I’ve had several eager 20-something future full-timers email me saying they wanted to live in an RV after college because they didn’t want to throw away money on rent and they didn’t think buying a house would be a good investment. Unfortunately, an RV involves “throwing away” lots of money too. In the end, the cost of owning an RV — from purchase to sale and through the thick and thin of all the maintenance and repairs in between, not to mention the cost of campgrounds and RV parks — probably adds up to the same amount as renting an apartment or paying a mortgage/taxes plus utilities.
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.
While part-time RVers may love “Home is where you part it” yard signs, cute camper trinkets, and adorable awning lights, the full-time RVer may be less enthusiastic about such gifts. The simple reason most full time RVers are concerned about space and weight and only carry what they really need or love. When your RV is your home, it forces you to be very selective about your belongings. Ask your favorite RVers if there is anything that they need or if you are unsure stick with gift cards or consumables. Please don’t gift your full-time RVing friend or family member large bulky items without asking first. If you really must purchase them a large gift that you think will be just perfect, buy it from a nationwide chain store and include a gift receipt. It’s not that full timers aren’t appreciative, it’s just the reality of living in a small mobile space!
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.
Typically there is one main bay that holds your black/grey/fresh tanks, your sewer connections, water pump, water filter, etc. This is the MOST important bay to keep warm. I purchased a tiny 200 watt (1.8 x 4.3 x 6.1 inches) ceramic heater and leave it running in the bay during freezing temperatures. It pulls about 5 amps and keeps all my pipes warm (exterior temp 20 degrees, inside bay 50 degrees). Some people recommend hanging a work light in the bay: I tried this and the bulb melted the plastic bay, and my water still froze so I don’t recommend this option.
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.

By supplementing heat from stove top, you can also further reduce your electric usage, and when running on batteries, that is very important, especially if you dont recharge them often, (or move vehicle often). If you feel more confortable buying a wall heater, and plumbing the propane line and mounting it somewhere, fine too, but stovetop is a LOT easier, cheaper, requires no installation or storage of the heater appliance and same benefit.
Why we recommend the Heartland Sundance fifth wheel: When it comes to looking for something truly lightweight but spacious, few fifth wheels can offer a dry weight of a mere 8307 pounds and be 30 feet long (view the Sundance 269TS). This itself makes it a perfect camper for couples looking for fifth wheels for full time living as it can only have 2 people. Of course, if you’re interested in the larger ones, floorplans such as the Sundance 3700RLB and the Sundance 3710MB are available as well!
For those concerned about dental and medical care on the road, another option is to zip across America’s southern border to get good dental/medical care in Mexico. We have gotten a lot of excellent dental care in Mexico, both in our lives as RVers and our lives as boaters living in Mexico. We have detailed information about dental care in Mexico at this link:
Track your expenses. I just recently started doing this, and it really puts things in perspective. I use this Google sheet to track all my income and expenses (just go to “File” -> “Make a copy” so you can edit it). Once you see where you’re spending too much, it’s easier to cut back! Plus, it makes you think twice before spending (do I really want to track this?).
The answer to this one is tricky. We’ve found tons of places we could see ourselves living in the future, but right now we just aren’t at a point where we want to settle down quite yet. Top of our list is Nashville, TN, mostly because we’ve made a lot of great friendships in that town and we would have a lot of awesome community. But we’re still definitely keeping our eyes open for more great places to live.
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.)

Thanks for reaching out. Please visit this page: http://alansills.com/home/tracking-my-travels-with-send-out-cards/ on which I do get into a bit how you earn in Send Out Cards. I also encourage you to test drive it. Feel free to contact me and I can walk you through sending a card and seeing how it all works. I’m also happy to discuss if you wish to contact me in person to elaborate further on just how money is earned in Send Out Cards.
Typically there is one main bay that holds your black/grey/fresh tanks, your sewer connections, water pump, water filter, etc. This is the MOST important bay to keep warm. I purchased a tiny 200 watt (1.8 x 4.3 x 6.1 inches) ceramic heater and leave it running in the bay during freezing temperatures. It pulls about 5 amps and keeps all my pipes warm (exterior temp 20 degrees, inside bay 50 degrees). Some people recommend hanging a work light in the bay: I tried this and the bulb melted the plastic bay, and my water still froze so I don’t recommend this option.

