On the one hand, these are supremely useful posts. Costs are a huge question for anyone who is considering getting on the road and one of the most searched-for items for newbie fulltimers. I remember it was one of the top things we fretted about before we went fulltiming and we had such a hard time figuring it out. Could we afford it? For how long? What kind of budget would we need? We found several blog posts, but no-one seemed to be able to give us an exact number. How are you supposed to work with that??
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
What has been cool about year 2 is that we have really started to see more transformational type of changes in us as people, as a family, as business owners. It has been quite the journey! Year 1 was about learning how to live this way. In year 2 we already knew how to live this way so it became more about choices, decisions, options, etc around working and living full time on the road.
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!
Diesel can freeze! Make sure you fill with winterized diesel which you can find at most truck stops. If you can’t find winterized diesel you need to purchase an additive that will keep your diesel from freezing (you can find this at auto part stores and truck stops). Before you depart your destination you should plug in the heating element found in your diesel engine (most diesel engines have a heated core that you can plug into a wall to keep them from getting too cold) to warm up your engine at least 4 hours before taking off.
* Safety: Do not make alterations or heat an RV in any way that could create a safety hazard. This includes using unvented heaters, such as space heaters or the gas stove/oven, in the living space. Unvented combustion heaters produce carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that can be fatal, and almost ½ gallon of water per gallon of fuel. Any heaters that burn a fuel source inside the living compartment must be vented properly to remove poisonous gases. Make sure to have a fire extinguisher and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
One time we had a package shipped via UPS to a post office General Delivery address in a small town. We tracked the package, and noticed its status was “On the truck and out for delivery.” This seemed to imply that the package was on its way to the post office, so we called the UPS distribution center to find out at what time of day the truck might get to the post office so we could drive in to get it.
Thank goodness you have the finances and securities to afford the RV lifestyle you two are able to enjoy. You do not need to apologize for that. You guys do a good job of keeping the RV community informed. 2015 is my year for transitioning to a RV lifestyle. Gathering all the information I can to aid in my search and the transition itself. Looking at a nice used 33 ft. Class C that I can support with my SS check and small retirement income.
I guess my best recommendation would be to look at back clearance. What we’ve found boondocking with friends is that some of the longer 5th wheels have a lot of back overhang (behind the rear wheel) and/or low clearance at the back. We went to some BLM land with buddies last year that had a 38 foot 5th wheel and they were scraping the back end over all the bumps while our 42-foot MH cleared them all with no issue. It’s not a critical thing, but I think if you really feel like you’ll be doing a lot of boondocking, then it makes a difference.
For me, room to work and live with an 11 year old, 55 pound dog (Capone), who sleeps with me was a big consideration (sleeping in a cab-over wasn’t an option). While the whole idea of RV living was to be outside more, I knew I’d be inside working a lot and wanted a separate work/sleep space. I’m also vegan and love to cook, so a full kitchen was a must for me. Storage was also a big consideration. I sold everything I owned and didn’t want to pay for storage so all my worldly possessions needed to fit inside my RV (honestly it was just a few storage bins of stuff), And, because I wanted to start my new life debt free, I had a $10,000 cash budget.
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.
Once we learned the ropes, RV living during good and bad winter weather was not a real problem. It was actually an enjoyable change to go for a brisk walk in a peaceful winter wonderland after so many years in very warm or hot climates (of course, we did have to invest in a pair of boots!). On the other hand, it did feel good to nestle inside our comfy RV when the temperatures dropped and the weather turned really nasty.
These were all things we did before we hit the road. But the costs are different now – as we’re frequently finding out about events fairly last minute and sometimes paying late entry rates and sometimes able to pay less for a last minute ticket to an unsold out event. And, sometimes we end up needing to forfeit event fees that we had to sign up for in advance, but routing plans changing to make it unrealistic to attend. Be sure to know the ticket transfer/re-sell policy before you buy.
We made the transistion slowly. (Our son is very resistant to change.) Each day we’d play out in the camper a little longer and slowly move his toys into it. Finally after about 2 weeks of this and moving things over we spent the night and didn’t have any issues! I’m not sure what we would do differently, we are pretty happy with how everything has gone. Our RV is a 39 foot bunkhouse. (So it has 2 rooms)
I know that if it was just me, and not my family, I could “make it work” on $650 / month, but if you factor in car insurance and a monthly trailer payment, that starts to really limit things…and other stuff like health care and even food stamps or other government aid (which I’m not saying you’re asking for, but if it’s currently in the picture), are much more difficult to maintain if you don’t have a permanent address in a specific state.
