Boy, do I know just what you are talking about, been there done that! We did just what you two are doing in Alaska. We bought property, cleared an area for driveway and cabin, then built the shell of the cabin – all while living in a 21 ft RV over a 2 yr period. But life threw us a curve, and we became full time caretakers of my in-laws….in Oregon. When we started over again, we knew what floor plan to look for. The 2nd RV was 36 ft with a 12 ft slide-out and a separate bedroom with a folding door, big difference. As we bought it 2nd hand, it needed a little work. Yes, the cushions and mattress upgrade is a must for full-time living. And again….life threw a curve. I am in Nevada now with the 2nd RV and have not given up on the dream completely. Still looking for the right piece of land to accomplish the goal. I so enjoy watching your videos and reading your posts about your progress. Brings back good memories of better times, thank you.
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.
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.
I think the best thing a person could possibly do if they KNOW they’ll be wintering in their RV is to buy an RV that’s set up for all-season use. Those have better insulation and even heated basements to prevent pipes from freezing. They cost more (of course) and are likely heavier, but I will never spend another winter in a cold climate in an RV that isn’t set up at the factory for winter use.
I have left out some expenses as they might be comparable regardless of your situation. Those expenses are gasoline, home owner’s associations vs. RV clubs, phone and internet costs. While you may think the average RVers spends more on gas / year, we don’t. There is no daily commute, and no one said you have to, or even realistically will, drive hundreds of miles every day. Here are our findings on that (and all things environmentally friendly about living in an RV).
$1264 Dining Out It’s beautiful to go back through and see where we spent our money eating out. The only chain is Chipotle which we ate at 4 times this quarter. The rest is made up of coffee shops, small restaurants, and different breweries. Of course this number is skewed a bit as 10% of these expenses likely belong in the grocery category because we purchase whole bean coffee and specialty beers from many of the coffee shops and breweries we visit.
We are just now in the “sell everything” stage, about to go full time in our RV, and we have two little girls — a four year old and a two year old. We’ve really been out in our RV so often that it’s no big deal for them. Come to think of it, we got our first camper when our oldest was just 6 months old, so she’s grown up around the camper (not that she’s really grown up yet LOL). Our girls absolutely love it! They get so excited when we start packing it up. I’ve talked with our oldest about what it will be like when we live in the camper and how it will be better to get rid of all our extra stuff that we don’t really need. She seems to understand it and we are all super excited about it. We have yet to see how it goes a few months into it, but I can’t think it would be any worse than our longest trips (about two weeks) which were wonderful times for us. I wish you the best of luck in getting yours all fixed up! I can’t wait to see the pictures because I might want to borrow some of your reno ideas!! 😀
Spray the bottom of the camper with spray foam. This isn’t something I can recommend from personal experience; it’s just something I know some people do. If I were going to do it, though, I would want to make sure I didn’t do any spraying that would prevent me from accessing certain systems if they needed repair. An alternative is to attach foam board insulation to the bottom of the RV.
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.
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/
I’m recently widowed, May 2017. This idea has been tugging at me for years! Do you see women traveling alone? Everyone has told me, don’t make any big decisions for a year. He didn’t leave me with extreme wealth, but I’m really thinking this would be good for me right now. I am 58, not very active, but I need to come out of this with some new perspective and zest for a more natural peace. What is your view on this idea?
Well if you’re interested in fulltime RVing I’d probably recommend a smaller trailer or Class C, and then I’d focus on the SW. New Mexico offers lots of great State Parks and has their yearly camping pass which is an amazing deal -> $225 for one year of dry camping! It’s a great state for spring through fall, but gets too cold in winter. For winter I would head over to Southern Arizona where you can free camp on public land. There are quite a few single ladies I know that do this, and it can be done on limited income.
RV’s have lots of moving parts and components. Which means, a pretty much never ending to-do list, and parts and labor can get pretty expensive. Thankfully, Brett is pretty handy, so he can tackle most of the jobs that pop up. We have also had really good luck in finding fellow campers that were experienced and willing to step in and help out when he got in over his head.
HI Timmy! Great blog! Loved it! My husband and I are 63 years old. We have done it all! Lived in a tiny travel trailer (10 x 7 foot inside measurements) 13 feet long (including the hitch and the bumper). It was the ’70’s and we had two children, and one on the way. We had already owned a 4 bdrm., two bath home when we were 20, and the only way my husband could get me to move from the security of being near my family in Tucson, Az., and live this way was to move to the Santa Cruz Mountains. He agreed!! The trailer was a choice we made to live the lifestyle we chose to live! What a joy it was! We lived in an old resort spot in the Redwood forest in Northern California, with others our age living the same way in small rvs, trailers and school buses, I think everyone there was a musician. 🙂 Our next step was buying a HUGE 35 ft. travel trailer with a ‘tip out’. It truly did seem huge to us. Even had a home birth (our 3rd child) in that little travel trailer. My sister and niece came and lived with us for awhile also. We fit! My husband customized the back bedroom with tiny little ‘dwarf’ sized bunkbeds for our babies. They even had tiny little headboard bookcases for their cherished books. The baby slept in a Moses basket until she was able to move into her tiny little portable bed. It was the most precious time of our lives. We lived outdoors so much, showered at the ‘club’ showers, even used the toilets there when we were in the tiny trailer. (we also had to buy ice for our ice box every 3 days…no fridge!) 🙂 Would I do it all again? Yes…in a HEARTBEAT!! We have taken early retirement for the rest of our lives (after our tiny trailer days)…raising our 6 children..running our own business for 30 plus years, getting our kids through college, weddings for 4 daughters, and guess what? We are now living in a 29 foot travel trailer (with a 14 ft. slide out). We have our raised bed gardens growing strong, our hydroponics doing beautifully! Our lives are simple…but so joyful again!! Not much money…no debt…but joy!! We have moved to the Mountains again as well. I just wanted to tell you that I’m SO proud of the two of you…living your heart!! No regrets! …no regrets!! Enjoy your life to the max! Being our age, it was a little hard for our kids to grasp the fact that this is what we WANT to do….but they are coming around! 🙂 So happy for you!! Love your story! That’s what life should be all about…being happy…and creating the story we want to share with others! So happy that we have lived the ‘crazy’ simple life we CHOSE to live, and still choose to live!! So happy you are as well!!
