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!
Someone briefed over the Webasto heating system a while back and they do work great but use a bit more fuel than makes me comfortable. I saw a guy who uses a system from an RV hot water tank and ran much diluted antifreeze through it. Piped it through hot water radiators in the unit and built a system of black pipe around the engine block giving it just enough heat to keep the engine warm. He heated the coach and engine with that and only used the pilot light on the propane water heater. There was also a reservoir in the coach where he could ad more water or antifreeze if required and it radiated a ton of heat. Now, before building this, I would want to discuss it with someone much smarter than I am because I thought it was not too bright to heat antifreeze in this manner before it boiled. Everything was circulated with a little pump that drew its power from a small wind generator not much larger than that for a bicycle lamp and charged a little independent battery which he drew the power with. When I seen this it was dam cold out -40 and very warm in the coach (thermostat by open vent) Cheap heat and I am not sure what I am going to do but the areas I am in, your heater will be great and I can access lots of wood but might check out this other method also. My holding tanks, fresh and grey can all be built into the coach of the cube van.
As an example, before we started our RVing journey we lived CA which is a very high cost state both for income taxes, RV/car registration and insurance. When we went fulltime we severed our ties with CA and switched our domicile to SD which reduced those expenses significantly. Our state income tax went from one of the highest in the nation to ZERO while our RV/car registration dropped by around a factor of 5! Talk about instant savings!
5. You should have a bit of DIY knowledge. You don’t exactly have to be a mechanic or a plumber or and electrician, but a little knowledge in all of those fields will be helpful for this lifestyle. This is especially the case if you will be moving often and putting a lot of miles on the RV. There is more maintenance involved with an RV than a regular home. Therefore, it would be best to get to know your owner’s manual and what it suggests. Basic plumbing and electrical knowledge will go a long way, as will knowing what to do if your roof or windowsills leak. It is also a good idea to have a maintenance routine that you go through on a set schedule.
Of course, at $500 per month this is a sparse life, but I am just showing you that it can be done. In fact I personally know dozens of people who live in their vans and make much less than $1,000 per month, so I know for a fact that it can, and is, being done right now. That still leaves us with the question, where will the money come from? Let me show you some simple strategies for living the cheap RV lifestyle.
The second issue we had was when one of our propane tanks ran out at 5:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day. We had an extra full tank of propane, but when we hooked it up, the furnace wouldn’t ignite. We could hear it trying to ignite every 30 seconds or so, and the fan was blowing, but no heat. I checked the stove to see if we we were getting gas there, and it was working, but with a lower flame than usual. After doing a little Googling, I realized that the propane was probably not getting good flow due to the outside temperature, which was -9 F. We bought an extra space heater thinking it might thaw out the tanks, but it didn’t really make a difference. I also bought some Reflectix to line the door to the propane area, which I discovered was not insulated at all, but while that may help in the future, it didn’t do anything to warm up the tanks.
I’ve had several eager 20-something future full-timers email me saying they wanted to live in an RV after college because they didn’t want to throw away money on rent and they didn’t think buying a house would be a good investment. Unfortunately, an RV involves “throwing away” lots of money too. In the end, the cost of owning an RV — from purchase to sale and through the thick and thin of all the maintenance and repairs in between, not to mention the cost of campgrounds and RV parks — probably adds up to the same amount as renting an apartment or paying a mortgage/taxes plus utilities.
We had to skirt our first RV and it worked like a champ. We called the Miller Family from RVSkirting.com and even though they couldn’t install the skirt for us they helped us get set for a last minute freeze in Breckenridge, CO and gave us the confidence that we could install it ourselves. Most manufacturers and dealers don’t understand skirting so make sure you do lots of research or give these guys a call if you have questions about winter camping.If you plan to be in an area with snow you can try the poor man’s skirt, it works pretty well: Take a shovel and pile up snow all around your coach up to the bays. Pack the snow well and it can last for months. During an extreme freeze put a space heater under your coach, don’t worry it shouldn’t melt the snow…I call this the Igloo effect!
