Even after bidding goodbye to your physical address you will still need to establish a permanent legal address for such dreary souvenirs of your former homebound life as driver’s licenses, vehicle inspections, voting registration and bank accounts. There are 50 different sets of rules and regulations and your home state may not be the most accommodating to a nomadic lifestyle. Among the options to consider are taxes, insurance rates, and efficiency of mail forwarding. Three of the most popular domicile states for full-time RVers are South Dakota, Texas and Florida.
Before starting a life of adventure, it may be hard to imagine that you will need or want to have any hobbies. Sightseeing ought to be enough! But it isn’t. After a while, you will want to have pursuits that complement your travels in one way or another or that perhaps are not even related to your travels at all. Our hobbies are photography, writing and mountain biking, and these all cost money.
The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.
We typically try to cook our meals from the RV. Typically our groceries are less than $100 per week. On travel days, we tend to grab fast food or “cheap eats” for convenience, and only eat out at restaurants 2-3 times a month. We also included the cost of dog food because well, they are our children and that means there are 2 extra mouths for us to feed!
Will they be traveling a lot, or will they settle in an area for extended stays? Can they work from their RV on the road? Do they have skills (like nursing) that are in demand everywhere and can lead to temp jobs? Have they investigated (and plan on taking advantage of) volunteer opportunities with RV parks, state or federal volunteer positions available that provide free RV space? Will they be taking jobs at commercial businesses on public lands? Will they be selling a home with equity?
Sometimes packages shipped by UPS or FedEx to a General Delivery address at a post office are handed to the recipient free of charge. However, sometimes the Postal Service charges the recipient a fee at the pickup counter before handing over the package. I know this seems odd, because FedEx or UPS carried the package all the way across the country while the Postal Service is merely carrying it from the mail room to the front counter. But it happens.
When you trade your home address to live on the road in an RV, you need to decide how to receive mail and what to call “home” on your tax returns. Some of the full-time RVers we meet retained the state of residence where they were living before they hit the road. Most of them still own property in that state, and they often have a relative or friend who forwards their mail.
For the merchandise budget I allocated $30,000, which includes such things such as solar power, computer and internet related gear including two brand new laptops, new photography gear (have Nikon cameras, but want digital). Currently up to $28,000 on my list, but still have things to add to the list. The budget for the merchandise could even be low.
$648 Miscellaneous – Magazines for the Nook ($25), Stock Music for videos ($70), Shipping charges for mailing random stuff ($72 – Don’t ask me what I mailed, but it added up), Movie Theater *we went to 2 movies in 5 months ($24), Home Improvement Stores ($173), REI Outdoor specialty items ($63), Parking and Tolls ($85), half day boat rental for the family in Lake Havasu ($136). Also I’ve stopped putting propane as a line item since we really don’t spend much on this; in fact we didn’t even fill our propane in this 5 month period.
Jessica warns it’s not all fun on the road. “Instead of mowing the lawn, we do maintenance on the RV. Things don’t last as long as they do in a house. The level of chores is about the same,” she said, adding that they have to go to the laundromat now. “But it gives us the freedom to be by the beach one day, a mountain the next or a lake. It’s made all the difference for us.”
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?
Hi Folks! We have been camping for 47 years and I am now looking at blogs of people full timing. You have a wonderful site here and I am enjoying it very much. Thank you for all the information you have given us . We have poked along on our trips for the last 8 years. Husband retired and I had summers off. Retired now. Met many wonderful people. We will be looking forward to reading your blog for a long time to come! This year we hope to poke along the Oregon Trail! Happy Trails to you and yours!
Electricity: If you plan on using a generator, check to see if yours has a winter setting, switch if necessary. Furnaces use considerable battery power to cycle off and on. If you're not plugged into power, you need a solar panel system or an inverter or some other method to keep your batteries fully charged. Look for winter camping spots that provide a good source of power. It avoids many other problems.
When you live full-time in an RV, you don’t just go to the RV resorts and the big towns, but find yourself in random locations around the country you probably never would have visited on a family trip. I like this as an individual, but also think it has been great to expose our kids to so many different ways that people live around our own country.
