Depending on your RV's design, you may need to take extra steps to protect your fresh water and holding tanks from freezing. In milder climates, where the temperature routinely rises above freezing during the day, you can usually get by with draining your fresh tank and simply keeping both the gray and black tank valves closed until you need to dump them. If it gets down into the single digits at night and rarely rises above freezing during the day, then you will almost have to insulate and/or heat your tanks or use significant amounts of RV antifreeze in them to keep things flowing…. If you are parked for a while, tank insulation for exposed holding tanks can be fabricated from fiberglass insulation and light plywood… just build a small lightweight box around the tank and line it with fiberglass. A small electric light bulb can be used to provide a safe source of heat.
Chip took Penni to a used RV lot just to “check it out” in 2015, but they ended up buying a 395-square foot camper they call “Daisy.” They say they love this lifestyle now and have no plans to return to a typical home. Penni is selling her condo in Montpelier because they don’t think they’ll need it anymore. They track how many states they have been to on a map on the side of their RV. The current tally is 25.
The eclipse was one of the most intense and beautiful 2 minutes and 20 seconds of my life. It was sublime in the truest sense of the word. Mind blowing. My body buzzed for a full 30 minutes afterwards. The moment when the last sliver of sun disappeared, that moment of totality when I took off my glasses, was like instantly being transported to another world. Everything familiar but so different. Completely surreal. A 360 degree sunset. And the corona of the sun… No words. Just awe.
Leading up to the eclipse I was ho-hum. It seemed like people has been talking about it for months and months. Friends of ours were going to a fulltime RV family solar eclipse meet-up in Oregon but I thought it was just a fun little excuse to get together or a theme or something. I just didn’t get the hype. As a child, I remembered seeing a partial eclipse and feeling underwhelmed. Then two weeks ago, I decided to look up what all the fuss was about and learned that this eclipse was special because it was going to cut across the entire United States. Cool. I also looked at the map and saw that the path of totality was crossing not too far north of us in Wyoming. I really wasn’t sure what the path of totality meant but a road trip sounded fun. Still we had just gotten back from a two month road trip and Thing 1 had only been back in school a week. Certainly, it wouldn’t be worth pulling him out for a day and driving five hours with toddlers for a two-minute and twenty-second show in the sky. After all, we would see nearly 90% covered in the Springs. How much better could 10% be?
We quickly learned that we didn’t like that he had to be at the table working all day while the kids and I were out exploring all of these amazing places! Plus, having to go back to Wisconsin was expensive and limiting how far we could travel. California is quite a drive from Wisconsin, especially if you want to go back and forth. The cost of him flying back alone would add up, not to mention I just did not want him leaving us for a week.
I have a very unique situation, I think. I hope you can read the basics here and give me some advice. Single mom, works seasonally. I home school and already work in remote areas. This would be perfect, but what about winter? What happens if the power goes out? Does gas cost a ton? I have a ton of questions, but don’t want to write on a message board, can you email me ?
There are other flexible costs which are smaller than these two, but can also be managed to match your individual needs. This includes things such as groceries, entertainment, electronics, gifts and clothing. In our case we spend about the same on groceries as we did before we hit the road (we love our food), somewhat less on entertainment and electronics, and way, way less on clothing (we don’t need much of a wardrobe on the road!).
Spray the bottom of the camper with spray foam. This isn’t something I can recommend from personal experience; it’s just something I know some people do. If I were going to do it, though, I would want to make sure I didn’t do any spraying that would prevent me from accessing certain systems if they needed repair. An alternative is to attach foam board insulation to the bottom of the RV.
We are just in the planning stages, our house is for sale, I’m dividing things up between our children and selling or storing the rest. We’ve found the 5th wheel we want and the house is for sale, really looking forward to this new adventure. We’ve had a 5th wheel before but only for occasional trips. All your information is so helpful, will be back often to see what else is new. From cold, snowy Canada
I have homeschooled for a few years, and some of these things are already true for us (particularly the showing, dressing, and 24/7 with each other). But the others I am excited for for our own future. We have our house on the market, and are down to 2 travel trailers we may purchase. Reading your posts has made me even more excited to get started!
