Just as the more commonly accepted THOW forums go there is always that one question that is asked over and over and over so to does the RV community. It usually manifests itself as some version of “How much does it cost per month to live full-time in an RV?” And as one would imagine there is no standard answer. The answer is highly personal and varies from person to person based upon personal living style and income.
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. 🙂
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.
There is a silent attacker you may not be aware of, it’s name, Humidity. Humidity is already an issue in RVs, which is why we use our dehumidifier a few times a week. However, as the temperature began to drop outside and we ramped up the heaters on the inside we noticed our windows began to develop a crazy amount of water on them, which would then begin to freeze. This left frost on the inside of our windows so we made sure to wipe the windows down and run our dehumidifier every day.
I really think it has helped us learn who our kids are as individuals and people. It also allows us to be here for them when they have a question or problem they need help figuring out. We give them as much space as we can, and as they get older they are venturing out more and more on their own at the campground, museums, etc. But it has been great to be such an important and big part in their lives and to continue to spend so much time with them.
$1,399 Eating Out – As per the last reports we try to enjoy our experience in new towns through food, drink, and good ol’ conversation. The easiest place for a weary traveler to pull up a chair in a new town…..the Bar, and this tradition has been the same since the beginning of time. On average we eat out 2 times per week, typically at a local eatery that’s come highly recommended by the locals. Here and there we’ve had a few meals comped for being travel writers, we’ve had few of our online friends buy us a warm meal or a brew, and we’ve been treated to a few home cooked meals at homes along the way, and for this we are extremely grateful. Nothing better than sitting down and breaking bread with a few fellow RVers who’ve been following our journey….and then they pick up the tab 🙂 You Guys ROCK!
Prices for LP are all over the map, and we haven’t been very diligent about shopping around. We just buy it when we need it from whoever has it nearby. We’ve been paying anywhere from $2.59/gallon to a little over $4.00 a gallon in 2014. We use about 15 gallons per month: a little more in December/January/February when we use our vent-free propane heater to heat the trailer, and less in summer. RVers that stay in RV parks and campgrounds with electric hookups use a lot less propane than this, because they don’t run their refrigerator on propane 24/7. If you have hookups and don’t have metered electricity, you can save on propane costs in the winter by using an electric space heater.
After you have identified your fears, accept them, even embrace them; they are a natural instinct given to us to keep us safe and from taking stupid risks. They are a good thing unless we let them paralyze us. When that feeling of fear and panic starts to well up from your gut, take a really deep breath and literally thank it for the wise warning it’s offering you. Then assure it you will consider the warning very seriously. This may seem very “new-agy” but try it any way.
a) We notice you didn’t sell your home, but decided to lease it out? Do you mind sharing what made you make that choice throughout your RVing, Cruising and now RVing again days? Just thinking it is added shackles that bind at times dealing with property and tenants. Was it because of negative equity situation? It generates positive cashflow so made sense that way? Or just psychologically having the security of still keeping a SnB?
We have camped at Tiger Run also and the temps got down to -9 F. We got the extended propane tank rented from the campground. We had all the issues and made a cardboard skirt and put a ceramic space heater underneath. That worked, though we left our sewer hooked up and only drained once a week and used the built in facilities during the day. We wrapped the exterior drain pipes with heat tape and insulation. We added hot water to the grey and black water tanks before flushing. Didn’t have a problem. Also made the heated water supply hose with heat tape and insulation. That never froze either. This year we are going back (in 2 weeks! YAY!) and are having a custom skirt made. Combined with the ceramic heater underneath, this should keep the whole thing warmer as well as stop any freezing of the water bay and plumbing. There is one weak link in our trailer, the water lines run through a cabinet, then back out behind the toilet, then under the bath tub, and then into another cabinet where the pump is. This froze twice. I rerouted one of the heater vents to heat the first cabinet by removing the vent exit and setting the vent tube to blow half of it’s air into the cabinet. Ugly but effective in an emergency. This year we are going to try running an LED rope light along that pipe run. This will double as a night light. They use very little power, and don’t get as hot as incandescent bulbs. Allegedly, the skirt and ceramic heater should fix everything but you never know! We’ll follow up as things progress. We agree that winter camping allows us to enjoy snowboarding and skiing places like Breckenridge Aspen, and Jackson Hole and actually afford it! And of course you can bring your doggie or kitty too.
You added a lot of confidence that my wife and I are planning right for our expected expenses. I had used an average between Howard’s numbers at RV Dreams and Kirks from the Escapees Forum. Then added a figure for annual inflation (2.5%) based on going full time in 2019 when we originally planned on 2023. We are spot on at around $3,007 average in future dollars and with no debt. Our form of travel will include workamping at times so we will be parked at times.
