I have a very unique situation, I think. I hope you can read the basics here and give me some advice. Single mom, works seasonally. I home school and already work in remote areas. This would be perfect, but what about winter? What happens if the power goes out? Does gas cost a ton? I have a ton of questions, but don’t want to write on a message board, can you email me ?
This is most helpful and informative! Can’t wait to see what you have in store for the next more specific $$ post. I noticed you didn’t really mention anything about if your still paying for the rv…making a monthly note. Obviously that would be in the fixed column of the budget. Was a rv payment figured into your mean average of $2500 to $3000 a month budget?
These days everything is available online and if you’re putting most of your spend on credit or debit cards* it’s super easy to import it into programs (e.g Quicken or Mint) that will summarize and keep track of exactly where your money is going. Not only will this give you a solid idea of your starting point, but it will be key to pointing out places you can possibly save once you change your lifestyle and get on the road.
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When we first started RVing we signed up to just about every camping club out there, Sam’s Club, Escapees, Club USA etc. In retrospect (again because of where/how we like to camp) these were not worth it. The only camping club I currently consider is Passport America, mostly for short stops and I do like the Escapees Days End list, but even these have mostly been replaced by overnight “freebies” when we need them. The rest of the time we’re out in nature/boonies where club memberships do not go. For some people clubs are great and they can certainly be cost saving if you make use of them, but for us they’ve simply not made the cut.
The first thing on my list of things to do was replace the standard RV drinking water hose that ran from my city water source across my driveway (in a makeshift conduit I’d created) to the mobile mansion. I needed to run some kind of water line that I could run heat tape along. Heat tape (or trace heating) uses electricity to apply a small amount of heat to pipes to prevent freezing. I had some experience with it from my Howard Mesa cabin, where we’d used it on a very short length of hose between a water tank and the building. But rather than a 6-foot length of the stuff, I’d need 66 feet of it. That meant two 30-foot lengths plus one 6-foot length.
If you are considering living in an RV and traveling, think about where you’d like to see yourself spending most of your time. We live in an RV because we like an ever changing backyard, which means we pack light in order to move easily. Many people downsize to an RV to save money, but are looking to stay put in RV parks and can hang onto a lot more stuff.
Never allow your black tank to freeze unless you want to deal with a disgusting mess. Use a PVC pipe for your sewer hose – it’ll have less chance of freezing than a regular hose. If you plan on leaving the tank hooked up, add a layer of insulation around the sewer pipe. However, it’s a good idea to keep your tank closed until it needs to be dumped.
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.
My family and I are really contiplating this in the next month. My husband is a general contractor and I just had my 3rd baby, we have a 6 year old, 2, & 4 month. What kind of homeschooling do you use? I sold my salon and I’ve been looking into working from online especially if we do decide to travel the country. Any tips would be great, ty for this blog!
Hi Nina and Paul, Fantastic job on your blog; has answered so many questions for us. Kathy and I tend to plan well in advance for such ventures as full time RV’ers.. Being in the starting planning changes, one topic that seems to come up quite a bit is RV length with regards to parks that RV length “issues”. We are looking at the next year or two to sell the “bricks, sticks and mortar”. One question maybe you can answer from your travel experience is the 40′ length issues at some parks with regards to a motor home, how does that compare to, for example a 38 ft. 5th wheel and along with 18′ length of a double cab truck needed to pull it? Does the combined length of the 5th wheel and truck come into play in some or most places, i.e. setting the 5th wheel and where does one typically park the truck, in line, along side? Guess that does not matter when boon-docking. Would appreciate your feedback … regards…. Roman
Having cabinets above head level: Continuing with the Hobbit theme, I'd love to make it through one day without banging my head on some part of the RV. Sometimes I feel like I should wear a helmet while walking around inside. From the bathroom cabinet to the front area where the TV is located, I've made cranial contact with all of it hard enough to see stars. Not exactly fun.
I love your site and all the insite you give. We are planning on going on the road in 3 to 5 years and getting all our ducks in a row to do that. Down sizing is hard do do with our hobbies and family pass downs as well as tools that we may need.. We are planning on an older Class A in a price range of 30k so we have no payments. We will keep following your blog..Thanks, Jack and Diane Indy
For cash needs, you can get “cash over” on a debit card at the supermarket without any fees rather than worrying about finding a branch of your bank in some obscure town or paying extra to get money from an ATM machine. Buy a pack of gum for a buck and get $100 over. If you need to deposit a check, get the mailing address of your bank branch and mail them a short explanatory note, a deposit slip and the check, endorsed “For deposit only.”
I am preparing to become a fulltimer. I am in the process of purchasing a travel trailer to tow behind my truck. It will be myself and 2 english bulldogs hitting the road in the next couple months. I am enjoying reading all the posts and learning a lot. Like you, I will put a few things in storage but I have already told myself 1 year max. I’ll admit, it’s exciting and scary at the same time but if I don’t try I will never know.
Regular shower and/or bathroom: At first, a small bathroom seems just fine – until you've been in there a few times. The walls close in. The shower is smaller than most broom closets. Your elbows will touch both sides, as will a lot of the rest of your body at certain times. While it's totally doable to take a shower and still feel like you are OK to go out in public, it's certainly not luxurious.
