Some people leave both their gray and black tanks closed during cold weather and only open them for dumping, but we really wanted to be able to leave our gray tank open and not have to worry about it.  After researching, I realized that unless we were in a climate where liquid could freeze in the amount of time it took to travel through the hose (which we were not), it would be okay to leave our hose hooked up and our gray tank open as long as it could drain quickly without any places where liquid could collect.
I hate to say this, but were I starting all over, I’d go with a 2009 – 2014 or so Ford E150 with low miles (probably run around $15000), build out the camper myself, pay someone to put a pop top on it (that’s big money though, $7k more or less) and spend more of my time traveling than working on this old girl. At this point, of course, I am in love with our VW and wouldn’t make the choice outlined in this paragraph. 🙂
I get it. I grew up with my parents RVing all over, went in the military and traveled all over and got out and bought a small 16′ toy hauler, that lasted a year (do to the cramped style of it). we then bought a 27′ toy hauler and full timed in it for 5 years (still cramped with no slide outs)before deciding to take the leap. We now live Full time in a 36 1/2′ RV with 4 slide outs. it has a nice size bedroom w/ king size bed and washer and dryer, nice size bathroom with shower, big kitchen and dining area (which I re-modeled) and a big front living room with two fold out sofas and a complete entertainment system which I upgraded. did I mention that it’s a 5th wheel? any how, we have no problem that can’t be fixed at a lot cheaper price than a house and sleeping arrangements, she gets the bedroom and I get the sofa when snoring, which i might add is NOW very comfortable with the extra 4″ thick full length padding I added. we have a house on wheels 3 heaters, 3 AC units, wine cooler, ice maker, washer / dryer, 3 TV’s and so much more. I have added a lot of this to make life comfortable . I just wanted to say that RV living does not have to be a nightmare. It is what you want to make of it. It looks like you have decided NOT to make it a permanent life style like us and just use it as a means to get by while you build your dream home. that’s great too. however, I would change the title of your segment to “OUR 10 ugly truths of fulltime RVing in a small RV.” or something more related to the size of your RV. because when you get into the bigger RV’s your 10 ugly truths don’t really apply. except one item, GENERAL WEAR AND TEAR. I totally agree that the furniture is not made as durable as it should be. but then again things in or on a house wear out also. and that stuff will cost you a lot more than on a 5th wheel or TT Type Trailers. motor coach’s are different. depending on what breaks, they can get very expensive. I have one small question, when your house is built and you are settled in will you take your trailer out and go camping?
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.

A heated hose will allow a fresh water supply but even if the water supply is the cold weather type, if you leave it turned on without heating the above ground piping, it’ll freeze. Leave it turned off and fill your tank when necessary. Connect your sewer hose as needed and drain it when done. Be cautious with the plastic fittings as the colder they get the more brittle they become.
What will you do when you reach an age that you can't travel anymore? There comes a time in every full timers life when they travel less frequently and maintain a more traditional residence. It can sometimes be due to health issues, aging, wanting to be close to relatives again, or any number of things that occur. That doesn't always mean selling your RV and buying a house again though. Many find a park where they want to stay indefinitely and still enjoy life without a house.

These kinds of campground membership programs are a complicated, and the companies change the rules as their profitability and growth plan requires. It is best to book your stays 90 days or more in advance and there may also be a complex set of rules to follow regarding staying within the network and outside of it. Sometimes an alternative campground network is offered so you have somewhere similar to stay when it is time for you to stay outside your home network. Two we’ve heard of are Resorts of Distinction and Adventure Outdoor Resorts given as the alternative networks.