The highlight of our travels this year was visiting our 49th state, Alaska! During the long drive through Canada and Alaska, we listened to many audiobooks like Call of the Wild, White Fang, Hatchet, and Jason’s Gold as we drove through and visited many of the places in the stories. Thing 2 also developed a fascination with gold panning so he spent many hours reading about gold panning and then gave it a try himself near Girdwood and Chicken, Alaska. Roadschooling at its best!!!
Doug – every dollar we spent over the year was included so this is realistic for us and how we travel…as stated in the post: RV living costs will vary depending on the number of people, pets, life style, spending habit, and other factors. Yes we wrap various items in the Misc category but we do have the Jeep/RV expenses listed on its own line in the avg monthly costs… RV/Tow Car: $132 oil changes and supplies. If you’re interested in more detail, check out our monthly expense reports and it will break our costs down further – including what we spent on Misc items that month: https://weretherussos.com/cost-of-living-full-time-in-a-rv/
$2,500 Insurance: Includes RV insurance, Car insurance, Life Insurance, Renter’s Insurance (to cover our belongings at home), Jewelry Insurance, and a Rider policy for camera/computer gear. We switched to State Farm Insurance halfway through the year and it saved us nearly $75+ per month vs. Geico and Progressive. We do not currently have health insurance, I know don’t yell at us… (est. savings $900)
This item is here because it is a regular part of the boondocking lifestyle (you’ve gotta go every two to three weeks at a minimum). Many RV dump stations are free, but if you have to go to an RV park to dump the tanks because there aren’t any free ones nearby, it will generally cost anywhere from $5 to $15. Our RV dump station page has other tips and tricks related to managing the holding tanks.
We typically try to cook our meals from the RV. Typically our groceries are less than $100 per week. On travel days, we tend to grab fast food or “cheap eats” for convenience, and only eat out at restaurants 2-3 times a month. We also included the cost of dog food because well, they are our children and that means there are 2 extra mouths for us to feed!
I only had one fire truck called on me. I was shopping in the grocery store and the intercom came on with a man saying, “License plate Y-RENT, your vehicle is on fire.” I finished shopping, checked out, and walked outside to see about 70 people pointing at my RV and a fire truck with firefighters pulling up. I told the firefighters that I just had a wood stove going inside the camper and everything was fine (I thought the chimney would make it pretty obvious, but I guess some of the bystanders didn’t know any better).
Hi Nina and Paul, Fantastic job on your blog; has answered so many questions for us. Kathy and I tend to plan well in advance for such ventures as full time RV’ers.. Being in the starting planning changes, one topic that seems to come up quite a bit is RV length with regards to parks that RV length “issues”. We are looking at the next year or two to sell the “bricks, sticks and mortar”. One question maybe you can answer from your travel experience is the 40′ length issues at some parks with regards to a motor home, how does that compare to, for example a 38 ft. 5th wheel and along with 18′ length of a double cab truck needed to pull it? Does the combined length of the 5th wheel and truck come into play in some or most places, i.e. setting the 5th wheel and where does one typically park the truck, in line, along side? Guess that does not matter when boon-docking. Would appreciate your feedback … regards…. Roman
So glad to hear that there is some young life out on the road. My family and I have been full-timing for about 8 months, but have been parked for a good portion of it. We have an almost 2 year old little girl that doesn’t seem to mind the smaller space. I was wondering if along the way you have noticed any “childproof” ideas that you would like to share. Our little peanut specifically likes to play with all the low switches (lights, water pump, fans) and the navigation/radio/jack system buttons. She is curious (and 2!) so we understand, but would really like for little hands to play with little kid things instead of important gadgets.
