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.
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.
This future RVer and his 20-35 year old parents live and travel full-time in their 2014 Class A Motor home. They enjoy boondocking occasionally and find free spots about 1 week each month. Their stays are typically 2 weeks long before they are back on the road and somewhere new. This young family is always seeking outdoor adventure to share with their little one. They also love doing fun tourist activities in each place they visit.
Neil, some of us who hope to full time RV aren’t rich. My motorhome (really high school boys basketball buddy but does have a MH) friend likes to camp at a spot that is $47 per night with full hook ups. He has no solar, but likes to provide AC during the summer for his dog. Meanwhile I could camp nearby that same campground at a dry camping spot for $14/night with potable water access, dump station, and even includes two showers per day so the gray tank wouldn’t be filling up so fast. Yes, I plan on having solar power. That is a difference of $1,000/month right there if both of us were full timers already. How much is the MiFi as we currently pay less than $160 for DirecTV and the cell phone plan? Our food budget is considerably less than yours as well, but we do currently stock up on food when it is on sell (20+ – 33% off) to fill up the deep freezer (one thing that I will miss if we full time RV) and pantry. So as Nina says there is a lot of flexibility in how people want to spend their money. There is no such thing as one correct way to RV. There are very many different styles so everyone can choose which one fits their own personal style. Personally I intend to live off less than half the income for the first two years and then splurge in year three in Alaska provided that we full time RV. I don’t want to touch the wife’s 403B plan until legally required to do so. This way I have compound interest working for me rather against me. We are using Cash Is King method for finances and have zero credit cards currently (we use the debit card). One other point at our bank we have zero fees on the checking and saving accounts. I use gasbuddy.com for gas prices and have a spreadsheet to help me determine whether or not it pays to go to the far gas stations for the cheaper prices.
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.
Months away from family and friends can be scary, no doubt. Though we too worried about missing close ones, Brittany and I actually found that we spend more time with friends on the road. We rarely enter a state without connecting with a college friend, former colleague or relative, and more often than not, end up parking our Winnebago View in their driveway (saving on campground fees, too!).
She’s a very comfortable fifth wheel with 5 slides and thousands of dollars of upgrades including 600 watts of solar & expanded battery bank. We’ve maintained her well and have the preventative maintenance service records. We’ve never had any major problems and the minor ones the come with buying a new rig have been worked out for you. The back bunk room was modified to have a desk and more storage but it could easily be converted back to a third bunk and even a 4th bunk (trundle). Currently, she sleeps 6. We also modified the front closet where the washer and dryer would go. It is now an office/desk space, perfect for people who want to work on the road.
Another aspect to consider is that when you’re new to full-timing, you don’t know what you will want in a rig, especially when you’re living in one day in and day out. If you buy an expensive camper, you’re going to lose a lot of money when you upgrade or change models. Buying a used camper might be the best and most affordable way to try this new lifestyle, and figure out what setup you’d most like to have. If you end up loving full-time travel, you can always upgrade to a new rig in a year or two.
One last thought on sewer lines. If you are really concerned that they may freeze, add some RV/Marine Antifreeze down the stool. Make sure it is RV/Marine Antifreeze and not engine antifreeze. You can find it a almost any auto parts or home store like Home Depot, Menards, Lowes or even your local hardware or grocery store may carry it if you are in an area where it is demand.
Welcome to the blog! We know lots of fulltime families out there on the road, home-schooling and seeing the country. If you haven’t connected already I highly recommend Ditching Surburbia, and Fulltime Families. Both resources are focused on fulltime RV families on the road, and have LOTS of info for you. Ditching Surburbia, in particular has traveled fulltime with their teenage son & daughter for years. I met them a few years ago…lovely family!
Thanks for your comments Maria. It’s easy to get confused as there is a lot of misinformation floating about. You must have seen the HGTV episode. We didn’t pay $208,000 and we owned our Monaco Vesta for 3 years. Everyone’s budget and spending habits are different. We list our general costs of living, not the cost of our RV (all costs are variable per person, especially RV’s). Yes depreciation is a factor when purchasing an RV, as with anything.
