This is an excellent post, Nina. People ask us all the time what it costs to RV full time, and we’ve come up with just about the same answer as you —we figure $3500 for a comfortable and varied lifestyle that includes a mix of state and federal parks, some boon docking, occasional expensive RV resorts, and camp hosting. We travel a lot of miles every year driving from the Pacific Northwest to Florida and back, which I realize isn’t typical.
After several weeks of looking and test driving I found my 1993 29′ Jamboree Rallye with a Ford E350 motor. It had 54,000 miles on it, no water damage that I could see,  seemed to drive well, had new laminate floors, was clean  and  in overall pretty good condition for a 23 year old rig.  I inspected it with my untrained eye: the engine compartment looked clean, the hoses were newer and there were no leaks that I could detect.  When I test drove it, it seemed to have more power and a smoother ride than others I’d tested. I  also tested the house water pump, refrigerator, stove and generator and they all worked well.
Reservations & Pre-Paying: One consideration with the variability of camping fees, is that to score great spots during peak season in your desired location – you may find you have to pre-pay for your spot at time of reservation or put up a sizable deposit.  So if you’re making your winter reservations during the summer – you could end up paying for part of your winter lodging, while still funding your summer lodging. Always be sure to check out the cancellation policy when making reservations in advance – sometimes they’re refundable, and sometimes there are fees involved.
As for the budget discretion please note that we differentiate between fixed expenses and monthly expenses. To quote myself: “No matter what month it is the fixed travel costs remain virtually the same. They are primarily what the above budge is based on.” We pay our insurance in full every 6 months. We do not pay monthly so it doesn’t fall into our monthly expense category.

“Variable costs” are lifestyle expenses that are essentially optional — at least for a while. They can be deferred to a later month, foregone all together, or can make a fun splash in the current month. The great thing about these expenses is that they are controllable. If fuel costs skyrocket or you are short on funds, then stay put and save money! If you’ve got a more modest budget, consider staying in each location for a month or a full season to take advantage of the monthly or seasonal rates at RV parks. If you really want to skimp, boondock or at least stay in the dry camping sites at any RV park or campground that will allow it and has them available.
$700 Smart Repairs: Includes 1 oil change service, 2 rim replacements, 1 tire replacement. Because our Smart Car is the Brabus edition it has low profile tires and 17” rims in the back (BAD IDEA). We hit a few potholes along the way bending rims and shredding a tire. We purchased a tire and rim warranty and we have AAA for towing (est. savings $2,500)
Hi! I’m fairly new at this RV living thing and I’m curious about the $153 per month average cost for RV/camping fees you note. I understand that summer is less expensive than winter, for the most part, but a minimum of $20 per night for a week in a National Park, that $153 would come up awfully fast. And full hookups at an RV park I’m seeing anywhere from $20 to $90 (yeh, $90, Candlestick Park in S.F., CA!!! And no, not worth it). Are you boondocking most of the time?
We purposely headed into Colorado and Utah in the winter because we wanted to ski, and because we wanted to travel the opposite direction of most RV’ers who go south for colder months. We were prepared with tools to help our RV survive: a heated, enclosed underbelly on the trailer; heated hoses; space heaters, etc. We survived a low of 10 degrees one night just before Christmas in Green River, Utah, and on and off sub-freezing temperatures the rest of our trip. We even had about six inches of snow in South Dakota after Easter.

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!
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.
If we really wanted to cut back to a minimalist lifestyle we could probably manage early retirement at this point. Instead, since we love what we do – we’ve opted to work a while longer and be a bit indulgent (like pursuing our boating dreams). Because life is short and we have a lot of things we want to do!   So, a lot of our income goes into a discretionary spending account for adventures, upgrades and fun. When that fund builds up, we go on a little spending spree.
To let you know what kind of weather we’re preparing for in our RV, a typical winter day in this part of the country is below freezing at night and above freezing during the day.  Usually we will get a couple of weeks each year where the high temperatures don’t get above freezing and the lows are close to zero, but we rarely get sub-zero temperatures.  And although we usually get at least some snow and possibly ice, the snow doesn’t stay on the ground for more than a few days.
In South Dakota, one of the largest mail forwarding services is America’s Mailbox just outside of Rapid City in Box Elder near the Black Hills in the western part of the state. We have the Platinum plan with them and have been absolutely delighted with their service. We call them once a month and tell them where to send the mail. Mail forwarding providers in South Dakota include:
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.
The point at which you decide to live debt-free is going to be different than the next person’s. I am 27 and post-foreclosure. Perhaps you are 17, 32, 54, or 68. Maybe you’ve always rented an apartment, or you own two houses outright. It doesn’t really matter when you start as long as you make that decision and begin taking steps to live it out. And you know what? You can do it. You can live debt-free.

