The biggest difference in costs between living in an RV full-time and living in your own stick-built house is that the RV will depreciate very quickly while the house will appreciate over time. The recent real estate collapse notwithstanding, housing prices always increase as the decades go by. In contrast, RVs, cars and trucks quietly make their way to a value of $0 and eventually breathe their last breath in the crushing facility.
Health insurance costs are totally individual, and the coverage for everyone is evolving. We do not have health insurance. Other younger full-time RVers have posted some terrific articles about health insurance and the impact on one’s choice of domicile state. Check out the excellent posts by Wheeling It and Interstellar Orchard. They both reference insurance agent Kyle Henson of RVer Health Insurance who is quickly becoming the go-to agent for all RVers’ health insurance needs.
Regular hose, however, was not recommended by the heat tape manufacturer, which clearly specified metal or plastic water pipe. A hose was not a water pipe. Perhaps it wouldn’t work as well. Or perhaps it would degrade the hose and cause problems. I could imagine being poisoned by the breakdown of chemicals in my hose. (Seriously: I have a pretty good imagination sometimes.)
Why do we share our expenses of full time life on the road in our RV? To help others who travel like us. If you like the occasional splurge, fine bottle of wine, a couple of new outfits each season, and you don’t mind paying for a cool adventure then you’re expenses might be pretty similar to ours. If you don’t spend a lick on fashion or local sips and bites then your expenses will be nothing like ours.
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.
We embarked on the first leg of our planned trip: over to Indiana to visit my three sisters. We continued down through Ohio, the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, a stop in South Carolina to visit a close friend, and another stop in South Carolina to see Mark’s sister. We continued on down to Georgia and finally to Bradenton, Florida, where my mother-in-law lives. We had not seen most of these people in at least two years, and some we had not seen in as long as five years.
$823 Specialty Stores – We don’t shop that often at chain stores however there’s certain luxury food items, cleaning supplies, kitchen utensils, etc we can only find affordable at places like TJ Maxx, Ross, Target, Michaels, CVS, Tuesday Morning, Wal-Mart, etc. When Nikki needs specialty spices for cooking, fancy truffle oils, a pack of tissue, or a random cleaning product we’ll swing into one of these places. From this amount I’m positive a couple hundred bucks was for clothing or shoes (Nikki found a sweet pair of Barefoot Merrill shoes one day) and the rest of the total amount was for non-clothing stuff. So all you who gave us a hard time for the amount of money we spent last time on clothing for the last report can rest easy, we’re NOT shopping constantly, the only reason we spent so much on clothing last report is we hadn’t purchased new clothes in quite a while, and we were running low on Summer outfits. So there…..YA HAPPY NOW? Ha
Both the McKenzies and Padgetts pay for RV living through a variety of income streams. The Padgetts collectively run a film production company, dabble in marketing consulting, write books on how to live the RV lifestyle and more to generate a six-figure annual income. The McKenzies also boast long résumés, with Dan working remotely for a software company and Lindsay freelance writing. The couple also plans on launching a series of online courses on full-time RV living for people interested in taking to the road.
We knew what to expect in the way of weather, having lived in the northeast for years. We knew that once we got situated at our site, it would be very unlikely to get out with the RV until spring. We knew that winter RVing would mean insulating the water hookup to avoid freezing. We also knew that at this particular NJ campground, we would only have water and electric hookups and would have to rely on their weekly honey wagon to empty the tanks.
Although some people cover their windows with Reflectix, I have to have light in winter, so last year we covered our windows with a combination of bubble wrap and shrink plastic, and this year I made storm windows out of plexiglass and removable Velcro covers for the screens from clear vinyl. I wrote a separate blog post about my experiences with various cold weather window protection methods; you can read it here.
The highlight of our travels this year was visiting our 49th state, Alaska! During the long drive through Canada and Alaska, we listened to many audiobooks like Call of the Wild, White Fang, Hatchet, and Jason’s Gold as we drove through and visited many of the places in the stories. Thing 2 also developed a fascination with gold panning so he spent many hours reading about gold panning and then gave it a try himself near Girdwood and Chicken, Alaska. Roadschooling at its best!!!
