The following comparison shows precisely what would be typical for me and my family, which includes mom, dad, three kids (two toddlers and a teenager), and grandma, a family of 6. Your results may vary. The “Home” table reflects averages for the entire US. We then compare it against our own costs, and those of average prices for new and used RVers, except where those costs wouldn’t change based on the rig you have. Links to sources inline.
Good Morning to all. I have read and skimmed my way through the initial posting and the comments. So here is my 2 cents. I have been full time RV’ing since August 2015. Sold my home in NY State because it was too expensive to run on my retirement and Social Security. I made the same mistake & stored a fair amount of belongings & furniture. That will go this summer. I still own property in NYS and barns, but that will be another year. I started out with a 37′ 5th wheel, drove to Florida and spend 6 months & 1 day at a campground on the Space Coast. Thoroughly enjoyed the time there and will be going back this November. (November 1 through May 1). I bought a new 5th Wheel in Florida and am enjoying it much more that my last one. You mentioned size, but I generally don’t have an issue. I have not tried dry camping yet and I have not done that in an RV before, The new 5th wheel is 42′ in length plus a spare tire and bike rake. I drive a 3500 Silverado diesel dually and I am very comfortable in all situations, including in town if I am going to a campground there or just following a detour, which I ran into in Nebraska. This past spring after leaving Florida, I traveled westward to Colorado to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. I was still in the mode of “make as many miles as possible in a day”, but I am now realizing that I really don’t need to do that, I’m retired. On previous trips out to South Dakota & Wyoming, I saw Badlands National Park, Devils Tower, Mount Rushmore and stayed in Cody, WY before moving on to Yellowstone & the Grand Tetons. Therefore after visiting with some friends in Wyoming, I headed back east. Now I wish that I had stopped along the way, even though I had seen those sights. I missed the Badlands and the Wild Horse Reserve south of Rapid City and the area around Rapid City. Another good reason to settle down and enjoy the sights. I am back in Upstate NY for the summer and will be heading back to Florida around the end of September. I am also considering a resident state in either South Dakota or Florida. Medicare supplemental plans will make that decision for me. Right now I have a great plan from Excellus BC/BS in NY and that will be what I will want from either of those states. I’m thinking about alternate routes other that I-81 & I-95 heading south. I am a single guy not by choice, so I have to do all of the things to keep the adventure going. I purchased a Magellan RV GPS and I feel very comfortable with it. The next 2 years will hopefully see me travel to Montana for the Glacier National Park and then south through Utah for all of the parks and the natural beauty. In 2018, I am planning to drive up to Alaska. That plan is in it’s infancy right now. Just gathering data and trying to throw out bad info and keeping what sounds reasonable. I’ve also donated at least 50% of my clothes because I don’t wear them. Takes up space and a lot of weight. I’m always looking to reduce weight. I hope that this gives someone else some ideas about life on the road.
Keeping your water and waste tanks from freezing is an especially difficult task. If there is a winterizing skirting around your RV, it may be helpful to install a small heavy duty space heater under your unit to keep the gray and black tanks from freezing. The fresh water tank should be alright with daily use, although the water supply feeding the tank can (and will) freeze. Special heat tape and hose insulators are available for purchase at any hardware store, but these are ineffective in prolonged sub-freezing temperatures.
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.
This item covers all supermarket purchases, including groceries, household cleansers, toiletries, laundry detergent, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and anything else that can be found at Walmart, Safeway, Albertsons, Target and other places. Our rig is fully outfitted, but occasionally we get a small kitchen appliance or pick up a DVD. Those things get lumped into this number.
I have looked into propane wall heaters (and used them in houses) and using in the RV, but for simplicity, the stove effectively is 100% identical. not vented, burning propane at a fairly low rate. my truck camper would use 1 bbq tank of propane per 7 days in colorado winter. thats $20 exchange for BBQ tank. (bbq tanks can hold 20 lbs, when refilled, but only 15 lbs when exchanged because the exchange companies just want to make more money and charge more and give you less, so if your trying to calculate gallons of propane used, I dont know, I only know lbs, do your own conversion.) There are 2 kind of wall heaters, infrared & blue flame. I would say infrared is better at throwing heat further distance, but they are identical as far as CO and humidity goes, because they are not vented and burning the same amount of propane for same BTUs output. Blue flame is = stove top flame.
- You should remove snow from slide-outs regularly to reduce water damage. As snow accumulates on top of the slide-out, the heat from inside the RV can melt the bottom layer of snow, creating an ice dam. You also can add insulation by using rigid insulation sealed to the camper body. However, angle any insulation you place on the top of the slide-out to allow water to drain away from the RV.
Thank you so much. All this information is very helpful and I do have a few friends who have traveled and lived on the road for more info. Good luck to you and your family. One of my friends traveled across the nation for over a year staying long terms in National Parks with 6, yes I said 6 kids and home schooled them. Interesting life to say the least.
Our situation is fairly unique (I think) because I work away from my family for 2 weeks and then i’m back with them for two weeks. I work in northern Alberta ( we are Canadian) and for the 6 really cold month of winter we could be anywhere in the US or Canada. For the 6 not so cold months she wants to set up camp in northern Alberta. near where I work. Our family is very concerned for the safety of my wife and kids while I am gone away at work for two weeks. do you have any advice on this or know any other fulltime families that have a similar situation?
