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!
Many people think you have to make a lot of money to travel full-time, but that’s not the case. In fact, full-time RVing can be as expensive or inexpensive as you choose. It can all depend on the type and year of the RV you purchase, how often you travel, where you park, and the activities you do in the places you visit. But, here’s a general idea of items you can expect to pay for each month if you choose the full-time RV lifestyle.
It’s okay to start small and work your way up. Before we married, my husband suggested living in a camper and building a house with cash. I didn’t like the idea so I said no, and he respected that. If I had changed my attitude toward alternative living then, we might have had a house right now with no debt attached, nor foreclosure in our past. Attitude is everything!
- 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
Brent and I gave it our best to make full time RVing work for them as teens. We met up with road friends and family regularly. We traveled with other families when the opportunity arose. We spent two winters in the mountains snowboarding. We took Thing 1 to a music camp. We sought out opportunities for Thing 2 to pursue interests like gold panning. We let them have a say in the travel planning. We found online classes when we felt like we couldn’t meet their educational needs. 

Thus, we ended up back in our VW Bus, which is super easy to set up / tear down, can be driven anywhere, but you loose out on space. We also want to be in more natural areas, where the larger your rig, the more difficult it is to access or get any remaining spots. But that’s just us, and it sounds like you’ll be closer to towns and therefor possibly more likely to be in RV parks, so with all of that, best of luck in making a decision!
We are doing our research now too. Still in our early 50’s so we’re too young to retire and no savings but we are worried that “someday” may come too late in our lives to be able to do what we have always wanted to do and that is travel the country in an RV. So, we decided that we are just going to make it happen. We are super excited but scared too. Both of us have great jobs right now with excellent health insurance so our biggest concern is health insurance and how much that is going to cost us.
This depends if you plan to be in constant motion, or you’re looking to live a more stationery RV life. We didn’t have too much saved, but we did plan on picking up odd jobs wherever we went. This allowed for money to be made and experiences to be had. I would say always keep a credit card handy for emergencies, you never know what the road will throw at you.
I love your site and all the insite you give. We are planning on going on the road in 3 to 5 years and getting all our ducks in a row to do that. Down sizing is hard do do with our hobbies and family pass downs as well as tools that we may need.. We are planning on an older Class A in a price range of 30k so we have no payments. We will keep following your blog..Thanks, Jack and Diane Indy
Yes, you can use a correctly rated extension cord for temporary use. A 20 amp cord minimum for a 1500 watt (12.5amp) heater. Add a surge protector for more safety. The cord could accumulate heat if coiled in closed space next to combustibles, like your plastic RV compartment. Fire from electrical overload is very real and RV’s burn very fast, which is why they all have a second exit in or near the bedroom out the window. Extension cords are prohibited because most people would not follow the safety precautions. RV’ers should! Check your smoke detector for early warning at night. (yes, this sounds like too much concern, but fires happen and RV’s burn fully in minutes)
You videos are so enjoyable to watch and informative. The series on the composting toilet has convinced us to put one in our 1965 Airstream Tradewind that is in the process of having body work done before we put her back together for longer future trips. For now, we will head South in our 19 foot Airstream Globetrotter with our three border collies.
Full-timing can be done in many different ways, and whether or not a young couple needs a big nest egg depends entirely on how much money they can earn on the road. Someone with a mobile, high paying profession, like contract nursing, doesn’t need a big nest egg. Someone that will be relying on work camping at campgrounds and RV parks may want more in the bank to handle emergencies that will require more money than their salary can provide.
That’s one type of these “secrets” I’m talking about. You trade up space in a fixed location box and some amount of small outdoor space for the entirety of a nation. Your back yard doesn’t need mowed, it needs explored. Little bits of your mind explode until you truly begin to see the world in a light I find to be almost infinitely brighter than shone before.
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:
Pete, the ugly truth is: RV MSRP is a joke. Most people end up purchasing a new RV for 20%-30% off the MSRP. If you purchase a unit that’s new and last years model you can expect to get 35% – 40% off MSRP. Of course everything depends on supply and demand, and how long the dealer has the unit on the lot. If you want the biggest discount purchase a used RV that’s 2-3 years old, and buy an extended warranty.
Satellite internet. When we bought our coach used it had a Motosat internet satellite on it. We activated it and use it a lot. It has worked flawlessly except for when Hughes changed frequencies and that was a big dust up and PIA to get working right again. There was no equipment failure just software junk from Hughes. I bring this up as you mentioned sat internet in your “10 things”. The thing that is really really great about the sat internet is that you can be boondocked in the middle of no where and it works if you have clear vision to the satellite. For the most part it is not as fast as Verizon 3G with a good signal. But it is pretty fast. Now that there is a second big player just launched a bird (a San Diego company BTW) Hughes will have some competition and I would guess everyone will get faster. You can buy motosat dishes used.
