Love reading this! We do not live in an RV but we do live in an 800 sq ft 1969 Model mobile home at this time. It’s hard for a family of 6 space wise but we have made it work for the last almost 4 years. We will however be moving next week into a 2700 sq ft home that is definitely a fixer upper so the price we got it for is just amazing. Good things come to those who wait! Good Luck to you in your Journey!
We protected the water connection coming into the RV with heat tape, pipe insulation and wind barriers — and did not have a problem in that regard. However, we did have the water pump itself freeze. A light bulb in the plumbing bay solved that problem. We added a weather station inside the coach and put the thermostat that reads the external temperature in the plumbing bay. So from then on we could just look at the display to keep tabs on things.
Switching to an RV lifestyle can be daunting at first, especially with little ones to think about. If the process seems overwhelming, keep in mind that many families have happily lived the full-time RV life before you (check out the ouropenroad or bareneckers Instagram accounts, for example). By considering these seven things before becoming a full-time RV family, you’ll be well on your way to happy travels.
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This is an excellent post, Nina. People ask us all the time what it costs to RV full time, and we’ve come up with just about the same answer as you —we figure $3500 for a comfortable and varied lifestyle that includes a mix of state and federal parks, some boon docking, occasional expensive RV resorts, and camp hosting. We travel a lot of miles every year driving from the Pacific Northwest to Florida and back, which I realize isn’t typical.
You are absolutely right Sondra although we are not at all looking to eliminate many of our expenses. About the only thing we are anxious to do is convert more to solar so we can boondock more in some of our natural parks. Our TT does not have any extra room for hanging clothes or a washer/dryer. We are a family of 3 (the third being a toddler) in 27′. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room, so to speak. As for eating out. Be careful what you say. Eating out is not synonymous with McDonalds and in our case involves some incredible farm-to-table establishments, seafood eats on the waterfront, etc. It is something we enjoy as a family and not something we are looking to cut back on. Your recommendations will surely be helpful to some though. Thank you.
6) They’re willing to live frugally. This can NOT be stressed enough. At the ages of 25-35, full timing can either be a joy or a chore. They’ll be surrounded by old people, in perhaps less than stellar conditions, in a cramped hovel that’s difficult to either keep cool in summer or warm in winter. But… they can move with the weather. And frugal living helps them afford to do that.
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.
On the surface, it sounds like living in a camper would be more affordable than living in a house or apartment. After all, you don’t have to pay rent or a mortgage. You don’t have to worry about homeowners or renters insurance. You don’t have utility bills, property taxes, or the upkeep that goes along with homeownership. And without any storage space, shopping for fun and spending money on frivolous things isn’t an option.
Knowing our expenses may not help other RVers. Unfortunately, there isn’t just one easy answer, and without a bit of research, no one can say how much living full time in an RV will cost. It’s the same as when we live in a traditional house—we all have different costs and expenses depending on our income and our lifestyle. It will depend on how much traveling is planned, the type of RV, and what the budget is. We may travel more or less than others, have a smaller RV with less expenses, and boondock more.
Now there are a lot of factors that go into domicile choice and there’s not one, single right choice for everyone. But for the purposes of this post what’s important for you to understand is that that domicile DOES have a significant impact on your RV budget. Not only does it affect your take-home $$ (due to state taxes), but it also affects your health insurance costs, RV/car insurance costs, RV/car registration costs and business costs (if you have any). And the difference in these $$ between different states can be significant!
Did you ever read those Choose Your Own Adventure books? I’ve been been wishing I could read ahead and see how different choices would affect the boys. Would they end up angry at us always wishing they had a chance to experience “normal” teenage life if we kept full timing in our RV? Or would they look back and say, “Man, my parents were great and knew what was best. I spent most of my life living in an RV seeing all these cool places!”
