Want to travel and live out of your RV full time? Welcome to the club! There are so many factors that can affect the cost of living full time in a RV. What type of RV do you have? How do you like to travel? What do you like to do when you arrive at a destination? We’ve found the RVing lifestyle to be incredibly liberating and less expensive than what we originally budgeted. Cost of RVing is so unique to each person/couple/family that it’s difficult to know what the actual costs will be until you do it. By sharing our expenses, we hope it will give you a better idea for planning your RVing budget.
$2,319 Fuel Cost – So far we’ve put a lot less miles on the RV this year (around 5,000 so far) however we’ve been driving our Smart Car loads more (probably double last year)! Everyone complains about fuel costs, but if you look at it our fuel isn’t our largest expense, and how much really does a 10 cent increase per gallon cost? You’re either going to travel or you’re not, I’m tired of hearing people use the excuse of fuel costs as a reason they don’t take out their RV. Suck it up, put on your big boy pants, and travel….you’ll thank me later as you realize the trip only cost an extra $25 because of the rise in fuel cost. Sorry for the rant, we just hear this excuse over and over and it’s a moot point.
For the most part, CPS can’t take your kids JUST because you are living in an RV, there has to be another reason. Living in a van means you probably didn’t have running water or a toilet and that could raise some red flags. I only ran into one family who lived in an RV who had issues with CPS but that was because they were running from an open case that happened while they were still in a house. The accusations were pretty serious and the mother had some very obvious mental illness and she was dry nursing her 5-year-old.
I have a question to ask. Try not to laugh too hard at my extreme paranoia lol. First you should know it is our sincere goal someday to rv full time. We loove to travel and we are both photographer hobbyists. However. I have zero experience visiting or ever even being in a desert and I am extremely frightened and paranoid of snakes, scorpions and mostly–spiders. How often have you run into these creatures boondocking in the west/in the desert? And no, this issue won’t derail our plans or anything, but just wondering what I am in for! Thanks for putting up with my silly question!
Well, Caroline, I’m certainly no financial advisor, so take that into account. Would your house sell for $23,000? With that, you could probably get a decent, used Class C RV, or possibly a decent used trailer + used truck to pull it. However, it would be tight quite honestly and if I were actually going to recommend something to you specifically, given that you’re on a fixed income, I would just make sure you do your due diligence. Used trailers especially, can require a lot of maintenance. Used RVs can too, but something about trailers, it just seems like they’re either not built as well, or maybe their frames aren’t as solid, so things are constantly breaking. On a fixed income, it may become daunting to be able to save some of your money every month for a “just in case” fund say, if your fridge needed repaired or your water lines froze or something even more major happened.
Thank you for the blog! My wife and I also adopted our 10 year old son over a year ago now. We are very set on downsizing and moving full time into a 5th wheel. We are looking at staying annualy in an RV park here in St Petersburg Florida. My question is are there parks that accommodate families? We are in our mid 30’s and almost every quality RV park we search for says they are 55+ community. Do these places still offer spots for people like us?
I am the author of two RV books, one of which is published by Woodalls and hundreds of RV articles. My husband and I have been fulltiming for ten years. I have to say that this is the best article that I have EVER read on full-timing. We have come to the same conclusions that you have…even after 10 years. Great job! I will be sharing with my group of 5000+ Rvers.
For detailed National Forest campsite info check out forestcamping.com where Fred and Suzi Dow have catalogued virtually all of the US National Forests and National Grasslands campgrounds and have detailed info on the campgrounds that are suited to RVs. The info on their website is free. If you want to have the same info for reference when internet is not available there is a very reasonable charge for downloading their regional guides, We have found their info to be extremely helpful for both long range planning as well as last minute searches. We love National Forest camping but many of the older campgrounds are not suitable for our 37 foot DP. Having their downloaded info has saved us a lot of frustration.
