Like everything related to money, a good, well thought-out plan and budget is key. But I’m here to deliver a message – full-time travel is much more affordable than one might think. The average monthly campground / RV park fee is far less expensive than most mortgages or rent, and the varying price points of RVs and travel trailers can fit almost any budget. Sure, a decked-out class A can be expensive, but used travel trailers are priced quite affordably. Our very first travel trailer cost us only $8,000 – try buying a house at that price point!
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!
So, over the 8 year lifespan of the trailer (2007 to 2015), the cost of the RV warranty contract plus deductible costs for the repairs totaled $2,304, or $288 / year or $24 / month. Coupling the warranty repair average with the general maintenance and repair cost average, the total figure for this averaged across our years of owning our trailer would be $106 + $24 = $130 / month ($1,560 / year).
planned to try it out for a year, but we fell in love. (Read how it all started here.) Like all matters of the heart, what works for one person might not be the best situation for the next. RV living definitely isn’t for everyone, but if it piques your interest at all (I’m guessing it must or you wouldn’t be here), please keep reading our pros and cons of living full-time in 35 ft RV with three kids.
I went back and got to work. The biggest chore was attaching the heat tape to the pipe and insulating it. The big challenge there was straightening the PEX. It does straighten, but it straightens easier when it’s warm and it does require muscle. (Needless to say, I was sore the next day.) I cut off about 70 feet of the stuff and ran it across my driveway from the water source to my RV’s water connection area. Then, with the sun shining full on me the next morning, I brought out a clean damp rag (to clean away dust on the PEX as I worked), set up a chair, and got to work.
$1099 Equipment Upgrades – The more Videos I shoot the more Hard Drives I need, and the faster my computer needs to be! I added a second Hard Drive to my Laptop, it’s a blazing fast hybrid drive and works perfectly as a ‘scratch disk’ for my video files (drive plus install kit $175). I had to purchase a new Wireless Lavaliere receiver due to my unfortunate accident of dropping the camera into the creek (see the previous post on expenses for the ugly details) however my insurance policy covered this cost, YEA! We bought a new “toy” it’s the Canon EOS M ($794), check my post on Secrets to HD Video on the Road for more details on how much we love this tiny camera (and what we don’t like about it). I purchased a new 3TB External Hard Drive for redundant backup ($130), you have to be prepared for a computer or hard drive to crash at any time, better safe than sorry right?
The first thing on my list of things to do was replace the standard RV drinking water hose that ran from my city water source across my driveway (in a makeshift conduit I’d created) to the mobile mansion. I needed to run some kind of water line that I could run heat tape along. Heat tape (or trace heating) uses electricity to apply a small amount of heat to pipes to prevent freezing. I had some experience with it from my Howard Mesa cabin, where we’d used it on a very short length of hose between a water tank and the building. But rather than a 6-foot length of the stuff, I’d need 66 feet of it. That meant two 30-foot lengths plus one 6-foot length.
Then there is boondocking, where you basically stay on BLM land or National Forests for free (check out campendium.com regardless of what kind of camping you think you want to do). There are no hookups, so you need a generator (which increases gas consumption) or a solar power setup (and having both is typically necessary, since the sun doesn’t shine everywhere, every day). The cost is often free, or very cheap, to stay at these places.
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.
Keeping your water and waste tanks from freezing is an especially difficult task. If there is a winterizing skirting around your RV, it may be helpful to install a small heavy duty space heater under your unit to keep the gray and black tanks from freezing. The fresh water tank should be alright with daily use, although the water supply feeding the tank can (and will) freeze. Special heat tape and hose insulators are available for purchase at any hardware store, but these are ineffective in prolonged sub-freezing temperatures.
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.
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.
15. Remember to factor in exercise. Living life in an RV can lead to a very dormant lifestyle if you’re not careful. A lot of time is spent traveling, sitting and being confined to one particular area for, sometimes, long periods. When at all possible, plan your stay where there is access to hiking and biking trails, swimming and other physical activities. It can even be considered exercise if you take a nice long stroll around your campsite. There are plenty opportunities for physical exercise with a life on the road, you just have plan ahead and look for opportunities.
