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.
Many people dream of living in an RV and traveling full time, and for the most part, it’s retirees who are able to live the RV lifestyle. However, there are many young people who are intrigued by the freedom that RVing full time represents. They are hitting the open road as well. One of the first questions prospective full time RVers of all ages ask is – how much will it cost each month?
I was enlightened by the Tiny House movement. After researching into buying a tiny house and furnishing it, the cost was more than my regular sized 2 bedroom home. I then started looking at used RV’s, mainly 5th wheel Trailers and travel trailers. I found a decent used 5th Wheel with good bones, and bought it when my house sold. Prior to that, I spent 9 months selling off everything I owned and thought I needed. Everyone thought I was nuts. The kids where grown, the husband passed away, and it was just me and the cat. The banker suggested, I replace AC unit with a Heat and Air unit, battery, fridge…anything that was too old. My investment was $3900 for a 1996 Dutchman Aristocrat 27 ft. Back then they made them solid with good wood not chip board. Heat and Air Unit $850, Fridge (electric only) $150. I did quite a bit of water line insulation, because these units were not meant to live in cold weather.
The choice between a motorhome and a 5th wheel is very personal. Both have advantages and disadvantages. For example a motorhome is easier to set-up and take-down (very easy for either partner to do alone), but a 5th wheel is cheaper on maintenance (only one engine to take care of). I’ve written a bit more about the pros/cons in other comments (above). Good luck and best of travels to you!
This RV couple is semi-retired but can’t put the entrepreneur spirit inside of them to rest quite yet. They live in a 1999 Class A motor home, which often needs repairs. However, that is no problem for the mister who is an RV mechanic. Their travel style is very flexible and go with the flow. They typically like to be on the go and tend to travel far and fast, with plans of someday slowing down. They enjoy boondocking as much as possible, particularly where they can enjoy the land and nature and meet interesting people. They love activities of all kinds – outdoor, tourist, city exploration, etc. They are clearly young at heart!
Just found your site. Wish we had found it sooner. Just sold our home to go fulltime rving. We have signed up with Dakota Post. Started to change addresses with credit cards and banks and they want a residential address. We could give sons in CA but then will have to pay taxes there and we had planned to domicile in SD. I was told this is part of ” The Patriot Act” Do you have any suggestions for us?
Living in your vehicle can actually be quite comfortable. Instead of paying rent for an apartment every month, I decided to take out a small loan and pay the loan off over 3 years. This allowed me to actually buy my home, just like someone purchasing a normal house (except I have no property taxes & it’s a much more affordable “mortgage” to pay by myself). And unless you have a large bank account, a trust fund, or want to work your life away every day for 30+ years (Despite what some folks might think, I have none of those, lol) this seemed the best way for me to live happily.
If you want to regain your floor space perhaps you should add a project to your list … a ‘charging station’. Find a ‘power-strip’ which can be mounted on a wall, usually with 2 screws and find a little wall space. ;o) ha ha! Perhaps above shoulder height alongside your seating area. Mount the power-strip and then make some small shelves or use ‘cup hooks’ to ‘hang’ your electronic devices from. Coil up your cables and use Velcro ‘cable ties’ to secure them neatly out of the way.
Ditch anything you can live without while you’re on your trip to keep the weight of the vehicle down. The heavier your load is, the more your gas mileage will suffer. Aside from leaving some of your favorite things at home, you can also consider emptying the majority of your freshwater supply and then filling up when you get to your campsite to further lighten your RV weight. This is a simple way to maintain or increase your gas mileage as you’re cruisin’ on down the road.
I am considerating selling my house and getting either an RV or Log Home or an A-Frame or getting a Tiny house which is the big thing now . After doing my research all a tiny house is an RV with wheels. No truck to pull it with though . That would be extra . I thought the cost of a tiny house would be great because they are less expensive but they aren’t . After looking at several of them I’d rather just get an RV . But where would you get mail? How long can you stay at one camp ground? Since your always moving do you pay taxes? Please tell me how do I find these answers . Thank you very much and one more thing . If I did want to go to Paris or somewhere else over seas do I have to leave my RV somewhere else? Thanks again . I look forward to hearing from you .
The most inefficient part of RVs are the windows, which are usually thin, single-pane windows. Go to a fabric shop and get several yards of really thick, oven-mit fabric. Measure out your windows and cut and sew up some custom curtains. If I did not have really good, thick curtains on my windows, even with the wood stove, I would be really cold. The drafts you feel from the windows alone are pretty impressive, and curtains will help mollify that.
