Lisa, I don’t think that is an option, but there is really only one way to find out. It all depends on how well insulated your RV is. Also, to run your water pump all night you would need to have ample batteries or be plugged into shore power. However, If you use skirting or create a barrier around your RV and run a heater like we talk about above, you shouldn’t have problems with your pipes freezing.
I know that if it was just me, and not my family, I could “make it work” on $650 / month, but if you factor in car insurance and a monthly trailer payment, that starts to really limit things…and other stuff like health care and even food stamps or other government aid (which I’m not saying you’re asking for, but if it’s currently in the picture), are much more difficult to maintain if you don’t have a permanent address in a specific state.
When we initially looked at internet solutions we knew we wanted a Verizon-based system since it was simply the best coverage out there (and our experience has proved that true). We ended up w/ a 2-year 5GB/mo contract which is a little tight for our needs. What we didn’t know was that you can get a Verizon-based coverage using no-contract resale partners such as Millenicom. It’s the same coverage, but simply without the contract! You can boost it just like any system out there too. Millenicom resells both Verizon and Sprint and they won’t/can’t tell you (directly) who they’re using, but you can easily narrow it down via the device (the Verizon-based contract is currently offered on the 20GB/mo deal using the Novatel U760 Device). For more info check the forums.
The other huge and unexpected expense was for internet access. We have been very disappointed at how difficult good service is to find in campgrounds. We use the lodges as much as possible but still need a hot spot with smart phone / ipad etc…. We are now up to $300 on this item just to have backup hot spot. We are thinking about a second service such as Millicome (sp) so that will add another $100 month. Our wifi ranger has made a huge difference but it is still only as good as the router it picks up. Our Wilson has helped with the phone connection. Once again here was another big expense we hadn’t expected.
What about interest though? At a 4% interest rate, the total cost of that $343,000 home would be over $471,000 over 30 years, before you factor in all of the other monthly bills!. It’s hard to compare these things exactly though, as a house can last for many generations, whereas most RVs will have a hard time lasting for an entire person’s lifetime (especially if you buy used when you’re still young). Airstreams and very well built Class As are the exception.
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. 🙂
Love you guys! You have such great energy and enthusiasm and are ready for an adventure! We have been on the road for a year now and have discovered Corp of Engineer’s parks. They are lovely, well kept and reasonable. (for us older folks they are half off too… usually have elec. And water and run $14-20 a night. We do have solar and AGM battery so have boondocked on BLM land too, which is definitely a money stretcher. You probably know all this already. Best to you, Cathy
Drive slower and shed some weight! When we increased the speed on our cruise control from around 62 to 70 mph, we noticed a decrease from 7 to 6.5 MPG. Since we do a lot of dry camping we always top off our fresh water tank (75 gallons) whenever we can. This means that we typically drive long distances with an extra couple hundred pounds of water. Shedding the extra weight increased our MPG.
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.
2017 Update – TOTALLY. I still recommend a contract-free approach whenever possible. This gives you the flexibility to sign-up to the best plans (and offers) whenever they became available which has improved our own set-up and saved us many $$ over the years. The whole Mobile Internet landscape has changed dramatically since 2011 (e.g. Millenicom is now caput and gone), but there are still many contract-free options for mobile travelers. You can read about our current internet, phone & boosting set-up HERE.
Finally, we need to seal all those other places where cold air can enter our rig. Any compartments that open into the inside of the rig need to have good weather seals. Under the rig, there are many openings where water and gas lines enter the living area. These openings need to be sealed and some of that aerosol self-expanding foam is great for this. Alternately, foam rubber can be forced into gaps to help reduce air leaks. Finally, the entry door needs to be checked to make sure that it seals properly. Adding some inexpensive foam tape or weather-strip will really help seal those air leaks.
Enter PEX. My friend Mike, who’d done most of the interior work on his home in Wenatchee Heights, had raved about it. I did some research. PEX was more costly than PVC but less costly than copper. It didn’t require any welding — or whatever it is that people do to copper pipes to join them — and it was flexible. There were two kinds of fittings. One kind required special (costly) crimping tools. The other kind, known as PTC, let you literally snap pieces together, with no special tools at all. All I needed was a PVC pipe cutter (which I already had) and a very inexpensive tool I could use to separate joined pieces if I made a mistake. The snap fittings were a bit more costly than the crimp type, but I only needed a few. I bought a 100-foot roll of blue 3/4 inch PEX.
We wanted to travel across America and we calculated that buying an RV would be the quickest route for us to go and visit all 50 states. We had no idea that we would live in an RV longterm, share the lifestyle with other people, or that I would spend so much time writing about living in an RV. The rest happened because we truly fell in love with the lifestyle.