I have been throwing this idea around to my husband. He is a railroader and is gone many days at a time. I was thinking of getting a small cabin as a home base and an RV we could travel with him in and go other places when he is not working. It’s a big crazy idea! I keep going back and forth on it, but we really miss him and he misses out on my boys. What are some of the downfalls of this lifestyle?
We are all electric with no propane, now what? Hydronic heating (Aqua Hot) can rely upon a diesel burner for furnace instead of propane. As you correctly pointed out diesel additive is necessary to keep the fuel liquid. We have learned that even though we treat our fuel it remains very cold. Cold diesel doesn’t completely burn and the exhaust can be very smokey and very smelly.
My husband and I are planning to transition to full-time RV living in the next 2.5-4.5 years once our oldest kids graduate high school (youngest will come with us and homeschool). We are concerned our biggest expense will be self funded health insurance. In your financial reports you say you haven’t purchased health insurance. What about now that Obamacare penalizes you on your taxes? Have you still chosen not to purchase health insurance and take the penalty or have you found a more affordable option? We have some medical expenses so likely couldn’t go completely uninsured. Hubby is considering a remote work job with benefits for this reason but really we’d like to travel for 1 full year without huge work commitments then do something like seasonal park ranger half the year and travel the rest of the year. Any advice or insight in this area would be awesome! Thanks for sharing your financial information. It is very helpful!
It began the way most just-so-crazy-it-might-work ideas do. Jennifer and Deas Nealy were dog owners and frequent travelers who kept running into the same problem. Every time they went out of town—which was often—they would either have to board their Australian Shepherd, German Shepherd, and corgi or tailor their vacation so that they were only staying at dog-friendly hotels. So they had a thought: What if they bought an RV, lived in it with their dogs full-time, and went on vacation forever?
We made the transition not long after college, so we really hadn’t accrued a lot of stuff. We had to get rid of a TV, few pieces of furniture, and a lot of our clothes, but other than that—not too much. This was probably much easier for us than it would be someone who has lived in a home for 20-30 years. I can understand the difficulty of what that might look like when I see my parent’s home where my brothers and I were raised. I can only imagine how hard it must be to give everything up.
New or Used – Our first two trailers were used and they held up great. Normally, we buy everything used so it was a big deal for us to buy a new trailer when we bought the Gateway. We had looked at probably over a hundred floorpans and it was the only one we loved everything about and it was new that year. Of course. We decided it was worth it to purchase the Gateway even though we rarely purchase new. We are facing the same problem again, a few of the floor plans we love are new this year. Obviously, we would prefer to keep cost down and purchase used. However, we don’t regret our purchasing the Gateway new at all. Surprisingly, it held its value very well and we sold it quickly. Since we had such a great experience with a new rig (the warranty is nice) we are considering new.
Great article! We have 2 young boys (4 and 8 month) and we are strongly considering this full-time. Working in a downtown setting feels like my soul is being sucked out of me everyday. We were originally inspired by the documentary Surfwise. Must be great to sit around a fire every night or lay under the stars with your kids instead of staring at a TV. Im in the middle of launching 2 online businesses and planning on quitting job in July. Maybe we’ll see you out there!
Now that we're warm, draft free and hopefully dry inside, let's deal with the stuff outside your rig. The first thing we need to do is keep your fresh water hose from freezing. If you are traveling a lot, simply use the hose to fill your freshwater tank and then disconnect it each night. If you are parked for a longer period, consider heat taping and insulating your water hose. Standard 110v heat tape can be wrapped in a spiral along the length of the hose and then covered with either round foam insulation or fiberglass batting wrapped with tape. Don't forget to wrap the faucet to protect it and add a pad of insulation where the hose connects to your RV. In moderately cold weather, this should keep your water flowing. If it gets extremely cold (below zero), it may still be necessary to let a faucet drip overnight.
Love, Love your posts! We have listed our home for sale and are searching for our RV. We are excited with caution. We have children across the USA and found there is no reason to stay put any longer. Because of your posts we have a lot of reading to do. It has taken several weeks to find your blog and thankfully we did. My parents lived in RV’s after retirement until they had to come home for their final journey. So, I remember well their travels. Need more information on the address matters. We were going to have our mail forwarded to us as we will be slow moving from place to place. Thank you for all the information.
I have left out some expenses as they might be comparable regardless of your situation. Those expenses are gasoline, home owner’s associations vs. RV clubs, phone and internet costs. While you may think the average RVers spends more on gas / year, we don’t. There is no daily commute, and no one said you have to, or even realistically will, drive hundreds of miles every day. Here are our findings on that (and all things environmentally friendly about living in an RV).
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For healthcare we keep $8,000 in our HSA account (tax-free health savings account). This not only covers our regular yearly self-pay checks, but also covers the individual deductible on our health care plan in case we should ever need it. We keep an additional 4-6 months of savings in ready cash (e.g. cash, money market, savings) for unplanned RV, pet & other expenses and regularly add to these savings through our monthly budget.
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.
