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.
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.
I’ve just found you, and I’m soaking in all this information. Thank you. Do have advice for a single woman in her 60’s thinking about full timing for a while? I’m retiring and don’t know yet where I want to live. So considering traveling around for a while to find the right place. No experience yet with driving or living in an rv… Yikes! Help? 🙂 Thanks!
We use Verizon for voice and some data, DirecTV with the dome on the roof of the RV and DirecWay for most of our internet connections. Since we use DirecWay we have to carry the dish everywhere and spend time setting it up, of course we can place it anywhere within reach of the RV, which is beneficial. It is however big and it takes up a lot of room. We haven’t gotten rid of it, because we like having it at home and it has been very reliable! We are debating changing to another service, but we have not made up our minds what the replacement would be.
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!
One time we had a package shipped via UPS to a post office General Delivery address in a small town. We tracked the package, and noticed its status was “On the truck and out for delivery.” This seemed to imply that the package was on its way to the post office, so we called the UPS distribution center to find out at what time of day the truck might get to the post office so we could drive in to get it.
We try to find parks that are around $30 a night. We use our Passport AmericaPassport America discount as often as possible, which saved us around $700 during our first 6 months of RVing! We don’t boondock as often as we’d like, mainly because we didn’t consider this when purchasing our first RV. The fifth wheel we bought didn’t have very large holding tanks, which limited us in how many days we could dry camp. If you are shopping for an RV, be sure to read these tips first to avoid making similar mistakes we did.
(In fact, we had a Big Horn 3670 2008. Went to our dealership for some warranty work and was informed that the 2010 BH's were "in". This was about 5 months ago. Well, hubby and I know to never go into a pet store, because we will walk out with a pet. Same way with a trailer. There were just enough changes in the 2 years, that we decided to purchase the newer trailer. We love it.
I always imagined that you should try to buy the biggest RV you could afford. After all, who doesn’t want lots of space? Our travels over the past years, and perhaps more specifically the kind of travel we like to do (camping in public campgrounds, forests, state parks, off-the-beaten-track spots) has taught me that bigger is not always better. Our “beastly” size is super-comfortable but requires me to do quite a bit of detailed planning to make sure we can fit into the kinds of spots we like to visit. In retrospect, I would have wished for a smaller RV. For those camping mostly in private parks this is not a consideration, but for our kinda camping it sure would be nice with a few less feet.
You’ll notice that none of these RVers, nor us, shared how much we pay monthly for other items, such as debt (student loans, mortgages if we still have property somewhere, credit cards, etc.), medical supplies, car and RV monthly financing payments, clothing and other personal purchases, memberships/subscriptions (RV memberships as well as Netflix, Spotify, etc.), and business/work expenses.
Nesting Mixing Bowl Set – RVers are always looking for space saving solutions and these nesting bowls with a colander and measuring cups fit the great gifts for RVers criteria. They are super cute to boot. We love ours because they are well made, pretty, and, most importantly, 9 items take up the space of one. We have the colorful set in the picture above but they also come in blue and grey.
In the summertime, the opposite is true as we try to avoid having our windows facing the sun. Our best orientation in the summertime is for the truck to be headed northwest. This way, although we get blasted with some sun in the morning, our biggest windows are blissfully shaded during the long hours of blazing hot sun as it shines from the south and sets in the northwest.
Today is the first time I’ve wandered down through the comment sections, and I have to say I was shocked with some of the hostile responses! Kudos to you guys for handling the negativity well, and know that for every Negative Nancy shouting off in the comments about your personal spending habits, I’m sure there are dozens of unvoiced happy readers delighted with your candid and thoughtful post. Keep it up!
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.
Thanks for discussing the cost of living in an RV. I love the breakdown of the typical budget for an RV owner. It is smart to factor in the cost of repairs and maintenance. You made a good example when you mentioned replacing the pump that makes your shower run. You couldn’t live too long without that! My husband and I have been considering buying my uncle’s old RV, so repairs are something we would need to think about!
