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!
- Keeping fresh-water lines open can be very difficult in North Dakota winters. Wrapping the hose line with heat tape and insulating with pipe insulation is an option, but this may create a fire hazard. Using the fresh-water tank on the RV might be easier if the tank is insulated and will not freeze. Also, fill the tank periodically and isolate it from the exterior
Groceries – This figure can vary based on location as the cost of living fluctuates by region and if you are near metropolitan areas or tourist attractions. In addition, taxes can vary. Note: You may choose to put household items like cleaners, shampoo, dish soap, etc. as a separate line item. Since we purchase them with our groceries, we just include them here.

A little more on internet: If you’re planning on working on the road, never plan on “just using the RV park wifi” to accomplish anything. They are notoriously slow or non-existent. You cannot RV full-time with purchasing a jetpack or planning on using your phone’s hot spot. You can also buy wifi boosters and other expensive techie products, but a jetpack is going to be your most affordable, easy-to-use option.


$648 Miscellaneous – Magazines for the Nook ($25), Stock Music for videos ($70), Shipping charges for mailing random stuff ($72 – Don’t ask me what I mailed, but it added up), Movie Theater *we went to 2 movies in 5 months ($24), Home Improvement Stores ($173), REI Outdoor specialty items ($63), Parking and Tolls ($85), half day boat rental for the family in Lake Havasu ($136). Also I’ve stopped putting propane as a line item since we really don’t spend much on this; in fact we didn’t even fill our propane in this 5 month period.
Hi! I’m fairly new at this RV living thing and I’m curious about the $153 per month average cost for RV/camping fees you note. I understand that summer is less expensive than winter, for the most part, but a minimum of $20 per night for a week in a National Park, that $153 would come up awfully fast. And full hookups at an RV park I’m seeing anywhere from $20 to $90 (yeh, $90, Candlestick Park in S.F., CA!!! And no, not worth it). Are you boondocking most of the time?
You can set the Netflix download quality. We have it set to “lowest” quality which used 0.3 GB per hour. So, it just depends how much we stream that month. And yes, we do get connectivity most places we go, even the boonies. There’s occasional spots we don’t have it, but we usually make it a priority to stay where we do. We both need it for work, so it’s a pretty important part of our daily lives. We have both ATT & Verizon PLUS we have boosters so we can pull in signals from fairly far away.

Brrr!! It does sound like fun, though. Reminds me of the four winters I spent on a 36′ sailboat in Boston Harbor years ago. In November the dish detergent would solidify. We knew it was spring when it liquefied again until April! Every morning the edges of our sheets would be frozen to the hull because the condensation had iced up and we’d have to peel them away from the hull! Crazy but fun memories!!
In Florida, cruising sailors have relied on St. Brendan’s Isle mail forwarding for ages. To my knowledge, they were the first (by at least 5 years) to provide a virtual mail service where you could see a scanned image of your mail in an email message. This kind of service is now provided by America’s Mailbox and Escapees and others as well. Other mail forwarding services in Florida are Nato Mail, Escapees, Good Sam Club and My RV Mail.
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.

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.
Their kids are raised and living their own lives now, so this couple is living it up now! They are what you’l consider luxury RVers and they are proud of it. They travel and live full-time in their beautiful and spacious Fifth Wheel Toyhauler with their spoiled cat. This couple still works from the road and finds time to enjoy outdoor adventure and tourist activities.. They typically stay in one place for a month, which gives them a much better rate at the RV resorts they stay at. They have no desire to boondock because they love the convenience of full hook ups and various amenities. Now, that’s the life!

