We once had our oven fly open and our cast iron skillet came screaming out! A few times we have forgotten to close our refrigerator tight and it flew open spilling food all over the floor. We have also had a drawer fly open and the contents spilled everywhere. Most recently a piece of debris from a construction site flew up and shattered the side window over my daughter’s bunk bed!! Luckily, my husband has not been hit by any flying object while driving!
In a five year period, a brand new rig (that is, a motorhome/car combo or truck/trailer combo) will typically lose 30% to 50% of its value, and by the end of a decade it will be down to 25% to 40% of its original MSRP. The only way to know what the full-time RVing lifestyle really costs is to know both what you paid for your RV at the beginning and what you sold it for at the end. The difference, divided but the number of months you lived in it, is the true cost of ownership.
Sounds like a good time to leave, right? Well yes, but meanwhile back at the sites, we were all living on a glacier. The gravel roads in the campground were seldom plowed – just sanded. Since we were located at the top of a mountain, the sun would melt the snow and ice a bit on sunny days and then it would freeze each night. Add some snow, sleet and freezing rain now and then.
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.
Thanks for posting your Rv travel expenses, that’s really a generous thing to do and it really helps those of us in the planning stage to get a better idea of how we can achieve this lifestyle change. I can’t understand why people are being rude about it. No one would ask them what they spend in their lifestyle would they? It’s a bit hopeless that people can’t be happy for others generous and brave enough to share their lives! I know I couldn’t do it, so thanks!
A non resident has to leave the country after his staying permit expires which is usually after 6 months (Max) so we cannot do it full time but I consider ourselves as “Summer full timers” that have 2 residents:one at our home in Israel and the second on wheels in North America-this is for as the optimum and we are enjoying it for the last 10 years.
My only issue with this article is the title “The real costs” which implies that you are about to tell us that full time RVing is not as cheap as some people might think. Instead you provided your expenses which I would speculate are much higher than the average. As a number of people mentioned your lot rent is perhaps two to three times higher than the typical rent.
We are just putting our house on the market. timing is not perfect but at least we have made the decision. We are really looking forward to hearing more helpful information. The storage thing is a little difficult we have been married 50 years and we know that we will not be able to do this forever. We also know that we have a life style to come back to. So it has been a challenge. Happy trails
$4,000 Eating Out: We made a rule, we eat dinner out once per week at a quality restaurant recommended by the hip locals. Sometimes the bill would be cheap and other times not so much. Of course we would eat lunch out, or purchase a coffee every once and a while. This includes all expenses spent at a Restaurant, Pub, Bar, Happy Hour, Cupcake Shop, etc.
As they travel, they often pick up jobs to earn money since they don’t want to tap their modest retirement savings, which they dipped into to buy the RV. Right now, they are working in the Amazon CamperForce program that hires about 700 people for warehouse jobs and pays their campsite fees. It’s hard labor — they often go to bed rubbing each other’s feet — but the money they earn from September to Dec. 23 is enough to allow them to take the winter and spring off. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
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.
Obviously, electric blankets on your bed make for more comfortable sleeping conditions during the cold winter nights. I discovered another great use for electric blankets by accident. I draped one over the sofa and left it on a low setting. Even when I wasn't on the sofa, I left the blanket on. The temperature radiates into the air, adding wonderful warm heat to the RV. My sofa was built in to an extending unit on the RV, so it was a very drafty area to sit on cold winter nights. The heating blanket worked wonders for keeping me warm.
