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.
Serge, thanks for sharing your experience / expenses. This is the great thing about travel, it can truly be done on any budget. It’s all about your personal style and what your travel goal is. We are living an affordable luxury lifestyle now but when we transfer to the sail boat in 2014 we are going to try out a super slim buget. It’s going to be all about living off the land (or mostly water). Thanks again for sharing!
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.
Do these words stir a fire deep within you, awakening a spirit of wanderlust and travel? Maybe you were a gypsy, vagabond or hobo in a past life, but you think you could never afford to live the life of freedom you long for? It could be you are a survivalist, or just want to drop out of society but don’t know how. Perhaps you are just sick of the rat race and want to simplify your life. Or possibly the bad economy of the last few years have left you with no choice but move into a car, van or RV?
From May to October, 2014, we did not pay for any overnight camping, and that is the norm for us. However, although we did not pay for camping over the summer season (or in January, 2014), the months of February, March and April, 2014, were unusually expensive for us. Those three months averaged $83/month because we spent time at three different campgrounds visiting friends and chasing wildflowers at a state park (we were a little late for the flowers — rats!).
Having more than a Hobbit-sized refrigerator: If Hobbits had fridges, I'm sure it would be similar to the one we have in our RV. It's more like a dorm fridge with a small freezer on the top. Oh, and RV refrigerators don't operate like the one you buy down at Sears. Oh, no. These babies work by what's known as gas absorption, which entails heating ammonia that magically cools the fridge. I won't go into the gory details, mostly because I'm not too versed in the wizardry behind it. Just know that it is usually too cold (your veggies are going to freeze) or too warm (your veggies are going to rot) and you may have to fiddle with the buttons to keep things right.
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!
We pay for an AT&T hotspot with unlimited data. Our jobs rely on good internet so we can’t risk not having a good signal using an RV park’s wifi. We know some RVers who just use their phone’s hotspots but we prefer to have a separate one. While we could use wifi at local coffee shops, we prefer to work from our RV and not have to spend money while we are using a businesses wifi. Library’s are a great way to get free wifi, but they aren’t always easy to track down or close to where we are parked.
We began our search for a new RV the moment we decided to sell our old one. My heart bleeds gypsy blood and to not have an RV would make the next few years feel even more like a prison than it already does. Okay, so I’m being a little dramatic but we love having an RV for many reasons. It makes traveling affordable. RVing allows us to be remote or as urban as we want to be. It’s one of the ways our family connects and creates forever memories. RVing allows for more comfortable and extended visits with family. I love my family but I also love my space.
For those who travel a great deal, it is a good idea to purchase emergency coverage that will not pay medical costs, but will, under the appropriate circumstances, provide regional medical referrals and oversight as well as a means of getting travelers and their vehicles back to their home bases at no cost. Good Sam Club sells one that costs around $110 per year and covers all travelers.
Sheepherder wagons have a long history of wood/dung stoves but we don’t see them in the Wally World parking lot belching smoke from their long chimneys protruding from steeply sloped sheet-metal roofs do we? One has to wonder how the modern RV roof holds up, with or without a spark arrester on the stack, so close to the exhaust opening? Wonder how you would like it if somebody parked an RV in front of your house and then the creosote buildup in the stack flashed and blew a blizzard of sparks across your property and vehicles? 😉 Burning birch is not option in most parts of the country. Maybe Kent should discuss the types of wood he prefers and why ….
While most full-time RVers change as much as they can to electronic, there are still some things that will be mailed. Many full-time RVers use a family member’s address, and still others use mailing services. Even if you use the former, you’ll need to include a budget to reimburse them if you need something forwarded to you. If you use a mailing service like the one offered by Escapees, you may have a monthly expense of $16.25 to $19.50 depending on the package you choose.
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.
I love that wood stove and it sure is the answer to heat. My unit when finished should be around 120’ or if I say to hell with a back shed I can use the entire cube it will be 144’ “haven’t decided yet”. With lots of head room I can put in a queen Murphy bed that will turn into an office when folded up and I can mount it high enough to clear the tops of lots of seating area when being used as a bed. I might need a little step to get into it or maybe a rebounder. I intend to also have a comfort buddy by the time it’s completed if I find a fine lady who wants to live like that and cozy up to my pudgy but extremely cute parts but will probably end up with another Border collie. My last old girl loved getting away on our trips but I would have to kill a bunch of people to get her back and they are all tougher than I am so will have to find a replacement (yes dog lovers, it is not fair to have a Border in a camper but you argue that one out with Maggie and she will chew on you like she did the two big guys who tried to enter our comfy abode on a dark night).