In South Dakota, one of the largest mail forwarding services is America’s Mailbox just outside of Rapid City in Box Elder near the Black Hills in the western part of the state. We have the Platinum plan with them and have been absolutely delighted with their service. We call them once a month and tell them where to send the mail. Mail forwarding providers in South Dakota include:
We pay for an AT&T hotspot with unlimited data. Our jobs rely on good internet so we can’t risk not having a good signal using an RV park’s wifi. We know some RVers who just use their phone’s hotspots but we prefer to have a separate one. While we could use wifi at local coffee shops, we prefer to work from our RV and not have to spend money while we are using a businesses wifi. Library’s are a great way to get free wifi, but they aren’t always easy to track down or close to where we are parked.
If you drove 12,000 miles / year, getting 7 mpg, which is pretty likely with a Class C or truck/trailer combo, I believe that would put you at around $500 / month in gas. Of course, this is the one area you have the most control over, because you can certainly drive less than that if you’d like. It all depends on how much commuting you do (drives to town for groceries, sightseeing, etc. still happen) and how far you travel each month.
Note that the cheaper you go, the more likely you’ll need to put work into it. You’ll want to get the Bentley Guide to Vanagons which will give you a good amount of the info you need to work on it yourself. It will break down, eventually, and maybe often, depending on how well cared for it was in the past and how well you continue to care for it. Our 78 Bus requires near daily attention, though certainly other people get better rigs and don’t have quite so much work on their hands.
With our retirement within 5 years, your blog is a continual source of information, inspiration, and encouragement. Thank you so very much. As far as saving money, have you read “Retire to an RV” by Jaimie Hall Bruzenak and Alice Zyetz? It’s an e-book that I found on-line and downloaded (PDF-format). It seems to be a great source of “living in an RV” information including how to save money. Thanks again. Neal
Good article, I think the initial start up costs (besides repairs to a used unit) could be added to your article. We bugeted $10,000 and after full timing almost a year on the road now, we are fast approaching that number for: tow bar, base plate, braking system, drive shaft disconnect (our choice instead of a new toad) installations, modifications, grill, chairs, road side service, extended warranty, insurance, memberships, hoses, tools, heaters (no lpg available once) fans, tables, ladder, bikes, bike racks, etc.. It adds up fast.
My wife and I are joyously offloading our excess stuff (which is pretty much all of it…) in preparation for selling our FL waterfront home and hitting the road next year. We love what you do here and find the information you provide to be absolutely priceless. We are successful creatives who will continue to work our business while on the road, and we have no intention of eating twigs and nuts topped with cat food just to save a few pennies. People are curious and questioning because your lives are interesting, but please don’t let a few self appointed “lifestyle Nazis” get to you – unfortunately whenever you put yourself out there they always come crawling out from under their rocks. Just remember that for every one of them there are a thousand of us fans who know how hard you work, celebrate your success and hope to meet you someday when we both are enjoying a fabulous dinner at some legendary local restaurant. Cheers!
Then estimate your future lifestyle costs that you need to add in (the numbers we share below will help with that). These include your fuel costs and your vehicle insurance and registration fees for both vehicles that make up your rig, whether it is a motorhome/car combo or a truck/trailer combo. If you have chosen your domicile city/state, you can do very specific research to estimate your future vehicle insurance and registration fees. We have some notes on domicile selection on our full-time RVing page.
I apologize if I seem off base but I did quickly see how you were able to get some things at a discount and that sparks my attention immediately as I am a disabled vet and will be working off of a set or close to set budget and I would love to know everything about how I can keep within that budget and if at all possible save some money along the way. The biggest fear for me is the unseen expenses that I either can not find or have not learned about yet going through all of the bloggers sites.
My bucket list included photographing eagles along the Mississippi River in winter. We arrived in Davenport, Iowa and were lucky enough to find a county park open with electric. No problem our basement was heated, so we thought. That plumbing bay has a plastic bottom with a hole for the sewer hose. Did you know plastic is a conductor of cold? We didn’t consider it util our water filter froze and the pump dumped 90 gallons of fresh water on the ground.