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?
Sheepherder wagons have a long history of wood/dung stoves but we don’t see them in the Wally World parking lot belching smoke from their long chimneys protruding from steeply sloped sheet-metal roofs do we? One has to wonder how the modern RV roof holds up, with or without a spark arrester on the stack, so close to the exhaust opening? Wonder how you would like it if somebody parked an RV in front of your house and then the creosote buildup in the stack flashed and blew a blizzard of sparks across your property and vehicles? 😉 Burning birch is not option in most parts of the country. Maybe Kent should discuss the types of wood he prefers and why ….
Sure we considered the this-is-our-life-and-sorry-it’s-not-what-you-want-but-try-to-appreciate-and-learn-from-it approach. As parents we have that right to make the choices we think our best for our kids and family. The road may be “best” for Brent and I but, God willing, we have many years left as a couple to explore and experience life as we want but the older boys only have few years left as kids. They didn’t want to spend their teenage years living in an RV full time.
Found your blog and read through mean replies. very very helpful. My wife and I are 55 and getting ready to dive into the full time RV thing. We are having a hard time making our decision based on the future of fixed income. we live on a lake in Minnesota. it is very quite and offers boating and fishing with a wooded camping feel. we’re crazy to do this right!
Hi Kristen, if you haven’t already you will want to read the full Fulltime RV Living series, that should answer many of your questions. Costs are going to vary greatly depending on what kind of camper you decide you need. Our payment was $430 per month which we thought was rather high. Water, gas, electric, and site rental will depend on the campground and the season of the year. Our rv was not custom, it was a standard Open Range 413RLL model. Most that live in an rv fulltime (that are traveling) homeschool their children. If you are going to stay in one place you may have other options. I hope that helps!
We quickly learned that we didn’t like that he had to be at the table working all day while the kids and I were out exploring all of these amazing places! Plus, having to go back to Wisconsin was expensive and limiting how far we could travel. California is quite a drive from Wisconsin, especially if you want to go back and forth. The cost of him flying back alone would add up, not to mention I just did not want him leaving us for a week.
Since we started full-timing, we have upgraded both of our DSLR cameras twice and upgraded both of our pocket cameras twice. As for biking, we started out with cyclo-cross bikes but sold those when we found we were almost always camped near very rugged dirt roads. We replaced them with mountain bikes in March, 2014. Bike maintenance isn’t a huge cost, but it’s there. We also upgraded our bike rack a few years ago. And back in 2008 we splurged on a fabulous Hobie inflatable kayak that we loved for several years but eventually sold because we needed more room in the basement.
I could “camp out” in my hangar at the airport. The hangar has two offices with baseboard heaters, as well as a full bathroom. My furniture is already there, so it’s just a matter of reorganizing it to meet my needs for the few months I’d need to live there. Unfortunately, I didn’t think my landlord — the folks who manage the airport — would like those arrangements.

We use St. Brendan’s Isle in Florida for our mail forwarding, and use their Mail Scan Pro service. Their address also serves as our legal address of domicile for driver’s licenses, voting, vehicle registration, business registration, taxes, etc. They collect our mail, scan the front of the envelop and notify us via e-mail that we have new mail. We can then view our envelops online and decide what to do with them – scan, send or shred.  We can request a shipment to whatever address we’re at. They’re super cool and we couldn’t be happier with the service we have received from them.


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.


