Instead, buy a 5-gallon water container and carry all your drinking and cooking water in by hand. Set up your RV sink to drain directly into a 5 gallon bucket, then you can just dump your dishwater at any gas/RV dump station. Get a gym membership or take showers at a friend’s house. Get a small 5-gallon porta-potty with a hand-pump flush system. Fill the flush reservoir with RV antifreeze. Believe me, you will definitely want a bathroom when it is cold outside, not to mention, you can’t just “go” anywhere when you’re in a city or neighborhood… or else you risk making a bad reputation for yourself and start pissing people off.
When my husband and I left for our travels, towing our 16-foot CampLite trailer, we’d never spent a single night in an RV. Ever. The reason why we were so ill-prepared was because of our financial situation leading up to our departure date: We’d paid off our mortgage earlier in the year, which meant we had to sell our home first before we could buy a truck and trailer. So, we closed on our house, bought the truck and trailer, packed up our rig, and left the next day. It was a whirlwind of stress and insanity that, in retrospect, we should have done differently.
Or you could “upgrade” to living in an RV. You pay some amount of cash for this home on the road, and set off on a journey. That initial cost is probably similar to what you’d spend on a downpayment on a house. That is, if you would have lived in a $500,000 house, you buy a $250,000 rig. If you’d have lived in a $150,000 house you buy a $35,000 RV. And yet others find their way into single digit thousands and work on them as we go.
We've had this motorhome for almost two years but never had the propane system checked to see if everything worked correctly since we were in California for much of the time. Plus, we don't know how expensive it is to get this system checked. (The small propane tank is still half full.) Can electric heaters be used for inside heating as long as they're the kind that shuts off if tipped (and never left on when we leave for a few hours)?
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!!
Jennifer, good questions! We have always thought about building our own RV/Tiny House/Trailer too! Sometimes what you really want doesn’t exist and the best way to get it is just to make it yourself! Considering you are not planning on moving the house a lot, the rain capture system will come in super handy! So, here are my top (at least that I can think of right now) suggestions.
Use your andriod phone for internet service it’s extremely cheap if you have a prepaid cell plan. you pay extra $10 for hotspot unlimited cell and net service.There’s a device called autonet which can provide 4g speed to for asmall fee.The device it self seela for under $300but, it’s worth it cause you move from the rv to the house.The best part is with autonet you can access any tv shows via the net.
$1099 Equipment Upgrades – The more Videos I shoot the more Hard Drives I need, and the faster my computer needs to be! I added a second Hard Drive to my Laptop, it’s a blazing fast hybrid drive and works perfectly as a ‘scratch disk’ for my video files (drive plus install kit $175). I had to purchase a new Wireless Lavaliere receiver due to my unfortunate accident of dropping the camera into the creek (see the previous post on expenses for the ugly details) however my insurance policy covered this cost, YEA! We bought a new “toy” it’s the Canon EOS M ($794), check my post on Secrets to HD Video on the Road for more details on how much we love this tiny camera (and what we don’t like about it). I purchased a new 3TB External Hard Drive for redundant backup ($130), you have to be prepared for a computer or hard drive to crash at any time, better safe than sorry right?
We learned this lesson the hard way winding through a tightly tree’d campground in FL in our first year on the road. We didn’t watch the back end of the rig as we turned through a narrow curve. The front made it through fine, but our back end swung out just slightly and the palm tree sheared off the entire slide topper cover on that side. Oops! We’ve never (cross fingers and paws) made that mistake since, but heavily tree’d parks are always difficult for us, and the bigger your rig the more this is true.
One of the happiest couples we met when we were sailing in Mexico was a retired couple who had returned to cruising after raising their kids. They had sailed across to the South Pacific and beyond when they were in their twenties and had hilarious stories of what it was like to be a pair of inexperienced free spirits in a little, used, cheap boat on the big ol’ ocean as “kids,” and they were sooooo worldly wise and such seasoned travelers compared to the rest of us retirement aged newbie sailors. I recommend workamper.com and workingcouples.com to find interesting camp hosting and other jobs that are suitable for RVers where a free or inexpensive site is often part of the deal. Have a blast — and please come back and read some more!!
Nina – another great post! This is the first winter that we have spent (prior two winters spent in Florida) traveling in the West, and we are finding that there are many more opportunities to manage camping costs out here, as compared to the east cost. In general, RV site costs in Florida and Georgia, are a bit more expensive than Arizona, New Mexico, Texas. We (like you and Paul) have a large RV, and have found a lot more public campgrounds and public land in the West, that we can fit in. In Florida, state park reservations can be hard to get, and many of the campgrounds primarily have smaller sites (at least this was our experience).