In our case there are months we pay almost ZERO here (e.g. when we are sitting still in one place and either volunteering or boondocking) and there are months we chose to splurge. Either way we are able to completely manage how much we want to spend and can ramp it down (or up) as needed to match our income. Honestly if we’d fully understood the power of this flexibility we probably wouldn’t have fretted quite so much over costs before we got on the road. This is a BIG DEAL!
Since we rarely move more than two or three times a year, we are huge fans of plywood skirting, most of which we can pick up for next to nothing at building sites and dumps. We tape fiberglass panels, sealed in Mylar. to the wood and it works extremely well. We haven’t found we’ve needed any additional heating under the rig, but then we don’t leave a lot of space for air to accumulate.
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.
As for a choice of what type of RV… we’re looking at a diesel-pusher… would love to find one in the 32-34 ft range. Loved your advice about the internet service Millenicom . I’d read about them from another source just yesterday and feel much better about them now that I’ve heard from a 2nd unsolicited source. I didn’t know that they don’t require a contract…that is so much better… I used to drive a truck for a living and have been to almost all the lower 48 states (just missing North Dakota…) I used Verizon while I was on the road and cannot ever remember not being able to get a signal for my phone or my internet connection. Of course, I was mainly on major highways or secondary roads so that sort of explains that… Sorry I’ve gone on and on… just wanted to introduce myself and hope to see you one day once we ever get on the road… Beverly/Wayne
We are new to your blog and new to the world of RVing. We are in the process of selling the house and plan to become fulltimers within the next 3-6 months. Our big issue right now is with size. We like our creature comforts, but we also want to use state and national parks and forests as much as possible. In your comments you suggested that the next time you might stay in the 36-38 foot range. We are thinking 40. I recently read something that indicated that anything over 35 would rule out 85% of state and national parks. If that is true, how much worse does that number get if you are in a 40 footer vs something in the 36-38 range? And, if the percent available is pretty much the same between 36 and 40, why not go 40?
For me, there used to be an underlying pressure to choose the “best” curriculum similar to researching and picking the safest car or best vacuum. (<== OCD much?) I may have traded a few months of my life researching curriculum when we first started homeschooling 6 years ago. It seemed like, if I just read every. single. review. and every thread on every homeschooling message board on the entire internet I would find that perfect curriculum and my kids would be on their way to Harvard before their 13th birthdays.
Yes we have a washer and dryer in our RV – but it is mini! So when you see one with industrial size washers and dryers that will dry everything in 25 minutes (instead of 2 hours like the RV one) you get really excited :)! It really does become about the little things you took for granted in a house when you live in an RV. And yes there are times I REALLY miss my large washer and dryer that we had in our house . . .
How much money you save when you’re RVing depends largely on how you plan your trip. Taking a few minutes to think ahead about meals and travel routes can go a long way in your checkbook. Consider signing up for an online forum to share your ideas about RVing to make a little extra cash on the side if you’re really strapped and looking for something up your alley.
First of all, thank you for your generosity and how much you help people here! Today I found your page/article and am so grateful. You and your family are such an inspiration to my husband and me. We currently live in NYC and have owned and operated a yoga studio since 2009. Community is of utmost importance to us and the unreasonable expenses of living in this city are endangering the studio’s sustainability.
I wish everyone who has run into bad times could read your story. There are certainly people who cannot help themselves and need assistance. But there are too many who find themselves in debt who could do what you have done – cut expenses and live frugally. But they don’t and just complain, asking for handouts as they place an order for the new iphone. Good luck with your new house and homestead, although I know you don’t need any. It’s apparent you make your own luck. 🙂
We only had our little Gypsy cat just over a year when she snuck outside in San Diego during our pre-desert stay. The next month was filled with constant searches, fliers, and talking to anyone in the neighborhood, but we never found her. A short time later, our older cat Dylan was diagnosed with lymphoma. This is something most cats can live with, but six months after losing Gypsy, we lost Dylan, too. We did learn about coordinating intensive long-term medical care for a pet on the road and where all the animal oncologists on the west coast practice. Thankfully, our initial oncologist was so helpful in making sure she was looped in with what was happening along the way that we felt we had a primary vet on staff.
