It also takes a long time to let go of old living patterns and establish new ones. When we first started fulltiming we were accustomed to one- and two-week vacations, and we lived as though we were on vacation. It was only after a few months on the road that we began to realize, deep inside, that we didn’t have to see all the sights in three days. We could stay three weeks and see them only when it was sunny and when we were in the mood for sightseeing.
r(E)volutionary disclaimer: We live on the road as an expression of freedom and discovery. We look for places that are either in the sun, near friends and family, or in proximity to a learning opportunity for our daughter. We live without consumer debt and have whittled away our monthly overhead. While I have a corporate day job it is a telecommute position allowing us to be on the road as a relatively young couple with a growing young lady. Our monthly income is consistent and we live on a budget.
As for costs it’s a very variable question, but I would say most RVers are in the $2500-$3500/mo range with a few RVers who do it much cheaper (around $1,000-$1,500/mo) and some who use alot more ($5,000/mo). Your biggest variable budget item will be gas & RV park costs, both of which can be managed by how far you drive and where you stay (or if you volunteer, workamp etc.).
I’ve just found you, and I’m soaking in all this information. Thank you. Do have advice for a single woman in her 60’s thinking about full timing for a while? I’m retiring and don’t know yet where I want to live. So considering traveling around for a while to find the right place. No experience yet with driving or living in an rv… Yikes! Help? 🙂 Thanks!
I was enlightened by the Tiny House movement. After researching into buying a tiny house and furnishing it, the cost was more than my regular sized 2 bedroom home. I then started looking at used RV’s, mainly 5th wheel Trailers and travel trailers. I found a decent used 5th Wheel with good bones, and bought it when my house sold. Prior to that, I spent 9 months selling off everything I owned and thought I needed. Everyone thought I was nuts. The kids where grown, the husband passed away, and it was just me and the cat. The banker suggested, I replace AC unit with a Heat and Air unit, battery, fridge…anything that was too old. My investment was $3900 for a 1996 Dutchman Aristocrat 27 ft. Back then they made them solid with good wood not chip board. Heat and Air Unit $850, Fridge (electric only) $150. I did quite a bit of water line insulation, because these units were not meant to live in cold weather.
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.
Portable Solar Panel – We loved having a full solar system but that’s quite an investment and if you aren’t going to be doing a lot of boondocking then a portable solar panel is a better option. Portable solar panels allow you to keep your devices charged and a battery topped off for short stints off the grid. Of course, check with your RVer first before investing in such a gift.
Windows; Dual pane windows are a must have item if you are going to spend the winter in your RV. If your RV does not have dual pane windows you can get storm windows made which is basically a second pane of glass that you slip onto the inside of the window to create a dead air space. Another way to do this is with stick on plastic. The main reason this is needed is to prevent condensation form building up on the inside pane of glass and then freezing and melting, the water can run down the wall and cause rot and mold.
Good morning. So glad found this site. We r 71 74 and decided we r traveling while in good health. We are selling our home on the lake snd everything in it. Trk and trlr style travelling . Where can I find more info on the travel clubs u referred to and what about phone, WiFi, television services. Husband loves his KY wildcats and Murray State games. Have a friend that rv’s several times going to pick his brain too. R solar systems expensive? Thank u
Also, there are endless ways to earn an income on the road. Photography, writing and other freelance gigs come to mind as the most obvious, but even many company jobs are now location independent. Our accountant is a full-time RVer, while another good friend in sales recently convinced his large corporate employer to let him travel full-time. When he laid out the cost, it was actually cheaper for the company than the monthly airfare / hotel costs he was racking up while traveling a few days each week. The point is, the options are endless.
Our motorhome had a diesel furnace that provided heat and hot water. Because the electric was included in the campground fee, we ended up using a couple of catalytic heaters for most of our interior heating needs. This also helped us conserve fuel so we wouldn’t have to cart diesel back to the RV to fill the fuel tank as often. The most critical function of the furnace for winter RVing was to keep the bays heated so nothing would freeze (tanks, plumbing lines, etc.).