All our Fifth Wheels and Travel Trailers are “Extended Stay Approved”. This means that we have engineered them with many of the residential-style qualities found in a fine home. To this end, we have created spacious open living areas and appointed them with extra large windows, large refrigerators, walk in closets, large queen/king beds and many other home-like amenities.
We’ve always talked about it but about a month ago my husband and I started seriously planning a year-long road trip through central America with our two little ones (2yo and 10 months) We aren’t planning to leave for about another 18 months but over the last week, I’ve started to get increasingly nervous about the practicalities of day-to-day life on the road. I think the universe is trying to tell me something because I just listened to Bryanna’s interview on the Zero to Travel Podcast and then saw this post in a Facebook group! It is possible. Back to the map!! 🙂
We’ve been researching and really love the 1980’s Excella models, particularly the 34 footer with the double beds in the back. We have all sorts ideas to customize it to fit our family and personality. The downside, besides the lack of slide outs, are the prices of older Airstreams are all over the map and good deals sell really fast. Seriously, we saw the exact trailer we wanted for $7200 but it sold the night before we called. The same models are ranging from 9K t0 20K and upwards! The upside is Airstreams are well built and hold their value.
Thank you a summary of your “road” costs. What folks generaly believe is somehow life is cheaper doing something else then what they are doing now. But we have a perpensty to do what is always do no matter what. Just because you are on the road dosn’t mean you have changed your personality. My wife and I are more like you folk so I’m guessing my expenses will be more in line with your summary.
My husband and I are thinking of doing this he’s a disabled veteran I know he can stay in most RV parks free or reduced fee. He is worried about medications we need on the road I told him we can do Meds by mail . I’m figuring it out slowly but I think we’ll be on the road by next year.. Should we be afraid of this due to health issues? He tests his own inr at home he is on warfarin. He had a brain tumor in 2009 but I my needs an MRI once every 2 years. He does have leukemia but was told to check blood work next year no treatment needed at this point or maybe never? So with all of that said should we or shouldn’t we?
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.
Just like anything in life, you can’t please everyone and everyone doesn’t have the same amount of money Which makes this country great. In the US you can work hard and succeed. And those that don’t have nobody to blame but themselves and government that takes so much from those that do work hard. I just found your site and am hoping to find out the cost of going full timing. My hubby and I have no idea what the costs would be or how to determine how much we will need to live our life on the road. I’m hoping reading your site will give me more insight. What would be really nice is a book that gives a good idea what to expect. We have our unit already, after many tries I think we found the one that will serve us the best. If anyone knows of any books on this matter please let me know.
Someone briefed over the Webasto heating system a while back and they do work great but use a bit more fuel than makes me comfortable. I saw a guy who uses a system from an RV hot water tank and ran much diluted antifreeze through it. Piped it through hot water radiators in the unit and built a system of black pipe around the engine block giving it just enough heat to keep the engine warm. He heated the coach and engine with that and only used the pilot light on the propane water heater. There was also a reservoir in the coach where he could ad more water or antifreeze if required and it radiated a ton of heat. Now, before building this, I would want to discuss it with someone much smarter than I am because I thought it was not too bright to heat antifreeze in this manner before it boiled. Everything was circulated with a little pump that drew its power from a small wind generator not much larger than that for a bicycle lamp and charged a little independent battery which he drew the power with. When I seen this it was dam cold out -40 and very warm in the coach (thermostat by open vent) Cheap heat and I am not sure what I am going to do but the areas I am in, your heater will be great and I can access lots of wood but might check out this other method also. My holding tanks, fresh and grey can all be built into the coach of the cube van.
For my kids, having friends that dont change with the scenery and being involved in extracurricular activities is something that I consider essential to their development. Is it possible to live and travel in an RV full time and still give your kids the social experiences and social stability they’d have if they were living full time in one community?
