Some years are worse than others, but it averages $1791/year, which includes optional equipment, maintenance (tires, oil changes, batteries, etc.). Also includes roadside service insurance payments, vehicle insurance, registration, specialized and optional RV expenses (club memberships), paint & body work, and the expense of two major breakdowns over the years. This was for a ‘94 36 foot, Class A, diesel, RV.
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.
Now, we’re not full-timers, but here’s how we keep our monthly expenses down when we are on the road: Budget, Book Early and Save $$$! In order to save money to increase our travel, we launched a new budgeting strategy several years ago. We began our plan, believe it or not, by shifting our yearly spending. It all began in the fall of 2008 when we completed our holiday spending several months early… by the end of October! Honestly, this is a terrific idea as you will find that most Black Friday Deals have the same pricing for sales offered in October. Seriously! Putting this away early allows us to begin to save and prepare for the following year’s travel season ahead of time. We then start to save money from November through January to use for RV travel! We are always ahead of the game! We book our vacations early and ask for “Early Bird Specials”/ AAA/ Good Sam Member/ or Military Specials for trips we plan to take starting in March and we plan trips through October.
Obviously these are not the same fixed costs for everyone. What kind of rig you buy, where you insure it, how much maintenance you do (incl. paid versus self-maintenance), whether you keep a storage unit and what kind of internet plan you get are all individual choice. But once you’ve made those decisions they’ll become fixed, recurring expenses that you should expect to pay each month.
Great information! My husband and I just purchased our first motorhome, a Thor Challenger 37GT that has 3 slide outs. We will be full timers and will be living in the rv in the cold, cold (and hot in the summer) Midwest for the next couple of years until we retire and head out to see the country. My question is, how do we keep the slide areas warm in the winter? Would you skirt the bottom of the rv, then also skirt around the slides? Or is there a way to insulate around the slide when it’s out? Looking forward to comments. Thanks!

Food — Studies have found that the average home in the U.S. wastes 25 percent of their food. This is due to spoiled food or uneaten food. When you live in an RV, space for food is limited. It is rare to throw something out because you didn't see it at the back of your small refrigerator. I think you also tend to eat healthier since you are hiking in the outdoors more. Assuming an average $440 per month for two people, you save about $75 a month.
$827 Costco – Because we didn’t find many farmers markets or affordable natural food stores on this portion of our trip, we renewed our Costco membership. For the amount cooking we do, Costco is the best way for us to get reliable organic, natural, and affordable food items. Yes you must purchase in bulk, however we try not to over-purchase, and we rely on Costco for our staples only like tomatoes, beans, hummus, chips, etc. Sometimes we’ll even find local venders in Costco from coffee roasters, to pastry makers, to exotic cheeses made from nearby farms….and that’s why we choose Costco over Sam’s Club.
Thanks for sharing these details. Just signed up for your newsletter to get more helpful tidbits as you post them. We are planning on downsizing from our SF Bay Area home to a full-time traveling RV and need to work from the road. It’s especially helpful to us to see connectivity costs, which we were thinking would cost us quite a bit each month. Thus it was shocking for us to see folks being able to spend only $600 total per month. We will be lucky to keep our expenses to $2k/month! Looks like a $3K monthly budget could work even after eating out and buying quite a bit of booze 🙂

Thank you so much for your kind words! We love to travel to (and hopefully one day we will get to as many places as you’ve been) but having our house on wheels and exploring the USA is wonderful! Congrats on your decision and good luck on your next detour! Thanks so much for reading. If you have any questions about RV life, be sure to check out our resources here https://www.followyourdetour.com/full-time-rv-resources-and-information/

Doug – every dollar we spent over the year was included so this is realistic for us and how we travel…as stated in the post: RV living costs will vary depending on the number of people, pets, life style, spending habit, and other factors. Yes we wrap various items in the Misc category but we do have the Jeep/RV expenses listed on its own line in the avg monthly costs… RV/Tow Car: $132 oil changes and supplies. If you’re interested in more detail, check out our monthly expense reports and it will break our costs down further – including what we spent on Misc items that month: https://weretherussos.com/cost-of-living-full-time-in-a-rv/