My only issue with this article is the title “The real costs” which implies that you are about to tell us that full time RVing is not as cheap as some people might think. Instead you provided your expenses which I would speculate are much higher than the average. As a number of people mentioned your lot rent is perhaps two to three times higher than the typical rent.
It also bears mentioning that bringing less stuff in the first place is a solid strategy to cutting down on clutter. Of course, you can’t ditch everything — your baby may need a high chair or bassinet — but for older kids, convincing them to leave home without all their favorite gadgets might just be a great way to get them back in touch with nature (and spend some quality conversation time together, while you’re at it)!
There are so many wonderful things about RVing full time with kids and teens but the fact of the matter is full time RV was beyond amazing when they were younger but RV life could no longer provide for their expanding needs and interests. (Disclaimer: The pursuit of the following activities is a struggle because we are fully aware these actives are a privilege that comes with being middle class and certainly not necessary for a fulfilled life but they are fun, rewarding, and teach their own lessons.)
My husband and 3 kids are about to embark on a camper journey of our own rather unexpectedly. The home we’ve rented for 2 years is being sold due to landlord’s health. Our poor decisions of our younger years has left our credit as less than desirable but getting better. Housing costs being what they are, we are left with little choice but to try camping as a lifestyle. We are all equally terrified and thrilled at the prospect and have learned a great deal since deciding to do it. I’m going to learn more about the Allstays app. It will come in very handy in my area. We don’t intend to travel so much as live and save every penny we can, so that someday we can buy a home. If nothing else, this will be a grand adventure…

There is land for sale and, with the right utility connections, an RV or tiny house would make a great home. Have you spoken to a Realtor? I know there’s a lot for sale at the very end of my road, but it’s a bit too close to the power lines out there for my taste. The place across the road was for sale, but he’s since taken the sign down and, frankly, he was asking a crazy high price anyway. I don’t know anything about leasing land, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s land for rent, too. A Realtor would know.


We protected the water connection coming into the RV with heat tape, pipe insulation and wind barriers — and did not have a problem in that regard. However, we did have the water pump itself freeze. A light bulb in the plumbing bay solved that problem. We added a weather station inside the coach and put the thermostat that reads the external temperature in the plumbing bay. So from then on we could just look at the display to keep tabs on things.
Using that silver bubble wrap over your windows on the exterior of the rv eliminates almost all heat loss through your windows, description online says the stuff will block ~94% of radiant heat, means it keeps heat in and cold out or vice versa, if yoy can bare to part without seeing out some of your windows. Ive been living in an rv for two years in north dakota, temps can get down to -50°F or worse, my skirting is 2×4 frame with osb sheeting, one inch foam board with reflective backing and R21 insulation behind that, heaters and heat tape and heated hoses are definitely ur friends, at such low temps every little bit helps.

We went into Little Havanna in Miami and the kids were dancing right along with an older Cuban man at a restaurant that was playing Cuban music. They didn’t know that he was a different nationality and came from a different country. They heard music and saw dancing and jumped right in. We are hoping our travels will continue to inspire their behavior in this way and that as they grow older they don’t learn to fear things that are different, but instead look at the world and people as equals no matter what their background is or what they look like.


Question: How did you arrive at the $2,133 cost? It seems that you left out the $900 daily camping fees. If your goal was to COMPARE FT RV costs with a bricks & mortar home, then lots of other costs could be deducted – like groceries and insurance costs. I’m age 68 (spouse is 66) – and not retired (never hope to!) But we’ve arranged our lives around working “full-time” while still traveling extensively. We still have our bricks & mortar home (not really interested in full-timing) but yet, because of the way we have organized our lives, we still… Read more »