Were newbies and it feels like a whole new life style. Pro’s and con’s are always welcome! Based out of Fla. was the first right thing we did! Just finding the right camp ground in northern Fl. is a hassle. Does anyone know which are the best? We like the social life style. We have dogs and would love to hear from dog lovers as to which parks are the best dog friendly parks?
I love the slides in our motorhome because of the massive amount of space they give internally, but it seems some manufacturers go overboard. Our “beast” has a massive front drivers-side slide with refrigerator in the slide, something I now understand is an engineering no-no. The weight of the slide has been the cause of the only real issues on our home in 2 years. I love slides and will always want them, but in retrospect I would never buy another home with a fridge in a slide-out.
I’ve had several eager 20-something future full-timers email me saying they wanted to live in an RV after college because they didn’t want to throw away money on rent and they didn’t think buying a house would be a good investment. Unfortunately, an RV involves “throwing away” lots of money too. In the end, the cost of owning an RV — from purchase to sale and through the thick and thin of all the maintenance and repairs in between, not to mention the cost of campgrounds and RV parks — probably adds up to the same amount as renting an apartment or paying a mortgage/taxes plus utilities.
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.
Just wanted to give you a tip on window treatments. I read that you guys have used curtains, bubble wrap, etc. We have just started on our cold weather excursion (currently in northwestern Montana) and wanted to share what we did for sealing our windows. 3M makes clear window treatments that come in multiple sizes. Normally, they are for use in a residential home, but we found them to work equally well in our 5er. Using double sided tape around the frames of the windows, they make a tight, clear seal and both keeps the air leaks from coming in and forms an air pocket between the glass and plastic film that acts as an insulator. SInce air is a poor conductor of heat, it makes a huge difference in keeping our RV warmer in the winter while still allowing full light to enter. We’ll be putting a winter post up on our blog shortly. Granted, we are from Florida, so I’m not sure who’s going to take our advice, but we both did grow up in Colorado and Pennsylvania, respectively! Hope this helps!
This transition to full time entrepreneurs has pushed Craig and I to dive deeper into our relationship and how we work together. We will be the first to tell you we do not work the same. I like to go at 110 miles an hour and dive into everything and push through it. Craig likes to take a slower approach where he analyzes things and doesn’t like to have too many things going on at one time.
This article isn’t personal financial advice, but it does show you how a wide range of RV experts handle the financial aspect of their lifestyle. We’re grateful to all the experts who responded—especially considering the fact that we asked for personal financial information. We really appreciate the sincerity, transparency, and humility of everyone who took part in this survey. Thanks, guys!
Hi. We have a Balboa Toy Hauler, which is insulated and semi winterized. One of the furnace vents forces hot air into the tank bay under the floor. This heats the floor under the bathroom and kitchen area, but you must leave the furnace on and burn propane. Our first experience was the poopsicle at Jackson Hole, WY at -18! tried to hammer that out with a hatchet, and of course, the hose was brittle and broke! Then it thawed 2 days later. AAAGGGHHHH!!!!. Next we camped 6 weeks in Glenwood springs to ski Aspen and Snowmass all winter. A fellow camper left his sewer drain open after he left and the whole system froze so we couldn’t even use the facilities toilets. Fortunately the manager brought in the big guys with a water jet to unplug the whole system. This was extremely expensive and took a full day. Then 2 weeks later the same camper returned, (gas well inspector) and did it all again. Wow. Poor park owner ate that bill twice.
This is a dream of mine, though I don’t know if my husband wants to do this. I’m at least trying to get him to agree to quitting his job so we can live abroad half the year. We just acquired another property, which I am hoping will bring in the rental income needed to support this lifestyle. Thankfully we are debt free, so we’ve got options. I am just looking forward to the day when he feels comfortable enough to quit and we can be free, lol… Super inspiring story!
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.
Thanks for the great expenditure report. I am getting our home ready for sale and heading toward the full time lifestyle. It honestly scares me because I am on fixed income of much less than shown in your totals. I will find a way! You might check into a company called Bestmark. Having a Chevrolet you can sign up for oil changes, tires etc. And get paid plus reimbursement. All you have to do is tell them how your visit was. Basically gaining upwards of $75. Plus free service or parts. Just thought that may help you. Thanks again, looking forward to your next post.