Thanks for sharing these details. Just signed up for your newsletter to get more helpful tidbits as you post them. We are planning on downsizing from our SF Bay Area home to a full-time traveling RV and need to work from the road. It’s especially helpful to us to see connectivity costs, which we were thinking would cost us quite a bit each month. Thus it was shocking for us to see folks being able to spend only $600 total per month. We will be lucky to keep our expenses to $2k/month! Looks like a $3K monthly budget could work even after eating out and buying quite a bit of booze 🙂

There are private RV parks everywhere. They are extremely easy to find online, in commercial guide books and by asking at visitors centers. The AllStays App is a very popular resource. Private RV parks range from about $30/night to $60/night or more, tending to even higher prices in popular destinations at peak season in choice sites that offer more amenities (like a view). The parking is generally laid out in rows, and the sites can range from drycamping sites (no hookups) to electric and/or water only to electric/water/sewer with cable TV, telephone and free WiFi. Usually the site includes a picnic table, and sometimes the park has a pool, showers, shuffleboard or horseshoes, sometimes bike and canoe rentals, a small store, or other goodies.
depending on where you are planning for your overnights, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. If you are worried and aren’t allergic, my best solution would be to get at least a medium sized dog. The barking is usually enough to deter anyone with nefarious plans, especially if they have been staking you out and have seen this is not a chihuahua, though even those are good for the noise. Anyway, most RVers are pretty good people and tend to look out for each other. Lock your RV door(s) at night, be aware of your surroundings and the people in it and you should be just fine. Also, dont promote that you are traveling alone as a woman. No sense painting a target for those with deceitful plans. I’ve never had any problems but, then again, I have three large dogs traveling with me. 😉 Good luck!! Now, start living your dream!!
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.
Living in an RV or any small space can have its challenges. The first year of full time RV life flew by in the blink of an eye. As we celebrate our three years of RVing, I want to share some tips that helped us survive the transition to RV living. Whether you’re a solo RVer, family of five or a couple with a dog, I hope you find these tips helpful.

There is little risk in joining these programs, as they are cheap to join and you do not have to renew if you don’t like the program. Sometimes they even offer a money-back guarantee for the first 90 days. However, because the member parks are independently run, RV parks join and abandon the programs as suits their individual business needs. When you make your reservation, double check that the park is still a member of your program.


Over the past few years we’ve received too many questions and demands from rude people in regards to our spending; so this will likely be the last time we post any business expenses or personal expenses that are not related to RV Travel. Our monthly expenses seem to be pretty similar so if you need to know our expenses in more detail scroll down to the toggles for 2013 and older.Below is a breakdown of our travel costs and expenses from January 01, 2014 to March 28, 2014. In future Full Time RV Expense posts you’ll only see these categories.
My husband was working a remote 9 to 5 job and stopped a little less than a year ago and since then we have transitioned over to my virtual assistant business and our travel blog being how we make our income. We also just signed up to be DoTerra oil reps (we love essential oils!) and are in the process of starting a t-shirt company. You know, just a few things to keep busy.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area experiences hot, humid summers, with temperatures approaching or exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit during July and August. Mild winters offer temperatures from approximately 35 to 55 degrees. The months of May and October typically see the highest rainfalls, up to 5 inches, while January typically experiences the lowest rainfall, with an average of less than 2 inches.
Since selling our house, our monthly bills have decreased. We no longer have utility bills or cable bills. Wahoo! We did finance our RV, but the payment is nowhere near what our house payment was. Spending less on our living expenses has actually allowed us to live more. We are able to travel, have experiences, and buy recreational equipment that we would never have been able to afford before.
In this particular case on boondocking I am wondering if you read down to the part where it says Other Resources/Internet Sites and went to the links. Freecampsites.net is a great website and used it in my year one planning. Please read in detail as to how many days that you can stay at the particular campsite, cost of campground since most aren’t free that I’ve opened up, and if RV length mentioned make sure that you can camp there. Usually there is good information on how to get to the campsite in question as well.
BLM JUST upgraded their website last year and they REMOVED all of the wonderful links and maps they used to have on there!! For example there is no longer ANY information on LTVA camping, nor any information on MANY of the free or low-cost campgrounds we’ve used over the years. Plus that interactive map with all the clickable layers I used to use and which I linked to in that blog post? Completely gone!! I honestly have no idea why they decided to remove all this valuable info from their site, and I’ve yet to update all my old blog posts to reflect this massive change (I’ve got SO many broken links right now). You can still get map info if you physically walk into a BLM office and ask for it, but I no longer know how to find these maps online. Wish it weren’t so.
In our case there are months we pay almost ZERO here (e.g. when we are sitting still in one place and either volunteering or boondocking) and there are months we chose to splurge. Either way we are able to completely manage how much we want to spend and can ramp it down (or up) as needed to match our income. Honestly if we’d fully understood the power of this flexibility we probably wouldn’t have fretted quite so much over costs before we got on the road. This is a BIG DEAL!
The form your money is in makes a difference in how you RV and what your expenses will be. If you have a big income that comes from a limitless source (a pension and/or Social Security), then a large personal loan on a new luxury Class A motorhome may be just fine and the nightly expense of high-end RV parks won’t be a problem. However, if you are trying to make a small nest egg last to your dying day, and you are not even retirement age yet, you may be best off spending a portion of it to purchase your RV outright, rather than paying interest on a loan, and you will also be looking to save money on camping and overnight parking.

