One thing we learned from camping in cold temps (and sorry if this has been mentioned already) – is that the basement bays won’t be kept above freezing unless the furnace is running, and while using space heaters up above, our furnace wouldn’t always cycle on. So, interestingly our water was more apt to freeze at 25 degrees than it was at 15 degrees, because at 15 degrees the space heater couldn’t keep up, and the furnace ran more, keeping the basement warmer. If that makes any sense. Bottom line, if the furnace isn’t running, the basement gets cold. That was the case in our coach, and I know not all coaches are the same in this respect.
Campgrounds can vary greatly by state and proximity to highly touristy areas, Earl. To give you some insight into a few places we’ve stayed longer term, we were getting a full hookup spot in Marathon, Texas for under $400 / month. That’s pretty remote, but we love that little town and the surrounding Big Bend region, so it was a steal for us. We priced a few places in Bastrop, Texas (just east of Austin), and full hookups were from $400 – $570 / month (plus paying for your own electric). While we haven’t ever stayed anywhere else for a month or more we have seen prices that range from about $350 at the absolute lowest end (and those places are not always terrible, though usually they are a bit run down) to somewhere around $800 / month for more highly sought after locations. Here in Austin, where some friends are staying, it’s around $670 and that puts you near the highway, ten minutes from Austin, in a relatively luxury place. Most spots will ask you to pay your own electric. Water is usually included, cable, too. I’d recommend getting a cell phone, so whatever you have for that (AT&T & Verizon are the most reliable nationwide) now would be the same, though if you wanted unlimited data on your phone so you can have the Internet, that might raise your bill. You’d know better about your grocery situation that I would be able to guess. No property tax. 🙂
Heated Water Hose – You can make your own with heat tape and pipe insulation and this works pretty well, although on occasion we have seen people in the bathrooms warming up their frozen hoses during extreme cold snaps. I’d recommend just purchasing a good heated water hose. Camco has one on the market but it looks kinda cheap, from the heated hoses I’ve seen in person I’d recommend the Pirit Heated Hose as the construction and the warranty seem top notch.
Why we recommend the Coachmen Chaparral fifth wheel: There are few fifth wheels which can offer the level of flexibility within 11 floorplans as the Coachmen Chaparral can. If tow weight is an issue for you due to fifth wheels being on the heavier side, the Chaparral 298RLS has got you covered. This RV weighs 9575 pounds (dry weight) which is actually quite impressive. Of course, if weight isn’t an issue and you’re having a lot of people living in the same RV, the Chaparral 371MBRB spans 41 feet and can house 11 people in it. Like we said, flexibility!
@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…
For healthcare we keep $8,000 in our HSA account (tax-free health savings account). This not only covers our regular yearly self-pay checks, but also covers the individual deductible on our health care plan in case we should ever need it. We keep an additional 4-6 months of savings in ready cash (e.g. cash, money market, savings) for unplanned RV, pet & other expenses and regularly add to these savings through our monthly budget.
It’s hard to make a “firm” assessment on the size issue. A lot of times it depends on where you camp. For example State Parks in CA are notoriously old/small and being 40-foot or larger rules out almost 85% of them. Same thing in the National Forest campsites in the CO mountains (we’ve camped there, but it’s often a struggle to find sites that fit us). On the other hand State Parks in CO are usually quite spacious as are State Parks in OR (we’ve been able to take our 40-footer just about everywhere in OR) and throughout the Mid-West. Also if you like boondocking smaller is always better. So, just depends.
Curious, what do you do to make a living? What about the dreaded health insurance we’re forced to have or be penalized for not having it? These are concerns for me as a mom with kids. Sure I can buy an RV and travel but there needs to be an income and there needs to be insurance. Although, I guess if the gov’t can’t find me then they can’t fine me…lol. Happy Trails!