After a year of full time RVing in a Class A motorhome, we sat down to look at our RV living costs. Some costs are calculated on an annual basis and other costs are calculated on a monthly average. RV living costs will vary depending on the number of people, pets, life style, spending habit, and other factors. We hope you find this information helpful as you plan for full time RVing.
1. Try it out first. This is probably the most important tip for anyone considering RVing full time. You may have spent several weekends out already in your RV, and you may even have had a few weeklong trips. These have put you in the mindset that you would like to RV full time. However, you need to have several of these behind you before you’re ready to give up your home in lieu of the open road. Ask yourself how you’ll feel not having a place to return to, no place to unpack and no place to call a “home base”. At first thought, it may not seem like that big of a deal, but it’s not a mistake you want to make without plenty of forethought and practice.
RV windows lose a ton of heat, no matter how insulated the manufacturer claims they are. There are several ways to insulate them: foam insulation boards, bubble insulation, solar blankets, etc. For extra warmth, line your windows with heavy-weight thermal curtains. Use electric or propane space heaters to supplement your RVs furnace. Don’t forget to bring along a heated blanket to stay warm in bed!
My first winter after living in the COMET for the summer and fall, I rented a TINY 50 square foot closet under the stairs in a collective house/commune and lived there over the winter. Yep, just like Harry Potter. It was less than $100/month and included communal meals and utilities/basic living supplies like soap and toilet paper (bulk items, basically).
I believe the owners told me everything they new about the RV and weren’t trying to pull the wool over my eyes in any way. They just didn’t know. They only drove it a few hundred miles a couple times a year and probably figured they didn’t need to do a bunch of maintenance on it. Had I known ahead of time all that it needed, I could have offered less or continued looking. – Lesson learned.
$792 Pet Expenses – This includes the 2 kitty’s specialty food, All-Natural Lavender litter, toys, bi-monthly supply of sardines in spring water, treats, and their medical bills. Of course the main cost over the past 5 months is we found out Singa has feline Herpes. When we returned from Spain his eye was irritated and mostly closed shut. We took him to the vet and they ran tests and thought he may have been in a fight (there was a few scabs on his head too) and his eye was scratched. Tests, drugs, antibiotics, etc and we’re lookin at $150. 1 week later he’s not doing any better, so we go in for a follow-up visit, the vet has no idea so I suggest we see an eye specialist (another $100). 2 days later we’re at a cat Ophthalmologists who diagnoses Singa with feline herpes. The doctor tells us it’s extremely common in cats, and the majority of cats carry this virus. He compares it to the herpes virus that causes cold sores in humans, and suggests Singa is showing signs due to us leaving town for 10 days and him not receiving the same amount of love and attention he’s used to. We’re sent home with a host of additional meds and what-nots and a giant bill ($250). A follow up visit 30 days later takes the eye doc 10 minutes to tell us Singa’s lookin good cost me another $120. The Doc told me to come back in 3 months and I told him to buzz off that Singa wouldn’t be back in unless he started showing symptoms again. Healthcare is such a racket, it’s like they’re printing money in that office. Forget that! We are thankful we understand what is bothering Singa, and we now know what the symptoms are in case he has another flare up. As I write this Singa is curled up in my lap after a long day of playing outside and eating smelly sardines….it’s safe to say he’s a pretty darn happy cat!
The choice between a motorhome and a 5th wheel is very personal. Both have advantages and disadvantages. For example a motorhome is easier to set-up and take-down (very easy for either partner to do alone), but a 5th wheel is cheaper on maintenance (only one engine to take care of). I’ve written a bit more about the pros/cons in other comments (above). Good luck and best of travels to you!
