This is an excellent post, Nina. People ask us all the time what it costs to RV full time, and we’ve come up with just about the same answer as you —we figure $3500 for a comfortable and varied lifestyle that includes a mix of state and federal parks, some boon docking, occasional expensive RV resorts, and camp hosting. We travel a lot of miles every year driving from the Pacific Northwest to Florida and back, which I realize isn’t typical.
RV parks have all your basic amenities—bathrooms, showers, washateria (not all of them), internet (typically slow wifi), and the occasional pool. One of the first things we realized early on was the difference between an RV Park vs. a Trailer Park. RV parks are places where RVers like us or retirees typically stay. A trailer park is… well, what you think of when you think of trailer park.
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!
I just found your website and am going to read all of it. I am so excited to say that we are starting to plan a full time RV trip in about 4 years. This is the start of our plan. research Research Research and by the time my daughter is about o go into high school we will hit the road. Homeschooling across america. I just wanted to take the time to say thank you for blogging. I am also researching blogging as a family, (from my point of view, from my husbands point of view and from a hormonal teenage 14 year olds point of view should be interesting) Reading your blog gives me hope to having our dream becoming a reality. And let the research begin I hope to one day meet you on the road 🙂
I am really scratching my head as to why you would not include the cost, finance, and depreciation of your RV in your calculations. I understand that everyone’s RV values will be different but by avoiding those calculations all the other calculations you’re are giving just gibberish. For example that $100,000 RV will only be worth $50,000 in five years. Just the depreciation alone over 5 years would be $833.00 per month! Then there is DVM fees, insurance,
For vehicle registration it very much depends on where you plan on establishing domicile during your fulltime RV travels. Typically you get a drivers license and register your RV in the state that you establish domicile. Most fulltime RVers chose either SD, TX or FL as their domicile states since they are income-tax-free states and are very “RV friendly”. If you plan on keeping a house or address in your home state however, then that may change how/where you can establish domicile. I’m not familiar with the rules in any of the states you mentioned so I don’t know the requirements for domicile in those states.
I cannot in good faith tell you that freezing camping is easy camping…but what I can tell you is: typically if you camp where it’s freezing you’ll have the entire place to yourself. Some of our favorite times to camp is in the off season, and freezing camping is always a fun challenge for us. I hope you’ll reconsider heading to the beach in cold weather, it is such a wonderful feeling walking on the beach all alone, bundled up, with the one you love 🙂
On the other hand, if you are outfitting the RV of your dreams for a life of full-time RV travel or of winter snowbirding RV adventures, then you might consider installing a vent-free propane fireplace that is built into an elegant mantel. These heaters give off the same incredible heat as the more industrial looking vent-free propane heaters, but they have the cozy and inviting appearance of a fireplace and produce a beautiful (and mesmerizing) flame. What a great addition to an RV!!
There are several posts out there about how to create DIY skirting on a budget, or you can get fancy with it and pay for professional skirting kits. Keep in mind how long you’ll be staying in cold temperatures and if you’ll need something you can take on the road with you, or if you only need to use it temporarily. I say this because while some materials may be cheaper, they may not be as easy to store later on.
While most full-time RVers change as much as they can to electronic, there are still some things that will be mailed. Many full-time RVers use a family member’s address, and still others use mailing services. Even if you use the former, you’ll need to include a budget to reimburse them if you need something forwarded to you. If you use a mailing service like the one offered by Escapees, you may have a monthly expense of $16.25 to $19.50 depending on the package you choose.
Why we recommend the Coachmen Chaparral fifth wheel: There are few fifth wheels which can offer the level of flexibility within 11 floorplans as the Coachmen Chaparral can. If tow weight is an issue for you due to fifth wheels being on the heavier side, the Chaparral 298RLS has got you covered. This RV weighs 9575 pounds (dry weight) which is actually quite impressive. Of course, if weight isn’t an issue and you’re having a lot of people living in the same RV, the Chaparral 371MBRB spans 41 feet and can house 11 people in it. Like we said, flexibility!