So, I figured I’d throw some pointers for those that have decided or are considering a life full-time on the road, because that is essentially the point of this whole blog thing. My biggest piece of advice, if you are thinking about living full-time and think you can commit to it, GO FOR IT!!!! You (probably, lol) won’t regret it! When I first began searching the Internet, I couldn’t find hardly anything on advice or tips for living in a camper in the winter full-time. And when I did find an article, the people living in the camper had a permanent space to park with electricity, enabling them to plug their RV in to an outlet every night to keep their electric space heaters running, which I don’t have the option of doing.
I talked to you on IRV2 before. I go by “Rollingsmoke” on there. Got the name from the woodstove I built and had in my motorhome. I never plugged in anywhere was always random ” camping “;) in the mountains…. If you want some tips on how to have running water in the winter feel free to ask. I can give you a few tips. Either way works but I liked having running water. It’s challenging but doable.
What a shame that you dropped your 5D MkII in the water; however, I’m surprised that you could not return it to Canon to be repaired (unless it was salt water). The new MkIII — easily the finest full-frame semi-pro camera in existence and one of the best cameras ever made — is $3500 for the body alone, so it isn’t inexpensive. But for what you do, and your imaging requirements, perhaps the MkIII camera is a practical investment even though you guys are trying to save money! Good luck on your new travel plans!
14. Make a commitment to eating healthy. It can be all too easy to just stop in at the nearest fast food restaurant and grab something to go, but that certainly isn’t the healthiest option. You will need a well-rounded diet more on the road than anywhere else, so it would be best to make a plan for such a diet. There are many places where finding fresh fruits and veggies isn’t easy, so stock up when and where you can. Use stay-fresh bags to store these items in and learn to can these items as well for longer storage possibilities.
Dan and Lindsay also stress the freedom of life on the road as a huge draw to RV living. "For us, the question is, 'What's on the horizon next? What dreams do we want to go after?',’" Dan said. The couple rarely stays in the same spot for longer than a week, and have traveled the breadth and width of the country (as well as parts of Canada and Mexico). While some destinations make more of an impression than others (Glacier National Park in Montana and Acadia National Park in Maine were two favorites of the McKenzies), it's the variety of the country that's truly impressed them. "Every place has their own culture, their own food, their own way of doing things," Dan said. "Wherever there’s good beer, good fishing and good weather is usually where we plot a course," said Lindsay.
This year we also abandoned book science and took a hands on approach by taking advantage of our travels to national parks and museums. The boys earned over 50 Junior Ranger badges that year. It was also an amazing year for history as we read books like Johnny Tremain, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and Moccasin Trail and then visited the places in the stories.
A heated hose will allow a fresh water supply but even if the water supply is the cold weather type, if you leave it turned on without heating the above ground piping, it’ll freeze. Leave it turned off and fill your tank when necessary. Connect your sewer hose as needed and drain it when done. Be cautious with the plastic fittings as the colder they get the more brittle they become.
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.
Instant Pot – A favorite among RVers, the Instant Pot was my Christmas gift from Brent in 2014 and we’ve used it nearly every day since. In fact, I just heard it beep signaling that our BBQ chicken is done. The multi-functional kitchen warrior is perfect for RVing as it serves many purposes: pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker, saute/browner, yogurt maker, and warmer. We have the 6qt IP-DUO60 7-in-1 and it’s plenty big enough for our family. Regularly, I double recipes and as of yet I haven’t had a problem fitting it all in the pot. We LOVE our Instant Pot.
Our boat has two diesel Cummins 370 engines, and we’re still tracking our burn rate (with a 440 gallon tank and our slow poke style, it takes a while to get numbers) – but we’re expecting it to be about 1.25 – 2 miles per gallon. A typical ‘driving day’ will likely be 15-30 nautical mile range at 7-8 knots. While our fuel “economy” sucks in comparison to our RV, we anticipate we may cover a 1000 miles a year. So thus our fuel costs boating will be similar to our RVing costs on a monthly basis.
RV living isn't a new fad—Americans have done so since around the advent of automobiles—but it’s typically thought of as the ultimate reward for the retiree wanting to satisfy a lifetime of wanderlust after spending decades working indoors, pushing papers at a desk job. What's novel about the recent surge of RV owners—the industry reported more than 9 million Americans owned an RV in 2017, the highest number on record—is that many of the newcomers are still in their prime earning years and view living in an RV as a welcome, sustainable way to spend their 20s and 30s rather than as something to fill their golden years. "The decision to start RVing was very much us deciding we didn’t want to settle in one place," said Alyssa Padgett, who, along with her husband Heath, has been a full-time RV living since 2014. "We wanted to do something more with our lives—to see the world and do work that we loved. Neither of those would happen if we stayed working in cubicles in Texas."
