Hey Joe – to be honest we never had an issue getting in/out of a gas station with our toad. We try to fill at Costco’s and they always have plenty of room but even small country gas stations have worked. However to your point, you can’t just drive in and expect to make it out, there is some planning that needs to happen to ensure you can get in and then back out without having to disconnect the toad. Which radio do you have?
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.

Our first major engine maintenance, including generator, was about $2k ($1200 parts including lots of spares, $800 labor – which including training us on doing it ourselves) – subsequent general engine maintenance has been much cheaper, as we’ve been doing oil, filter and zinc changes on our own.  We spent about $7k in our first year on bottom paint, changing out zincs, divers to clean the bottom ($100/mo), replacing thru-hulls, wash/waxes and other necessary maintenance. We’ll continue to track this and share.


12. Consider how many people will be with you. Many people who RV full time are married couples who have retired. However, there is an ever-increasing population of couples with families who are hitting the road. Regarding the latter, you need to keep in mind that in addition to having less space for belongings, there is also less space for privacy. Learning to live together, and get along, is an absolute necessity and if that isn’t possible, it’s time to rethink your decision. One way around this is to make sure your rig is big enough to assign certain areas for certain children and their belongings, off limits to siblings. That personal space can mean the world to some people.
$827 Costco – Because we didn’t find many farmers markets or affordable natural food stores on this portion of our trip, we renewed our Costco membership. For the amount cooking we do, Costco is the best way for us to get reliable organic, natural, and affordable food items. Yes you must purchase in bulk, however we try not to over-purchase, and we rely on Costco for our staples only like tomatoes, beans, hummus, chips, etc. Sometimes we’ll even find local venders in Costco from coffee roasters, to pastry makers, to exotic cheeses made from nearby farms….and that’s why we choose Costco over Sam’s Club.

This is something we cannot advise you on. Our experience is life on the road is a little less expensive than sedentary life. I do know there are several people out there living extremely inexpensively in an RV, but I’m not sure where to direct you. I would think living in an apartment would be less expensive and more comfortable than trying to live in an RV. The one piece of advice I can offer, don’t purchase a motorhome (RV with an engine) if you’re going to leave it sitting, purchase a towable that does not have an engine.
These kinds of campground membership programs are a complicated, and the companies change the rules as their profitability and growth plan requires. It is best to book your stays 90 days or more in advance and there may also be a complex set of rules to follow regarding staying within the network and outside of it. Sometimes an alternative campground network is offered so you have somewhere similar to stay when it is time for you to stay outside your home network. Two we’ve heard of are Resorts of Distinction and Adventure Outdoor Resorts given as the alternative networks.
Every RV comes with a manual and you two should spend some quality time together. Learn your way around the electrical system and the fuse box. Don’t be intimidated by basic plumbing. Be prepared to patch leaks in the roof and around windows and doors with sealants. Establish a routine to perform the annual chores recommended by the manual. These are not onerous tasks, but essential ones to making life easy on the road.
You are absolutely right Sondra although we are not at all looking to eliminate many of our expenses. About the only thing we are anxious to do is convert more to solar so we can boondock more in some of our natural parks. Our TT does not have any extra room for hanging clothes or a washer/dryer. We are a family of 3 (the third being a toddler) in 27′. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room, so to speak. As for eating out. Be careful what you say. Eating out is not synonymous with McDonalds and in our case involves some incredible farm-to-table establishments, seafood eats on the waterfront, etc. It is something we enjoy as a family and not something we are looking to cut back on. Your recommendations will surely be helpful to some though. Thank you.
Living in your vehicle can actually be quite comfortable. Instead of paying rent for an apartment every month, I decided to take out a small loan and pay the loan off over 3 years. This allowed me to actually buy my home, just like someone purchasing a normal house (except I have no property taxes & it’s a much more affordable “mortgage” to pay by myself). And unless you have a large bank account, a trust fund, or want to work your life away every day for 30+ years (Despite what some folks might think, I have none of those, lol) this seemed the best way for me to live happily.
Our interior is heated by an Aqua Hot which burns diesel fuel to provide heat. It works overtime and burns a bunch of diesel so time to insulate the bottom side of your vehicle. Since we are in these conditions on a temporary basis another trip to the home improvement store for more reflective insulation in an 18″ x 25′ roll x 4 plus some 1″ thick styrofoam backed with reflective material to cover the tires and some duct tape to hold it all together. Wrap your RV and cover your tires. Your wrapping doesn’t need to be perfect but the more air you can keep from circulating under your living space the happier you will be.