As for the antifreeze – make sure you use a non-toxic RV safe antifreeze. The last thing you want to do is pour toxic chemicals down your pipes, then flush them down into the sewer when you leave. I’d say 1 gallon for every 20 gallons of liquid inside your tanks (i.e. if your grey is only 10 gallons full don’t put more than a half gallon of antifreeze). Best of luck, winter RVing is great cause you’re often all by yourself, but you gotta keep those pipes protected.
In the late fall Harvey and I explored all of my favourite parts of the Rockies. Initially I was nervous about what I would do to park it, after a couple nights of ‘creative camping’ searching for a parking spot became routine. Advice for anyone looking to camp out of your vehicle, pay for it. Initially it seems like a great way to save money but the stress of parking somewhere where you might get a knock on the door doesn’t allow for a good nights sleep. During the fall season most campgrounds have reduced rates or are free provided you can get into them. The National parks are notorious for parking. If you’re planning on spending time in them make sure you prebook campsites! British Columbia has a great service (I believe Alberta does too) with Recreation sites. These are always my preferred campsites, as they are free and in beautiful locations tucked away in Crown land across the province. The only difficulty with Rec sites is that they are often down logging roads which makes them inaccessible during the winter. Another great way to find spots to park is talking with the locals! Ive often been directed to overnight parking lots or even allowed to stay on their property, the world is a amazingly friendly place if you open yourself up to it!
Part of being a parent is giving our kids the wings and space they need to become who they are. We were willing to take that risk if it meant our kids could have this amazing opportunity to see the world and that we were able to do that with them before they left the nest and were on their own. Our hope is through the bond we are building as a family all of them will always find each other and us no matter where life takes them and we will find ourselves together more often then not.
Many folks choose to use portable electric heaters to heat their rig. This method of heating doesn't add condensation to the air and depending on the cost of propane may actually be slightly cheaper to run. Great care must be taken to not overload the wiring in your RV or the electrical system in the campground. Most parks will either put you on an electric meter or charge extra for electric heat. Use only UL approved heaters and keep combustibles away.
When it comes down to it, this is the reason I chose to live the way I do. Living on the road naturally leads to an active life style. You are always doing something, going somewhere, or meeting somebody. When you’re not working in the winter, it’s especially nice to get out and recreate in the day or meet up with friends in the evening. This keeps you out of the camper and keeps your environment fresh. I feel I appreciate my home much more when I’ve been active all day or all night.
Next was digging the trench across my driveway. Although I’m fortunate that there are very few rocks in my primary building site — which also made the septic system guy pretty happy — the driveway did have a layer of gravel over it. I had to dig through that gravel and into the softer dirt beneath it. Later, I had to shovel all that gravel back. Hard work!
Many people think you have to make a lot of money to travel full-time, but that’s not the case. In fact, full-time RVing can be as expensive or inexpensive as you choose. It can all depend on the type and year of the RV you purchase, how often you travel, where you park, and the activities you do in the places you visit. But, here’s a general idea of items you can expect to pay for each month if you choose the full-time RV lifestyle.
We specifically shopped for a four-season RV when we chose our Keystone because we knew we would be spending winters in cold weather. However, some people do camp in cold weather in campers that don’t have all of these features. Here are a few cold weather camping tips I’ve seen from people who live in climates colder than ours or who maybe don’t have all of the features we have:
We are just now in the “sell everything” stage, about to go full time in our RV, and we have two little girls — a four year old and a two year old. We’ve really been out in our RV so often that it’s no big deal for them. Come to think of it, we got our first camper when our oldest was just 6 months old, so she’s grown up around the camper (not that she’s really grown up yet LOL). Our girls absolutely love it! They get so excited when we start packing it up. I’ve talked with our oldest about what it will be like when we live in the camper and how it will be better to get rid of all our extra stuff that we don’t really need. She seems to understand it and we are all super excited about it. We have yet to see how it goes a few months into it, but I can’t think it would be any worse than our longest trips (about two weeks) which were wonderful times for us. I wish you the best of luck in getting yours all fixed up! I can’t wait to see the pictures because I might want to borrow some of your reno ideas!! 😀
O really DO appreciate how you have listed your expenses, especially the “before” posts that listed everything, because we are just in the PLANNING stages of a full time, 3+ month, RV trip. We haven’t even bought an RV or trailer yet; still going through the pro’s and con’s of which way would be best for us. Since budget is a huge concern, we needed to know all the nitty-gritty “small stuff” that still adds up. I’m sorry you have had to deal with the culture of “rude” from people hiding behind a keyboard. I’m sure some questions may have been relevant, but some judgements could be held. You’re just human beings, after all. Not a major company required to do meticulous research with charts, graphs, scientific evidence and everthing else these people seem to require. It’s obviously anectdotal. Thanks again! I truly appreciate it!