I love the slides in our motorhome because of the massive amount of space they give internally, but it seems some manufacturers go overboard. Our “beast” has a massive front drivers-side slide with refrigerator in the slide, something I now understand is an engineering no-no. The weight of the slide has been the cause of the only real issues on our home in 2 years. I love slides and will always want them, but in retrospect I would never buy another home with a fridge in a slide-out.
Regular hose, however, was not recommended by the heat tape manufacturer, which clearly specified metal or plastic water pipe. A hose was not a water pipe. Perhaps it wouldn’t work as well. Or perhaps it would degrade the hose and cause problems. I could imagine being poisoned by the breakdown of chemicals in my hose. (Seriously: I have a pretty good imagination sometimes.)
I really think it has helped us learn who our kids are as individuals and people. It also allows us to be here for them when they have a question or problem they need help figuring out. We give them as much space as we can, and as they get older they are venturing out more and more on their own at the campground, museums, etc. But it has been great to be such an important and big part in their lives and to continue to spend so much time with them.
Enjoy your thoughts and insight. BUT…..(yes, I’m a BUT gal), you obviously have plenty of finances w/cushion should you have unexpected expenses on the road. It is not so “go for it” when one is a BABYBOOMER, widowed Gal, whose main income is Social Security ($1500). It gets tricky. I’ve lived from Tokyo to Stockholm and all over the USA. Full timed a while crossing the country 12 times. Currently stuck in South Texas and loathe it. (formerly resided in Las Vegas, Beverly Hills, Miami, Honolulu, Tokyo and Palm Springs – the total opposite of anything in Texas. It’s a long sstory.) So, tell me where should I begin? I’m thinking New Mexico or north Arizona. Avoid DRUG TRAFFIC is an obvious concern; yet, too isolated places are risky ALONE for a petite gal. Not interested in mid-west/east coast: been there done that. Need SUN. That limits much of the US. Any advice or introspection welcome. Guess it’s a future choice of in the “rocking chair or on the road”.
I just found your website and am going to read all of it. I am so excited to say that we are starting to plan a full time RV trip in about 4 years. This is the start of our plan. research Research Research and by the time my daughter is about o go into high school we will hit the road. Homeschooling across america. I just wanted to take the time to say thank you for blogging. I am also researching blogging as a family, (from my point of view, from my husbands point of view and from a hormonal teenage 14 year olds point of view should be interesting) Reading your blog gives me hope to having our dream becoming a reality. And let the research begin I hope to one day meet you on the road 🙂
In fact, we created Finance Your Detour, a 4-step budgeting program to help others implement a budget in order to afford to travel more, or really, do whatever it is that makes YOU feel more alive! The program includes a budgeting tool that we designed, video tutorials on how to use it, as well as video lessons and worksheets to help you understand how to budget successfully in order to reach your financial goals. You can check it out here.
$2,319 Fuel Cost – So far we’ve put a lot less miles on the RV this year (around 5,000 so far) however we’ve been driving our Smart Car loads more (probably double last year)! Everyone complains about fuel costs, but if you look at it our fuel isn’t our largest expense, and how much really does a 10 cent increase per gallon cost? You’re either going to travel or you’re not, I’m tired of hearing people use the excuse of fuel costs as a reason they don’t take out their RV. Suck it up, put on your big boy pants, and travel….you’ll thank me later as you realize the trip only cost an extra $25 because of the rise in fuel cost. Sorry for the rant, we just hear this excuse over and over and it’s a moot point.
On the other hand, buying used can save you a significant amount of money, and with some good negotiation strategies, you can get a great deal. Many people who decide to travel full-time fall in love with the lifestyle and end up living on the road permanently. Others jump in and realize that this way of life isn’t for them – after they’ve invested a lot of money into a brand-new rig that quickly depreciates.
Thanks for reaching out. Please visit this page: http://alansills.com/home/tracking-my-travels-with-send-out-cards/ on which I do get into a bit how you earn in Send Out Cards. I also encourage you to test drive it. Feel free to contact me and I can walk you through sending a card and seeing how it all works. I’m also happy to discuss if you wish to contact me in person to elaborate further on just how money is earned in Send Out Cards.
We really appreciate the transparency you have provided in your blog posts, detailing expenses. We have found it useful for our own budget planning. Such a shame that some people find the need to project their own issues around how and where you spend your money and live your life. I totally understand why you are not sharing that detail anymore, but do appreciate what you are willing to share. I guess if people want more detail they can book an hour chat session with you! Anyway, it’s good to have this awareness as we might think twice about the level of detail we are willing to share in our posts too.
