Health insurance costs are totally individual, and the coverage for everyone is evolving. We do not have health insurance. Other younger full-time RVers have posted some terrific articles about health insurance and the impact on one’s choice of domicile state. Check out the excellent posts by Wheeling It and Interstellar Orchard. They both reference insurance agent Kyle Henson of RVer Health Insurance who is quickly becoming the go-to agent for all RVers’ health insurance needs.
In early February, 2016, a bill was introduced in South Dakota that would effectively deny anyone using a South Dakota mail forwarding service as their legal domicile the right to vote. The history behind this bill was that in Pennington Country a vehicle tax increase of $60 came up for a vote, and prior to voting day, certain politicians assumed that the nomadic RVers with legal domiciles in that county would unanimously vote against it.
You can set the Netflix download quality. We have it set to “lowest” quality which used 0.3 GB per hour. So, it just depends how much we stream that month. And yes, we do get connectivity most places we go, even the boonies. There’s occasional spots we don’t have it, but we usually make it a priority to stay where we do. We both need it for work, so it’s a pretty important part of our daily lives. We have both ATT & Verizon PLUS we have boosters so we can pull in signals from fairly far away.
Sewer Hose – Use a PVC pipe for your sewer line instead of the standard RV drain hose, it will hold up much better in the freezing temps. If you have a constant water supply and you want to let your grey water drain the safest thing you can do is wrap the sewer pipe with additional insulation, if temps will be freezing for multiple days you may want to install heat tape around the PVC pipe. I always recommend keeping the black tank closed off and dumping only when necessary, getting a #poopcicle stuck in the drain is not a good way to start the day.
You also don’t want clutter. Make sure everything has a safe spot where it won’t get broken during travel. Invest in tubs, baskets, and storage items that will help you stay organized. You definitely don’t want your small space feeling even smaller because of all the items inside of it it. I hope these tips help you minimize your items in order to maximize your adventure! If you need more tips or suggestions for what to bring along in your RV, feel free to send us a message. We’re here to help.
That was very nice of you to list your expenses like that. Many of us appreciate it. As you mentioned, this is your lifestyle choice. Personally, I think it is a great one. I don’t get why some other posts are trying to compare it with monthly expenses for owning a home. You and your family are living the life you want. Good for you. You are open and honest. After reviewing your expense sheet, it is my opinion that you and your family are living a frugal lifestyle compared to most of us. I love the simplicity of your life without the baggage of all the stuff. Blessing to you and yours!
Typically there is one main bay that holds your black/grey/fresh tanks, your sewer connections, water pump, water filter, etc. This is the MOST important bay to keep warm. I purchased a tiny 200 watt (1.8 x 4.3 x 6.1 inches) ceramic heater and leave it running in the bay during freezing temperatures. It pulls about 5 amps and keeps all my pipes warm (exterior temp 20 degrees, inside bay 50 degrees). Some people recommend hanging a work light in the bay: I tried this and the bulb melted the plastic bay, and my water still froze so I don’t recommend this option.
This is great! I don’t know if I could live in an RV that long, but I am strongly considering using one for a few months at a time once I retire from the military. It’s good to hear you are recommending the smaller RV, too. I don’t want a big one, but I’m a bit worried I would go crazy if it’s too small. I’m glad to hear that smaller turned out to be better for you.
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.
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.
From May to October, 2014, we did not pay for any overnight camping, and that is the norm for us. However, although we did not pay for camping over the summer season (or in January, 2014), the months of February, March and April, 2014, were unusually expensive for us. Those three months averaged $83/month because we spent time at three different campgrounds visiting friends and chasing wildflowers at a state park (we were a little late for the flowers — rats!).
Fuel costs are highly variable, both because they go up (and sometimes down) and also because you may drive more or less in any given month. Fuel can cost as little as $0 per month, if you stay in one place and ride your bike around town. Or fuel costs can dominate your budget if you decide to take your RV from Florida to Alaska and back via the scenic routes through New England and Southern California — in six months!
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?).
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$795 Cell Phone Expenses – Nikki is still on Verizon ($432) and I’m on AT&T ($363). We both have the bare minimum talk and text plan, with (grandfathered in) unlimited internet. Basically I’m throwing my money away 50% of the time because AT&T’s coverage outside of major cities is CRAP! My contract is up in January so I’ll probably switch over the Verizon (even though I’m going to lose my unlimited internet, yes….AT&T has been that bad). Doubt we’ll be able to save any money here, but at least I won’t be wasting money on a phone that doesn’t get reception.
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.
My best friend and I just returned from a week away in her 24′ Winnebago. For two ‘very youthful’ middle-aged ladies on the road we couldn’t have had a better time! For the most part we played it by ear; she picked me up at the Atlanta Airport, we pointed the rig toward Savannah, Georgia (great state for RV travel and campsites) and kept going. Spent a few days in Savannah, headed over to Flagler Beach then up to St. Augustine. By far our favorite site of the entire trip was the last one in the Outer Banks. For whatever reason I wanted to go to Rodanthe so we found a very modest small campground for about $30/night right on the Sound side of Hatteras Island. WOW! The sunsets were breathtaking. Mike, the owner of the campground was amazing. Upon our return to PA I went over to the local RV dealer and picked out a 32′ SouthWind. Fell in love with it! Now I just have to figure out how to make money while on the road. Ironically, my primary business isn’t so transportable. Funny, my current business is processing homes, downsizing, relocation, re-directing unwanted personal property through auction and donation to charity, speaking, writing and consulting. It’s always tougher when it’s your stuff. I agree with not storing things – you’re not likely to need them again. I’m giving myself 2 years to clear all of my debt and transfer my income-generating efforts to fit a new, less complicated lifestyle.
