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.  

When my husband and I left for our travels, towing our 16-foot CampLite trailer, we’d never spent a single night in an RV. Ever. The reason why we were so ill-prepared was because of our financial situation leading up to our departure date: We’d paid off our mortgage earlier in the year, which meant we had to sell our home first before we could buy a truck and trailer. So, we closed on our house, bought the truck and trailer, packed up our rig, and left the next day. It was a whirlwind of stress and insanity that, in retrospect, we should have done differently.
The Sundance is also quite impressive in terms of features. You have at least 3 sideouts in every floorplan, meaning a lot of additional space along with copious amounts of baggage space with a slam latch doors. You also have a dual-ducted air conditioner and a 8 cubic feet refrigerator that can be upgraded to a 15,000 BTU AC and a residential style refrigerator. In a nutshell, the Heartland Sundance is a good choice to consider if you’re RVing full-time.

Looks like you gave a very solid plan! Kirk’s numbers are one of the budget references I plan to link to in my next post. And I totally agree that health care is the biggest single unknown in all this. It’s been (by far) the biggest impact we’ve had to our fixed expenses in the 7 years we’ve been on the road, and it’s one of the most difficult to predict. I have no idea what our costs are going to be next year.
We’re still living out of our backpacks with just a few belongings each - but we have a bit more room and space to move around while we’re here. The house was empty - it’s different then the "tiny but full of expertly packed items" space of the COMET or the Element, but it’s nice. We’ll talk about doing more house-sitting like this in the future during the winter if the situation is right. 
I loved your article!!! We own a 74 Winnebago Brave and live in it during the summer. We were always wondering if it would even be possible living in it during the cold Canadian Winters. I guess it is!!! I especially love the part about your GF. I feel sometimes it is hard living in an RV fulltime too because of society’s view about how women should look. Sometimes I couldn’t even tell my employers where I was living or I wouldn’t get hired. Thank you for your article. 🙂
In the dead of summer, the sun rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest. During the day it is high in the sky, almost directly overhead. In mid-winter, the sun rises in the southeast and sets in the southwest, traversing a very low arc in the sky. At its highest, the sun is only halfway up the sky. These low angles are advantageous for keeping an RV warm in winter, however, as the sun shines directly in the windows into the center of the coach.
Aeropress and Coffee Mill – The Aeropress is another well-loved and often used item in our RV kitchen. In fact, Brent takes this with us whenever we travel because good coffee is a must. We’ve owned ours for three years (it too was a Christmas gift) and it’s still going strong. Being whole been coffee people, this hand coffee grinder is our Aeropress’s faithful companion. Where one goes the other goes and it doesn’t matter if we are 100 miles from an electrical outlet. With the Aeropress and coffee mill, all you need is water boiled over a campfire,, to make an amazing cup of coffee. These two together make great gifts for coffee loving RVers.
I have a very unique situation, I think. I hope you can read the basics here and give me some advice. Single mom, works seasonally. I home school and already work in remote areas. This would be perfect, but what about winter? What happens if the power goes out? Does gas cost a ton? I have a ton of questions, but don’t want to write on a message board, can you email me ?

As for Thing 2, the goal has continued to be keep learning as fun and interesting as possible. He reads, reads, and reads. He isn’t crazy about math but I’ve insisted that he keep up with “requirements” because math is one subject that is hard to catch up should we decide to stop homeschooling. He, too, enrolled in a virtual school math class and also received an A both semesters. The biggest change for him was more independent learning. The previous 5 years I was more hands on but with Thing 3 in the picture it became increasingly difficult. Thing 2 really stepped up and took initiative to complete assignments on his own.
Instead, buy a 5-gallon water container and carry all your drinking and cooking water in by hand. Set up your RV sink to drain directly into a 5 gallon bucket, then you can just dump your dishwater at any gas/RV dump station. Get a gym membership or take showers at a friend’s house. Get a small 5-gallon porta-potty with a hand-pump flush system. Fill the flush reservoir with RV antifreeze. Believe me, you will definitely want a bathroom when it is cold outside, not to mention, you can’t just “go” anywhere when you’re in a city or neighborhood… or else you risk making a bad reputation for yourself and start pissing people off.