Hi Kirsten, those are great questions! I have written a number of posts about organization, personal space, etc. You may be able to find what you are looking for on my blog by using the search box on the bottom right hand side, using search terms like organization, small home living, camper living with kids, etc. You will also find videos of the inside of our camper on http://youtube.com/americanfamilynow. Our 31′ camper is a bunkhouse. It has four bunk beds on one end and a full size bed on the other end, with a couch, table, and kitchen area in between. We shopped around quite a bit until we found what we were looking for. Campers come in all shapes and sizes! Thanks for reading!
It was a matter getting rid of the things we knew we wanted to get rid of and just hadn’t taken the time to do it. We used online tools like local Facebook garage sales pages and Craigslist to get rid of a lot of our larger items. Then we tried a garage sale, but given where our house was located, we didn’t get a lot of action. And we spent a lot of time pricing everything… I think we overpriced a lot, too. It seems like we thought our stuff was worth more then it really was.
loved seeing your post, I am a homeschooling widow mother of a 10 years old girl and would love to get on the road in an RV, I did have a truck and travel trailer but could not go very far, I just do not feel safe traveling by ourselves and would love to meet other homeschoolers and travel and explore this wonderful country together, have you met families traveling together?
Looks like you gave a very solid plan! Kirk’s numbers are one of the budget references I plan to link to in my next post. And I totally agree that health care is the biggest single unknown in all this. It’s been (by far) the biggest impact we’ve had to our fixed expenses in the 7 years we’ve been on the road, and it’s one of the most difficult to predict. I have no idea what our costs are going to be next year.
Currently we are not full-timing it, but we are on the road for up to 6 months straight. For those extended periods, monthly expenses can vary depending on what campground or resort we are staying in. Campground prices vary widely. If you are staying in one area long-term, your best bet is to pay a monthly rate for your campsite. That will give you a deep discount, but in most cases you will be responsible for the monthly electricity (and sometimes water usage) for your campsite. Depending on the area you are staying in, monthly rates could be as low as $300.00 a month plus electricity. In more popular areas, the cost could exceed $600.00.
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.
My first winter after living in the COMET for the summer and fall, I rented a TINY 50 square foot closet under the stairs in a collective house/commune and lived there over the winter. Yep, just like Harry Potter. It was less than $100/month and included communal meals and utilities/basic living supplies like soap and toilet paper (bulk items, basically).
All of these expenses hit the bank account with a resounding thwang and can’t be ignored or wished away. You may not know exactly what your hobbies will be when you start full-timing, but put some kind of figure into your budget that allows for replacing your computer and phone as often as you have in the past (if you plan to use them as much) and for buying the various things that will make your favorite pastimes possible.
Sure we considered the this-is-our-life-and-sorry-it’s-not-what-you-want-but-try-to-appreciate-and-learn-from-it approach. As parents we have that right to make the choices we think our best for our kids and family. The road may be “best” for Brent and I but, God willing, we have many years left as a couple to explore and experience life as we want but the older boys only have few years left as kids. They didn’t want to spend their teenage years living in an RV full time.
If you want to regain your floor space perhaps you should add a project to your list … a ‘charging station’. Find a ‘power-strip’ which can be mounted on a wall, usually with 2 screws and find a little wall space. ;o) ha ha! Perhaps above shoulder height alongside your seating area. Mount the power-strip and then make some small shelves or use ‘cup hooks’ to ‘hang’ your electronic devices from. Coil up your cables and use Velcro ‘cable ties’ to secure them neatly out of the way.
For the merchandise budget I allocated $30,000, which includes such things such as solar power, computer and internet related gear including two brand new laptops, new photography gear (have Nikon cameras, but want digital). Currently up to $28,000 on my list, but still have things to add to the list. The budget for the merchandise could even be low.
What’s amazing (and a big relief!) is that our “Upgrade” and “Maintenance” costs didn’t bring any unwanted or nasty surprises during the years we have been on the road, and they have remained much the same as they were in the first year, although there were plenty of years without any upgrades or big maintenance projects. As mentioned above, we barely ate out in the beginning and we splurged this past summer. We had mostly new clothes when we started and have replaced almost all of them, and we now see the importance of having the right tools and supplies for little “RV Owner” projects.
Good article, I think the initial start up costs (besides repairs to a used unit) could be added to your article. We bugeted $10,000 and after full timing almost a year on the road now, we are fast approaching that number for: tow bar, base plate, braking system, drive shaft disconnect (our choice instead of a new toad) installations, modifications, grill, chairs, road side service, extended warranty, insurance, memberships, hoses, tools, heaters (no lpg available once) fans, tables, ladder, bikes, bike racks, etc.. It adds up fast.
