In 2015, the couple paid cash for their used 30-foot Four Winds trailer and Dodge 3500 pickup. Downsizing into the rig was relatively easy since their tiny two bedroom apartment didn’t have room for too many possessions. “We cut it to the quick when we moved out of the apartment,” says Kristy. “I’ve been very pleasantly surprised with how little we actually needed, even with the kids.”
Every RV comes with a manual and you two should spend some quality time together. Learn your way around the electrical system and the fuse box. Don’t be intimidated by basic plumbing. Be prepared to patch leaks in the roof and around windows and doors with sealants. Establish a routine to perform the annual chores recommended by the manual. These are not onerous tasks, but essential ones to making life easy on the road.
For example if you’re buying an older RV, you’ll want to plan for some initial $$ to fix the things that will undoubtedly need to be fixed before you can get on the road (e.g. new tires? oil changes? new hoses? new suspension? broken appliances?). Also you’ll want to buy some basic stuff (e.g. sewer hose, camping chairs, surge protector, TPMS) to set yourself up for starting on the road. Lastly, if you plan to do some upgrades (e.g. buy a cellular booster, install a solar system) you’ll want to plan for those too. These one-time expenses can easily cost $5,000-$20,000 depending on what the condition of your rig is and what you’re planning to do. Some of of them (e.g. upgrades) will likely spread across multiple years too, so include some extra $$ for these in your yearly plan as well.
The biggest problem for full-timers is covering their personal belongings. Anything that was not originally sold with the RV and is not attached (imagine turning the RV upside down to find out what’s “not attached”), is considered “Personal Effects,” and most RV policies include some kind of coverage for Personal Effects. However, from my research, this coverage is woefully inadequate if you have anything beyond basic camping gear in your rig.
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.)
First and foremost, not all RVs are ideal for full-timing. The most common types of RVs that full-timers use are Class A motorhomes (which can be powered by gas or diesel fuel), Class C Motorhomes, Fifth Wheel Trailers (including Toy-Haulers), and lastly, Travel Trailers. Truck Campers, Class B motorhomes, and Tent Trailers are not traditionally good choices for full-timers.
I am considering rain water collection from the roof and a possible 400 gallon water bladder affixed to the underside of the trailer. My tiny house will rarely move perhaps 3 times total but it will be mobile. (Tumbleweeed is the leading builder at the moment if you need to see a visual). Again, I don’t want to dispute RV’s vs tiny houses just want some awesome ideas and input from people who live the life such as I do. Thank you in advance for your time and ideas! 🙂
We’ve always travelled with regular ceramic dishes and flatware. We just enjoy the feel of eating on the “real” stuff. I put “grip it” type dish separators between each plate and we’ve never had a problem with rattling or breakage in 5 years on the road. Many RV folks love Corelle, or melamine type dishware coz it’s really light, but we’ve never been able to switch away from the classic stuff.
Yes, Craig and I still find time at night for each other when the kids are sleeping. But throughout the day, everyone is up in each other’s business. We are okay with this. It works for us and we are all used to it by now. And everyone has found ways to find their own little space either in their bed, outside at the picnic table, or wherever they can find it.
Wow. The lots in SW Florida must be insanely high. We have brand new real nice RV Parks in East Texas with carports, storage buildings etc. that will only cost you about $350 per month. And there are several pretty good parks coming in at $250 around here. You might consider East Texas a few months a year just to pocket some serious cash. My wife and I have talked about this kind of living on and off for a while. Our expenses living in a duplex is about $400 less than yours right now. And our utilities are $350-$400 a month. But, we are considering trying to purchase a lot instead of traveling around. That’s great freedom. Kudos! I worked for 11 years in the corporate world. I never did find a company that bought into the telecommute thing for more than 2-3 days at a time without coming into the office.
I love that wood stove and it sure is the answer to heat. My unit when finished should be around 120’ or if I say to hell with a back shed I can use the entire cube it will be 144’ “haven’t decided yet”. With lots of head room I can put in a queen Murphy bed that will turn into an office when folded up and I can mount it high enough to clear the tops of lots of seating area when being used as a bed. I might need a little step to get into it or maybe a rebounder. I intend to also have a comfort buddy by the time it’s completed if I find a fine lady who wants to live like that and cozy up to my pudgy but extremely cute parts but will probably end up with another Border collie. My last old girl loved getting away on our trips but I would have to kill a bunch of people to get her back and they are all tougher than I am so will have to find a replacement (yes dog lovers, it is not fair to have a Border in a camper but you argue that one out with Maggie and she will chew on you like she did the two big guys who tried to enter our comfy abode on a dark night).
