Seeing everything our country has to offer is one of the biggest benefits of living and traveling in an RV. However, you don’t have to see the entire country in the first six months. Constant travel – traveling to a new place every day or two – will get expensive quickly. It will also exhaust you to the point where you’re ready to throw away your keys and give it all up.
Our initial budget estimate was somewhere between $2500 and $2800 per month. We are very happy that we’ve been able to make this lifestyle work at much less, around $2000 per month (not including health costs, business expenses, and paying taxes). We continue to look for ways that we can reduce our overall monthly costs, and are still very frugal about what we buy and when.
Their kids are raised and living their own lives now, so this couple is living it up now! They are what you’l consider luxury RVers and they are proud of it. They travel and live full-time in their beautiful and spacious Fifth Wheel Toyhauler with their spoiled cat. This couple still works from the road and finds time to enjoy outdoor adventure and tourist activities.. They typically stay in one place for a month, which gives them a much better rate at the RV resorts they stay at. They have no desire to boondock because they love the convenience of full hook ups and various amenities. Now, that’s the life!
I love your site and the ideas/videos, but I’m perplexed by your statement that propane RV furnaces introduce moisture into the coach. Yes, propane combustion does give off significant water vapor, however with a vented furnace (which most RVs have) all of the combustion materials including water vapor should be vented directly out by the furnace and never goes inside the coach: zero added moisture. Can you clarify? Thanks
Thanks so much for the tips. I am in the process of moving out of my 1650 sq. ft. house into a 32′ fifth wheel, which I have parked on my two-acre property. My granddaughter and hubby are moving into the house to help with the mortgage payments on the property. I won’t be traveling anywhere, just staying put in my own yard, but your tips are invaluable. Keep ’em coming!
I have been thinking of closing up my home and going on the road. I am a military widow, no children, 4 dogs and was either looking at a class c or b. However, I do have a trailer tow package on my 2015 Explorer. How do I know the best option for me? I am a little overweight and sometimes I can not lift or set up things with the limited strength in my hands. However, I do really want to try this out. What would you suggest? I live outside of Dallas, Texas and there are a lot of RV Centers. Would it be best to go talk to a “salesperson” but I am concerned they will not take my issues into consideration and only try to “sell” me.
The question of buying a new or used RV is a big one, and there are several things to think about. First, it’s important to remember that the term “RV” stands for “recreational vehicle.” Most RVs are not designed or built for full-time living. This means that these vehicles can quickly show their age, especially with heavy use. Buying a used rig might mean buying a few extra headaches, which can include everything from a leaky roof, plumbing problems, sagging mattresses and cushions, or stubbornly slow slideouts.
I just recently came across your blog and I am now obsessed with it! I love the information you share, your videos and just the overall wealth of information it is. I am a special education teacher and my husband is a graphic & web designer. While we don’t plan on selling our house (we love it!), we would definitely consider renting it out long-term so that we could travel the country. Like you, we <3 craft beer, wine and amazing local food, along with the freedom and adventure of a childless life. 🙂
The key to our survival is good communication. There is limited room in an RV and it will start to feel small fast. If you’re frustrated or angry with each other, that space will feel even smaller. Sure you can take a walk, sit outside for a while or jump in the car (if you tow one) and go for a drive, but temporary distance won’t solve the issues.
I sell RV’s, and love it. The people I sell to are excited and eager to get on the road, love my customers. Anyhow, some things I would mention tell your RV sales person about yourself and your plans, most of us in the RV industry have experience and can help with idea’s and help find you the right coach with items or without items you may not even know you will need or that will greatly enhance your time. Also most RV sales people have resources, and it’s not a used car salesman tactic (well not where I work) we want to help and for you to refer us and come back. I full timed for 4yrs, with 3 kids a dog and a cat as a single mom. Let me say we did have our struggles, but I LOVED it. Now I get to help others too. So my suggestion is let your RV sales person help and ask them questions, they generally have a wealth of information.
2. Consider what kind of RV life you want to have. Do you want to be on the road all the time or do you want to set up in one spot for a longer period of time? You might want to set up in one place for a week, then move on to the next place. On the other hand, you might consider finding a spot that would let you stay for an entire month. Are you more comfortable in a secluded area, or do you prefer neighbors and community activities that you can take part in? These are all facets you will want to consider before embarking on your journey.
$2,500 Eating Out – Similar to 2011 we find ourselves eating out 2 nice meals per week. This amount also includes the local breweries we purchase beer from and the local coffee roasters we support along the way. This number is a little askew as we’ve had a few of our meals comped or discounted some of the time when the owners find out we’re blogging about them (approx. savings $500).