We all have those items that are our staples. You’ll sit there and try to justify whether you should or should not bring them along. Our advice: BRING THEM! Make room for them. Make it work! If they make your life easier/better, they deserve to make the cut. You don’t even have to justify it. We are so happy we chose to bring along the items that we love and have used for years, even though some of them may seem unnecessary when your space is limited.
The most popular inexpensive campground membership is offered by Passport America. They charge an annual fee of $44 ($79 for 2 years, $399 for lifetime) and offer a 50% savings off the nightly rate at any of the 1,900 member RV parks. Another similar membership program is Happy Camper which costs $40 per year and also offers 50% off at their 1,200 member RV parks.
Our monthly expenses vary depending on where we are and what we are doing. We can go a couple of weeks at a time with the only expenses being groceries and water if we are boondocking and not moving. In that case, we can get by with probably 50 bucks a day or less. Otherwise, we can easily double or triple that budget depending on gas prices and where we are. So maybe on the average, we are spending about 100 a day. Bottom line: $1,500-$3,000 a month.
Always, always, always expect to incur maintenance charges each month. Expecting to pay each month for maintenance will save you many headaches and knots in your stomach when you inevitably break down, blow a tire, shatter a brake pad, or have a propane leak–all of which happened to us. You’ll need to be changing your oil and refilling on propane regularly anyway, so it’s best to just count this as a guaranteed expense.
The key to maintaining a comfortable full-time RVing lifestyle is how they plan to earn money on the road. If they have an online business, then they are in luck, as it is very easy to run an online business from your RV. I easily run our website while traveling for several months in our RV. In some cases, I am sitting by a pool with my laptop and an adult beverage, writing articles and answering Rving questions and uploading them Everything-About-RVing.com.
I only had one fire truck called on me. I was shopping in the grocery store and the intercom came on with a man saying, “License plate Y-RENT, your vehicle is on fire.” I finished shopping, checked out, and walked outside to see about 70 people pointing at my RV and a fire truck with firefighters pulling up. I told the firefighters that I just had a wood stove going inside the camper and everything was fine (I thought the chimney would make it pretty obvious, but I guess some of the bystanders didn’t know any better).
Propane – If you have propane appliances (stove top, oven, refrigerator, or heater), you will need to budget for propane. This varies depending on usage. We don’t RV in cold climates, but we do use our propane stove top and oven daily. We have 2 propane tanks on our Fifth Wheel, and only need to refill about 2-3 times per year. Still, we average the cost and budget for it monthly.
Even after putting on our skirting last year, I noticed that the floors of the slides in our living area were extremely cold. There didn’t seem to be a draft, and the seals around the edges of the slides seemed fine; it was actually the floors themselves that were, according to my thermometer, a good 20 degrees colder than the rest of the room. To solve this problem, I went to Lowe’s and purchased some foam board, and we duct taped it to the bottom of each slide. This made a huge difference in the temperature of the floor and the warmth of the whole RV. If I had it to do over again, though, I would use HVAC tape instead of duct tape as it is supposed to be better in all weather and not leave residue when removed.
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.
The following comparison shows precisely what would be typical for me and my family, which includes mom, dad, three kids (two toddlers and a teenager), and grandma, a family of 6. Your results may vary. The “Home” table reflects averages for the entire US. We then compare it against our own costs, and those of average prices for new and used RVers, except where those costs wouldn’t change based on the rig you have. Links to sources inline.
My State Farm agent Will Tweed set me up for success when helping me plan our insurance needs. Thanks to Will I just received a check from State Farm for nearly $3,700.00 to pay for my replacement camera mentioned below in the additional gear section. This brings our 6 month spending total to $19,164 that’s $1,597 per person per month for living full-time on the road. Not too Shabby.Expenses 02/01/2012 through 07/31/2012$22,864.00 Grand Total for 6 months of RV Travel for both Nikki and I to live full time on the road in our Motorhome. This is approximately $1,653 per person per month. At this rate we’re on target to spend a similar amount as 2011. This really stinks as I feel we’ve been more frugal this year on the road vs. 2011. In certain areas we’ve saved literally thousands, but in others we’ve added expenses!Here are few ideas on how we can save money: (if you have any ideas, we would love to hear them)
If we really wanted to cut back to a minimalist lifestyle we could probably manage early retirement at this point. Instead, since we love what we do – we’ve opted to work a while longer and be a bit indulgent (like pursuing our boating dreams). Because life is short and we have a lot of things we want to do! So, a lot of our income goes into a discretionary spending account for adventures, upgrades and fun. When that fund builds up, we go on a little spending spree.