Unless you're staying in an RV that's purpose built for extreme cold, your RV is probably lacking in insulation. Because of the way travel trailers and motorhomes are constructed, there are some perennial weak spots that RVers have to shore up to best insulate their homes. First, your windows are going to be more liability than asset in the winter. Glass lets heat escape easily, so you'll want to insulate your windows. Many RVers use styrofoam cut out into window sized blocks to shore up these weak spots, others go with plywood, as it's sturdier, but even a set of thermal curtains will help bolster your RVs insulation. Another problem spot for many full timers is the underside of the RV. Because of your ground clearance, the cold wind can whip right under your RV and steal precious heat, and cool the underside storage compartments to make it harder to heat your RV. Since you'll be in the same spot all season, it's a smart idea to build a skirt around the bottom of your RV to keep the wind out. Finally, RVs can get drafty after a few years when the seals start to break down, so find the problem spots where the cold is sneaking in and plug the holes!
I really appreciate it when you pointed out that being an owner of an RV means that I should learn a little about electrical, plumbing, and roofing work so that life on the road will be a little easier. Maybe it is time that I get myself a book and educate myself about the basics of troubleshooting. After all, I do intend to get an RV for myself soon since my dream job is to be a nature journalist. Thanks for the tips.
Anything below $1500/mo is tough IMO especially if there’s two of you and you throw health care, insurance and other fixed costs into the mix. The folks on this end of the spectrum are super-budget and generally travel in vans or smaller rigs (= lower maintenance & insurance/registration costs), boondock or workamp most of the time (= ultra-low camping fees), limit their travel (= less gas costs) and cook at home most of the time (= low entertainment costs). It requires some frugal dedication, but it’s do-able. We know several folks traveling this way who absolutely love the freedom of their super-budget lifestyle.
So I might know where I am supposed to go but getting there is always interesting – what lane turns right, can I do a U-turn here, I see where I want to go but how the heck do I get in there and where is parking? We eventually find everywhere but it isn’t always easy. Then there is the fun of grocery shopping in a new grocery store every week . . .
hi we are David & Kathy Harrington I plan to sell our home this spring and buy motorhome or 5th wheel but leaning on motorhome 40 ft. any thoughts on this would be helpful our granddaughter lives with us so we can’t hit the road until she is 18 yrs. old and gone I hope but still plan to sell& buy this spring and live in it until then so I will continue to gather as much info I can from you guys as yawl willing to share thanks GOD BLESS all of you marry Christmas & Happy New Year may all your travels be BLESS
I’ve got to give props to my girlfriend Kage, who has been living along with me on the road (and her husky Tobias). Being a man, the camper life isn’t too difficult, but for a woman, it’s an entirely different challenge. According to Kage, it is definitely more difficult to live in a camper full-time as a woman (where society expects you to still look good, as well as having to take care of feminine things), but she really does make it work somehow.
I hate getting old as insurance goes up, but being retired with only Social Security, and not having to pay taxes sure helps. We are considering Texas as our domicile for family and our truck registration, but it depends on the cost of changing health insurance. We have an old travel trailer we bought for $4,500, so we will save if we want something newer. All we can do is try. We will have a storage place though, just in case.
In my former corporate life, I hit Starbucks most mornings and ate dinner out almost every night. We owned and maintained two cars, and we each had significant commutes. Now we eat dinner out very infrequently, and we limit our coffee shop splurges. We own just one vehicle and drive much less. Where we used to have property taxes, utilities and HOA fees, we have none of those things in our RV lifestyle. All in all, we spend about $500 less per month in our RV than we did in our house. But that huge savings is entirely a function of what our old lifestyle used to be and what our current lifestyle is now. Other full-time RVers might not see those same savings.
$1,779 Spain Trip – This fall we decided to attend our first ever bloggers convention, mostly due to the fact it was being held in Spain. Sometimes you have to get out of the RV and explore a little differently. Only bad part about leaving the RV is your realize how expensive typical travel really is. We visited Girona, Spain and Costa Brava for a total of 10 days – 4 days at the conference, and the rest traveling the coast (oh yea and a 16 hour overnight layover party in Amsterdam). Since we were traveling to a bloggers conference we did get some special treatments from our travel industry friends and the event coordinators and hosts: We had our flights comped but we had to pay the fees ($215), our first hotel was 50% off but still cost $400 for 4 nights (the other hotel nights were comped), several of our meals were taken care of but we still ate out on our own several days ($639), ATM Withdraw ($278), Rental Car was 80% off, Public Transportation in the Netherlands ($25) and of course there were the conference tickets ($222 for both of us). These rates also include the credit card currency conversion fees, and the 2 ATM fees. It just blows me away that we had something like $4,000 comped during this trip and yet we still managed to spend nearly 2 Grand in 10 days. For those who think RV travel is expensive…think again!
Yes, we visit amazing places and there’s usually plenty of free stuff to do – but sometimes to enjoy them a little money goes a long way to enhance the experience. Unlike when you might be living more stationary where you might save up for a few splurges in the year (aka ‘vacation’) – on the road there’s constant temptation. A museum, a concert, an event, an entrance fee, etc. For us we found the discretionary fun budget is more spread out year round, instead of in vacation blips.
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.
The average cost we run in to is $1.75/load for washing and $1.25/load for drying. Most campgrounds have low-end but decent enough washers and dryers and you hardly ever have to run a load multiple time. It is important to note that many campgrounds and parks will not let you hang clotheslines so you can’t depend on that as a way to reduce expenses.
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.
