Emily, you have done an absolutely fabulous job of compiling tons of useful information and we avidly read your blog and go back over things as we prep to hit the road full-time. We love the way you think, your personality and just everything we read. You have been so kindly open with your budgets etc but there are two things we are just curious about being of similar ages and not able to get pensions or SS at this stage in our lives.
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.
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.
My husband always laughs but I also feel very lost when I walk into a new grocery store in a new city we are visiting. I don’t know where anything is and I end up walking around the grocery store at least twice before I am done since I can never find everything I need the first time through. Then again we have found some great food and brands around the country that we didn’t have in our home town so I guess it isn’t all bad.
The figure here is our average monthly fuel cost for a six month summer season of travel. We drove a loop from Phoenix, Arizona through Nevada to Crater Lake in central Oregon and then went from northeastern Oregon to Sun Valley Idaho and Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and finally dropping south through Ouray Colorado and into northern Arizona and back to Phoenix.
The RV furnace is designed to keep the interior warm even under the most frigid conditions. However, the longer the furnace runs, the faster the propane burn. I always lowered the furnace temperature or turned it off when I was cooking, as the heat from the stove more than sufficiently heated the entire RV. At night, I lowered the furnace to 55 degrees and used electric heating blankets. On less cold nights, I used electric space heaters to supplement and conserve of propane burn. Never set the thermostat lower than 55 degrees during cold months. Temperatures below this could cause internal water pipes and tanks to freeze or crack.
As to campgrounds…RV parks run $35 or more / night, but have amenities like showers, full hookups (water, electric, sewage), sometimes pools, and often fellow retirees. Discount clubs like Escapees.com and Passport America can help with these expenses to some degree, but not on an every day basis. You can also rent by the month, which typically gets you a significant discount, if you don’t mind slowing down. I’ve seen nice RV parks that go for $350 / month.
For years, Brent and I have talked about buying a vintage trailer or bus. In a post I wrote in March 2011, I mentioned my dream of rolling down a dusty highway in an Airstream, a shiny piece of Americana. We love bringing old things back to life. Although, we don’t have experience renovating a trailer, we did renovate two 1950s houses in California. A trailer can’t be that much harder to restore than a house, right? Years ago, when we bought our pop-up trailer, our tow vehicle was a Honda Odyssey so we were very limited by weight and budget. Today, we have a bigger budget and tow vehicle so maybe now is the time to pursue our dream of restoring and remodeling a vintage Airstream! We have a perfect space to park it while we work on it.
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.
These days, it’s not at all unusual to see young singletons, couples, and families on the road, whether it’s for a summer getaway or a full-time lifestyle made possible by the ever-expanding capacity of remote work. (That’s right: Some people actually make their living while they travel. Don’t be jealous — read more about how you can do it, too, here!)
$1099 Equipment Upgrades – The more Videos I shoot the more Hard Drives I need, and the faster my computer needs to be! I added a second Hard Drive to my Laptop, it’s a blazing fast hybrid drive and works perfectly as a ‘scratch disk’ for my video files (drive plus install kit $175). I had to purchase a new Wireless Lavaliere receiver due to my unfortunate accident of dropping the camera into the creek (see the previous post on expenses for the ugly details) however my insurance policy covered this cost, YEA! We bought a new “toy” it’s the Canon EOS M ($794), check my post on Secrets to HD Video on the Road for more details on how much we love this tiny camera (and what we don’t like about it). I purchased a new 3TB External Hard Drive for redundant backup ($130), you have to be prepared for a computer or hard drive to crash at any time, better safe than sorry right?
never stayed at RV park & I never put fresh water in my old camper in winter. I bought several 1 gallon water bottles to use. I would NEVER put water in black tank in winter, only “flush” with RV antifreeze, poured out of the bottle, (the toilet kind, not the automotive engine kind fyi). pouring out of the bottle allows for fine control of amount of liquid you are pouring in your very limited black tank as well as antifreeze. I would always seek other places to use restrooms whenever possible, but would use mine in a pinch. preferably guys, can recycle the water bottles as well, to save room in black tank for what is really important, but you still need some antifreeze else will get frozen. I find putting 1 gallon antifreeze in when empty is a good start and then add about 12 oz each time #2.