The grand total for the third quarter (July 01 – September 30) of our 2013 Expenses of Living on the Road Full Time in an RV: $10,275Below is the brief breakdown of our costs and expenses of full time living in our RV, if you want more details read the posts from 2012 and 2011 as we pretty much spend the same way each year. As usual I’ve rounded the numbers to keep it simple.$2,477 Groceries, housewares and booze – Costco still being the largest, groceries also includes Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joe’s, local natural grocery stores, and Farmer’s Markets.
Hi Joe we sold everything 3 years ago and hit the road.We pull a Jayco 28 ft Rls with a Yukon xl. We have 2 large dogs with us .We camphost for 3 months then travel for 3 months. The money we save doing this is our mad money for luxuries in the months we travel. Just wanted ya to know your numbers are pretty accurate. We favor stateparks but have stayed in many different types of campgrounds.Wouldnt trade this life style for any other. Let the good times roll.
Hydration Pack – If your favorite RVers are outdoor enthusiasts gifts like backpack hydration packs will be appreciated. In our experience, hydration packs are a must for hiking with kids. Our boys have Dakine hydration packs similiar to this one. Brent and I both have Camelbaks with insulated drink tubes (similiar to this one) that along with hiking in all temperatures, we wear when snowboarding.
I decided to upgrade to a high top camper and took my time until one passed me on the road, absolutely beautiful with the same layout as your camper (but a little tighter in space), not what I was looking for, I wanted the bed across the back but the price was just too right to even argue. Next winter in that will tell the tale but it will be the same as yours, not total success no matter what I do to it and to modify anything will reduce the great profit I stand to make just selling it and continuing with my plan to develop a Cube Van I already own.
My husband and I are doing the same right now Toni. First we were considering selling everything and moving to a Caribbean island but after a lot of research we realized that it isn’t easy getting a job on some of the islands and the places where you can get jobs are crime ridden. So, we turned back to our life long dream of buying and RV and traveling the country. We are still in our early 50’s so we are too young to retire but through our research we discovered a website called flexjobs.com that is a great site for finding jobs that offer the ability to work remotely. It is a legitimate site without all of the scams and network marketing type of stuff. We also just discovered camp hosting on a website called workampingjobs.com. There are a lot of camp grounds in a lot of different states that offer various types of opportunities for couples to be camp hosts. Some are just for a free place in the camp ground in exchange for work but some also offer salaries to go with the free stay. I’m becoming more excited than scared now. My only concern is health insurance.
How do we do it? We do 99% of our spend through credit cards (where we actively collect points too**) and I’m old-fashioned so I import all my bank & card data into an Excel spreadsheet. I do this every month, allocate each line to a category (e.g. entertainment, RV parks, insurance, groceries etc.) and then churn out a pretty pivot table to display it in one place. I’ve been tracking our spend this way for over 13 years and before that I used paper, so I literally have detailed spend numbers going back to when I was around 17 years old (crazy, I know).
Bottom line: In my opinion most folks will be able to live this lifestyle on around $2500-$3500/mo. If you have a smaller budget look to save up-front by buying a smaller rig as well as curbing camping & driving costs (once you’re on the road). If you have a larger budget, go ahead and splurge on a bigger rig and more park/driving/entertainment fees. It’s all within the realm of possibility.
In the end, the decision was made easy by the amazing views out my window every day. From my perch high above the Columbia River and Wenatchee Valley, I could enjoy the ever-changing scenery, which varied throughout the day with changes in light and weather. I could watch low-level clouds form and dissipate over the river. I could see the shadows move and lengthen with the shifting of the sun. I would watch the moonlight play upon the hillsides and cliffs. And I could marvel at the lights down in the city, sparkling with color. Would I see all that cooped up in a tiny rental apartment? Or closed up in a cavernous hangar with just three windows? No.
As for the antifreeze – make sure you use a non-toxic RV safe antifreeze. The last thing you want to do is pour toxic chemicals down your pipes, then flush them down into the sewer when you leave. I’d say 1 gallon for every 20 gallons of liquid inside your tanks (i.e. if your grey is only 10 gallons full don’t put more than a half gallon of antifreeze). Best of luck, winter RVing is great cause you’re often all by yourself, but you gotta keep those pipes protected.