Our next step was to partially winterize by draining the tank, adding RV antifreeze, turning on the pump and opening all cold water taps (we didn't want antifreeze in the water heater). When the antifreeze appeared, we turned off the pump and switched to water from the city water outlet. The pump and surrounding water lines were then protected.
This is an excellent post, Nina. People ask us all the time what it costs to RV full time, and we’ve come up with just about the same answer as you —we figure $3500 for a comfortable and varied lifestyle that includes a mix of state and federal parks, some boon docking, occasional expensive RV resorts, and camp hosting. We travel a lot of miles every year driving from the Pacific Northwest to Florida and back, which I realize isn’t typical.
Hey there Mama and Jill, what an inspiring story! Because of a downtown in my hubster’s work, last year we nearly lost our house. We were able to keep paying the bills through God’s grace and our hard work, and paring our expenses to the bone. It is possible to live on much less, if you don’t look around at what other people have and/or do. Your story is inspiring and I’ll look forward to following your blog!
I truly love this story and the life you are having at this point in your children’s ( and your) lives. We would love to travel the us via RV for 6 months. We just returned from a 6 month world travel trip with the kids age 10 and 12. Now they are back at school and their sports. We plan to possibly do the RV thing in 2 years so your blog will be something I will refer to frequently. Thank you for sharing so much. Good luck
In Texas, Escapees has the largest mail forwarding service in the country. They receive a semi tractor-trailer load of mail everyday. We saw this truck come in everyday while visiting the main Escapees Headquarters campus in Livingston, Texas, and we toured their mail sorting facility. We were absolutely floored by the operation (our blog post about it is here: Rainbow’s End – Escapees RV Club Headquarters in Livingston Texas. Another Texas mail forwarding service is Texas Home Base.
With our retirement within 5 years, your blog is a continual source of information, inspiration, and encouragement. Thank you so very much. As far as saving money, have you read “Retire to an RV” by Jaimie Hall Bruzenak and Alice Zyetz? It’s an e-book that I found on-line and downloaded (PDF-format). It seems to be a great source of “living in an RV” information including how to save money. Thanks again. Neal
$600 RV Camping – The largest savings compared to our 2011 expenses. The main reason for the change in camping fees: We’ve stayed at several parks that have comped our stay and paid us to shoot a video on their parks. It’s not great money, but it’s saving us money and helping us pay some bills while extending our travels on the road. We haven’t shared many of the campground videos on our site yet, but we’ve just launched a new tab aptly named campgrounds. You’ll find the videos to be pretty happy since we were paid to shoot the parks, but in the text you’ll find our personal take on these RV Resorts (not all the reviews are paid, and we won’t lie and tell you a place is great when clearly it’s a piece of crap). Also we’ve saved lots of money by Driveway Surfing at our follower’s homes; and special thanks to my mom for fitting the bill when she joined us in Montreal Canada.
First up is getting space heaters for inside your RV. We used a combination of two space heaters, one being our fireplace and the other a small space heater we picked up. For those of you who winter camp you probably already know the cost of propane can add up quick if you are using it as your only source of heat. With space heaters you’re able to generate heat without burning propane. By using space heaters you’ll be able to go longer in between propane fill ups, saving you money and time.
No one should toss the house keys to the new owner and point their new rig towards the open road without having experienced previously spending time in an RV. Not just a weekend or even a week but ideally an extended period of time. No trial run will exactly duplicate the finality of being without a home base but being on the road will help identify what kind of full-timer you will be. Do you prefer being a “mover” or a “sitter?” Do you prefer the solitude of a campsite alone in the woods or the activities found in a commercial campground? These test runs will also serve to clarify your most important decision before becoming a full-time Rver…
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.
Some of the most beautiful times of year to visit the country are also the coldest. From snow-frosted mountains and icy lakes, the winter turns green trees and pastures to beautiful seas of white. The unfavorable weather conditions are a deterrent for fellow vacationers during these cold times. Why let the lower temperatures be the determining factor of when you take your camper out?
Within the last month I moved out of my apartment, purchased a new tow car and a 21′ travel trailer (monthly financing less than what I was paying for rent, and I will own them). I was really excited and didn’t quite think things through about where I was going to boondock. I work for Wal-mart and made arrangements with my store manager, but it is an awkward experience. Now to the point, I can’t be without internet. I use non contract boost mobile and pay $50 a month, this includes “unlimited” call, text and date plus my phone has hot spot capabilities. It allows for 2.5 gig a month of data and then when you reach the limit it slows your speed but you still have access to internet.
