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.
Thanks for your comments Maria. It’s easy to get confused as there is a lot of misinformation floating about. You must have seen the HGTV episode. We didn’t pay $208,000 and we owned our Monaco Vesta for 3 years. Everyone’s budget and spending habits are different. We list our general costs of living, not the cost of our RV (all costs are variable per person, especially RV’s). Yes depreciation is a factor when purchasing an RV, as with anything.
We had planned to stay in the RV for an entire year after being stationary but soon realized that wasn’t going to work. Not only were the boys embarrassed, our 41′ RV shrunk exponentially once we quit moving. Having Yellowstone or Lake Superior as the playground in your backyard is much different from the city campground where the RVs are crammed together like books on a bookshelf. So we found a house and a few months later said goodbye to the RV.
This obviously depends on whether they’ve already established a location-independent reliable source of income, or if they plan to seek such an opportunity after they have launched their journey. For the former situation, an emergency fund of $10,000 would give them a good cushion and peace of mind, though this is with the caveat that the couple is debt free, including owing their home-on-wheels and vehicles out right. If the couple is considering finding employment opportunities on the road, then in my opinion, their savings should include one year of expenses and an emergency fund.
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."
$4,000 Eating Out: We made a rule, we eat dinner out once per week at a quality restaurant recommended by the hip locals. Sometimes the bill would be cheap and other times not so much. Of course we would eat lunch out, or purchase a coffee every once and a while. This includes all expenses spent at a Restaurant, Pub, Bar, Happy Hour, Cupcake Shop, etc.
Annual maintenance costs will vary depending on the type of RV, age, mileage, driving conditions, and other variables. If you are towing a trailer, the maintenance costs for the RV could be less, but you need to maintain the tow vehicle, too. A used motorhome might require more maintenance expense than a new motorhome would, simply due to age. And the more mileage you put on the tow vehicle and/or RV, the more frequently the routine maintenance expenses add up. You also need to consider things on the RV or tow vehicle that wear out over time, like tires, brakes, windshield wipers, and the additional expenses for emissions testing, inspections, license plate renewal fees, and taxes.
Bryanna, My husband and I are in the beginning stages of talking about selling everything and moving into an RV full time. One question I do have is…do you have to have a “home” address? We did live in our RV for about a month and 1/2 last Feb./March in between homes, one sold very fast and the other wasn’t ready to move into. At that time we had a PO box near where we were set up. I do most of our bills on line any way and know that I won’t have that many in the future, but was wondering about car tags, insurance things like that. Thanks for your help, Michelle
And finally there’s just the whole money thing. Money is a “hot” topic and these kinds of posts almost always generate heated debate about how much it really costs. What one person might consider “a pretty good deal” could be construed as “ridiculously expensive” to some one else (“you spend that much on xxx??” is a common response). So I’m going to say this up front. Don’t take ANY of these numbers as fixed. Rather use these posts as a guide together with other folks who publish their data (which I’ll link to) to create your own, individual financial plan.
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.
We discuss the process of minimizing your belongings. Living in an RV means living with less space. A lot less space. That’s why minimalism plays an important part of the process for RV living. Getting rid of furniture and appliances is one thing, but what about kids’ toys? What about photo albums? Bryanna tells us more about their process in the podcast.
*Most will also utilize a water heating system with radiators (running on propane or diesel), here there is no added humidity from heating with the propane/diesel. Air heating is also used, but the air is collected from the inside, and not the outside of the RV, so no added humidity from the condensation formed where cold air meets warm air. However you do need to ventilate in addition to using the heater, if not your own breathing will use up your oxygen and add a lot of humidity.
That said, it is not for everyone. We have met very few full-time RVers who boondock as much as we do. Most people who enjoy boondocking, or “free camping,” do it from 25% to 75% of the time, at most. For full-timers who work, it is hard to find a boondocking location near most jobs, and you have to pack up and go to the RV dump station every 10 days to 2 weeks, disrupting your life. Even if your work is location independent, and you work out of your RV, finding good boondocking locations that have adequate internet access to do that is not easy. During the summer of 2014 we spent 5 weeks camping in places that were 10 miles or more from the nearest internet access.