The first year of RVing I struggled to find the kinds of campgrounds (natural, green, spacious) that we like to visit. It was a constant battle of going to one website, through a ton of clicks, then another website, then to a map, then to another spot and back again to try and figure out which one matched our route. Early this year I discovered uscampgrounds.info and my planning life changed. If you like public camping there’s simply no better resource out there and I use it as the base for all our travel planning now.
I don’t quite understand why anyone regardless of available resources, would not want to cut costs. Even as a service to other RVers to collectively help lower costs for all. I hope your remote job doesn’t involve profit and expense decisions. I’m sixty years old retired Accountant and on SS Disability for a missing limb. I work part time although I’m not working currently. My home recently burned down so I’ve got about $12,000 in the bank. I saw a 2007 Denali Camper for $8,000 in great shape. the very best I can rent a one bedroom apartment for is about $800 plus utilities. I’m sure I can beat that RVing. My only problem is getting a 3/4 ton pick up to pull the camper. It’s tandem axle but not sure about the weight. I probably wouldn’t be moving but once maybe twice per year. It might be less expensive to rent a truck to move the Camper rather than buying one.
Our not quite 35′ motorhome has been the perfect size for getting into places bigger RVs won’t fit. Our frig is on a full-wall slide but it has never been a problem in the year and a half we’ve lived in this rig. But, we are now preparing to leave the road so our 2010 Winneago 34Y will be for sale this fall. It will be a great opportunity for someone looking for a big little motorhome. If interested, watch our blog for details to come soon.
Choosing to drive fewer miles obviously helps conserve your gas mileage. Not only are you using less fuel to move around, but putting down some temporary roots at a campground you really like can also bring other monetary benefits your way. The longer you stay at a campground, the deeper your discount (especially if you’re traveling off peak season). The decision to stay in one spot also gives you the opportunity to thoroughly explore your new home away from home. Who knows, maybe you’ll find something exciting on one of your adventures!
Ok, all of that information applies only as long as you are in a relatively temperate location. However, there are a number of hardier souls who gladly brave the snow and cold and stay well north all winter long. Many families, in search of winter recreation, use their RV well into the sub-zero winter months. For those of you who intend to winter in extremely cold parts of the country, I really can't help you much. I'm one of those fulltimers who run south at the first sign of a snowflake. However, you can check the weblinks provided below for some first hand tips from folks who like their Rving with a topping of snow!
Monthly & Weekly Rates: For staying in RV Parks, monthly rates are the best rates followed by weekly, and help balance out shorter stays while we’re in transit. Urban locations are typically more expensive – so if we need to be somewhere like San Francisco, Austin, St. Louis, etc. – monthly rates can be $500-1300. Some locations have seasonal rates too, so if we need to be in Florida during the winter (where our family is), it’s more expensive. If we don’t need to be near an urban area, the lowest we’ve paid so far is $300/month.
Brent and I chose to put our desires on hold for a few years to launch these two amazing young men into the world from a stationary foundation because after many long talks, hard cries (on my part), and prayers we felt settling down was the most loving decision for them. Unfortunately, we can’t read ahead like in the Choose Your Own Adventure books and make a decisions on the best of two outcomes. The thing is we will never know what was the “best” for them because we can’t live two lives and compare. Maybe one day we will wish we would have stayed on the road. Maybe not. It’s impossible to know. All we can do is make the most loving decision based on our present knowledge while considering what we have learned from the past and then hope for the best in the future. In other words, I can’t control everything as much I’d like to. Damn.
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.
How I miss our early years of cuddling on the couch while reading stories about pharaohs and pioneers. Even though I tried to be intentional and savor the moments with them, it has all gone by too fast. I wouldn’t trade our early years of homeschooling or the adventures of road schooling for anything. The only thing I would do differently is start homeschooling sooner and not worry so much about picking “the right” curriculum in the beginning because homeschooling is about so much more!
However, this is extremely personal. We are of the mentality of having a solid savings account before heading off. Stuff is going to come up: you’ll need new tires, or a new transmission, or you’ll decide you want a huge battery bank with solar and a monster inverter. You’ll want some money socked away to handle these issues as they arrive. A lot of young RVers are living paycheck to paycheck, and they have a tough time making their savings account grow. While that can be fun and exciting (and it certainly works for some people), we recommend having a solid amount of money in savings first. We didn’t feel comfortable leaving until we had $20k+ in our savings. What if you’re unemployed for a few months? What if something big goes out? We think it’s better to be prepared. There’s no one dollar amount that’s going to be ideal for everyone, but we think it’d be smart to have 6-12 months of living expenses in your savings account before heading off.
11. Keep travel resources at hand. Many RV lifestyles revolve around moving with the weather, to warmer or cooler places, and you certainly want to stay in the know. If you are planning to vacation on the coast, but find that a hurricane or tropical storm is blowing in and causing trouble, you may want to change your plans. Nothing is worse than trying to maneuver in bad weather or a wet campground. You also don’t want to put yourself in harm’s way and risk damage to your RV in such situations as tornadoes, floods or excessive mud. Try to stay current and well informed about these issues and have a special weather radio if possible.
