Having a wood stove allows you to heat and cook without propane, oil, or electricity, which means you truly have an off-grid setup. A wood stove will keep you warm, the wood heat will dry the air out in the RV, which will help get rid of condensation from breathing and cooking. There are not many wood stoves out there that will work in an RV. I personally chose a Kimberly wood stove, because it only weighs 56 lbs and it’s extremely efficient. There are a few other companies out there (such as Marine wood stoves, which are a little cheaper, but you get what you pay for).
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.
However, this is extremely personal. We are of the mentality of having a solid savings account before heading off. Stuff is going to come up: you’ll need new tires, or a new transmission, or you’ll decide you want a huge battery bank with solar and a monster inverter. You’ll want some money socked away to handle these issues as they arrive. A lot of young RVers are living paycheck to paycheck, and they have a tough time making their savings account grow. While that can be fun and exciting (and it certainly works for some people), we recommend having a solid amount of money in savings first. We didn’t feel comfortable leaving until we had $20k+ in our savings. What if you’re unemployed for a few months? What if something big goes out? We think it’s better to be prepared. There’s no one dollar amount that’s going to be ideal for everyone, but we think it’d be smart to have 6-12 months of living expenses in your savings account before heading off.
The key to our survival is good communication. There is limited room in an RV and it will start to feel small fast. If you’re frustrated or angry with each other, that space will feel even smaller. Sure you can take a walk, sit outside for a while or jump in the car (if you tow one) and go for a drive, but temporary distance won’t solve the issues.
Theresa first let me say YOU GO GIRL! Lots of women travel alone, so you won’t be the only one but many women are too afraid to travel alone, so yeah for being brave! I would join a group like NuRvers and/or fulltime families. There are lots of great people to meet up with along the way so you will feel a part of a community and it gives you a broad group of people to reach out to if you are having any issues or questions.
I’ve been daydreaming about purchasing a 25′ Airstream trailer and hitting the road full time, and have enjoyed many of the posts on your site. Of all the posts across the blog, this is the one I’ve come to the most times as it’s rare to find such detailed and thorough listing of expenses, which is incredibly useful for a total newbie! Our lifestyles and spending habits seem similar, so I find myself returning to this page frequently while planning my would-be road finances.
I really appreciate the informative comments. My wife and I are tossing around the idea of selling our house and purchasing an RV. We’ll be able to afford to pay cash for a Class A motorhome or (for less fear of problems when sitting still long term) a top of the line camper trailer so payments are not part of our expenses. My greatest concern, as with most folks, is the monthly cost of staying in a campground. Can you enlighten me on what a “membership” might cost and which ones you would recommend…if indeed you do recommend joining a camping club. We’re not the type of people who would want to stay in a state or national park. Our income should allow us to stay where water, sewer and electricity is always supplied. We simply need to know if our daily expenses will outweigh what we now spend living at home…which is about $1,500 per month, including water, electric, cable, phone, groceries, three (paid for) cars and property tax. THANKS!!
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!
You may wish to put insulation around the waste hose to give the fluid more time to drain before the freezing temps cause a problem. I have seen people add heat tape to the drain hose also. I do NOT recommend that. Heat tape works fine on water lines that have water in them. Full lines are less likely to over heat. An empty sewer line may melt or scorch from the heat of a tape. There MAY be tapes made for this purpose, however I’ve never seen them.
Thanks so much for the tips. I am in the process of moving out of my 1650 sq. ft. house into a 32′ fifth wheel, which I have parked on my two-acre property. My granddaughter and hubby are moving into the house to help with the mortgage payments on the property. I won’t be traveling anywhere, just staying put in my own yard, but your tips are invaluable. Keep ’em coming!
Boondocking/Free: We enjoy mixing in a lot of boondocking. This might range from awesome places on public lands (BLM, National Forests, etc), staying in lower cost public campgrounds without hook-ups, ‘blacktop boondocking’ overnight in commercial parking lots or rest stops, to driveway surfing with friends & family (got bus parking? We love invitations!). These low/free cost stays not only bring our average cost down a lot, they’re some of our most memorable stays.
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.