Well Howdy! I am so glad to hear you will be joining us! You’re gonna love it (if you don’t, blame Jason)! The house sounds awesome (too bad it doesn’t have wheels) but nothing beats the freedom and ability to change neighbors and scenery whenever you feel like it! Thanks so much for taking the time to say hello and let us know when you hit the road!
2017 Update – YES. We still feel the same way. Clubs are only useful IF you make use of them. There are RV folks who love their club memberships (e.g. Thousand Trails members who do nothing but stay at Thousand Trails), but for our type of camping (mostly public land, lots of State Parks etc) they simply haven’t made sense. The only membership clubs we currently have are Harvest Hosts, Escapees & Passport America. I always recommend that newbies wait on joining any camping clubs until they’ve spent some time on the road and figured out how they like to travel. Read more about my take on Camping Clubs HERE.
Hello, I am a female, 50, and am on disability due to my spine being fused from my shoulders to my tale bone. I am very interested in living in an RV. I would sell my personal belongings to enjoy the adventure. i already live a very frugal life style. I want to see the world our Lord created. i am very nervous but still desire the adventure. Have you found it to be safe traveling? How often do you travel from one location to another? Are the camp sites dog friendly? Do you recommend any RV groups to travel with?
Life has been busy, but awesome. Our band, “The Shoot Dangs! ” has been one of the more fun projects I’ve been involved with the last few years. We just recently finished a tour throughout the Southeastern United States, and it was an incredible (and ridiculous) time. I had the pleasure of touring with Kage, Josie, & Johnny Lungs. We actually just had a phone call this week from the founder of Arctic Man (a big 10,000+ person snowmachine/ski festival up in Alaska), and they are having us headline the festival Friday & Saturday, April 11th & 12th. We are STOKED!!!! Here’s a few clips of band videos we put together quickly:
Boondocking/Free: We enjoy mixing in a lot of boondocking. This might range from awesome places on public lands (BLM, National Forests, etc), staying in lower cost public campgrounds without hook-ups, ‘blacktop boondocking’ overnight in commercial parking lots or rest stops, to driveway surfing with friends & family (got bus parking? We love invitations!). These low/free cost stays not only bring our average cost down a lot, they’re some of our most memorable stays.
You might be wondering about what we did with the Littles during the eclipse. You aren’t alone. I spent a week worrying wondering about it because obviously I didn’t want them to lose their vision and by the barrage of eclipse safety in the media you would have thought the sun was a new phenomena. I have no idea how the entire world is not already blind. Anyway, the Littles don’t watch much television but this was one of those time when the benefits outweighed the waste of time. We set them up with a show, toys, and snacks in the RV while we enjoyed the eclipse right outside the door. It was a perfect set up because I didn’t have to worry about them trying to sneak a peek and I could micromanage remind my teens about staying safe without distraction. RVing for the win again!
I love that wood stove and it sure is the answer to heat. My unit when finished should be around 120’ or if I say to hell with a back shed I can use the entire cube it will be 144’ “haven’t decided yet”. With lots of head room I can put in a queen Murphy bed that will turn into an office when folded up and I can mount it high enough to clear the tops of lots of seating area when being used as a bed. I might need a little step to get into it or maybe a rebounder. I intend to also have a comfort buddy by the time it’s completed if I find a fine lady who wants to live like that and cozy up to my pudgy but extremely cute parts but will probably end up with another Border collie. My last old girl loved getting away on our trips but I would have to kill a bunch of people to get her back and they are all tougher than I am so will have to find a replacement (yes dog lovers, it is not fair to have a Border in a camper but you argue that one out with Maggie and she will chew on you like she did the two big guys who tried to enter our comfy abode on a dark night).