My fiance and I LOVE your channel, and identify with you guys a lot. Many of our decisions are different than yours but due to different circumstances (our skills, our work, our location/weather, our priorities.) We are about 1 year behind you on our journey. Many of our decisions are also quite similar. We see your thought process and your attitude and think you have all the ingredients for success.
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.
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 ….
Okay, so I hope that in Part One I convinced you that you want a site with a sewer hook up.  Now, about that hook up, you want to keep the dump valve closed until you have at least three-quarters of a tank so that you get a clean dump.  You need the force of moving liquid to move the solids.  That's as nice a way of saying as I could think of.  .  It is critical that the sewer hose has a constant decline to the sewer.  If it does not have enough of a drop, waste will collect and freeze in the hose.  Many people (myself included) run the hose into or through a PVC pipe to make sure that there is no ‘sag’ in the line.  Other folks use a section of rain gutter as a bridge that holds the hose.  Either of these systems will work.
One very last thing to think about before you decide whether you can afford to fulltime RV is income. Whether or not you currently have an income, creating some $$ on the road can greatly ease the constraints of a tight budget and radically change your available budget. If you are pre-retirement and have an online job that you can take on the road, then absolutely do that. Otherwise there are lots of opportunities to create some income on the road. We’ve met folks who workamp, edit, write, invest, compose music, create art, make jewelry, tattoo, run online businesses, take on temporary jobs (Amazon, Beet Harvest, Christmas Tree sales etc.) or do a slew of other creative things on the road for money. Some make only a little money while others make pretty significant $$. And these opportunities are not just for young folks, either! We’ve seen all ages making money on the road.
All these questions factor in. I’d say if they can buy the RV outright, if they’re knowledgeable and handy so they can fix or direct the repair of most things on an RV after some study, they could make it with $30,000 in the bank. That would give them close to 2 years to learn the ropes of the road. If they’re frugal. No eating out. No $100 concert tickets. No spurious or unessential purchases. No staying in expensive RV parks. Not too much travel. And assuming they work part time while on the road for either cash or a free RV spot whenever possible.

hairyleggedjebjeb: Come back and talk to me about it when you've been doing it for more than 50 years (as I have). RVing can be a terrific lifestyle, but to think that it does not involve sacrifice is dreaming. There's plenty of that, and the longer you live this life, the more you will see that this is true. Far too many people jump into it thinking it will be all fun and freedom only to find that, just like anything else, it has its problems. The disappointment this brings often causes people to give it up, so to protect them a bit, I wanted them to see the realities.


This is why it’s so important to create a budget for your new lifestyle, and do your best to stick to it. You’ll cut down on your expenses by traveling less, working or workamping more, boondocking when you can, and cooking healthy meals at home. You can also save more by using a travel rewards credit card, which can earn you extra money on gas purchases.
Many RVers still have storage units where they've kept stuff they just can't get rid of. When we initially hit the road we had some stuff in an enclosed trailer that we parked on a storage lot for $20/month, and we also had a boat that we were storing for another $150/year. Now that we are going to be RVing longer term, we wanted a more permanent solution. In 2017 we went in on building a barn at my parent’s house in Michigan to store our trailer and our boat, so that raised our average up to $82 per month but this will slowly come down over time. 

My husband and I are doing the same right now Toni. First we were considering selling everything and moving to a Caribbean island but after a lot of research we realized that it isn’t easy getting a job on some of the islands and the places where you can get jobs are crime ridden. So, we turned back to our life long dream of buying and RV and traveling the country. We are still in our early 50’s so we are too young to retire but through our research we discovered a website called flexjobs.com that is a great site for finding jobs that offer the ability to work remotely. It is a legitimate site without all of the scams and network marketing type of stuff. We also just discovered camp hosting on a website called workampingjobs.com. There are a lot of camp grounds in a lot of different states that offer various types of opportunities for couples to be camp hosts. Some are just for a free place in the camp ground in exchange for work but some also offer salaries to go with the free stay. I’m becoming more excited than scared now. My only concern is health insurance.
b) You kindly share so very much about budgets and affordability on your web site but there is no mention of how you or others similar that can’t/don’t wish to work whilst travelling and aren’t of retirement age for pensions/SS etc fund this lifestyle for several years? I notice that you referenced more recently somewhere about generating a little income as affiliates for Amazon (by the way, we look forward to supporting that in due course), but assume that wouldn’t equate to your full months expenses?