How much money you save when you’re RVing depends largely on how you plan your trip. Taking a few minutes to think ahead about meals and travel routes can go a long way in your checkbook. Consider signing up for an online forum to share your ideas about RVing to make a little extra cash on the side if you’re really strapped and looking for something up your alley.
I just ran across this today. My husband and I are trying to gather info so we can set out on a full time RVing adventure. I have found this info very helpful since we have not fully committed yet by actually purchasing our RV. (He’s retired and I’m not quite yet!) My question is, what do you do about having a permanent residence for times when that is needed? (Like when it’s time to renew your driver’s license.) We plan on selling our home and this was one of the many questions that came up. Any info would be helpful in making a more informed decision. Thanks.
My first rv, an older 28′ class A motorhome, was a gift from family member, and we used it part-time, mostly in Arizona, since we lived at Lake Tahoe, with long, snowy winters. My second rv, a 32′ diesel, with double panes windows, but no slide-outs, no basement, and no levelors. A great rv, but our 33 ft, 2014 motorhome with 2 slide outs, automatic levelors, ample basement storage, and nice size refrigerator is great for us as we are still part-timers. I do miss the diesel (so much quieter), the double-paned windows, and our small truck which we towed, carrying our bicycles. I preferred the view from the first 2 motor homes as the built-in dinette with large window was across from soda bed, which also had a large window. We now have no view on passenger side except for small kitchen window. My second rv also had a better arrangement for queen bed, which faced forward, enabling view out front dashboard window, with two regular size windows on sides of bed. If you like to camp in gorgeous nature, as we do, views are important. When we did extended stays, we alternated camping in “nature areas” with minimum or no hookups for a week or more, then moving to private campgrounds with laundromats, and some food services for a few days. We especially enjoy the national and state parks. I enjoy the motorhome over a 5th wheel or trailer as we do not have to get out in the rain when we arrive at a campground, and, as we did one night, when we didn’t feel safe, just started the engine and left. I would enjoy trying full-time Rv living, and realize there will be days that will range from glorious to trying.
Your plan looks totally do-able. Your 30K merchandise start-up budget should be ample to cover everything you need, and in fact you should even be able to put some of that aside for the future unexpected expenses & upgrades (something I would recommend). Your monthly budget is certainly on the frugal side, but totally possible if you focus on keeping your camping & gas costs in check.
When we went to stay with my Parents we thought we were going to get blown away from the water pressure coming out of the shower and sink! I could have stayed in the shower for an hour and then went and washed dishes for another hour. This is one of those things that you don’t realize you are going to miss. Water in general can be an issue, especially drinking water which is why we use a Berkey water purifier which is awesome!
Great article, I’m hoping to travel in an RV full-time eventually. In the mean time, I’m still working to support my family and plan for the future. I sell land throughout the western U.S. (those great winter states you mentioned) if anybody wants to own a few acres to park their RV part or full time. See my website, http://www.landparker.com for more details. Thanks!
I have owned a few RVs so far and would love to have another for full time use. The problem is I live and work in a very large city. There are very few places where I could park it and be close to work without having a long commute. I do hope one day I will be able to do the same things you guys are doing. I will be following your blog and I enjoy watching your videos. Keep up the good work and I am looking forward to watching the next one!
To get around this, you can look up the nearest warehouse distribution center for either FedEx or UPS and have the package shipped to that distribution center with “Hold for Pickup” written on it. You will not be charged a fee at pickup. However, you will need to track the package and you will have 5 days to pick up the package before it is returned to the sender.
The number one thing you can do for your RV during winter is skirting! Anything you can find: snow, dirt, foam board, insulation, plywood, anything you can place around the exterior of your RV will help keep the heat inside. I cannot tell you how important this step is for keeping your RV pipes from freezing. Also if your tanks are exposed under your RV you can wrap a heated blanket around them to keep them from freezing. The small space heaters will be helpful, and keep your propane heater set to 55-60 degrees if possible (a $30 propane bill is better than a $500 water pipe/pump issue).
While you can certainly live for free out of your van, especially if you get a Northwest pass (I think that’s what Washington’s is called…or maybe you won’t need one if you’re working for DNR) then there’s ample free camping up in the Evergreen State, but you’ll still have costs. Gasoline, a solar setup if you want to have power, and propane if you want to have heat and a stove, which I would think you might in Washington…
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.