You could use LED’s from amazon or ebay, but I have used 12 volt led STRIPS that I wire right into my 12v light sockets. I sometimes uses a 50 watt 12 volt windshield heater to keeps my hands from freezing. I have used black tar on my roof and COMPLETELY stopped the leaking,don’t know why folks are having more leaking problems after that..probably doing it wrong. If you have to snake a 120 volt cord outside your RV to run a window a/c or heater..cut the cord as short as possible. It draws less. Buy brand new breakers, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be in the middle of a meal and have flip the breaker every 5 seconds because it’s 120 degrees outside and I just want a cool 98 inside the RV. It sounds trashy, but I bought a roll of that textured windshield sun-blocker and cut it to fit my windows,thereby blocking a crap-ton of sunlight and heat from entering my poor RV. I use bricks and the outriggers to further stabilize the trailer,because outriggers alone will NOT make all RVs stable. ALWAYS CHECK YOUR ANODE AND HEATING ELEMENT HOLY CRAP! it sucks when you jump in the shower and out comes liquid ice. yeah we all have propane…but propane is for cooking…and maybe the furnace once in a while. If you have to live in an RV, don’t be afraid to REMOVE furniture from it! I removed a pullout couch, kitchen table and the useless cabinets inside my bedroom(don’t know what they were thinking with that curved wall and I was always hitting my head on the cabinets). I removed the stock microwave and put a toaster oven in there. Let me tell you, you can cook damn near anything in that oven. Microwaves suck…especially when you have limited amps available, but you can stick that oven on 180 and cook a damn pizza all the way in about 10 minutes. ALWAYS defrost your fridge and freezer once a month! I actually have a small dorm fridge tucked into a corner that has come in quite handy.
I would say that depends on what the couple intends to do and what their price point is. We wanted to minimize our expenses, so we purposely sought out something used and less expensive. If you’re looking to be constantly traveling, then a smaller, more gas-efficient RV would suffice. If you want a huge home on wheels that provides all the same comforts of your conventional life, then a Class A would work well. The cool thing about RVs is that they finance like a house, so your payment ends up being much smaller due to the longevity of the loan.
They’ve been on the road a while w/ their 2 kids and have both workamped & home-schooled during that time. Really nice family and I have no doubt they can put you in touch w/ others on the road. They just ordered a new rig too. I also like the NuRver group on Facebook…lots of young folks on there and several families too. Also recommend this resource Fulltime Families -> all about folks who live fulltime w/ their families on the road.
For internet most RVers sign up for a cellphone data plan with either Verizon or ATT and use a MiFi to distribute it to all their devices. You’ll likely have to adjust your data usage quite a bit since cellphone plans are much more limited than what you’re used to at home. Also, you’ll want to consider buying a booster to help boost the signal in more marginal spots. My best advice is actually to buy this book written by fellow RVers and techno-mads who’ve dedicated 226 pages to this exact question:
hairyleggedjebjeb: Come back and talk to me about it when you've been doing it for more than 50 years (as I have). RVing can be a terrific lifestyle, but to think that it does not involve sacrifice is dreaming. There's plenty of that, and the longer you live this life, the more you will see that this is true. Far too many people jump into it thinking it will be all fun and freedom only to find that, just like anything else, it has its problems. The disappointment this brings often causes people to give it up, so to protect them a bit, I wanted them to see the realities.
Just so everyone doesn’t get the idea that all RV parks in SW Florida are that expensive. We have been living in our paid for RV TT which is 30′, and 4 yrs.old, for 4 yrs. in Central, and SW Florida which is where we currently are, we have never paid that high for monthly fees with or without electric included. The most we have ever paid is $400 a month, which is almost what we pay now. And in the area we are in this is the most expensive park. It is very rural here which is what we choose to do also, as our “little” girl who lives with us is in college locally. Our monthly expenses are well under $1000 a month. And that includes, satellite and internet, and food. So there are alot of options in SW Florida that are alot cheaper. When you have a college student you make different choices. The cost is very high there. It is all about where you choose to park your RV, and what amenities are important to you.
As an example, before we started our RVing journey we lived CA which is a very high cost state both for income taxes, RV/car registration and insurance. When we went fulltime we severed our ties with CA and switched our domicile to SD which reduced those expenses significantly. Our state income tax went from one of the highest in the nation to ZERO while our RV/car registration dropped by around a factor of 5! Talk about instant savings!