Magnetic Car Phone Mount Holder – I’m always surprised when someone gets in my car or truck and says something about my cell phone holder. Maybe it’s because after living for four years on the road and still not knowing our new city very well, the first thing I do put the address of where I’m going into my phone. What do people do when they have to use the navigation apps on their phones and don’t have a holder? Hold it in their hands? Lay it on the center console? When it comes to safety, I’m super uptight conscientious and this little contraption is wonderful. We put a magnet inside our phone cases and the phone effortlessly sticks to the mount that is in our truck’s cd player. We also have one that mounts in the air vent in our other car. Love these things. They are convenient and make using a navigational app safer.
Our highest month was August in Cocoa Beach, FL. We both went on a bioluminescence kayaking tour which was $84. Also Julie got the deluxe adventure package at the Brevard Zoo which included an aerial adventure obstacle course, zip lining and kayaking for $57. We discuss how much fun we had on the Space Coast in our inaugural podcast episode. Our least expensive month was again at Fort Belvoir because there are so many free activities in the Washington DC area (i.e., Smithsonian museums, monuments, and hiking galore).
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!
My husband traveled through a pipe fitters Union. We did this with our son until recently. He is almost 7. That’s the hardest part for us. Our son was lonely. He made a lot of friends and got really good at making friends quickly. We did too. But then we would leave for a new place and he will prob. Never see them again. It was so fun to live that way. We miss it more than anything in the world. Wish we could leave right now. Haha. Really. We are adjusting to this conventional life. It’s not as simple or fun. Our son got lonely. So now we are staying home. Hubby got a new job and our son goes to school. He is also getting a brother. Haha. So that is the main challenge. So we look forward to retirement. We are selling it all and going on the road.
Draft/Condensation: Many RVers find they have condensation in their RVs but we were fortunate that this wasn't a big problem. However, hints that may help you stay in control are to tape windows along the edges as well as the frames of unused doors or put plastic over the windows (inside or out). For a tight fit, use the kind of plastic that you heat with a hair dryer. A small dehumidifier may also help. We cut down on a draft by the driver's door when we pressed a twin bed sheet of egg shell foam inside the door.
Full time RV living can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. You really just have to settle into your own budget and determine what you can do and how far you can go in a given month. My family and I have been on the road for about two years now and our pace changes dependent upon that month’s budget, and that’s one thing I love about this lifestyle!
I wasn’t sleeping in my nest-bed in the RV. I was sleeping on a new bed in a new house, a house without wheels. I wasn’t going to wake up and walk a few steps to our kitchen. I would walk up a flight of stairs. I wasn’t going to wake the boys up from their bunkroom 20 feet away to get started with their homeschool. I would go to each of their separate bedrooms to wake them up to go to school. I wasn’t going to have a day exploring new places. I was going to drive the same streets to the same places.
Hi Heather…Saw your post and thought I could help you a little 🙂 …. Go to the web site zillow.com to get the value of your home…When you get on the site, put in your address and see all the great information you will find. Make sure you read the whole page, so scoll down for all your information. the same site will help you with your new hunt as well…Good Journey to you and the family….Enjoy now….OH YES…GET A R.E. ATTORNITY AND HE CAN WRITE UP YOUR SALE CHEAPER THAN AN AGENT….YOUR ON YOUR WAY NOW….HAPPY TRAILS 🙂
In Florida, cruising sailors have relied on St. Brendan’s Isle mail forwarding for ages. To my knowledge, they were the first (by at least 5 years) to provide a virtual mail service where you could see a scanned image of your mail in an email message. This kind of service is now provided by America’s Mailbox and Escapees and others as well. Other mail forwarding services in Florida are Nato Mail, Escapees, Good Sam Club and My RV Mail.
Getting Personal Effects coverage above and beyond the $20,000 limit generally requires scheduling each item and giving it a value. Progressive requires each item to be appraised ahead of time and submitted as part of the application process for securing an insurance policy. Nationwide doesn’t require appraisals but asks for receipts showing prices paid and date of purchase so they can determine the depreciated value. I’m not sure how either handles the “outside the RV” scenario if the base coverage is higher than $20,000.
Your personal diary of events and budget is not uncommon. However me and my husband lived in North Eastern Utah in a new RV park for only $350 month, which included ALL utilities except our propane. We also renovated a used 35 ft fifth wheel becasue we did not want to be in debt. We also stayed on a budget and never had the expense you all did. We to own land but voted to stay in town at an RV park. I can tell you from experience our total expenses were not over $600 and this includes most of your list.