I’m 25 years old and have a 3-year-old son. My husband and I will be debt free within a year and have fallen in love with the idea of becoming full-time travelers and world schooling our child. My biggest question is, how do you plan out the cost of living? I work virtually so we’d have 1 full-time income and my husband is investigating ways to make money on the road. We don’t want wait until retirement to travel and we want our son to experience the world (or at least our continent)! Any help is greatly appreciated!
To break the cycle I needed to let myself grieve. It felt silly to grieve something that I realize I was very fortunate to experience like grieving a stain on a designer blouse. You know, first world problems. But judging my feelings only served to keep me on the disconnected emotional hamster wheel. So now I let myself grieve as needed and try to suspend judgment on my feelings.
RV Parks in San Diego area are slim. we’re staying at a park that runs 1075/mo and with this heatwave we’re paying anywhere between 350-450/mo for electric, some are paying up to 700. We’re retired and on fixed income and have 5 years left on our loan. Our rig is a 2004 and are at a loss as to what to do with everything going up. Stay in it til it paid off ? Then no mortgage, just rent or sell and move to an apartment. We’re 72 & 78 years old and now regretting our lifestyle change that we took in 2004.
Heated Water Hose – You can make your own with heat tape and pipe insulation and this works pretty well, although on occasion we have seen people in the bathrooms warming up their frozen hoses during extreme cold snaps. I’d recommend just purchasing a good heated water hose. Camco has one on the market but it looks kinda cheap, from the heated hoses I’ve seen in person I’d recommend the Pirit Heated Hose as the construction and the warranty seem top notch.
The most inefficient part of RVs are the windows, which are usually thin, single-pane windows. Go to a fabric shop and get several yards of really thick, oven-mit fabric. Measure out your windows and cut and sew up some custom curtains. If I did not have really good, thick curtains on my windows, even with the wood stove, I would be really cold. The drafts you feel from the windows alone are pretty impressive, and curtains will help mollify that.
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.
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.
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 . . .
The following is a summary of how the various quotes I received were explained to me. I list the specifics here not so much to suggest one company’s product over another but so you can see just how much you need to press for the exact details if you really want to understand the insurance you are buying. Obviously, the companies mentioned may change their policies, and it’s possible I misunderstood something.
The number one thing that needs to be done to prepare an RV for LIVING through the winter is find a place to park so that you don’t have move the darn thing. Trust me on this, once the cold weather sets in, you do not want to have to move it. Roads are slick, cross winds are brutal and water lines WILL freeze without heat. Making your ‘home on wheels’ stationary for months at a time takes some fore thought.
I really appreciate the informative comments. My wife and I are tossing around the idea of selling our house and purchasing an RV. We’ll be able to afford to pay cash for a Class A motorhome or (for less fear of problems when sitting still long term) a top of the line camper trailer so payments are not part of our expenses. My greatest concern, as with most folks, is the monthly cost of staying in a campground. Can you enlighten me on what a “membership” might cost and which ones you would recommend…if indeed you do recommend joining a camping club. We’re not the type of people who would want to stay in a state or national park. Our income should allow us to stay where water, sewer and electricity is always supplied. We simply need to know if our daily expenses will outweigh what we now spend living at home…which is about $1,500 per month, including water, electric, cable, phone, groceries, three (paid for) cars and property tax. THANKS!!
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.
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 ?
We only had our little Gypsy cat just over a year when she snuck outside in San Diego during our pre-desert stay. The next month was filled with constant searches, fliers, and talking to anyone in the neighborhood, but we never found her. A short time later, our older cat Dylan was diagnosed with lymphoma. This is something most cats can live with, but six months after losing Gypsy, we lost Dylan, too. We did learn about coordinating intensive long-term medical care for a pet on the road and where all the animal oncologists on the west coast practice. Thankfully, our initial oncologist was so helpful in making sure she was looped in with what was happening along the way that we felt we had a primary vet on staff.