Been trying to convince my husband for YEARS that we should do what you are doing. I just recently got him to start the process of selling our “big-popular-neighborhood-expensive-house-that-requires-two-incomes-but-we-really-can’t-afford-anyway” and buy a fixer-upper on more land with no HOA. We already have a buyer (our neighbor’s inlaws) and just need to settle on a price which is hard considering the foreclosures in the last few years. While we’ve been looking at what is available in our north GA area, we have literally turned up our noses at the listings that are “just a trailer” on land. What a snob I have become. Time to change the way I look at these things.
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!
There really is a lot of variation out there and the variation certainly does match income, as you would expect. Folks on a limited income typically travel more frugally (smaller rigs, more workamping/boondocking, less eating out etc.) and make it work for less, whereas folks on a more abundant income go ahead and spend more. I do think there’s a pretty distinct bottom number (It’s really hard to get below $1500/mo as a couple IMO), but I don’t think there’s necessarily any upper limit. There’s certainly no one answer and no one “right” way…
I like to read how people manage to live ‘on the road’. I (woman) am bussy now with an old Volkswagen LT and an old caravan Fendt Baronesse/Comtesse to prepare for long trips with my husband. I really like to read everything that you have done till now. I do have an suggestion; eventhough I am living in France I would like to offer help for travellers like you if you are in need because of engine-failure or something like that. The benefits are that you can park on our property and we know all the garages etc. in the neighbourhood. Also we have tools and friends who are mechanics. Share a meal and a cup of coffee with you will not make us bankrupt. I hope that other people will do the same. Enjoy your tour!
Or you could “upgrade” to living in an RV. You pay some amount of cash for this home on the road, and set off on a journey. That initial cost is probably similar to what you’d spend on a downpayment on a house. That is, if you would have lived in a $500,000 house, you buy a $250,000 rig. If you’d have lived in a $150,000 house you buy a $35,000 RV. And yet others find their way into single digit thousands and work on them as we go.
Bus/RV: We have a full-timers policy on our bus that is kinda like a combined home-owners and auto policy ($1018/yr), and annual tag fees for our personalized speciality plates ($110/yr). As of 2013, we are registered and insured out of Florida – and we have limited full coverage options for a restored vintage bus conversion (our policy is through National General – and our agent is Epic-Insurance – Gina is awesome, give her a call!)
We did have one issue with freezing last year, when the city water pipe sticking out of the ground that our mobile home park was supposed to be responsible for winterizing froze. The only thing they had done to protect the pipe from freezing was to wrap it with insulation and plastic, and the part right next to the ground wasn’t adequately protected, and it froze during a cold snap where the high temperatures were in the single digits. After a neighbor helped us thaw the pipes with a crazy high powered industrial heater he brought from his place of work, I removed the park’s insulation, wrapped the pipe with electric heat tape, covered it with more insulation and plastic, then for good measure I lined a Rubbermaid storage tote with foam board and put it upside down over pipe. It did not freeze again, lol.
We’ve been RVing for three years and have tried quite a few options for coverage on the road. We’ve actually used something different every year because until this year, we have not been happy with our options. We recently changed healthcare providers and switched to a health-sharing ministry.Our previous health care solution was through the RVers Insurance Exchange and we also tried the Affordable Care Act one year. We currently pay $250/month for both of us on our health-sharing plan, which is significantly less than we used to pay through traditional providers.
Penni hung a “less is more” sign in the RV and has become an expert at cooking on a stove top that’s about a third the size of a typical range. She used to run a small business in Vermont making drapes, blinds and other home decor and still does some work for clients in the RV. She sets up a folding card table for her sewing machine and sends Chip outside to clean the vehicle so she can have more space.
I believe it’s around 10amps at the highest setting, but like an oven, when it reaches pressure/temp, it turns the heating element off (and back on when needed). We have 320w of solar and 400 amp hours of lithium ion batteries. They key though is having a large enough inverter to run things like the instant pot. You would need at least a 2000w pure sine inverter. Ours is 3000w.
Foldable Vases – Inexpensive and perfect for RVing, a foldable vase makes a great gift for your favorite RVer. Foldable vases allow you to bring the outdoors in without taking up space or adding weight. On top of that, they are unbreakable which is always good when your RV basically experiences a mini earthquake every time you move it. They come in multi-packs and as singles. The first time I saw one was when a friend brought me one as a hostess gift and I have been hooked since!