Honestly if you’re looking at a loan to buy a new RV, I would recommend scrapping that idea and looking at paying cash for a used, quality RV. RV’s depreciate like crazy, and new RV’s are mucho $$. There are tons of quality used rigs out there where you can get A LOT more for your money and still leave cash to spare for repairs and travel. Plus with a used rig most of the depreciation will be already accounted for, and you’ll get more back of your original $$ when you sell too.
I could live in my RV, either in my hangar — there’s plenty of room — or on my property where it was already parked and hooked up. The trouble with that was that my RV, the “mobile mansion” is not designed for cold weather living. To make matters worse, I had parked it 66 feet from my onsite water source and I knew the hose running in a makeshift conduit under my driveway was very likely to freeze.
I also found that the power steering fluid, transmission fluid and generator oil were bone dry, the engine oil desperately needed to be changed and I discovered that someone put the wrong fuel filter on, so now it’ll have to be cut off to be replaced (who knows how much that’ll cost!). It also now needs rear ABS service and the air conditioner wasn’t just a recharge, but the compressor is blown which will cost $1000. I knew an older RV would need work, but I didn’t expect it so soon…
Thanks for the financial breakdown, it’s very instructive. I appreciate your honesty! while I may think you spend some more than I may spend, I fully see the needs, that you guys have considering your particular circumstances. I am also a full time RVer. 32′ ’84 Itasca WindCrusier I love the old aerodynamic body style, but it’s nowhere near as roomy as the newer boxier models w/ slideouts. Because of it’s age and condition I’ve had to rebuild or repair or replace: Transmission, brakes, powersteering pump (includes power brakes), batteries, gas gauge sender, damaged ceiling from too heavy of a factory ac unit, Fridge. yet to repair: Fridge again, (gas side), furnace motor, cab heater to floor control (defrost works just fine) At this time in my life I do handyman work, currently doesn’t allow much full timing on the road. although I have taken time off between jobs to travel all over the Pacific Northwest from my base in Auburn, WA to Coeur d’Alene, ID, to Mountian Grove near Grant’s Pass, Or to Corvallis, to Portland to Windward near Goldendale, WA and back to Auburn for most of last summer.
Brrr!! It does sound like fun, though. Reminds me of the four winters I spent on a 36′ sailboat in Boston Harbor years ago. In November the dish detergent would solidify. We knew it was spring when it liquefied again until April! Every morning the edges of our sheets would be frozen to the hull because the condensation had iced up and we’d have to peel them away from the hull! Crazy but fun memories!!
Thanks for sharing your personal info with us all. One thing about this lifestyle is that you live it and learn as you go. What you did last year will not be what you do next year. Goodwill and other such places across the nation now have right much of the items we started out with. Pretty sure we aren’t done donating yet. See you out there someday.
I didn’t grow up thinking I would be an entrepreneur and it wasn’t a goal of mine until it was. Now that we have gone down this path it is empowering to see that we can make our own money. That we can set our own schedule, that we can sleep in on a Monday and work on a Sunday or really whenever we want to. The freedom is stressful, but also exciting!
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?
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.
Nikki, Thank you for your reply. I meant no disrespect by using the word “gibberish.” I appreciate all your videos and valuable information: So in your case, If I may ask, what was the cost of your current RV, the taxes, and the documentation fees? Did you purchase an extended warranty? What was the cost? Did you finance your motorhome? If so, for how many years? what is the interest rate? What is your current monthly payment? How much of the interest can you write off as a first or second home on your taxes? as a full time RVer is there a particular state I should be setting up a fictitious residence so I can save on taxes? For example in Oregon they do not have sales tax on cars or RV’s (that’s about a $10,000 savings on a $100,000 motorhome). Any idea what your current motorhome will be be worth when you sell it in 5 or 10 years? 25% less, 50% less. Once again I want to thank you for all your valuable information.
When I decided to live in an RV, I did a lot of research. I looked at YouTube videos and read a multitude of blogs and RV Living websites (Click here to view my favorites). Then I visited a couple RV dealers to see what’s available and pick the sales persons’ brains, knowing they’d be eager to make a sale and would spend a ton of time educating me. It was free training!
