I am the author of two RV books, one of which is published by Woodalls and hundreds of RV articles. My husband and I have been fulltiming for ten years. I have to say that this is the best article that I have EVER read on full-timing. We have come to the same conclusions that you have…even after 10 years. Great job! I will be sharing with my group of 5000+ Rvers.
So, I figured I’d throw some pointers for those that have decided or are considering a life full-time on the road, because that is essentially the point of this whole blog thing. My biggest piece of advice, if you are thinking about living full-time and think you can commit to it, GO FOR IT!!!! You (probably, lol) won’t regret it! When I first began searching the Internet, I couldn’t find hardly anything on advice or tips for living in a camper in the winter full-time. And when I did find an article, the people living in the camper had a permanent space to park with electricity, enabling them to plug their RV in to an outlet every night to keep their electric space heaters running, which I don’t have the option of doing.
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.
I just discovered your site and it’s awesome! In 5 years I plan on doing what you are doing…..and in the few minutes I’ve spent on your site so far, I’ve discovered I can learn a lot from you. I also like that you focus on staying in/on public lands, etc, versus the “RV PARK”. That is one thing I’ve been hesitating about – finding those more natural places to be, versus in the RV Park…. I don’t want to be in the RV park type thing — at least not the ones that would feel like I’m in just another suburban neighborhood.
(In fact, we had a Big Horn 3670 2008. Went to our dealership for some warranty work and was informed that the 2010 BH's were "in". This was about 5 months ago. Well, hubby and I know to never go into a pet store, because we will walk out with a pet. Same way with a trailer. There were just enough changes in the 2 years, that we decided to purchase the newer trailer. We love it.
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.
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.
Now… we aren’t full time RV living like most people – we are completely stationary and have no intentions of touring around the United States in our RV! That said, if that’s what you ARE interested, here are some quality blogs, YouTube channels and Facebook groups of folks that are doing such thing… hopefully they’ll be a great additional source of inspiration to you!
So you’re still asking, “What’s it gonna cost to live in my RV?” Using research from a few friendly seasoned RVers, the average cost per year of living in your RV full-time is about $10,000 for two people. While this sounds like a crazy amount of money, keep in mind that this also factors in utilities and food, which you would already be paying if you were living in a permanently fixed home. According to careertrends.com, the average cost of living in the midwest is $39,649 annually for a married couple with no children. If you look around, there are a ton of ways you can drive down the cost you’re racking up on the go, which is the great thing about RV living!
Overnight campsite and RV park fees with hookups typically range from $30 to $50 per night or more. That is $900 to $1,500 per month. However, a lot of full-timers avoid paying anywhere near that much and average closer to $500 to $900 per month. There are many ways to save money on overnight camping costs, and those are covered on our Full-time RV Lifestyle Tips page.
On the other hand, if you are outfitting the RV of your dreams for a life of full-time RV travel or of winter snowbirding RV adventures, then you might consider installing a vent-free propane fireplace that is built into an elegant mantel. These heaters give off the same incredible heat as the more industrial looking vent-free propane heaters, but they have the cozy and inviting appearance of a fireplace and produce a beautiful (and mesmerizing) flame. What a great addition to an RV!!
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.
Also, there are endless ways to earn an income on the road. Photography, writing and other freelance gigs come to mind as the most obvious, but even many company jobs are now location independent. Our accountant is a full-time RVer, while another good friend in sales recently convinced his large corporate employer to let him travel full-time. When he laid out the cost, it was actually cheaper for the company than the monthly airfare / hotel costs he was racking up while traveling a few days each week. The point is, the options are endless.
Each monthly report includes fixed costs (vehicle payment, insurance, mail forwarding service) along with variable costs (food, entertainment, gas, RV supplies). The lessons learned section is where we share tips that helped us or mistakes to avoid. We include a quick snapshot of stats for the month with cost per day, miles driven, generator hours, MPG, nights of paid camping, nights of free camping and meals eaten out.
The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.
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.
Pete, the ugly truth is: RV MSRP is a joke. Most people end up purchasing a new RV for 20%-30% off the MSRP. If you purchase a unit that’s new and last years model you can expect to get 35% – 40% off MSRP. Of course everything depends on supply and demand, and how long the dealer has the unit on the lot. If you want the biggest discount purchase a used RV that’s 2-3 years old, and buy an extended warranty.
Those first six weeks were brutal. By the first of October, when we had a chance to catch our breath in Florida, we seriously considered giving up. Despite all our research, we were woefully unprepared for RV life. My husband hated towing that behemoth of a fifth wheel, the kids hated sharing a room with bunk beds on either side, and I hated that everyone hated what I thought would be the adventure of a lifetime.
Track your expenses. I just recently started doing this, and it really puts things in perspective. I use this Google sheet to track all my income and expenses (just go to “File” -> “Make a copy” so you can edit it). Once you see where you’re spending too much, it’s easier to cut back! Plus, it makes you think twice before spending (do I really want to track this?).
It will be an interesting learning curve to be sure. Because neither of us have ever done this. Ideally I want to boondock a lot. We have a swiss shepherd who is traveling with us and I like the idea of giving him more space. However, since we know nothing I am wondering if we should invest in the New Mexico State Park Pass and use the hookups until we know our trailer. Maybe start boondocking in Utah and on our way home. Any sage advice for us? I have a million more questions I am sure. Reading these blogs are priceless. Thanx
An electric heat strip taped to the water hose and covered with circular foam tubing insulated it. This system worked for another 10 degree drop. Next the valve, where the water entered the RV, froze. One winter tip from other RVers was to hang two trouble lights with 40-watt bulbs in the storage pod and plug them in when the temperature dropped. Heat from the light bulbs should prevent freezing. It may have also kept our water tank in working order.
Yes, we'd say having our car catch on fire in west Texas definitely ranks as a low point. We had stopped at a pull off area in between the small town of Alpine and the smaller town of Marfa looking at wildflowers when Brandon noticed the car smoking. Brandon ran back and found a fire in the engine compartment. We pulled our small fire extinguisher out of the trunk and knocked the flames down. Brandon was able to pull everything out of the car while Kerensa called for help. The signal is very spotty out there and we were able to maintain signal just long enough to get our location to the operator. When she asked for a call back number in case we were disconnected, the line died and the signal never recovered. Thankfully, the sheriff and fire department were already on their way and they were able to put out the fire and take us back to the campground.