We miss home every now and then. Our kids have had to say goodbye to friends, and we don’t see family as much while on the road. It’s a little isolating. But I was a Navy brat growing up, and I had to say goodbye to many friends, too. I have a lot of empathy for our kids, but I also know how enriching this experience will be. (And, unlike me, they now have the ability to FaceTime, text and game with friends!)
We hope this information will help you plan a realistic budget for your RV travels. However, it is important to realize travel is deeply personal and each person has their definitions of what they can or can’t live without. For us, we like great quality food (organic, local, straight from the source), great experiences (we’ll spring for the hot air balloon tour) and free camping (BLM, National Forest…). If you’re curious how we make money while living in an RV full time check out our post: Make Money and Travel – Gone With the Wynns
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.
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.
This book is written very minimally and appears to be written by someone with little to no experience in modern RV living. I do not recommend this book even though it has a snazzy cover and seems like a good choice. That's how they get you. It's annoying because there is no real effort put into the writing and no information you couldn't obtain from a Wikipedia article. It actually had very little concrete content and is written like a high school essay where you spend most of your words filling up the paper writing things like "RVS are vehicles that travel with or behind vehicles. Many people enjoy RV Living. There are many challenges to RV Living. Despite this, people enjoy RV living.“
They also shed themselves of furniture, artwork, anything that takes up a lot of space (such as hobby materials, holiday decorations, boxes of family photos, libraries, magazines, newspapers or collectibles), pets, unless they are very small, bulky electronics, excess clothing (especially bulky items), duplicate household goods (such as second sets of dishes and silverware), decorator items, heavy cleaning equipment (such as full sized vacuum cleaners), duplicate tools and recreational equipment (such as kayaks, skis and clunky sports equipment).
1. Schedule regular RV maintenance: You’ll be able to more fully enjoy your RVing adventures without also having to worry about mechanical issues. Routine maintenance and a basic knowledge of the inner workings of your RV are essential for full-timers, especially when traveling through more rural parts of the country where you might not have access to an expert technician. Bring all the necessary tools to change a tire and fix common engine problems and store a spare tire, coolants, oil, and any other parts you might need immediately while on the road (you can find some maintenance tips at our blog). When you've reached a stop, be sure to schedule a maintenance session at the local garage. If you're in Florida, Arizona, or Colorado, stop by one of your Lazydays RV Service facilities where expert technicians specialize in RV maintenance.
Doug – every dollar we spent over the year was included so this is realistic for us and how we travel…as stated in the post: RV living costs will vary depending on the number of people, pets, life style, spending habit, and other factors. Yes we wrap various items in the Misc category but we do have the Jeep/RV expenses listed on its own line in the avg monthly costs… RV/Tow Car: $132 oil changes and supplies. If you’re interested in more detail, check out our monthly expense reports and it will break our costs down further – including what we spent on Misc items that month: https://weretherussos.com/cost-of-living-full-time-in-a-rv/
Eating out – Many people like to sample local eateries when traveling. This is the one area that you have the greatest control over. The great thing about living and traveling in an RV is that you can always prepare your own meals. You have refrigeration and cooking appliances. I even prepare our own meals on travel days, and appreciate stopping at rest areas to eat in the comfort of our RV, rather than at fast food establishments.
This transition to full time entrepreneurs has pushed Craig and I to dive deeper into our relationship and how we work together. We will be the first to tell you we do not work the same. I like to go at 110 miles an hour and dive into everything and push through it. Craig likes to take a slower approach where he analyzes things and doesn’t like to have too many things going on at one time.
So, you’ve got to weigh your priorities on what is more important to you. Is the space/layout key to your happiness on the road? Then, absolutely go for the bigger rig and make it work! Is camping in remote areas & boondocking your top priority? Then, you’ve got to look smaller. The answer is highly individual. No wrong answer at all…just the best answer for YOU!
2017 Update – YES. Public Land is still our #1 camping choice. There are now many more options for finding these kinds of sites including ultimatecampgrounds.com (which has overtaken uscampgrounds IMHO), Benchmark Maps (which are excellent paper maps for public lands), AllStays (which also offers an app) and other resources. If you want to see how I plan our current travels, check out the 3-part series I wrote starting HERE.
I Have just spent almost 2hrs reading your posts, thank you thank you and to all who replied. I am in the process of getting rid of stuff, my target date is end of July or first of Aug to take off after selling my house and car. Planning of buying a Class C 20′ to 30′ gently used. I am 81 and ready to go. I have two pages of notes from this blog so far. Thanks again Pat
I’m 25 years old and have a 3-year-old son. My husband and I will be debt free within a year and have fallen in love with the idea of becoming full-time travelers and world schooling our child. My biggest question is, how do you plan out the cost of living? I work virtually so we’d have 1 full-time income and my husband is investigating ways to make money on the road. We don’t want wait until retirement to travel and we want our son to experience the world (or at least our continent)! Any help is greatly appreciated!