We are just in the planning stages, our house is for sale, I’m dividing things up between our children and selling or storing the rest. We’ve found the 5th wheel we want and the house is for sale, really looking forward to this new adventure. We’ve had a 5th wheel before but only for occasional trips. All your information is so helpful, will be back often to see what else is new. From cold, snowy Canada
I am hoping you can answer some questions for us with what we will need. I have already started a budget based on your article and answers to questions above. Our goal is to raise the funds through private, like-minded products/corporate sponsorship. What we would love is some advice about where to start with purchasing an RV. We need some way – even if it is a small motorbike to get around once with visit each town. Also – we are open to a trailer and truck combo…just not sure what you’d recommend. We are leaning towards a decent looking RV (if we can raise the funds) so there is a level of professionalism with the tour and because we would like to make that our home after the tour is over to continue our teaching on the road. If we don’t raise too much, we may need other options.
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.
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?
Wow. The lots in SW Florida must be insanely high. We have brand new real nice RV Parks in East Texas with carports, storage buildings etc. that will only cost you about $350 per month. And there are several pretty good parks coming in at $250 around here. You might consider East Texas a few months a year just to pocket some serious cash. My wife and I have talked about this kind of living on and off for a while. Our expenses living in a duplex is about $400 less than yours right now. And our utilities are $350-$400 a month. But, we are considering trying to purchase a lot instead of traveling around. That’s great freedom. Kudos! I worked for 11 years in the corporate world. I never did find a company that bought into the telecommute thing for more than 2-3 days at a time without coming into the office.
We had planned to stay in the RV for an entire year after being stationary but soon realized that wasn’t going to work. Not only were the boys embarrassed, our 41′ RV shrunk exponentially once we quit moving. Having Yellowstone or Lake Superior as the playground in your backyard is much different from the city campground where the RVs are crammed together like books on a bookshelf. So we found a house and a few months later said goodbye to the RV.
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!
In the case of Nationwide (Allied), there is a four page description of how personal effects are covered and the capping methodology used, including more than a page of listed exclusions. Some highlights: There’s a cap of $500 per individual item. Groups of similar types of items are capped differently, for instance items grouped as “camera equipment” or “fishing gear” or “musical instruments” are capped at $1,000 per group while items grouped as “computer equipment,” “tools” and “silverware” are capped at $3,000 per group.
Many RVers go into a winter counting on their propane furnace to see them through the season, but it will only take you a few weeks to burn through your propane when it gets really cold, so you might want to consider an alternative form of heat. One of the most popular methods to keep warm without burning up all of your fuel is to use portable electric heaters. These gadgets are compact, and affordable, and many newer models come with RV friendly feature like automatic shutoff if they get knocked over. If you're in a larger RV, you can even pick up a couple of them and heat the RV with relative ease. There is a catch: make sure that when you're plugging in your heater, that you're not overloading your electrical system.
The number one thing that needs to be done to prepare an RV for LIVING through the winter is find a place to park so that you don’t have move the darn thing. Trust me on this, once the cold weather sets in, you do not want to have to move it. Roads are slick, cross winds are brutal and water lines WILL freeze without heat. Making your ‘home on wheels’ stationary for months at a time takes some fore thought.
When Robert was offered a job in Atlanta working for an airline, they didn’t think they had enough money to buy a “proper house” for their two kids, their dog and their cats. So they decided to take the plunge on the RV lifestyle. Jessica convinced her company to let her work remotely so she could home-school their children and work in the RV anywhere in America. Robert works four days at the airline and then gets four days off, which he spends with his family in the RV.