This item is hard to predict, but now that we have owned our truck and trailer all these years, we can provide an average of what we’ve spent so far on maintenance and repairs since we started full-timing. From 2007 until 2014, we had very few repairs on our rig, so our total repair bill plus maintenance bill each month was a modest $106 / month ($1,272 / year).
Sandra, you are not the first to think we spend too much or too little. Everyones lifestyles are different and we don’t live on a shoe string budget, nor do we post our expenses for any reason other than to help others get an idea of what it costs us, with our lifestyle to live on the road. We buy local, fresh and organic food as much as possible. We like good all natural food that doesn’t come in a box or can and that isn’t something we plan on changing if we don’t have to. We work from the road (not retired or independently wealthy) and our websites are not just your average wordpress sites and we do a lot to keep them secure, backed up and so on and so forth. Our phones are a huge part of our business and we have to have smart phones with internet and such. Sure, if we didn’t work and didn’t have to have solid internet, this would be a lot less. Just not an option for us right now.
Just read all your cool info about your visits to Cloudcroft, NM. Actually visited there many times as a kid when my dad was stationed at Holloman AFB. Lived in Alamogordo too. I remember the artesian wells, horseback riding and camping. Took my wife through Alamogordo many years ago on our way to live in LA. Can’t wait to do it again in an RV. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!
Great article to read as we are well into our first Canadian winter in our 1991 21ft Toyota Winnebago- “ourmoonwarrior”. Many helpful hints we can use! Unfortunately the costs associated with propane heaters are too expensive for us and the electric heaters are not an option as we rarely have power hookup. We installed a small wood burning stove with a chimney out the roof to keep warm in the recent -40(Celsius) temperatures!
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.
My mother always told me that if you don’t learn to live within your means, you never will. Meaning: if you can’t figure out how to life with the money you have, it doesn’t matter how much money you have – you’ll always need more. Now "never" is a strong word, but the moral is there - you have to look at your lifestyle and spending choices. If you're struggling for cash now, should you buy a brand new RV? Should you be paying $100+ a month for cable TV?
Using that silver bubble wrap over your windows on the exterior of the rv eliminates almost all heat loss through your windows, description online says the stuff will block ~94% of radiant heat, means it keeps heat in and cold out or vice versa, if yoy can bare to part without seeing out some of your windows. Ive been living in an rv for two years in north dakota, temps can get down to -50°F or worse, my skirting is 2×4 frame with osb sheeting, one inch foam board with reflective backing and R21 insulation behind that, heaters and heat tape and heated hoses are definitely ur friends, at such low temps every little bit helps.
Here is my question to you – you mention that you would prefer a 35 or even 30 footer in place of your 41 foot plus Holiday Rambler PDQ. What would you specifically be willing to give up from your current rig to get down to the 35 foot mark? Have you seen a 35 or shorter rig you would be happy to FT in? What would you you absolutely never give up? I am trying to figure out what a 35 footer would need to have to make full timing work
With a little creativity you can find ways to make money while you travel. The possibilities here are endless, only limited by your abilities and imagination. With access to the Internet, many traditional jobs can be done remotely as you travel. Here are some possibilities but they are just to jump-start your thinking. There are many books and websites with a huge selection of ideas:
Anything below $1500/mo is tough IMO especially if there’s two of you and you throw health care, insurance and other fixed costs into the mix. The folks on this end of the spectrum are super-budget and generally travel in vans or smaller rigs (= lower maintenance & insurance/registration costs), boondock or workamp most of the time (= ultra-low camping fees), limit their travel (= less gas costs) and cook at home most of the time (= low entertainment costs). It requires some frugal dedication, but it’s do-able. We know several folks traveling this way who absolutely love the freedom of their super-budget lifestyle.
Hello I am considering hitting the road now that we are bill-less. Tell me how do you have a permanent address? For your drivers licenses, tabs and things like that. I ask this because I will be traveling with my special needs child and I will need monthly supplies wherever we are at. I have gotten most everything on line now but supplies are are different matter. Do you think I will be restricted in our travels? If we get to travel at all? I am also getting a 40′ because I can’t do it in anything smaller, not that I have a lot of stuff but because of what I need. I have lived in a 37′ fifth wheel when we were younger and we both loved it, had it for 4 years of living. I am going motor home this time around. I have done a lot of research on it and although there aren’t very many parks that can handle 40′, more and more are popping up. I found your postings just today and sucked up most everything. Your blogs also confirmed my research and also made me aware of things that I did not know. Even if I can’t travel because of this, I will still be buying a motor home for us to live in. Please be blunt if you choose to respond on whether you think I should or not do the travel part. Thank you.