Truck Tires (6 for our dually truck) and an oil change for the diesel engine $1,450.96. These tires were 3 years old and had about 50,000 on them, but the tread was starting to wear and we saw cracking in the sidewall of a few tires. We made the decision to replace all 6 at once. We feel that tires are a high priority because our lives and home are resting on them when we travel.
Sure we considered the this-is-our-life-and-sorry-it’s-not-what-you-want-but-try-to-appreciate-and-learn-from-it approach. As parents we have that right to make the choices we think our best for our kids and family. The road may be “best” for Brent and I but, God willing, we have many years left as a couple to explore and experience life as we want but the older boys only have few years left as kids. They didn’t want to spend their teenage years living in an RV full time.
Andrew, that was an interesting blog entry, because it gives a snapshot of what’s important to your family, you seem to have a good balance between enjoying your life and maintaining your expenses. But the part that really grabbed me about this post was that it reminded me of George Orwell’s “Road to Wigan’s Pier” in that you outlined your expenses. If you get a chance, please have a look at that book (it’s available for free on the internet) and read the part where he reports on the expenditures of different coal miners in the early 1900s Northern England. We’ve all become wealthier, but even after all that time, nothing has really changed, we still make choices to in our lifestyles and our spending choices may be one of the purest epressions of who we are and choose to be.
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.
I hope this does not come off as complaining. Finding places to boondock has been a major obstacle to our travels. I have been reading through Boondocking for Newbies Part I – Finding Where to Go. I am not having much success using the BLM or National Forest websites for the top down planning process you describe. I am hoping you can give me some guidance.
If you’re looking for physical jobs some Workamping positions do offer pay (check out Workampers.com), plus there are seasonal jobs such as Amazon and See’s Candy (both hire seasonally for Christmas), gate keeping (in Texas for oil companies), and the Dakota Beet Harvest (in late fall). We also know folks who work at fairs or sell their wares at markets.
RV windows lose a ton of heat, no matter how insulated the manufacturer claims they are. There are several ways to insulate them: foam insulation boards, bubble insulation, solar blankets, etc. For extra warmth, line your windows with heavy-weight thermal curtains. Use electric or propane space heaters to supplement your RVs furnace. Don’t forget to bring along a heated blanket to stay warm in bed!
We are also starting a t-shirt line with a focus on travel-inspired sayings and images. We like the idea of having multiple income streams, so if one isn’t working, we have other things that are earning income. We have seen so many doors open since we started this entrepreneur lifestyle. The opportunities are out there, it is just a matter of finding the ones that fit you, your lifestyle and what you want to do.
I like to read how people manage to live ‘on the road’. I (woman) am bussy now with an old Volkswagen LT and an old caravan Fendt Baronesse/Comtesse to prepare for long trips with my husband. I really like to read everything that you have done till now. I do have an suggestion; eventhough I am living in France I would like to offer help for travellers like you if you are in need because of engine-failure or something like that. The benefits are that you can park on our property and we know all the garages etc. in the neighbourhood. Also we have tools and friends who are mechanics. Share a meal and a cup of coffee with you will not make us bankrupt. I hope that other people will do the same. Enjoy your tour!
4. Skirting as you pointed out is an absolute must: I love the snow piled up, cost effective and highly efficient. What if there’s no snow? Home Depot or Lowes or ? sell the reflective bubble insulation in 15″ widths up to 5′ widths. The narrow widths can be used to skirt the sides and they can be held in place by the basement doors. You may need to make cuts to go over hardware but are very effective.
Not a good idea to let a faucet drip in an RV because you will end up with a full holding tank and an empty water tank but I still liked the idea. I looked at the plumbing in my RV and it ran from the fresh water tank to the pump, bathroom sink, across under the floor (a freeze point) to the shower and toilet, on to the kitchen sink and then into the hot water heater. A hot water pipe then went back the other way and ended up at the bathroom sink in the same compartment as the pump.
Choose campgrounds and RV parks that only have amenities you plan to take advantage of during your stay. Generally, the more services and amenities a campground has, the more it's going to cost. Campsite fees don't have to break the bank. State parks are a great low-cost option, as are many RV parks. Look here to find a campground or consider travel apps to help you find the campground that best suits your need.
Now I’ll tell you what I will do. I will show you how an average lower-middle class family can not only survive financial difficulty, but thrive despite it and use the situation to invest in their future. I’ll tell you what we’ve learned about financial responsibility through our hardship, and I’ll give you some encouragement on your own journey to financial freedom.