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.
Let's start by keeping that cold weather outside and the warm air in. To do this, you need to increase insulation and reduce cold air infiltration. Your windows are a great place to start. Most RV windows are single-pane and many do not seal well. Some sort of storm window is needed, and there are a lot of possibilities: Some folks use foam core board to cover the windows from the inside. This works well, but it's pretty hard to see through! Other folks use sheets of Plexiglass or Lexan cut to fit the windows and held in place either with small brackets, velcro or tape. This helps seal the windows and you can see through it, but then you will be faced with storing the storm windows during the summer.
Thank you for giving me some ideas. I am interested in going on long trips, and or living in an rv. Of course different lifestyles change the amounts of money. But, do you think a single person, in a realistically priced trailer, with a decent size truck, and doesn’t require a lot of entertainment and food, do you think I could make it? I am but a modest lady wanting to travel some. I appreciate your advice. Thank you.
Hi I was reading the comments and noticed you decided to hit the road. It was a few years ago I know but wondering how it went? I’m a single woman and will be traveling alone. I’m scared but what scares me more is not following my dream of seeing the world. I mean I don’t know what will happen and it does concern me. If I’m traveling and get sick where do I go if my medical Insurance is in la county. I have so much to learn.
I hate getting old as insurance goes up, but being retired with only Social Security, and not having to pay taxes sure helps. We are considering Texas as our domicile for family and our truck registration, but it depends on the cost of changing health insurance. We have an old travel trailer we bought for $4,500, so we will save if we want something newer. All we can do is try. We will have a storage place though, just in case.
Sandra, you are not the first to think we spend too much or too little. Everyones lifestyles are different and we don’t live on a shoe string budget, nor do we post our expenses for any reason other than to help others get an idea of what it costs us, with our lifestyle to live on the road. We buy local, fresh and organic food as much as possible. We like good all natural food that doesn’t come in a box or can and that isn’t something we plan on changing if we don’t have to. We work from the road (not retired or independently wealthy) and our websites are not just your average wordpress sites and we do a lot to keep them secure, backed up and so on and so forth. Our phones are a huge part of our business and we have to have smart phones with internet and such. Sure, if we didn’t work and didn’t have to have solid internet, this would be a lot less. Just not an option for us right now.
It seems like I am really good at always finding something to do and I have had to tell myself to stop and relax and just enjoy the moment. Which does seem easier to do while being the RV. Maybe because we have less to maintain or else because I am truly amazed by the things we are seeing and the reaction that the kids are having. I will continue to work on being better at this!
It’s no secret that the RV lifestyle is growing in popularity. Between 2010 and 2014, as the economy began to recover from the 2008 crisis, the RV industry grew by a whopping 115%. From Millennials to Baby Boomers, people all over the US are saying YES to a life of adventure. But for those who haven’t taken the plunge yet, one question often remains: How much money will I need to become (and stay) a fulltime RVer?
$700 Smart Repairs: Includes 1 oil change service, 2 rim replacements, 1 tire replacement. Because our Smart Car is the Brabus edition it has low profile tires and 17” rims in the back (BAD IDEA). We hit a few potholes along the way bending rims and shredding a tire. We purchased a tire and rim warranty and we have AAA for towing (est. savings $2,500)
Now I live in a resort $450 a month, includes electric, water, sewer, cable and WiFi, and trash near a lake. I don’t have to mow the lawn, I have a pool and a recreation room. I never thought life could be so great living in an RV, but I just love it. So much easier and cheaper to maintain than the house was. I didn’t buy the truck to move it, I just hired a mover and had it taken where I chose to live.
While part-time RVers may love “Home is where you part it” yard signs, cute camper trinkets, and adorable awning lights, the full-time RVer may be less enthusiastic about such gifts. The simple reason most full time RVers are concerned about space and weight and only carry what they really need or love. When your RV is your home, it forces you to be very selective about your belongings. Ask your favorite RVers if there is anything that they need or if you are unsure stick with gift cards or consumables. Please don’t gift your full-time RVing friend or family member large bulky items without asking first. If you really must purchase them a large gift that you think will be just perfect, buy it from a nationwide chain store and include a gift receipt. It’s not that full timers aren’t appreciative, it’s just the reality of living in a small mobile space!
Once we retire, my wife and I are planning on spending winters (at least) heading south from Chicago in an RV for maybe 3 months at a time. I’m an over-researcher according to her, but also an accountant. 🙂 I’d love to play with your budgeting worksheet. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the link on your website. Is there a specific page where I can find it?