Avoid bringing the items you could easily just buy while on the road if you absolutely needed them, especially if your space is limited. It’s easy to go overboard buying all sorts of accessories for the RV. We recommend getting the bare minimum and then you can always purchase more as you, if there are items you wish you had. It’s much easier to do this then deal with the frustration of having too much crammed in!
We have just become full-time RVers after 44 years of camping in a tent up to a diesel pusher.We now live in a Landmark 365 42′ fifth wheel, tow vehicle is a F350 4×4 dually, and I drive a CRV Honda. My husband is a transpo driver for a RV dealer during the winter so he is comfortable hauling the beast. Yes, I take my CRV and follow, I don’t mind the drive be it 100 or 1000 mi.
$2,500 Eating Out – Similar to 2011 we find ourselves eating out 2 nice meals per week. This amount also includes the local breweries we purchase beer from and the local coffee roasters we support along the way. This number is a little askew as we’ve had a few of our meals comped or discounted some of the time when the owners find out we’re blogging about them (approx. savings $500).
We traveled for years for my husbands work. My son spent his first six years traveling with us in an rv. Recently when we found out we are having another baby we decided to not do that anymore. He found another job and we stay home. Let me tell you it is a hard adjustment. We miss traveling more than anything. Life is so much more simple that way. You have less stuff. You don’t have the up keep of a Home and yard. You don’t run around busy every night to a bunch of obligations. Oh how we miss it. So much more time outside. Freedom. Seeing new places. This conventional life is much harder. We miss our rv. We have not sold it yet. The thing is we want our son to go to school and make long term friendships. He made a lot of friends on the road. But it’s different. Most of them he will never see again. Home schooling was fine I didn’t mind. We thought being home was what we wanted. Now all we want to do is go back on the road. Hahahaha. We miss it so much. Plus he made way more money. Not sure we can survive staying in one place like this. Doing for the kids! We saw so many amazing places. Coast to coast.
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.

The grand total for the third quarter (July 01 – September 30) of our 2013 Expenses of Living on the Road Full Time in an RV: $10,275Below is the brief breakdown of our costs and expenses of full time living in our RV, 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.$2,477 Groceries, housewares and booze – Costco still being the largest, groceries also includes Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joe’s, local natural grocery stores, and Farmer’s Markets.
We budget $6k per month and usually have a hard time sticking to it. I guess you would have to put us into that ‘upper’ bracket. We track every penny (we use YNAB as our budgeting tool-Google it), but still don’t deny ourselves anything we really need or want. We moved into the rig in July 07 with a nice portfolio and then suffered through the 07-08 market collapse. We dropped about 38%. We slowed our spending down a bit, workcamped for a season (Crazy Horse Monument in the Black Hills) and within a couple of years our portfolio had returned to pre-recession levels. In fact, our portfolio today is actually just a bit larger than the day I retired. And what’s our secret? Low cost passive index funds from Vanguard.
We will be retiring in about 18 mos and my husband has decided he wants us to go full time! Yikes I don’t know what I’ll do all day. We bike, kayak and hike but every day? Will it still be as fun when you can do it all you want? Mainly, I think I’m apprehensive about retiring, I’ve been a nurse 40 years this month and love it, I’ve worked some job or another since I was 16.
I plan on full-timing well into the winter if I am able to. All of this is very valuable information as I will be new at this RV adventure. I’ve been wondering about how to prevent my pipes from freezing. would it be unrealistic just to hook up a hose to the kitchen and bathroom sinks, let the water drip and run the hose back into the freshwater tank?
Nina and Paul, I just found your blog today on Pinterest, and it is filled with very good information. I will be more or less full-timing it with a friend who currently lives in Okinawa, Japan. He has been living in Japan for 23+ years and plans on moving back to the states permanently. Whenever that happens he has asked me to come along on his life long dream of traveling to all the National Parks/Monuments etc. We don’t plan on moving much more than 100 miles or so per day and may stay in a place for a while if we like it and there is lots to see and experience in the area. I plan to keep watching your blog as it really speaks to what we want to do.

Thank you so much for sharing your family’s story. As I read this, I found myself crying because it is exactly what we want for our family. My husband and I have 4 kids, ages 6, 4, 2, and 2, we homeschool, and we live in a duplex with other family members. We have been wanting to make the leap to full-time travel life but have not yet done it. You have inspired me to keep pushing for it. Thank you and congratulations to your fault for breaking free!
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.
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.
Now that we've gotten the rig pretty airtight, we've got a new problem to deal with. Moisture from cooking, washing and just our breathing raises the humidity inside the RV. As it gets colder, this moisture condenses out on cooler inside surfaces like window frames and doors. This can lead to mold and mildew, water stains or even worse. The best way to prevent condensation is to avoid introducing excessive moisture into the air. A good practice is to always use the range hood vent when cooking and the bathroom vent when showering. This will draw most of that moisture out of the rig. It may be necessary to keep a roof vent open slightly to provide some ventilation and keep condensation in check. Insulating exposed surfaces that tend to collect moisture will also help. A small dehumidifier or some of those little tubs of desiccant crystals may be necessary, depending on the RV and how many are living in it.
We didn't start doing this one right away, but, boy we were happy when we did! It really opened up the possibilities for us and made us love this life even more. Upgrading our batteries and adding solar upped our game and allowed us to get off the grid even if it's just at a Harvest Host or casino. But being able to camp among the red rocks of Sedona is something special, especially when it's just you or a small group of friends. It's a good breather between campgrounds and something we try to do as much as possible. And can you really beat the low, low price of free?
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