I hoarded propak fish transport lids from petsmart to insulate my rv windows. Tape them on the inside then stretched shipping plastic wrap to create a seal. I also used these lids to line my spigot well and water entry point. Hit up your petsmart on fridays or wednsdays when they get a fish shipment in and ask the manager if you can have them they just throw them away.
Once again, the answer may not be what they want to hear. The amount a young couple should spend on their first RV is what they can afford. It’s really as simple as that. Unless they know they can afford and support debt, then they should buy what is affordable, whether it’s a smaller used RV or something new. It’s much easier to upgrade than downgrade, so think about what is actually needed versus what is wanted. We sometimes get caught up thinking we need all those fancy gadgets and toys when it may be possible to get on the road much sooner if we become more realistic with our needs.
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).
Thanks for sharing these details. Just signed up for your newsletter to get more helpful tidbits as you post them. We are planning on downsizing from our SF Bay Area home to a full-time traveling RV and need to work from the road. It’s especially helpful to us to see connectivity costs, which we were thinking would cost us quite a bit each month. Thus it was shocking for us to see folks being able to spend only $600 total per month. We will be lucky to keep our expenses to $2k/month! Looks like a $3K monthly budget could work even after eating out and buying quite a bit of booze 🙂
i had the same idea, and i am willing to invest and become partner in such an adventure, but would be nicer to have 15 to 20 spots, we could go over costs , find a place not farther than 35 to 40 min from a city center with ammenities, resturaunts, shopping & movie theatre, i live in s. florida and theres alot of land for sale out west, and not too far from everything, i had an idea to do a shipping container homesite, doing the same thing, same idea,,, its hard to find like minded people wanting to co-exist but the living expenses would be so low, commpared to a house and great for retirees that do not have alot of savings,, we could be a community helping each other out, i am all for that idea. would have to get plans and find out from the building departments what we can do or cant do..
After a year of full-time RVing, we slowly added these items to our home on wheels and they greatly improved RV life for us. We never expected to want or need these items when we first started out and love sharing them with newbie RVers! If you’re interested in finding out what these items are, check out this post: 5 Items That Improved RV Life for Us!

If you have siblings and you don't get a wall or other design area, don't fret. That cabinet will work perfectly as a locker, you should do this even if you have a space you can decorate. In this "locker" you can velcro up small pictures or white erase boards. Taping colored paper on the sides also helps. If it doesn't already have a shelf get one of those cheap locker shelves. If it doesn't have a light you can put up a removable hook on the top and hang a book light from it for lighting.
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.
Also, Nikki mentions the large amount of moisture created by running the propane furnace. Unless I don’t understand the process entirely, RV furnaces are vented to the outside, and should produce very little, if any additional moisture inside the coach. They work quite similar to a gas furnace in a home. The furnace in our home is natural gas and even when it runs a lot, there is no additional moisture in the house. Now if you have a gas space heater, that’s entirely different, as all of the moisture by product from combustion stays inside the coach.
We are avid birders and love the solitude of nature. We imagine we will be staying and volunteering in wildlife refuges, state parks and boondocking for the most part. We are looking at the Northwoods Arctic Fox 32-5M (34’11’).( We love our daily yoga practice and need a floor plan that fits 2 yoga mats) We are heading to the Northwoods dealer in Oregon in the beginning of april to see about trading our truck in for a diesel long bed and buying the fifth wheel. Northwoods just came out with a new fifth wheel floor plan that rocks(35-5z) but it is 38’11”. In regards to bigger is not better do you have any guidance here to help our decision making process? I know this is a very personal decision. ANY input will be helpful. It is just the two of us and our binoculars, camera, bird books, and laptop computers for the most part. This is such a huge decision and we will be living with it for a long time.

Wonderful, wonderful, website, and it’s free (I am getting a pedalist-maybe I can talk the owner into helping sponsor this site, it’s a great vehicle for local transport when you don’t want/need to haul a car, ) as my philosophy is internet website should be free (I DO click on all the ads of free websites though!), my question though, is there any website that can help you find someone to travel with in an RV? Roaming Times USED to have one, but now they have redone their site, it disappeared (don’t they know from Craigslist and Plenty of Fish, that a very basic site works as long as you give people what they want you’ll be popular-sigh). I’ve tried the usual, Travel Buddies, Travel Companion Exchange-but they are not geared to people in RVS, and the travel clubs that you mentioned above seem geared just for people who have their RV and want to travel alone, tried posting in Thorntree, Fodors and Frommers forums, but those aren’t geared to finding travel companions (I want to buy a camper trailer and share it with someone who has a car that way the partnership is equal), and even CL. Maybe that’s impossible task and if I knew how, I would set up a website!!