Their kids are raised and living their own lives now, so this couple is living it up now! They are what you’l consider luxury RVers and they are proud of it. They travel and live full-time in their beautiful and spacious Fifth Wheel Toyhauler with their spoiled cat. This couple still works from the road and finds time to enjoy outdoor adventure and tourist activities.. They typically stay in one place for a month, which gives them a much better rate at the RV resorts they stay at. They have no desire to boondock because they love the convenience of full hook ups and various amenities. Now, that’s the life!
Settling down has been a kind of divorce. The dreams we had of our future have changed drastically. The way an identity can get wrap up in a spouse, much of Brent and I’s identity, naturally, got wrapped up into being nomads. Over the last year we have been fumbling around trying to figure who we are as suburbanites. I’m not intending to minimize divorce. One way to look at divorce is “a complete separation of two things.” Our two lives, the one on the road and the one in a house, are so completely different, so separate, and so often, very lonely.
Brent and I gave it our best to make full time RVing work for them as teens. We met up with road friends and family regularly. We traveled with other families when the opportunity arose. We spent two winters in the mountains snowboarding. We took Thing 1 to a music camp. We sought out opportunities for Thing 2 to pursue interests like gold panning. We let them have a say in the travel planning. We found online classes when we felt like we couldn’t meet their educational needs.
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.
If you’ve got the girl, what sounds like a relatively compatible possible future career path, and are willing to live minimally, this could certainly all work out for you. Getting a vanagon in Alabama or somewhere in the south would be likely cheaper, but your options will be much more vast in Washington and Oregon. Just watch for rust, the ocean isn’t kind to these old girls.
28. RVing teaches you to fix things. I hoped I was going to be rich enough to pay a mechanic all the time. That strategy hasn’t worked out for me yet, so now I know how to flush my radiator, fix my generator, check gauges, and a lot of other manly stuff I couldn’t do before. I even recently outfitted our Honda CR-V for proper towing, Dad would be proud.
I Have just spent almost 2hrs reading your posts, thank you thank you and to all who replied. I am in the process of getting rid of stuff, my target date is end of July or first of Aug to take off after selling my house and car. Planning of buying a Class C 20′ to 30′ gently used. I am 81 and ready to go. I have two pages of notes from this blog so far. Thanks again Pat
Good post Nina…but I’m a little skeptical about 3500 being a reasonable budget unless you either boondock/workamp a lot…or don’t go out much. I won’t say money is no object for Connie and I…but we’re plenty comfortable due to long term investing when we were younger…my guess based on talking to folks in general for the past 5 years is that we’re probably better off financially than 80% of the full timers we run into…not to brag about it but just giving you a little flavor for this post. We’ve averaged 30.46 a night since summer of 12 for about 925 a month in parking…plus another 80-100 a month from Nov to April for power at our winter site. From actual 2016 expenses…add in DirectTV, phone data plan, and MiFi data plan and that’s another 500 a month or so. 450 a month for groceries, 345 for eating out, 120 for brews at the Elks, 275 for diesel fuel (we do about 10K miles a year on our truck)…that’s already up to 2700 a month not including medical insurance and bills, misc other stuff, and any repairs on rig or truck or vehicle expenses. While we could economize on some of those…our average for 2016 was about 6700 a month (that doesn’t include our truck payment which comes directly out of our investments and is our only expenditure from investments currently). We could economize of course…eating out and too many brews at the Elks could somewhat go away if needed and we could get that probably down to 300 instead of 500 without feeling too deprived. Like you said…what you spend depends on you…and how much you got but we at least would feel pretty cramped by a 3500 a month budget.
One fine winter day, the campground had a problem with something that caused them to turn off the water temporarily. While they were doing their repairs, the water froze under the ground in the park. And that was that. The pipes were made of PVC, so they could not be heated to get the water flowing again. We were all out of luck until it warmed up. A good couple months of winter RVing, minimum.