Some like the national parks offer you not only all the hook ups which include water/sewer/ele/free fills for your propane, but also pay you for every hour you work, and the national parks like workampers to ‘work’. Not hard or back breaking but they like you to work 4 or 5 days a week. It’s fun though. You can learn to be an interpreter and give trail walks with the public and explain the park and it’s historical significance, or if they have horses and you have experience with them they may put you in the equine area and you groom or saddle up horses or even end up leading or trailing the horse ride.
We are now the proud owners of a 2004 Fleetwood AX6 Wilderness Advantage w/4 slides. And we continue to work on getting it fully ready to be compatable with existing off grid in the future. Its been a long road for us, but I am glad we took it. We own our rig free and clear, and there is no way wed ever own a conventional home in 3 years preperation in todays world.
On May 15th, we are embarking on a 30-city US tour to Raise The Vibration of America. Spending one week in each city/town, we will work with local communities, teaching workshops on how to heal inner and outer divisiveness. To share our journey with the world, a weekly episode will be released on our YouTube channel Raise The Vibration!, documenting the vibrational pulse of each stop along our tour.
Knowing how to budget for the RV Lifestyle is done when potential RVers understand why they want to become full timers and what they want to accomplish. It’s a lifestyle choice that should be carefully thought out and may take a great deal of discussion between a couple who are thinking of doing it. They should ask themselves what kind of traveling they plan to do—long distance, a slow ramble, or only move once or twice a year. Do they plan on working to subsidize their savings, or is this a once-in-a-lifetime trip? Be clear and understand the pros and cons. Understand what is required to enable you to make the decision of becoming full time RVers.
You added a lot of confidence that my wife and I are planning right for our expected expenses. I had used an average between Howard’s numbers at RV Dreams and Kirks from the Escapees Forum. Then added a figure for annual inflation (2.5%) based on going full time in 2019 when we originally planned on 2023. We are spot on at around $3,007 average in future dollars and with no debt. Our form of travel will include workamping at times so we will be parked at times.
An electric heat strip taped to the water hose and covered with circular foam tubing insulated it. This system worked for another 10 degree drop. Next the valve, where the water entered the RV, froze. One winter tip from other RVers was to hang two trouble lights with 40-watt bulbs in the storage pod and plug them in when the temperature dropped. Heat from the light bulbs should prevent freezing. It may have also kept our water tank in working order.
Our second year of roadschooling was similar to our first year as we continued to explore the United States with the exception of Thing 1’s work. His work was more challenging than the previous year and we began to do some testing. I did not do standardized testing but subject testing so he would learn test taking skills should he need them later down the road.
Obviously, electric blankets on your bed make for more comfortable sleeping conditions during the cold winter nights. I discovered another great use for electric blankets by accident. I draped one over the sofa and left it on a low setting. Even when I wasn't on the sofa, I left the blanket on. The temperature radiates into the air, adding wonderful warm heat to the RV. My sofa was built in to an extending unit on the RV, so it was a very drafty area to sit on cold winter nights. The heating blanket worked wonders for keeping me warm.
First up is getting space heaters for inside your RV. We used a combination of two space heaters, one being our fireplace and the other a small space heater we picked up. For those of you who winter camp you probably already know the cost of propane can add up quick if you are using it as your only source of heat. With space heaters you’re able to generate heat without burning propane. By using space heaters you’ll be able to go longer in between propane fill ups, saving you money and time.
4. Be comfortable with minimalist living. If ever there was a lifestyle that demanded a downsizing of material possessions, full time RV living is definitely it. You must be able to decide exactly which clothing items you can’t live without and get rid of the rest. The same goes for furniture, dishes, electronic gadgets, hobby items and a lot more. You could have a yard sale to get rid of the excess. You could sell on eBay or give items away to charity or friends and family. You might even decide that you’re not ready to completely rid yourself of everything and put some items in storage. However, if the latter holds true, then it could be possible that you aren’t truly ready for a full time RV lifestyle.
We scrapped our plans as our car was towed off to be repaired in El Paso and we had to move to a bigger city to find a rental. It turns out that Minis have an issue that can cause them to catch on fire at any time. Not trusting it after that, we switched it out for the Xterra. It was a pain at the time, but now it's a story to tell around the campfire.