Why we’re doing it: Depression, economic hardship, and fear are impacting Americans at an alarming rate contributing to grave uncertainty, growing intolerance, and crippling levels of anxiety. One in ten Americans are on antidepressants; among women in their 40s and 50s, the figure is one in four. Although we spend over 30 billion dollars on these medications, the epidemic of depression has moved suicide into one of the top ten causes of death (www.cdc.gov).
My wife, dog and I are newbies who plan on selling everything and doing this for a year to figure out where we will live next (and last)on the mainland. We will be going both to camp sites as well as around some towns (not really cities, though). We have never RV’d before. What would be the right length/size RV for our situation? I see you are talking about 36 foot. Any recommendations on manufacturers and models? I think we might buy a year old one since we are only going to use for a year and then sell it. Don’t want to take too much of a hit on depreciation. Also, do you tow a small car for local transportation? Great website!
For those who travel a great deal, it is a good idea to purchase emergency coverage that will not pay medical costs, but will, under the appropriate circumstances, provide regional medical referrals and oversight as well as a means of getting travelers and their vehicles back to their home bases at no cost. Good Sam Club sells one that costs around $110 per year and covers all travelers.
Yes, Craig and I still find time at night for each other when the kids are sleeping. But throughout the day, everyone is up in each other’s business. We are okay with this. It works for us and we are all used to it by now. And everyone has found ways to find their own little space either in their bed, outside at the picnic table, or wherever they can find it.
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 are with Progressive Insurance. It helps that we have been with them for 10 years now through various vehicles, have no traffic infractions, and have not once relied on our deductible. Other than that though Jerry (which is comparable to your history) I don’t know. We don’t use an agent but rather deal directly with the insurance company, we are a one-car household, and keep low miles (by their standards).
We try our hardest with this aspect of our budget. We like to eat fresh, healthy, and regional so we try to visit farmers markets and local farms/ranches/dairies when possible. We also buy bulk items at CostCo, Fresh Market, etc. in order to keep staples on hand and get the most for our money. However, with a 3-year old we go through a lot of milk (at $4.85/gallon or so), snack foods, apples, and nuts. Have you seen the price of pistachios lately? One things we do splurge on is typically meats (we like good, grass fed beef), beer, and ice cream. Even life on the road doesn’t have to be sparse.
Another idea to save big time is to spend a few months in Baja California every winter, where food is crazy cheap, boondocking is abundant (you can even find spots with lots of other American / Canadian snowbirds if you’re concerned about safety, but it’s completely safe in our opinion after having been down in Mexico in general for a year), and in general the sun shines all winter long.
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.
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!
Most RV fridges are tiny and hold ¼ of what a standard size fridge holds, so planning is a must before making the trek into town to the grocery store. You have to know exactly what you will be cooking and how much space you have. Throwing “extras” into the cart can’t happen. That’s why I don’t take Brett with me shopping. He is the worst about buying off the list!
Last year I purchased the 2013 Newmar Bay Star, a 30 ft. It’s designed specifically for fulltiming, with huge basements that extend the entire coach and the desk/buffet option. I’m coming up from a 24 ft Dynamax that allowed me to stay anywhere. The Newmar is very tall so I’m worried that overhead space will be an issue in park camping. I’m a tree gal so height should also be considered if you love forests.
Do you have a blog? I would love to hear more about life on the road with kids. I’m trying to talk my husband into doing something like this. We don’t currently have kids, but are trying. He is hard to break out of his comfort zone, but once he’s out, he loves it. Your story sounds so interesting and I would love to read more about your travels and living on the road with 4 youngsters.
We were so exhausted by these repairs (they hit us all at once between August and October of 2015), that I haven’t yet written a blog post about the last one. It just isn’t fun writing that stuff!! However, hopefully you can see the incredible value of getting a motorhome warranty or trailer warranty, especially if your rig is a few years old (ours is a 2007 Hitchhiker fifth wheel trailer).
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.
Instead, buy a 5-gallon water container and carry all your drinking and cooking water in by hand. Set up your RV sink to drain directly into a 5 gallon bucket, then you can just dump your dishwater at any gas/RV dump station. Get a gym membership or take showers at a friend’s house. Get a small 5-gallon porta-potty with a hand-pump flush system. Fill the flush reservoir with RV antifreeze. Believe me, you will definitely want a bathroom when it is cold outside, not to mention, you can’t just “go” anywhere when you’re in a city or neighborhood… or else you risk making a bad reputation for yourself and start pissing people off.