Gosh young folks! This may sound critical:-) You don’t seem to have enough good ideas how to live frugally or even inexpensively. You could do fine for half the amount you spent. Just look at your clothing expenditures or the $845 for houseware? D-oh! Hey we find Columbia sportswear and other sick stuff at Goodwill and ARC. You just have to make it a habit to check em out and go to the ones in the nice part of town! Learn to horsetrade and to borrow and lend use of things like kayaks, bicycles and sporting goods or cars. Don’t buy everything! Buy hardly anything brand new! its fun! Add an extra fuel tank and always fill up when in the cheapest regions. Saves a lot.A new laptop battery could be bought online for very little for most any model including MACs. Our phones with limited web access and unlimited text are only $30/month. Always stay at least on model behind the latest and greatest high tech gear. It costs half the price. I am typing on a MB Pro that is not quite as thin as the latest model:-) Who cares?
Now, we’re not full-timers, but here’s how we keep our monthly expenses down when we are on the road: Budget, Book Early and Save $$$! In order to save money to increase our travel, we launched a new budgeting strategy several years ago. We began our plan, believe it or not, by shifting our yearly spending. It all began in the fall of 2008 when we completed our holiday spending several months early… by the end of October! Honestly, this is a terrific idea as you will find that most Black Friday Deals have the same pricing for sales offered in October. Seriously! Putting this away early allows us to begin to save and prepare for the following year’s travel season ahead of time. We then start to save money from November through January to use for RV travel! We are always ahead of the game! We book our vacations early and ask for “Early Bird Specials”/ AAA/ Good Sam Member/ or Military Specials for trips we plan to take starting in March and we plan trips through October.
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.
I have enjoyed reading your blog. Great ideas and information. My husband and I have just retired and sold our home! We will be heading out shortly…and are excited for the journey. The All stay app sounds like a key…would love to be included in the drawing. I can’t wait to show my husband your site…if he hasn’t seen it already! Thanks for sharing! Happy Trails!
We have just decided that we are going to plan a 6 months tour of the US in an RV! I have been looking forward to this moment for years and years! I was born in the US and have lived the the UK for most of my life but feel the need get back, something keeps trying to pull me back and now I’m a coming!! I also was separated from my brother when I was 2 years old and never met, I search for him through adoption agency for years and guess what HE found me!! So we are coming over in September to meet my brother and his family after 47 years!! holy moly! My bother and I are super excited…. So, I need to ask a question what type of RV should we purchase for me and my partner and we also have 2 dogs? I have been looking at the Thor Ace but not sure if this is a good choice or not, any advice would be much appreciated.
Pete, the ugly truth is: RV MSRP is a joke. Most people end up purchasing a new RV for 20%-30% off the MSRP. If you purchase a unit that’s new and last years model you can expect to get 35% – 40% off MSRP. Of course everything depends on supply and demand, and how long the dealer has the unit on the lot. If you want the biggest discount purchase a used RV that’s 2-3 years old, and buy an extended warranty.
As soon as my house sells, I will use the proceeds to pay off all my remaining debt and my wife and I are planning a one year sabbatical traveling the country. We aren’t getting any younger and while I have had the luxury of traveling all over America with my previous jobs, my wife was raising our kids and not able to go with me often. This time we will travel together all over America and plan to write a BIO blog of our journeys. I am excited to start such an adventure before I am too old to do it. Sites like this one have been my inspiration to taking the leap of faith.
Serge, thanks for sharing your experience / expenses. This is the great thing about travel, it can truly be done on any budget. It’s all about your personal style and what your travel goal is. We are living an affordable luxury lifestyle now but when we transfer to the sail boat in 2014 we are going to try out a super slim buget. It’s going to be all about living off the land (or mostly water). Thanks again for sharing!
I’ve mentioned before that living and traveling in an RV full-time can either be very expensive or very affordable. It all depends on your lifestyle, goals, and self-discipline. When we first hit the road, our expenses skyrocketed. We were traveling almost daily, staying in higher-priced RV campgrounds, and eating out at restaurants almost every night because we didn’t feel comfortable cooking in such a tiny kitchen.