This discussion of condensation brings up a related subject… the method of heating that you use in your RV. When propane is burned, it releases combustion byproducts and one of those byproducts is a surprisingly large quantity of water vapor! Most standard RV furnaces are vented to the outside of the rig and will not add any moisture to the inside air. This is not true of any unvented propane heater, including popular catalytic heaters. Using your stovetop burners also adds moisture to the inside air. If you intend to heat your rig using an unvented propane heater, you will have to provide a larger amount of ventilation to remove the additional moisture added to your air. Most unvented heaters are pretty nice for milder climates and are great for taking that morning chill off. Using them as your primary source of heat in really cold weather can prove to be a challenge because of the potential for condensation problems.
Hope you don’t mind us asking but whilst we have amalgamated what we feel is a good nest egg, our concerns are what to do with it to generate enough income and hopefully enable it to grow somewhat more being in our early and late fifties. We’d hate to run out of monies and the ability to continue our travels due to jumping the gun without an adequate plan in this regards.
I really liked the couple I bought it from; they were only the second owners and had owned it for 5 years. They took it out a couple times a year. They smogged it (California) and put new front brakes on it before turning it over to me. I knew it needed new tires (the tread was good, but they were old an cracked) and they told me the truck A/C needed to be recharged. They were asking $9,000, I paid $8,000.
Hi Nina, thanks so much for the prompt reply. Follow up question to your comment “couple who had a large 5th wheel last year and they had so much low overhang on the back of their rig that it kept bottoming out on bumpy roads” Are you referring to the distance of the furthest rear axle to the back end of the 5th wheel or simply the ground clearance at the back end of the 5th wheel? I can see it being a problem the greater the distance between the rear axle to the end of the trailer on any bumpy road as being a problem, and I have seen some motorhomes that would have the same issue.
You can spend your time in fancy RV resorts that cost up to $100 per night, or at state and county parks that are typically $30 or under per night. On-base campgrounds are usually inexpensive, sometimes as low as $20, but they don’t always give you that “local” experience. We chose a mix, mostly staying in mid-range campgrounds both on and off base, as well as some national, state and city parks. We even stayed at a fairgrounds in Mariposa, California, near Yosemite. Boondocking wasn’t for us – we typically stayed in places that had water, sewer and electricity hook ups.
I didn’t grow up thinking I would be an entrepreneur and it wasn’t a goal of mine until it was. Now that we have gone down this path it is empowering to see that we can make our own money. That we can set our own schedule, that we can sleep in on a Monday and work on a Sunday or really whenever we want to. The freedom is stressful, but also exciting!
6. Necessities and storage: ‘Take only what's necessary’ is easier said than done, but these tips should help. Have each family member lay out everything they want to take with them, and then have them pick out one thing they can do without until the pile is reduced as much as possible. Invest in some vacuum seal bags for clothing, and a hand-vac. Full-time RV living is a lot like camping, and necessitates much of the same equipment.
It makes me sad to see that you have to stop sharing things on your site because of the judgement you get from people, but I completely understand. While we currently do not have an RV, our hope is to buy a sound used RV in the next few years and begin to travel as our schedule allows. My dream would be to travel full time for at least a year while working along the way. Until then, I'll just have to live vicariously through you guys while we get our ducks in a row. Great job and don't let the internet trolls get you down! You guys rock!
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.
My credentials? I’ve taught winter camping and I have camped outdoors at -25F with normal (not arctic) gear. That’s a good way to learn how to deal with cold. At temperatures below zero F even the moisture in firewood can be a problem! There are solutions, of course. However, I don’t want to deal with this as a RVer. If I did, I’d simply get a basic truck camper, improve it, and then sleep outdoors with a good fire.
Great article, I’m hoping to travel in an RV full-time eventually. In the mean time, I’m still working to support my family and plan for the future. I sell land throughout the western U.S. (those great winter states you mentioned) if anybody wants to own a few acres to park their RV part or full time. See my website, http://www.landparker.com for more details. Thanks!