It was a matter getting rid of the things we knew we wanted to get rid of and just hadn’t taken the time to do it. We used online tools like local Facebook garage sales pages and Craigslist to get rid of a lot of our larger items. Then we tried a garage sale, but given where our house was located, we didn’t get a lot of action. And we spent a lot of time pricing everything… I think we overpriced a lot, too. It seems like we thought our stuff was worth more then it really was.
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.
Aeropress and Coffee Mill – The Aeropress is another well-loved and often used item in our RV kitchen. In fact, Brent takes this with us whenever we travel because good coffee is a must. We’ve owned ours for three years (it too was a Christmas gift) and it’s still going strong. Being whole been coffee people, this hand coffee grinder is our Aeropress’s faithful companion. Where one goes the other goes and it doesn’t matter if we are 100 miles from an electrical outlet. With the Aeropress and coffee mill, all you need is water boiled over a campfire,, to make an amazing cup of coffee. These two together make great gifts for coffee loving RVers.
Then estimate your future lifestyle costs that you need to add in (the numbers we share below will help with that). These include your fuel costs and your vehicle insurance and registration fees for both vehicles that make up your rig, whether it is a motorhome/car combo or a truck/trailer combo. If you have chosen your domicile city/state, you can do very specific research to estimate your future vehicle insurance and registration fees. We have some notes on domicile selection on our full-time RVing page.
Inside, the RV is cool but not cold. Both radiators are on, although the one in the bedroom is set to low. I have an electric blanket on my bed so I’m never cold at night. The RV’s gas heater with its loud fan supplements the heat in the living room in the morning. I know I could keep it warmer if I’d just close the blinds, but I’d rather put on a sweater than miss out on the views outside my windows.
I agree with your list. Howard and I are part-timers, in the RV during the winter months and home in Colorado during the summer months. We start off at the end of October and we ALWAYS seem to take too much “stuff” and way too many clothes. Last year I took more winter clothes than summer and did not really need them at all. We purchased our coach in 2006 and have been out on-the-road every winter since. You would think I could gage what clothes I will need by now, but for some reason this task eludes me!
If you are planning to work camp in exchange for an RV campsite, or if you will be working part-time jobs as you travel, or working via the internet from your RV, your choice of overnight parking spots may be based more on your job’s requirements than on the whims of your travel interests, and your camping costs and the kind of work you do will subsequently be tightly linked.
When we’re driving in sub-freezing temps we do 2 things: Run the small space heater in wet bay and run a large space heater inside the RV. If you have solar it should keep your batteries charged no problem, otherwise you’ll need to run the generator. We only do this when the temps are around 25 degrees or below outside. Also we have a digital wireless thermometer in the wet bay so we can monitor when it gets too cold.
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Reservations & Pre-Paying: One consideration with the variability of camping fees, is that to score great spots during peak season in your desired location – you may find you have to pre-pay for your spot at time of reservation or put up a sizable deposit. So if you’re making your winter reservations during the summer – you could end up paying for part of your winter lodging, while still funding your summer lodging. Always be sure to check out the cancellation policy when making reservations in advance – sometimes they’re refundable, and sometimes there are fees involved.
When it comes to bathroom and kitchen items, my general advice is to bring 1-2 per person in the RV. So things like towels, plates, cups/mugs, etc you won’t need your standard full set of. Remember, there is not much sink space for dirty dishes and not much hamper space for dirty clothes and linens. Dishes are washed immediately after use and towels are washed weekly, so there’s really no need for spare items.
Depending on your RV's design, you may need to take extra steps to protect your fresh water and holding tanks from freezing. In milder climates, where the temperature routinely rises above freezing during the day, you can usually get by with draining your fresh tank and simply keeping both the gray and black tank valves closed until you need to dump them. If it gets down into the single digits at night and rarely rises above freezing during the day, then you will almost have to insulate and/or heat your tanks or use significant amounts of RV antifreeze in them to keep things flowing…. If you are parked for a while, tank insulation for exposed holding tanks can be fabricated from fiberglass insulation and light plywood… just build a small lightweight box around the tank and line it with fiberglass. A small electric light bulb can be used to provide a safe source of heat.
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?
The number one thing that needs to be done to prepare an RV for LIVING through the winter is find a place to park so that you don’t have move the darn thing. Trust me on this, once the cold weather sets in, you do not want to have to move it. Roads are slick, cross winds are brutal and water lines WILL freeze without heat. Making your ‘home on wheels’ stationary for months at a time takes some fore thought.