Your post regarding the expenses is exactly what I want to know. Thank you so much for sharing. I have one more year before I retire and the plan is to sell the house and get rid of as much stuff as possible. My husband and I will be living on 2 social security checks, 1 pension check and our 401k savings. We still need to sit down and crunch the numbers. I’m thinking like one of your other responders that I am hoping it will be cheaper living and traveling in a motorhome than a house that comes along with a mortgage, taxes, maintenance and heating, electric and water. We were also thinking we would need a 36’+ motorhome but are also rethinking much smaller and of course used. Thanks again for all of your info it is most appreciated and good luck with your downsizing and continued travels!
- Check to ensure the tanks are insulated. Electric holding-tank heaters are available and will reduce the chances of tanks freezing. You also should empty the tanks periodically instead of letting them empty continuously. Keeping the exterior drain pipe from freezing will be very difficult. Do not rely on flexible drain hose, which easily can become brittle with extreme cold; instead, install PVC pipe into drains.
But Yankee ingenuity prevailed on the part of our fellow campers. The gang put their heads together to deal with the trials of winter RVing. One guy had a large pickup that was not street legal, but could get around the campground. Another woman had a relative nearby with a big portable water tank they used on their farm. It fit in the back of the truck and held 300 gallons of water. Another guy had a pump that would pump water from the supply tank to RV fresh water holding tanks.
My wife and I are within shooting distance of retirement so I’ve been googling “full time RVing” and found you site. The first thing that caught my eye, other than how frugal you guys are, is the calculator. My late Dad had the exact same calculator. I mean he had that thing for as long as can remember, one day I came home went to the office to get his calculator and it was gone!!!! OH NO Mickey Mouse is gone, I guess after 25 years or so of use it finally died!
Love this interview! With 4 kids and dogs in an RV… We live in an RV with only 2 kids, and they don’t take many space (yet) as they are 2,5yo and 7mo. So I’m impressed 🙂 Love the tip about taking it one day at a time. That is what I should do more too. I have the tendency to plan ahead to much. Maybe a tip for other RVing families: come to Europe! Europe is great to explore in an RV, but choose a smaller vehicle because the roads and campsites are small compared to those in the US.
Found your blog and read through mean replies. very very helpful. My wife and I are 55 and getting ready to dive into the full time RV thing. We are having a hard time making our decision based on the future of fixed income. we live on a lake in Minnesota. it is very quite and offers boating and fishing with a wooded camping feel. we’re crazy to do this right!
It seems like we are always planning our next move (in more way then one). I am ok with this since I like planning. But it can be overwhelming! When you don’t know where you are going to be parking the next month you need to make decisions and make a plan and it isn’t always easy. But again it is fun and worth it and over time this part gets easier.
Just like anything in life, you can’t please everyone and everyone doesn’t have the same amount of money Which makes this country great. In the US you can work hard and succeed. And those that don’t have nobody to blame but themselves and government that takes so much from those that do work hard. I just found your site and am hoping to find out the cost of going full timing. My hubby and I have no idea what the costs would be or how to determine how much we will need to live our life on the road. I’m hoping reading your site will give me more insight. What would be really nice is a book that gives a good idea what to expect. We have our unit already, after many tries I think we found the one that will serve us the best. If anyone knows of any books on this matter please let me know.
We once had our oven fly open and our cast iron skillet came screaming out! A few times we have forgotten to close our refrigerator tight and it flew open spilling food all over the floor. We have also had a drawer fly open and the contents spilled everywhere. Most recently a piece of debris from a construction site flew up and shattered the side window over my daughter’s bunk bed!! Luckily, my husband has not been hit by any flying object while driving!
For us, living mobility has been substantially less expensive than when we lived in fixed homes with rent/mortgage, upkeep, utilities, travel, etc. But of course, we were on opposite coasts when we met – Chris living in a penthouse apartment in San Francisco, and Cherie in a beachside home in Florida. For us to live in an area of the country that would keep us happy long enough to stay put, we’d be paying a pretty penny in cost of living – plus we’d still be traveling anyway because we have serious wanderlust. A mobile lifestyle suits us quite well instead!
We should have done whatever it took to buy the truck and trailer first, even if it meant financing them both, so that we could practice getting adjusted to our new life. As it happened, we rolled up to our first campsite after driving all day (another huge mistake), and didn’t know how to do anything – hook up the electric and water, turn on the cookstove burners, run the heat. It was cold, dark, and we didn’t know where anything was. It wasn’t the ideal way to start our full-time RVing adventure.