I am grateful that I found your site. My hubby and I are seriously thinking about selling our home (fortunate to have a lot of equity) and purchasing a RV to live in with our three boys. We live in Southern California and have owed several RV’s over the years (my current car is a class B roadtrek). Feeling really nervous about making that move even though are children are completely supportive of the idea. How did you make this transition? We have gone through Ups and Downs financially since 2008 but also feel to our bones this is the move to make. I have not seen a family living like this (most blogs are couples). What would you do different and what size is your RV. God Bless
I hope you don’t mind me contacting you out of the blue. I am a researcher working for major independent production company Optomen Television in London. We are currently producing a new documentary series for Channel 4 in the UK about people who have quit the rat race and moved to live in remote locations the world. It will be an inspirational series following the incredible stories of ordinary people who are living a unique way of life in some of the most beautiful and breath-taking places. The presenter, Kevin McCloud, best known for presenting the hit TV series ‘Grand Designs’ will visit people in their wildness homes and get to experience first-hand the wonder of life in these stunning locations.
This family loves RV life with or without the travel aspect. They’ve found a wonderful spot to park their 2006 5th Wheel for the long-term for work purposes. They’ve minimized their life to maximize experiences and pursue their passions, which will lead them to traveling soon. Outdoor activities where their young, energetic daughter (and dog!) can run around and play are a necessity. They also enjoy family outings together to kid friendly places.
So, just depends on the site and the park. Older parks often have smaller sites and tighter access than newer parks. Forest service campgrounds are typically tighter than desert campgrounds. I use rvparkreviews.com to help gauge these things, and combine it with satellite pics (Google Earth) and campsitephoto.com where it’s available. Between the three I can usually make a good guess if we can fit. It’s a process!
1980s Vanagons can go for quite a few dollars. I recently met a guy who bought a decent one, with the Westy camper and all, for $4000, and he’s in Texas. If you look out west, though, prices are typically higher as those vans are in high demand. A search on Craigslist in Bend shows them going from $3000 – $30,000. The latter is insane, but I believe people get that much for a well maintained, running vanagon with a camper. Still, it’s insane.
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?????
There is an RV ready to match your dream. Use your vacation RV trips to test different rigs. If you are visiting off-the-beaten-track tourist nooks and wilderness sites a more maneuverable RV could be preferable to a motorcoach. Or your dream RV just may not have as much room as you need to live on the road full time comfortably. Be honest with yourself up front and you will save yourself the hassle of trading up or down in your first few years untethered from a home base.
What we weren’t prepared for is that with freedom comes a lot of choices when you live on the road. When you get up every day and basically can do what you want with the day it can be intimidating and confusing. We don’t live a structured life and have consciously chosen to do that and love it in a lot of ways. Yet also get overwhelmed by it at times. What route is right for our family? Well there is this way and that way or this way or that. What would be good for me, for Craig, for our kids?? So many choices as a full timer!
I apologize if I seem off base but I did quickly see how you were able to get some things at a discount and that sparks my attention immediately as I am a disabled vet and will be working off of a set or close to set budget and I would love to know everything about how I can keep within that budget and if at all possible save some money along the way. The biggest fear for me is the unseen expenses that I either can not find or have not learned about yet going through all of the bloggers sites.
I also soon learned how to juggle the use of coffee maker and hair dryer in conjunction with the heaters. Normally, using both at the same time is not a problem. But with the draw of the electric heaters, plugging too many things into the wrong line shut down the electricity totally. This meant a trek outside to unscrew four tiny wing nuts (virtually impossible to do in winter gloves) to get behind a panel to reset the breaker. Try doing this in the dark in the wee and snowy hours before daybreak and you don’t make the same mistake twice.
The electric blower motor in your furnace in your RV uses MOST of the electricity usage, in your RV, BY FAR. I had 4 of the biggest deep cycle batteries walmart makes in my RV, each 29 size and each 125 amp hours, so 500 amp hours. (for my truck camper) vs class A with 500 amp hours, you are woefully underpowered for dry camping, unless you want to be running your generator a lot. I have ad a honda 1000 generator, but I found i never needed to use it, and the inconvenience of dragging it out, gassing it up, chaining it up, and then packing up and storing, was not worth it. I DID however have zero guage wire from batteries to alternator in truck to recharge them that worked great. batteries lasted 2 years before needed replacing. Id reccomend the 29DC – MAXX not the regular 29DC, as maxx has 1 year warranty (used to be 2), and slightly more amp hours and better built.