Settling down has been a kind of divorce. The dreams we had of our future have changed drastically. The way an identity can get wrap up in a spouse, much of Brent and I’s identity, naturally, got wrapped up into being nomads. Over the last year we have been fumbling around trying to figure who we are as suburbanites. I’m not intending to minimize divorce. One way to look at divorce is “a complete separation of two things.” Our two lives, the one on the road and the one in a house, are so completely different, so separate, and so often, very lonely.
Haha, thanks Ambra. We do our best to stay positive and answer as many questions as humanly possible…but at some point we realize sharing certain information just adds unwanted questions over, and over, and over… So we decided to nip it in the bud and simply share the necessities from here forward in regards to our expenses. Hope you still found it helpful.
I am so glad to have found your site. Retirement is probably a decade away for me but I find myself dreaming about traveling around with a little trailer I plan to buy (a Happier Camper or HC1). I have started researching being a full timer. I am single, have two dogs and plan to continue having dogs. (i.e., if I don’t get to do this for 10 years, I will have two dogs then; possibly three). I would not have all the luxuries of an RV with fully equipped showers and stuff, but I guess that would cut down dramatically on some expenses too. Were I to do this today. I’d be driving my 2016 Jeep Renegade, pulling the lightweight HC1, a kayak and my bicycle. And writing about my travels. I am so glad that well-written sites like yours are out there! Any ambitions to go International in your travels? Thank you again.
2017 Update – TOTALLY still agree with this. Although we’ve gotten used to our “beastly” size I still wish we were a tad smaller and we (still) dream about downsizing. 95% of our camping is on public land and if we were smaller and more nimble we’d have many more options open to us, especially for boondocking. 35-feet would be nice, 30-feet would be even sweeter, but hey we make do. Maybe one day….
Gift Cards – If the gift card is for a full-time RVer, try to stick to larger national chains or internet stores like Amazon. Even though RVers take their kitchens with them, it’s still nice to not have to cook all the time so restaurant gift cards are nice as well. Or an Amazon Prime Membership is a great gift for full-time RVers if they don’t already have one. Our Prime Membership made getting items while traveling full-time so much easier.
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.
After the holidays we got back at it. People started to show more interest in the house, so we knew we needed to do some drastic clearing out. It was an emotional process. I was so attached to the kids’ toys and things – more so than they were! I had to dig deep to get past that. We included the kids in the process and didn’t just take things away, but instead asked them to help make the decisions. They were great with it. They were much quicker to let go of things than I was. It really helped me with the process and to realize, if they could let go so easily then so could I.
We have been camping for all our married life from tent to now a Class A. We have been taking 5 months in the winter for FL for the past 4 years and will be going full time this next year. My husband loves to meet new people and learn about different adventures and we always feel a little let down when we all move on, like leaving a new friend. We noticed a lot of full timers had RV business cards. So we decided to get them and a binder to keep them in. Then when we are traveling we just send out an email to see if any of our new friends are near and want to meet up and visit again, or to pass on any good or bad info about camp areas. Can’t wait to go full time! Everyone enjoy!
Just like the cupboards in your house, everything has a place in an RV. The difference is, when the RV is going down a bumpy road and that bottle of vinegar gets loose because it was put back in the wrong place, you might end up with a mess on your hands. It also makes packing up a much faster process because you know where all the pieces of the puzzle go.
My fiance and I have two northern Michigan winters under our belts already and are getting ready for a third! We have a propane company bring us a 120 gallon pig, put plastic on all the window, have an efficient space heater running so the furnace doesn’t come constantly kick on, we keep a little heat lamp underneath by the water hook ups, and use w inch foam as a skirt around the bottom of the camper! The best investment is a heated mattress pad for those cold days because the heat rises so it might as well rise into you, our dog is actually impossible to get out of bed when that’s on ❤️ It’s a lot of work but it really is a blast. We also have a dehumidifier plugged in because to much moisture can rot the rig!
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.
3. Commit to healthy eating: Switching to the RV lifestyle is a great chance to rethink your family's eating habits. Our advice? Store fruits and vegetables in green bags to maintain freshness, and consider canning or freezing as much as you can store for year-round freshness. Keep in mind that it may be hard to find healthy food in some parts of the country, so stock up when possible. The last thing you want is to have fast food as your only option.
Hi there, Just stumbled onto your site while looking for info on the best small motorhomes. My husband and I are in our 60’s and want to get our first motorhome. We have hesitated before because I was afraid of taking on the task of driving something big at our age. Then a friend showed me their little Winnebago and said it drove and parked beautifully, and we are thinking that could be a good compromise to a big RV. We will spend extended times at our children’s homes, and travel around California mainly, and perhaps to a few surrounding states. Do you have any advice on purchasing a smaller unit, perhaps other brands, or what we should look for?
Worst case scenario: our RV’s transmission went out a month before we were supposed to head out on our trip. That took $2000 out of our emergency fund before we even started, but it gave us peace of mind that the transmission would be good for the trip. So, we kind of got lucky. Moral of the story: have an emergency fund that can cover your worst case scenario.
This is why it’s so important to create a budget for your new lifestyle, and do your best to stick to it. You’ll cut down on your expenses by traveling less, working or workamping more, boondocking when you can, and cooking healthy meals at home. You can also save more by using a travel rewards credit card, which can earn you extra money on gas purchases.
Anyway, clearly Kent speaks from experience and the deep thought given to solving the problems he faced with the tech and budget available to him in an extreme environment. I’m impressed. Another point I want to commend Kent on is how he has the wits to know how important it is to present a clean and organized exterior with accouterments that suggest the owner actually contributes to the local economy…. Look forward to how he adapts to the desert next!
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.
I’m glad you found our website, Mary. Better late than never! The Patriot Act became law in 2001, six years before we started full-timing, so it has been in effect the whole time we’ve been on the road. We’ve opened well over a dozen banking and other financial accounts, bought and sold several major assets, and obtained vehicle insurance from several sources. So, it can be done. Persistence is the name of the game. Keep asking for a supervisor until you reach someone who understands that your mail forwarding address is your legal mailing address and that you have no other address, period.
Thanks for your comments Maria. It’s easy to get confused as there is a lot of misinformation floating about. You must have seen the HGTV episode. We didn’t pay $208,000 and we owned our Monaco Vesta for 3 years. Everyone’s budget and spending habits are different. We list our general costs of living, not the cost of our RV (all costs are variable per person, especially RV’s). Yes depreciation is a factor when purchasing an RV, as with anything.
Getting a smaller propane tank helped make our lives much easier, although it wasn’t necessarily cheaper. As with many RVs out there we have a built in propane tank that is larger than the standard tanks you pick up for grilling. The only problem for us was in order to fill the large on board tank we would’ve needed to drive 45 minutes one way to get it filled. Knowing we were only going to be in Wisconsin for 3 more weeks we decided to get a smaller tank.
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.