My wife and I are joyously offloading our excess stuff (which is pretty much all of it…) in preparation for selling our FL waterfront home and hitting the road next year. We love what you do here and find the information you provide to be absolutely priceless. We are successful creatives who will continue to work our business while on the road, and we have no intention of eating twigs and nuts topped with cat food just to save a few pennies. People are curious and questioning because your lives are interesting, but please don’t let a few self appointed “lifestyle Nazis” get to you – unfortunately whenever you put yourself out there they always come crawling out from under their rocks. Just remember that for every one of them there are a thousand of us fans who know how hard you work, celebrate your success and hope to meet you someday when we both are enjoying a fabulous dinner at some legendary local restaurant. Cheers!
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.
I am hoping you can answer some questions for us with what we will need. I have already started a budget based on your article and answers to questions above. Our goal is to raise the funds through private, like-minded products/corporate sponsorship. What we would love is some advice about where to start with purchasing an RV. We need some way – even if it is a small motorbike to get around once with visit each town. Also – we are open to a trailer and truck combo…just not sure what you’d recommend. We are leaning towards a decent looking RV (if we can raise the funds) so there is a level of professionalism with the tour and because we would like to make that our home after the tour is over to continue our teaching on the road. If we don’t raise too much, we may need other options.
Loved all the info. I will be winter camping this year in my 2008 Itasca Maridian motorhome. Will be in the coach three to four days a week. I ‘m a marketing person for a company that’s in the midwest. will be in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. Will try and hook up to shore poer when possible but will always have the diesel generator to fall back on when camping at Wal-Mart parking lot.. I understand the skirting around the bottom and the benifits but with the short amount of time in between locations this is not practical. I will try insulation in the wet bay along with small heaters in basement and wet bay areas. I will also try space heaters in the coach along with reflective insulation sheeting. Went camping this past weekend with family it got down to +25 degrees. I went through 3/4 tank of propane in there nights. The furnace would turn on and off about every 5 to 10 min. apart . The coach would warm up and within 2min after shut down you could feel the temp drop inside coach. Any other ideas would be great. Heat pump did great during the daytime temps in the 50s

Finally, we need to seal all those other places where cold air can enter our rig. Any compartments that open into the inside of the rig need to have good weather seals. Under the rig, there are many openings where water and gas lines enter the living area. These openings need to be sealed and some of that aerosol self-expanding foam is great for this. Alternately, foam rubber can be forced into gaps to help reduce air leaks. Finally, the entry door needs to be checked to make sure that it seals properly. Adding some inexpensive foam tape or weather-strip will really help seal those air leaks.
Remember to boil the bones of chicken and beef with a little vinegar to bring out the best, the chicken feet have great collegen.. bone broth is great for you. Kombucha is also for the immune system and easy to make. Make all the food you can.. it is very satisfying and better for you and tastes better. get a book and homemade medicine and try the young living essential oils.. The woods is full of medicine. Let me know if I have helped or hindered or can help in the future.