For vehicle registration it very much depends on where you plan on establishing domicile during your fulltime RV travels. Typically you get a drivers license and register your RV in the state that you establish domicile. Most fulltime RVers chose either SD, TX or FL as their domicile states since they are income-tax-free states and are very “RV friendly”. If you plan on keeping a house or address in your home state however, then that may change how/where you can establish domicile. I’m not familiar with the rules in any of the states you mentioned so I don’t know the requirements for domicile in those states.
* Safety: Do not make alterations or heat an RV in any way that could create a safety hazard. This includes using unvented heaters, such as space heaters or the gas stove/oven, in the living space. Unvented combustion heaters produce carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that can be fatal, and almost ½ gallon of water per gallon of fuel. Any heaters that burn a fuel source inside the living compartment must be vented properly to remove poisonous gases. Make sure to have a fire extinguisher and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
I think living in an RV before you try to get fully into it isn’t a bad idea at all. Rental RV’s are a great way to do this. Just try it out for a while, travel around to get a feel of living in the thing in different areas and see how you feel. We’ve met many traveling nurses who fulltime and enjoy the comfort of having their own bed/home wherever they go. Good luck with everything!
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.
The key to our survival is good communication. There is limited room in an RV and it will start to feel small fast. If you’re frustrated or angry with each other, that space will feel even smaller. Sure you can take a walk, sit outside for a while or jump in the car (if you tow one) and go for a drive, but temporary distance won’t solve the issues.
Monthly Stays – Marinas tend to charge by the foot for monthly stays, ranging from $10 – 30 per foot (we’re 47′ long, so anywhere from $500-1400, plus electric and liveaboard surcharges). Like RV Parks, these are the cheapest marina rates and we’re looking forward to a slow pace of travel spending time in marinas in cool downtowns with lots to do in walking range.
I wasn’t sleeping in my nest-bed in the RV. I was sleeping on a new bed in a new house, a house without wheels. I wasn’t going to wake up and walk a few steps to our kitchen. I would walk up a flight of stairs. I wasn’t going to wake the boys up from their bunkroom 20 feet away to get started with their homeschool. I would go to each of their separate bedrooms to wake them up to go to school. I wasn’t going to have a day exploring new places. I was going to drive the same streets to the same places.
Some of my neighbors go all out with the skirting by building complete frames out of 1x1s and attaching the foam board with plastic pop rivets. Others only make a frame to attach the bottom of foam. Personally, I find the board when taped together with aluminum duct tape is sufficient. Because the insulation will have gaps at the bottom due to the uneveness of the ground, I use expanding foam from a can to complete the seal. The foam also helps to stabilize the board against the wind and snow.
Why we recommend the Jayco Eagle fifth wheel: If budget is something you’re also concerned about when choosing between fifth wheels for full-time living, then we highly recommend the Jacyo Eagle. While it’s MSRP is nearly the same as some of the others, it’s actual sale price is lower, and it offers the same amount of features and versatility of a good fifth wheel. For example, the Eagle 293RKDS offers has a very good build, weighing 10310 pounds and being 35 feet and at the same time they also have the Eagle 347BHOK which is 40 feet long and weighs pounds!
I’ve been traveling since then, staying exclusively at spots where I can spend the night for free — Walmart parking lots for the most part. They have all welcomed me warmly when I ask at customer service if RVs are allowed to spend the night. It helps that I use a smartphone app to find Walmarts that do allow you to stay ahead of time, but I always confirm when I get there regardless.
RV’s have lots of moving parts and components. Which means, a pretty much never ending to-do list, and parts and labor can get pretty expensive. Thankfully, Brett is pretty handy, so he can tackle most of the jobs that pop up. We have also had really good luck in finding fellow campers that were experienced and willing to step in and help out when he got in over his head.