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.
Each monthly report includes fixed costs (vehicle payment, insurance, mail forwarding service) along with variable costs (food, entertainment, gas, RV supplies). The lessons learned section is where we share tips that helped us or mistakes to avoid. We include a quick snapshot of stats for the month with cost per day, miles driven, generator hours, MPG, nights of paid camping, nights of free camping and meals eaten out.

Getting a smaller propane tank helped make our lives much easier, although it wasn’t necessarily cheaper. As with many RVs out there we have a built in propane tank that is larger than the standard tanks you pick up for grilling. The only problem for us was in order to fill the large on board tank we would’ve needed to drive 45 minutes one way to get it filled. Knowing we were only going to be in Wisconsin for 3 more weeks we decided to get a smaller tank.
My wife and I are joyously offloading our excess stuff (which is pretty much all of it…) in preparation for selling our FL waterfront home and hitting the road next year. We love what you do here and find the information you provide to be absolutely priceless. We are successful creatives who will continue to work our business while on the road, and we have no intention of eating twigs and nuts topped with cat food just to save a few pennies. People are curious and questioning because your lives are interesting, but please don’t let a few self appointed “lifestyle Nazis” get to you – unfortunately whenever you put yourself out there they always come crawling out from under their rocks. Just remember that for every one of them there are a thousand of us fans who know how hard you work, celebrate your success and hope to meet you someday when we both are enjoying a fabulous dinner at some legendary local restaurant. Cheers!
Small electric space heaters are an excellent way to conserve propane burn and provide added warmth to the areas occupied during the day and evening. Be careful to purchase only brand-name, heavy duty space heaters with undamaged electrical cords. Adding a small space heater to the lavatory will help keep the black tank from freezing and is a nice addition for people coming out of the shower.

Nina, I am hoping to set aside some money from the selling of our home and trying to stick close to my financial goals for how much the travel trailer, tow vehicle, and merchandise will cost. Only a real estate agent will tell me if I have that as a realistic number goal wise. I hope to contact a real estate agent next year to see how much the house could sell for after paying the Michigan real estate transfer fee and real estate commission plus how long it will take to sell the house. If I am realistic on that amount, then and only then will I travel down to Indiana to see how much the dream travel trailer will cost or otherwise the Northwood Arctic Fox will have to be it based on what I have seen so far. About the upgrades – most of the things that you would consider an upgrade will be on the travel trailer or merchandise wish list already. Plus you like Mr. Buddy while I will see how the goose down sleeping bags do as those only weighs 8 pounds for the two of them. Plus some of the merchandise that we have is getting old and needs replacing (want to purchase new after getting the travel trailer). There were other things included in the merchandise start up costs such as GPS, maps, kitchen, tools, furniture, sewer/water related products, bathroom, spare parts, cleaning stuff, etc. The solar power was low since I want to have more solar power and another battery or two than originally budgeted for.
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.
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).

Greetings, I so enjoy your blog and love the perky and positive style. It’s so fun to read. You guys are very adventurous. I know because we are “nomads” too, having sold our house in Hawaii almost 2 years ago. Now we are part time USA-RVers, part time international travelers, carry-on bags only, thank you. We just spent 5 months in 7 countries in Asia. This life is super! I love how you share so much about your life, including the details, and encourage you to keep it up. To hell with the grump-sters. But as a blogger myself, I understand how criticism dampens the spirit….Keep it up and write more. I love reading it! You can check out the tales of our 2 years of adventure on http://carolsuestories.com. Roll on!