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!


You guys rock. Love the expense detail. I’m a director/producer myself and my wife is an actress/spokesperson. Have talked about living full time in an RV, but mostly within the state due to business, clients, elderly parents, etc., – with the occasional road trip. Can’t tell you how much you guys have helped us plan. Your videos are excellent too, and I know what I’m talking about!
In a few weeks I’ll be 27 years old, and my husband and I, with our four kids, are on our way to living debt-free. Before I tell you how we are making that happen, you should know what I am not going to share. I am not going to tell you how you can pay off your mortgage in two years, or quit your job and make money online. Our family has done neither of those things, and our journey to financial freedom has not been an easy one. Instead, we are among the rising number of families losing their homes to foreclosure.

Finally, we need to seal all those other places where cold air can enter our rig. Any compartments that open into the inside of the rig need to have good weather seals. Under the rig, there are many openings where water and gas lines enter the living area. These openings need to be sealed and some of that aerosol self-expanding foam is great for this. Alternately, foam rubber can be forced into gaps to help reduce air leaks. Finally, the entry door needs to be checked to make sure that it seals properly. Adding some inexpensive foam tape or weather-strip will really help seal those air leaks.
I find all of your material very insightful. We have just purchased a truck and rv and will be setting out soon for trial trips. I’m intrigued and very interested in your very low use of interstates. Some 3% you mentioned in one season. It may be already posted somewhere and if so please just point it out. If not can you expand on this a bit. Is it safer with less emphasis on the higher speeds? Easier to find a place to stop and camp? All of the above?
The grand total for the fourth quarter (October 01 – December 31) of our 2013 RV Living Expenses: $11,971 Below is a breakdown of our expenses of full time living in our RV, if you want more details read the posts from 2011 and 2012. I’ve rounded the numbers to keep it simple.$2,014 Fuel – Gas for Smart Car and diesel for RV, we logged a ton of miles this quarter.
Anything below $1500/mo is tough IMO especially if there’s two of you and you throw health care, insurance and other fixed costs into the mix. The folks on this end of the spectrum are super-budget and generally travel in vans or smaller rigs (= lower maintenance & insurance/registration costs), boondock or workamp most of the time (= ultra-low camping fees), limit their travel (= less gas costs) and cook at home most of the time (= low entertainment costs). It requires some frugal dedication, but it’s do-able. We know several folks traveling this way who absolutely love the freedom of their super-budget lifestyle.
Our highest grocery month was September. We had a problem with our inverter while traveling and lost everything in the freezer. Conversely our lowest grocery month was when we were at Fort Belvoir near Washington DC. We were right down the road from a fabulous farmer’s market and saved a ton of money shopping there almost exclusively. Our highest dining out month was December when we spent 2 weeks in a hotel in Las Vegas, NV and a week in a hotel in Rockville, MD.
Chugging along the ruggedly beautiful Maine coastline, I couldn’t help but reflect on how thankful I was for our current lifestyle. In the prior 30 days, we’d been to a family wedding in Asheville, NC, played top ranked golf courses in the countryside of Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, crashed the driveway of college friends in our Nation’s capital, explored the vibrant streets of New York City, beamed with joy as our pup Ella ran alongside us at a dog-friendly golf course in the mountains of Maine, and we’re now on our way to the beautiful Acadia National Park.
