Don, I liked your post. I like the idea of modifying an existing system to make it better. Another trick I discovered while boondocking for the past 6 months, I extended my furnace and generator exhaust to blow on my drain and tank outlets. These outlets are the first to freeze since they poke down from under the insulation. Just be sure your unit is sealed, and use a CO2 detector, as you should.
Those items vary greatly from person to person, so we simply wanted to show how your lifestyle, family size, and other factors impact your RV related expenses each month. We felt this would give you the greatest understanding of how much it costs to full-time RV…aside from what debt you have, how much you put into savings each month, or how you choose to spend your extra money.
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.
Do these words stir a fire deep within you, awakening a spirit of wanderlust and travel? Maybe you were a gypsy, vagabond or hobo in a past life, but you think you could never afford to live the life of freedom you long for? It could be you are a survivalist, or just want to drop out of society but don’t know how. Perhaps you are just sick of the rat race and want to simplify your life. Or possibly the bad economy of the last few years have left you with no choice but move into a car, van or RV?
We know we changed as the years passed, but this was recently confirmed when we visited some friends from college. The last time we had visited was two years ago, only one year into traveling full-time. This visit, they couldn’t get over how much we’ve changed, especially Brandon. It helped us to see there were more changes than we realized happening and we knew it all stemmed from our experience on the road.
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.
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.
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??
We have a two-week rotation of clothes for both warm and cold weather, and since we started traveling we have replaced almost all of these garments. Commercial washing machines are hard on clothes and they wear out. Our biggest clothing expense is shoes. We replace our hiking shoes and running shoes regularly, and we buy high quality, expensive shoes. As a side note, if you get a credit card from Cabellas, REI or another outdoors store, and put all your living expenses on it, and pay it off each month to avoid interest charges, you can use the points each year to get your hiking shoes or other camping gear for free.
The magnificence of living on the road is that it innately pulls you outside. Whether it be golfing, hiking, biking, wandering a new town’s streets, working from your campsite’s picnic table, or gathering around a flickering fire, we find ourselves constantly outside enjoying the surroundings. And whenever it is feeling a little cramped, or our patience is waning for the other, we force ourselves to go outside and are reminded by that day’s beautiful location just how lucky we are!
My VA business focuses on providing social media, blogging, and email marketing support for small businesses and my husband is now coming on board to focus on web design and SEO work. Outside of that, we continue to work on monetizing our travel blog and using our blog as a way to encourage other families to travel more and to also live their dreams now!
Hi Leslie, I am not a full-timer, yet, but I have something to add on your comments on type of RV. I have a towable, a trailer. It is not hard to tow and, I might add that if you go with a motorhome and toad, you are in fact, still towing only without the ability to back up – it just seems different. The challenge is backing of course. I have friends that started out with a trailer and went to a motorhome after being misled on an underpowered tow vehicle and wrecking their trailer.
Choosing to drive fewer miles obviously helps conserve your gas mileage. Not only are you using less fuel to move around, but putting down some temporary roots at a campground you really like can also bring other monetary benefits your way. The longer you stay at a campground, the deeper your discount (especially if you’re traveling off peak season). The decision to stay in one spot also gives you the opportunity to thoroughly explore your new home away from home. Who knows, maybe you’ll find something exciting on one of your adventures!
Settling down has been a kind of divorce. The dreams we had of our future have changed drastically. The way an identity can get wrap up in a spouse, much of Brent and I’s identity, naturally, got wrapped up into being nomads. Over the last year we have been fumbling around trying to figure who we are as suburbanites. I’m not intending to minimize divorce. One way to look at divorce is “a complete separation of two things.” Our two lives, the one on the road and the one in a house, are so completely different, so separate, and so often, very lonely.
Even when things get tough on the road and I am wishing for the stability of a 9 to 5 job, a house, school for the kids, when I stop to imagine what that life would be like I know I would be bored in a few months and start to get itchy feet again. We have seen what this life is like and it is addicting! Then again there are still things we don’t like about being on the road. You can read about them here: 7 Things We Hate About Full Time Family Travel
The RV furnace is designed to keep the interior warm even under the most frigid conditions. However, the longer the furnace runs, the faster the propane burn. I always lowered the furnace temperature or turned it off when I was cooking, as the heat from the stove more than sufficiently heated the entire RV. At night, I lowered the furnace to 55 degrees and used electric heating blankets. On less cold nights, I used electric space heaters to supplement and conserve of propane burn. Never set the thermostat lower than 55 degrees during cold months. Temperatures below this could cause internal water pipes and tanks to freeze or crack.
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.
When we say new, it's only new to us, but that's how we prefer it. Let someone else shake it down. After hemming and hawing over trading in our previous RV, we finally decided to go for it. We knew our old one was too big for us and we didn't want to invest in upgrades like solar when we didn't feel like it was ours. It was the right choice and we're very happy with our current set-up. We installed solar panels, so we didn't have to worry about the batteries overnight or running the generator twice a day like on our old coach. We have more options as to where to stay with our smaller size and off-grid capabilities and that makes us very happy. Now we just need to redo the interior a bit and it will be all ours.