My State Farm agent Will Tweed set me up for success when helping me plan our insurance needs. Thanks to Will I just received a check from State Farm for nearly $3,700.00 to pay for my replacement camera mentioned below in the additional gear section. This brings our 6 month spending total to $19,164 that’s $1,597 per person per month for living full-time on the road. Not too Shabby.Expenses 02/01/2012 through 07/31/2012$22,864.00 Grand Total for 6 months of RV Travel for both Nikki and I to live full time on the road in our Motorhome. This is approximately $1,653 per person per month. At this rate we’re on target to spend a similar amount as 2011. This really stinks as I feel we’ve been more frugal this year on the road vs. 2011. In certain areas we’ve saved literally thousands, but in others we’ve added expenses!Here are few ideas on how we can save money: (if you have any ideas, we would love to hear them)
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.)
We had been accustomed to a two car garage, and now got a new perspective on the task of shoveling the driveway. After one storm, the cars were just barely peaking through the drifted snow. We had to clear an area 40 feet long by 10 feet wide in order to pull the cars in and park them. Our efforts left us with a snow bank just about as long and wide, and about 8 feet high. The good news: our self-constructed snow bank served to block the wind. Well… sort of.
These kinds of campground membership programs are a complicated, and the companies change the rules as their profitability and growth plan requires. It is best to book your stays 90 days or more in advance and there may also be a complex set of rules to follow regarding staying within the network and outside of it. Sometimes an alternative campground network is offered so you have somewhere similar to stay when it is time for you to stay outside your home network. Two we’ve heard of are Resorts of Distinction and Adventure Outdoor Resorts given as the alternative networks.
Wow! Bold, informative, funny, truthful, your on to something. All your information from the Cats to your cell phone service. I feel very blessed to have watched HGTV that day. You are living our dream and at such a young age. Your showing a very young generation that you don’t have to wait till retirement to see the world. Oh I am not old by the way or retired but admire your budgeting skills and dedication to balance life experience vrs $$$.. You guys are getting it right. Ok so medical expenses. What people don’t know is when you pay cash for your medical care you can negotiate with the doctor because they save by not having to bill your insurance and all the clerical and bookkeeping costs. So lets say the cost of a physical is $500.00, well I think we all know that is crazy, but that is what they bill the insurance co. but if you tell them you are paying cash, ask for a discount. Good doctors that care about patient care are happy to do it. My parents do it all the time. Dentist, Eye Doctor.. You can monitor and care for your health with out medical insurance. Sorry so long.
For income, the pair relies on occasional real estate investments, though they are currently out of the real estate game and filling in as campground hosts in Florida in exchange for free rent. Their job entails greeting and assisting fellow RVers, keeping an eye on the campground and driving a tram that runs to the beach. They still look at potential real estate opportunities as they travel, but they’re not too eager to invest.
Once again, the answer may not be what they want to hear. The amount a young couple should spend on their first RV is what they can afford. It’s really as simple as that. Unless they know they can afford and support debt, then they should buy what is affordable, whether it’s a smaller used RV or something new. It’s much easier to upgrade than downgrade, so think about what is actually needed versus what is wanted. We sometimes get caught up thinking we need all those fancy gadgets and toys when it may be possible to get on the road much sooner if we become more realistic with our needs.
Within the last month I moved out of my apartment, purchased a new tow car and a 21′ travel trailer (monthly financing less than what I was paying for rent, and I will own them). I was really excited and didn’t quite think things through about where I was going to boondock. I work for Wal-mart and made arrangements with my store manager, but it is an awkward experience. Now to the point, I can’t be without internet. I use non contract boost mobile and pay $50 a month, this includes “unlimited” call, text and date plus my phone has hot spot capabilities. It allows for 2.5 gig a month of data and then when you reach the limit it slows your speed but you still have access to internet.
I really did enjoy this article. I haven’t camped in Alaska but I have camped in some very cold weather in a tent camper, so I do have a couple of hints. I warm my camper up on very very cold nights with three oil lamps. I use ultra pure lamp oil because it does not smell at all. I have a couple very small oil lamps that I use when we go to bed. I turn them down very low and can turn them up if I have to get up in the night. This saves battery power. If you can place bubble wrap over your windows it lets in light and keeps out the cold.