Last but certainly not least, we no longer have the diesel 3500 Chevy dually to pull the RV. After some discussion we decided that we didn’t want to continue paying those expensive truck payments for a truck that our entire family couldn’t fit in. In hindsight, we should have bought a less expensive truck that seated six. Or maybe not. Six of us in a truck would have been tight especially with two car seats. So after a lot of research we decided to buy a diesel Ford Excursion. I’ll do another post on buying the new SUV because a lot of research went into it but the short of it is that it can seat six people comfortably and it can haul a heavy load giving us more options for travel trailers, the point of this post.
another outstanding post–and very timely for me-have finally reached a decision re hitting the road after following your blog and so many others–a great source of inspiration and information. have been doing lots of research on the forums and just signed up for the Escapees Boot Camp as a walk-in. will finalize my thinking re rig size and other items soon and this input is great!! hope to hit the road by the end of the year as the “downsizing” is already completed and most is in storage–need to “just do it”!! thanks again for all the info–really enjoy your posts–you guys have been a big inspiration
Tank heater pads aren’t of much use if the rest of the tank isn’t insulated. As was pointed out, RV skirts are a really good idea and I know of the old trick of putting light bulbs in compartments and under the skirted RV to keep spaces at temperatures above freezing. This works effectively in RV sites with electrical hookups, i.e. relatively limitless electricity at 30 Amps (3600 watts).
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.
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
While there’s no simple answer to that question, there are different answers for different lifestyles and goals. If anything, the range of answers means RV beginners need to start their adventure with a plan. Things like RV size and type, amount of travel vs. parking, and intention to telecommute will all influence a new RVer’s budget. A new RVer needs to determine these things ahead of time.
And to add some encouragement for you, years ago when my children were young, I homeschooled/unschooled them for the majority of their education. We were fortunate to have moved across the country for work a few times and had the opportunity to do a lot of camping. They are now both rising seniors in college and doing extremely well. They are pursuing their passions instead of checking a box. I know their unconventional formative years are a contributing factor to their life choices.
Kudos to you! When we moved to AZ, we started setting up our homestead. Looking back, I wish we would have bought the property with the older single wide mobile home instead of setting a new double wide. Our home is our only debt now, and had we bought the single wide, we would be totally debt free now. It is amazing how many people think they HAVE to have debt, they have to have what they want NOW! With the economy as unstable as it is, debt free is the only way to live. I encourage all of us to to make that a life goal. You’ll be glad you did!
Also strongly suggest if mobile & winter camping and only 1 or 2 people to go with truck camper as highly efficient, and a 11.5 ft long camper can be actually quite huge, as that doesnt include the over the cab bed in sq ft, only the floor of the truck bed. so 80-90 sq ft floor + 50 sq ft bed area= 130-140 sq ft. Also a lot of privacy, as camper is up VERY high, as opposed to class B or C. For winter camping, you can not get better than a truck camper if just 1 or 2 people for ease of use and efficiency heating. Another bonus is my truck is 4×4. To pickup a 4×4 class C or other specialized RV, your going to pay a lot more. Also service on a pickup truck is a lot less at a local mechanic vs RV dealer or Diesel mechanic shop. I definately reccomend diesel pickup truck though. and I get 12-13 mpg loaded with camper and 17-18 unloaded. specifically 7.3L Ford Diesel engine (and ONLY that engine 99-2002 if you are shopping for a used truck) and yes it started down to 10 degrees farenheit, which was amazing. Yes a 250 or 2500 series truck can handle a 11.5 ft camper, but if you can afford a F350 or 3500 truck, the extra 2 wheels in the back, DO add a lot of stability and allow much easier & safer & faster driving, think no body roll around corners and winding highways at speed.
Throw caution to the wind and just DO it. I have had plenty of financial misadventures/disasters, but if you’re not tied down to a job, the RV lifestyle is CHEAPER if you do it right! Start with a TT membership and enjoy $20/week camping for a while, learn how to use other discount clubs on your “out” weeks or even dry camp, learn how to pick up work… The point is: You’ll figure it out and be living your dream life.
So you’re still asking, “What’s it gonna cost to live in my RV?” Using research from a few friendly seasoned RVers, the average cost per year of living in your RV full-time is about $10,000 for two people. While this sounds like a crazy amount of money, keep in mind that this also factors in utilities and food, which you would already be paying if you were living in a permanently fixed home. According to careertrends.com, the average cost of living in the midwest is $39,649 annually for a married couple with no children. If you look around, there are a ton of ways you can drive down the cost you’re racking up on the go, which is the great thing about RV living!
If you are considering living in an RV and traveling, think about where you’d like to see yourself spending most of your time. We live in an RV because we like an ever changing backyard, which means we pack light in order to move easily. Many people downsize to an RV to save money, but are looking to stay put in RV parks and can hang onto a lot more stuff.
But there was one more thing I needed: pipe insulation. I wanted to wrap the pipe with the heat tape on it to help keep it warm. I checked out my options and decided on an adhesive wrap. Although it came in 15-foot lengths, I wound up needing 7 rolls of it because it had to go around the pipe. (This, by the way, is also when I learned that when you buy stuff for a home project at a place like Home Depot, always buy more than you think you need. It really sucks to run out of something in the middle of a project and you can always return unused items later. Home Depot has an excellent return policy.)