I agree with your list. Howard and I are part-timers, in the RV during the winter months and home in Colorado during the summer months. We start off at the end of October and we ALWAYS seem to take too much “stuff” and way too many clothes. Last year I took more winter clothes than summer and did not really need them at all. We purchased our coach in 2006 and have been out on-the-road every winter since. You would think I could gage what clothes I will need by now, but for some reason this task eludes me!
She was perfect for our family and if we were going to do it again, we’d buy her. Honestly, we have no regrets but now that we are no longer traveling full time, it doesn’t make sense to keep her. Not to mention we no longer fit in our truck now that we are a family of six so if we did want to keep her we’d have to buy another truck. During this next season of our life it doesn’t make sense so we are hoping she’ll go to another family who will love her and have as many or even more adventures that we did!
We also keep the Careington Telemedicine plan offered by RVer Insurance that includes a telemedicine service, which gives us access to virtual doctors visits over phone/internet and a discount dental & vision network across the nation. The cost is $149/year for both of us – and we use this far more often than our insurance plan, as finding providers as we travel difficult.
Have a “fun fund” for those spur of the moment adventures. If you decide that today is the day you want to go for that hot air ballon ride, do it! Having money set aside for these experiences will make that transition to RV living more enjoyable and fun. We always seek out free and cheap things to do in our travels, but there are some experiences that are worth the splurge.
Yeah I’m really, really disappointed. The old BLM website was a bear of a thing to navigate, but had so much useful info once you figured out where to find it. The new BLM website looks sleek and snazzy, but has literally zero useful info. I keep hoping they will “flesh it out” with some of the old stuff, but I’m starting to think this will never happen. It’s such a bummer.
The first year of RVing I struggled to find the kinds of campgrounds (natural, green, spacious) that we like to visit. It was a constant battle of going to one website, through a ton of clicks, then another website, then to a map, then to another spot and back again to try and figure out which one matched our route. Early this year I discovered uscampgrounds.info and my planning life changed. If you like public camping there’s simply no better resource out there and I use it as the base for all our travel planning now.
I am hoping you can answer some questions for us with what we will need. I have already started a budget based on your article and answers to questions above. Our goal is to raise the funds through private, like-minded products/corporate sponsorship. What we would love is some advice about where to start with purchasing an RV. We need some way – even if it is a small motorbike to get around once with visit each town. Also – we are open to a trailer and truck combo…just not sure what you’d recommend. We are leaning towards a decent looking RV (if we can raise the funds) so there is a level of professionalism with the tour and because we would like to make that our home after the tour is over to continue our teaching on the road. If we don’t raise too much, we may need other options.
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How much money you save when you’re RVing depends largely on how you plan your trip. Taking a few minutes to think ahead about meals and travel routes can go a long way in your checkbook. Consider signing up for an online forum to share your ideas about RVing to make a little extra cash on the side if you’re really strapped and looking for something up your alley.
This was another big challenge. We chose Florida Virtual School, which is an online public school for Florida residents. We were worried about our ninth grader having the right credits for ninth grade, and about our own abilities to home school. But since it was the same curriculum as public school, it took almost the same time commitment per class each week.
We have met several full-timers who are members of the Moose Club and Elks Club and use their RV facilities on a regular basis. This seems like a terrific option, although we have not joined either organization yet. Membership requires a sponsor, but each time we’ve stopped in and inquired, people have offered to be sponsors right at the bar! The membership fee is on the order of $100 or so a year and overnights in the RV parks are $10 to $20 or so. Some lodges without formal RV park sites may allow members to dry camp in the parking lot if there’s room.
- Seal the areas around plumbing and electrical openings to the outside. If possible, use caulk for small gaps and expanding-foam insulation for larger areas. Use caution because foams can expand and damage certain areas. Low-expansion foams, typically used around doors and windows, are available. Remember that fiberglass insulation does not stop air movement, so simply stuffing fiberglass into openings will be effective only if the air leaks are sealed.
We too fish and hunt and eat everything we harvest. Although we have enjoyed the trips we have taken in our motorhome, my husband is reluctant to travel for more than 2 or 3 months at a time. He does not want to miss out on Spring and Fall turkey season and Fall deer season. How do you afford to hunt and fish outside of your home state? Non-resident hunting and fishing licenses are very expensive in many states.
Turns out I was right about not harming the RV, but I wasn’t right when it comes to freezing in general. That first night when the temperature dropped we left our outside water source plugged in. While it didn’t completely freeze I did notice icicles hanging from our basement water area the next morning. I’m glad I noticed them because it kicked me into high gear on making sure we didn’t fully freeze.
My greatest concern is the plumbing. Tanks can be insulated and heated. Some RVs, even smaller B+ have the fresh water tank inside. However, those small tubes for the water system will freeze very quickly if the temperature is below 32F. Heat tracing is a solution, and there are some very good industrial products. However, at present it seems I’ll have to extensively modify any RV I buy with insulation, heat tracing and heat pads. Adding those things isn’t all that difficult. Doing it in such a manner as to avoid excessive electrical energy usage – that’s the challenge!
We lived full time in a camper a couple of years ago while we were building a house. It DOES has its challenges… The biggest one we encountered was the campground we stayed at… But once we got that fixed it was actually very nice… Some things I would think about/plan for: laundry, make an outside living space, make sure you have reliable internet, and food storage.