In the event that there is a partial loss, like theft of just a few items, there are caps on what is covered. With National General, if the theft occurs inside your RV, then the cap is 25% of the total value of all the Personal Effects coverage that you carry. For example, if you have a $20,000 Personal Effects policy, then this means there is a cap of $5,000 per claim. If the theft occurs outside the RV but on your campsite, then the coverage is 10% of the total value of all the Personal Effects coverage that you carry. Again, for $20,000 total coverage, this means a cap of $2,000 per claim. There is no coverage if the theft occurs away from the RV (i.e, your bike is stolen from the bike rack at the coffee shop in town).
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.
We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.
Below is the breakdown of costs, if you want more details read the posts from 2012 and 2011 as we pretty much spend the same way each year. As usual I’ve rounded the numbers to keep it simple, and this time I decided to list in order of most expensive (hey great idea right?).$1,567 Mostly Costco for groceries; also includes Target, TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Wal-Mart, etc for clothing, housewares, and such.
When the temperatures dip below freezing, we make sure to run our propane heater so it can blow into our storage bay and keep our pipes and tanks warm. But we use electric heat as backup for when we run out of propane in the middle of the night (because sometimes we are irresponsible and forget about our propane tanks) and because it’s cheaper for us as a main source of heat when the temperatures are above freezing.
We did have one issue with freezing last year, when the city water pipe sticking out of the ground that our mobile home park was supposed to be responsible for winterizing froze. The only thing they had done to protect the pipe from freezing was to wrap it with insulation and plastic, and the part right next to the ground wasn’t adequately protected, and it froze during a cold snap where the high temperatures were in the single digits. After a neighbor helped us thaw the pipes with a crazy high powered industrial heater he brought from his place of work, I removed the park’s insulation, wrapped the pipe with electric heat tape, covered it with more insulation and plastic, then for good measure I lined a Rubbermaid storage tote with foam board and put it upside down over pipe. It did not freeze again, lol.
We rarely buy new clothes and other personal items (where would we even put them?) and we limit our spending on nearly everything. We wish we could find free parking more often, but it’s not usually a huge priority. We travel often because that’s the main reason we chose to full-time RV. We love seeing as many new places as possible as often as possible.
Living in an RV or trailer home can save people plenty of money, but it also provides just as many opportunities to burn through cash. "When we first started RVing, we had no idea how expensive or cheap it could be," Alyssa Padgett said. "We blew through four grand during our first month—way more than our typical monthly spend as 23-year-olds—and kind of freaked out that RVing would bankrupt us."
Sounds like a good time to leave, right? Well yes, but meanwhile back at the sites, we were all living on a glacier. The gravel roads in the campground were seldom plowed – just sanded. Since we were located at the top of a mountain, the sun would melt the snow and ice a bit on sunny days and then it would freeze each night. Add some snow, sleet and freezing rain now and then.
$1099 Equipment Upgrades – The more Videos I shoot the more Hard Drives I need, and the faster my computer needs to be! I added a second Hard Drive to my Laptop, it’s a blazing fast hybrid drive and works perfectly as a ‘scratch disk’ for my video files (drive plus install kit $175). I had to purchase a new Wireless Lavaliere receiver due to my unfortunate accident of dropping the camera into the creek (see the previous post on expenses for the ugly details) however my insurance policy covered this cost, YEA! We bought a new “toy” it’s the Canon EOS M ($794), check my post on Secrets to HD Video on the Road for more details on how much we love this tiny camera (and what we don’t like about it). I purchased a new 3TB External Hard Drive for redundant backup ($130), you have to be prepared for a computer or hard drive to crash at any time, better safe than sorry right?
We recommend spending a small-enough amount that they don’t have to finance it. From what we’ve seen, a lot of full-timers change their rigs (typically downsizing) after the first year on the road, and this is easier if you’re not over-extended on your current rig. It’s very hard to know what you’ll really want until you’ve tried it. We don’t believe in purchasing a new RV (at least not for the first rig). They depreciate so much, and they have more problems than they should for the money spent.
Year 3 was our first year of roadschooling. Like watching a 3D movie for the first time, this was the year where learning came to life as we visited battlefields, swam with manatees, explored cities, experienced caves, imagined life as an American colonial , hiked mountains, stayed on a farm, canoed with alligators, and experienced more in one year than many people experience in a lifetime.
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.
Wow! and Yikes!! Camping in Massachusetts will be far far different than where we’ve winter camped in the southernmost states. Our stints in snow storms in Colorado and New Mexico have never been longer than one week and we quickly moved to a much warmer place. I lived on a sailboat in Boston Harbor for four years and that was the coldest I’ve ever been. After that I promptly left New England moved to Phoenix Arizona to thaw out! Good luck to you!!