To save money, we don’t have a cell phone. We estimate that since we started traveling this may have saved us about $50/month or as much as $4,500 all together. We have also equipped our trailer with solar panels and we camp for free virtually every night. These choices make us happy, but may not suit everyone. Here’s a description of our minimalist internet and communications solution and our tips for how to live off the grid in an RV.
Avoid bringing the items you could easily just buy while on the road if you absolutely needed them, especially if your space is limited. It’s easy to go overboard buying all sorts of accessories for the RV. We recommend getting the bare minimum and then you can always purchase more as you, if there are items you wish you had. It’s much easier to do this then deal with the frustration of having too much crammed in!
I plan on retiring Nov 2016 and want to RV for a couple of years before settling down in one place. I’ve been researching the fulltime RVing and my head is spinning with all the info out there. I just want you to know that your site is actually the first one to give direct answers to all the questions I have like taxes, health ins. Car/RV registrations. I’ll be stopping by quite frequently…..
We have received many Post Office General Delivery packages shipped by both UPS and FedEx without being charged a penny by the Postal Service. However, we have received just as many packages where we were charged a fee of as much as $12, depending on the size of the package, when we went to the post office window to pick it up. There is no way of knowing what the fee will be ahead of time, as it is out of the hands of the company that shipped the package and is entirely up to the local Post Office that delivers it to you via General Delivery.
I’d agree. Campground internet is as unreliable as any I’ve experienced, but hotspot options from most major wireless carriers make for fast and reliable internet on the road. Depending on the carrier, it’s generally around $100-$180 per month (for the better networks) and we’ve found it to be very reliable. And, don’t forget about coffee shops and cafes, which offer a good excuse to immerse yourself in the local scene while snagging some complimentary internet.
Why do we share our expenses of full time life on the road in our RV? To help others who travel like us. If you like the occasional splurge, fine bottle of wine, a couple of new outfits each season, and you don’t mind paying for a cool adventure then you’re expenses might be pretty similar to ours. If you don’t spend a lick on fashion or local sips and bites then your expenses will be nothing like ours.
Monthly & Weekly Rates: For staying in RV Parks, monthly rates are the best rates followed by weekly, and help balance out shorter stays while we’re in transit. Urban locations are typically more expensive – so if we need to be somewhere like San Francisco, Austin, St. Louis, etc. – monthly rates can be $500-1300. Some locations have seasonal rates too, so if we need to be in Florida during the winter (where our family is), it’s more expensive. If we don’t need to be near an urban area, the lowest we’ve paid so far is $300/month.
Thanks for the article, Tim! I really enjoy hearing and reading about folk’s experiences when living and traveling small. I never made time for it even though it was a dream and, now that I’m old, it will be one of those things that I’ll say, “If only…..”. Everyone reading this article: Please do everything you can to have a bucket list, and then do it! Don’t have regrets. I DO have a bucket list now and will do everything I have time for. Your story encourages me to keep going.
You don’t have to have a “home” to have an address. There are multiple companies that offer mailbox services. Which means you get an address for a mailbox that is located in one of the cities that the business is located in. The company then scans your envelopes and sends them to you via email (you can let them know if you want them to keep it to mail it to you or throw it away), mails your mail to you once a month – wherever you are, or some even open the mail and scan it and send it to you. It is all for a monthly cost but it is very reasonable. The only thing is you have to have domicile in the state they offered in. The main one’s for Full Time traveling families are Florida and Texas – since the homeschooling laws are best there. However we had heard that Texas wasn’t good for state health insurance since they didn’t offer a nation wide plan – not sure if that matters to you. Here is a link from a full time RVing couple about how to handle mail and a few other things: http://www.technomadia.com/2012/07/chapter-9-nomadic-logistics-domicile-mail-taxes-banking-and-voting/ Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions.
An electric heat strip taped to the water hose and covered with circular foam tubing insulated it. This system worked for another 10 degree drop. Next the valve, where the water entered the RV, froze. One winter tip from other RVers was to hang two trouble lights with 40-watt bulbs in the storage pod and plug them in when the temperature dropped. Heat from the light bulbs should prevent freezing. It may have also kept our water tank in working order.