Two adults, four children, and a dog all living in a 2006 class C motorhome!! Now, that’s downsizing! This adventure seeking family stays busy by traveling every week to 2 weeks. As you can imagine, they keep busy running a business on the road, enjoying kid-friendly tours and attractions, and lots of outdoor activity. They try to cut costs by utilizing their RV park memberships and boondocking a few days a month. However, that’s a lot of mouths to feed!
You’re so right on. Like you, we’ve purged every year since we started RVing. We started out with lots of stuff we thought was “essential” only to realize we never use it. Plus we made the mistake of buying a bunch of “RV stuff” before we even moved in. These days I advise newbies to bring stuff they definitely know they use on a regular basis (hiking clothes, kitchen items) plus a few basic tools (multi-screwdriver, duct tape etc.) and safety items (e.g. Fire extinguisher, surge protector) and then go from there. It’s amazing to find out, once you get into the lifestyle, how little you actually need.
Try to limit yourself to 1 or 2 of each of the following items: coat/jacket, swimsuit, sweatshirt and sweatpants, tennis shoes, etc. Find solid clothes that can pair well with many things. People often refer to this as the “capsule” wardrobe. While there are variations, the concept is to have around a dozen staple pieces of clothing in coordinating colors that can be worn often and interchangeably, thereby saving closet space but still giving you up to 30 or more different outfits. Google it and you’ll find tons of resources to help!