We’ve always installed MaxxAir vent covers on all 3 of our RV’s. During the winter a vent cover is a must as it adds an extra barrier against condensation, and when there’s a pile of snow on the roof you can still open the vents while cooking (or if you need to let some condensation escape). We installed a new MaxxFan on the Fleetwood and it combines the vent cover into the fan, it seemed to hold up pretty well to the elements however we didn’t have a more than a few inches of snow at a time. In our first RV (the Damon Avanti) we purchased the vent ‘pillows’ to help keep warm air in, and keep down condensation and they worked well, but we got tired of carrying them around all year for a few days here and there of snowy weather.
You asked if any one read or cared about the expense reports, I do. We are in the downsizing mode and it will be 1 1/2 years til we full time. ( We just bought a fifth wheel that is in storage and have no truck at this point) I have visited several other sites and keep returning to yours. I think I could write a blog on preparing and down sizing but have no idea how to start one. Please keep up the expense posts.
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.
What about interest though? At a 4% interest rate, the total cost of that $343,000 home would be over $471,000 over 30 years, before you factor in all of the other monthly bills!. It’s hard to compare these things exactly though, as a house can last for many generations, whereas most RVs will have a hard time lasting for an entire person’s lifetime (especially if you buy used when you’re still young). Airstreams and very well built Class As are the exception.
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.
Many folks choose to use portable electric heaters to heat their rig. This method of heating doesn't add condensation to the air and depending on the cost of propane may actually be slightly cheaper to run. Great care must be taken to not overload the wiring in your RV or the electrical system in the campground. Most parks will either put you on an electric meter or charge extra for electric heat. Use only UL approved heaters and keep combustibles away.
When we first started on the road we rushed like crazed animals on stampede to see as much and as far an area as we could possibly see within the timeframe given. It took several months before we realized none of this was necessary. In fact taking more time to enjoy our surroundings not only saved us money, but we’ve met more people, seen more local gems, created a sense of community and felt more in-tune with the journey. Our 2-month trip through New Mexico earlier this year was a great example of how this attitude has really made sense for us. We are progressing more and more into “sitters” (RVers that spend several weeks in one spot) rather than “movers”. It may not be for everyone, but I sure recommend giving it a try.
Lillian, you took the words right outta my mouth. I don’t understand the haters, but I know they’re out there. I, too, appreciate the expense breakdown of full time RVing. I’m 6 years away from making the leap myself, and it’s nice to see in black and white where monies get spent, and it might be in some areas that I hadn’t considered. People can always adjust accordingly. Reading Nikki and Jason’s posts and watching their videos has convinced me that when my wife and I pull the trigger, we’re going solar and installing composting toilets. I wouldn’t even know they existed if not for this website. Thank you, Wynn’s!
Nothing could be further from the truth! We too were concerned how our dog Ella and cat Mr. P would handle life on the road. But we quickly learned, they might actually enjoy it more than us! Longer driving days certainly took a little getting used to, but in short time Mr. P loved his spot on the dashboard basking in the sun while Ella reveled in our 20-minute play sessions during travel day stops.
r(E)volutionary disclaimer: We live on the road as an expression of freedom and discovery. We look for places that are either in the sun, near friends and family, or in proximity to a learning opportunity for our daughter. We live without consumer debt and have whittled away our monthly overhead. While I have a corporate day job it is a telecommute position allowing us to be on the road as a relatively young couple with a growing young lady. Our monthly income is consistent and we live on a budget.
After a year of full time RVing in a Class A motorhome, we sat down to look at our RV living costs. Some costs are calculated on an annual basis and other costs are calculated on a monthly average. RV living costs will vary depending on the number of people, pets, life style, spending habit, and other factors. We hope you find this information helpful as you plan for full time RVing.
But no matter what kind of trip you’re taking, whether it’s just a quick weekend, a month-long circuit of the National Parks, or even the foreseeable future, living in a motorhome with a family is a totally different animal than going solo or with a spouse. We want to ensure your family RV experience is a pleasant one, not a nightmare — so here are our best tips for living in an RV or camper with kids without going crazy!