Bedroom Layout – At first it seems like the only travel trailer floor plan option was a back bunkhouse and a front queen bed with the head of the bed situated at the front of the trailer. But then I found the front bunkhouse models. These typically have more room around the master bed and since the littles sleep in our room with us (they do in our house too) this would be much more comfortable and give Brent a good space to work for extended trips. The tradeoff is a smaller bunk room but the teenagers they don’t need as much space as they once did since we aren’t full time. Even in our Gateway they spend a lot of time lounging in their beds so we are leaning towards a larger master bedroom.
This item covers all supermarket purchases, including groceries, household cleansers, toiletries, laundry detergent, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and anything else that can be found at Walmart, Safeway, Albertsons, Target and other places. Our rig is fully outfitted, but occasionally we get a small kitchen appliance or pick up a DVD. Those things get lumped into this number.
Fridge: Your RV fridge is designed to work in the summer. With the large temperature fluctuations that happen throughout winter the fridge computer thinks something is wrong and will flip into default mode. To prevent this put a work light and a heat pad in the fridge access panel. This will help keep the temperature constant and the fridge will not fail as easily. At extremely cold temperatures your fridge's cooling unit may freeze and the fridge will not work. If this happens you should turn off your fridge to prevent further damage, warm the fridge to room temperature and then try turning on the fridge. If this does not work, call Holiday RV Service Dept at 403 548-7087.
People enjoy the full-time RV lifestyle on all kinds of budgets, and the money full-timers have to work with comes in all kinds of forms. Some retirees have big pensions but not a lot of savings. Others have a nest egg of savings but no pension. Many younger full-time RVers work while they travel, either to cover all of their living expenses or to supplement other income streams.
We pay for an AT&T hotspot with unlimited data. Our jobs rely on good internet so we can’t risk not having a good signal using an RV park’s wifi. We know some RVers who just use their phone’s hotspots but we prefer to have a separate one. While we could use wifi at local coffee shops, we prefer to work from our RV and not have to spend money while we are using a businesses wifi. Library’s are a great way to get free wifi, but they aren’t always easy to track down or close to where we are parked.
So those are just 10 things I have learned so far – and I know there is so much more learning to come. We are happy about our decision and what we are doing and sometimes we have to stop and sit back and say – is this really our life?! It is funny if I hear about someone else doing something like this or see a blog about it I get the feeling like – Wow that is awesome! I wonder how they are doing it?! Then I say – oh yeah that is right – we are doing it!
Lastly with regards to safety, I think attending some rallies, talking with other RVers and going on the forums might help. Also, when you first start boondocking I might recommend joining a group or camping in places where there are other RVers. There are many boondocking groups out there (again, Escapees comes to mind) and going for the first time with others may help allay your worries. The boondocking community is quite close-knit and you’ll quickly make friends. We’ve never felt unsafe on public land, but then again I’ve been hiking/exploring since I was a teenager. Sometimes it just takes time.
Some years are worse than others, but it averages $1791/year, which includes optional equipment, maintenance (tires, oil changes, batteries, etc.). Also includes roadside service insurance payments, vehicle insurance, registration, specialized and optional RV expenses (club memberships), paint & body work, and the expense of two major breakdowns over the years. This was for a ‘94 36 foot, Class A, diesel, RV.
- Keeping fresh-water lines open can be very difficult in North Dakota winters. Wrapping the hose line with heat tape and insulating with pipe insulation is an option, but this may create a fire hazard. Using the fresh-water tank on the RV might be easier if the tank is insulated and will not freeze. Also, fill the tank periodically and isolate it from the exterior
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.
I can go on for hours, but ultimately I can’t wrap my head around the fact I am going to pay rent for another year and get nothing in return in the long run. It seems like a waste of money. What are your thoughts? Is it possible to find a van in that state? Any aspect of van dwelling that you think might not mix well with the college environment? Am I a crazy 21 year old with far off ambitions?
Currently we are not full-timing it, but we are on the road for up to 6 months straight. For those extended periods, monthly expenses can vary depending on what campground or resort we are staying in. Campground prices vary widely. If you are staying in one area long-term, your best bet is to pay a monthly rate for your campsite. That will give you a deep discount, but in most cases you will be responsible for the monthly electricity (and sometimes water usage) for your campsite. Depending on the area you are staying in, monthly rates could be as low as $300.00 a month plus electricity. In more popular areas, the cost could exceed $600.00.