The boys certainly don’t dislike traveling (They keep reminding us we haven’t been to Hawaii and asking if there’s a chance we can go to Europe soon.) but they were developing a “been there and done that” attitude and were ready for new challenges, the challenges that come with dealing with teachers other than mom and relationships that are more face to face than virtual. Traveling full time in the RV gave them so many experiences and the life lessons are still unfolding, teaching us even now as we adapt to a stationary life, but there are lessons to learn from living in community as well.
Beginning with my generation and thrown into full swing by the millenials after me, though it seems like we’re living in “the future” we’ve actually decided to take back something from America’s past that the baby boomers through away. Specifically, working for yourself, not a big company. Corporations lured us in with the promise of pensions (then yanked them or learned they could just fire people before they were due to collect), but really all they did was make us dependent on them. 1-3% raises per year while their profits headed into the billions.
I am 61, limited income, kids think I am crazy, but I am saying to myself is this it. Go to work, drive school bus, go home, to the house in foreclosure, and move to senior housing, ouch! I am frugal, but need hard facts for financial, safe running of a rv and all other practical day to day know how. I can be a bus aide anywhere in the country, they are always desperate or drive in any state, they train! But want to live, feel safe and explore. I will be following comments for buying and prob. financing a used rv, how to get mail and meds., I sell on ebay and that helps too, so need internet. I say why not, if it is not for me well I still have my rv and can park in my kids driveway but buffalonly ny winters are long and cold! Thanks! Wendy
The following comparison shows precisely what would be typical for me and my family, which includes mom, dad, three kids (two toddlers and a teenager), and grandma, a family of 6. Your results may vary. The “Home” table reflects averages for the entire US. We then compare it against our own costs, and those of average prices for new and used RVers, except where those costs wouldn’t change based on the rig you have. Links to sources inline.
I hate to say this, but were I starting all over, I’d go with a 2009 – 2014 or so Ford E150 with low miles (probably run around $15000), build out the camper myself, pay someone to put a pop top on it (that’s big money though, $7k more or less) and spend more of my time traveling than working on this old girl. At this point, of course, I am in love with our VW and wouldn’t make the choice outlined in this paragraph. 🙂
$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.
This item is here because it is a regular part of the boondocking lifestyle (you’ve gotta go every two to three weeks at a minimum). Many RV dump stations are free, but if you have to go to an RV park to dump the tanks because there aren’t any free ones nearby, it will generally cost anywhere from $5 to $15. Our RV dump station page has other tips and tricks related to managing the holding tanks.
RV living requires a bit of planning and scheduling. For us, sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t, and when plans overlap or scheduling gets off, things get a bit hectic! For example, when it rains, we have Wii tournaments, and when it rains all day on laundry day, supper time is a bit interesting! There is chopping, jousting, sauteeing, cheering, and clothes everywhere! Complete chaos!
To make it feel just like home, Coachmen has also added numerous storage options and features such as a modern entertainment center made for a 50-55 inch TV, motion sensor lights, USB charging ports, 8 cubic foot refrigerator, 30-inch microwave, 21-inch oven, a ducted furnace. Of course, if you need even more out of your RV, there’s a lot of options that upgrade these features and add new ones. Check out the full list on the RV page for more details!
Hey! I’m just now discovering all this and I find it very interesting. I’m 22 years old , single, and I just graduated with my Bachelor’s in Violin Performance. Anyway, I plan to be playing in many orchestras around Texas at least until I can land a steadier gig. I’m expecting a pretty low income to start–probably around $25K a year, and certainly not more than $30K. I don’t mind the idea of a house, but I think I’m more adventurous than that, and as long as my work (and some of my hobbies as well) takes me around Texas, I think an RV could be a worthwhile investment. The only problem is that I don’t have the cash to spend on an RV at the moment, so I’m looking for an apartment. I would love to save money and get into an RV by the time my first lease is up. What do you think about bus conversions? There are many old buses on Craigslist for under 5K.

But personally, I wear jeans, shorts and tee shirts in warm weather and its fine with me. Didn’t buy any or very few clothing. I ain’t got no cat either. The Truck/RV insurance in Quebec cost me 1200$ and personal insurance 700$. I do not eat out once, no fast food ever and I make my one food so it’s good and healthy. Groceries cost : 2,125$ including fine wine every day in the evening.
This includes both truck and full-time RV insurance for our 5th wheel trailer. We pay it annually, but the monthly cost is shown. If we had kept our Arizona home address, this line item would have been twice as much. There is more detailed info on the selection of a domicile (home address) and the implications that choice has on your vehicle insurance in the fulltiming section.