4/ wet suits and beach/surf gear – for some reason we had it in our heads we’d use these a lot. Instead they took up a bunch of space and we rarely (a few times per year?) used them. We decided it makes more sense to rent these as needed. We feel the same about kayaks and paddle-boards. You may end up differently, but my advice is leave these at home when you start out until you have some experience with where you travel and what you like to do. You can always rent and if you really miss them you can brings them along on the next trip.
We spent years preparing to get on the road but didn’t give much thought for preparing to get off the road. There were practical and financial challenges like starting over with nothing in terms of furniture and selling our truck and RV to replace them with something more weekend friendly. The month following Thing 4’s birth our family couldn’t go anywhere together because our truck only sat five people. There were emotional challenges like letting go of my dream to homeschool the boys and watching our friends travel while we sit still. There were physical challenges like having a new baby and the hormonal sleepless nights that followed. There were relational challenges of connecting with each other in the mundane and finding friends in our new community. It was so easy to connect with other nomads but we’ve found it hard in a town of 500,000+ people to find our tribe. After four years in the slow lane, I had forgotten how busy people are and it’s been overwhelming. I can’t and don’t want to keep up and often feel like I’m on the outside looking in. To top it off, there is the spiritual challenge of having found my identity in the external, being a nomad, instead of finding it in the internal, which for me is God. Nothing like a little identity crisis to keep the emotional roller coaster oiled.
Sounds like a good time to leave, right? Well yes, but meanwhile back at the sites, we were all living on a glacier. The gravel roads in the campground were seldom plowed – just sanded. Since we were located at the top of a mountain, the sun would melt the snow and ice a bit on sunny days and then it would freeze each night. Add some snow, sleet and freezing rain now and then.
The following comparison shows precisely what would be typical for me and my family, which includes mom, dad, three kids (two toddlers and a teenager), and grandma, a family of 6. Your results may vary. The “Home” table reflects averages for the entire US. We then compare it against our own costs, and those of average prices for new and used RVers, except where those costs wouldn’t change based on the rig you have. Links to sources inline.
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 also found that the power steering fluid, transmission fluid and generator oil were bone dry, the engine oil desperately needed to be changed and I discovered that someone put the wrong fuel filter on, so now it’ll have to be cut off to be replaced (who knows how much that’ll cost!). It also now needs rear ABS service and the air conditioner wasn’t just a recharge, but the compressor is blown which will cost $1000. I knew an older RV would need work, but I didn’t expect it so soon…
Treetops RV Resort, located between Dallas and Fort Worth in Arlington, provides RV and trailer sites year-round, offering you daily, weekly, monthly and annual rates. Treetops RV Resort offers full hookups, along with a swimming pool, cable television service, laundry facilities, an air-conditioned bathhouse and Wi-Fi Internet service. The Dallas Metro KOA, also situated in Arlington, offers full-hookup RV camping, with 100-foot pull-through pads. KOA features complimentary Wi-Fi Internet service, a recreation room, cable television service, a picnic area, laundry facilities, a playground and a convenience store. You can find Sandy Lake RV Resort 18 miles northwest of Dallas in Carrollton. The park offers various rates for RVs and trailers, depending on length of stay. Located one mile from Interstate 35E and directly across from the Lake Amusement Park, Sandy Lake RV Resort features a clubhouse, Wi-Fi Internet service, a swimming pool, hot showers, laundry facilities and a convenience store.
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.
Hi Leslie, I am not a full-timer, yet, but I have something to add on your comments on type of RV. I have a towable, a trailer. It is not hard to tow and, I might add that if you go with a motorhome and toad, you are in fact, still towing only without the ability to back up – it just seems different. The challenge is backing of course. I have friends that started out with a trailer and went to a motorhome after being misled on an underpowered tow vehicle and wrecking their trailer.
Small electric space heaters are an excellent way to conserve propane burn and provide added warmth to the areas occupied during the day and evening. Be careful to purchase only brand-name, heavy duty space heaters with undamaged electrical cords. Adding a small space heater to the lavatory will help keep the black tank from freezing and is a nice addition for people coming out of the shower.
Fuel – Before entering freezing temps make sure to add a Diesel Anti-Gel Supplement. Both Cummins and Freightliner recommend the Power Service brand of anti-gel claiming that it works best. After adding the supplement make sure you drive and run the Generator to get the additive inside the fuel lines. If possible fuel up with a winter blend fuel which can be found at many truck stops during the winter.