If water freezes in your lines, you're in for a bad winter. Full time RVing requires you to prioritize your plumbing in a way that you might not otherwise consider. Your city water hookup may need to be insulated and wrapped in electrical heat tape. Fresh water tank will need to be filled and emptied every day so it doesn't have a chance to freeze overnight, you don't have to top it off though. If you want to reduce your work on your plumbing, you can find RV tank heaters which can keep everything from freezing up under your RV. For your black tank, you might want to consider swapping your traditional sewage hose out for a semi-permanent PVC fixture, as long as it's at an appropriate slope your waste will drain right down without a chance to collect and freeze up the works.
These were all things we did before we hit the road. But the costs are different now – as we’re frequently finding out about events fairly last minute and sometimes paying late entry rates and sometimes able to pay less for a last minute ticket to an unsold out event. And, sometimes we end up needing to forfeit event fees that we had to sign up for in advance, but routing plans changing to make it unrealistic to attend. Be sure to know the ticket transfer/re-sell policy before you buy.
I really appreciate it when you pointed out that being an owner of an RV means that I should learn a little about electrical, plumbing, and roofing work so that life on the road will be a little easier. Maybe it is time that I get myself a book and educate myself about the basics of troubleshooting. After all, I do intend to get an RV for myself soon since my dream job is to be a nature journalist. Thanks for the tips.
- You may need ventilation to replace humid inside air with drier outside air. Plugging and insulating ceiling vents with something that seals the vent but also can be removed easily is important. To insulate ceiling vents, purchase factory-made vent plugs or use rigid insulation cut to the size of the opening and wrapped with duct tape to strengthen it.
Note: Although many or even most cold weather RVers use electric heaters, some people say it’s not safe to do so, and there are horror stories surrounding their use. I am comfortable with our setup and willing to accept any associated risk, but please do your own research and get to know your camper or motorhome’s electrical systems before making the decision to use one.
RV parks have all your basic amenities—bathrooms, showers, washateria (not all of them), internet (typically slow wifi), and the occasional pool. One of the first things we realized early on was the difference between an RV Park vs. a Trailer Park. RV parks are places where RVers like us or retirees typically stay. A trailer park is… well, what you think of when you think of trailer park.
Thank you a summary of your “road” costs. What folks generaly believe is somehow life is cheaper doing something else then what they are doing now. But we have a perpensty to do what is always do no matter what. Just because you are on the road dosn’t mean you have changed your personality. My wife and I are more like you folk so I’m guessing my expenses will be more in line with your summary.
Kaelee This is a very big questioned that you just asked because each person's situation varies so much. At the very least I suggest reading everything you can about living and/or traveling in an RV (especially my own articles here, of course lol). Find some RV forums, read, and ask questions. Visit RV dealerships and look at many, many RVs to see which type would work best to suit your needs, finances and goals. Talk to lots of RV mechanics to learn about the inner workings of RVs. Take a professional driving course. If, after doing all of this, you still want to give it a go, have at it! Most importantly, do not try to "fly blind" on this one. Knowledge is power. Good luck and happy trails.
Seems like you have came to the same conclusions as we have for winter AK living! Only one disagreement: solar. Nice, love it, but we actually found our honda eu1000 generator to be more cost effective for the initial purchase and more reliable. I think that is why so many rvers go that route. I really want to try a wind turbine although! We both know how much wind we get.
Last winter, we spent the week leading up to the new year with around 40 other rigs in the Anza-Borrego desert. It was truly one of the most memorable New Year's Eve nights we've ever experienced. We sang karaoke (well, not us, we watched karaoke), burned a plywood borrego, and ate like kings at a potluck out in the middle of nowhere. It was pretty fantastic. From there, we broke off with a smaller group in search of better internet and continued with the community happy hours. We then hiked it up to Quartzsite for an Xscapers convergence and another gathering of close friends. It was a pretty great way to spend a month, especially before we all dispersed in different directions for the spring.