Wow!!!! have I ever enjoyed your written article,I will tell you you have a gift of writing.stay at it and enjoy your life style ,not too many folks have the kahoonas to do it ,me included, I do build some awesome custom traveling campers &wagons of Aluminum,spray foam sip insulated,wood facade rustic looking,lightweight . My product we call Woolywagons & Woolycabins. We also welcome tiny house dwellers here at our woodsy central Indiana lazyaa B&B Guest Ranch home of the Woolywagons custom built RVs I am 62 and love building and people and traveling with my horse.I have done some whitewater canoeing but Man you are one radical kayaker too too cool If ever in Indiana I would sure appreciate chewing the fat with you at our campfire.This invite is good for all of you
My mother always told me that if you don’t learn to live within your means, you never will. Meaning: if you can’t figure out how to life with the money you have, it doesn’t matter how much money you have – you’ll always need more. Now "never" is a strong word, but the moral is there - you have to look at your lifestyle and spending choices. If you're struggling for cash now, should you buy a brand new RV? Should you be paying $100+ a month for cable TV?
To make it feel just like home, Coachmen has also added numerous storage options and features such as a modern entertainment center made for a 50-55 inch TV, motion sensor lights, USB charging ports, 8 cubic foot refrigerator, 30-inch microwave, 21-inch oven, a ducted furnace. Of course, if you need even more out of your RV, there’s a lot of options that upgrade these features and add new ones. Check out the full list on the RV page for more details!
Heated Water Hose – You can make your own with heat tape and pipe insulation and this works pretty well, although on occasion we have seen people in the bathrooms warming up their frozen hoses during extreme cold snaps. I’d recommend just purchasing a good heated water hose. Camco has one on the market but it looks kinda cheap, from the heated hoses I’ve seen in person I’d recommend the Pirit Heated Hose as the construction and the warranty seem top notch.
My husband and I are currently living in Panama but have sold our home and will be moving back to travel the U.S. full-time in a motorhome early next year. More than one time you have said you wish you had gone with a smaller coach. We will want to boondock, camp in (or somewhere close to)all of the national parks, and in BLM land on occasion, etc.. But we are not opposed to staying in RV parks when needed. My question to you is: Do you think we can do that kind of traveling in a 43′ motorhome? We have done tons of research on the manufacturer and make we want to buy. Their 38′ and 40′ models just don’t have a layout that I think will work for us, especially since the 43′ seems to have everything we want in the right place.
How things change! Now we are ready to move into something smaller again. We want to sell our current rig and move into a 26 foot or smaller class C. We are getting to comfortable in our current rig so it is time to push the comfort zone again! Having a smaller rig will also mean less money (on gas, payments, maintenance, etc) and it means we can get in and out of places with less planning.
That's a tough question to answer because much depends on the choices you make which will depend on how and where you want to live. I have numerous articles about full timing that you can access by clicking on my pen name at the top of the article and then clicking on "profile" in the popup menu at the lower left side of your screen. You'll find many of the answers you seek in some of the articles that are listed there, and I suggest you take the time to read them. If you have never lived or traveled in an RV before, changing from home ownership to RVing can be quite complicated. Also, you're not going to want to "move" every week because doing so will exhaust you. The bottom line is that this probably would work for you if you take the time to do some homework and figure out what you can really afford.
If the distribution center is too hard to get to, you can opt to have the package shipped to a UPS Store or FedEx/Kinko’s store or other shipping store like MailBoxes Etc. The store will likely charge you a fee, even if it is a UPS store and you are shipping via UPS or is a FedEx/Kinko’s and you are shipping via FedEx. We’ve seen the fee range from a flat fee of $3 whenever you pick it up to $7 per day, however these stores are more likely to hold the package longer than 5 days. So, check with the store before having something shipped to them to get the details and verify how they want the package to be addressed.
Using your RV in the winter? Make sure you have a show shovel, window scraper and some kind of ice chipper (i.e. an axe). If you don't have these on hand, guess what? The first time out you will be sure to need them. Also pack a bag of rock salt (sand or kitty litter) to sprinkle on walkways and to put around your tires in the event you get stuck in snow or end up on slippery patches of ice.
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!
We are thinking of buying a 40 ft. extended stay model by Jayco(40bhs I think the model is). it has a full size refridgerator and range which we thought would be better suited for keeping my two boys fed. But like you said bigger not always better. My wife and I have been camping all our lives. and are in our second RV since we have been Married(10 years). We currently have a 2007 Springdale 27′ with one slide.