Most RVs simply weren't designed to be used in the winter. They were built for family outings and weekend getaways during the warm months and were intended to be stored away when the weather got too chilly for outdoor picnics. Fulltimers are faced with living in their traveling home, whether it is well designed for cold weather or not. Luckily, there are lots of things that you can do to make your RV more comfortable during the colder months.
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."
$1,399 Eating Out – As per the last reports we try to enjoy our experience in new towns through food, drink, and good ol’ conversation. The easiest place for a weary traveler to pull up a chair in a new town…..the Bar, and this tradition has been the same since the beginning of time. On average we eat out 2 times per week, typically at a local eatery that’s come highly recommended by the locals. Here and there we’ve had a few meals comped for being travel writers, we’ve had few of our online friends buy us a warm meal or a brew, and we’ve been treated to a few home cooked meals at homes along the way, and for this we are extremely grateful. Nothing better than sitting down and breaking bread with a few fellow RVers who’ve been following our journey….and then they pick up the tab 🙂 You Guys ROCK!
Thanks for the information. It’s funny but I was just contacted by a friend I haven’t heard from in 4 years and they recently sold everything off about three years ago and are enjoying the RV lifestyle. They just spent the summer in Alaska and currently my friend is playing Santa Claus here in Las Vegas. We are getting together tomorrow and I am sure we will have a big discussion on how things have been going so far. He has already recommended I grow my beard in for next year and play Santa. Of course I will have to die the beard as I am not quite white yet. LOL. I will keep on searching your site and thanks again for the update…
RV shows are great places to meet fellow RV’ers, the forums like irv2 are great for chatting and asking questions and membership groups like escapees are there to help people through the process. Then of course there are blogs like ours where we try to share helpful information and a general glimpse into the lifestyle. Blogs are a fantastic resource and if you spend some time watching videos and reading through you will learn a ton.
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.
It’s a part of who he is and who he will be. You can’t tell me growing up and learning to run in sprawling national parks doesn’t leave an impression. We will likely end up in a traditional house again, and our children will likely go back to a traditional school. But travel will remain a priority for us, and we will design our future with that in mind.
You must spend more time in open or private sites than we do. We spend most of our summers in forested public parks and we were almost never able to get a satellite lock on that roof dish. We honestly couldn’t use it more than half the year. Last year we completely ditched the roof-dish (in fact we ditched Direct TV altogether) and it’s been a great decision for us.
When RVing, we use mainly public coin laundry facilities. It’s nice to get 2-3 weeks of laundry done in under an hour, and many campgrounds/marinas have laundry facilities on site. The cost of a load of laundry can vary widely by location and facilities. We’ve had them cost everything from free in Louisiana State Parks (seriously!) to up to $5-6. Average is probably around $2.50-3.50 a load. On a monthly basis, we maybe spend $20 on laundry – its not worth micromanaging.
I used to be with them and could find dozens of great places that would allow you to work for 2 days a week and get to stay for 7 days at no cost. You can also work extra days and earn $8 to $10 per hour. Lots of places will hire you for the season, 3 to 5 months and pay you full time for a 40 hour week of easy work, you get to stay in the park free of charge, and if you fulfill your commitment you get your gas paid to and from the park. Now you have the rest of the year to relax.
No one should toss the house keys to the new owner and point their new rig towards the open road without having experienced previously spending time in an RV. Not just a weekend or even a week but ideally an extended period of time. No trial run will exactly duplicate the finality of being without a home base but being on the road will help identify what kind of full-timer you will be. Do you prefer being a “mover” or a “sitter?” Do you prefer the solitude of a campsite alone in the woods or the activities found in a commercial campground? These test runs will also serve to clarify your most important decision before becoming a full-time Rver…
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.
One thing to note with the small space heaters is that they can take up a lot of power. You may end up tripping a couple of breakers as you figure out how the power flows through your RV. If you flip a breaker take a second to note what you have plugged in and where. By doing this you’ll gain a better understanding of what you can run at the same time, and more importantly what you can’t run at the same time.