The key to maintaining a comfortable full-time RVing lifestyle is how they plan to earn money on the road. If they have an online business, then they are in luck, as it is very easy to run an online business from your RV. I easily run our website while traveling for several months in our RV. In some cases, I am sitting by a pool with my laptop and an adult beverage, writing articles and answering Rving questions and uploading them Everything-About-RVing.com.
Truth be told, cooking is the most difficult part (to me) of living in a camper in the winter. If you don’t crack open a vent so the condensation can escape, your camper will quickly begin to accumulate ice and mold, although the wood stove helps bake most of that condensation out. Also, make sure to wash dishes the second you finish your meal, because it gets much more difficult once they freeze… and you don’t want to carry any more water into the camper than you have to.
Did you have any trouble passing a home study while living in the camper? We are currently full timers while we save up money to pay cash for a house. We are wanting to adopt but I worry about the homestudy. Our camper is 34 feet and right now its just the hubby and me. I know we can make it work, but how to I prove that? Would love your advice! Thanks!
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.
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.
Well thanks for watching! We love RV’ing and it was our full time life for 6 years. So, we definitely want to rent RV’s to travel inland as we hit new countries (no rving in the Bahamas where we are now). So there are more road tripping adventures in our future but the boat is our base camp and where we will spend most of our year. As for what the distant future holds…we have no idea. Maybe a hot air balloon?
Anyone considering the purchase of their first RV, in my humble opinion, should spend the least amount possible. They should make a cash purchase with an allotment for repairs and upgrades. Start small! You can always work up when you have a greater understanding for how you’ll use your RV and what your RVing needs will be. While it’s fun to shop the newest, largest models, there is a definite learning curve when you launch your RV adventures, so start cheap, start small, and enjoy the journey.
11. Keep travel resources at hand. Many RV lifestyles revolve around moving with the weather, to warmer or cooler places, and you certainly want to stay in the know. If you are planning to vacation on the coast, but find that a hurricane or tropical storm is blowing in and causing trouble, you may want to change your plans. Nothing is worse than trying to maneuver in bad weather or a wet campground. You also don’t want to put yourself in harm’s way and risk damage to your RV in such situations as tornadoes, floods or excessive mud. Try to stay current and well informed about these issues and have a special weather radio if possible.
My boyfriend and I have been living full time in our 81 Lindy for two years now in Colorado. It has been challenging but a huge learning experience. We chose to live this was mainly because we want to save money to buy a house of our own one day and we don’t like renting. We have woke up to an exploded water heater due to the -30 degree weather and have learned that the wind chill is our biggest problem. We winterized it once for a week while we had a new water heater installed but we have made a habit of checking the water every half hour and when necessary; standing in the cold to blow dry our pipes until the water runs. We have heating tape on all the pipes and heating pads on all the tanks which does a pretty good job on keeping us safe but every day is another adventure in an RV and no matter what precautions you take nothing is guaranteed. We just recently learned that we can not run the space heater and cook anything (stove, oven, microwave, toaster) at the same time without our water heater freezing but if we turn the space heater off it drops several degrees and it’s a battle to get the heat back up.
Yes on the dual sided heated mattress pad. Your friend in the winter! This winter I slept on an 8″ memory foam mattress, topped with the heated mattress pad, then a 3″ memory foam on top of that. I turned on the mattress pad about an hour before I go to bed (if it isnt already on!). I cranked it up to High and turned it down to 3 or 4 when I got in bed. It will warm up the top pad. When you get in bed the top MF is soft and as you sink into it you get the warmth rising. This winter I was in a really, really cold cinderblock house in the Midwest. Last winter I did this in my Teardrop trailer with a 4″ regular foam mattress, the heated mattress pad and the 3″ of MF.