People say to me all the time, “But how can I afford to live in a van and travel all the time?” My answer is aways, “How can you afford not to?!” Let me prove to you right off the bat that you can live the free life. Here is a budget showing just how little money you need to live and travel full time. One column is for a $500 a month and the other is for $1,000 a month.
$1,277 Hawaii Trip – We flew to HI for a friends wedding, it’s amazing how expensive 1 week of travel outside the RV can be. Our friends paid for several dinners, entertainment, and our hotel room yet we still ended up spending this much! This amount includes Cat Hotel ($252), Food, Drink, Pedicure Spa day, and groceries. This price doesn’t even include our airfare! It’s nice to get out of the RV for a few days but the expense is hard to chew.$500 Stuff and Things – I’m sure I’ve missed a few things we’ve paid cash for like laundry, parking meters, tips, farmers markets, etc. so I’ve added this buffer.
Thank you for the blog! My wife and I also adopted our 10 year old son over a year ago now. We are very set on downsizing and moving full time into a 5th wheel. We are looking at staying annualy in an RV park here in St Petersburg Florida. My question is are there parks that accommodate families? We are in our mid 30’s and almost every quality RV park we search for says they are 55+ community. Do these places still offer spots for people like us?
I’ve been trying to feel grateful for the life we had and I do. I feel extremely grateful but when I only focus on being grateful and try to bury all of the other emotions, I feel bad. I feel angry at myself for feeling any other emotion other that gratitude. Then I feel disconnected from the people around me because “they don’t get it”. And mostly I feel guilt. Guilt for feeling angry and disconnected and for basically feeling anything else other than gratitude. So then I try harder to feel grateful and the cycle would continue.
This is a wonderful blog! We are getting ready to start our RV adventure as newbies, in our 34 footer! We are avid motorcycle enthusiasts and will be planning our trips based on where the best motorcycle roads are in the US. Regarding the comments about size considerations, we will pulling a 10 foot trailer with the motorcycle. Will that have to factor into size considerations for sites, or can we just get creative with how we park the trailer? Any feedback is greatly appreciated!
Even after bidding goodbye to your physical address you will still need to establish a permanent legal address for such dreary souvenirs of your former homebound life as driver’s licenses, vehicle inspections, voting registration and bank accounts. There are 50 different sets of rules and regulations and your home state may not be the most accommodating to a nomadic lifestyle. Among the options to consider are taxes, insurance rates, and efficiency of mail forwarding. Three of the most popular domicile states for full-time RVers are South Dakota, Texas and Florida.
Annual maintenance costs will vary depending on the type of RV, age, mileage, driving conditions, and other variables. If you are towing a trailer, the maintenance costs for the RV could be less, but you need to maintain the tow vehicle, too. A used motorhome might require more maintenance expense than a new motorhome would, simply due to age. And the more mileage you put on the tow vehicle and/or RV, the more frequently the routine maintenance expenses add up. You also need to consider things on the RV or tow vehicle that wear out over time, like tires, brakes, windshield wipers, and the additional expenses for emissions testing, inspections, license plate renewal fees, and taxes.
I’ve been daydreaming about purchasing a 25′ Airstream trailer and hitting the road full time, and have enjoyed many of the posts on your site. Of all the posts across the blog, this is the one I’ve come to the most times as it’s rare to find such detailed and thorough listing of expenses, which is incredibly useful for a total newbie! Our lifestyles and spending habits seem similar, so I find myself returning to this page frequently while planning my would-be road finances.
I’m a Thousand Trails zone pass member. I pay $35/mo +$3/night. En route to TT Parks I generally use my 50% discount with Passport America to keep it under $20/night. On average, I pay close to $200/month lodging, utilities included. My average trip costs me $60 in gas. Averaging around 3 moves per month puts me at a little less than $400 per month in travel/lodging.
Nesting Mixing Bowl Set – RVers are always looking for space saving solutions and these nesting bowls with a colander and measuring cups fit the great gifts for RVers criteria. They are super cute to boot. We love ours because they are well made, pretty, and, most importantly, 9 items take up the space of one. We have the colorful set in the picture above but they also come in blue and grey.