So you’re still asking, “What’s it gonna cost to live in my RV?” Using research from a few friendly seasoned RVers, the average cost per year of living in your RV full-time is about $10,000 for two people. While this sounds like a crazy amount of money, keep in mind that this also factors in utilities and food, which you would already be paying if you were living in a permanently fixed home. According to careertrends.com, the average cost of living in the midwest is $39,649 annually for a married couple with no children. If you look around, there are a ton of ways you can drive down the cost you’re racking up on the go, which is the great thing about RV living!
My best friend and I just returned from a week away in her 24′ Winnebago. For two ‘very youthful’ middle-aged ladies on the road we couldn’t have had a better time! For the most part we played it by ear; she picked me up at the Atlanta Airport, we pointed the rig toward Savannah, Georgia (great state for RV travel and campsites) and kept going. Spent a few days in Savannah, headed over to Flagler Beach then up to St. Augustine. By far our favorite site of the entire trip was the last one in the Outer Banks. For whatever reason I wanted to go to Rodanthe so we found a very modest small campground for about $30/night right on the Sound side of Hatteras Island. WOW! The sunsets were breathtaking. Mike, the owner of the campground was amazing. Upon our return to PA I went over to the local RV dealer and picked out a 32′ SouthWind. Fell in love with it! Now I just have to figure out how to make money while on the road. Ironically, my primary business isn’t so transportable. Funny, my current business is processing homes, downsizing, relocation, re-directing unwanted personal property through auction and donation to charity, speaking, writing and consulting. It’s always tougher when it’s your stuff. I agree with not storing things – you’re not likely to need them again. I’m giving myself 2 years to clear all of my debt and transfer my income-generating efforts to fit a new, less complicated lifestyle.
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.
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I also bought PTC fittings. I needed one to join the PEX to a male hose connection and another to join the PEX to a female hose connection. I had a tiny bit of trouble with that — PEX connections normally work with pipe threading, not hose threading. (The fact that the two threadings are different is something I learned back when I set up the irrigation system at my Wickenburg house years ago.) The Home Depot pipe guy helped me get what I needed.
By 2015, our trailer was 8 years old, and signs of wear were beginning to show. Unfortunately, when it rains, it pours, and we had four major unexpected repairs that totaled $6,782. The repairs included a trailer axle replacement, an RV refrigerator replacement, extensive plumbing repairs including a fresh water tank replacement, and a complete suspension replacement underneath the trailer.
I am currently 57 and my husband is 62, we are planning to work 5 more years then sell the house along with most of our belongings and hit the road in our 30 foot Windjammer travel trailer. I am excited, but terrified and a little overwhelmed by insurance, mail, making reservations, internet, weather, how to pack, etc. Over 40 years of accumulating things (stuff) – I’m not even sure what to put into storage. We want to be debt free and explore our beautiful country and do alot of fishing. Your information and everyone else’s feedback has been so helpful.
Like the big roof insulation R-factor that doesn’t account for the hatch vents, the well advertised high R-factor in the walls doesn’t account for the windows, which is where much of the heat in a rig escapes, especially at night. Closing the blinds makes a difference. When we’re in a remote area with no one around, we prefer to keep the blinds open so the first light of morning fills the rig. But we can’t do this in the wintertime unless we want to wake up to a rig that is 5 degrees cooler than it could be.
I don’t quite understand why anyone regardless of available resources, would not want to cut costs. Even as a service to other RVers to collectively help lower costs for all. I hope your remote job doesn’t involve profit and expense decisions. I’m sixty years old retired Accountant and on SS Disability for a missing limb. I work part time although I’m not working currently. My home recently burned down so I’ve got about $12,000 in the bank. I saw a 2007 Denali Camper for $8,000 in great shape. the very best I can rent a one bedroom apartment for is about $800 plus utilities. I’m sure I can beat that RVing. My only problem is getting a 3/4 ton pick up to pull the camper. It’s tandem axle but not sure about the weight. I probably wouldn’t be moving but once maybe twice per year. It might be less expensive to rent a truck to move the Camper rather than buying one.
Chugging along the ruggedly beautiful Maine coastline, I couldn’t help but reflect on how thankful I was for our current lifestyle. In the prior 30 days, we’d been to a family wedding in Asheville, NC, played top ranked golf courses in the countryside of Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, crashed the driveway of college friends in our Nation’s capital, explored the vibrant streets of New York City, beamed with joy as our pup Ella ran alongside us at a dog-friendly golf course in the mountains of Maine, and we’re now on our way to the beautiful Acadia National Park.
The time living on the road has been a lot of fun, and a big learning experience. I’ve met countless people that have influenced my life and heard stories that have rearranged my perspectives on life’s shenanigans. Most encounters have been very positive and the RV has helped open windows of connections with people that I would not have had otherwise. As for the other end of the spectrum, I’ve only had a couple of run-ins with people telling me to move on to another camping spot (literally only 2 times the last couple years).