Hey there! We are Kelan & Brittany, high school sweethearts obsessed with personal finance and on a mission to help families learn how to budget their money, save like crazy, and find unique ways to make money from home. After Kelan quit his job to become a full-time personal finance blogger we have been featured on sites like USA Today, The Penny Hoarder, Bankrate, Credit Cards, Discover, Nerd Wallet, Rockstar Finance, Life Lock, Making Sense of Cents, Millennial Money Man, and many more.
My husband and I are planning to transition to full-time RV living in the next 2.5-4.5 years once our oldest kids graduate high school (youngest will come with us and homeschool). We are concerned our biggest expense will be self funded health insurance. In your financial reports you say you haven’t purchased health insurance. What about now that Obamacare penalizes you on your taxes? Have you still chosen not to purchase health insurance and take the penalty or have you found a more affordable option? We have some medical expenses so likely couldn’t go completely uninsured. Hubby is considering a remote work job with benefits for this reason but really we’d like to travel for 1 full year without huge work commitments then do something like seasonal park ranger half the year and travel the rest of the year. Any advice or insight in this area would be awesome! Thanks for sharing your financial information. It is very helpful!
Our situation is fairly unique (I think) because I work away from my family for 2 weeks and then i’m back with them for two weeks. I work in northern Alberta ( we are Canadian) and for the 6 really cold month of winter we could be anywhere in the US or Canada. For the 6 not so cold months she wants to set up camp in northern Alberta. near where I work. Our family is very concerned for the safety of my wife and kids while I am gone away at work for two weeks. do you have any advice on this or know any other fulltime families that have a similar situation?
In a five year period, a brand new rig (that is, a motorhome/car combo or truck/trailer combo) will typically lose 30% to 50% of its value, and by the end of a decade it will be down to 25% to 40% of its original MSRP. The only way to know what the full-time RVing lifestyle really costs is to know both what you paid for your RV at the beginning and what you sold it for at the end. The difference, divided but the number of months you lived in it, is the true cost of ownership.
2017 Update – TOTALLY. In 8 years on the road our expenses have actually been flat to slightly down every year despite increasing health care costs. We keep camping expenses low by volunteering in summer and boondocking (= free camping) in winter, and we manage gas costs by how we travel. The point is there is lots of flexibility on the financial side, and my viewpoint on this hasn’t changed. Earlier this year I finally updated our cost posts, so you can now read a detailed account of our RV costs (including tips for budgeting & saving) for the past 7 years HERE and HERE.
We started to feel suffocated in this amazing house and life we had built. Money was tight. We had to pay for this house and we could afford it, but it didn’t leave much extra. At this point my husband was working a 9 to 5 and I was a stay-at-home Mom with a direct sales business on the side. That did bring in a couple thousand a month to help cover birthday parties, activities, and those trips to the store. But that was it. We were always playing catch-up, and life was so busy with what we came to feel were meaningless things.
The eclipse was one of the most intense and beautiful 2 minutes and 20 seconds of my life. It was sublime in the truest sense of the word. Mind blowing. My body buzzed for a full 30 minutes afterwards. The moment when the last sliver of sun disappeared, that moment of totality when I took off my glasses, was like instantly being transported to another world. Everything familiar but so different. Completely surreal. A 360 degree sunset. And the corona of the sun… No words. Just awe.
Wow, you are SOOO patient, answering all the repetitive questions (that you have already answered) like it’s the first time!! I’ve been reading for hours. We have a 24 ft diesel class c and we love it, we usually only stay out about 4 nights at a time. We like to stay off grid but are not as careful with water and the tanks as we could be. Plus, we have J.O.B.S.
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My husband always laughs but I also feel very lost when I walk into a new grocery store in a new city we are visiting. I don’t know where anything is and I end up walking around the grocery store at least twice before I am done since I can never find everything I need the first time through. Then again we have found some great food and brands around the country that we didn’t have in our home town so I guess it isn’t all bad.
Carrying a washer and dryer is an option however they take up a lot of space so if you’re planning to go small (under 35′) you might not have space for one. There is also the option for the ‘All-in-One’ washer and dryer which washes and dries your clothes in the same unit however we’ve had many RV’ers say they dislike this as it takes 2 hours per load and the loads are very tiny.