I have been throwing this idea around to my husband. He is a railroader and is gone many days at a time. I was thinking of getting a small cabin as a home base and an RV we could travel with him in and go other places when he is not working. It’s a big crazy idea! I keep going back and forth on it, but we really miss him and he misses out on my boys. What are some of the downfalls of this lifestyle?
We cook with an electric plate, which works well for us, as our diet is simple because we’re both diabetic. We only use propane to run the fridge when we’re traveling, and have disconnected the propane hoses from the stove and furnace – we never use either – and we stuffed the vents with loads of rags years ago. We’ve never had a problem with rodents or bugs in any season.
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Annual maintenance costs will vary depending on the type of RV, age, mileage, driving conditions, and other variables. If you are towing a trailer, the maintenance costs for the RV could be less, but you need to maintain the tow vehicle, too. A used motorhome might require more maintenance expense than a new motorhome would, simply due to age. And the more mileage you put on the tow vehicle and/or RV, the more frequently the routine maintenance expenses add up. You also need to consider things on the RV or tow vehicle that wear out over time, like tires, brakes, windshield wipers, and the additional expenses for emissions testing, inspections, license plate renewal fees, and taxes.
Heated Water Hose – You can make your own with heat tape and pipe insulation and this works pretty well, although on occasion we have seen people in the bathrooms warming up their frozen hoses during extreme cold snaps. I’d recommend just purchasing a good heated water hose. Camco has one on the market but it looks kinda cheap, from the heated hoses I’ve seen in person I’d recommend the Pirit Heated Hose as the construction and the warranty seem top notch.
The Sundance is also quite impressive in terms of features. You have at least 3 sideouts in every floorplan, meaning a lot of additional space along with copious amounts of baggage space with a slam latch doors. You also have a dual-ducted air conditioner and a 8 cubic feet refrigerator that can be upgraded to a 15,000 BTU AC and a residential style refrigerator. In a nutshell, the Heartland Sundance is a good choice to consider if you’re RVing full-time.
The Thousand Trails network offers 30 free overnight stays in a 12 month period for $545 at campgrounds that are within one of five zones across the country. After you’ve used up the 30 free nights, the rest of your overnights for that year are just $3 a night. Each zone has between 13 and 23 RV parks in it. You can stay at any RV park in your zone for up to 14 days and then you must stay somewhere outside of the network for 7 nights before coming back. You can repeat this cycle indefinitely. Right now they are offering a special of two zones for the price of one. An added perk is that you get a 20% discount on overnight stays at the affiliate Encore network of RV parks too.
In our situation my husband was able to go remote with his job. He did have to do some work to make this happen, since no one at his company was working remotely full-time. But, through being a hard worker and them wanting to keep him on board, he was able to make it work. The only problem was he had to work 9 to 5 everyday and actually go into the office for a week every couple of months.
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.
I hate getting old as insurance goes up, but being retired with only Social Security, and not having to pay taxes sure helps. We are considering Texas as our domicile for family and our truck registration, but it depends on the cost of changing health insurance. We have an old travel trailer we bought for $4,500, so we will save if we want something newer. All we can do is try. We will have a storage place though, just in case.
One of our biggest worries is noise we may encounter from other campers. How has your experience been with that? Have you found most locations to be quiet? We are worried about having to listen to other people’s music, outdoor tv’s barking dogs, people being noisy outside next to you,etc. Would really love to know how that has been for you over the years?????
Thanks for posting your Rv travel expenses, that’s really a generous thing to do and it really helps those of us in the planning stage to get a better idea of how we can achieve this lifestyle change. I can’t understand why people are being rude about it. No one would ask them what they spend in their lifestyle would they? It’s a bit hopeless that people can’t be happy for others generous and brave enough to share their lives! I know I couldn’t do it, so thanks!
So if you can live off the grid / rough it a bit, and keep your rent to around $300…that puts you at a total of about $1100 / month in expenses, which would seem to work for your expenses. I’m sure there are other ways you could spend that money that I haven’t listed here, but maybe you could use this as a basis and go from there. Note that this doesn’t make for an easy life always. But I personally find it to be infinitely more fulfilling.