What about interest though? At a 4% interest rate, the total cost of that $343,000 home would be over $471,000 over 30 years, before you factor in all of the other monthly bills!. It’s hard to compare these things exactly though, as a house can last for many generations, whereas most RVs will have a hard time lasting for an entire person’s lifetime (especially if you buy used when you’re still young). Airstreams and very well built Class As are the exception.
We are a very young family, basically just at the point of settling down. We met travelling in South America, made a baby and that’s where it all began 🙂 the more we’re figuring out details about settling down, the more we really don’t want that lifestyle. So we might as well just keep travelling, and seeing your stories is so supporting because it seems possible and safe and feasible an fun and fine…
Public campgrounds run the gamut from rustic campgrounds on-site at the national parks to state park campgrounds to national forest service and BLM campgrounds to Corps of Engineers campgrounds to regional park campgrounds and fairgrounds. Somewhere along the line there is a crossover to municipal and city RV parks. These campgrounds and RV parks often offer fewer amenities than private RV parks: there may (or may not) be water spigots or vault toilets (non-flushing), or there may be electric and water hookups and hot showers. Usually there are no sewer hookups but there is often an RV dump station in the campground.
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.
Were newbies and it feels like a whole new life style. Pro’s and con’s are always welcome! Based out of Fla. was the first right thing we did! Just finding the right camp ground in northern Fl. is a hassle. Does anyone know which are the best? We like the social life style. We have dogs and would love to hear from dog lovers as to which parks are the best dog friendly parks?
14. Make a commitment to eating healthy. It can be all too easy to just stop in at the nearest fast food restaurant and grab something to go, but that certainly isn’t the healthiest option. You will need a well-rounded diet more on the road than anywhere else, so it would be best to make a plan for such a diet. There are many places where finding fresh fruits and veggies isn’t easy, so stock up when and where you can. Use stay-fresh bags to store these items in and learn to can these items as well for longer storage possibilities.
Ill start with my RV, aptly named Harvey the RV The Mac-Country Lodge. I picked up Harvey early October in Calgary. I had spent weeks trolling Kijiji looking for the right rig. Harvey is a 25ft 1979 Dodge Empress, its previous owner had been a handyman and done ton of upgrades including; new awning, solar panels, new fridge, LED lights, steel cargo box, airbag suspension, and outdoor shower. It was perfect and turn key! First trip was down to Ikea to furnish it.
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.
Ditch anything you can live without while you’re on your trip to keep the weight of the vehicle down. The heavier your load is, the more your gas mileage will suffer. Aside from leaving some of your favorite things at home, you can also consider emptying the majority of your freshwater supply and then filling up when you get to your campsite to further lighten your RV weight. This is a simple way to maintain or increase your gas mileage as you’re cruisin’ on down the road.
The figure here is our average monthly fuel cost for a six month summer season of travel. We drove a loop from Phoenix, Arizona through Nevada to Crater Lake in central Oregon and then went from northeastern Oregon to Sun Valley Idaho and Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and finally dropping south through Ouray Colorado and into northern Arizona and back to Phoenix.
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.
We were so exhausted by these repairs (they hit us all at once between August and October of 2015), that I haven’t yet written a blog post about the last one. It just isn’t fun writing that stuff!! However, hopefully you can see the incredible value of getting a motorhome warranty or trailer warranty, especially if your rig is a few years old (ours is a 2007 Hitchhiker fifth wheel trailer).
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!)
I ran across your post during my search for RV cost of living. I just recently semi-retired at 48 and was wondering what this lifestyle would cost. I’m always amused (read frustrated) by how many readers make critical comments about other people’s decisions on how to spend their money. “You pay $1100 for space rent? I boondock in a slaughter house parking lot with a view of a brick wall for free!” or “You spend money on fancy craft beer? I only drink grain alcohol mixed with Capri Sun, or I’ve sober since 1989, you need to meet Bill W.” Myself, I want freedom that’s why I chose to change my lifestyle. That said, I like being near a beach. I like “resort” style living with a pool and a jacuzzi. I love eating in great restaurants. I appreciate you breaking this down in a realistic way, its given me some food for thought.
This is mainly because it is our home and office and it can be disruptive. If we need to be out of the RV while work is being performed, we have to find somewhere else to work or wait with our pets. We've done this at the service center, at a friend's house, and once we just rented a hotel room because we didn't want to work in the car all day with two dogs and two cats. We don't think they wanted to sit in the car all day either. We've also spent the night at service centers which are not the most scenic locations, but really aren't all that bad. Sometimes you even get to plug into power.