I live in L.A. Cali and the rents are expensive, try buying a property-forget it!.. Specially for an average Joe making less than 35k a year. I got be a 1997 30’ft. RV that I live in it full time and I pay 400 dollars a month rent to the homeowner of the property to let me camp on his empty back yard.I know I tried to live on the public streets,but it’s too much of a hassle because that RV can’t be just put on one location of public street, the city parking enforcement will cite you, as well gang bangers would vandalize your home/RV.So one day I decided to post on craigslist and a man replied to let me park and live on his backyard for 400bucks a month which he kindly let’s me use his side house restroom (keep my RV restroom clean and unused) and electricity for general purpose ,Except for anytime I need my AC (I USE MY GENERATOR).Im just a basic Joe, I cut on renting small rooms for the same price, but I have more space and better independence. I usually ride my bicycle to work and public transportation (I hardly spend on gas).. Also, I have WiFi internet I get from his home, which he charges extra 20 bucks. I have a laundromat couple feet away from this property, so I just walk with my cart basket on Sundays. Life is great and inexpensive. Yea, renting an apartment in a bad/ghetto area of L.A. COULD cost around 800 to 1,000 a month. Im better off renting on a private property in a Nice safer neighbor hood.
As a budget figure, if you are a future full-timer, and you are excited by the $0 figure here, and you plan to boondock a lot but haven’t don’t it much yet, include a “slush” camping fee figure of $350 per month in your budget until you find out if you really like it. Some folks plan to “free camp” all the time but find it isn’t practical for their lifestyle once they hit the road.
Pro Tip: Even if you don’t insure your RV through Good Sam, you should definitely spring for their Roadside Assistance service. It’s $80 a year and completely worth it. Plus, if they can’t get to you in time for roadside assistance, they will pay for whoever does end up coming out to save you from the side of the Interstate. After getting a blown tire outside of Coalinga, California, I’m a HUGE fan of Good Sam’s Roadside service. Getting our tow dolly tire replaced billed us $150, which Good Sam promptly reimbursed us for. I’m a huge fan of any service that pays for itself. (PS They don’t pay me to say nice things about them, but they should.)

Your RV has feelings, and it hates being cold just as much as you do! Just kidding, but you will experience some big problems if you don’t keep it warm. Even though many RVs come with thermal packages, which include extra insulation, it’s still not enough for sub-zero temperatures. If you’re camping in extreme cold, put your RV in a skirt! Skirting the RV will keep the battery bays, plumbing, and other important components warm. If you don’t have a skirt, you can pack snow around the RV bays.


We started with the curriculum below but after about six months gave “unschooling” a try before going back to a more scheduled approach. I’m glad we tried unschooling but it didn’t work for us at that point in our lives or perhaps I just didn’t give it time. Another post all together. After our failed unschooling attempt, I added an additional writing program because I wasn’t thrilled with Sonlight or Rod and Staff’s writing components.
We had planned to stay in the RV for an entire year after being stationary but soon realized that wasn’t going to work. Not only were the boys embarrassed, our 41′ RV shrunk exponentially once we quit moving. Having Yellowstone or Lake Superior as the playground in your backyard is much different from the city campground where the RVs are crammed together like books on a bookshelf. So we found a house and a few months later said goodbye to the RV.
another outstanding post–and very timely for me-have finally reached a decision re hitting the road after following your blog and so many others–a great source of inspiration and information. have been doing lots of research on the forums and just signed up for the Escapees Boot Camp as a walk-in. will finalize my thinking re rig size and other items soon and this input is great!! hope to hit the road by the end of the year as the “downsizing” is already completed and most is in storage–need to “just do it”!! thanks again for all the info–really enjoy your posts–you guys have been a big inspiration