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 🙂
I’m sorry it takes so much time and effort for you to feed your furnace. Have you looked at more efficient stoves? I’ve heard of two that take advantage of mass to store heat energy. They’re related and are supposedly quite efficient: Masony Heaters http://www.inspirationgreen.com/masonry-heaters.html and Rocket Mass Heaters http://www.richsoil.com/rocket-stove-mass-heater.jsp . I hope this helps!
First of all, thank you for your generosity and how much you help people here! Today I found your page/article and am so grateful. You and your family are such an inspiration to my husband and me. We currently live in NYC and have owned and operated a yoga studio since 2009. Community is of utmost importance to us and the unreasonable expenses of living in this city are endangering the studio’s sustainability.
Seriously, we go 3 to 4 days in between showers now and it is all good. Ok, maybe we get a little stinky but it really isn’t that bad. It saves so much time when you don’t have to take a shower and get ready every day, but instead just get up, throw on your clothes from yesterday, brush your teeth, throw your hair in a ponytail and you are good to go.
For those who travel a great deal, it is a good idea to purchase emergency coverage that will not pay medical costs, but will, under the appropriate circumstances, provide regional medical referrals and oversight as well as a means of getting travelers and their vehicles back to their home bases at no cost. Good Sam Club sells one that costs around $110 per year and covers all travelers.
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.
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.
I’m a 57 widow, retired Air Force and have a great job that only requires me to be near an airport and have internet and cell phone access. Just traded in my 34′ Montana and 200 Ford F350 and Charger for a new Montana toy hauler, 2017 F350 and a 2018 Harley Road Glide. Selling my house and all but enough to furnish a small villa (when I tire of the Great Adventure) and I’m hitting the road this spring.
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.
When I told people my plans they said it couldn’t be done, it would be foolish to live out of an old RV all winter. Challenge accepted! Buying a house is a big decision so I researched and did not find much information about RV living throughout Canadian Winter. Most of my research told me to migrate down to the southern states, with the strong American dollar that wasn’t an option.
7. Being thrifty should become second nature. Unless you’ve won the lottery or have a handsome retirement package, you can definitely benefit from making every dollar stretch to its maximum potential. Before you embark on this lifestyle, you should make a habit of logging every dollar spent to see exactly where your money is going, and for what. Doing this allows you to see where cuts can be made and where it might benefit you to stock up on certain things that you buy often. A good rule of thumb is to check with other RVers who already live this lifestyle and ask for their input on this matter. Everyone has their own favorite tips and solutions so be prepared to take notes.
If the distribution center is too hard to get to, you can opt to have the package shipped to a UPS Store or FedEx/Kinko’s store or other shipping store like MailBoxes Etc. The store will likely charge you a fee, even if it is a UPS store and you are shipping via UPS or is a FedEx/Kinko’s and you are shipping via FedEx. We’ve seen the fee range from a flat fee of $3 whenever you pick it up to $7 per day, however these stores are more likely to hold the package longer than 5 days. So, check with the store before having something shipped to them to get the details and verify how they want the package to be addressed.
There is an RV ready to match your dream. Use your vacation RV trips to test different rigs. If you are visiting off-the-beaten-track tourist nooks and wilderness sites a more maneuverable RV could be preferable to a motorcoach. Or your dream RV just may not have as much room as you need to live on the road full time comfortably. Be honest with yourself up front and you will save yourself the hassle of trading up or down in your first few years untethered from a home base.
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!
b) You kindly share so very much about budgets and affordability on your web site but there is no mention of how you or others similar that can’t/don’t wish to work whilst travelling and aren’t of retirement age for pensions/SS etc fund this lifestyle for several years? I notice that you referenced more recently somewhere about generating a little income as affiliates for Amazon (by the way, we look forward to supporting that in due course), but assume that wouldn’t equate to your full months expenses?
The Meinhofers have met a lot of families with kids on the road, but they haven’t encountered many other Latinos. They think there’s a perception in some communities of color that doing this means you are destitute. They are trying to inspire others to join them with their YouTube channel, Exploring the Local Life, which has become so popular it is making them money.