Good Morning to all. I have read and skimmed my way through the initial posting and the comments. So here is my 2 cents. I have been full time RV’ing since August 2015. Sold my home in NY State because it was too expensive to run on my retirement and Social Security. I made the same mistake & stored a fair amount of belongings & furniture. That will go this summer. I still own property in NYS and barns, but that will be another year. I started out with a 37′ 5th wheel, drove to Florida and spend 6 months & 1 day at a campground on the Space Coast. Thoroughly enjoyed the time there and will be going back this November. (November 1 through May 1). I bought a new 5th Wheel in Florida and am enjoying it much more that my last one. You mentioned size, but I generally don’t have an issue. I have not tried dry camping yet and I have not done that in an RV before, The new 5th wheel is 42′ in length plus a spare tire and bike rake. I drive a 3500 Silverado diesel dually and I am very comfortable in all situations, including in town if I am going to a campground there or just following a detour, which I ran into in Nebraska. This past spring after leaving Florida, I traveled westward to Colorado to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. I was still in the mode of “make as many miles as possible in a day”, but I am now realizing that I really don’t need to do that, I’m retired. On previous trips out to South Dakota & Wyoming, I saw Badlands National Park, Devils Tower, Mount Rushmore and stayed in Cody, WY before moving on to Yellowstone & the Grand Tetons. Therefore after visiting with some friends in Wyoming, I headed back east. Now I wish that I had stopped along the way, even though I had seen those sights. I missed the Badlands and the Wild Horse Reserve south of Rapid City and the area around Rapid City. Another good reason to settle down and enjoy the sights. I am back in Upstate NY for the summer and will be heading back to Florida around the end of September. I am also considering a resident state in either South Dakota or Florida. Medicare supplemental plans will make that decision for me. Right now I have a great plan from Excellus BC/BS in NY and that will be what I will want from either of those states. I’m thinking about alternate routes other that I-81 & I-95 heading south. I am a single guy not by choice, so I have to do all of the things to keep the adventure going. I purchased a Magellan RV GPS and I feel very comfortable with it. The next 2 years will hopefully see me travel to Montana for the Glacier National Park and then south through Utah for all of the parks and the natural beauty. In 2018, I am planning to drive up to Alaska. That plan is in it’s infancy right now. Just gathering data and trying to throw out bad info and keeping what sounds reasonable. I’ve also donated at least 50% of my clothes because I don’t wear them. Takes up space and a lot of weight. I’m always looking to reduce weight. I hope that this gives someone else some ideas about life on the road.
I also soon learned how to juggle the use of coffee maker and hair dryer in conjunction with the heaters. Normally, using both at the same time is not a problem. But with the draw of the electric heaters, plugging too many things into the wrong line shut down the electricity totally. This meant a trek outside to unscrew four tiny wing nuts (virtually impossible to do in winter gloves) to get behind a panel to reset the breaker. Try doing this in the dark in the wee and snowy hours before daybreak and you don’t make the same mistake twice.
Even knowing we began to freeze toward the end, I am still a big believer in skirting your RV to protect it from the cold. I feel this way because I’m certain if we had skirting that was better sealed around the entire RV we could have kept a lot of the cold air out. But, since we were using the full sheets of insulation we had a few cracks for the cold air to sneak in.
- Check to ensure the tanks are insulated. Electric holding-tank heaters are available and will reduce the chances of tanks freezing. You also should empty the tanks periodically instead of letting them empty continuously. Keeping the exterior drain pipe from freezing will be very difficult. Do not rely on flexible drain hose, which easily can become brittle with extreme cold; instead, install PVC pipe into drains.
For MVUM maps there will *usually* be an indication of which roads allow camping, but it depends on the individual map. For many of the maps we physically own (I typically pick them up at the Forest Service office when we travel through) the roads are indicated by a series of dots along the side. Look at the map key and hopefully you’ll see it there. I haven’t used the App much myself, but I do think you get a color map there, so that may help.
I am currently looking for suitable stories to feature in the series and we’re keen to contact people who may be interested in taking part. I came across your website and thought I would contact you as I’m trying to find Expat British/Irish families attempting to live self-sufficiently in wilderness locations overseas and I was wondering if you’re aware of any British expats that could be interested?
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).
@Van: Really? Mass generally correlates fairly closely with Weight. Maybe in Outer Space, the links you provide could be useful for a Tacoma truck camper set up for parking in low earth orbit. Forget traveling to new gigs, he could get work doing satellite repair. Just park in the satellite’s orbital path and the paycheck will come to him. Probably won’t be much colder up there than Alaska, but getting fire wood might be a problem. But then again those 60watts of solar panel power would probably be enough to run an electric furnace 24×7 … shoot I forgot about eclipses.
When they are grown men and looking back at their childhoods, our biggest hope is that they know they were loved. An older wiser mom once told me that kids have “fuel tanks” and to make sure it’s filled with love every day because if it’s filled with love they are less likely to look for other things to fill it. Despite all our parental imperfections, baggage, and failures, we want them to know we love them “bigger than the sky times infinity”. We want them to leave home with filled love tanks. Our me-culture may tell us to do what’s best for us and “radical self love” is almost a religion these days. (BTW I’m all for “radical self love” when it’s not at the expense of others.) However, selflessness acted out with pure intentions in regard to the other may not be sexy but it is still and will always be one of the purest forms of love. And one of the hardest. Selflessness doesn’t come easy for me. I usually scoop myself the biggest bowl of ice cream. And take the biggest piece of cake. And tend towards putting my feelings above others.
A suggestions to lower your costs. 1. Passport America 50% camping and/or America the Beautiful Pass. We average about $8-$10 a night camping at these parks, while camping in some of the most beautiful locations. As well as hitting many free camping locations. State parks can be obscenely cheap and nice. 2. Plenty of farmers markets on the east coast, you just have to look for them as many of them are in small towns outside the cities you have traveled to. 3. I forget the name right now, maybe one of the other Rvers can chime in, but there is an alternative to Verizon that uses Verizon infrastructure that gives you unlimited phone and internet. We don’t full time right now so it’s not a concern. 4. Stay longer which lowers your fuel and camping fees. 5. REWARD POINTS, pay with everything with a rewards credit card.