Having never driven more than an SUV, I certainly didn’t feel equipped to pull a 30-foot trailer with a diesel pickup truck (our setup last year). But like riding a bike, practice makes perfect. A few hours maneuvering around a Walmart parking lot, getting a feel for turns and backing into empty spaces, and we felt comfortable enough to head out on the open road. It’s always necessary to do an appropriate amount of route scouting in advance to avoid low overpasses or the possible restricted roads, but within a few weeks’ time, pulling and parking the rig was second nature.
All our Fifth Wheels and Travel Trailers are “Extended Stay Approved”. This means that we have engineered them with many of the residential-style qualities found in a fine home. To this end, we have created spacious open living areas and appointed them with extra large windows, large refrigerators, walk in closets, large queen/king beds and many other home-like amenities.
They’ve been on the road a while w/ their 2 kids and have both workamped & home-schooled during that time. Really nice family and I have no doubt they can put you in touch w/ others on the road. They just ordered a new rig too. I also like the NuRver group on Facebook…lots of young folks on there and several families too. Also recommend this resource Fulltime Families -> all about folks who live fulltime w/ their families on the road.
Monthly & Weekly Rates: For staying in RV Parks, monthly rates are the best rates followed by weekly, and help balance out shorter stays while we’re in transit. Urban locations are typically more expensive – so if we need to be somewhere like San Francisco, Austin, St. Louis, etc. – monthly rates can be $500-1300. Some locations have seasonal rates too, so if we need to be in Florida during the winter (where our family is), it’s more expensive. If we don’t need to be near an urban area, the lowest we’ve paid so far is $300/month.
Well Howdy! I am so glad to hear you will be joining us! You’re gonna love it (if you don’t, blame Jason)! The house sounds awesome (too bad it doesn’t have wheels) but nothing beats the freedom and ability to change neighbors and scenery whenever you feel like it! Thanks so much for taking the time to say hello and let us know when you hit the road!
In my former corporate life, I hit Starbucks most mornings and ate dinner out almost every night. We owned and maintained two cars, and we each had significant commutes. Now we eat dinner out very infrequently, and we limit our coffee shop splurges. We own just one vehicle and drive much less. Where we used to have property taxes, utilities and HOA fees, we have none of those things in our RV lifestyle. All in all, we spend about $500 less per month in our RV than we did in our house. But that huge savings is entirely a function of what our old lifestyle used to be and what our current lifestyle is now. Other full-time RVers might not see those same savings.
After checking out other blogs that said towing is cumbersome, we were thinking of foregoing a tow vehicle and renting a car when we need to get around. My concern is this might be problematic if we’re boondocking or camping somewhere remote. We considered trading our current SUV in for a mid-size four-down tow-able SUV (like a Honda CRV) then we’d only have to own one vehicle. But if this size is too cumbersome to tow we could get a compact car for towing and store our SUV on some property we own. (We need access to an SUV when we’re visiting back in the mountains of our home state of CO.)
Fortunately, there are lots of RV parks that are designed with this conundrum in mind, offering activities for kids and adults alike. For example, the Jellystone Parks family of RV resorts has fun, themed activities and tons of amenities like swimming pools, water slides, and bounce houses, making it one of the best solutions to RV vacations for families.
It also takes a long time to let go of old living patterns and establish new ones. When we first started fulltiming we were accustomed to one- and two-week vacations, and we lived as though we were on vacation. It was only after a few months on the road that we began to realize, deep inside, that we didn’t have to see all the sights in three days. We could stay three weeks and see them only when it was sunny and when we were in the mood for sightseeing.
Thank you for providing so much good info. Sorry to hear the internet trolls have been critical. Ruins it for the rest of us that want to learn. It appears your average cost of leaving is ~$10k per quarter. Really appreciate you both share what your doing. Don’t know if you have posted this, but would be interested in what each rig cost. Feel free to email direct if you like. The way you live / travel appeals to us and we are trying to figure how much it will cost initially to start the RV life style. Thanks again and safe travels 🙂
Life – This is an area than many people leave out to cut costs. However, if you are relatively healthy, it is pretty inexpensive and can significantly help your family in the event something happens. Any adult who contributes to income should have enough life insurance to help cover the loss of that as well particularly if you have any outstanding debts, like the mortgage, credit cards and car loans. In addition, all family members (including children) should have enough life insurance to cover expenses like funeral and burial costs that can overwhelm a grieving family.
You are inspiring. My husband and I just made the decision to leave our busy life in Florida, purchase and renovate an RV, homeschool our 3 boys (ages 8,6, and 4) and start traveling. I am still struggling with all the logistics of it all, and how my husband can stay busy with his website business and still have time to spend with the boys and I exploring all the places we travel to. But I’m excited for the adventure. We hope to be in our RV and traveling in 6 months from now.
Instead of taking a few days off of work and flying out to see family twice a year, we can now park nearby and visit like we're neighbors. This also applies to friends scattered throughout the country. When you have limited time to travel, you may only get to see some friends every few years if at all. Now we're working on making a second loop to visit everyone again!