Doug – every dollar we spent over the year was included so this is realistic for us and how we travel…as stated in the post: RV living costs will vary depending on the number of people, pets, life style, spending habit, and other factors. Yes we wrap various items in the Misc category but we do have the Jeep/RV expenses listed on its own line in the avg monthly costs… RV/Tow Car: $132 oil changes and supplies. If you’re interested in more detail, check out our monthly expense reports and it will break our costs down further – including what we spent on Misc items that month: https://weretherussos.com/cost-of-living-full-time-in-a-rv/
Within the last month I moved out of my apartment, purchased a new tow car and a 21′ travel trailer (monthly financing less than what I was paying for rent, and I will own them). I was really excited and didn’t quite think things through about where I was going to boondock. I work for Wal-mart and made arrangements with my store manager, but it is an awkward experience. Now to the point, I can’t be without internet. I use non contract boost mobile and pay $50 a month, this includes “unlimited” call, text and date plus my phone has hot spot capabilities. It allows for 2.5 gig a month of data and then when you reach the limit it slows your speed but you still have access to internet.
My husband and I are planning to transition to full-time RV living in the next 2.5-4.5 years once our oldest kids graduate high school (youngest will come with us and homeschool). We are concerned our biggest expense will be self funded health insurance. In your financial reports you say you haven’t purchased health insurance. What about now that Obamacare penalizes you on your taxes? Have you still chosen not to purchase health insurance and take the penalty or have you found a more affordable option? We have some medical expenses so likely couldn’t go completely uninsured. Hubby is considering a remote work job with benefits for this reason but really we’d like to travel for 1 full year without huge work commitments then do something like seasonal park ranger half the year and travel the rest of the year. Any advice or insight in this area would be awesome! Thanks for sharing your financial information. It is very helpful!
We live five months a year in our motorhome spending 7 months in our Mexican casa down in San Felipe, Baja. This has been our life style since 2005. Looking over your expenses have you every shopped on eBay for software products? You can save bundles. . . . I buy a ton of our “needs” on eBay with great savings and success just shipping it to where ever we are staying. Also, I am a thrift store junkie. I love nice, expensive (brands) clothes and kitchenware but don’t like paying full price. I find great bargains in Goodwill and Saver stores. It makes it fun to seek out these stores in all the different stops we make. I “cleaned house” this summer back east in their Goodwill stores. Just a thought. . . I enjoy your website very much. . . you’re having a lot of fun in your travels. I also would rather stay at a Harvest Host site versus Walmart!
Eventually they got permits to put the trailer on the property and that summer my father dug a basement with a backhoe and my mother and him poured a foundation by hand and laid cement blocks while my sister and I 4 and 8 years old, did our best to help. It took a couple of years before we could finally move out of the trailer, but even then we were only able to live in 1/2 the house! I think all told my sister and I had to share a room for 2-3 years in the trailer and 2 more years in the house until we had bed rooms that were built for us! Our original room was the laundry room and the room my parents have now as a dining room used to be their master bedroom!
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.
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.
I Have just spent almost 2hrs reading your posts, thank you thank you and to all who replied. I am in the process of getting rid of stuff, my target date is end of July or first of Aug to take off after selling my house and car. Planning of buying a Class C 20′ to 30′ gently used. I am 81 and ready to go. I have two pages of notes from this blog so far. Thanks again Pat
Have you ever thought about living full-time in an RV? Or wondered how you would choose where to live after military retirement? Jan Wesner Childs and her family did both at the same time! In this guest post, she shares her family’s experience as full-time RVers after her husband retired from the Army. They traveled for a year to explore the U.S. and decide where they wanted to settle.
I make some money blogging, but it’s not a significant portion of our income. I could probably make more if I were more aggressive with product promotion/partnerships and advertising, but it’s simply not my style nor is it the style of the type of writing/blogging I do. I’m very picky about the types of products I promote and work hard to keep my blog honest and relatable. It’s primarily about RV travel and sharing that love of travel online. Everything else is a bonus 🙂
Tolls – Toll roads are becoming very commonplace in the US. In many areas, like around Orlando, it is difficult to go anywhere without using toll roads. Plan ahead and try to determine if there are ways to minimize costs and simplify payments. For example, on the northeast coast, you can purchase an EZ pass for tolls at grocery stores. The same applies for the SunPass in Florida.