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!
But Yankee ingenuity prevailed on the part of our fellow campers. The gang put their heads together to deal with the trials of winter RVing. One guy had a large pickup that was not street legal, but could get around the campground. Another woman had a relative nearby with a big portable water tank they used on their farm. It fit in the back of the truck and held 300 gallons of water. Another guy had a pump that would pump water from the supply tank to RV fresh water holding tanks.
This is a big one. And to be honest, one I have mixed feelings about. There are still times I miss our old life and our old house. And I feel that by introducing all of us to this lifestyle it would be really hard to go back to what our old life was. My biggest fear is that our kids are going to continue traveling the world for their whole life and end up settling down all over the place so we won’t all be in the same location when our kids start having kids. Crazy right – then why the heck did we do this then??
Thanks for the article, Tim! I really enjoy hearing and reading about folk’s experiences when living and traveling small. I never made time for it even though it was a dream and, now that I’m old, it will be one of those things that I’ll say, “If only…..”. Everyone reading this article: Please do everything you can to have a bucket list, and then do it! Don’t have regrets. I DO have a bucket list now and will do everything I have time for. Your story encourages me to keep going.
Brent misses traveling full time just as much as I. The other day he told me he thinks about being in Alaska nearly every day. So even if it’s hard to connect over who is going to pick up the boys after school or do the grocery shopping, there is always the crashing waves along the Homer Spit or the golden leaves in Yukon. We can go there in our imaginations together as we continue to figure out how to have adventures while making sure the gas bill gets paid.
And some RVs–for example Airstreams–do go up in value (or at least hold their own) if you play your cards right. For example, our Airstream was selling for around $7000 in 1976, when it was brand new. If we had it in the pristine condition we could should we give her 3 months time, selling it for $30,000 wouldn’t be out of the question, which is about inline with what $7k in 1976 would be equivalent to today.
Advertiser Disclosure: Some of the offers that appear on this website are from companies which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The site does not review or include all companies or all available products. For more information please see our Advertiser Disclosure.
Track your expenses. I just recently started doing this, and it really puts things in perspective. I use this Google sheet to track all my income and expenses (just go to “File” -> “Make a copy” so you can edit it). Once you see where you’re spending too much, it’s easier to cut back! Plus, it makes you think twice before spending (do I really want to track this?).
That was very nice of you to list your expenses like that. Many of us appreciate it. As you mentioned, this is your lifestyle choice. Personally, I think it is a great one. I don’t get why some other posts are trying to compare it with monthly expenses for owning a home. You and your family are living the life you want. Good for you. You are open and honest. After reviewing your expense sheet, it is my opinion that you and your family are living a frugal lifestyle compared to most of us. I love the simplicity of your life without the baggage of all the stuff. Blessing to you and yours!
Tim, I liked your story,it’s wonderful to see someone living outside the square. I live in Australia and will soon head off to the Kimberleys and beyond in a tiny caravan, just me and my cattle dogs,I will spend the rest of my life travelling Australia. I did it once before in my twenties for 4 years, but now i can’t see the point of rattling around on my own in a big house. I’m a signwriter, so will be signwriting to pay my way. I can’t see myself stuck in one place forever.The older i get ,the more i realise, not what i want, but what i don’t want, like the tv, which i tossed out years ago. I have a little 2001 jeep soft top, and the caravan i will get is a Little Robin Mini, and the smaller version is called a Little Robin Mini Mini. I hope to read more of your adventures.Beautiful dog.
I live in Ga and have an open DFCS case because my son and I stayed in a van. I wanted to buy an RV however I do not know how legal it is to stay in an RV, Im unsure about how I will argue that it is a perfect alternatuve to staying in a van. Do you have any advice on how I can get clearance from DFCS so that my son and I can stay in an RV legally do you know anyone I can talk to about it.
We had planned to stay in the RV for an entire year after being stationary but soon realized that wasn’t going to work. Not only were the boys embarrassed, our 41′ RV shrunk exponentially once we quit moving. Having Yellowstone or Lake Superior as the playground in your backyard is much different from the city campground where the RVs are crammed together like books on a bookshelf. So we found a house and a few months later said goodbye to the RV.
When we first started talking about RVing full-time, we had no idea how much it cost to live full-time in an RV. Was it going to cost more than living in a house? Was it going to cost less? How much would we spend on gas a month? I had no idea, and I wasn’t about to uproot my life if we couldn’t afford it. If you’re wondering how much it costs to full-time RV, well, then you’re in the right place.
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.