Having more than a Hobbit-sized refrigerator: If Hobbits had fridges, I'm sure it would be similar to the one we have in our RV. It's more like a dorm fridge with a small freezer on the top. Oh, and RV refrigerators don't operate like the one you buy down at Sears. Oh, no. These babies work by what's known as gas absorption, which entails heating ammonia that magically cools the fridge. I won't go into the gory details, mostly because I'm not too versed in the wizardry behind it. Just know that it is usually too cold (your veggies are going to freeze) or too warm (your veggies are going to rot) and you may have to fiddle with the buttons to keep things right.
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.
$1,600 Insurance – Covers the following: RV, Smart Car, SAAB SUV (we won this for Best of the Road, but it sold in July so we don’t have to pay insurance anymore), Renters Insurance Policy for general coverage, jewelry policy, rider for camera equipment, and probably some other stuff too. This also covers the yearly fee for the AAA RV program and the monthly fee for Chase Identity Protection (although I may cancel this as I spoke with a lawyer who said it’s a load of crap). For those of you wondering if we’ve purchased health insurance: I’m sorry to say we haven’t yet….we still can’t justify it. We have not paid for health insurance in almost 9 years because as self employed adults insurance is a joke and horribly expensive. Why start now? We have a nest egg saved for any medical emergencies.
You may wish to put insulation around the waste hose to give the fluid more time to drain before the freezing temps cause a problem. I have seen people add heat tape to the drain hose also. I do NOT recommend that. Heat tape works fine on water lines that have water in them. Full lines are less likely to over heat. An empty sewer line may melt or scorch from the heat of a tape. There MAY be tapes made for this purpose, however I’ve never seen them.
We use a mail forwarding service (Alternative Resources in South Dakota) to manage our mail. They keep our mail at their office until we ask them to send it to us. Most RV parks will accept mail or you can send mail as “general delivery” to a local post office and pick-up it later. The address we have in SD also serves as our address on record for the purposes of taxes, voting, car/RV registration, insurance and drivers license. When we established domicile with them we had to make sure we got to South Dakota within a certain time-frame to get our drivers licence (can only be done on-site). You can read more about establishing domicile here:
I really appreciate the informative comments. My wife and I are tossing around the idea of selling our house and purchasing an RV. We’ll be able to afford to pay cash for a Class A motorhome or (for less fear of problems when sitting still long term) a top of the line camper trailer so payments are not part of our expenses. My greatest concern, as with most folks, is the monthly cost of staying in a campground. Can you enlighten me on what a “membership” might cost and which ones you would recommend…if indeed you do recommend joining a camping club. We’re not the type of people who would want to stay in a state or national park. Our income should allow us to stay where water, sewer and electricity is always supplied. We simply need to know if our daily expenses will outweigh what we now spend living at home…which is about $1,500 per month, including water, electric, cable, phone, groceries, three (paid for) cars and property tax. THANKS!!
With our system, we can use the faucet to fill our fresh water tank. However, you can not leave it hooked up to a hose when the weather drops below freezing. The hose has to be disconnected from the faucet so that the faucet can drain to down below the freeze line. If you leave the hose hooked up the faucet will freeze and break. That is an expense and inconvenience you don’t want in the middle of winter.
I’ve been daydreaming about purchasing a 25′ Airstream trailer and hitting the road full time, and have enjoyed many of the posts on your site. Of all the posts across the blog, this is the one I’ve come to the most times as it’s rare to find such detailed and thorough listing of expenses, which is incredibly useful for a total newbie! Our lifestyles and spending habits seem similar, so I find myself returning to this page frequently while planning my would-be road finances.
That's a tough question to answer because much depends on the choices you make which will depend on how and where you want to live. I have numerous articles about full timing that you can access by clicking on my pen name at the top of the article and then clicking on "profile" in the popup menu at the lower left side of your screen. You'll find many of the answers you seek in some of the articles that are listed there, and I suggest you take the time to read them. If you have never lived or traveled in an RV before, changing from home ownership to RVing can be quite complicated. Also, you're not going to want to "move" every week because doing so will exhaust you. The bottom line is that this probably would work for you if you take the time to do some homework and figure out what you can really afford.
Totally depends on HOW you travel. I have male buddies who travel in vans that live this lifestyle for around $12,000 per year (look up ToSimplify, CheapRVLiving and Van-Tramp in my blog links), and I have friends who use much, much more. I would say you can do it on anything from $1,000/mo to $5,000/mo depending on how far you travel, where you stay, how frugal you are etc.