Your plan looks totally do-able. Your 30K merchandise start-up budget should be ample to cover everything you need, and in fact you should even be able to put some of that aside for the future unexpected expenses & upgrades (something I would recommend). Your monthly budget is certainly on the frugal side, but totally possible if you focus on keeping your camping & gas costs in check.
I should also add that the graph I created (in the post) showing average monthly $$ is simply my best guess based on the folks we’ve traveled with and those that have shared or published their budget (which admittedly not everyone is prepared to do). It’s possible I’m wrong and many folks spend more than they say (and since we regularly boondock/workamp it’s also possible we travel mostly with the frugal crowd!), but I honestly don’t think it’s too far off.
3. Keep the fresh water and pipes from freezing: In my humble opinion your tips and tricks are spot on. I do have an observation and suggestion to make. Your efforts are targeting the “sewer bay” on the driver side of the RV. When we froze in Louisiana, it was the passenger side that was vulnerable. Our fresh water tank has an overflow vent on the passenger side. When the water in the tank freezes, like a pond the top of the water freezes first. In our case that prevented us from putting water into the tank and we ended up with a small crack in the tank. Fortunately, it was on the edge and was easily fixed. I think the freezing occurred because our efforts were on the “sewer bay” side and not the other. I think the answer here is another small space heater on the passenger side of the RV.
It began the way most just-so-crazy-it-might-work ideas do. Jennifer and Deas Nealy were dog owners and frequent travelers who kept running into the same problem. Every time they went out of town—which was often—they would either have to board their Australian Shepherd, German Shepherd, and corgi or tailor their vacation so that they were only staying at dog-friendly hotels. So they had a thought: What if they bought an RV, lived in it with their dogs full-time, and went on vacation forever?
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.
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.
When we first got the RV the thought of a hard-mounted, fully-automatic Satellite TV dish on our roof seemed just the ticket. Push a button and off you go….fabulous! However camping as we do in lots of spots with trees and obstacles we have line-of-sight perhaps only ~50% of the time making our dish mostly useless. In retrospect a movable dish would totally be the way to go.
Below is the breakdown of our costs, 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.$2,137 Groceries, housewares and booze – Costco still being the largest ($1,088) also includes Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joes, TJ Maxx (we get some of our specialty foods here) Wal-Mart (for RV supplies), local natural grocery stores, and Cash at Farmer’s Markets.
In the middle of a northern winter, no one even considers ‘boondocking’. At a minimum you want a spot with electricity and sewer. It is POSSIBLE to do without a freeze proof water source – but not recommended. You can always carry in or buy five gallon water bottles to drink, wash dishes and bodies, as well as flush the stool. However, the thought of carrying sewage away from your camp site just seems like an insurmountable obstacle, for me. Okay if push came to shove, you could use one of those blue totes and drag it through the snow to a dump site. But – yuck!
Most RVs aren't rated for extreme temperatures and most full-time RVs head to warmer climates during the coldest months. But what do you do when moving south isn't an option? There are a few improvements you can made to your RV to make it warm and comfortable and get you through the winter safely. Carolina Coach & Marine, serving Charlotte, Winston-Salem, and Greensboro, SC, wants to see you safely through the cold and ice, read below then visit our dealership for more help preparing your RV.
Remember to boil the bones of chicken and beef with a little vinegar to bring out the best, the chicken feet have great collegen.. bone broth is great for you. Kombucha is also for the immune system and easy to make. Make all the food you can.. it is very satisfying and better for you and tastes better. get a book and homemade medicine and try the young living essential oils.. The woods is full of medicine. Let me know if I have helped or hindered or can help in the future.