It Sounds like your rear brakes may be freezing up. Are you setting the parking brake? If so there is probably moisture in the brakes and when you set the parking brake, (which sets the rear brakes only) the brakes then cool and the moisture turns to ice, thus freezing the brake pads to the brake drum. I am assuming this is the trouble because they seem to release when you try to reverse, which is a common reaction to this problem.
“South Dakota Senate Bill #164, entitled, “An Act to revise certain residency requirements for voter registration,” has been tabled by the State Senate Affairs Committee. During the Committee meeting, Senator Tieszen stated, “I believe there is a legal solution to this.” He continued, “I believe it’s legal and constitutional to put reasonable residency requirements on voting in South Dakota.” He is looking for a solution that “does, in fact, disenfranchise those folks that have no connection to South Dakota other than the fact that they rent a P.O. box here for financial gain.” He continued by stating, “I’m going to continue to try to work for that solution.” Tieszen stated, “Senate Bill 164, I’ve concluded, is not the solution.” He concluded by asking that Senate Bill 164 be tabled. After the vote was taken, Senate Bill 164 was tabled by an 8 to 1 vote.
I think it’s awesome you guys do this! I would love for me and my husband to do the RV for awhile just to try it out. I also wanted to let you know that I wrote a post on Low Cost Housing options and linked to your post here! Thanks for the great tips! Here’s the post if you want to check it out: http://www.tidyandteal.com/low-cost-housing-options/
We purposely headed into Colorado and Utah in the winter because we wanted to ski, and because we wanted to travel the opposite direction of most RV’ers who go south for colder months. We were prepared with tools to help our RV survive: a heated, enclosed underbelly on the trailer; heated hoses; space heaters, etc. We survived a low of 10 degrees one night just before Christmas in Green River, Utah, and on and off sub-freezing temperatures the rest of our trip. We even had about six inches of snow in South Dakota after Easter.
Note: Although many or even most cold weather RVers use electric heaters, some people say it’s not safe to do so, and there are horror stories surrounding their use. I am comfortable with our setup and willing to accept any associated risk, but please do your own research and get to know your camper or motorhome’s electrical systems before making the decision to use one.
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.
Within the last month I moved out of my apartment, purchased a new tow car and a 21′ travel trailer (monthly financing less than what I was paying for rent, and I will own them). I was really excited and didn’t quite think things through about where I was going to boondock. I work for Wal-mart and made arrangements with my store manager, but it is an awkward experience. Now to the point, I can’t be without internet. I use non contract boost mobile and pay $50 a month, this includes “unlimited” call, text and date plus my phone has hot spot capabilities. It allows for 2.5 gig a month of data and then when you reach the limit it slows your speed but you still have access to internet.
You must spend more time in open or private sites than we do. We spend most of our summers in forested public parks and we were almost never able to get a satellite lock on that roof dish. We honestly couldn’t use it more than half the year. Last year we completely ditched the roof-dish (in fact we ditched Direct TV altogether) and it’s been a great decision for us.
What about carseats? You have young children. Did you tow a vehicle for smaller driving around. My kids r same ages and we are seriously considering doing this. For all the same reasons. I have always considered homeschooling, so that’s not a giant leap. We just started to look I to RVs and 5th wheels. We already have a full sized pick-up our three kids fit in so we wouldn’t need another vehicle. But I’m worried a out the safety of driving a class A without child restraints and wasting valuable schooling time by having then in carseats while driving. How did you make this decision?
Spray the bottom of the camper with spray foam. This isn’t something I can recommend from personal experience; it’s just something I know some people do. If I were going to do it, though, I would want to make sure I didn’t do any spraying that would prevent me from accessing certain systems if they needed repair. An alternative is to attach foam board insulation to the bottom of the RV.
Serge, thanks for sharing your experience / expenses. This is the great thing about travel, it can truly be done on any budget. It’s all about your personal style and what your travel goal is. We are living an affordable luxury lifestyle now but when we transfer to the sail boat in 2014 we are going to try out a super slim buget. It’s going to be all about living off the land (or mostly water). Thanks again for sharing!
Yes, we do have a permanent address. We use a mail forwarding company in SD that acts as our address of record for drivers license, voting, taxes etc. We can also get stuff mailed there (and forwarded to us), but meds may be different and certain meds (e.g narcotics) may be controlled. I know many RV folks who get their meds through nationwide pharmacies (e.g. CVS) and just get the prescription transferred to the local shop to pick up as needed. I also know RV folks who get their docs to write 6-mo (or longer) prescriptions which allows them to travel further before needing new prescriptions. Since we take no meds ourselves, I don’t know much more about this so you’ll have to research more. But I have heard from folks who make it work.