As for the budget discretion please note that we differentiate between fixed expenses and monthly expenses. To quote myself: “No matter what month it is the fixed travel costs remain virtually the same. They are primarily what the above budge is based on.” We pay our insurance in full every 6 months. We do not pay monthly so it doesn’t fall into our monthly expense category.
The majority of our income comes from my web design business, Donna. We don’t have health insurance…it’s still cheaper to pay the fine than the ridiculous premiums for those of us who want to travel frequently between states. More on that in one of our latest articles, which though it is about living in a van, the insurance part applies to RVing or any other method of full-time travel.
Well we just closed the deal. We have our new 2012 Monaco Vesta 35PDB. We will pick it up at the end of this week. They need to prep it and I am having them install solar panels and a satellite dish. I do have a queston on tire pressure monitor system. I have been reviewing them on Amazon and not sure which one to go with. I never had one on our 2001 36′ Winnebago but I would like to get one for the Vesta. What do you have and how do you like it?
With the bigger rigs I always feel it’s harder to back-in and maneuver in tight spaces (always better with a spotter since there are so many blind spots in a big rig), whereas the smaller rigs drive more like a car and can more easily be parked without help in just about any space. Also the smaller rigs use smaller (= much cheaper) tire sizes, can get serviced at a regular oil change place (instead of a specialty truck spot), and are easier/cheaper to maintain. All stuff I’d prefer as a solo traveler.
I am currently 57 and my husband is 62, we are planning to work 5 more years then sell the house along with most of our belongings and hit the road in our 30 foot Windjammer travel trailer. I am excited, but terrified and a little overwhelmed by insurance, mail, making reservations, internet, weather, how to pack, etc. Over 40 years of accumulating things (stuff) – I’m not even sure what to put into storage. We want to be debt free and explore our beautiful country and do alot of fishing. Your information and everyone else’s feedback has been so helpful.
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?
There are several RV websites out there that allow you to pay an annual fee to camp at members’ locations. For example, we use Boondockers Welcome which costs us $25 a year. We are able to stay with Boondockers Welcome hosts throughout the country for no additional charge. Another website out there is called Harvest Hosts. We’ve haven’t tried this one yet, but it looks awesome!
One of the happiest couples we met when we were sailing in Mexico was a retired couple who had returned to cruising after raising their kids. They had sailed across to the South Pacific and beyond when they were in their twenties and had hilarious stories of what it was like to be a pair of inexperienced free spirits in a little, used, cheap boat on the big ol’ ocean as “kids,” and they were sooooo worldly wise and such seasoned travelers compared to the rest of us retirement aged newbie sailors. I recommend workamper.com and workingcouples.com to find interesting camp hosting and other jobs that are suitable for RVers where a free or inexpensive site is often part of the deal. Have a blast — and please come back and read some more!!
@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.
Why we recommend Forest River Wildcat fifth wheel: If you need something even lighter but more spacious than Sundance’s offering then something like the Wildcat 27RL should be right up your alley. It tips the scales at 7466 pounds and has a 31 feet footprint. As with our other choices, there are roomier and heavier options available such as the Wildcat 35WB available too, 23 to be exact. This alone makes the Wildcat worth checking out but it’s features are just as noteworthy too!
Thank you so much. All this information is very helpful and I do have a few friends who have traveled and lived on the road for more info. Good luck to you and your family. One of my friends traveled across the nation for over a year staying long terms in National Parks with 6, yes I said 6 kids and home schooled them. Interesting life to say the least.
Life on the road can often get lonely, even for couples or families who travel together. Committing to the full-time RV lifestyle often means forgoing a sense of community, missing out on family events and waking up every day in a new, unfamiliar place. For the Nealys, this is the greatest challenge of full-time RVing. To cope, they’ve built a network of friends on the road, most of whom they met through the growing community of full-time RV lifestyle bloggers. Jennifer started the couple’s blog Nealys on Wheels to join this sort of makeshift social network. The pair began to make connections with other full-time RVers through their blog and through Instagram.