For detailed National Forest campsite info check out forestcamping.com where Fred and Suzi Dow have catalogued virtually all of the US National Forests and National Grasslands campgrounds and have detailed info on the campgrounds that are suited to RVs. The info on their website is free. If you want to have the same info for reference when internet is not available there is a very reasonable charge for downloading their regional guides, We have found their info to be extremely helpful for both long range planning as well as last minute searches. We love National Forest camping but many of the older campgrounds are not suitable for our 37 foot DP. Having their downloaded info has saved us a lot of frustration.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area experiences hot, humid summers, with temperatures approaching or exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit during July and August. Mild winters offer temperatures from approximately 35 to 55 degrees. The months of May and October typically see the highest rainfalls, up to 5 inches, while January typically experiences the lowest rainfall, with an average of less than 2 inches.
While you can certainly live for free out of your van, especially if you get a Northwest pass (I think that’s what Washington’s is called…or maybe you won’t need one if you’re working for DNR) then there’s ample free camping up in the Evergreen State, but you’ll still have costs. Gasoline, a solar setup if you want to have power, and propane if you want to have heat and a stove, which I would think you might in Washington…
Did you say,only 50k miles? When I was working, I recall 1 week, on night service, well what with the heat ( 93, or 94 ) but that was 1500 miles in NJ, my last car 355k miles, anyhow , if I ever go on the road it probably HYMER 1.0 but it would only. Be me.Wife can’t ever see anyone living in a vehicle, the other is my age 77, and 1.35 million miles, so I now only use a 1/2 tank per month ! 2013 Ford Taurus.
We use Verizon for voice and some data, DirecTV with the dome on the roof of the RV and DirecWay for most of our internet connections. Since we use DirecWay we have to carry the dish everywhere and spend time setting it up, of course we can place it anywhere within reach of the RV, which is beneficial. It is however big and it takes up a lot of room. We haven’t gotten rid of it, because we like having it at home and it has been very reliable! We are debating changing to another service, but we have not made up our minds what the replacement would be.
After you have identified your fears, accept them, even embrace them; they are a natural instinct given to us to keep us safe and from taking stupid risks. They are a good thing unless we let them paralyze us. When that feeling of fear and panic starts to well up from your gut, take a really deep breath and literally thank it for the wise warning it’s offering you. Then assure it you will consider the warning very seriously. This may seem very “new-agy” but try it any way.
Author bio: Bryanna, her husband Craig, their 4 kids and 2 dogs sold their house, everything in it, and bought an RV and are now traveling around the US. They blog about their adventures at www.crazyfamilyadventure.com. Their goal is to inspire families to get out and travel more. When they aren’t out hiking to the top of mountains you can find them on the beach or at the local donut shop searching for the best donut in the US! You can find them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat.
Our second year of homeschooling, we enrolled the boys in a new a hybrid classical school. It was a fantastic year blending the best of both worlds. The boys were home with us four days a week and went to school three days a week. They got the benefits of a classroom setting, like positive peer pressure (and a teacher who could keep up with Latin) and I got a break. Since I didn’t need to create schedules, choose curriculum, and find social opportunities our homeschool days were even more relaxed. The one thing I would have changed about this year was math. At the time, the school used Saxton which turned out to be a poor fit for both boys. Not only was it boring but it was less advanced than their previous curriculum. When we went back to homeschooling the following year we had to go back a year in Singapore.
Gradually, things started to clear out again and our mindset continued to shift. Then came the big day! An offer on the house – things just got real! We ended up having a huge rummage sale at my sister’s house since she was located on a busy street. We didn’t price anything but instead told people to make an offer on what they wanted. This was WAY easier. And we made an agreement that nothing would come home with us. We sold a lot and everything else was donated.
I’ve mentioned before that living and traveling in an RV full-time can either be very expensive or very affordable. It all depends on your lifestyle, goals, and self-discipline. When we first hit the road, our expenses skyrocketed. We were traveling almost daily, staying in higher-priced RV campgrounds, and eating out at restaurants almost every night because we didn’t feel comfortable cooking in such a tiny kitchen.
Yes, we are new to RVing full time, but not to camping, we have camp in a tent to a diesel pusher for the past 44 years. We purchased a Landmark 365 42 ft fifth wheel and have a F350 4×4 dually, and I have a CRV Honda. My husband is a transpo drive for a RV dealer during the winter and is comfortable hauling the mighty beast. I drive my car to where ever our destination for the summer will be, be it 1000 miles or 500, I don’t mind driving.
I cannot in good faith tell you that freezing camping is easy camping…but what I can tell you is: typically if you camp where it’s freezing you’ll have the entire place to yourself. Some of our favorite times to camp is in the off season, and freezing camping is always a fun challenge for us. I hope you’ll reconsider heading to the beach in cold weather, it is such a wonderful feeling walking on the beach all alone, bundled up, with the one you love 🙂
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.