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?
RV maintenance depends on how handy you are and what kind of rig you have. I do all of my regular maintenance on the Airstream, so I usually only have to budget for maintenance parts and not labor. That’s only a couple hundred dollars a year. Since we have a tow vehicle, maintenance of that will also be lumped in I guess. I’m not really a person who has done strict budgeting, but I think a couple thousand bucks a year to put away as an emergency fund is a good idea.
Boondocking – This is a term that essentially means camping without hookups typically in dispersed locations for free (or less than $15 per night). There are many places to camp for free in an RV or tent in the United States. RV boondocking locations include Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and National Forests. Free boondocking sites are plentiful out west, but significantly limited in states east of the Mississippi. To read a terrific review of boondocking sites in Florida, click here.
To let you know what kind of weather we’re preparing for in our RV, a typical winter day in this part of the country is below freezing at night and above freezing during the day. Usually we will get a couple of weeks each year where the high temperatures don’t get above freezing and the lows are close to zero, but we rarely get sub-zero temperatures. And although we usually get at least some snow and possibly ice, the snow doesn’t stay on the ground for more than a few days.
We’ve always talked about it but about a month ago my husband and I started seriously planning a year-long road trip through central America with our two little ones (2yo and 10 months) We aren’t planning to leave for about another 18 months but over the last week, I’ve started to get increasingly nervous about the practicalities of day-to-day life on the road. I think the universe is trying to tell me something because I just listened to Bryanna’s interview on the Zero to Travel Podcast and then saw this post in a Facebook group! It is possible. Back to the map!! 🙂
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.
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.
Vehicle fuel – If you have a towable, you will need to estimate fuel for “moving days.” This can vary greatly depending on how often and how far you move. Our first year we came up with a rough itinerary with total mileage and an average cost of fuel per mile. In addition, for both tow and towed vehicles, you will need to budget for fuel in the local area.
We are new to your blog and new to the world of RVing. We are in the process of selling the house and plan to become fulltimers within the next 3-6 months. Our big issue right now is with size. We like our creature comforts, but we also want to use state and national parks and forests as much as possible. In your comments you suggested that the next time you might stay in the 36-38 foot range. We are thinking 40. I recently read something that indicated that anything over 35 would rule out 85% of state and national parks. If that is true, how much worse does that number get if you are in a 40 footer vs something in the 36-38 range? And, if the percent available is pretty much the same between 36 and 40, why not go 40?
I know that if it was just me, and not my family, I could “make it work” on $650 / month, but if you factor in car insurance and a monthly trailer payment, that starts to really limit things…and other stuff like health care and even food stamps or other government aid (which I’m not saying you’re asking for, but if it’s currently in the picture), are much more difficult to maintain if you don’t have a permanent address in a specific state.
If you drove 12,000 miles / year, getting 7 mpg, which is pretty likely with a Class C or truck/trailer combo, I believe that would put you at around $500 / month in gas. Of course, this is the one area you have the most control over, because you can certainly drive less than that if you’d like. It all depends on how much commuting you do (drives to town for groceries, sightseeing, etc. still happen) and how far you travel each month.
Tim you are certainly impressing the hell out of me. I love what you are doing and have been doing the same for about the last 6 months, however, in a much smaller unit. Mine is a truck and older style pop up camper. The winter in the mountains I have been in are far too cold for an old fool like me but I made it work with a few nights in motels and a couple of trips back to the shack for a few days and a couple of weeks on a stretch but for the most part, the camper was home. The morning jumping up and lighting the stove top naked was no fun either.
First of all, I had to do a lot of research to better understand the difference between fifth wheels, motorhomes, truck campers, pull-behinds, etc. Ultimately, we made our choice on motorhome because we liked the idea of having our vehicle and home be all in one. We enjoy being able to walk to the back and use the restroom or make food, without having to leave our vehicle while we’re traveling.