Worst case scenario: our RV’s transmission went out a month before we were supposed to head out on our trip. That took $2000 out of our emergency fund before we even started, but it gave us peace of mind that the transmission would be good for the trip. So, we kind of got lucky. Moral of the story: have an emergency fund that can cover your worst case scenario.
We are with Progressive Insurance. It helps that we have been with them for 10 years now through various vehicles, have no traffic infractions, and have not once relied on our deductible. Other than that though Jerry (which is comparable to your history) I don’t know. We don’t use an agent but rather deal directly with the insurance company, we are a one-car household, and keep low miles (by their standards).
As an example, before we started our RVing journey we lived CA which is a very high cost state both for income taxes, RV/car registration and insurance. When we went fulltime we severed our ties with CA and switched our domicile to SD which reduced those expenses significantly. Our state income tax went from one of the highest in the nation to ZERO while our RV/car registration dropped by around a factor of 5! Talk about instant savings!

Now that the windows are covered, lets do something about those roof vents. Most vents really don't seal well and we all know that warm air rises, so what can we do to stop it? Again, there are lots of possibilities: That same shrink film can be used, or some fiberglass insulation can be cut to fit and held up with a piece of cardboard. There are also nifty little pillows that are designed to fit snugly into the vent opening to seal and insulate it. These are great, as they are easily removed when you want to have the vent open.
For vehicle registration it very much depends on where you plan on establishing domicile during your fulltime RV travels. Typically you get a drivers license and register your RV in the state that you establish domicile. Most fulltime RVers chose either SD, TX or FL as their domicile states since they are income-tax-free states and are very “RV friendly”. If you plan on keeping a house or address in your home state however, then that may change how/where you can establish domicile. I’m not familiar with the rules in any of the states you mentioned so I don’t know the requirements for domicile in those states.
Remember Annie. This is my families expenses. It is not meant to be “the be all that ends all” or the average monthly expense for nomadic living. Not to mention this is from the “winter months” wherein we splurge and stay at an RV resort in SW Florida where prices are premium because of snowbirding. Do some searching around on sites like Technomadia and Gone With The Wynns or even the Snowmads to see examples of other working budgets.
There are several posts out there about how to create DIY skirting on a budget, or you can get fancy with it and pay for professional skirting kits. Keep in mind how long you’ll be staying in cold temperatures and if you’ll need something you can take on the road with you, or if you only need to use it temporarily. I say this because while some materials may be cheaper, they may not be as easy to store later on.
Life – This is an area than many people leave out to cut costs. However, if you are relatively healthy, it is pretty inexpensive and can significantly help your family in the event something happens. Any adult who contributes to income should have enough life insurance to help cover the loss of that as well particularly if you have any outstanding debts, like the mortgage, credit cards and car loans. In addition, all family members (including children) should have enough life insurance to cover expenses like funeral and burial costs that can overwhelm a grieving family.
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.
“My team is very much self-managed for the most part,” he explains. After experiencing a few lessons in human resources, Bearded Brothers can now pinpoint the right employees to facilitate Caleb and Kristy’s unconventional lifestyle. “We want people who are more self-motivated,” says Kristy. “We want to continue to travel knowing that we have a team that likes to be left alone and self-sufficient.”
$1264 Dining Out It’s beautiful to go back through and see where we spent our money eating out. The only chain is Chipotle which we ate at 4 times this quarter. The rest is made up of coffee shops, small restaurants, and different breweries. Of course this number is skewed a bit as 10% of these expenses likely belong in the grocery category because we purchase whole bean coffee and specialty beers from many of the coffee shops and breweries we visit.

4.  I would have checked ALL the fluids before purchasing (not just the oil)– This would have clued me into how well the previous owner maintained the RV.  He gave me a huge folder of records that I mistakenly assumed were maintenance records. They weren’t. And the RV was dry of almost all fluids. Not good for the RV and a sign that it wasn’t maintained.

Thanks for sharing these details. Just signed up for your newsletter to get more helpful tidbits as you post them. We are planning on downsizing from our SF Bay Area home to a full-time traveling RV and need to work from the road. It’s especially helpful to us to see connectivity costs, which we were thinking would cost us quite a bit each month. Thus it was shocking for us to see folks being able to spend only $600 total per month. We will be lucky to keep our expenses to $2k/month! Looks like a $3K monthly budget could work even after eating out and buying quite a bit of booze 🙂