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.

@Chris: Wood stoves have killed many an unlucky sleeper. Combusting wood in sleep quarters can kill in a multitude of ways. Of course, wood smoke is an established carcinogen. Wood stoves in a small mobile high vibration environment are double jeopardy. Fail to be vigilant in the daily maintenance and wake up dead. On the bright side all the bumps on the road might knock the creosote build-up off the stack walls, but then again it might not. Probably the biggest risk with a wood stove is human nature/carelessness/extenuating circumstances/etc. At some point the operator will be tempted to operate the vehicle with live coals in the stove…


It will be an interesting learning curve to be sure. Because neither of us have ever done this. Ideally I want to boondock a lot. We have a swiss shepherd who is traveling with us and I like the idea of giving him more space. However, since we know nothing I am wondering if we should invest in the New Mexico State Park Pass and use the hookups until we know our trailer. Maybe start boondocking in Utah and on our way home. Any sage advice for us? I have a million more questions I am sure. Reading these blogs are priceless. Thanx


2. I would have taken it to a mechanic before buying it – Being a 23 year old RV, I knew I’d have to put some money into it and I budgeted for that. But knowing WHAT I’d have to repair would have given me much needed peace of mind. Every time I took it out the first few months, I lived in fear of breaking down on some country road in the middle of nowhere. Knowing what was likely to break (and when) would have been comforting and allowed me to budget better.
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 🙂

South Dakota, Texas and Florida are all home to major mail forwarding services that will help you become a legal resident, help you register and insure your vehicles and help you become a registered voter. Your postal mail will be sent to your address at the mail forwarding service. They will then sent it to you, wherever you are. You will have to show up in person in your new home state to get your driver’s license. The terms for renewing a driver’s license vary from state to state.
1980s Vanagons can go for quite a few dollars. I recently met a guy who bought a decent one, with the Westy camper and all, for $4000, and he’s in Texas. If you look out west, though, prices are typically higher as those vans are in high demand. A search on Craigslist in Bend shows them going from $3000 – $30,000. The latter is insane, but I believe people get that much for a well maintained, running vanagon with a camper. Still, it’s insane.
Hi, I came across your blog and have so many questions for you! I think its amazing that your living in an RV with a kid and lately have been thinking how amazing the simple life would be to do that myself! I have two little ones, ages 4 and 2 and want to know what the real cost is for buying an RV, what do real monthly payments look like for you, water, gas, electric, RV site rental or camp ground? How did you get a custom RV or where? What about kids schooling? I would like to stay where we are state and city wise but want a more affordable option for living. Do you have a post where you address all these questions? I would truly love to hear more about this! Thanks
Fast forward 7 years and SD is still one of the least expensive states for fulltime RVers to domicile, but some things have also changed in that time frame. For example registration/insurance costs have risen (this was a state-wide thing that happened in SD a few years ago) and health insurance options for our age-group have deteriorated to the point of being abysmal. If we were choosing domicile today, we’d probably chose a different state.
Wednesday morning arrived, I left around dawn and drove on (mostly) dry roads out of Steamboat and towards I-70. Along the way, I passed high mountain peaks, narrow valleys, small hamlets like Oak Creek where recent snows had not been cleared off the roads (good idea to slow down!) and then… I-70 and Beaver Creek, Vail, and Copper – three world-class ski resorts all in succession!
With that I can put a shower in with a small holding tank under it to drain via an electric drain switch when on country roads. (Yes people I will be using biodegradable soap and it is also grey water and put through a filter before spilling it out on the gravel road, no different than those who open their fresh water holding tank on the way home from a trip, hell, I might just charge the county with dust control). Toilets are the problem in the winter and I intend to go with portable potty because there are a million roadside toilets in lay-bys to dump them. I don’t use chemicals but dump often and clean with dishwasher soap (again biodegradable, you betcha, [is there such a thing?]). I have never had one smell at all but can always detect an ordure from RV toilets no matter how well vented they are.
Propane – If you have propane appliances (stove top, oven, refrigerator, or heater), you will need to budget for propane. This varies depending on usage. We don’t RV in cold climates, but we do use our propane stove top and oven daily. We have 2 propane tanks on our Fifth Wheel, and only need to refill about 2-3 times per year. Still, we average the cost and budget for it monthly.
With the 2 dogs we knew hotel hopping wouldn’t work, so what is the best way to travel with pets? An RV! We started looking for an RV that we could take on short trips once we downsized. We found a 29 foot Class C which we bought to give it a go. We took our first long trip to Florida in January, and we were hooked. We called my sister and said let’s forget the duplex and travel full-time in our RV!