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.
There are several RV websites out there that allow you to pay an annual fee to camp at members’ locations. For example, we use Boondockers Welcome which costs us $25 a year. We are able to stay with Boondockers Welcome hosts throughout the country for no additional charge. Another website out there is called Harvest Hosts. We’ve haven’t tried this one yet, but it looks awesome!
After reading their story, if starting a blog is something you are interested in we put together a step-by-step tutorial for you. Like Heath and Alyssa, we have discovered that starting your own business, like a blog, can lead to a TON of freedom in life. If you have the desire to live in an RV and travel full time starting a blog should be one of your top priorities.
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 between the pop-up and Gateway, we had a 35’ Cedar Creek fifth wheel. It was really great but the big boys really wanted more space if we were going to keep full timing and I was kinda tired of the small kitchen counter. The one thing we loved about the Cedar Creek was the shorter length opened up more camping options. Many parks have 35’ length restrictions and we fit in a lot of driveways. The Gateway at 41’ no longer fit in my or Brent’s parents driveway and occasionally we couldn’t stay in some parks because it was too big. We don’t regret purchasing the Gateway and would buy it over again if we were full time RVing but now that we aren’t, we are looking for something shorter so we have more options.
My husband was working a remote 9 to 5 job and stopped a little less than a year ago and since then we have transitioned over to my virtual assistant business and our travel blog being how we make our income. We also just signed up to be DoTerra oil reps (we love essential oils!) and are in the process of starting a t-shirt company. You know, just a few things to keep busy.
I just found your website and am going to read all of it. I am so excited to say that we are starting to plan a full time RV trip in about 4 years. This is the start of our plan. research Research Research and by the time my daughter is about o go into high school we will hit the road. Homeschooling across america. I just wanted to take the time to say thank you for blogging. I am also researching blogging as a family, (from my point of view, from my husbands point of view and from a hormonal teenage 14 year olds point of view should be interesting) Reading your blog gives me hope to having our dream becoming a reality. And let the research begin I hope to one day meet you on the road 🙂
I get it. I grew up with my parents RVing all over, went in the military and traveled all over and got out and bought a small 16′ toy hauler, that lasted a year (do to the cramped style of it). we then bought a 27′ toy hauler and full timed in it for 5 years (still cramped with no slide outs)before deciding to take the leap. We now live Full time in a 36 1/2′ RV with 4 slide outs. it has a nice size bedroom w/ king size bed and washer and dryer, nice size bathroom with shower, big kitchen and dining area (which I re-modeled) and a big front living room with two fold out sofas and a complete entertainment system which I upgraded. did I mention that it’s a 5th wheel? any how, we have no problem that can’t be fixed at a lot cheaper price than a house and sleeping arrangements, she gets the bedroom and I get the sofa when snoring, which i might add is NOW very comfortable with the extra 4″ thick full length padding I added. we have a house on wheels 3 heaters, 3 AC units, wine cooler, ice maker, washer / dryer, 3 TV’s and so much more. I have added a lot of this to make life comfortable . I just wanted to say that RV living does not have to be a nightmare. It is what you want to make of it. It looks like you have decided NOT to make it a permanent life style like us and just use it as a means to get by while you build your dream home. that’s great too. however, I would change the title of your segment to “OUR 10 ugly truths of fulltime RVing in a small RV.” or something more related to the size of your RV. because when you get into the bigger RV’s your 10 ugly truths don’t really apply. except one item, GENERAL WEAR AND TEAR. I totally agree that the furniture is not made as durable as it should be. but then again things in or on a house wear out also. and that stuff will cost you a lot more than on a 5th wheel or TT Type Trailers. motor coach’s are different. depending on what breaks, they can get very expensive. I have one small question, when your house is built and you are settled in will you take your trailer out and go camping?
My husband and I are planning to transition to full-time RV living in the next 2.5-4.5 years once our oldest kids graduate high school (youngest will come with us and homeschool). We are concerned our biggest expense will be self funded health insurance. In your financial reports you say you haven’t purchased health insurance. What about now that Obamacare penalizes you on your taxes? Have you still chosen not to purchase health insurance and take the penalty or have you found a more affordable option? We have some medical expenses so likely couldn’t go completely uninsured. Hubby is considering a remote work job with benefits for this reason but really we’d like to travel for 1 full year without huge work commitments then do something like seasonal park ranger half the year and travel the rest of the year. Any advice or insight in this area would be awesome! Thanks for sharing your financial information. It is very helpful!
When we wake up in the morning we have to stop and ask ourselves where are we? I think this is especially the case for our 2-year-old Knox. The other day he got up and said “Mommy where are we?”. Does it make us question if that is a good or bad thing – yes! But when we come out of our room and have a view like this we figure it is worth it for everyone!
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!