Awesome list, and we pretty much discovered each of these too! Well, we actually never realized how easy it is to find great campgrounds, so that one’s off our list (wish we had known about that website!). And even though our fridge was in our slide, we didn’t have any problems with it (but maybe that’s because we sold it before the issues could emerge?). But other than those, I feel ya. 🙂
14. Make a commitment to eating healthy. It can be all too easy to just stop in at the nearest fast food restaurant and grab something to go, but that certainly isn’t the healthiest option. You will need a well-rounded diet more on the road than anywhere else, so it would be best to make a plan for such a diet. There are many places where finding fresh fruits and veggies isn’t easy, so stock up when and where you can. Use stay-fresh bags to store these items in and learn to can these items as well for longer storage possibilities.
We had to skirt our first RV and it worked like a champ. We called the Miller Family from RVSkirting.com and even though they couldn’t install the skirt for us they helped us get set for a last minute freeze in Breckenridge, CO and gave us the confidence that we could install it ourselves. Most manufacturers and dealers don’t understand skirting so make sure you do lots of research or give these guys a call if you have questions about winter camping.If you plan to be in an area with snow you can try the poor man’s skirt, it works pretty well: Take a shovel and pile up snow all around your coach up to the bays. Pack the snow well and it can last for months. During an extreme freeze put a space heater under your coach, don’t worry it shouldn’t melt the snow…I call this the Igloo effect!
Maybe wintering out west or in southern Texas would allow us to save some money…but when we researched back in 2014 or 2015 an equivalent park in Mission Valley would only have saved us 100 bucks a month or so over what we’re paying here in Fort Myers. Fortunately…we’re well enough off so that budget isn’t our primary concern at this point…not because we’re brilliant investors but because we started saving 40 years ago…both always worked but lived on one salary and invested the rest…and because I invested my Navy retirement when it started in 1991 and my wife worked for a doctor’s professional organization with very good benefits. Mostly though…it was a case of living below what our salaries would have suggested and long term investing…compound interest is your friend.
$2,500 Eating Out – Similar to 2011 we find ourselves eating out 2 nice meals per week. This amount also includes the local breweries we purchase beer from and the local coffee roasters we support along the way. This number is a little askew as we’ve had a few of our meals comped or discounted some of the time when the owners find out we’re blogging about them (approx. savings $500).
I think living in an RV before you try to get fully into it isn’t a bad idea at all. Rental RV’s are a great way to do this. Just try it out for a while, travel around to get a feel of living in the thing in different areas and see how you feel. We’ve met many traveling nurses who fulltime and enjoy the comfort of having their own bed/home wherever they go. Good luck with everything!
Kelli, have you reviewed the entire section of videos I prepared on my website for winter living? Those will help you. That said, I’m seeing severe challenges with your plan. If you plan to keep water running in your trailer all winter, you’ll need to follow the protocol I have used and detail in my videos. As to “winterizing” – if you mean that in the sense you’re going to drain all the water and replace with non-toxic anti-freeze weekly – thats a plan that will fail quickly as it is a lot of work and the liklihood of failure in the plumbing and water heater is high. If you’re going to be there weekly for a day or two, I’d keep the heat running as if you were there full time and do as I illustrate in my videos in preparation to live for the winter in the trailer.
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!
I just ran across this today. My husband and I are trying to gather info so we can set out on a full time RVing adventure. I have found this info very helpful since we have not fully committed yet by actually purchasing our RV. (He’s retired and I’m not quite yet!) My question is, what do you do about having a permanent residence for times when that is needed? (Like when it’s time to renew your driver’s license.) We plan on selling our home and this was one of the many questions that came up. Any info would be helpful in making a more informed decision. Thanks.
Hello, I am a female, 50, and am on disability due to my spine being fused from my shoulders to my tale bone. I am very interested in living in an RV. I would sell my personal belongings to enjoy the adventure. i already live a very frugal life style. I want to see the world our Lord created. i am very nervous but still desire the adventure. Have you found it to be safe traveling? How often do you travel from one location to another? Are the camp sites dog friendly? Do you recommend any RV groups to travel with?
2. Make a plan for your kids’ education: Living in an RV is a rare learning opportunity. Your kids will be home schooled, the only difference being that their home will be on wheels. Your travel destinations are an important part of your kids’ education, so take advantage of historical, geological, and cultural sites as you travel. Alongside math, reading and writing, there are some great on-the-road learning activities you can do with your kids. See Fulltime Families for some great examples of fun DIY activities.