My husband traveled through a pipe fitters Union. We did this with our son until recently. He is almost 7. That’s the hardest part for us. Our son was lonely. He made a lot of friends and got really good at making friends quickly. We did too. But then we would leave for a new place and he will prob. Never see them again. It was so fun to live that way. We miss it more than anything in the world. Wish we could leave right now. Haha. Really. We are adjusting to this conventional life. It’s not as simple or fun. Our son got lonely. So now we are staying home. Hubby got a new job and our son goes to school. He is also getting a brother. Haha. So that is the main challenge. So we look forward to retirement. We are selling it all and going on the road.
$2,319 Fuel Cost – So far we’ve put a lot less miles on the RV this year (around 5,000 so far) however we’ve been driving our Smart Car loads more (probably double last year)! Everyone complains about fuel costs, but if you look at it our fuel isn’t our largest expense, and how much really does a 10 cent increase per gallon cost? You’re either going to travel or you’re not, I’m tired of hearing people use the excuse of fuel costs as a reason they don’t take out their RV. Suck it up, put on your big boy pants, and travel….you’ll thank me later as you realize the trip only cost an extra $25 because of the rise in fuel cost. Sorry for the rant, we just hear this excuse over and over and it’s a moot point.
Invest in a heated mattress pad, it will be your friend during cold nights. We purchased a dual climate heated pad (not a heated blanket) because one of us is always colder than the other, it works like a champ. Best part is the preheat function warms the bed quickly then continues with your original setting. We chose a heated mattress pad because heat rises right? The heat is nice on our backs, then as the warmth rises its captured between the sheets and creates a nice oven effect. Love it! Although we’ve heard a heated blanket can mess up your core temps we still use one on the lowest setting when it’s sub-freezing outside. Unfortunately the new mattress in our Fleetwood Excursion is memory foam so it doesn’t work with a heated mattress pad….we’re so missing our pre-heat button this year!
This RV couple is in between 35 – 45 years old and also lives in a travel trailer. They both quit their jobs and are currently living on saved up money, which requires them to boondock as often as possible to cut costs. They aim to to find free spots to park at least half of the month. When they arrive in a new destination they like to stay anywhere from 2-4 weeks. They enjoy both outdoor activities and exploring cities.
I was really disappointed with this book. As a few others have stated, it's very poorly written, with many many repeated sentences and concepts. The Chapter 2 "111 tips to get you started in our New RV Lifestyle" are inane, in no discernible order and include such gems as: 77: HOT RUNNING WATER-Most RV's have a boiler to heat up water. 78: SHOWER-Larger RV's have a shower with hot running water. Or 81: COLD FOOD-The larger your RV, the better your kitchen facilities will be. A fridge is top of the list on most kitchenettes, some even have freezer compartments. I literally read the entire book in about 30 minutes between clients at work. Most of the time with an open-mouthed, "DUH" expression on my face. *sigh*
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.
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.
The average cost we run in to is $1.75/load for washing and $1.25/load for drying. Most campgrounds have low-end but decent enough washers and dryers and you hardly ever have to run a load multiple time. It is important to note that many campgrounds and parks will not let you hang clotheslines so you can’t depend on that as a way to reduce expenses.
Full time RV living can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. You really just have to settle into your own budget and determine what you can do and how far you can go in a given month. My family and I have been on the road for about two years now and our pace changes dependent upon that month’s budget, and that’s one thing I love about this lifestyle!
I have spent the last 3 hours browsing many of your articles and have really appreciated your depth in explanations (from the dump station details, to which solar panel to buy to the realistic cost of repairs). My husband and I are in our mid-twenties and plan to move into an RV full time within the next few months (a cheap used one!) and then camp for free either by camp hosting or working for a free spot or most likely (for much of the year at least) living off the grid. While we won’t be traveling with it (when we travel we typically bike-tour) we will be living in it full time as we work (we work seasonally in two different locations) and plan to raise kids (at least while they are small) in it! Thanks for all the time and effort you have put into your blog and into the relevant information you share! Happy trails.
To make sure our hose drained quickly, we built a downhill track for it out of cheap vinyl guttering and cinder blocks. (We did have one of those accordion folding type of sewer hose supports, but it was constantly falling over and we wanted something sturdier.) Additionally, our sewer hose runs under the bottom of our RV and is fully enclosed with skirting, so frozen sewage hasn’t been a problem for us.