This category includes all the tools and supplies we use to keep the rig in good shape. Mark loves to try new products and has a growing collection of tools in his toolbox. Before we left, he made the mistake of selling almost all of his tools. If you are handy and can work on your rig, don’t make that mistake too! He tried to “make do” with the bare minimum of tools for the first year, which is why this category didn’t used to exist for us, but now he regularly buys little goodies that make his maintenance tasks easier.
Hi, I came across your blog and have so many questions for you! I think its amazing that your living in an RV with a kid and lately have been thinking how amazing the simple life would be to do that myself! I have two little ones, ages 4 and 2 and want to know what the real cost is for buying an RV, what do real monthly payments look like for you, water, gas, electric, RV site rental or camp ground? How did you get a custom RV or where? What about kids schooling? I would like to stay where we are state and city wise but want a more affordable option for living. Do you have a post where you address all these questions? I would truly love to hear more about this! Thanks
If they are new to RVing and unsure if the lifestyle fits, they should go cheap but functional. I have Airstreamed all my life, but our first trailer was a 24’ Nomad that cost $3000. We learned a LOT in that trailer. Lots of what to do, and even more of what NOT to do. We had repairs and enhancements to do. We sold it 1 year later, but that was due to my parents giving us their Airstream.
We’ve had a Class C (without a tow vehicle, we just used bikes) and it was a pain if we had to drive somewhere for groceries, etc. so we were always looking for RV parks near towns and public transportation. Having a little car to tow along would be easier in those situations, but we don’t personally particularly love the whole hitching up process. When we lived in our Airstream + Ford E-350 combo, it was convenient to have the van and Airstream as separate things (I could work while the family went somewhere for the day, etc.) but again…I hate hitching up and down.
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.
We have just become full-time RVers after 44 years of camping in a tent up to a diesel pusher.We now live in a Landmark 365 42′ fifth wheel, tow vehicle is a F350 4×4 dually, and I drive a CRV Honda. My husband is a transpo driver for a RV dealer during the winter so he is comfortable hauling the beast. Yes, I take my CRV and follow, I don’t mind the drive be it 100 or 1000 mi.
I love to cook as well…but then I like checking out the local brewski scene even better. About 80% of our going out during the winter is at the Elks which is cheap for both food and beer…$5.50 a pitcher and dinner for $9…but in the travel season we tend to eat at the local Elks maybe 10% and the rest at various hole in the walls. I don’t think we could get to your numbers even if we cut out the DirectTV fees and workamped…but then travel style is different for everybody…and one of the big drivers is what you can afford to spend. We’re fortunate that we can (mostly) not really budget…we could get down to JC’s 6K per month if we needed to without much strain…and if we needed to we would…but we don’t so we don’t. Our secret was to turn all of that money stuff over to a financial planning service up in the DC area when we went on the road…sure, we’re paying their annual percentage but we’re in a medium growth and income portfolio profile…we’ve averaged about 5% return since 1/1/13 and have taken out about $50K over that time frame for big ticket items like the new truck, trip to Ireland, trip to Alaska, etc.
Sometimes I feel like I’m beating a dead horse when it comes to tracking expenses. Is anyone really interested in this stuff? I mean it’s basically the same junk just a different quarter…at least that’s what I keep telling myself! Then I start downloading our bank reports and before I know it I’m so interested in the numbers. So, weather you love or hate it, here are our full-time RV expenses from July 01 – December 31, 2014.
Bus/RV: We have a full-timers policy on our bus that is kinda like a combined home-owners and auto policy ($1018/yr), and annual tag fees for our personalized speciality plates ($110/yr). As of 2013, we are registered and insured out of Florida – and we have limited full coverage options for a restored vintage bus conversion (our policy is through National General – and our agent is Epic-Insurance – Gina is awesome, give her a call!)