I apologize very much for not giving you proper credit for your work. I have adjusted the post to direct people to your website for skirting. I’m sure you don’t remember but you helped my wife and I purchase the tools we needed to prepare our RV for a last minute winter storm in Breckenridge. Without your help I know our pipes would have frozen and it would have costs us hundreds in repairs.
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.
Yes that was as I feared. I was hoping you would have some suggestion that you or one of your readers may have had to use, Blue Cross Blue Shield will not forward prescriptions of this kind. My only hope would be the Dr. ordering 3-6 months worth, then the insurance company has to approve it also, I know that’s sounds weird, but I have dealt with them before for just a half of month worth of supplies to have on hand in the winter time for UPS downtime because of weather conditions. They refused. I will read your your blog in it’s entirety and glean some very useful incites and websites for use later, at least I hope to use anyway. May be trapped into taking small trips then back home. Thank you so much for your quick response.
Retirement – Once you have an adequate emergency fund, and are debt free, the next component of savings is your retirement savings. We follow Dave Ramsey’s plan which suggests putting 15% of your gross income into tax-favored plans such as your company’s 401(k) and Roth IRAs. Don’t wait until later to start saving for retirement. You just never know what may happen in the future!
The entire process – selling items (sometimes even your house), putting other items in storage (“we will need that someday!”), putting aside what you want to bring in the RV and then cutting that in half…and in half again. It ends up being much more difficult than you anticipated. We Googled, asked the advice from other full-timers, and went back and forth on a lot of items. Yet, we still made some mistakes.
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6) They’re willing to live frugally. This can NOT be stressed enough. At the ages of 25-35, full timing can either be a joy or a chore. They’ll be surrounded by old people, in perhaps less than stellar conditions, in a cramped hovel that’s difficult to either keep cool in summer or warm in winter. But… they can move with the weather. And frugal living helps them afford to do that.
I came into life unexpectedly during my parent’s plans to fulltime in their 40’s. They elected to proceed with their aspirations with the condition of how I would adapt. In 1978, everything was sold and we left Missouri to “go west young man”. Over the next 10 years, we vastly traveled while Dad built banks. Every weekend was an adventure scoping out the gems the area(s) had to offer. Mom enrolled me in school at each location providing me social skills I would’ve not learned if home schooled. Almost in high school, they decided to retire and stabilize my education. Wow! What a culture shock! My most impressional years were spent in a 40′ fifth wheel, and then it all stopped.
This is such great info and good to know the numbers. It sounds like it depends on the size of the Rv and where you are staying. I stayed at an RV park for a month for $500 in Florida all utilities included. I had a travel trailer at the time. I also have noticed on the fees at some parks charge large class A motorhomes additional fees. So much to learn! Trying to go full time soon. 🙂
We got through that next round, and things were starting to clear out. At this time we hadn’t sold our house yet, so the pressure wasn’t on. We didn’t have a leave date in sight, so we were taking our time and letting our mind-set shift. In comes Christmas . . . I always went crazy at Christmas and bought the kids so many gifts. Even though I knew they’d only play with a few presents and the rest would be quickly forgotten.
Pellet Stove – This device will warm up an RV faster and more efficiently than any other heater we’ve seen. The good news is there is zero moisture produced from the heat, the built in fan uses a fraction of the electricity of a space heater and it’s a pretty eco friendly option for heating. The downsides: Install is a crazy mod to both the inside and outside of your RV. If the fan shuts down (i.e. when boondocking and you run out of battery power) you now have a smoke filled RV. Takes up a lot of space so is best for larger RV’s. You have to carry and store large, heavy wood pellets in your RV. Some models you are required to vacuum out the ashes which can be a pain make sure you look at the pellet stoves with a removable ash tray.
Storage is a tough one. We initially did storage because we weren’t sure we’d be on the road that long. If we’d only RV’d a year that would probably have worked out fine. Of course 6 years later we’re still here and still paying for storage (it’s so darn hard to get rid of once you do it). No right answer for this one, but I think the less “stuff” you keep, the freer you’ll feel in the road. Best of luck with everything!