To let you know what kind of weather we’re preparing for in our RV, a typical winter day in this part of the country is below freezing at night and above freezing during the day.  Usually we will get a couple of weeks each year where the high temperatures don’t get above freezing and the lows are close to zero, but we rarely get sub-zero temperatures.  And although we usually get at least some snow and possibly ice, the snow doesn’t stay on the ground for more than a few days.
Recently my wife and I have been thinking that it would be really fun to RV full-time, since right now we just seem to sit at home. We have always loved traveling, so it would be perfect to have our own space. It sounds like it can be a fairly good idea for those with some good retirement set aside. First, we should probably start looking around at nice RVs to see if we can find anything that we like. I will also see if we need to get things like internet put in, as well as looking at any other features that we may need added. Thanks for the great post!
Amy, we do shoot videos and photos along the way for pay that we don’t show on our blog; that is Jason’s chosen profession. As for me (nikki) I knew I would not be a makeup artist on the road. It’s impossible to do exactly what I did from the road. I was always on location for production/advertising work that would require me to be in a central location. So now, I market myself as on camera talent, writer and edit photos.
Within the first few weeks of owning it I blew a tire and had to replace all 6 ($1000). The next month, the catalytic converter needed to be replaced ($750), the original kitchen faucet snapped off and had to be replaced (I did it myself for $65, but it took all day because of a broken gasket in the water line I had a hard time finding at the hardware store), the house battery had to be replaced  – twice! ($290) and I’ve had to replace a fuse for my radio and odometer several times (and now it’s shorting out to the point of danger, so it has to be fixed…. soon!)
It took a long time. Three days of about four hours a day with a few breaks for phone calls, snacks, and to track down a tiny dog who thinks she can chase bighorn sheep up on the cliffs. But finally, I was done. One end had two cords (one for the 30-foot length and one for the 6-foot length) and the other end had one cord (for the other 30-foot length).
You videos are so enjoyable to watch and informative. The series on the composting toilet has convinced us to put one in our 1965 Airstream Tradewind that is in the process of having body work done before we put her back together for longer future trips. For now, we will head South in our 19 foot Airstream Globetrotter with our three border collies.
I see someone asked a similar question, but maybe you just missed it. My girlfriend and I are nurses and we’re about to travel. We’re thinking an RV is the right move for us and I’m trying to figure out what its going to cost. We don’t have much money saved for something like this, we pay student loans of course! It appears you’re not financing your RV, is this the case or do you keep your payment to yourselves? I just dont know if its crazy to think that people are financing say, a 150k RV over 10 years at 1500 a month. Is this what a reasonable couple does? Or is that wacky?

Choose campgrounds and RV parks that only have amenities you plan to take advantage of during your stay. Generally, the more services and amenities a campground has, the more it's going to cost. Campsite fees don't have to break the bank. State parks are a great low-cost option, as are many RV parks. Look here to find a campground or consider travel apps to help you find the campground that best suits your need.

7. RV’s aren’t air tight. I don’t care if you’re in a $2,000,000 bus or a $5,000 trailer your RV is not sealed like a bricks and sticks home. Cold air leaks in under the slides, permeates through the walls, and seeps through the windows. If you plan to stay in freezing weather for an extended period of time locate those drafty areas and throw a blanket over them. For our Windy it’s amazing how much cold air comes in through the entry door area, so I cover the stairwell with a piece of board and my rug at night.

This morning as I lay in bed awake but with my eyes closed, I listened to Thing 4 breathing near my cheek and felt the warmth of Brent’s body against my back. The night had been rough with Thing 3 waking up multiple times in tears and Thing 4 needing to be nursed for what seemed like a million times. But now with the soft grey light curling around the blinds, everyone but me was sleeping soundly. It was cozy. I didn’t want to wake up because that meant letting go of the comforting blanket of peace that surrounded us and embracing the everyday chaos of taking care of a toddler, baby, and two teens. Instead, I thought about how whole and safe I feel in our nest of a bed tucked away in the slide out of the RV. Eyes still closed, I reached out to tighten the curtain when my hand abruptly fell through the imagined wall.