We use a similar method for personal hygiene. Wet wipes can take care of most basic hand and body cleaning. A bathroom sink full of water can be used multiple times before it goes into the waste tank. If the park where you are staying has shower facilities available, make use of them. If they don’t you may take what my mother called “possible baths”. You wash down as far as possible, then wash up as far as possible and leave ‘possible’ for another time. When you do use the shower in your RV, wet down, turn off the water, lather up, turn water on to rinse. Here is a video I found that shows another way to shower using a 2 liter bottle.
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.
Gradually, things started to clear out again and our mindset continued to shift. Then came the big day! An offer on the house – things just got real! We ended up having a huge rummage sale at my sister’s house since she was located on a busy street. We didn’t price anything but instead told people to make an offer on what they wanted. This was WAY easier. And we made an agreement that nothing would come home with us. We sold a lot and everything else was donated.
In a few years my husband and I will be full timers. My husband will be working shutdowns as a welder, so it will be a few more years before we are traveling for enjoyment. We have had this plan for a long time, we said when the kids finished high school we would boom out together. I’m looking forward to our next journey together. I’ve found all the comments here very informative and helpful. Thank you for 10 wonderful tips.
Always, always, always expect to incur maintenance charges each month. Expecting to pay each month for maintenance will save you many headaches and knots in your stomach when you inevitably break down, blow a tire, shatter a brake pad, or have a propane leak–all of which happened to us. You’ll need to be changing your oil and refilling on propane regularly anyway, so it’s best to just count this as a guaranteed expense.
It’s been over three years and I still love living in an RV with my five kids. I realize living in an RV and traveling with kids is not on most people’s bucket list and for good reason. It’s challenging and requires a great deal of perspective. Most days I do have to stop and remind myself why this is a conscious choice made with intention. There are many reasons I love this lifestyle, but here are seven of the reasons I wake up excited to be living in an RV and traveling the world with my kids.
We are just in the planning stages, our house is for sale, I’m dividing things up between our children and selling or storing the rest. We’ve found the 5th wheel we want and the house is for sale, really looking forward to this new adventure. We’ve had a 5th wheel before but only for occasional trips. All your information is so helpful, will be back often to see what else is new. From cold, snowy Canada
One thing to note with the small space heaters is that they can take up a lot of power. You may end up tripping a couple of breakers as you figure out how the power flows through your RV. If you flip a breaker take a second to note what you have plugged in and where. By doing this you’ll gain a better understanding of what you can run at the same time, and more importantly what you can’t run at the same time.
Vents are a crucial part of ventilating your RV but are also a major source of heat loss. By purchasing a vent cover, not only will it keep you warm, but will still promote ventilation preventing condensation and humidity buildup inside your camper. Vent covers add an extra layer of insulation and allow extra moisture to escape, preventing the growth of mold in your home.
Close family ties. People accustomed to frequent visits with family and friends need to consider how they will adjust, and how they will stay connected from across the miles. Some people find it difficult to leave a physical community or geography. On the other hand, we have met RVers who delight in their RV lifestyle as the perfect way to visit with friends and family geographically scattered around the country.
I’ve been wondering what to do with my life. I;m single and own a home with a mortgage. Going it alone is tough…especially when things break down, like the water heater. I have been looking into either leasing or selling my house and getting out of debt, then buying an RV. The thing is, I’m looking to set up permanently in an RV park and wondered how / IF that is an option and how would it work. Any advice or info about this would be greatly appreciated.
another outstanding post–and very timely for me-have finally reached a decision re hitting the road after following your blog and so many others–a great source of inspiration and information. have been doing lots of research on the forums and just signed up for the Escapees Boot Camp as a walk-in. will finalize my thinking re rig size and other items soon and this input is great!! hope to hit the road by the end of the year as the “downsizing” is already completed and most is in storage–need to “just do it”!! thanks again for all the info–really enjoy your posts–you guys have been a big inspiration
10. Establishing a permanent legal residence is an absolute must. While you may be planning to be on the road for 11 months and 29 days of every year, there are still very important reasons to have a permanent legal address. You have to consider things like your driver’s license, tax information, bank accounts and voting privileges. There is also the matter of mail forwarding, insurance rates and possibly vehicle inspections. While there are as many different sets of rules as there are states, the most friendly domicile states are South Dakota, Texas and Florida. Again, you will want to do your homework before leaving.
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.
My wife, dog and I are newbies who plan on selling everything and doing this for a year to figure out where we will live next (and last)on the mainland. We will be going both to camp sites as well as around some towns (not really cities, though). We have never RV’d before. What would be the right length/size RV for our situation? I see you are talking about 36 foot. Any recommendations on manufacturers and models? I think we might buy a year old one since we are only going to use for a year and then sell it. Don’t want to take too much of a hit on depreciation. Also, do you tow a small car for local transportation? Great website!