At this point we decided to make my VA business our full-time income so my husband could stop his 9 to 5. I dedicated the next 6 months to make that happen. And we did it! Lots of late nights and comfort zone pushing later, we were able to have him put in his notice. They came back and wanted him to stay on part time for about 9 months, so that worked out well!
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.
The boys certainly don’t dislike traveling (They keep reminding us we haven’t been to Hawaii and asking if there’s a chance we can go to Europe soon.) but they were developing a “been there and done that” attitude and were ready for new challenges, the challenges that come with dealing with teachers other than mom and relationships that are more face to face than virtual. Traveling full time in the RV gave them so many experiences and the life lessons are still unfolding, teaching us even now as we adapt to a stationary life, but there are lessons to learn from living in community as well.
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.
People say to me all the time, “But how can I afford to live in a van and travel all the time?” My answer is aways, “How can you afford not to?!” Let me prove to you right off the bat that you can live the free life. Here is a budget showing just how little money you need to live and travel full time. One column is for a $500 a month and the other is for $1,000 a month.
Stuff — You don't buy "stuff" anymore since there is no room to put it in your RV. So while you might frequently buy furniture, cutesy pillows, paintings and other home décor, you don't spend that money when RVing. While some people live to shop for clothes, you can't do that given the one-foot space you have in your closet for hanging clothes and the limited space for shoes. I rarely bought "fancy" clothes, and I lived in jeans or shorts. I estimated I saved $175 every month, but it was probably more.
Lovely to “meet” you on the blog! You know regarding safety the *only* time I’ve ever felt even close to unsafe is in the center of big cities. We had one incident (in San Antonio) a few years back that sent us running, but other than that I’ve never felt unsafe. Whenever we’re in smaller cities or the boonies I’ve always felt perfectly fine. So, I guess I’d recommend getting out of the bigger spots and into some more rural areas…more space for the boys too?
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Kudos to you! When we moved to AZ, we started setting up our homestead. Looking back, I wish we would have bought the property with the older single wide mobile home instead of setting a new double wide. Our home is our only debt now, and had we bought the single wide, we would be totally debt free now. It is amazing how many people think they HAVE to have debt, they have to have what they want NOW! With the economy as unstable as it is, debt free is the only way to live. I encourage all of us to to make that a life goal. You’ll be glad you did!
Honestly if you’re looking at a loan to buy a new RV, I would recommend scrapping that idea and looking at paying cash for a used, quality RV. RV’s depreciate like crazy, and new RV’s are mucho $$. There are tons of quality used rigs out there where you can get A LOT more for your money and still leave cash to spare for repairs and travel. Plus with a used rig most of the depreciation will be already accounted for, and you’ll get more back of your original $$ when you sell too.
We also keep the Careington Telemedicine plan offered by RVer Insurance that includes a telemedicine service, which gives us access to virtual doctors visits over phone/internet and a discount dental & vision network across the nation. The cost is $149/year for both of us – and we use this far more often than our insurance plan, as finding providers as we travel difficult.
I’ve just found you, and I’m soaking in all this information. Thank you. Do have advice for a single woman in her 60’s thinking about full timing for a while? I’m retiring and don’t know yet where I want to live. So considering traveling around for a while to find the right place. No experience yet with driving or living in an rv… Yikes! Help? 🙂 Thanks!
Sounds about right, not to mention personal expenses like student loans and taxes in our case, you are also paying for the experience of seeing amazing places – each visit to a state or national park is a donation towards preserving it for the future, each meal you eat in a kitschy restaurant is a memory to share that saving money can’t replace. Once you get away from the east coast, you might see things get a little cheaper as well. The smaller the town, the less chances to eat out and more BBQ memories you can have, also if you buy gallons of liquor for mixed drinks rather than wine or beer, you can save. We spend a lot on gas to get to the cool stuff in our truck because it’s a 350 diesel, but for us, it’s a full time lifestyle that we wouldn’t trade for anything and the extra costs are just part of the awesome things we get to do and see.