Pay no mind to the ignorant few; the rest of us really find value in the information you share. We’ve been transitioning away from the “american dream”, sold our house, are doing some major downsizing now and learning to live on less than half of what we made before. We are putting all our time/effort into selling our stuff and inventory from our micro inventory-based business (i.e. Ebay/Etsy shop) and transitioning to multiple streams of revenue that allows us to travel lightly. We only pay for essentials right now so we can save the rest. People just don’t know the whole story and like to play the victim game when they hear of people leading fulfilling lives and assume you are loaded; like you we are choosing to empower ourselves and our dream, not be stuck in fear and everyone else’s view of what life should look like. Bravo Nikki and Jason!
Part of living as entrepreneurs means we have to be OK with a level of fear and stress around making sure we are bringing money in. There are no paid vacations or sick days. It has definitely been an adjustment and something we continue to learn how to live with, but it is also really cool and makes us proud that we are living our own life and setting our own schedule.
Since we started full-timing, we have upgraded both of our DSLR cameras twice and upgraded both of our pocket cameras twice. As for biking, we started out with cyclo-cross bikes but sold those when we found we were almost always camped near very rugged dirt roads. We replaced them with mountain bikes in March, 2014. Bike maintenance isn’t a huge cost, but it’s there. We also upgraded our bike rack a few years ago. And back in 2008 we splurged on a fabulous Hobie inflatable kayak that we loved for several years but eventually sold because we needed more room in the basement.
In a few weeks I’ll be 27 years old, and my husband and I, with our four kids, are on our way to living debt-free. Before I tell you how we are making that happen, you should know what I am not going to share. I am not going to tell you how you can pay off your mortgage in two years, or quit your job and make money online. Our family has done neither of those things, and our journey to financial freedom has not been an easy one. Instead, we are among the rising number of families losing their homes to foreclosure.
I talked to you on IRV2 before. I go by “Rollingsmoke” on there. Got the name from the woodstove I built and had in my motorhome. I never plugged in anywhere was always random ” camping “;) in the mountains…. If you want some tips on how to have running water in the winter feel free to ask. I can give you a few tips. Either way works but I liked having running water. It’s challenging but doable.
In between the pop-up and Gateway, we had a 35’ Cedar Creek fifth wheel. It was really great but the big boys really wanted more space if we were going to keep full timing and I was kinda tired of the small kitchen counter. The one thing we loved about the Cedar Creek was the shorter length opened up more camping options. Many parks have 35’ length restrictions and we fit in a lot of driveways. The Gateway at 41’ no longer fit in my or Brent’s parents driveway and occasionally we couldn’t stay in some parks because it was too big. We don’t regret purchasing the Gateway and would buy it over again if we were full time RVing but now that we aren’t, we are looking for something shorter so we have more options.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a really big challenge in our lives (we don’t actually have this… but you know how it is), and we had to buy extra high-quality lights just to make ourselves feel alive! The good news is these lights don’t take much power (we’re off grid and rely on solar power, so power isn’t always in abundance) so we can keep them on without guilt.
I’m recently widowed, May 2017. This idea has been tugging at me for years! Do you see women traveling alone? Everyone has told me, don’t make any big decisions for a year. He didn’t leave me with extreme wealth, but I’m really thinking this would be good for me right now. I am 58, not very active, but I need to come out of this with some new perspective and zest for a more natural peace. What is your view on this idea?
- Rodents may be attracted to the dark and warm areas created by adding skirting to an RV, so use some rodent control measures. Your best option is to seal any hole larger than ¼ inch. Fill holes with expanding foam and place a thin piece of aluminum cut from a pop can over the holes. You also can use traps and poison baits if the sealing material leaves some gaps.
Once we retire, my wife and I are planning on spending winters (at least) heading south from Chicago in an RV for maybe 3 months at a time. I’m an over-researcher according to her, but also an accountant. 🙂 I’d love to play with your budgeting worksheet. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the link on your website. Is there a specific page where I can find it?
Did you say,only 50k miles? When I was working, I recall 1 week, on night service, well what with the heat ( 93, or 94 ) but that was 1500 miles in NJ, my last car 355k miles, anyhow , if I ever go on the road it probably HYMER 1.0 but it would only. Be me.Wife can’t ever see anyone living in a vehicle, the other is my age 77, and 1.35 million miles, so I now only use a 1/2 tank per month ! 2013 Ford Taurus.