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!
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.
Thanks for your reply. We would probably not have that much expense as we plan on living off the grid almost 100% of the time with the exception of say a few days out of the month. We also do not plan on driving really long distances like from one end of the US to the other (I.E. Florida to Washington lol). We plan on doing it slowly and staying in each place for a month or two before leaving that city. My sister is on disability so we have a fixed income and I do not make tons of money myself. We have been homeless together before so we have ways of doing things that probably a lot of people would not do or be able to do.
I am currently looking for suitable stories to feature in the series and we’re keen to contact people who may be interested in taking part. I came across your website and thought I would contact you as I’m trying to find Expat British/Irish families attempting to live self-sufficiently in wilderness locations overseas and I was wondering if you’re aware of any British expats that could be interested?
I could live in my RV, either in my hangar — there’s plenty of room — or on my property where it was already parked and hooked up. The trouble with that was that my RV, the “mobile mansion” is not designed for cold weather living. To make matters worse, I had parked it 66 feet from my onsite water source and I knew the hose running in a makeshift conduit under my driveway was very likely to freeze.
It’s been over three years and I still love living in an RV with my five kids. I realize living in an RV and traveling with kids is not on most people’s bucket list and for good reason. It’s challenging and requires a great deal of perspective. Most days I do have to stop and remind myself why this is a conscious choice made with intention. There are many reasons I love this lifestyle, but here are seven of the reasons I wake up excited to be living in an RV and traveling the world with my kids.
Thanks for reaching out. Please visit this page: http://alansills.com/home/tracking-my-travels-with-send-out-cards/ on which I do get into a bit how you earn in Send Out Cards. I also encourage you to test drive it. Feel free to contact me and I can walk you through sending a card and seeing how it all works. I’m also happy to discuss if you wish to contact me in person to elaborate further on just how money is earned in Send Out Cards.
I live in L.A. Cali and the rents are expensive, try buying a property-forget it!.. Specially for an average Joe making less than 35k a year. I got be a 1997 30’ft. RV that I live in it full time and I pay 400 dollars a month rent to the homeowner of the property to let me camp on his empty back yard.I know I tried to live on the public streets,but it’s too much of a hassle because that RV can’t be just put on one location of public street, the city parking enforcement will cite you, as well gang bangers would vandalize your home/RV.So one day I decided to post on craigslist and a man replied to let me park and live on his backyard for 400bucks a month which he kindly let’s me use his side house restroom (keep my RV restroom clean and unused) and electricity for general purpose ,Except for anytime I need my AC (I USE MY GENERATOR).Im just a basic Joe, I cut on renting small rooms for the same price, but I have more space and better independence. I usually ride my bicycle to work and public transportation (I hardly spend on gas).. Also, I have WiFi internet I get from his home, which he charges extra 20 bucks. I have a laundromat couple feet away from this property, so I just walk with my cart basket on Sundays. Life is great and inexpensive. Yea, renting an apartment in a bad/ghetto area of L.A. COULD cost around 800 to 1,000 a month. Im better off renting on a private property in a Nice safer neighbor hood.
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.
Life on the road can often get lonely, even for couples or families who travel together. Committing to the full-time RV lifestyle often means forgoing a sense of community, missing out on family events and waking up every day in a new, unfamiliar place. For the Nealys, this is the greatest challenge of full-time RVing. To cope, they’ve built a network of friends on the road, most of whom they met through the growing community of full-time RV lifestyle bloggers. Jennifer started the couple’s blog Nealys on Wheels to join this sort of makeshift social network. The pair began to make connections with other full-time RVers through their blog and through Instagram.
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.
Just so everyone doesn’t get the idea that all RV parks in SW Florida are that expensive. We have been living in our paid for RV TT which is 30′, and 4 yrs.old, for 4 yrs. in Central, and SW Florida which is where we currently are, we have never paid that high for monthly fees with or without electric included. The most we have ever paid is $400 a month, which is almost what we pay now. And in the area we are in this is the most expensive park. It is very rural here which is what we choose to do also, as our “little” girl who lives with us is in college locally. Our monthly expenses are well under $1000 a month. And that includes, satellite and internet, and food. So there are alot of options in SW Florida that are alot cheaper. When you have a college student you make different choices. The cost is very high there. It is all about where you choose to park your RV, and what amenities are important to you.
- 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.
It seems like I am really good at always finding something to do and I have had to tell myself to stop and relax and just enjoy the moment. Which does seem easier to do while being the RV. Maybe because we have less to maintain or else because I am truly amazed by the things we are seeing and the reaction that the kids are having. I will continue to work on being better at this!