You are inspiring. My husband and I just made the decision to leave our busy life in Florida, purchase and renovate an RV, homeschool our 3 boys (ages 8,6, and 4) and start traveling. I am still struggling with all the logistics of it all, and how my husband can stay busy with his website business and still have time to spend with the boys and I exploring all the places we travel to. But I’m excited for the adventure. We hope to be in our RV and traveling in 6 months from now.
I have been thinking of closing up my home and going on the road. I am a military widow, no children, 4 dogs and was either looking at a class c or b. However, I do have a trailer tow package on my 2015 Explorer. How do I know the best option for me? I am a little overweight and sometimes I can not lift or set up things with the limited strength in my hands. However, I do really want to try this out. What would you suggest? I live outside of Dallas, Texas and there are a lot of RV Centers. Would it be best to go talk to a “salesperson” but I am concerned they will not take my issues into consideration and only try to “sell” me.
My husband and I are currently living in Panama but have sold our home and will be moving back to travel the U.S. full-time in a motorhome early next year. More than one time you have said you wish you had gone with a smaller coach. We will want to boondock, camp in (or somewhere close to)all of the national parks, and in BLM land on occasion, etc.. But we are not opposed to staying in RV parks when needed. My question to you is: Do you think we can do that kind of traveling in a 43′ motorhome? We have done tons of research on the manufacturer and make we want to buy. Their 38′ and 40′ models just don’t have a layout that I think will work for us, especially since the 43′ seems to have everything we want in the right place.
Kelli, have you reviewed the entire section of videos I prepared on my website for winter living? Those will help you. That said, I’m seeing severe challenges with your plan. If you plan to keep water running in your trailer all winter, you’ll need to follow the protocol I have used and detail in my videos. As to “winterizing” – if you mean that in the sense you’re going to drain all the water and replace with non-toxic anti-freeze weekly – thats a plan that will fail quickly as it is a lot of work and the liklihood of failure in the plumbing and water heater is high. If you’re going to be there weekly for a day or two, I’d keep the heat running as if you were there full time and do as I illustrate in my videos in preparation to live for the winter in the trailer.
You guys rock. Love the expense detail. I’m a director/producer myself and my wife is an actress/spokesperson. Have talked about living full time in an RV, but mostly within the state due to business, clients, elderly parents, etc., – with the occasional road trip. Can’t tell you how much you guys have helped us plan. Your videos are excellent too, and I know what I’m talking about!
how workable do you think it is to slowly accumulate a group of websites of whom you’re an affiliate (rv’ing stuff?) to help or maybe even completely pay your RV’ing costs as you traverse the country (sounds like a doable niche in itself to me) ? I’m a retired programmer and on SS now, but would like the security of knowing I wasn’t completely dependent on SS while travelling. I love your site, BTW. Thanks – Bob
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?
I figure I can get around $5,000 for my civic and I should have around $7,000 saved from my job. I don’t want to sink all my savings into a van right away but do you think it’s possible to get one for $8-10k? I am most interested in the 80’s model VW Westfalia. I don’t need a top of the line vehicle, just something with a solid body/engine and an interior I can work on through the year.
Of course, the best RV for your family individually depends on your travel style and individual situation. For example, a family of 4 might not require a large, Class A motorhome with slide-outs… but a family of 6 would almost definitely benefit from having the extra space. Also consider whether you and yours are more outdoorsy or simply into traveling for the scenery. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time inside, invest in extra space!
Using your RV in the winter? Make sure you have a show shovel, window scraper and some kind of ice chipper (i.e. an axe). If you don't have these on hand, guess what? The first time out you will be sure to need them. Also pack a bag of rock salt (sand or kitty litter) to sprinkle on walkways and to put around your tires in the event you get stuck in snow or end up on slippery patches of ice.