We create a monthly budget. While many expenses are not monthly in nature (registration, insurance, maintenance, etc.), we choose to break them up into monthly line items for our budget, and put that amount into savings each month. This ensures we don’t come up short when the expense is due. For example, our RV and truck insurance is due twice a year. We divide the amount into six and that is what we put into savings each month.
I placed it in the middle of the basement floor. Then I connected it to a temperature-sensitive outlet called a Thermocube at the end of the extension cord I was already using for the heat tape. The Thermocube supplies power to its outlets when temperatures dip to 35°F and turns off power when temperatures rise to 45°F. I turned the heater on to the lower of its two settings, figuring that would be enough to keep the area from freezing.
Now there are a lot of factors that go into domicile choice and there’s not one, single right choice for everyone. But for the purposes of this post what’s important for you to understand is that that domicile DOES have a significant impact on your RV budget. Not only does it affect your take-home $$ (due to state taxes), but it also affects your health insurance costs, RV/car insurance costs, RV/car registration costs and business costs (if you have any). And the difference in these $$ between different states can be significant!
Hi!…..Thank you for all this great information. My husband and I have decided after a few years in the making to finally sell all, put our house for rent and get on the road. We have accomplished plenty of things already for the trip but we are still looking for work online specially because we are in the medical field. We will be putting our home for rent and hopefully find jobs soon enough to make our dream come true. We always had issues finding trusting dog sitters therefore decided to get an RV. Being that we are money conscious and simple people, we decided to get a fantastic older class C to travel with our dogs. We also purchased an older jeep cash and for dirt cheap, not only for emergency driving but also for off roading fun. We have been taking small trips here and there and love it. I never thought one day I would look at my house and feel the need to leave it all behind like I do now just to cram in an RV with a man and 3 dogs. In order to make this happen we put a date on our calendar as our departure whether we make it or not on that day, its happening in a few months. We are not waiting for retirement to start living and there is not a single thing that matters more to me as much as spending quality time with my husband, our dogs and our close friends. I realize this travel bug is not for everyone but its definitely for us. We rather spend our money seeing new places and meeting new people than just hanging in the same old house, falling into the same old work-home routine with the 2 week vacation once a year. Your articles are of much inspiration, Thank You.
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We are fortunate in that our health insurance is a benefit of my corporate job. We are with Cigna and all three of us have full coverage including dental and vision. Our deductible has become increasingly higher since 2012 and we are now at a Silver plan which gives us a $5000 deductible each. Our prescription plan is less than stellar and we maintain our insurance primarily for our daughter and for unforseen medical circumstances. While on the road though we typically see an Urgent Care physician which costs $35/visit. We currently pay $430/month for health insurance.
I also found that the power steering fluid, transmission fluid and generator oil were bone dry, the engine oil desperately needed to be changed and I discovered that someone put the wrong fuel filter on, so now it’ll have to be cut off to be replaced (who knows how much that’ll cost!). It also now needs rear ABS service and the air conditioner wasn’t just a recharge, but the compressor is blown which will cost $1000. I knew an older RV would need work, but I didn’t expect it so soon…
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.
We spent six weeks in the New Mexico desert. Every morning we woke up to purple-hued skies, dusky mountains, and a silence so complete we felt like the last people on Earth. On our morning walk, the frigid air would be filled with the resinous smell of creosote, while jackrabbits bounded ahead of us on the path. We saw very few people day to day; it was only us and the desert.
Retirement – Once you have an adequate emergency fund, and are debt free, the next component of savings is your retirement savings. We follow Dave Ramsey’s plan which suggests putting 15% of your gross income into tax-favored plans such as your company’s 401(k) and Roth IRAs. Don’t wait until later to start saving for retirement. You just never know what may happen in the future!
We are a family of four and are saving up to travel for 2 yrs or maybe more! I am a cancer survivor and I want to see everything I possibly can due to my new outlook on life. My kids are excited about it (my husbands getting there ;). It was his idea to go camping in 2 wks & go look at Rv’s next week so that’s a good sign lol. I will read your blog through & through …I’m going to need a lot of good tips 🙂 Thank you.
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.