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.
Suddenly, it started getting dark. Being in denial that the Bigs are actually pretty grown up, I was still worried about them frying their eyeballs. Then someone said, “The sunset is all around us!” I stopped worrying about the Bigs taking off their glasses to soon and spun around to take in the most amazing 360 degree sunset. Next someone else shouted, “Look at the corona!” I pulled off my glasses and, overwhelmed by the beauty and the most pure light I’ve ever seen lost my mind. Lost. My. Mind.
O really DO appreciate how you have listed your expenses, especially the “before” posts that listed everything, because we are just in the PLANNING stages of a full time, 3+ month, RV trip. We haven’t even bought an RV or trailer yet; still going through the pro’s and con’s of which way would be best for us. Since budget is a huge concern, we needed to know all the nitty-gritty “small stuff” that still adds up. I’m sorry you have had to deal with the culture of “rude” from people hiding behind a keyboard. I’m sure some questions may have been relevant, but some judgements could be held. You’re just human beings, after all. Not a major company required to do meticulous research with charts, graphs, scientific evidence and everthing else these people seem to require. It’s obviously anectdotal. Thanks again! I truly appreciate it!
$2,500 Insurance: Includes RV insurance, Car insurance, Life Insurance, Renter’s Insurance (to cover our belongings at home), Jewelry Insurance, and a Rider policy for camera/computer gear. We switched to State Farm Insurance halfway through the year and it saved us nearly $75+ per month vs. Geico and Progressive. We do not currently have health insurance, I know don’t yell at us… (est. savings $900)
Looks like you gave a very solid plan! Kirk’s numbers are one of the budget references I plan to link to in my next post. And I totally agree that health care is the biggest single unknown in all this. It’s been (by far) the biggest impact we’ve had to our fixed expenses in the 7 years we’ve been on the road, and it’s one of the most difficult to predict. I have no idea what our costs are going to be next year.
Even my writing has its expenses. Keeping a blog can be free, but hosting, backup services, firewall services and other things add up. Writing also requires a computer. When we started out, Mark and I shared a single MacBook Pro laptop. After four years, this became impossible because we always wanted to use it at the same time. So, we replaced that one MacBook Pro with two newer ones in 2011 and 2012. Then, in 2014 we replaced the older one of those with yet another newer one.
I cannot in good faith tell you that freezing camping is easy camping…but what I can tell you is: typically if you camp where it’s freezing you’ll have the entire place to yourself. Some of our favorite times to camp is in the off season, and freezing camping is always a fun challenge for us. I hope you’ll reconsider heading to the beach in cold weather, it is such a wonderful feeling walking on the beach all alone, bundled up, with the one you love 🙂
I understand there are monthly costs to van dwelling, but I am in a unique situation being at school. I have a free gym membership that has all the amenities. I have friends with houses, apartments, yards, etc. where I can freely park and utilize some of their amenities. I have access to WIFI anywhere on campus and bathrooms everywhere I look. I have a different scheduled each day and a part time job. I am ALWAYS on the move. From an outsiders standpoint, I feel as if I would mesh right into the van dwelling life. I want to live a less material life. I own too much random…. stuff. I want to minimize my living “standards.” I want to remove anything in my life hindering me from experiencing life.
There are lots of long term RV Parks that run anywhere from $350 a month to $1500 a month depending on the park and location. Could be more comfortable (less expensive than hotels) and easier than packing up and dealing with storage units often. As for finding an RV park, that is as simple as a google search once you know the area you are headed. You can look at sites like rvparkreviews.com to read what others experiences have been.
For years, Brent and I have talked about buying a vintage trailer or bus. In a post I wrote in March 2011, I mentioned my dream of rolling down a dusty highway in an Airstream, a shiny piece of Americana. We love bringing old things back to life. Although, we don’t have experience renovating a trailer, we did renovate two 1950s houses in California. A trailer can’t be that much harder to restore than a house, right? Years ago, when we bought our pop-up trailer, our tow vehicle was a Honda Odyssey so we were very limited by weight and budget. Today, we have a bigger budget and tow vehicle so maybe now is the time to pursue our dream of restoring and remodeling a vintage Airstream! We have a perfect space to park it while we work on it.
The Meinhofers have met a lot of families with kids on the road, but they haven’t encountered many other Latinos. They think there’s a perception in some communities of color that doing this means you are destitute. They are trying to inspire others to join them with their YouTube channel, Exploring the Local Life, which has become so popular it is making them money.