He did not seem like he wanted to move . . . we all quickly ran up the hill on the side of the path and waited for him to pass . . . He made a few grunting noises at us and walked past. In the meantime, Craig had gotten his bear spray out just in case! We were glad it wasn’t a bear but were all still a little freaked out. Luckily he just walked by and went on his way.
Richard is working at with the Amazon CamperForce program for the second year. He’ll be at the warehouse from September to December. It’s very different from his career in IT, but the income allows the family to live this nomadic lifestyle. He earned $11.50 an hour at a fulfillment center in Murfreesboro, Tenn., which went to $15 an hour in November.
With our system, we can use the faucet to fill our fresh water tank. However, you can not leave it hooked up to a hose when the weather drops below freezing. The hose has to be disconnected from the faucet so that the faucet can drain to down below the freeze line. If you leave the hose hooked up the faucet will freeze and break. That is an expense and inconvenience you don’t want in the middle of winter.
My husband always laughs but I also feel very lost when I walk into a new grocery store in a new city we are visiting. I don’t know where anything is and I end up walking around the grocery store at least twice before I am done since I can never find everything I need the first time through. Then again we have found some great food and brands around the country that we didn’t have in our home town so I guess it isn’t all bad.
$600 RV Camping – The largest savings compared to our 2011 expenses. The main reason for the change in camping fees: We’ve stayed at several parks that have comped our stay and paid us to shoot a video on their parks. It’s not great money, but it’s saving us money and helping us pay some bills while extending our travels on the road. We haven’t shared many of the campground videos on our site yet, but we’ve just launched a new tab aptly named campgrounds. You’ll find the videos to be pretty happy since we were paid to shoot the parks, but in the text you’ll find our personal take on these RV Resorts (not all the reviews are paid, and we won’t lie and tell you a place is great when clearly it’s a piece of crap). Also we’ve saved lots of money by Driveway Surfing at our follower’s homes; and special thanks to my mom for fitting the bill when she joined us in Montreal Canada.
If they are new to RVing and unsure if the lifestyle fits, they should go cheap but functional. I have Airstreamed all my life, but our first trailer was a 24’ Nomad that cost $3000. We learned a LOT in that trailer. Lots of what to do, and even more of what NOT to do. We had repairs and enhancements to do. We sold it 1 year later, but that was due to my parents giving us their Airstream.
Do you have a blog? I would love to hear more about life on the road with kids. I’m trying to talk my husband into doing something like this. We don’t currently have kids, but are trying. He is hard to break out of his comfort zone, but once he’s out, he loves it. Your story sounds so interesting and I would love to read more about your travels and living on the road with 4 youngsters.
On the other hand, it’s a VERY individual thing. After 7 years on the road I can honestly tell you there’s a very good reason why no-one ever gives you an exact number. That’s because many of the big fulltime RV expenses are totally flexible! What kind of rig you buy, where you decide to camp, how much you drive, whether you decide workamp, whether you eat out (or in) etc. -> ALL these are flexible costs that can vastly alter your spend numbers. There are ranges (and I’ll go through them below), but there is quite simply no one single number for everyone.
The eclipse was one of the most intense and beautiful 2 minutes and 20 seconds of my life. It was sublime in the truest sense of the word. Mind blowing. My body buzzed for a full 30 minutes afterwards. The moment when the last sliver of sun disappeared, that moment of totality when I took off my glasses, was like instantly being transported to another world. Everything familiar but so different. Completely surreal. A 360 degree sunset. And the corona of the sun… No words. Just awe.
We have met several full-timers who are members of the Moose Club and Elks Club and use their RV facilities on a regular basis. This seems like a terrific option, although we have not joined either organization yet. Membership requires a sponsor, but each time we’ve stopped in and inquired, people have offered to be sponsors right at the bar! The membership fee is on the order of $100 or so a year and overnights in the RV parks are $10 to $20 or so. Some lodges without formal RV park sites may allow members to dry camp in the parking lot if there’s room.
Knowing our expenses may not help other RVers. Unfortunately, there isn’t just one easy answer, and without a bit of research, no one can say how much living full time in an RV will cost. It’s the same as when we live in a traditional house—we all have different costs and expenses depending on our income and our lifestyle. It will depend on how much traveling is planned, the type of RV, and what the budget is. We may travel more or less than others, have a smaller RV with less expenses, and boondock more.