Thanks for the information. It’s funny but I was just contacted by a friend I haven’t heard from in 4 years and they recently sold everything off about three years ago and are enjoying the RV lifestyle. They just spent the summer in Alaska and currently my friend is playing Santa Claus here in Las Vegas. We are getting together tomorrow and I am sure we will have a big discussion on how things have been going so far. He has already recommended I grow my beard in for next year and play Santa. Of course I will have to die the beard as I am not quite white yet. LOL. I will keep on searching your site and thanks again for the update…
At the same time, being together 24/7 is a challenge, too. It’s one of the reasons we chose to live this way. But, as you can imagine, it poses its own issues since there is no pushing anything under the rug. All issues, hard feelings and frustrations need to be addressed quickly or they just continue to grow and grow, and that doesn’t work in such close quarters.
I boondock often. The campground near my home town is $27 per night when I decide to stay there for a few days a month. I put $20 a week in the tank. My RV insurance is $189 every six months. Since my husband passed away I am eligible for food assistance (which I am very grateful for). My next “big” purchase is going to be replacing my tablet that recently broke – about $200. I live very comfortably on $700 a month.
We too fish and hunt and eat everything we harvest. Although we have enjoyed the trips we have taken in our motorhome, my husband is reluctant to travel for more than 2 or 3 months at a time. He does not want to miss out on Spring and Fall turkey season and Fall deer season. How do you afford to hunt and fish outside of your home state? Non-resident hunting and fishing licenses are very expensive in many states.
3/ decorations – we bought a bunch of RV type decorations (e.g. Hanging lamps for our awning) that we never used and ended up giving away. My advice is don’t buy too many decorations until you get on the road, since you’ll quickly figure out what you use and what you don’t. Some camping chairs and a small collapsible side-table will get you started on your outdoor gear. Add on from there as you go.

At this point we decided to make my VA business our full-time income so my husband could stop his 9 to 5. I dedicated the next 6 months to make that happen. And we did it! Lots of late nights and comfort zone pushing later, we were able to have him put in his notice. They came back and wanted him to stay on part time for about 9 months, so that worked out well!

Some like the national parks offer you not only all the hook ups which include water/sewer/ele/free fills for your propane, but also pay you for every hour you work, and the national parks like workampers to ‘work’. Not hard or back breaking but they like you to work 4 or 5 days a week. It’s fun though. You can learn to be an interpreter and give trail walks with the public and explain the park and it’s historical significance, or if they have horses and you have experience with them they may put you in the equine area and you groom or saddle up horses or even end up leading or trailing the horse ride.


Prices for LP are all over the map, and we haven’t been very diligent about shopping around. We just buy it when we need it from whoever has it nearby. We’ve been paying anywhere from $2.59/gallon to a little over $4.00 a gallon in 2014. We use about 15 gallons per month: a little more in December/January/February when we use our vent-free propane heater to heat the trailer, and less in summer. RVers that stay in RV parks and campgrounds with electric hookups use a lot less propane than this, because they don’t run their refrigerator on propane 24/7. If you have hookups and don’t have metered electricity, you can save on propane costs in the winter by using an electric space heater.
When it comes to pleasure items, you will have to keep the list low. The more people who are trying to fit in the R.V., the less space you personally will have. Take the most special and most used toys. If you plan to take furniture, take smaller items and remember that they have to be secured or they will shift when driving. You can put extra items in storage units.
On the one hand, these are supremely useful posts. Costs are a huge question for anyone who is considering getting on the road and one of the most searched-for items for newbie fulltimers. I remember it was one of the top things we fretted about before we went fulltiming and we had such a hard time figuring it out. Could we afford it? For how long? What kind of budget would we need? We found several blog posts, but no-one seemed to be able to give us an exact number. How are you supposed to work with that??
After completing 2 weeks of travel, I have spent a total of $240 on diesel fuel. Having spent $0 on lodging, and having a supermarket available at almost every stop, I have lived as well as anyone else — either on the road or parked — for the sum total of less than $500 a month, excluding the cost of food. (Food is a fixed cost that you have no matter where you are.)
If the distribution center is too hard to get to, you can opt to have the package shipped to a UPS Store or FedEx/Kinko’s store or other shipping store like MailBoxes Etc. The store will likely charge you a fee, even if it is a UPS store and you are shipping via UPS or is a FedEx/Kinko’s and you are shipping via FedEx. We’ve seen the fee range from a flat fee of $3 whenever you pick it up to $7 per day, however these stores are more likely to hold the package longer than 5 days. So, check with the store before having something shipped to them to get the details and verify how they want the package to be addressed.