Emily, you have done an absolutely fabulous job of compiling tons of useful information and we avidly read your blog and go back over things as we prep to hit the road full-time. We love the way you think, your personality and just everything we read. You have been so kindly open with your budgets etc but there are two things we are just curious about being of similar ages and not able to get pensions or SS at this stage in our lives.
hi we are David & Kathy Harrington I plan to sell our home this spring and buy motorhome or 5th wheel but leaning on motorhome 40 ft. any thoughts on this would be helpful our granddaughter lives with us so we can’t hit the road until she is 18 yrs. old and gone I hope but still plan to sell& buy this spring and live in it until then so I will continue to gather as much info I can from you guys as yawl willing to share thanks GOD BLESS all of you marry Christmas & Happy New Year may all your travels be BLESS
Mail forwarding services are inexpensive (as little as $10 per month plus postage), safe and convenient. When you use them, you automatically become a legal resident of the state where the service is located. Therefore, it is important to choose one such as Florida or Texas where fees and taxes are much less costly than places such as New York or California.
When asked what advice she’d give to anyone considering RVing full-time, she mentions the word balance. In the life of a full-time RVer, balance means a number of things. It means researching and planning, but it also means driving west with no other goal than to see the surf of the Pacific. It means camping in cities and drinking beer in crowded breweries, but it also means spending weeks alone in Montana, camping on the outskirts of Glacier National Park amongst the fields of beargrass and turquoise lakes. Mostly, it means embracing a life defined by travel, even if other real-world problems like finding a doctor and sticking to a budget do arise.
I wanted to know all these things before changing so I hope this helped anyone with any different doubts or thoughts. One thing to add; no matter where you go there will be people with their own thoughts on how you should raise your kids, their own huge judgements and this will not help that. I feel this area is really good to be in for that; there are many full time rvers in Fl-young and old. That was a huge concern of mine but actually there was always judgements on what kind of parent I was no matter where we lived. Not much of a difference. What makes your family happy is really what is best for all of you. Most here are not even surprised and when we told the local librarian she showed us a couple of really great fulltime rv living books. There is a retired older man that does a puzzle each week there and my daughter has gotten to be a helper and friend to him and they are there with the kids in the after school programs. There are also kids at the rv parks here.
Make meal preparation a new shared activity. Shop local farmers markets for fresh in-season options, try new foods, and share meal preparation with campground neighbors. Cooked-by-you means healthier eating because you control the ingredients. Dining out is fun and convenient, but to save money, making your own meals will be the best decision for your budget.
My greatest concern is the plumbing. Tanks can be insulated and heated. Some RVs, even smaller B+ have the fresh water tank inside. However, those small tubes for the water system will freeze very quickly if the temperature is below 32F. Heat tracing is a solution, and there are some very good industrial products. However, at present it seems I’ll have to extensively modify any RV I buy with insulation, heat tracing and heat pads. Adding those things isn’t all that difficult. Doing it in such a manner as to avoid excessive electrical energy usage – that’s the challenge!
Very informative site, thank you for all the work putting it together. My wife and I have a small rv and are intending traveling from Fl. to the Jackson Hole/Yellowstone area and would like to know how much hard cash we should carry. We are not trying to skimp, we don’t need to(thank God) and besides we want to enjoy ourselves, but feel we should have some cash with us but not too much.
I’m a christian and the more I learn about and from God the more I realize we aren’t supposed to be living so that we can work. I feel like a prisoner in my home because the utilities control my ability to enjoy my home and then I feel like a prisoner at work because if I want those bills paid I have to work those 12hr shifts. So I appreciate your information on finding your land and your list of needs…. I’ve considered an RV for a temporary place between the selling and buying time after seeing it on your site.
In 2015, the couple paid cash for their used 30-foot Four Winds trailer and Dodge 3500 pickup. Downsizing into the rig was relatively easy since their tiny two bedroom apartment didn’t have room for too many possessions. “We cut it to the quick when we moved out of the apartment,” says Kristy. “I’ve been very pleasantly surprised with how little we actually needed, even with the kids.”