Just wanted to give you a tip on window treatments. I read that you guys have used curtains, bubble wrap, etc. We have just started on our cold weather excursion (currently in northwestern Montana) and wanted to share what we did for sealing our windows. 3M makes clear window treatments that come in multiple sizes. Normally, they are for use in a residential home, but we found them to work equally well in our 5er. Using double sided tape around the frames of the windows, they make a tight, clear seal and both keeps the air leaks from coming in and forms an air pocket between the glass and plastic film that acts as an insulator. SInce air is a poor conductor of heat, it makes a huge difference in keeping our RV warmer in the winter while still allowing full light to enter. We’ll be putting a winter post up on our blog shortly. Granted, we are from Florida, so I’m not sure who’s going to take our advice, but we both did grow up in Colorado and Pennsylvania, respectively! Hope this helps!
Well, Caroline, I’m certainly no financial advisor, so take that into account. Would your house sell for $23,000? With that, you could probably get a decent, used Class C RV, or possibly a decent used trailer + used truck to pull it. However, it would be tight quite honestly and if I were actually going to recommend something to you specifically, given that you’re on a fixed income, I would just make sure you do your due diligence. Used trailers especially, can require a lot of maintenance. Used RVs can too, but something about trailers, it just seems like they’re either not built as well, or maybe their frames aren’t as solid, so things are constantly breaking. On a fixed income, it may become daunting to be able to save some of your money every month for a “just in case” fund say, if your fridge needed repaired or your water lines froze or something even more major happened.
Tank heater pads aren’t of much use if the rest of the tank isn’t insulated. As was pointed out, RV skirts are a really good idea and I know of the old trick of putting light bulbs in compartments and under the skirted RV to keep spaces at temperatures above freezing. This works effectively in RV sites with electrical hookups, i.e. relatively limitless electricity at 30 Amps (3600 watts).