You asked if any one read or cared about the expense reports, I do. We are in the downsizing mode and it will be 1 1/2 years til we full time. ( We just bought a fifth wheel that is in storage and have no truck at this point) I have visited several other sites and keep returning to yours. I think I could write a blog on preparing and down sizing but have no idea how to start one. Please keep up the expense posts.
Legally you must carry chains to drive many mountain passes during snow storms (especially in California). If you don’t have chains on board and you get busted it’s a hefty fine. We’ve spent winters all over the states, and fortunately we’ve never had to put our chains on. Of course we watch the weather religiously before we plan to drive anywhere. If you’re flexible like we are and you know a storm is coming you have 2 options: 1. Bust out of there ASAP before the snow or 2. welcome the snow with open arms and extend your campground reservation a couple more days.
Vehicle fuel – If you have a towable, you will need to estimate fuel for “moving days.” This can vary greatly depending on how often and how far you move. Our first year we came up with a rough itinerary with total mileage and an average cost of fuel per mile. In addition, for both tow and towed vehicles, you will need to budget for fuel in the local area.
If the company goes out of business (and we’ve heard of that happening), not only might you lose some mail, but you are left without a legal address. Of course, it is easy enough to “move” when you live on the road, so you won’t be homeless for long. But you will have to make a lot of phone calls and online address changes wherever your mailing address is recorded.
Good morning. So glad found this site. We r 71 74 and decided we r traveling while in good health. We are selling our home on the lake snd everything in it. Trk and trlr style travelling . Where can I find more info on the travel clubs u referred to and what about phone, WiFi, television services. Husband loves his KY wildcats and Murray State games. Have a friend that rv’s several times going to pick his brain too. R solar systems expensive? Thank u
For the most part, CPS can’t take your kids JUST because you are living in an RV, there has to be another reason. Living in a van means you probably didn’t have running water or a toilet and that could raise some red flags. I only ran into one family who lived in an RV who had issues with CPS but that was because they were running from an open case that happened while they were still in a house. The accusations were pretty serious and the mother had some very obvious mental illness and she was dry nursing her 5-year-old.
The point I made was that children are much safer when protected by seat belts. This is much easier to do when you keep them in a tow vehicle. When in an RV, there is a tendency to allow them to play in the open areas, etc., but this is extremely dangerous because if they are not safely held in place and a collision occurs, they can become flying missiles that can kill them as well as any other people they may strike. A vehicle traveling at 60 mph may stop suddenly, but anything that is "loose" within that vehicle, continues forward at that rate of speed, including children. For this reason, traveling by a pull trailer or fifth wheel that you are towing behind a car or truck is the safest way to travel with children, as long as you keep them in seat belts while you are moving.
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.
So interestingly enough we’ve not seen much of an inflation factor impact in our budget over the last 7 years. For example fuel prices have varied enormously during our time on the road (anywhere from $2.00 to $4.50 per gallon), yet our fuel numbers have not really reflected those changes simply because we adjusted how far we traveled each year. I DO think it’s good practice to add an inflation factor to any budget you look at (we do this in our long-term retirement budget planning too), but you may find the actual impact (once you’re on the road) to be less than you expect.
With that I can put a shower in with a small holding tank under it to drain via an electric drain switch when on country roads. (Yes people I will be using biodegradable soap and it is also grey water and put through a filter before spilling it out on the gravel road, no different than those who open their fresh water holding tank on the way home from a trip, hell, I might just charge the county with dust control). Toilets are the problem in the winter and I intend to go with portable potty because there are a million roadside toilets in lay-bys to dump them. I don’t use chemicals but dump often and clean with dishwasher soap (again biodegradable, you betcha, [is there such a thing?]). I have never had one smell at all but can always detect an ordure from RV toilets no matter how well vented they are.
Why we recommend Jayco North Point fifth wheel: Among the bulkier versions of the fifth wheels from Jayco RVs are the North point series which are roughly between 12000 and 14000 pounds heavy. This does mean, however, that this RV is really stable and are quite durable. It can hold 4 to 9 people and span from 38 feet on the North Point 315RLTS to the 43 feet on the North Point 387RDFS.
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.
Our fourth year of roadschooling has been a big year for Thing 1. Per his request he wanted a challenging curriculum because wanted to make sure he is “keeping up with school kids”. It has been a struggle for me because, frankly, I see much (not all) of traditional school as a lot of nonsense and wasted time. While we’ve kept up with the core subjects, we’ve allowed plenty of room for freedom to explore, create, and have avoided traditional textbooks and boring assignments. Brent and I have encouraged the boys to think out of box and question the status quo.
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 also soon learned how to juggle the use of coffee maker and hair dryer in conjunction with the heaters. Normally, using both at the same time is not a problem. But with the draw of the electric heaters, plugging too many things into the wrong line shut down the electricity totally. This meant a trek outside to unscrew four tiny wing nuts (virtually impossible to do in winter gloves) to get behind a panel to reset the breaker. Try doing this in the dark in the wee and snowy hours before daybreak and you don’t make the same mistake twice.
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.
After a few years of messing with the little single-load washing machines at laundromats, we discovered that it is much better to use the biggest machines in the place because they are generally the newest machines, they do the best job, and they hold a heckuva lot. Dryers are usually 25 cents for a set period of time that ranges from 5 to 10 minutes, and we’ve found that most commercial dryers need about 35-40 minutes to get the job done. Washers and dryers at RV parks are usually much cheaper than those in the local laundromat.