After five years of relying on free wifi signals for internet access and using pay phones for phone calls, we got a Verizon MiFi jetpack in 2012, and we now use it for all our communications, including phone calls. This figure includes both our Verizon account with 10 GB of data per month and our $2.99/month Skype account that lets us make unlimited phone calls to the US and Canada no matter where we are in the world (this was very helpful while we were on our sailboat in Mexico). We’ve gotten used to using the laptop as a phone on Skype. It’s a little weird because the person you are talking to ends up on speaker phone, which they may or may not appreciate, and some calls get dropped, but it works well enough.
Cover Windows, Doors and Stairwell – It blows me away how much cold air seeps in from the windows, the entry door and the stairwell, by adding insulation to these drafty culprits you can keep the inside of the RV much warmer. Purchase a heavy fabric and make curtains to keep the cold from coming in. You can do fun curtains or you can install snaps/Velcro around the windows and doors to add an extra layer of insulation. Some people use bubble wrap, the bubble insulation, or the R-Max Foam boards which are all practical but do not look very good. For the stairwell have a board cut and adhere insulation to the bottom of it, at night cover the stairwell to keep out the cold air.
Instant Pot – A favorite among RVers, the Instant Pot was my Christmas gift from Brent in 2014 and we’ve used it nearly every day since. In fact, I just heard it beep signaling that our BBQ chicken is done. The multi-functional kitchen warrior is perfect for RVing as it serves many purposes: pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker, saute/browner, yogurt maker, and warmer. We have the 6qt IP-DUO60 7-in-1 and it’s plenty big enough for our family. Regularly, I double recipes and as of yet I haven’t had a problem fitting it all in the pot. We LOVE our Instant Pot.
Also, tanks and fittings are encased in the heated space, so electric pads and tapes aren’t necessary and the plumbing is all protected. This also means the floor is not the outermost part of the insulated envelope, keeping it MUCH warmer. The most hard-core of these units use hot water heat fired by propane or even diesel fuel (handy if the unit’s engine is diesel) and in that case, the heating system also partially heats the engine and fuel tanks to make it even more reliable in the truly bitter cold. The best ones run a heating line parallel to the plumbing lines keeping them all heated and protected. This heating system is really quite genius and the pump that moves the hot water uses surprisingly little power.
While most full-time RVers change as much as they can to electronic, there are still some things that will be mailed. Many full-time RVers use a family member’s address, and still others use mailing services. Even if you use the former, you’ll need to include a budget to reimburse them if you need something forwarded to you. If you use a mailing service like the one offered by Escapees, you may have a monthly expense of $16.25 to $19.50 depending on the package you choose.
Part of living as entrepreneurs means we have to be OK with a level of fear and stress around making sure we are bringing money in. There are no paid vacations or sick days. It has definitely been an adjustment and something we continue to learn how to live with, but it is also really cool and makes us proud that we are living our own life and setting our own schedule.
I believe it’s around 10amps at the highest setting, but like an oven, when it reaches pressure/temp, it turns the heating element off (and back on when needed). We have 320w of solar and 400 amp hours of lithium ion batteries. They key though is having a large enough inverter to run things like the instant pot. You would need at least a 2000w pure sine inverter. Ours is 3000w.
I just found your blog on Pinterest, and learned some important tips. My retirement fantasy is to RV full-time and follow the warm weather through Canada and the US for a few years. I’ve just bought a 5th wheel that will be staying put in a nearby RV park for three or four years until I can afford a tow vehicle, but I’m very excited to experience RV life. Since I’m in Canada, that won’t be until next Spring, but is something to keep me busy planning for during the winter.
The biggest difference in costs between living in an RV full-time and living in your own stick-built house is that the RV will depreciate very quickly while the house will appreciate over time. The recent real estate collapse notwithstanding, housing prices always increase as the decades go by. In contrast, RVs, cars and trucks quietly make their way to a value of $0 and eventually breathe their last breath in the crushing facility.
$1,399 Eating Out – As per the last reports we try to enjoy our experience in new towns through food, drink, and good ol’ conversation. The easiest place for a weary traveler to pull up a chair in a new town…..the Bar, and this tradition has been the same since the beginning of time. On average we eat out 2 times per week, typically at a local eatery that’s come highly recommended by the locals. Here and there we’ve had a few meals comped for being travel writers, we’ve had few of our online friends buy us a warm meal or a brew, and we’ve been treated to a few home cooked meals at homes along the way, and for this we are extremely grateful. Nothing better than sitting down and breaking bread with a few fellow RVers who’ve been following our journey….and then they pick up the tab 🙂 You Guys ROCK!