AirBnB apartment rentals car rental Ecuador Europe expat life Facebook Germany gifts for travelers Golf Greece ground transportation Hawaii Hiking house sitting Italy Japan local style travel lodging long term travel Malta Mildenhall military benefits military style travel Monterey National Parks Normandy packing Patriot Express Philippines Ramstein resources retirement lifestyles Rota RV travel slow travel space-A travel Spain Technology Thailand Travel apps travel gear travel tips U.S travel year of travel
The various RVs were scattered about a sheet of ice. It was treacherous walking. Our neighbors were predominately construction workers with pick up trucks in abundance. We all had problems getting in and out with those, and sometimes had to park at the office for fear of not getting back out from the sites the next day. So moving the RV was not an option.
Then there is boondocking, where you basically stay on BLM land or National Forests for free (check out campendium.com regardless of what kind of camping you think you want to do). There are no hookups, so you need a generator (which increases gas consumption) or a solar power setup (and having both is typically necessary, since the sun doesn’t shine everywhere, every day). The cost is often free, or very cheap, to stay at these places.
Tim you are certainly impressing the hell out of me. I love what you are doing and have been doing the same for about the last 6 months, however, in a much smaller unit. Mine is a truck and older style pop up camper. The winter in the mountains I have been in are far too cold for an old fool like me but I made it work with a few nights in motels and a couple of trips back to the shack for a few days and a couple of weeks on a stretch but for the most part, the camper was home. The morning jumping up and lighting the stove top naked was no fun either.
I just found your blog on Pinterest, and learned some important tips. My retirement fantasy is to RV full-time and follow the warm weather through Canada and the US for a few years. I’ve just bought a 5th wheel that will be staying put in a nearby RV park for three or four years until I can afford a tow vehicle, but I’m very excited to experience RV life. Since I’m in Canada, that won’t be until next Spring, but is something to keep me busy planning for during the winter.
Anyway, clearly Kent speaks from experience and the deep thought given to solving the problems he faced with the tech and budget available to him in an extreme environment. I’m impressed. Another point I want to commend Kent on is how he has the wits to know how important it is to present a clean and organized exterior with accouterments that suggest the owner actually contributes to the local economy…. Look forward to how he adapts to the desert next!
My only issue with this article is the title “The real costs” which implies that you are about to tell us that full time RVing is not as cheap as some people might think. Instead you provided your expenses which I would speculate are much higher than the average. As a number of people mentioned your lot rent is perhaps two to three times higher than the typical rent.
My credentials? I’ve taught winter camping and I have camped outdoors at -25F with normal (not arctic) gear. That’s a good way to learn how to deal with cold. At temperatures below zero F even the moisture in firewood can be a problem! There are solutions, of course. However, I don’t want to deal with this as a RVer. If I did, I’d simply get a basic truck camper, improve it, and then sleep outdoors with a good fire.
When we first started RVing we signed up to just about every camping club out there, Sam’s Club, Escapees, Club USA etc. In retrospect (again because of where/how we like to camp) these were not worth it. The only camping club I currently consider is Passport America, mostly for short stops and I do like the Escapees Days End list, but even these have mostly been replaced by overnight “freebies” when we need them. The rest of the time we’re out in nature/boonies where club memberships do not go. For some people clubs are great and they can certainly be cost saving if you make use of them, but for us they’ve simply not made the cut.
In addition, we get to utilize the mortgage interest off our RV payment as a tax deduction (it’s a second mortgage if you have a bathroom—see IRS laws). Besides the memories we make starting from the moment we drive out of our driveway, we are making our money go further. That means more money for more vacations! In addition you will save even more money making your own meals on your travels. Can you say “Ca-ching!”
While neither of us were ever crazy planners, Kerensa did like to have a general plan of where we were going and what was around when we got there. Sometimes that skill still comes in handy like planning for the Florida Keys, but for the most part, we don't make reservations anymore. We prefer to stay loose with our plans and be able to adjust quickly to meet friends, dodge weather, or choose a destination on a whim!