Yes, we are new to RVing full time, but not to camping, we have camp in a tent to a diesel pusher for the past 44 years. We purchased a Landmark 365 42 ft fifth wheel and have a F350 4×4 dually, and I have a CRV Honda. My husband is a transpo drive for a RV dealer during the winter and is comfortable hauling the mighty beast. I drive my car to where ever our destination for the summer will be, be it 1000 miles or 500, I don’t mind driving.
That said, it is not for everyone. We have met very few full-time RVers who boondock as much as we do. Most people who enjoy boondocking, or “free camping,” do it from 25% to 75% of the time, at most. For full-timers who work, it is hard to find a boondocking location near most jobs, and you have to pack up and go to the RV dump station every 10 days to 2 weeks, disrupting your life. Even if your work is location independent, and you work out of your RV, finding good boondocking locations that have adequate internet access to do that is not easy. During the summer of 2014 we spent 5 weeks camping in places that were 10 miles or more from the nearest internet access.
Nina – another great post! This is the first winter that we have spent (prior two winters spent in Florida) traveling in the West, and we are finding that there are many more opportunities to manage camping costs out here, as compared to the east cost. In general, RV site costs in Florida and Georgia, are a bit more expensive than Arizona, New Mexico, Texas. We (like you and Paul) have a large RV, and have found a lot more public campgrounds and public land in the West, that we can fit in. In Florida, state park reservations can be hard to get, and many of the campgrounds primarily have smaller sites (at least this was our experience).
Just as a reminder to anyone considering or who owns any RV with slide out partitions, You should always keep the tracks lubricated and run them in and out at least once a month to spread the lubrication. Proper maintenance goes a long way in worry free use, especially when you are living in it full time. I even live in mine all year round in northern latitudes and lived in Alaska for ten years in an rv with “tip outs”. You can “skirt” even a non winter RV and heat the under side to keep your tanks from freezing. Old flexable/cloth backed, highway advertizing signs do a good job when purchased. painted and fitted to your rig. They have great insulation value too. I would happily explain any winterization process that any one would like to know about. This blog is a great place for information for anyone considering living full time in an rv. There is a lot of good usefull information contained within.
Wow! What a learning experience we are having when it comes to finances on the road…. We have been on the road 3 months and I have been amazed at how expensive things can be if you are not careful. It is not a matter of denial of experiences but rather choosing wisely to enjoy the same things that keep our expenses manageable. An example would be eating lunch out instead of dinner. Usually 1/2 the price.
A very important #11 is having an RV insurance policy specifically designed for full-timers – equivalent to homeowner’s insurance. A windstorm uprooted our carport and threw it into our neighbor’s trailer at the campground and caused some damage. After calling State Farm, we learned that our RV policy was good for nothing, and by no means adequate for a full-timer. A standard RV/auto insurance policy doesn’t cover any liabilities and also won’t cover the loss of any personal valuables (jewelry, guns, clothing, etc)
With a little creativity you can find ways to make money while you travel. The possibilities here are endless, only limited by your abilities and imagination. With access to the Internet, many traditional jobs can be done remotely as you travel. Here are some possibilities but they are just to jump-start your thinking. There are many books and websites with a huge selection of ideas:
In a few weeks I’ll be 27 years old, and my husband and I, with our four kids, are on our way to living debt-free. Before I tell you how we are making that happen, you should know what I am not going to share. I am not going to tell you how you can pay off your mortgage in two years, or quit your job and make money online. Our family has done neither of those things, and our journey to financial freedom has not been an easy one. Instead, we are among the rising number of families losing their homes to foreclosure.
I’d agree. Campground internet is as unreliable as any I’ve experienced, but hotspot options from most major wireless carriers make for fast and reliable internet on the road. Depending on the carrier, it’s generally around $100-$180 per month (for the better networks) and we’ve found it to be very reliable. And, don’t forget about coffee shops and cafes, which offer a good excuse to immerse yourself in the local scene while snagging some complimentary internet.
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.