course everything depends on supply and demand, and how long the dealer has the unit on the lot. If you want the biggest discount purchase a used RV that’s 2-3 years old, and buy an extended warranty.
For propane heat, we have two 7-gallon propane tanks. Even though I tried to be, I wasn’t very meticulous in my propane record keeping last year, but here is a rough estimate of our propane usage for a few of the winter months based on my rough notes. We buy propane either from a nearby U-Haul, which is more expensive (over $3/gallon including their base fee), or from Tractor Supply Co., which is cheaper ($1.86/gallon last winter, and they don’t charge any additional fees) but is unfortunately located 30 min. away from us.
We are a family of four and are saving up to travel for 2 yrs or maybe more! I am a cancer survivor and I want to see everything I possibly can due to my new outlook on life. My kids are excited about it (my husbands getting there ;). It was his idea to go camping in 2 wks & go look at Rv’s next week so that’s a good sign lol. I will read your blog through & through …I’m going to need a lot of good tips 🙂 Thank you.
Avoid bringing the items you could easily just buy while on the road if you absolutely needed them, especially if your space is limited. It’s easy to go overboard buying all sorts of accessories for the RV. We recommend getting the bare minimum and then you can always purchase more as you, if there are items you wish you had. It’s much easier to do this then deal with the frustration of having too much crammed in!