In my experience a 38 foot 5th wheel takes up as much, if not more space than a 40 foot motorhome, specifically because of the big truck. I can squeeze our little toad in just about anywhere (often we just park it across the front of the MH), but with a big truck you may have to find a separate parking spot, depending on the campground. Many campgrounds will offer that, but it just depends.
Each monthly report includes fixed costs (vehicle payment, insurance, mail forwarding service) along with variable costs (food, entertainment, gas, RV supplies). The lessons learned section is where we share tips that helped us or mistakes to avoid. We include a quick snapshot of stats for the month with cost per day, miles driven, generator hours, MPG, nights of paid camping, nights of free camping and meals eaten out.
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.
My husband and I have decided to sell our home and look for a place that is more “us” while he has to travel for work. We currently have 3 children and two dogs and have looked extensively at RV’s before deciding on a 5th wheel sprinter with a bunkhouse. I know the journey will be something to learn and get used to but we decided that if he has to travel with his work then we want to travel with him. Going from a 2k+ sq ft home to even a large 5th wheel is a very very hard thing for myself and my teenage girls, but when we look at the larger scale and we will finally have to travel it gets so much easier. More time with dad and going places we couldn’t before because our house ties us down with mortgage and bills. My 3 yr old son is just happy to have his dad around more often. I have been looking for all the advice I can on the net and this has been useful for the start up, less is better for us because along the way you may acquire more. I make jewelry one of my daughters is an artist and my other daughter is into design so we have sat down to make sure we have gotten our priorities right. For me living in the RV until we are able to find our place is a way to learn to let go and focus on what matters. I spend little time with my kids doing the stuff we want to do and more time cleaning and organizing and running errands to keep all that up. And when my husband gets to be home we end up spending more money just to get out and spend time together with the kids. So for anyone out there who is also considering this way of life, I say find out what it means to you. Take good advice from blogs like this and enjoy! Thank you for the great advice blog and to those who commented more great advice!
Actually we haven’t had any more below zero temperatures since that one time, so I can’t say for sure; however we haven’t had that same problem since. We generally leave it turned off unless the weather is supposed to be down in the teens, although I can’t even remember if we’ve had any more single digit weather. It is a bit tough to get the door to the tank storage area to close with the blanket on; if we had a blanket on both tanks I’m not sure if we would be able to close the door at all. Still, I definitely feel better knowing we have it.
First and foremost, not all RVs are ideal for full-timing. The most common types of RVs that full-timers use are Class A motorhomes (which can be powered by gas or diesel fuel), Class C Motorhomes, Fifth Wheel Trailers (including Toy-Haulers), and lastly, Travel Trailers. Truck Campers, Class B motorhomes, and Tent Trailers are not traditionally good choices for full-timers.
We have met several full-timers who are members of the Moose Club and Elks Club and use their RV facilities on a regular basis. This seems like a terrific option, although we have not joined either organization yet. Membership requires a sponsor, but each time we’ve stopped in and inquired, people have offered to be sponsors right at the bar! The membership fee is on the order of $100 or so a year and overnights in the RV parks are $10 to $20 or so. Some lodges without formal RV park sites may allow members to dry camp in the parking lot if there’s room.
So the big swing number that I see in what you wrote is camping costs. We workamp/boondock at least 4 months of every year which brings down those costs to around $10-$12/night on average. That’s been our norm for the past 6 years. Last year was the sole exception traveling out East, but even then we only hit $24/night. We have no TV, we travel on average only 6,000 miles per year and we don’t eat out much simply because we love to cook (when we do it’s mostly for beer tasters and a cheap lunch).
Will we be traveling around the country in an RV forever? No. We have an end date in mind, though we still aren’t quite sure where we will settle or what that will look like. We are viewing this trip as a bit of a reset for our whole family — a way to reprioritize what matters and to spend a year making incredible memories together. Sure, the youngest will probably not remember any of it, but we like to say he will remember this trip in his bones.
One of the biggest mistakes that we made was how many tools we packed in the RV and truck! We are so tired of hauling around a bunch of stuff that we don’t ever use. We therefore recommend you stick to the basic tools (screwdrivers, drill, pliers, hammer etc). There’s no reason to haul around specialty tools for that rare occasion or instance that you’ll need it. You can always buy or rent it!