You got it, those should be included in everyone’s budget, but there are a ton of variables. Some people go for a trailer or van they pick up for $1000 while others could go for a brand new motorhome at $300K. No matter what our expenses are, yours will be different. We decided to share our general monthly expenses to help others. If you think its gibberish (poo on you), fine but there are plenty of others who appreciate the information.
I am so glad to have found your site. Retirement is probably a decade away for me but I find myself dreaming about traveling around with a little trailer I plan to buy (a Happier Camper or HC1). I have started researching being a full timer. I am single, have two dogs and plan to continue having dogs. (i.e., if I don’t get to do this for 10 years, I will have two dogs then; possibly three). I would not have all the luxuries of an RV with fully equipped showers and stuff, but I guess that would cut down dramatically on some expenses too. Were I to do this today. I’d be driving my 2016 Jeep Renegade, pulling the lightweight HC1, a kayak and my bicycle. And writing about my travels. I am so glad that well-written sites like yours are out there! Any ambitions to go International in your travels? Thank you again.

Drive slower and shed some weight! When we increased the speed on our cruise control from around 62 to 70 mph, we noticed a decrease from 7 to 6.5 MPG. Since we do a lot of dry camping we always top off our fresh water tank (75 gallons) whenever we can. This means that we typically drive long distances with an extra couple hundred pounds of water. Shedding the extra weight increased our MPG.


Awesome list, and we pretty much discovered each of these too! Well, we actually never realized how easy it is to find great campgrounds, so that one’s off our list (wish we had known about that website!). And even though our fridge was in our slide, we didn’t have any problems with it (but maybe that’s because we sold it before the issues could emerge?). But other than those, I feel ya. 🙂

When considering a potential extended-stay home, you will want to choose a manufacturer who produces solidly engineered units of the highest quality, who offers groundbreaking floor plans and provides the highest rated customer service. Grand Design RV has met these standards and has set the bar with our innovative “next generation” RV’s. Visit your nearest Grand Design RV dealer and you will see exactly what we mean!
2017 Update – TOTALLY. In 8 years on the road our expenses have actually been flat to slightly down every year despite increasing health care costs. We keep camping expenses low by volunteering in summer and boondocking (= free camping) in winter, and we manage gas costs by how we travel. The point is there is lots of flexibility on the financial side, and my viewpoint on this hasn’t changed. Earlier this year I finally updated our cost posts, so you can now read a detailed account of our RV costs (including tips for budgeting & saving) for the past 7 years HERE and HERE.
In the summertime, the opposite is true as we try to avoid having our windows facing the sun. Our best orientation in the summertime is for the truck to be headed northwest. This way, although we get blasted with some sun in the morning, our biggest windows are blissfully shaded during the long hours of blazing hot sun as it shines from the south and sets in the northwest.
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!

Food — Studies have found that the average home in the U.S. wastes 25 percent of their food. This is due to spoiled food or uneaten food. When you live in an RV, space for food is limited. It is rare to throw something out because you didn't see it at the back of your small refrigerator. I think you also tend to eat healthier since you are hiking in the outdoors more. Assuming an average $440 per month for two people, you save about $75 a month.
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.
But there was one more thing I needed: pipe insulation. I wanted to wrap the pipe with the heat tape on it to help keep it warm. I checked out my options and decided on an adhesive wrap. Although it came in 15-foot lengths, I wound up needing 7 rolls of it because it had to go around the pipe. (This, by the way, is also when I learned that when you buy stuff for a home project at a place like Home Depot, always buy more than you think you need. It really sucks to run out of something in the middle of a project and you can always return unused items later. Home Depot has an excellent return policy.)
Cold-weather RVing is a majestic, yet challenging, experience. If you’re looking for peace, quiet, and beauty, winter RVing has it all. However, it takes a lot of careful planning and work. Without the proper forethought, a night in a winter wonderland can quickly turn into a night in a freezing meat locker. All is not lost, however! Thanks to the many that pioneered cold weather RVing, we have plenty of tips to help you stay warm and dry on your next winter adventure.

Remember Annie. This is my families expenses. It is not meant to be “the be all that ends all” or the average monthly expense for nomadic living. Not to mention this is from the “winter months” wherein we splurge and stay at an RV resort in SW Florida where prices are premium because of snowbirding. Do some searching around on sites like Technomadia and Gone With The Wynns or even the Snowmads to see examples of other working budgets.
We didn't start doing this one right away, but, boy we were happy when we did! It really opened up the possibilities for us and made us love this life even more. Upgrading our batteries and adding solar upped our game and allowed us to get off the grid even if it's just at a Harvest Host or casino. But being able to camp among the red rocks of Sedona is something special, especially when it's just you or a small group of friends. It's a good breather between campgrounds and something we try to do as much as possible. And can you really beat the low, low price of free?
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