(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.
So my situation would be a little different. I would go somewhere, stay for 10 weeks – 2 years, and then go somewhere else. I know of several people in my field who do this and it seems a lot more feasible than staying in a hotel ($250 + per week) especially with a small dog. I guess what I’m trying to ask is: what do you thing the difference in cost might be and can you recommend any website for this type of Living? (I.e. less sight-seeing, more of just a place to live.)
Also, Nikki mentions the large amount of moisture created by running the propane furnace. Unless I don’t understand the process entirely, RV furnaces are vented to the outside, and should produce very little, if any additional moisture inside the coach. They work quite similar to a gas furnace in a home. The furnace in our home is natural gas and even when it runs a lot, there is no additional moisture in the house. Now if you have a gas space heater, that’s entirely different, as all of the moisture by product from combustion stays inside the coach.
- Adding skirting to the RV is essential to reduce heat loss. You can buy skirting made commercially or from a variety of materials such as plywood or rigid insulation. Insulating the skirting with rigid insulation helps keep the area under the RV warmer, which will keep the floor warm and the area under the RV from freezing. If the ground has not frozen and the area allows it, burying the skirting in the ground a few inches will add stability and reduce air flow.
Things really are thieves of time! I have always enjoyed removing clutter and simplifying aspects of my life, but never have I gone to the extremes we did when preparing to move into our Moyerhome. I have noticed over the past two years that we really don’t need as many things as we think we do and that having lots of stuff gets in the way of getting
I truly love this story and the life you are having at this point in your children’s ( and your) lives. We would love to travel the us via RV for 6 months. We just returned from a 6 month world travel trip with the kids age 10 and 12. Now they are back at school and their sports. We plan to possibly do the RV thing in 2 years so your blog will be something I will refer to frequently. Thank you for sharing so much. Good luck
Good Morning to all. I have read and skimmed my way through the initial posting and the comments. So here is my 2 cents. I have been full time RV’ing since August 2015. Sold my home in NY State because it was too expensive to run on my retirement and Social Security. I made the same mistake & stored a fair amount of belongings & furniture. That will go this summer. I still own property in NYS and barns, but that will be another year. I started out with a 37′ 5th wheel, drove to Florida and spend 6 months & 1 day at a campground on the Space Coast. Thoroughly enjoyed the time there and will be going back this November. (November 1 through May 1). I bought a new 5th Wheel in Florida and am enjoying it much more that my last one. You mentioned size, but I generally don’t have an issue. I have not tried dry camping yet and I have not done that in an RV before, The new 5th wheel is 42′ in length plus a spare tire and bike rake. I drive a 3500 Silverado diesel dually and I am very comfortable in all situations, including in town if I am going to a campground there or just following a detour, which I ran into in Nebraska. This past spring after leaving Florida, I traveled westward to Colorado to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. I was still in the mode of “make as many miles as possible in a day”, but I am now realizing that I really don’t need to do that, I’m retired. On previous trips out to South Dakota & Wyoming, I saw Badlands National Park, Devils Tower, Mount Rushmore and stayed in Cody, WY before moving on to Yellowstone & the Grand Tetons. Therefore after visiting with some friends in Wyoming, I headed back east. Now I wish that I had stopped along the way, even though I had seen those sights. I missed the Badlands and the Wild Horse Reserve south of Rapid City and the area around Rapid City. Another good reason to settle down and enjoy the sights. I am back in Upstate NY for the summer and will be heading back to Florida around the end of September. I am also considering a resident state in either South Dakota or Florida. Medicare supplemental plans will make that decision for me. Right now I have a great plan from Excellus BC/BS in NY and that will be what I will want from either of those states. I’m thinking about alternate routes other that I-81 & I-95 heading south. I am a single guy not by choice, so I have to do all of the things to keep the adventure going. I purchased a Magellan RV GPS and I feel very comfortable with it. The next 2 years will hopefully see me travel to Montana for the Glacier National Park and then south through Utah for all of the parks and the natural beauty. In 2018, I am planning to drive up to Alaska. That plan is in it’s infancy right now. Just gathering data and trying to throw out bad info and keeping what sounds reasonable. I’ve also donated at least 50% of my clothes because I don’t wear them. Takes up space and a lot of weight. I’m always looking to reduce weight. I hope that this gives someone else some ideas about life on the road.