I live in L.A. Cali and the rents are expensive, try buying a property-forget it!.. Specially for an average Joe making less than 35k a year. I got be a 1997 30’ft. RV that I live in it full time and I pay 400 dollars a month rent to the homeowner of the property to let me camp on his empty back yard.I know I tried to live on the public streets,but it’s too much of a hassle because that RV can’t be just put on one location of public street, the city parking enforcement will cite you, as well gang bangers would vandalize your home/RV.So one day I decided to post on craigslist and a man replied to let me park and live on his backyard for 400bucks a month which he kindly let’s me use his side house restroom (keep my RV restroom clean and unused) and electricity for general purpose ,Except for anytime I need my AC (I USE MY GENERATOR).Im just a basic Joe, I cut on renting small rooms for the same price, but I have more space and better independence. I usually ride my bicycle to work and public transportation (I hardly spend on gas).. Also, I have WiFi internet I get from his home, which he charges extra 20 bucks. I have a laundromat couple feet away from this property, so I just walk with my cart basket on Sundays. Life is great and inexpensive. Yea, renting an apartment in a bad/ghetto area of L.A. COULD cost around 800 to 1,000 a month. Im better off renting on a private property in a Nice safer neighbor hood.
Never allow your black tank to freeze unless you want to deal with a disgusting mess. Use a PVC pipe for your sewer hose – it’ll have less chance of freezing than a regular hose. If you plan on leaving the tank hooked up, add a layer of insulation around the sewer pipe. However, it’s a good idea to keep your tank closed until it needs to be dumped.
Winter RVing is loads of fun, but figuring out how to stay warm in an RV on those chilly winter mornings and long cold dark evenings makes all the difference between having a great time and wishing you were in a house. Going to a southern state is a good start, but it may not always fit with your overall full-time RVing itinerary. You might get caught in an early winter storm, like we did in one year in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Or you might get whipped by a blizzard on your way south, as has happened to some of our snowbirding friends who wanted to celebrate the holidays at home in Montana before trekking south to Arizona in January.
Stainless Steel Wine Glasses – When we hit the road in our RV, we brought along our wine glasses. It didn’t take long until they all broke and we were drinking wine out of mugs. We put these stainless steel glasses on our wish list but ended up just drinking from mugs because we are classy like that. These are the only things on the list that we don’t own but wish we did. (Ahem) We think these would make a great gift for RVers even part-time ones. 😉

Even for the rare folks who RV full-time with unlimited cash, getting by on less money becomes ingrained in the RV lifestyle. Tracking spending and working from a budget becomes second nature on the road. Before you head out get in the habit of logging daily spending on everything to learn where money goes. And check in with experienced RVers for advice – and get ready to write down ideas fast because every RVer has favorite tips to stretch dollars on the road.
To break the cycle I needed to let myself grieve. It felt silly to grieve something that I realize I was very fortunate to experience like grieving a stain on a designer blouse. You know, first world problems. But judging my feelings only served to keep me on the disconnected emotional hamster wheel. So now I let myself grieve as needed and try to suspend judgment on my feelings.
​Variable expenses are the ones that fluctuate from month to money and in RVLife you actually have a LOT of control over these expenses. As you’ll see in our Lodging/Camping expenses category, we have been able to significantly decrease this expense over the years by getting better at free boondocking and utilizing RV Clubs like Boondockers Welcome, Harvest Hosts, and Thousand Trails. However, if you decide to park in an RV Resort in downtown San Diego for example, it could cost you upwards of $1000 per month. 

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.
Totally depends on HOW you travel. I have male buddies who travel in vans that live this lifestyle for around $12,000 per year (look up ToSimplify, CheapRVLiving and Van-Tramp in my blog links), and I have friends who use much, much more. I would say you can do it on anything from $1,000/mo to $5,000/mo depending on how far you travel, where you stay, how frugal you are etc.
Bus/RV: We have a full-timers policy on our bus that is kinda like a combined home-owners and auto policy ($1018/yr), and annual tag fees for our personalized speciality plates ($110/yr). As of 2013, we are registered and insured out of Florida – and we have limited full coverage options for a restored vintage bus conversion (our policy is through National General – and our agent is Epic-Insurance – Gina is awesome, give her a call!)
This change in the rhythm of life ultimately affects how you spend your money. You begin to realize that this is not a vacation, so you can’t spend money as if it were. You begin to slow down and appreciate the truly priceless pleasures, like a quiet morning reading a book, or an afternoon hike that has no other purpose than to smell the fresh air.
Our second year of homeschooling, we enrolled the boys in a new a hybrid classical school. It was a fantastic year blending the best of both worlds. The boys were home with us four days a week and went to school three days a week. They got the benefits of a classroom setting, like positive peer pressure (and a teacher who could keep up with Latin) and I got a break. Since I didn’t need to create schedules, choose curriculum, and find social opportunities our homeschool days were even more relaxed. The one thing I would have changed about this year was math. At the time, the school used Saxton which turned out to be a poor fit for both boys. Not only was it boring but it was less advanced than their previous curriculum. When we went back to homeschooling the following year we had to go back a year in Singapore.
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.
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