I wasn’t sleeping in my nest-bed in the RV. I was sleeping on a new bed in a new house, a house without wheels. I wasn’t going to wake up and walk a few steps to our kitchen. I would walk up a flight of stairs. I wasn’t going to wake the boys up from their bunkroom 20 feet away to get started with their homeschool. I would go to each of their separate bedrooms to wake them up to go to school. I wasn’t going to have a day exploring new places. I was going to drive the same streets to the same places.
The magnificence of living on the road is that it innately pulls you outside. Whether it be golfing, hiking, biking, wandering a new town’s streets, working from your campsite’s picnic table, or gathering around a flickering fire, we find ourselves constantly outside enjoying the surroundings. And whenever it is feeling a little cramped, or our patience is waning for the other, we force ourselves to go outside and are reminded by that day’s beautiful location just how lucky we are!
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!
Hi Dian, did you used to work in Denver? I knew a dian there that i worked with, and she went full time. This is a dream that i want to make into reality for myself. i am deciding right now on what would be the perfect size rig for me as i will be a woman “rving” by myself. i don’t want something “too big” nor “too small” I’m thinking maybe a 30 ft class A?? how do you handle your laundry situation? I sure hope this is you.
My wife and I are also kicking around the idea of becoming full time r.v.ers maybe this year. I have been doing some homework for health insurance, seems to me one of the better ones is First Health. The initial start is a little expensive around 600.00 dollars to start for myself then drops after that but it seems to be a good plan and it is not an HMO plan it is a PPO plan. Seems to be the best one.
Once Heath refined the idea, found us a sponsor, and convinced me to film the adventure for our first ever documentary (but mostly because of the sponsored honeymoon part), I decided his idea wasn’t half bad. I would like to note, however, I had absolutely ZERO experience in film at the time. I YouTubed and googled the whole process to act like I knew what I was doing.
We’ve had a Class C (without a tow vehicle, we just used bikes) and it was a pain if we had to drive somewhere for groceries, etc. so we were always looking for RV parks near towns and public transportation. Having a little car to tow along would be easier in those situations, but we don’t personally particularly love the whole hitching up process. When we lived in our Airstream + Ford E-350 combo, it was convenient to have the van and Airstream as separate things (I could work while the family went somewhere for the day, etc.) but again…I hate hitching up and down.
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.
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.
For healthcare we keep $8,000 in our HSA account (tax-free health savings account). This not only covers our regular yearly self-pay checks, but also covers the individual deductible on our health care plan in case we should ever need it. We keep an additional 4-6 months of savings in ready cash (e.g. cash, money market, savings) for unplanned RV, pet & other expenses and regularly add to these savings through our monthly budget.
If you’ve got the girl, what sounds like a relatively compatible possible future career path, and are willing to live minimally, this could certainly all work out for you. Getting a vanagon in Alabama or somewhere in the south would be likely cheaper, but your options will be much more vast in Washington and Oregon. Just watch for rust, the ocean isn’t kind to these old girls.

8.	Making money on the road is certainly not impossible. There are many parks and campgrounds at which you can work, but these aren’t your only options. Research the area where you are going for opportunities that fit your skill set. Once you have something in mind, prepare a resume and a nice reference list to have on hand that accentuates those skills and make stops throughout the area inquiring as to seasonal or temporary openings.

National and State Parks – These are often “no frills,” but found in amazing natural locations. We’ve stayed at some rather rustic ones with power, water, and maybe one old bathhouse, as well as some with full hook ups, large sites, and recreation areas with tons of activities. The cost for these will also vary, but are typically much lower than the resort campgrounds. Some can be very difficult to get a reservation because they are in such high demand. For example, Florida State Parks allow you to reserve up to 11 months in advance and many book as soon as that window opens. They can range from $15 to $48 per night.
Life on the road can often get lonely, even for couples or families who travel together. Committing to the full-time RV lifestyle often means forgoing a sense of community, missing out on family events and waking up every day in a new, unfamiliar place. For the Nealys, this is the greatest challenge of full-time RVing. To cope, they’ve built a network of friends on the road, most of whom they met through the growing community of full-time RV lifestyle bloggers. Jennifer started the couple’s blog Nealys on Wheels to join this sort of makeshift social network. The pair began to make connections with other full-time RVers through their blog and through Instagram.

I read this post with tears in my eyes. My husband and I live in a rv right now. I thought it was only a brief thing, but here we are, over a year later, still living in our rv, still saving money to buy property, and it looks like we will be living here for at least another year. My husband, bless him, has been optimistic about the whole thing and counts his blessings. I have become sour and bitter and cry away the nights. Thank you for reminding me that I need to live this one life that I have and that I need to be grateful for what I have. Thanks, I really needed this.
Definitely! The “fun” budget is something I include in our “entertainment” category and that’s definitely a part of the flexible budget that’s worth planning for when you go fulltime RVing. We actually spend less on entertainment than we did when we lived in a stix and brix in CA (mostly because we go out to eat less than we did when we both worked in a corporate job), but we do spend something in this category every month. It’s year-round entertainment now 🙂
Yes, I’m sending you a hug Raven! RV living has been lifted up quite a bit in alternative media lately, but it is never an easy decision. I go through my own emotional roller coaster of emotions about our living situation. Earlier this fall I found myself in a hard place because I started thinking about how we are about to spend our third winter here. But I am reminded every time of all the reasons I am glad we are here and how I wouldn’t change it – even if I am looking forward to our new house. The plan is to lay the foundation in the spring, so that gives me hope. Make small goals for yourselves and be encouraged every time you reach a small goal – all those small goals add up!
We live five months a year in our motorhome spending 7 months in our Mexican casa down in San Felipe, Baja. This has been our life style since 2005. Looking over your expenses have you every shopped on eBay for software products? You can save bundles. . . . I buy a ton of our “needs” on eBay with great savings and success just shipping it to where ever we are staying. Also, I am a thrift store junkie. I love nice, expensive (brands) clothes and kitchenware but don’t like paying full price. I find great bargains in Goodwill and Saver stores. It makes it fun to seek out these stores in all the different stops we make. I “cleaned house” this summer back east in their Goodwill stores. Just a thought. . . I enjoy your website very much. . . you’re having a lot of fun in your travels. I also would rather stay at a Harvest Host site versus Walmart!