Last year I purchased the 2013 Newmar Bay Star, a 30 ft. It’s designed specifically for fulltiming, with huge basements that extend the entire coach and the desk/buffet option. I’m coming up from a 24 ft Dynamax that allowed me to stay anywhere. The Newmar is very tall so I’m worried that overhead space will be an issue in park camping. I’m a tree gal so height should also be considered if you love forests.
When you give up your home owner’s policy, you give up a lot of nice blanket coverages that come with it, like liability coverage and the loss of personal belongings. Quite a few companies offer “Full-time RV insurance” that includes liability coverage similar to what would typically come with a home insurance policy. Coverage for personal belongings is a whole different story, however. See below.
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.
I really think it has helped us learn who our kids are as individuals and people. It also allows us to be here for them when they have a question or problem they need help figuring out. We give them as much space as we can, and as they get older they are venturing out more and more on their own at the campground, museums, etc. But it has been great to be such an important and big part in their lives and to continue to spend so much time with them.
While I’m no financial expert, chances are if you are struggling with money now, moving to Full-Time RVing may be a way out because you CAN reduce your expenses and make some serious life changes, but it also may not. We have met people on the road still living month-to-month, some of whom are even retired. They've bought brand new RVs that have monthly payments they struggle to make. On the other side, we've met many people who have finally been able to pay off their student debts by living more simply and are able to work and travel at the same time.
Once again, the answer may not be what they want to hear. The amount a young couple should spend on their first RV is what they can afford. It’s really as simple as that. Unless they know they can afford and support debt, then they should buy what is affordable, whether it’s a smaller used RV or something new. It’s much easier to upgrade than downgrade, so think about what is actually needed versus what is wanted. We sometimes get caught up thinking we need all those fancy gadgets and toys when it may be possible to get on the road much sooner if we become more realistic with our needs.
The electric blower motor in your furnace in your RV uses MOST of the electricity usage, in your RV, BY FAR. I had 4 of the biggest deep cycle batteries walmart makes in my RV, each 29 size and each 125 amp hours, so 500 amp hours. (for my truck camper) vs class A with 500 amp hours, you are woefully underpowered for dry camping, unless you want to be running your generator a lot. I have ad a honda 1000 generator, but I found i never needed to use it, and the inconvenience of dragging it out, gassing it up, chaining it up, and then packing up and storing, was not worth it. I DID however have zero guage wire from batteries to alternator in truck to recharge them that worked great. batteries lasted 2 years before needed replacing. Id reccomend the 29DC – MAXX not the regular 29DC, as maxx has 1 year warranty (used to be 2), and slightly more amp hours and better built.
Our next step was to partially winterize by draining the tank, adding RV antifreeze, turning on the pump and opening all cold water taps (we didn't want antifreeze in the water heater). When the antifreeze appeared, we turned off the pump and switched to water from the city water outlet. The pump and surrounding water lines were then protected.
We’re enjoying the “Tutoring” you are providing. We bought our first MH in 1996 and Boondocked almost everywhere we camped due to our hobby. Through the years sorta got out of the habit and we really miss it a lot! We’re pulling the trigger and will be fulltime by January with the stix and brix for sale. Four years in the planning and looking forward to this. Thanks again for your insight in this much needed lifestyle(us). 336Muffin
I know clothes are the hardest to pack, especially for us women! This tends to vary for each person and will depend on the length of your trip, but I will say that you need to pack for all weather types. No matter where you are in the U.S., the weather can change quickly! We were surprised by the temperatures in many places. It rarely seemed to be the weather we expected. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to bring everything in your closet.
I would say that depends on what the couple intends to do and what their price point is. We wanted to minimize our expenses, so we purposely sought out something used and less expensive. If you’re looking to be constantly traveling, then a smaller, more gas-efficient RV would suffice. If you want a huge home on wheels that provides all the same comforts of your conventional life, then a Class A would work well. The cool thing about RVs is that they finance like a house, so your payment ends up being much smaller due to the longevity of the loan.
This is a tough one. Many of us live lives of quiet desperation, hating our jobs, and just enduring our life. We meet our obligations and conform to societies dictates. On the surface, all looks good. But on the inside is a desperate but muffled cry for a life of passion, adventure and travel. Summed up in one word it is a cry for FREEDOM!! This is probably overstating it, but if you look at your life, you can probably find some element of it in there. What holds us back? Why can’t we break out of our rut into a new and exciting life? For most of us it is fear. We have an unconscious fear that “An unpleasant but acceptable present is better than an unknown and dangerous future.” So, how do you overcome your fears? Allow me to lead you through an exercise to overcome a fear.
$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)
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!
We know we changed as the years passed, but this was recently confirmed when we visited some friends from college. The last time we had visited was two years ago, only one year into traveling full-time. This visit, they couldn’t get over how much we’ve changed, especially Brandon. It helped us to see there were more changes than we realized happening and we knew it all stemmed from our experience on the road.