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.
Treetops RV Resort, located between Dallas and Fort Worth in Arlington, provides RV and trailer sites year-round, offering you daily, weekly, monthly and annual rates. Treetops RV Resort offers full hookups, along with a swimming pool, cable television service, laundry facilities, an air-conditioned bathhouse and Wi-Fi Internet service. The Dallas Metro KOA, also situated in Arlington, offers full-hookup RV camping, with 100-foot pull-through pads. KOA features complimentary Wi-Fi Internet service, a recreation room, cable television service, a picnic area, laundry facilities, a playground and a convenience store. You can find Sandy Lake RV Resort 18 miles northwest of Dallas in Carrollton. The park offers various rates for RVs and trailers, depending on length of stay. Located one mile from Interstate 35E and directly across from the Lake Amusement Park, Sandy Lake RV Resort features a clubhouse, Wi-Fi Internet service, a swimming pool, hot showers, laundry facilities and a convenience store.
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!
To make sure our hose drained quickly, we built a downhill track for it out of cheap vinyl guttering and cinder blocks. (We did have one of those accordion folding type of sewer hose supports, but it was constantly falling over and we wanted something sturdier.) Additionally, our sewer hose runs under the bottom of our RV and is fully enclosed with skirting, so frozen sewage hasn’t been a problem for us.
In a few years my husband and I will be full timers. My husband will be working shutdowns as a welder, so it will be a few more years before we are traveling for enjoyment. We have had this plan for a long time, we said when the kids finished high school we would boom out together. I’m looking forward to our next journey together. I’ve found all the comments here very informative and helpful. Thank you for 10 wonderful tips.
Your plan looks totally do-able. Your 30K merchandise start-up budget should be ample to cover everything you need, and in fact you should even be able to put some of that aside for the future unexpected expenses & upgrades (something I would recommend). Your monthly budget is certainly on the frugal side, but totally possible if you focus on keeping your camping & gas costs in check.
When we first started on the road we rushed like crazed animals on stampede to see as much and as far an area as we could possibly see within the timeframe given. It took several months before we realized none of this was necessary. In fact taking more time to enjoy our surroundings not only saved us money, but we’ve met more people, seen more local gems, created a sense of community and felt more in-tune with the journey. Our 2-month trip through New Mexico earlier this year was a great example of how this attitude has really made sense for us. We are progressing more and more into “sitters” (RVers that spend several weeks in one spot) rather than “movers”. It may not be for everyone, but I sure recommend giving it a try.
For these reasons, RVs smaller than 25′ didn’t really appeal to me at the time. With my space requirements and budget in mind, I searched for Class A and Class C RVs no larger than 30′. Many RV Parks and Campgrounds only accommodate RVs less than 30′ so I figured anything smaller would also manage well on the forest roads and remote places I wanted to go.
The second issue we had was when one of our propane tanks ran out at 5:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day. We had an extra full tank of propane, but when we hooked it up, the furnace wouldn’t ignite. We could hear it trying to ignite every 30 seconds or so, and the fan was blowing, but no heat. I checked the stove to see if we we were getting gas there, and it was working, but with a lower flame than usual. After doing a little Googling, I realized that the propane was probably not getting good flow due to the outside temperature, which was -9 F. We bought an extra space heater thinking it might thaw out the tanks, but it didn’t really make a difference. I also bought some Reflectix to line the door to the propane area, which I discovered was not insulated at all, but while that may help in the future, it didn’t do anything to warm up the tanks.
The sales tax rates also vary from state to state. The sales tax in one particular state may not seem important for someone who is going to be traveling all over the country, but the sales tax in your home state can actually be very important. If you buy a new vehicle — car, truck, trailer or motorhome — during your travels, you will register it in your home state and pay that state’s sales tax in the process. Many full-time RVers upgrade either their RV, tow vehicle or “toad” at some point. We have purchased tw trucks and two trailers during our years on the road. The sales tax rates in the most popular states for full-time travelers are:
Knowing how to budget for the RV Lifestyle is done when potential RVers understand why they want to become full timers and what they want to accomplish. It’s a lifestyle choice that should be carefully thought out and may take a great deal of discussion between a couple who are thinking of doing it. They should ask themselves what kind of traveling they plan to do—long distance, a slow ramble, or only move once or twice a year. Do they plan on working to subsidize their savings, or is this a once-in-a-lifetime trip? Be clear and understand the pros and cons. Understand what is required to enable you to make the decision of becoming full time RVers.
Truth be told, cooking is the most difficult part (to me) of living in a camper in the winter. If you don’t crack open a vent so the condensation can escape, your camper will quickly begin to accumulate ice and mold, although the wood stove helps bake most of that condensation out. Also, make sure to wash dishes the second you finish your meal, because it gets much more difficult once they freeze… and you don’t want to carry any more water into the camper than you have to.
I went on your site today for some inspiration and ideas. I feel like you two are taking the words right out of my mouth, I have said so many of the things I read here. I love that you are so honest and up front about everything. I’m planning on selling my home and buying a cabin with a few acres but when I search for information on living a simple life the lists i find are just things anybody could tell you, and I find myself saying “well “duh” thats obvious.” This is when I found homesteading sites with folks living off grid.