Campgrounds can vary greatly by state and proximity to highly touristy areas, Earl. To give you some insight into a few places we’ve stayed longer term, we were getting a full hookup spot in Marathon, Texas for under $400 / month. That’s pretty remote, but we love that little town and the surrounding Big Bend region, so it was a steal for us. We priced a few places in Bastrop, Texas (just east of Austin), and full hookups were from $400 – $570 / month (plus paying for your own electric). While we haven’t ever stayed anywhere else for a month or more we have seen prices that range from about $350 at the absolute lowest end (and those places are not always terrible, though usually they are a bit run down) to somewhere around $800 / month for more highly sought after locations. Here in Austin, where some friends are staying, it’s around $670 and that puts you near the highway, ten minutes from Austin, in a relatively luxury place. Most spots will ask you to pay your own electric. Water is usually included, cable, too. I’d recommend getting a cell phone, so whatever you have for that (AT&T & Verizon are the most reliable nationwide) now would be the same, though if you wanted unlimited data on your phone so you can have the Internet, that might raise your bill. You’d know better about your grocery situation that I would be able to guess. No property tax. 🙂
3.  I would have test drove some newer ones – I only test drove three or four 20+ year old RVs. Since I’d never driven an RV before, I had no idea how it should feel or sound. Had I known, I might have been able to detect some of the problems it had (a bad catalytic converter, for example).  Test driving something newer might have given me a baseline for how it should feel to drive one.
I’m in awe of you first, 4 kids all under 10, that’s incredible enough and then a blog, a virtual assistant business to boot. WOW. So nice to learn more about you and your family, Brianna. Funny that you can’t wait to go overseas and we actually haven’t seen much of our own country, the USA and can’t wait to explore more of it. Wishing you the best in your full-time RV travels and will certainly look to you for advice when we finally travel our home country.

The highlight of our travels this year was visiting our 49th state, Alaska! During the long drive through Canada and Alaska, we listened to many audiobooks like Call of the Wild, White Fang, Hatchet, and Jason’s Gold as we drove through and visited many of the places in the stories. Thing 2 also developed a fascination with gold panning so he spent many hours reading about gold panning and then gave it a try himself near Girdwood and Chicken, Alaska. Roadschooling at its best!!!
Lovely to “meet” you on the blog! You know regarding safety the *only* time I’ve ever felt even close to unsafe is in the center of big cities. We had one incident (in San Antonio) a few years back that sent us running, but other than that I’ve never felt unsafe. Whenever we’re in smaller cities or the boonies I’ve always felt perfectly fine. So, I guess I’d recommend getting out of the bigger spots and into some more rural areas…more space for the boys too?
Bedroom Layout – At first it seems like the only travel trailer floor plan option was a back bunkhouse and a front queen bed with the head of the bed situated at the front of the trailer. But then I found the front bunkhouse models. These typically have more room around the master bed and since the littles sleep in our room with us (they do in our house too) this would be much more comfortable and give Brent a good space to work for extended trips. The tradeoff is a smaller bunk room but the teenagers they don’t need as much space as they once did since we aren’t full time. Even in our Gateway they spend a lot of time lounging in their beds so we are leaning towards a larger master bedroom.
Were newbies and it feels like a whole new life style. Pro’s and con’s are always welcome! Based out of Fla. was the first right thing we did! Just finding the right camp ground in northern Fl. is a hassle. Does anyone know which are the best? We like the social life style. We have dogs and would love to hear from dog lovers as to which parks are the best dog friendly parks?
Wow! What a learning experience we are having when it comes to finances on the road…. We have been on the road 3 months and I have been amazed at how expensive things can be if you are not careful. It is not a matter of denial of experiences but rather choosing wisely to enjoy the same things that keep our expenses manageable. An example would be eating lunch out instead of dinner. Usually 1/2 the price.
For the merchandise budget I allocated $30,000, which includes such things such as solar power, computer and internet related gear including two brand new laptops, new photography gear (have Nikon cameras, but want digital). Currently up to $28,000 on my list, but still have things to add to the list. The budget for the merchandise could even be low.
Hi! I’m fairly new at this RV living thing and I’m curious about the $153 per month average cost for RV/camping fees you note. I understand that summer is less expensive than winter, for the most part, but a minimum of $20 per night for a week in a National Park, that $153 would come up awfully fast. And full hookups at an RV park I’m seeing anywhere from $20 to $90 (yeh, $90, Candlestick Park in S.F., CA!!! And no, not worth it). Are you boondocking most of the time?
• If you live a different RV lifestyle please share it in the comments section below, no topic is more important for travelers than spending/saving $$$. Tell us how much you travel and how much you spend on the road; obviously you don’t need to go into ridiculous amounts of detail like my long winded report, but give us the cliff’s notes.08/01/2012 – 12/31/2012
The Boohers wanted to show their kids more of America and get closer as a family. Accumulating stuff stopped mattering to them. Instead, they wanted to accumulate experiences. Miranda teaches the kids and is a coach for a Christian organization called Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) that helps bring moms of young children together for support and fellowship. The Boohers get plugged into a church wherever they go and find lots of activities for the kids between church and the campsites. Teddy and Amy, 7, are eager to show off the Macarena dance skills they picked up at a recent kids party at a campsite.
×