We offer free stays for anyone wanting us too build for them their dream home and if we don,t that’s ok We at least have made a new friend and life Don,t get any better than that. We will even guide DIYers or maybe just build them one of our shells. I HAVE GOT TO SAY THIS,I have enjoyed your arrival as much as any I read,it covered some very important facts and aspects of living on the road.Please keep writing and let’s all be thankful too Kent Griswald for his super blog. My best to you Timmy & Kage
Life has been busy, but awesome. Our band, “The Shoot Dangs! ” has been one of the more fun projects I’ve been involved with the last few years. We just recently finished a tour throughout the Southeastern United States, and it was an incredible (and ridiculous) time. I had the pleasure of touring with Kage, Josie, & Johnny Lungs. We actually just had a phone call this week from the founder of Arctic Man (a big 10,000+ person snowmachine/ski festival up in Alaska), and they are having us headline the festival Friday & Saturday, April 11th & 12th. We are STOKED!!!! Here’s a few clips of band videos we put together quickly:
Regarding storage, I found it to be a total loss. By time I paid the monthly rent while I full-timed almost 2 years, I could’ve replaced the furniture and tools with the latest styles for less money when I returned. If you have items that can’t be replaced, put a value on them and assess. If those items are that meaningful, you’ll probably want them with you.
With our retirement within 5 years, your blog is a continual source of information, inspiration, and encouragement. Thank you so very much. As far as saving money, have you read “Retire to an RV” by Jaimie Hall Bruzenak and Alice Zyetz? It’s an e-book that I found on-line and downloaded (PDF-format). It seems to be a great source of “living in an RV” information including how to save money. Thanks again. Neal
Let's start by keeping that cold weather outside and the warm air in. To do this, you need to increase insulation and reduce cold air infiltration. Your windows are a great place to start. Most RV windows are single-pane and many do not seal well. Some sort of storm window is needed, and there are a lot of possibilities: Some folks use foam core board to cover the windows from the inside. This works well, but it's pretty hard to see through! Other folks use sheets of Plexiglass or Lexan cut to fit the windows and held in place either with small brackets, velcro or tape. This helps seal the windows and you can see through it, but then you will be faced with storing the storm windows during the summer.
I was about to say the same thing. 2,500 is way too much. I was hoping with discount plans to be able to hit the road with about $400k, paid for Truck and 5th wheel and spend about $1000 a month. Just leaving the cash in a normal retirement plan which would return about $700 a month (grandpa is on something similar at the moment) and Social Security (if still available) should be a couple hundred more. Figured out of my pocket I would be spending about $300 – $400 of my own money per month. That would last me pretty much forever and a lot left over for nephews and nieces.
I am considering rain water collection from the roof and a possible 400 gallon water bladder affixed to the underside of the trailer. My tiny house will rarely move perhaps 3 times total but it will be mobile. (Tumbleweeed is the leading builder at the moment if you need to see a visual). Again, I don’t want to dispute RV’s vs tiny houses just want some awesome ideas and input from people who live the life such as I do. Thank you in advance for your time and ideas! 🙂
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.
We quickly learned that we didn’t like that he had to be at the table working all day while the kids and I were out exploring all of these amazing places! Plus, having to go back to Wisconsin was expensive and limiting how far we could travel. California is quite a drive from Wisconsin, especially if you want to go back and forth. The cost of him flying back alone would add up, not to mention I just did not want him leaving us for a week.
The various RVs were scattered about a sheet of ice. It was treacherous walking. Our neighbors were predominately construction workers with pick up trucks in abundance. We all had problems getting in and out with those, and sometimes had to park at the office for fear of not getting back out from the sites the next day. So moving the RV was not an option.
Next came starting a family. We started with 1, then unexpectedly got pregnant with twins, then had 1 more. So, in 4 short years we went from no kids to a family of 4 plus 2 dogs. During this time our house continued to fill up with more and more things. We literally had every toy you could imagine, and our friends would come over to have their kids play at our house so they could figure out what to buy their kids for Christmas. Seriously, we had that many toys.
You can pay $1500 for a decent house that can fit a family of four or five. You live there, in one place, and spend oodles once a year on a vacation. Then you come home, pay that rent (and then some in utilities), and twenty years later might be doing the same thing. Meanwhile everyone has their space. Space to disappear into their video games and man caves and kitchens. You, as a family, live together but you’re separated as easily as a staircase can be climbed, a door can be closed.
For the year 1 monthly budget I hope to cut it down to $1,900 per month average as Marvin is in Arizona for the solar power installation so I would not be going to Florida and therefore the campground and gas will decrease accordingly. Before that my campground and gas expenses were 32.7% of the budget. I had done the year one destinations before Nina wrote about the solar power upgrade, but obviously will have to make an adjustment.
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