I followed all my own directions as notated in this original post below EXCEPT for skirting. I don’t have a skirt for our Windy, and there was no snow on the ground so I couldn’t make an impromptu skirt. So today we’re a little more wise and humbly we offer a few new points on preparing your RV for Winter:1. Skirting – Anytime the temperatures will be sub 30 for more than a half day adding a skirt is the BEST way to keep your RV from freezing. If we would have skirted our Motorhome this wouldn’t have been an issue. That’s what I get for being lazy!
I hope you don’t mind me contacting you out of the blue. I am a researcher working for major independent production company Optomen Television in London. We are currently producing a new documentary series for Channel 4 in the UK about people who have quit the rat race and moved to live in remote locations the world. It will be an inspirational series following the incredible stories of ordinary people who are living a unique way of life in some of the most beautiful and breath-taking places. The presenter, Kevin McCloud, best known for presenting the hit TV series ‘Grand Designs’ will visit people in their wildness homes and get to experience first-hand the wonder of life in these stunning locations.
Totally depends on HOW you travel. I have male buddies who travel in vans that live this lifestyle for around $12,000 per year (look up ToSimplify, CheapRVLiving and Van-Tramp in my blog links), and I have friends who use much, much more. I would say you can do it on anything from $1,000/mo to $5,000/mo depending on how far you travel, where you stay, how frugal you are etc.
Full-timing can be done in many different ways, and whether or not a young couple needs a big nest egg depends entirely on how much money they can earn on the road. Someone with a mobile, high paying profession, like contract nursing, doesn’t need a big nest egg. Someone that will be relying on work camping at campgrounds and RV parks may want more in the bank to handle emergencies that will require more money than their salary can provide.
First of all, I had to do a lot of research to better understand the difference between fifth wheels, motorhomes, truck campers, pull-behinds, etc. Ultimately, we made our choice on motorhome because we liked the idea of having our vehicle and home be all in one. We enjoy being able to walk to the back and use the restroom or make food, without having to leave our vehicle while we’re traveling.

[…] The down-time is also giving us some space to plan our next steps. In the last big storm we discovered yet another leak in…guess what?…our”big” slide on the front drivers side of the rig. This same slide, and the woes of getting it fixed was the very reason we rushed ~1000 miles cross-country to Oregon almost 3 years ago. Back then the main problem was in the back of the slide near the fridge. Now, the front has moved out of alignment with the front edge dangerously close to catching under the rim of the RV. Simply put it’s just a poorly engineered design and we should never have bought a rig with a heavy object like the fridge in it (one of our “10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Fulltime RVing“). […]
I understand there are monthly costs to van dwelling, but I am in a unique situation being at school. I have a free gym membership that has all the amenities. I have friends with houses, apartments, yards, etc. where I can freely park and utilize some of their amenities. I have access to WIFI anywhere on campus and bathrooms everywhere I look. I have a different scheduled each day and a part time job. I am ALWAYS on the move. From an outsiders standpoint, I feel as if I would mesh right into the van dwelling life. I want to live a less material life. I own too much random…. stuff. I want to minimize my living “standards.” I want to remove anything in my life hindering me from experiencing life.
All of these things (and much more) happened to us on the road. We had to learn to be more flexible and, more importantly, to have a sense of humor about the inevitability of mistakes and mishaps. We got there in the end, but if I could go back to my first day, I’d tell myself to lighten up and roll with the punches. You have to learn how to adapt when things don’t go as planned. And, you have to be willing to laugh at the sheer absurdity of this crazy, wonderful life. If you can do that, then you’ll thrive on the road.
I remember a year or so ago Thing 1 and I were talking. He was having a hard time wanting both the adventure of RV life and the stability of being stationary. He missed our life in California but at the same time enjoyed our life of travel. It was a conversation we had often as we gauged the boys’ needs to make sure full time RVing was still working for everyone. During this one particular conversation his big brown eyes were contemplative and he asked,
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!
Last winter, we spent the week leading up to the new year with around 40 other rigs in the Anza-Borrego desert. It was truly one of the most memorable New Year's Eve nights we've ever experienced. We sang karaoke (well, not us, we watched karaoke), burned a plywood borrego, and ate like kings at a potluck out in the middle of nowhere. It was pretty fantastic. From there, we broke off with a smaller group in search of better internet and continued with the community happy hours. We then hiked it up to Quartzsite for an Xscapers convergence and another gathering of close friends. It was a pretty great way to spend a month, especially before we all dispersed in different directions for the spring.
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