Now that we're warm, draft free and hopefully dry inside, let's deal with the stuff outside your rig. The first thing we need to do is keep your fresh water hose from freezing. If you are traveling a lot, simply use the hose to fill your freshwater tank and then disconnect it each night. If you are parked for a longer period, consider heat taping and insulating your water hose. Standard 110v heat tape can be wrapped in a spiral along the length of the hose and then covered with either round foam insulation or fiberglass batting wrapped with tape. Don't forget to wrap the faucet to protect it and add a pad of insulation where the hose connects to your RV. In moderately cold weather, this should keep your water flowing. If it gets extremely cold (below zero), it may still be necessary to let a faucet drip overnight.
Just wondering of you add anti-freeze to your grey and black water tanks. We are currently plugged in at a campground in Benson AZ where it’s getting down to the teens at night. Last night our water pump froze over but we managed to thaw out with no damage. Went and purchased 2 of the tiny ceramic heaters (one for the inlet side and one for the water pump side) and insulated all of the lines we could find…set the gas heater a little higher (last night we had it at 47 degrees for fear of using up too much propane and the lines froze anyway). Anyway…just wondering if we should be adding the anti-freeze and if so, how much (we have 40 gal holding tanks). Thanks for the great article!
Fuel – Before entering freezing temps make sure to add a Diesel Anti-Gel Supplement. Both Cummins and Freightliner recommend the Power Service brand of anti-gel claiming that it works best. After adding the supplement make sure you drive and run the Generator to get the additive inside the fuel lines. If possible fuel up with a winter blend fuel which can be found at many truck stops during the winter.
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.
Brent and I gave it our best to make full time RVing work for them as teens. We met up with road friends and family regularly. We traveled with other families when the opportunity arose. We spent two winters in the mountains snowboarding. We took Thing 1 to a music camp. We sought out opportunities for Thing 2 to pursue interests like gold panning. We let them have a say in the travel planning. We found online classes when we felt like we couldn’t meet their educational needs.
It can be a challenge to figure out what to bring for full time RV living. “Is one pair of sandals enough or do I need a second pair for campground showers?” We ended up having way too much stuff. After a month of RV living we decided to sell the bicycles because we never used them. A few months later, we performed a spring cleaning by re-evaluating everything in the RV. Many articles of clothing ended up in the donation pile because neither of us had touched them since we moved in.
RV windows lose a ton of heat, no matter how insulated the manufacturer claims they are. There are several ways to insulate them: foam insulation boards, bubble insulation, solar blankets, etc. For extra warmth, line your windows with heavy-weight thermal curtains. Use electric or propane space heaters to supplement your RVs furnace. Don’t forget to bring along a heated blanket to stay warm in bed!
We are all electric with no propane, now what? Hydronic heating (Aqua Hot) can rely upon a diesel burner for furnace instead of propane. As you correctly pointed out diesel additive is necessary to keep the fuel liquid. We have learned that even though we treat our fuel it remains very cold. Cold diesel doesn’t completely burn and the exhaust can be very smokey and very smelly.
On the other hand, buying used can save you a significant amount of money, and with some good negotiation strategies, you can get a great deal. Many people who decide to travel full-time fall in love with the lifestyle and end up living on the road permanently. Others jump in and realize that this way of life isn’t for them – after they’ve invested a lot of money into a brand-new rig that quickly depreciates.
For this road trip we knew we would have to adjust our lifestyle a lot! We saved our money for years to take this trip across the US and we knew we’d have to be more frugal on the road (mainly because we wouldn’t be making much money during our travels).There are a few things we wont compromise on: We are passionate about supporting small local companies who are involved with the community. A restaurant that serves local farm fresh food or buying beer from a small local brewery, etc. Of course this lifestyle costs a little extra money, but for us it’s totally worth it. So here was our plan to live more frugally on the road: Eat out less, purchase less expensive beverages, shop less often, and camp off the cord as much as possible.Below is the breakdown of our expenses from our 2011 Trip across the Western Half of the USA. We’ve rounded the numbers to make it easier to calculate, but this gives us a general idea of what it cost to live on the Road in an RV.
When the temperatures dip below freezing, we make sure to run our propane heater so it can blow into our storage bay and keep our pipes and tanks warm. But we use electric heat as backup for when we run out of propane in the middle of the night (because sometimes we are irresponsible and forget about our propane tanks) and because it’s cheaper for us as a main source of heat when the temperatures are above freezing.