• If you live a different RV lifestyle please share it in the comments section below, no topic is more important for travelers than spending/saving $$$. Tell us how much you travel and how much you spend on the road; obviously you don’t need to go into ridiculous amounts of detail like my long winded report, but give us the cliff’s notes.08/01/2012 – 12/31/2012
After checking out other blogs that said towing is cumbersome, we were thinking of foregoing a tow vehicle and renting a car when we need to get around. My concern is this might be problematic if we’re boondocking or camping somewhere remote. We considered trading our current SUV in for a mid-size four-down tow-able SUV (like a Honda CRV) then we’d only have to own one vehicle. But if this size is too cumbersome to tow we could get a compact car for towing and store our SUV on some property we own. (We need access to an SUV when we’re visiting back in the mountains of our home state of CO.)
* Moisture control: Unlike unvented heaters that burn a fuel source such as propane, electric-resistance and vented-combustion heaters will not create moisture problems. The people and pets living in the RV will produce lots of moisture. Condensation will form on cool surfaces when the air is moist. Health hazards, such as mold, are possible with high humidity levels. Periodically provide some ventilation to avoid creating unhealthy living conditions and damaging camper components. Monitor the humidity level and keep it at 30 to 40 percent or lower, depending on the amount of condensation. You can find humidity monitors at most hardware stores.
To set up residency in almost any state all you have to do is establish a physical address at a place like mailboxes and more or the UPS store has mailboxes that count as a physical address and you need to receive bills like a power bill, or other utility bill. You will need to have these bills with your address on them when you go to the licensing dept. to get your new license that makes you a residence. It gets easier or more difficult depending on the state.
For internet most RVers sign up for a cellphone data plan with either Verizon or ATT and use a MiFi to distribute it to all their devices. You’ll likely have to adjust your data usage quite a bit since cellphone plans are much more limited than what you’re used to at home. Also, you’ll want to consider buying a booster to help boost the signal in more marginal spots. My best advice is actually to buy this book written by fellow RVers and techno-mads who’ve dedicated 226 pages to this exact question:
Our monthly expenses vary depending on where we are and what we are doing. We can go a couple of weeks at a time with the only expenses being groceries and water if we are boondocking and not moving. In that case, we can get by with probably 50 bucks a day or less. Otherwise, we can easily double or triple that budget depending on gas prices and where we are. So maybe on the average, we are spending about 100 a day. Bottom line: $1,500-$3,000 a month.
Storage is a tough one. We initially did storage because we weren’t sure we’d be on the road that long. If we’d only RV’d a year that would probably have worked out fine. Of course 6 years later we’re still here and still paying for storage (it’s so darn hard to get rid of once you do it). No right answer for this one, but I think the less “stuff” you keep, the freer you’ll feel in the road. Best of luck with everything!
We use St. Brendan’s Isle in Florida for our mail forwarding, and use their Mail Scan Pro service. Their address also serves as our legal address of domicile for driver’s licenses, voting, vehicle registration, business registration, taxes, etc. They collect our mail, scan the front of the envelop and notify us via e-mail that we have new mail. We can then view our envelops online and decide what to do with them – scan, send or shred. We can request a shipment to whatever address we’re at. They’re super cool and we couldn’t be happier with the service we have received from them.
I heat my home with a very large woodstove and it takes up so much of my time in the winter hours. I have to collect firewood 12 months of the year just to stay stocked up and I live near St. Louis where it is mostly warm. If you could send me more info. about your cute little wood stove I “wood” really appreciate it. I need something smaller for my greenhouse.
Variable expenses are the ones that fluctuate from month to money and in RVLife you actually have a LOT of control over these expenses. As you’ll see in our Lodging/Camping expenses category, we have been able to significantly decrease this expense over the years by getting better at free boondocking and utilizing RV Clubs like Boondockers Welcome, Harvest Hosts, and Thousand Trails. However, if you decide to park in an RV Resort in downtown San Diego for example, it could cost you upwards of $1000 per month.
Hi, folks! I just finished a 2-week car trip with my dog, Monk. It was fun! Such freedom! I’m retired and considering hitting the road permanently in an RV. This is more than a bucket list thing, it’s a dream. I’ve spent years flying back and forth over America and, although I’ve been in every state at some time, I haven’t stopped to smell the roses. Your article is a great resource for expenses. I don’t plan on doing this without checking out the realities. Because I moved around for my job quite a lot, I enrolled my dog in the Banfield Pet Hospital Wellness program. It’s a flat rate each month ($41.00/month, includes an annual dental cleaning), which covers most of the things you mentioned in your article for your furbabies (wellness checks, vaccinations, x-rays). There are some things that happen outside of the plan, but there is a discounted rate for scripts and other procedures not covered. Banfield is associated with Petsmart, so there are many across the country. In a 2300+ mile journey, I researched at least 8 along the way. All pet needs met in one spot. Just a suggestion
We already knew we enjoyed Vermont having traveled up to the southern part of the state a few times when living in the area. But we were still surprised by how much we enjoyed Burlington once we got up there. We only had a few weeks, but could have easily spent the whole summer there. It really seems to come alive and Vermonters make the most out of the season. Brandon was able to dive Lake Champlain multiple times and explore a wreck only a handful of people had seen before. And seriously, we're out of maple syrup, so we may need to go back this year.