Well, that depends on how long they want to full time. Let’s say the RV travel costs are $2,000 per month. That’s on top of whatever other costs they have (Insurance, repairs, clothing, cell phone, etc.). Then a person needs an income to support that level of spending for as long as they’ll be full-timing. If they want to try it for a couple of years, don’t want to work while traveling, and have no other source of income, then my guess is a couple needs around $100,000 saved up to live off.
I may be relocating from Idaho to Concordville, Pennsylvania for a job. My concerns are that the cost of living may be more than I can handle financially, but I could live in a travel trailer easily. What advise can you offer a person who has not even gone camping much less RVing. I’m sure there is much to know about the area and does it accommodate this style of living?
We have been using ours since Mark installed it in 2008, both during the winter and the summer, and we love it. We have a whole blog post explaining how this kind of heater works, what the technologies are behind the different styles of vent-free propane heaters on the market, what kind of heat each type of heater produces, and how to install one here:
My goodness. You spend A LOT. Some of your expenses I can’t comprehend. They are or should be one-time expenses, and why the large expense for the website? Hosting is $10 a month. There are free websites. Do you pay for SEO or advertising? I am not understanding. And the cell phones. My Lord. I pay $98 per month for mine; my fiance pays $55, because with mine being a smart phone, he doesn’t need anything fancy. There are family plans, too, with most carriers. Your grocery expenses are a bit over the top, too. Do you or would you use coupons, buy red tag items, etc.? All grocery stores have clearance items, and since your space is limited, this would be ideal. You likely don’t freeze things. If you buy red tag/orange tag/yellow tag/whatever color tag items, and then you use them in the next two days, you could feed your family on as little as $10 a day. And you’d eat well. Gas costs… well, gas costs!!! A lot. No getting out of that one. There are other expenses we wouldn’t have, and I’m thinking your RV is a lot nicer and newer. Anyway, good for you for living on the road. That’s a great experience for you kids. And the Mexican dental is brilliant! People may not know that they can get great dental work done on the cheap in Mexico. That’s why there are travel medicine groups springing up.
RV maintenance depends on how handy you are and what kind of rig you have. I do all of my regular maintenance on the Airstream, so I usually only have to budget for maintenance parts and not labor. That’s only a couple hundred dollars a year. Since we have a tow vehicle, maintenance of that will also be lumped in I guess. I’m not really a person who has done strict budgeting, but I think a couple thousand bucks a year to put away as an emergency fund is a good idea.
Luckily, Birgit & Greg, whose site we're using, were nice enough to let us tap into their super-size external propane tank (we'll be paying for the propane we use, of course). So propane shouldn't be a problem, but we'll still want to keep our usage to a minimum, since it's expensive, and propane use can cause excess moisture to build up in the rig.
Living in a camper, RV, trailer whatever you want to call it is a wild ride filled with amazing travels! We have also realized that living this life has made us appreciate a lot of things that we took for granted when we lived in a house. RV living is definitely a different kind of living. Being on the road means there are really good times and also times of frustration and struggles where you miss the comforts of a house.
Thus, we ended up back in our VW Bus, which is super easy to set up / tear down, can be driven anywhere, but you loose out on space. We also want to be in more natural areas, where the larger your rig, the more difficult it is to access or get any remaining spots. But that’s just us, and it sounds like you’ll be closer to towns and therefor possibly more likely to be in RV parks, so with all of that, best of luck in making a decision!
In the event that there is a partial loss, like theft of just a few items, there are caps on what is covered. With National General, if the theft occurs inside your RV, then the cap is 25% of the total value of all the Personal Effects coverage that you carry. For example, if you have a $20,000 Personal Effects policy, then this means there is a cap of $5,000 per claim. If the theft occurs outside the RV but on your campsite, then the coverage is 10% of the total value of all the Personal Effects coverage that you carry. Again, for $20,000 total coverage, this means a cap of $2,000 per claim. There is no coverage if the theft occurs away from the RV (i.e, your bike is stolen from the bike rack at the coffee shop in town).
Your personal diary of events and budget is not uncommon. However me and my husband lived in North Eastern Utah in a new RV park for only $350 month, which included ALL utilities except our propane. We also renovated a used 35 ft fifth wheel becasue we did not want to be in debt. We also stayed on a budget and never had the expense you all did. We to own land but voted to stay in town at an RV park. I can tell you from experience our total expenses were not over $600 and this includes most of your list.
Visit Lazydays RV in Colorado, Arizona, or Florida to receive comprehensive RV maintenance before your family sets out on their next adventure, or to learn about the different types of RVs available. You can also visit one of our rallies or events to meet like-minded families that are just as enthusiastic as you are about this wonderful, rewarding lifestyle.
Thanks for the information. It’s funny but I was just contacted by a friend I haven’t heard from in 4 years and they recently sold everything off about three years ago and are enjoying the RV lifestyle. They just spent the summer in Alaska and currently my friend is playing Santa Claus here in Las Vegas. We are getting together tomorrow and I am sure we will have a big discussion on how things have been going so far. He has already recommended I grow my beard in for next year and play Santa. Of course I will have to die the beard as I am not quite white yet. LOL. I will keep on searching your site and thanks again for the update…
Haha, thanks Ambra. We do our best to stay positive and answer as many questions as humanly possible…but at some point we realize sharing certain information just adds unwanted questions over, and over, and over… So we decided to nip it in the bud and simply share the necessities from here forward in regards to our expenses. Hope you still found it helpful.
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.
Thank you for providing so much good info. Sorry to hear the internet trolls have been critical. Ruins it for the rest of us that want to learn. It appears your average cost of leaving is ~$10k per quarter. Really appreciate you both share what your doing. Don’t know if you have posted this, but would be interested in what each rig cost. Feel free to email direct if you like. The way you live / travel appeals to us and we are trying to figure how much it will cost initially to start the RV life style. Thanks again and safe travels 🙂
What a shame that you dropped your 5D MkII in the water; however, I’m surprised that you could not return it to Canon to be repaired (unless it was salt water). The new MkIII — easily the finest full-frame semi-pro camera in existence and one of the best cameras ever made — is $3500 for the body alone, so it isn’t inexpensive. But for what you do, and your imaging requirements, perhaps the MkIII camera is a practical investment even though you guys are trying to save money! Good luck on your new travel plans!
In our case there are months we pay almost ZERO here (e.g. when we are sitting still in one place and either volunteering or boondocking) and there are months we chose to splurge. Either way we are able to completely manage how much we want to spend and can ramp it down (or up) as needed to match our income. Honestly if we’d fully understood the power of this flexibility we probably wouldn’t have fretted quite so much over costs before we got on the road. This is a BIG DEAL!
Chugging along the ruggedly beautiful Maine coastline, I couldn’t help but reflect on how thankful I was for our current lifestyle. In the prior 30 days, we’d been to a family wedding in Asheville, NC, played top ranked golf courses in the countryside of Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, crashed the driveway of college friends in our Nation’s capital, explored the vibrant streets of New York City, beamed with joy as our pup Ella ran alongside us at a dog-friendly golf course in the mountains of Maine, and we’re now on our way to the beautiful Acadia National Park.
This transition to full time entrepreneurs has pushed Craig and I to dive deeper into our relationship and how we work together. We will be the first to tell you we do not work the same. I like to go at 110 miles an hour and dive into everything and push through it. Craig likes to take a slower approach where he analyzes things and doesn’t like to have too many things going on at one time.