We are all electric with no propane, now what? Hydronic heating (Aqua Hot) can rely upon a diesel burner for furnace instead of propane. As you correctly pointed out diesel additive is necessary to keep the fuel liquid. We have learned that even though we treat our fuel it remains very cold. Cold diesel doesn’t completely burn and the exhaust can be very smokey and very smelly.
I am the author of two RV books, one of which is published by Woodalls and hundreds of RV articles. My husband and I have been fulltiming for ten years. I have to say that this is the best article that I have EVER read on full-timing. We have come to the same conclusions that you have…even after 10 years. Great job! I will be sharing with my group of 5000+ Rvers.
2017 Update – YES. We still feel the same way. Clubs are only useful IF you make use of them. There are RV folks who love their club memberships (e.g. Thousand Trails members who do nothing but stay at Thousand Trails), but for our type of camping (mostly public land, lots of State Parks etc) they simply haven’t made sense. The only membership clubs we currently have are Harvest Hosts, Escapees & Passport America. I always recommend that newbies wait on joining any camping clubs until they’ve spent some time on the road and figured out how they like to travel. Read more about my take on Camping Clubs HERE.
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.
Great information! My husband and I just purchased our first motorhome, a Thor Challenger 37GT that has 3 slide outs. We will be full timers and will be living in the rv in the cold, cold (and hot in the summer) Midwest for the next couple of years until we retire and head out to see the country. My question is, how do we keep the slide areas warm in the winter? Would you skirt the bottom of the rv, then also skirt around the slides? Or is there a way to insulate around the slide when it’s out? Looking forward to comments. Thanks!
Propane heaters are awesome and most RVs come standard with them. But the fan that runs the propane furnace is extremely draining on your battery (most normal deep cycle 12v batteries will only last about 8 hours). Once you kill your battery, you lose your lights and heat, and you’ll have to find a source of electricity to get a full charge again. Propane furnaces also fail often, and if your only heater fails, you’re in big trouble.
Hence the idea started brewing about first downsizing then freeing up time and money and, finally, traveling. We had been planning to homeschool the kids since our oldest was 2, so that opened a huge door since we weren’t stuck on the school schedule. My husband had a job in IT which meant he was working remote 1 day a week and could potentially do more remote work or find another job which offered that.
Remember, look for areas most likely to lose heat, windows, doors, seals, and reinforce them with additional insulation. Consider investing in some portable electric heaters to keep warm without burning through all of your fuel, and make sure you wrap any and all water pipes in insulation and then electrical heat tape. If you don't have any other option than to ride out the winter, you can keep warm and safe, and Carolina Coach & Marine, serving Asheville, NC, and Spartanburg, SC, is ready to help you do it. Visit our dealership, or set an appointment with our service department, and let our staff help you prepare for the coldest months.
Full-timing can be done in many different ways, and whether or not a young couple needs a big nest egg depends entirely on how much money they can earn on the road. Someone with a mobile, high paying profession, like contract nursing, doesn’t need a big nest egg. Someone that will be relying on work camping at campgrounds and RV parks may want more in the bank to handle emergencies that will require more money than their salary can provide.
Every RV comes with a manual and you two should spend some quality time together. Learn your way around the electrical system and the fuse box. Don’t be intimidated by basic plumbing. Be prepared to patch leaks in the roof and around windows and doors with sealants. Establish a routine to perform the annual chores recommended by the manual. These are not onerous tasks, but essential ones to making life easy on the road.
Welcome to the blog! We know lots of fulltime families out there on the road, home-schooling and seeing the country. If you haven’t connected already I highly recommend Ditching Surburbia, and Fulltime Families. Both resources are focused on fulltime RV families on the road, and have LOTS of info for you. Ditching Surburbia, in particular has traveled fulltime with their teenage son & daughter for years. I met them a few years ago…lovely family!
There were also build sheets, diagrams for each fuse box and information on roadside assistance. We referenced all the information many times throughout our first year of RV living. When a fuse goes out at 1a.m., you’ll want to know which fuse box to check. Our first RV had four fuse/breaker boxes and two of them were outside. When it’s pouring rain outside, it’s not fun to run around wondering which breaker box to check.