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?


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 »
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.
When it comes down to it, this is the reason I chose to live the way I do. Living on the road naturally leads to an active life style. You are always doing something, going somewhere, or meeting somebody. When you’re not working in the winter, it’s especially nice to get out and recreate in the day or meet up with friends in the evening. This keeps you out of the camper and keeps your environment fresh. I feel I appreciate my home much more when I’ve been active all day or all night.
Thanks for sharing your personal info with us all. One thing about this lifestyle is that you live it and learn as you go. What you did last year will not be what you do next year. Goodwill and other such places across the nation now have right much of the items we started out with. Pretty sure we aren’t done donating yet. See you out there someday.

Once Heath refined the idea, found us a sponsor, and convinced me to film the adventure for our first ever documentary (but mostly because of the sponsored honeymoon part), I decided his idea wasn’t half bad. I would like to note, however, I had absolutely ZERO experience in film at the time. I YouTubed and googled the whole process to act like I knew what I was doing.
You may wish to put insulation around the waste hose to give the fluid more time to drain before the freezing temps cause a problem.  I have seen people add heat tape to the drain hose also.  I do NOT recommend that.  Heat tape works fine on water lines that have water in them.  Full lines are less likely to over heat.  An empty sewer line may melt or scorch from the heat of a tape.  There MAY be tapes made for this purpose, however I’ve never seen them. 
Enter PEX. My friend Mike, who’d done most of the interior work on his home in Wenatchee Heights, had raved about it. I did some research. PEX was more costly than PVC but less costly than copper. It didn’t require any welding — or whatever it is that people do to copper pipes to join them — and it was flexible. There were two kinds of fittings. One kind required special (costly) crimping tools. The other kind, known as PTC, let you literally snap pieces together, with no special tools at all. All I needed was a PVC pipe cutter (which I already had) and a very inexpensive tool I could use to separate joined pieces if I made a mistake. The snap fittings were a bit more costly than the crimp type, but I only needed a few. I bought a 100-foot roll of blue 3/4 inch PEX.
Like everything related to money, a good, well thought-out plan and budget is key. But I’m here to deliver a message – full-time travel is much more affordable than one might think. The average monthly campground / RV park fee is far less expensive than most mortgages or rent, and the varying price points of RVs and travel trailers can fit almost any budget. Sure, a decked-out class A can be expensive, but used travel trailers are priced quite affordably. Our very first travel trailer cost us only $8,000 – try buying a house at that price point!
Hey Joe – to be honest we never had an issue getting in/out of a gas station with our toad. We try to fill at Costco’s and they always have plenty of room but even small country gas stations have worked. However to your point, you can’t just drive in and expect to make it out, there is some planning that needs to happen to ensure you can get in and then back out without having to disconnect the toad. Which radio do you have?