Overnight campsite and RV park fees with hookups typically range from $30 to $50 per night or more. That is $900 to $1,500 per month. However, a lot of full-timers avoid paying anywhere near that much and average closer to $500 to $900 per month. There are many ways to save money on overnight camping costs, and those are covered on our Full-time RV Lifestyle Tips page.
Retirement – Once you have an adequate emergency fund, and are debt free, the next component of savings is your retirement savings. We follow Dave Ramsey’s plan which suggests putting 15% of your gross income into tax-favored plans such as your company’s 401(k) and Roth IRAs. Don’t wait until later to start saving for retirement. You just never know what may happen in the future!
The sales tax rates also vary from state to state. The sales tax in one particular state may not seem important for someone who is going to be traveling all over the country, but the sales tax in your home state can actually be very important. If you buy a new vehicle — car, truck, trailer or motorhome — during your travels, you will register it in your home state and pay that state’s sales tax in the process. Many full-time RVers upgrade either their RV, tow vehicle or “toad” at some point. We have purchased tw trucks and two trailers during our years on the road. The sales tax rates in the most popular states for full-time travelers are:
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.
On the one hand, these are supremely useful posts. Costs are a huge question for anyone who is considering getting on the road and one of the most searched-for items for newbie fulltimers. I remember it was one of the top things we fretted about before we went fulltiming and we had such a hard time figuring it out. Could we afford it? For how long? What kind of budget would we need? We found several blog posts, but no-one seemed to be able to give us an exact number. How are you supposed to work with that??
Would love to hear how you deal with four kids and car seats. We have a Winnebago tour which is set up for four passengers and haven’t figured out how to put the car seats in there according to regulation for our two grandsons. Did you have something special he installed or is the view just configured properly for your needs. Our extra seats are on a sofa with no back to Heather bolts and the seats would be facing sideways which is not ideal for children any tips would be appreciated
Truth be told, cooking is the most difficult part (to me) of living in a camper in the winter. If you don’t crack open a vent so the condensation can escape, your camper will quickly begin to accumulate ice and mold, although the wood stove helps bake most of that condensation out. Also, make sure to wash dishes the second you finish your meal, because it gets much more difficult once they freeze… and you don’t want to carry any more water into the camper than you have to.
So here we are again in Tiger Run. We had a few problems en-route: Heater blower motor in the truck failed, fortunately they had one in Salt Lake City and it was warranted. Yay! Then the generator began spewing gas and failed. It smelled so strong we were afraid to light the furnace or fridge. We got a room instead and dried it out in the wind while going down the road. Fixed that yesterday in Salt Lake. Also had a skirt made for us by Zack, on the spot. Awesome! Thanks for that recommendation. Last night was our first time with a skirt, so an experiment. Outside temp was not to cold, 27 degrees, and the temp under the bay inside the skirt was 30. Ceramic heater on low. Nothing froze! We have the heat taped, insulated water inlet pipe instead of filling the tank. I find the water tastes better, and didn’t want to haul an 80 gallon ice block if we had a problem…. I have extra hoses if one freezes up. I therefore have not yet tried to use the LED rope light, but allow me to clarify, I was not intending to use this for the tanks, rather just running it along our water pipes inside the trailer like a heat tape, though I believe it won’t melt the pipes. In my case, I only need to keep them above freezing in the cabinet and behind the toity, and under the tub. The new discovery is that the skirt will probably solve this as our floor was the warmest it’s ever been last night! Also, the vent for the generator was hemorrhaging heat from under the skirt, so I temporarily stuffed some cardboard in there which brought the temp up a few degrees under the skirt. If the skirt fixes my internal pipe issues, then I will never know if the LED rope light works because I won’t bother to install it. It would be a royal pain to do so. We’ll keep you posted between trips up the mountains!
When Robert was offered a job in Atlanta working for an airline, they didn’t think they had enough money to buy a “proper house” for their two kids, their dog and their cats. So they decided to take the plunge on the RV lifestyle. Jessica convinced her company to let her work remotely so she could home-school their children and work in the RV anywhere in America. Robert works four days at the airline and then gets four days off, which he spends with his family in the RV.