4. Skirting as you pointed out is an absolute must: I love the snow piled up, cost effective and highly efficient. What if there’s no snow? Home Depot or Lowes or ? sell the reflective bubble insulation in 15″ widths up to 5′ widths. The narrow widths can be used to skirt the sides and they can be held in place by the basement doors. You may need to make cuts to go over hardware but are very effective.
Gear / Modifications – Your RV dealership may or may not provide some of the basic “gear” that is needed to live and travel in an RV (see our Gear Guide here). You may also want to complete certain upgrades for safety or convenience. For example, we were not happy with the tires that came on the Fifth Wheel, and purchased all new tires (at our own expense). Many RVers like to boondock, or camp off-grid, and outfit their RV with solar. Others remodel and paint, change flooring or fabric to make it their own. This is often an ongoing expense that you should budget for as just like in a sticks and bricks home, people like to upgrade and make changes to improve their daily lives.
To get around this, you can look up the nearest warehouse distribution center for either FedEx or UPS and have the package shipped to that distribution center with “Hold for Pickup” written on it. You will not be charged a fee at pickup. However, you will need to track the package and you will have 5 days to pick up the package before it is returned to the sender.
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
I feel so fortunate I stumbled on to your blog. I’ve learned a lot already. My husband and I are newbies and when I mean new… we don’t even have our very little 14′ hybrid trailer. It is being built in Tucson as I type. It will be ready in late february. We will pick it up the 1st week in March and will bomb around New Mexico all of that month and most of April before we start heading back to Duluth, MN at the end of May. I want to leave tomorrow as it was -24º last night.
$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?
And we closed that chapter in our lives and moved on to the next one. Well, not that easily. I did cry every day for the first week. Luckily, my sister and her family had moved into the campground with us – and were staying right next door. That definitely made the transition easier. Gradually things got better, and I started to realize what we had been looking to do. Hours weren’t spent on cleaning any more. All of our stuff was manageable and there was more and more focused family time.
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.
The kids, as kids most often do, adapted quickly. The hardest months for the teens were when they started school but we were still living in an RV. The best part about our home on wheels were the wheels and when the wheels weren’t rolling it was an entirely different experience. They didn’t want to invite friends over or be dropped off at the campground. While Brent and I were more than happy to share why we lived in an RV, what mattered to the teens was what other people thought.
It’s good to have an idea of where to go, what to do and how long to stay but don’t have a rigid plan. Be flexible enough to have the option to stay a few extra nights or leave early. Every town we drive into is a new experience. Sometimes we love the town and sometimes it’s just not our cup of tea. Having a flexible schedule means we can stay longer in places we enjoy and take off early if we’re not feeling it.
There is an RV ready to match your dream. Use your vacation RV trips to test different rigs. If you are visiting off-the-beaten-track tourist nooks and wilderness sites a more maneuverable RV could be preferable to a motorcoach. Or your dream RV just may not have as much room as you need to live on the road full time comfortably. Be honest with yourself up front and you will save yourself the hassle of trading up or down in your first few years untethered from a home base.
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.
Wow. The lots in SW Florida must be insanely high. We have brand new real nice RV Parks in East Texas with carports, storage buildings etc. that will only cost you about $350 per month. And there are several pretty good parks coming in at $250 around here. You might consider East Texas a few months a year just to pocket some serious cash. My wife and I have talked about this kind of living on and off for a while. Our expenses living in a duplex is about $400 less than yours right now. And our utilities are $350-$400 a month. But, we are considering trying to purchase a lot instead of traveling around. That’s great freedom. Kudos! I worked for 11 years in the corporate world. I never did find a company that bought into the telecommute thing for more than 2-3 days at a time without coming into the office.
I could live in my RV, either in my hangar — there’s plenty of room — or on my property where it was already parked and hooked up. The trouble with that was that my RV, the “mobile mansion” is not designed for cold weather living. To make matters worse, I had parked it 66 feet from my onsite water source and I knew the hose running in a makeshift conduit under my driveway was very likely to freeze.