It is imperative to keep one tank full at all times. When selecting which tank is being used, select the option that restricts gas draw to only one tank at a time. This guarantees a full tank is available when the tank in use runs empty. Switch to the full tank, remove the empty and promptly get it refilled. I always kept a small five gallon propane tank in reserve just in case the winter weather prohibited me from getting to a local refill station.
When we first got the RV the thought of a hard-mounted, fully-automatic Satellite TV dish on our roof seemed just the ticket. Push a button and off you go….fabulous! However camping as we do in lots of spots with trees and obstacles we have line-of-sight perhaps only ~50% of the time making our dish mostly useless. In retrospect a movable dish would totally be the way to go.
Wonderful, wonderful, website, and it’s free (I am getting a pedalist-maybe I can talk the owner into helping sponsor this site, it’s a great vehicle for local transport when you don’t want/need to haul a car, ) as my philosophy is internet website should be free (I DO click on all the ads of free websites though!), my question though, is there any website that can help you find someone to travel with in an RV? Roaming Times USED to have one, but now they have redone their site, it disappeared (don’t they know from Craigslist and Plenty of Fish, that a very basic site works as long as you give people what they want you’ll be popular-sigh). I’ve tried the usual, Travel Buddies, Travel Companion Exchange-but they are not geared to people in RVS, and the travel clubs that you mentioned above seem geared just for people who have their RV and want to travel alone, tried posting in Thorntree, Fodors and Frommers forums, but those aren’t geared to finding travel companions (I want to buy a camper trailer and share it with someone who has a car that way the partnership is equal), and even CL. Maybe that’s impossible task and if I knew how, I would set up a website!!
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.
Just like anything in life, you can’t please everyone and everyone doesn’t have the same amount of money Which makes this country great. In the US you can work hard and succeed. And those that don’t have nobody to blame but themselves and government that takes so much from those that do work hard. I just found your site and am hoping to find out the cost of going full timing. My hubby and I have no idea what the costs would be or how to determine how much we will need to live our life on the road. I’m hoping reading your site will give me more insight. What would be really nice is a book that gives a good idea what to expect. We have our unit already, after many tries I think we found the one that will serve us the best. If anyone knows of any books on this matter please let me know.
Our initial budget estimate was somewhere between $2500 and $2800 per month. We are very happy that we’ve been able to make this lifestyle work at much less, around $2000 per month (not including health costs, business expenses, and paying taxes). We continue to look for ways that we can reduce our overall monthly costs, and are still very frugal about what we buy and when.
Switching to an RV lifestyle can be daunting at first, especially with little ones to think about. If the process seems overwhelming, keep in mind that many families have happily lived the full-time RV life before you (check out the ouropenroad or bareneckers Instagram accounts, for example). By considering these seven things before becoming a full-time RV family, you’ll be well on your way to happy travels.
When it comes to pleasure items, you will have to keep the list low. The more people who are trying to fit in the R.V., the less space you personally will have. Take the most special and most used toys. If you plan to take furniture, take smaller items and remember that they have to be secured or they will shift when driving. You can put extra items in storage units.
I went back and got to work. The biggest chore was attaching the heat tape to the pipe and insulating it. The big challenge there was straightening the PEX. It does straighten, but it straightens easier when it’s warm and it does require muscle. (Needless to say, I was sore the next day.) I cut off about 70 feet of the stuff and ran it across my driveway from the water source to my RV’s water connection area. Then, with the sun shining full on me the next morning, I brought out a clean damp rag (to clean away dust on the PEX as I worked), set up a chair, and got to work.