In the summertime, the opposite is true as we try to avoid having our windows facing the sun. Our best orientation in the summertime is for the truck to be headed northwest. This way, although we get blasted with some sun in the morning, our biggest windows are blissfully shaded during the long hours of blazing hot sun as it shines from the south and sets in the northwest.
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.
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.
Hi! We also celebrated our 2-year nomadiversary the same week as you! I started writing our blog post about it, but realized I was writing almost the exact same points as you did. You really nailed it! So, I hope you don’t mind, I decided to just share your post on my blog post (http://www.liferidingshotgun.com/2016/07/our-two-year-nomadiversary.html). We’re on fb as: Life Riding Shotgun. We wish you all the best and maybe our paths will cross soon!
The full-time RV lifestyle is absolutely fantastic, and we’ve been loving our nomadic life since 2007. Many people who are new to the idea of RVing full-time wonder how full-timers get their mail or file their taxes or what kind of insurance they buy. What the heck do they use as a home address (known in legalese as a “domicile”) and where do they register to vote? And how do they save money on RV park and campground costs?
2017 Update – YES. Public Land is still our #1 camping choice. There are now many more options for finding these kinds of sites including ultimatecampgrounds.com (which has overtaken uscampgrounds IMHO), Benchmark Maps (which are excellent paper maps for public lands), AllStays (which also offers an app) and other resources. If you want to see how I plan our current travels, check out the 3-part series I wrote starting HERE.
So, just depends on the site and the park. Older parks often have smaller sites and tighter access than newer parks. Forest service campgrounds are typically tighter than desert campgrounds. I use rvparkreviews.com to help gauge these things, and combine it with satellite pics (Google Earth) and campsitephoto.com where it’s available. Between the three I can usually make a good guess if we can fit. It’s a process!
Portable Solar Panel – We loved having a full solar system but that’s quite an investment and if you aren’t going to be doing a lot of boondocking then a portable solar panel is a better option. Portable solar panels allow you to keep your devices charged and a battery topped off for short stints off the grid. Of course, check with your RVer first before investing in such a gift.
We also use uscampgrounds.info. Great resource. Full-timing is certainly not for everyone. It requires some risk taking, overcoming fears of the unknown, saying good-bye to family and friends, and doing some things that may not seem wise. In the beginning, Paul admits, that one of his biggest full-timing faults is, he has difficulty “rolling-with-the-punches.” I find that the most challenging thing is not looking back so much. I love to reminisce and this leads me to get a bit melancholy. We have enjoyed worshipping with many different denomination and at nondenominational churches. We have made so many new friends that we stopped counting. This is one of the biggest advantages to our lifestyle. Thanks, Nina, for the great blog and giving Paul and I a few minutes of reflecting on our past year.
Fast forward 7 years and SD is still one of the least expensive states for fulltime RVers to domicile, but some things have also changed in that time frame. For example registration/insurance costs have risen (this was a state-wide thing that happened in SD a few years ago) and health insurance options for our age-group have deteriorated to the point of being abysmal. If we were choosing domicile today, we’d probably chose a different state.
We try our hardest with this aspect of our budget. We like to eat fresh, healthy, and regional so we try to visit farmers markets and local farms/ranches/dairies when possible. We also buy bulk items at CostCo, Fresh Market, etc. in order to keep staples on hand and get the most for our money. However, with a 3-year old we go through a lot of milk (at $4.85/gallon or so), snack foods, apples, and nuts. Have you seen the price of pistachios lately? One things we do splurge on is typically meats (we like good, grass fed beef), beer, and ice cream. Even life on the road doesn’t have to be sparse.
New RVers may want to think about including inflation expectations into their budgets. We use a rolling multi-year budget, and incorporate expected cost increases. Lower fuel prices during the last few years, has been very good for RVer budgets, but this could change. Many economists are now expecting inflation (o.k. now I am showing my geek side) to increase with the new administration.
As a result, Senate Bill 164 was proposed by Republican Senator Craig Tieszen to deny voting rights to residents who did not maintain a home in the state. The bill was tabled in committee, due in large part to the very vocal response from the RVing community, but the issue still rankles certain politicians in South Dakota, so it would not be surprising if it surfaced again in the future.
While neither of us were ever crazy planners, Kerensa did like to have a general plan of where we were going and what was around when we got there. Sometimes that skill still comes in handy like planning for the Florida Keys, but for the most part, we don't make reservations anymore. We prefer to stay loose with our plans and be able to adjust quickly to meet friends, dodge weather, or choose a destination on a whim!