Campgrounds can vary greatly by state and proximity to highly touristy areas, Earl. To give you some insight into a few places we’ve stayed longer term, we were getting a full hookup spot in Marathon, Texas for under $400 / month. That’s pretty remote, but we love that little town and the surrounding Big Bend region, so it was a steal for us. We priced a few places in Bastrop, Texas (just east of Austin), and full hookups were from $400 – $570 / month (plus paying for your own electric). While we haven’t ever stayed anywhere else for a month or more we have seen prices that range from about $350 at the absolute lowest end (and those places are not always terrible, though usually they are a bit run down) to somewhere around $800 / month for more highly sought after locations. Here in Austin, where some friends are staying, it’s around $670 and that puts you near the highway, ten minutes from Austin, in a relatively luxury place. Most spots will ask you to pay your own electric. Water is usually included, cable, too. I’d recommend getting a cell phone, so whatever you have for that (AT&T & Verizon are the most reliable nationwide) now would be the same, though if you wanted unlimited data on your phone so you can have the Internet, that might raise your bill. You’d know better about your grocery situation that I would be able to guess. No property tax. 🙂
We spent six weeks in the New Mexico desert. Every morning we woke up to purple-hued skies, dusky mountains, and a silence so complete we felt like the last people on Earth. On our morning walk, the frigid air would be filled with the resinous smell of creosote, while jackrabbits bounded ahead of us on the path. We saw very few people day to day; it was only us and the desert.
Jill, we are early retirees and have been fulltiming for three years. We average about $600 a month in RV site expenses. We prefer state and national parks with electric but do a little boondocking and often in the winter stay longer, taking advantage of monthly rates. Escapees parks are the best for long term stays. We could lower this amount with some effort but it is still less than the taxes were on our home in Austin. Our most expensive stay was $85/night in Jersey City, in view of the Statue of Liberty. Considering hotels in the area are $3-400, we were ok with this in exchange for a short subway or water taxi ride to NYC.
Getting ready to travel full-time can be overwhelming, but if you take the advice and guidance of those that have done it before, things can be a bit easier to navigate. Take it from me: if you plan correctly, this will be one of the best decisions of your life. If you’re still on the fence, take a look at our other articles covering RV travel for some inspiration and practical tips.
Then you move down the road of life to state parks. Now you walk out your little RV door and see nothing but trees and space, maybe a glint of your neighbor through it all, and certainly if they were to yell you’d hear it, but space is not only abundant, it’s beautiful. You’re now paying $20 per night. Rent has dropped to $600 / month. Utilities are still included (except for propane, we spend around $30 / month), though you won’t necessarily have a sewage connection, so you’ll need to drive over to the dump station every few days and let the pipes fly. Depending on your situation, this may happen two or five times a week. But it’s hundreds of dollars in savings in exchange for an hour or so worth of effort.
Below is the breakdown of our costs, 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.$2,137 Groceries, housewares and booze – Costco still being the largest ($1,088) also includes Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joes, TJ Maxx (we get some of our specialty foods here) Wal-Mart (for RV supplies), local natural grocery stores, and Cash at Farmer’s Markets.
Like everything related to money, a good, well thought-out plan and budget is key. But I’m here to deliver a message – full-time travel is much more affordable than one might think. The average monthly campground / RV park fee is far less expensive than most mortgages or rent, and the varying price points of RVs and travel trailers can fit almost any budget. Sure, a decked-out class A can be expensive, but used travel trailers are priced quite affordably. Our very first travel trailer cost us only $8,000 – try buying a house at that price point!
Last winter, we spent the week leading up to the new year with around 40 other rigs in the Anza-Borrego desert. It was truly one of the most memorable New Year's Eve nights we've ever experienced. We sang karaoke (well, not us, we watched karaoke), burned a plywood borrego, and ate like kings at a potluck out in the middle of nowhere. It was pretty fantastic. From there, we broke off with a smaller group in search of better internet and continued with the community happy hours. We then hiked it up to Quartzsite for an Xscapers convergence and another gathering of close friends. It was a pretty great way to spend a month, especially before we all dispersed in different directions for the spring.