I get it. I grew up with my parents RVing all over, went in the military and traveled all over and got out and bought a small 16′ toy hauler, that lasted a year (do to the cramped style of it). we then bought a 27′ toy hauler and full timed in it for 5 years (still cramped with no slide outs)before deciding to take the leap. We now live Full time in a 36 1/2′ RV with 4 slide outs. it has a nice size bedroom w/ king size bed and washer and dryer, nice size bathroom with shower, big kitchen and dining area (which I re-modeled) and a big front living room with two fold out sofas and a complete entertainment system which I upgraded. did I mention that it’s a 5th wheel? any how, we have no problem that can’t be fixed at a lot cheaper price than a house and sleeping arrangements, she gets the bedroom and I get the sofa when snoring, which i might add is NOW very comfortable with the extra 4″ thick full length padding I added. we have a house on wheels 3 heaters, 3 AC units, wine cooler, ice maker, washer / dryer, 3 TV’s and so much more. I have added a lot of this to make life comfortable . I just wanted to say that RV living does not have to be a nightmare. It is what you want to make of it. It looks like you have decided NOT to make it a permanent life style like us and just use it as a means to get by while you build your dream home. that’s great too. however, I would change the title of your segment to “OUR 10 ugly truths of fulltime RVing in a small RV.” or something more related to the size of your RV. because when you get into the bigger RV’s your 10 ugly truths don’t really apply. except one item, GENERAL WEAR AND TEAR. I totally agree that the furniture is not made as durable as it should be. but then again things in or on a house wear out also. and that stuff will cost you a lot more than on a 5th wheel or TT Type Trailers. motor coach’s are different. depending on what breaks, they can get very expensive. I have one small question, when your house is built and you are settled in will you take your trailer out and go camping?
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.
This is a hugely variable cost that has changed a lot in our lives over the years. The figure for these six months of summer travel in 2014 is way higher than ever before. Our biggest “eating out” cost comes from getting coffee and muffins at coffee bistros (so nice!). The rest is a combination of beers at cute brewpubs and meals at Subway and other fast food joints. For comparison, in the first four months of 2014 before this trip, from January to April, our monthly restaurant bill was $70. In those months we weren’t camping near many inviting places!
This is an amazing lifestyle to live with your kids. There’s lots of downtime to just hang out and enjoy each other and tons of adventuring and exploring. Overall, it’s an awesome way to deepen your family bond! After 3 years of living this way, we have always been able to figure out how to make it work so everyone can enjoy this journey we are on!
“My team is very much self-managed for the most part,” he explains. After experiencing a few lessons in human resources, Bearded Brothers can now pinpoint the right employees to facilitate Caleb and Kristy’s unconventional lifestyle. “We want people who are more self-motivated,” says Kristy. “We want to continue to travel knowing that we have a team that likes to be left alone and self-sufficient.”
There are 5 main steps we followed in order to stay warm during freezing temperatures. With this being our first winter in the RV I’m sure we’ll continue to learn as we travel and experience different challenges. In this post I’ll go into more detail on the tips we’ve learned so far on winter camping, but be sure to check out some of our favorite resources at the bottom of this post.
The form your money is in makes a difference in how you RV and what your expenses will be. If you have a big income that comes from a limitless source (a pension and/or Social Security), then a large personal loan on a new luxury Class A motorhome may be just fine and the nightly expense of high-end RV parks won’t be a problem. However, if you are trying to make a small nest egg last to your dying day, and you are not even retirement age yet, you may be best off spending a portion of it to purchase your RV outright, rather than paying interest on a loan, and you will also be looking to save money on camping and overnight parking.
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.
Gosh young folks! This may sound critical:-) You don’t seem to have enough good ideas how to live frugally or even inexpensively. You could do fine for half the amount you spent. Just look at your clothing expenditures or the $845 for houseware? D-oh! Hey we find Columbia sportswear and other sick stuff at Goodwill and ARC. You just have to make it a habit to check em out and go to the ones in the nice part of town! Learn to horsetrade and to borrow and lend use of things like kayaks, bicycles and sporting goods or cars. Don’t buy everything! Buy hardly anything brand new! its fun! Add an extra fuel tank and always fill up when in the cheapest regions. Saves a lot.A new laptop battery could be bought online for very little for most any model including MACs. Our phones with limited web access and unlimited text are only $30/month. Always stay at least on model behind the latest and greatest high tech gear. It costs half the price. I am typing on a MB Pro that is not quite as thin as the latest model:-) Who cares?
I think school bus conversions are awesome! But, I’d just mention that you should decide what kind of life you want to have – one where you work to make money to pay for your RV’s monthly installments, and get one that’s in good enough shape that you don’t have to constantly be working on it, or a life where you can work less because you buy a cheaper / older rig, work on it yourself, but will likely work on it a LOT more often than a newer one. I have always chosen to work on cheaper things myself, but it’s a personal choice. Sounds like an exciting time in life for you, James!
We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.
I’m a 57 widow, retired Air Force and have a great job that only requires me to be near an airport and have internet and cell phone access. Just traded in my 34′ Montana and 200 Ford F350 and Charger for a new Montana toy hauler, 2017 F350 and a 2018 Harley Road Glide. Selling my house and all but enough to furnish a small villa (when I tire of the Great Adventure) and I’m hitting the road this spring.
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!