Winters are long and dark in Alaska. I’m not a TV lovin’ person, but it is pretty nice to get a nice fire going, make a cup of hot tea, and watch a movie. The new mini-flat screens are pretty nice and they’re actually reasonably priced (I bought my for a little under $100 w/ the shipping from the lower 48). Make sure to get an L.E.D. and not an L.C.D. The LCD (Liquid Crystal) will freeze in cold temperatures and you might ruin the TV. The LED TVs are made of LED lights, so there is nothing to really freeze. The 19” screen seems to be about perfect for my small home.
$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.
One way to go fulltime and cut expenses is work camp. We have met many people that do this and save a lot of money. Food,insurance,any rv repairs,health insurance are really your only large expenses. Only con is if you still have a lot to see or do not want to work at all this will not be an option for you. And thank you for all the work you put into site very informative.
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.
It’s a good tip. We used to have business cards and still exchange them on occasion, but I have to admit we’ve gone mostly online now. I connect with lots of folks through either Facebook or Instagram, and of course there’s also RVillage where you can check in and see where various folks and groups are on a map. Lots of good ways to stay connected.
We’re Millenials, so we can relate to the desire to have new and shiny stuff we can’t afford. A lot of Millenials these days want instant gratification: we want what our parents have without realizing it took them 30-40 years to get there. Who wouldn’t want a big $200-300k diesel pusher? As a young, first time RVer, with less disposable income than most retirees, buy used! RVs depreciate faster than just about any other purchase. Buying used can save you a huge amount of money. Most people use their RV about 4 weekends out of the year, so “used” models are almost new. You can save $10k-50k buying a year or two used. Plus, used RVs usually have all the bugs worked out. New RVs have more issues than used ones. Don’t be surprised for your brand new RV to spend 3-4 months in the shop the first year, getting all the bugs worked out from the warranty. If you buy an RV that’s a year or two or 10 old, the bugs will already have been fixed under warranty.
Thanks for the financial breakdown, it’s very instructive. I appreciate your honesty! while I may think you spend some more than I may spend, I fully see the needs, that you guys have considering your particular circumstances. I am also a full time RVer. 32′ ’84 Itasca WindCrusier I love the old aerodynamic body style, but it’s nowhere near as roomy as the newer boxier models w/ slideouts. Because of it’s age and condition I’ve had to rebuild or repair or replace: Transmission, brakes, powersteering pump (includes power brakes), batteries, gas gauge sender, damaged ceiling from too heavy of a factory ac unit, Fridge. yet to repair: Fridge again, (gas side), furnace motor, cab heater to floor control (defrost works just fine) At this time in my life I do handyman work, currently doesn’t allow much full timing on the road. although I have taken time off between jobs to travel all over the Pacific Northwest from my base in Auburn, WA to Coeur d’Alene, ID, to Mountian Grove near Grant’s Pass, Or to Corvallis, to Portland to Windward near Goldendale, WA and back to Auburn for most of last summer.
When you live full-time in an RV, you don’t just go to the RV resorts and the big towns, but find yourself in random locations around the country you probably never would have visited on a family trip. I like this as an individual, but also think it has been great to expose our kids to so many different ways that people live around our own country.
To break the cycle I needed to let myself grieve. It felt silly to grieve something that I realize I was very fortunate to experience like grieving a stain on a designer blouse. You know, first world problems. But judging my feelings only served to keep me on the disconnected emotional hamster wheel. So now I let myself grieve as needed and try to suspend judgment on my feelings.
Truth be told, cooking is the most difficult part (to me) of living in a camper in the winter. If you don’t crack open a vent so the condensation can escape, your camper will quickly begin to accumulate ice and mold, although the wood stove helps bake most of that condensation out. Also, make sure to wash dishes the second you finish your meal, because it gets much more difficult once they freeze… and you don’t want to carry any more water into the camper than you have to.

Now that we're warm, draft free and hopefully dry inside, let's deal with the stuff outside your rig. The first thing we need to do is keep your fresh water hose from freezing. If you are traveling a lot, simply use the hose to fill your freshwater tank and then disconnect it each night. If you are parked for a longer period, consider heat taping and insulating your water hose. Standard 110v heat tape can be wrapped in a spiral along the length of the hose and then covered with either round foam insulation or fiberglass batting wrapped with tape. Don't forget to wrap the faucet to protect it and add a pad of insulation where the hose connects to your RV. In moderately cold weather, this should keep your water flowing. If it gets extremely cold (below zero), it may still be necessary to let a faucet drip overnight.
The questions poured in: How could they go from living in a 2,000-square-foot home to living in a 250-square-foot trailer? What would they do with their stuff? What would their children, ages 6 and 9, do for school? Was this a midlife crisis? The hardest people to convince were Jessica’s parents, who grew up in an impoverished Latino neighborhood in the Bronx and worked hard so their daughter could have a better life. They couldn’t understand why the couple wanted to live like migrant laborers.
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