Sege I value your input and need advice. I am in the process of buying a rv.A 3 year old rv with payment vs 10 year old paid infull.My mind says 3 year old rv with less issue vs any problems a 10year old rv has.I am retired I live on 40k a year.I am purchasing the things I need before I begin my rv life.What’s the one thingI need more than anthing.
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.
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.
I’ve been wondering what to do with my life. I;m single and own a home with a mortgage. Going it alone is tough…especially when things break down, like the water heater. I have been looking into either leasing or selling my house and getting out of debt, then buying an RV. The thing is, I’m looking to set up permanently in an RV park and wondered how / IF that is an option and how would it work. Any advice or info about this would be greatly appreciated.
5. I would’ve understood that low mileage doesn’t necessarily mean an RV is in good shape – RVs need to be driven. The longer they sit the more things dry up and crack. If I had to do it over again, I’d ask if it was stored inside or outside, how much it was driven and how often routine maintenance was done. If the owner doesn’t know this and doesn’t have records, I’d either take it to a mechanic before purchasing or keep looking.
When we went to stay with my Parents we thought we were going to get blown away from the water pressure coming out of the shower and sink! I could have stayed in the shower for an hour and then went and washed dishes for another hour. This is one of those things that you don’t realize you are going to miss. Water in general can be an issue, especially drinking water which is why we use a Berkey water purifier which is awesome!
We are doing our research now too. Still in our early 50’s so we’re too young to retire and no savings but we are worried that “someday” may come too late in our lives to be able to do what we have always wanted to do and that is travel the country in an RV. So, we decided that we are just going to make it happen. We are super excited but scared too. Both of us have great jobs right now with excellent health insurance so our biggest concern is health insurance and how much that is going to cost us.
Been trying to convince my husband for YEARS that we should do what you are doing. I just recently got him to start the process of selling our “big-popular-neighborhood-expensive-house-that-requires-two-incomes-but-we-really-can’t-afford-anyway” and buy a fixer-upper on more land with no HOA. We already have a buyer (our neighbor’s inlaws) and just need to settle on a price which is hard considering the foreclosures in the last few years. While we’ve been looking at what is available in our north GA area, we have literally turned up our noses at the listings that are “just a trailer” on land. What a snob I have become. Time to change the way I look at these things.
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.
Getting ready to travel full-time can be overwhelming, but if you take the advice and guidance of those that have done it before, things can be a bit easier to navigate. Take it from me: if you plan correctly, this will be one of the best decisions of your life. If you’re still on the fence, take a look at our other articles covering RV travel for some inspiration and practical tips.
We are thinking of buying a 40 ft. extended stay model by Jayco(40bhs I think the model is). it has a full size refridgerator and range which we thought would be better suited for keeping my two boys fed. But like you said bigger not always better. My wife and I have been camping all our lives. and are in our second RV since we have been Married(10 years). We currently have a 2007 Springdale 27′ with one slide.
This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions about full-time RV living, and probably one of the most difficult to answer. This is because everyone lives life and makes decisions differently. Some people need to blow dry their hair after shower; some need to be able to watch football every day and some don’t watch TV at all; some can’t live without a washer and dryer (perhaps a family that goes through a lot of laundry daily) while others are fine with going to a laundromat. Some people love to eat out every other night while others prefer to eat at home. Some people want the community and socialization at an RV park or campground, while others prefer the peace and solitude of middle-of-nowhere camping. You get the picture.
We started with the curriculum below but after about six months gave “unschooling” a try before going back to a more scheduled approach. I’m glad we tried unschooling but it didn’t work for us at that point in our lives or perhaps I just didn’t give it time. Another post all together. After our failed unschooling attempt, I added an additional writing program because I wasn’t thrilled with Sonlight or Rod and Staff’s writing components.
We already discussed becoming more social, but meeting other full-time RVers in this community is one of the best things that has happened to us. There are some people we consider friends that we haven't even met in person yet. The RVing community is welcoming and open and we often start friendships online through Facebook groups or Instagram before crossing paths in real life.