  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.  
In my former corporate life, I hit Starbucks most mornings and ate dinner out almost every night. We owned and maintained two cars, and we each had significant commutes. Now we eat dinner out very infrequently, and we limit our coffee shop splurges. We own just one vehicle and drive much less. Where we used to have property taxes, utilities and HOA fees, we have none of those things in our RV lifestyle. All in all, we spend about $500 less per month in our RV than we did in our house. But that huge savings is entirely a function of what our old lifestyle used to be and what our current lifestyle is now. Other full-time RVers might not see those same savings.
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Adding only that we also have 2 very beloved and very spoiled chihuahuas as well as a caged rabbit (free run abouts one hour a day in the camper). They are wonderful to have, they love the walks and the air and it is not much more to have pets with you. I have taken out the carpet and we are now redoing the floor to a wood vinyl as well as adding curtains and updating the camper with new wallpaper, etc. We have also added a top area for the cage that the rabbit can be in but out of the way. We had to update some things but this camper was really worth it-keeping anything that can attract more dust and fur out is helping a lot with the pets.
Jay, you have made some very big assumptions here and they are wrong. As for our expenses, they are very accurate and contrary to popular blogging beliefs we don’t all get everything for free. Our meals, fuel, insurance and all of our day to day expenses that everyone else has, are not free. We pay for everything, including our RV. We have actually gotten very little for free over the years and when we do get something in exchange for review, you’ll see it noted. Expenses vary greatly per person. Even within these comments you’ll see others spending way less and way more. We blog, because we like sharing our experiences and helping others. If you don’t find that we are doing that for you, then you are correct, time to move along.
There are private RV parks everywhere. They are extremely easy to find online, in commercial guide books and by asking at visitors centers. The AllStays App is a very popular resource. Private RV parks range from about $30/night to $60/night or more, tending to even higher prices in popular destinations at peak season in choice sites that offer more amenities (like a view). The parking is generally laid out in rows, and the sites can range from drycamping sites (no hookups) to electric and/or water only to electric/water/sewer with cable TV, telephone and free WiFi. Usually the site includes a picnic table, and sometimes the park has a pool, showers, shuffleboard or horseshoes, sometimes bike and canoe rentals, a small store, or other goodies.
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.

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!

My fiance and I LOVE your channel, and identify with you guys a lot. Many of our decisions are different than yours but due to different circumstances (our skills, our work, our location/weather, our priorities.) We are about 1 year behind you on our journey. Many of our decisions are also quite similar. We see your thought process and your attitude and think you have all the ingredients for success.
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