For your expenses, you’re going to have both fixed and variable expenses. Fixed are going to be the same every month and HAVE to be paid. These are things like cell phone, internet, and insurance bills. If you have a loan on your RV or vehicle, they would also fit into this category (*Note: we highly recommend eliminating this monthly expense if possible by buying less-expensive used RVs/vehicles.) Trying to get these Fixed Costs down is key to a low-cost lifestyle, so try to find way to eliminate or reduce these when possible.
Help! I am in school and traveling my way to spending my life in debt. Not from school but trying to decide living options. RVS are so expensive I have thought about travel trailers and tiny homes. I never know which way to go. People urge me towards equity in a home and stability for my son but we live in oklahoma with no beautiful landscape and can never take time off from work because our jobs are perpetually oppressive. I need to know that this works. It’s not scary, it is healthy and people are safe on the road aswell. We are battling obesity and other health related issues at only 25 from a sedentary and work driven lifestyle any support would be awesome!
And a tip. If you are trying to get chrome tape to stick to your fiberglass exterior in cold weather, say, to put up reflectix, try this:wipe where you want the tape to stick with a hot damp rag. It will dry quickly and the tape will stick to the warmer surface. I’ve done this in sub 20 degree weather! Make a square of it around window, then run your next square of tape over top if it when you put up the window covering. It will stick to that easily. Maybe precutting them and sticking them inside my coat helped to keep them warm too.
We’ve down sized, got the house on the market, and will be using the Clearwater Fl. area as our enitial home base. We’ve realy injoyed your blog. Your tips have been benificial, and your weekly blog updates are great. We hope to come across the two of you some day, perhaps some fall while traveling back from visiting with our friends and family near Placerville Ca. where we plan on ending our summer runs, before heading east to fl. for winter. PS: Your light house blogs brought home some warm memories of my home town in Fond du Lac wis. We have one in our town park. A raminent of days gone by. Also here is a web conection to some I’ve recently come across. Thanks, Matt & Ida
We recommend spending a small-enough amount that they don’t have to finance it. From what we’ve seen, a lot of full-timers change their rigs (typically downsizing) after the first year on the road, and this is easier if you’re not over-extended on your current rig. It’s very hard to know what you’ll really want until you’ve tried it. We don’t believe in purchasing a new RV (at least not for the first rig). They depreciate so much, and they have more problems than they should for the money spent.
Odd, why on earth would anyone snub their nose at you for showing all of your expenses? I personally believe that you have done a wonderful thing with all the work you put into this blog of yours and people can simply add or remove what doesn’t apply to them! You both found a way to still bring in some added income by running a small business on the road and believe this is valuable for many who may want to free themselves from the reigns of a 9 to 5 career who may have some retirement to be self supporting, yet want that little extra to enjoy a lifestyle full timing it on the road that’s a little more comfortable and not too limiting.
Obviously, food is a point where budgets can vary widely by personal dietary preferences… but you’ll probably spend similarly to what you spend now, maybe a touch more. The biggest change is you may not have room to store bulk buys – so that could account for some increase. And you may be tempted to eat out a bit more while you’re traveling, mostly to sample local cuisines but sometimes just because it’s easier after a long day of driving, or cooking in a small space may be seem limiting.
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.
On our current Class A motorhome, we spend an average of about $600.00 per year on maintenance, but that is because I do a lot of the routine maintenance and repairs myself. Annual maintenance on an RV varies by type. A Class A or C motorhome will cost more annually than a Fifth Wheel or Travel Trailer, because they have engines to maintain. But even with the trailers, you have to include the maintenance cost of your tow vehicle.
4/ wet suits and beach/surf gear – for some reason we had it in our heads we’d use these a lot. Instead they took up a bunch of space and we rarely (a few times per year?) used them. We decided it makes more sense to rent these as needed. We feel the same about kayaks and paddle-boards. You may end up differently, but my advice is leave these at home when you start out until you have some experience with where you travel and what you like to do. You can always rent and if you really miss them you can brings them along on the next trip.
My VA business focuses on providing social media, blogging, and email marketing support for small businesses and my husband is now coming on board to focus on web design and SEO work. Outside of that, we continue to work on monetizing our travel blog and using our blog as a way to encourage other families to travel more and to also live their dreams now!