Throw caution to the wind and just DO it. I have had plenty of financial misadventures/disasters, but if you’re not tied down to a job, the RV lifestyle is CHEAPER if you do it right! Start with a TT membership and enjoy $20/week camping for a while, learn how to use other discount clubs on your “out” weeks or even dry camp, learn how to pick up work… The point is: You’ll figure it out and be living your dream life.
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:
On the other hand, it’s a VERY individual thing. After 7 years on the road I can honestly tell you there’s a very good reason why no-one ever gives you an exact number. That’s because many of the big fulltime RV expenses are totally flexible! What kind of rig you buy, where you decide to camp, how much you drive, whether you decide workamp, whether you eat out (or in) etc.  -> ALL these are flexible costs that can vastly alter your spend numbers. There are ranges (and I’ll go through them below), but there is quite simply no one single number for everyone.
[…] Our life in that storage, or so we thought. But after a certain number of years you start to question that whole premise and whether your “life” is really worth the ever-increasing storage $$ you throw at it? 6 years on and we feel this more strongly than ever. In fact I’ve talked about it many times on the blog before and it’s one of the key regrets I featured in #8 on my popular post “10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Went Fulltime RVing“. […]

RV living requires a bit of planning and scheduling. For us, sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t, and when plans overlap or scheduling gets off, things get a bit hectic! For example, when it rains, we have Wii tournaments, and when it rains all day on laundry day, supper time is a bit interesting! There is chopping, jousting, sauteeing, cheering, and clothes everywhere! Complete chaos!

There is little risk in joining these programs, as they are cheap to join and you do not have to renew if you don’t like the program. Sometimes they even offer a money-back guarantee for the first 90 days. However, because the member parks are independently run, RV parks join and abandon the programs as suits their individual business needs. When you make your reservation, double check that the park is still a member of your program.
Greetings. Nice post and food for thought. on size, you post that 35′ would be perfect for the two of you. What if you were traveling alone. Would 35′ be just right or more toward 30′? Just curious as I am considering 3-5 month living periods from my home as a single. Ironically some have shared that a small Class C or A would be great, like 24-26′ but as I looked at them there was little storage. The trailers of the same size had more storage. I just am not sure about the amount of storage needed yet. They all seem to have the basics but…

  Whether you're in the cold for a few days or a few months, assess your RV's strengths and weaknesses. Granted, some units are much better insulated than others, however, with a little preplanning, you can stay toasty warm in almost any temperature. So, it doesn't matter if you're camping by choice or by necessity - have fun and appreciate the picture-perfect winter days. You can always hibernate with a good book on the bad ones!


Very true, Eddie! Except when they don’t, also. But I agree that even with giant housing crashes like we’ve been dealing with the for the past ten years now, eventually home values go up. You can sell when you’re done, though you’re likely not going to get $1000 x 12 months x 30 years in profit (is your $300,000 house today going to be worth $660,000 in 30 years)?
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
So you may wonder after three years on the road if we have plans to buy land, jump on a boat, or keep driving. We can whole-heartedly say we want to keep driving. We love the RV lifestyle and what it has brought us. So much so that we are diving in even more and focusing on RVing in our work lives, too. We have big plans for the coming year and we are excited about what we are doing next. We want others to share in this journey and know that they can do it, too.
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