At the same time, being together 24/7 is a challenge, too. It’s one of the reasons we chose to live this way. But, as you can imagine, it poses its own issues since there is no pushing anything under the rug. All issues, hard feelings and frustrations need to be addressed quickly or they just continue to grow and grow, and that doesn’t work in such close quarters.
RV shows are great places to meet fellow RV’ers, the forums like irv2 are great for chatting and asking questions and membership groups like escapees are there to help people through the process. Then of course there are blogs like ours where we try to share helpful information and a general glimpse into the lifestyle. Blogs are a fantastic resource and if you spend some time watching videos and reading through you will learn a ton.
Enjoy your thoughts and insight. BUT…..(yes, I’m a BUT gal), you obviously have plenty of finances w/cushion should you have unexpected expenses on the road. It is not so “go for it” when one is a BABYBOOMER, widowed Gal, whose main income is Social Security ($1500). It gets tricky. I’ve lived from Tokyo to Stockholm and all over the USA. Full timed a while crossing the country 12 times. Currently stuck in South Texas and loathe it. (formerly resided in Las Vegas, Beverly Hills, Miami, Honolulu, Tokyo and Palm Springs – the total opposite of anything in Texas. It’s a long sstory.) So, tell me where should I begin? I’m thinking New Mexico or north Arizona. Avoid DRUG TRAFFIC is an obvious concern; yet, too isolated places are risky ALONE for a petite gal. Not interested in mid-west/east coast: been there done that. Need SUN. That limits much of the US. Any advice or introspection welcome. Guess it’s a future choice of in the “rocking chair or on the road”.
Many retirees are finding that life can be restrictive in a home designed for full time living. Grand Design RV offers a complete line of Extended Stay vehicles designed to remedy this issue. Numerous camping resorts in the USA and Canada now offer versatile Extended Stay plans. Because of this, many Grand Design RV owners are enjoying our products as a part-time “second home”. They find it considerably more affordable than a condo or small house and much more versatile because they can park it in superb locations and move it whenever they please.
+ $300 or 30,000 Points – Credit Card Points is something I haven’t talked about before. With my credit card we get 1-2 points per $1, and sometimes we get up to 7 points per $1 during specials. We pay with everything on CC and that is what helps me keep track of these expenses, and at the end of the month we get cash back. Consider that money a bonus, put it in the bank, or go out and buy yourself something you would pay “real” money for….and that’s exactly what we do: A Splurge! It is free money right? Of course I you play the points game you must pay your CC off each month otherwise your points are pointless (HA pun intended!)
Make sure to do your research before going gung-ho for solar panels. Depending on how you’re using your rig, they may end up being a waste of money. If you’ll be at a campsite with full electric hookups, you probably won’t need them. Maybe you anticipate a lot of driving. Just by cruising down the road, you’ll recharge the batteries; but again consider the effects cold has on your battery life. Or lastly, if you’re going to be mostly boondocking, solar panels may be a good option for you.
We have setup our lifestyle as a lifestyle of freedom. No set schedules or times that we really need to be anywhere and our reservations can always be changed. This is amazing yet causes problems. Since our time is ALL ours. We could all stay in our pajamas all day if we wanted to every day. Of course we can’t do that because we do have to work and the kids won’t sit still that long.
Using a combination of all three, we were able to keep our rent down to around $250 – $300 when we were last in the US. This was typically spent primarily on state parks (10 – 15 nights / month), another 15 – 20 days / month boondocking, and the final costs coming in when we wanted to stay at an RV park for a day, twice a month, for the convenience of something…nicer showers, a day at the pool, washing machines, etc.
I always tell people that unless they have a reliable way to make money from the road, have at least 6 months’ worth of savings. That way you can at least enjoy an extended trip if you never find a way to make money. At some point, it will either be a lifestyle change if you can find a sustainable income stream, or it will just be an adventure before going back to a life with a normal job.
My husband and I are currently living in Panama but have sold our home and will be moving back to travel the U.S. full-time in a motorhome early next year. More than one time you have said you wish you had gone with a smaller coach. We will want to boondock, camp in (or somewhere close to)all of the national parks, and in BLM land on occasion, etc.. But we are not opposed to staying in RV parks when needed. My question to you is: Do you think we can do that kind of traveling in a 43′ motorhome? We have done tons of research on the manufacturer and make we want to buy. Their 38′ and 40′ models just don’t have a layout that I think will work for us, especially since the 43′ seems to have everything we want in the right place.
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!