My only issue with this article is the title “The real costs” which implies that you are about to tell us that full time RVing is not as cheap as some people might think. Instead you provided your expenses which I would speculate are much higher than the average. As a number of people mentioned your lot rent is perhaps two to three times higher than the typical rent.
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.
I think RV living would be awesome but I’m not sure if we could do it full time (or that my wife would want to) but I could see us trying an extended trip someday. I couldn’t imagine it with 3 kids though – our 1 daughter keeps us busy enough 🙂 I’m glad to hear that shifting to RV living full time has been a good experience and that your online work seems to be going well! Enjoy the experience!
As an example, before we started our RVing journey we lived CA which is a very high cost state both for income taxes, RV/car registration and insurance. When we went fulltime we severed our ties with CA and switched our domicile to SD which reduced those expenses significantly. Our state income tax went from one of the highest in the nation to ZERO while our RV/car registration dropped by around a factor of 5! Talk about instant savings!
Here’s another vote for you to keep it up. I’m 65 and preparing to stop working. I don’t want to just sit in a house and wait to die! Looking for a coach and preparing to hit the road. My wife is less than enthusiastic (so far) but I think once we get into it, the light bulb will turn on. We have always enjoyed traveling together, even our camping trips. Thinking about all the changes of scenary makes me all the more enthusiastic. I can cook a meal and clean a floor just like anyone else so that we can both enjoy our time seeing the country.
Some like the national parks offer you not only all the hook ups which include water/sewer/ele/free fills for your propane, but also pay you for every hour you work, and the national parks like workampers to ‘work’. Not hard or back breaking but they like you to work 4 or 5 days a week. It’s fun though. You can learn to be an interpreter and give trail walks with the public and explain the park and it’s historical significance, or if they have horses and you have experience with them they may put you in the equine area and you groom or saddle up horses or even end up leading or trailing the horse ride.
Instant Pot – A favorite among RVers, the Instant Pot was my Christmas gift from Brent in 2014 and we’ve used it nearly every day since. In fact, I just heard it beep signaling that our BBQ chicken is done. The multi-functional kitchen warrior is perfect for RVing as it serves many purposes: pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker, saute/browner, yogurt maker, and warmer. We have the 6qt IP-DUO60 7-in-1 and it’s plenty big enough for our family. Regularly, I double recipes and as of yet I haven’t had a problem fitting it all in the pot. We LOVE our Instant Pot.

Our family of 6, RVing full-time since 2010, averages $3,000 per month. On months when we are staying still, capitalizing on RV parks’ discounted monthly rates, we spend about $2000. $700 in fixed bills include internet access, insurance (RV, Auto, and Personal), small business operating expenses, food, fuel, incidentals, and entertainment. Months when we are traveling more, our expenses rise to $4,000. This represents increased camping fees (daily and weekly rates are higher than monthly rates), increased fuel expenses, and any time your RV moves, there’s the potential for repair expenses.
Typically there is one main bay that holds your black/grey/fresh tanks, your sewer connections, water pump, water filter, etc. This is the MOST important bay to keep warm. I purchased a tiny 200 watt (1.8 x 4.3 x 6.1 inches) ceramic heater and leave it running in the bay during freezing temperatures. It pulls about 5 amps and keeps all my pipes warm (exterior temp 20 degrees, inside bay 50 degrees). Some people recommend hanging a work light in the bay: I tried this and the bulb melted the plastic bay, and my water still froze so I don’t recommend this option.
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.
The full-time RV lifestyle is absolutely fantastic, and we’ve been loving our nomadic life since 2007. Many people who are new to the idea of RVing full-time wonder how full-timers get their mail or file their taxes or what kind of insurance they buy. What the heck do they use as a home address (known in legalese as a “domicile”) and where do they register to vote? And how do they save money on RV park and campground costs?
While neither of us were ever crazy planners, Kerensa did like to have a general plan of where we were going and what was around when we got there. Sometimes that skill still comes in handy like planning for the Florida Keys, but for the most part, we don't make reservations anymore. We prefer to stay loose with our plans and be able to adjust quickly to meet friends, dodge weather, or choose a destination on a whim!
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