Since we live in a mobile home park and are connected to a city water supply, we have never used our fresh water tank, and we needed to protect our fresh water line from freezing. To do this we purchased a Pirit brand heated hose. Some people wrap their regular hose with heat cable and pipe insulation, but our water connection is so far from the city water pipe that we wouldn’t have saved much money doing it that way. We have been happy with our heated hose; it is very convenient and we left hooked up (but unplugged) over the summer as well.
Yes the kids still want toys and yes we still buy them some. However, they are also good at when they are done playing with something they pass it on to someone else or donate it. By April they were already donating some of the Christmas presents they had gotten. And when we left friends we had made in Miami they were giving them their toys as presents before we left. They aren’t attached to many things anymore either.
Last but certainly not least, we no longer have the diesel 3500 Chevy dually to pull the RV. After some discussion we decided that we didn’t want to continue paying those expensive truck payments for a truck that our entire family couldn’t fit in. In hindsight, we should have bought a less expensive truck that seated six. Or maybe not. Six of us in a truck would have been tight especially with two car seats. So after a lot of research we decided to buy a diesel Ford Excursion. I’ll do another post on buying the new SUV because a lot of research went into it but the short of it is that it can seat six people comfortably and it can haul a heavy load giving us more options for travel trailers, the point of this post.
After a few years of messing with the little single-load washing machines at laundromats, we discovered that it is much better to use the biggest machines in the place because they are generally the newest machines, they do the best job, and they hold a heckuva lot. Dryers are usually 25 cents for a set period of time that ranges from 5 to 10 minutes, and we’ve found that most commercial dryers need about 35-40 minutes to get the job done. Washers and dryers at RV parks are usually much cheaper than those in the local laundromat.
Great info, We have been agonizing over what size rig to go with for over a year now. We have bounced back and forth between a 40′ Legacy and a 5th wheel but now after reading so many blogs as well as yours, to more than likely go with a Class C Itasca Navion which is 25’8″ and is built on the Sprinter chassis. Your blog really used us over the edge with your hindsight on smaller size. I always thought that a bigger rig would be better but now I am comfortable making that leap with a smaller rig. Thanks for the great info and Go Gators!!! Class of 85′
Would love to hear how you deal with four kids and car seats. We have a Winnebago tour which is set up for four passengers and haven’t figured out how to put the car seats in there according to regulation for our two grandsons. Did you have something special he installed or is the view just configured properly for your needs. Our extra seats are on a sofa with no back to Heather bolts and the seats would be facing sideways which is not ideal for children any tips would be appreciated
This is something we cannot advise you on. Our experience is life on the road is a little less expensive than sedentary life. I do know there are several people out there living extremely inexpensively in an RV, but I’m not sure where to direct you. I would think living in an apartment would be less expensive and more comfortable than trying to live in an RV. The one piece of advice I can offer, don’t purchase a motorhome (RV with an engine) if you’re going to leave it sitting, purchase a towable that does not have an engine.
Wow..we have been following your post since we saw the special on TV. Was hoping to get some information on RV-ing, but did not know you would provide great detailed information. We hope to start traveling in about 5 years and the cost have been on our minds alot this year. Your expense details really help us. Hope to see you on the road sooner than 5 years. Thanks for the posts.
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!
Yes, I’m sending you a hug Raven! RV living has been lifted up quite a bit in alternative media lately, but it is never an easy decision. I go through my own emotional roller coaster of emotions about our living situation. Earlier this fall I found myself in a hard place because I started thinking about how we are about to spend our third winter here. But I am reminded every time of all the reasons I am glad we are here and how I wouldn’t change it – even if I am looking forward to our new house. The plan is to lay the foundation in the spring, so that gives me hope. Make small goals for yourselves and be encouraged every time you reach a small goal – all those small goals add up!
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!