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.

I think school bus conversions are awesome! But, I’d just mention that you should decide what kind of life you want to have – one where you work to make money to pay for your RV’s monthly installments, and get one that’s in good enough shape that you don’t have to constantly be working on it, or a life where you can work less because you buy a cheaper / older rig, work on it yourself, but will likely work on it a LOT more often than a newer one. I have always chosen to work on cheaper things myself, but it’s a personal choice. Sounds like an exciting time in life for you, James!
I am so very excited I found this site! I Googled costs and you were on the front page. Consider this day one of my research into living out of an RV. I will absolutely be living on a smaller budget however this is all fantastic information. I have 10 months until my lease up. In this time I am researching making an RV me home. Feeding a wanderlust I have been fighting for about 8 years now seems appropriate. If you were on a much stricter budget, where would you suggest someone purchase a RV? I am currently slightly hung up on owning “a fifth wheel?” because I own an SUV with a hitch already. However both are options. Thank you in advance! I am going to watch all your videos! It’s cool, I have a very long 10 months to get through them.
We began our search for a new RV the moment we decided to sell our old one. My heart bleeds gypsy blood and to not have an RV would make the next few years feel even more like a prison than it already does. Okay, so I’m being a little dramatic but we love having an RV for many reasons. It makes traveling affordable. RVing allows us to be remote or as urban as we want to be. It’s one of the ways our family connects and creates forever memories. RVing allows for more comfortable and extended visits with family. I love my family but I also love my space.
Even though our current income is more than what unemployment insurance pays, that experience helped to change my attitude and taught me how to be content with what I had. I decided I had a choice – since I couldn’t change how much money we had I could be thankful for what we did have and be creative in learning how to manage, or I could become depressed and have a sour attitude about life in general. The choice seemed clear.
We are new to your blog and new to the world of RVing. We are in the process of selling the house and plan to become fulltimers within the next 3-6 months. Our big issue right now is with size. We like our creature comforts, but we also want to use state and national parks and forests as much as possible. In your comments you suggested that the next time you might stay in the 36-38 foot range. We are thinking 40. I recently read something that indicated that anything over 35 would rule out 85% of state and national parks. If that is true, how much worse does that number get if you are in a 40 footer vs something in the 36-38 range? And, if the percent available is pretty much the same between 36 and 40, why not go 40?
We try to find parks that are around $30 a night. We use our Passport AmericaPassport America discount as often as possible, which saved us around $700 during our first 6 months of RVing! We don’t boondock as often as we’d like, mainly because we didn’t consider this when purchasing our first RV. The fifth wheel we bought didn’t have very large holding tanks, which limited us in how many days we could dry camp. If you are shopping for an RV, be sure to read these tips first to avoid making similar mistakes we did.
I am not the best cook, and I’m ok with admitting that. To me, it’s a bit stressful, and not to mention, it’s a lot of work that most of the time really isn’t worth it. So, Brett does the majority of the cooking for our little family, but I do help. I LOVE chopping veggies and fruit. I find it very soothing. At supper time, two is quite literally “too many cooks in the kitchen”. Most of the time, I will chop, peel, and slice while sitting at the table. That works out great unless the kids are coloring, crafting or working on school assignments.  

I talked to you on IRV2 before. I go by “Rollingsmoke” on there. Got the name from the woodstove I built and had in my motorhome. I never plugged in anywhere was always random ” camping “;) in the mountains…. If you want some tips on how to have running water in the winter feel free to ask. I can give you a few tips. Either way works but I liked having running water. It’s challenging but doable.
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.
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.
Pro Tip: Even if you don’t insure your RV through Good Sam, you should definitely spring for their Roadside Assistance service. It’s $80 a year and completely worth it. Plus, if they can’t get to you in time for roadside assistance, they will pay for whoever does end up coming out to save you from the side of the Interstate. After getting a blown tire outside of Coalinga, California, I’m a HUGE fan of Good Sam’s Roadside service. Getting our tow dolly tire replaced billed us $150, which Good Sam promptly reimbursed us for. I’m a huge fan of any service that pays for itself. (PS They don’t pay me to say nice things about them, but they should.)
Great read and well done! Being a 60 + newbie my wife and I had some angst about our new full-time journey but after reading your real-life experience we both will be resting a lot easier tonight in our 5th Wheel. Most all you Top 10 were planned out and made ready. We are prisoners to our storage costs but feel ok with that due to our 3, maybe 4, year plan. We will be down sizing at a minimum with cost but feel the short run and future needs make it ok. Again, great job, thanks for sharing, I got you booked marked. Do you have. Facebook page? Lionel

I traded couches for hammocks and couldn’t be happier.  There’s a reason why pictures of hammocks are associated with vacation and relaxation.  I dare you to try lying in a hammock and not feel absolutely in heaven while you are there.  We have an ENO Hammock which you can hang from trees so wherever we are we can lie back and watch the sky.  The benefits of getting horizontal on your adrenal health is incredible.  If we ever move back into a house, I’m hanging a hammock inside.  
another outstanding post–and very timely for me-have finally reached a decision re hitting the road after following your blog and so many others–a great source of inspiration and information. have been doing lots of research on the forums and just signed up for the Escapees Boot Camp as a walk-in. will finalize my thinking re rig size and other items soon and this input is great!! hope to hit the road by the end of the year as the “downsizing” is already completed and most is in storage–need to “just do it”!! thanks again for all the info–really enjoy your posts–you guys have been a big inspiration
The following comparison shows precisely what would be typical for me and my family, which includes mom, dad, three kids (two toddlers and a teenager), and grandma, a family of 6. Your results may vary. The “Home” table reflects averages for the entire US. We then compare it against our own costs, and those of average prices for new and used RVers, except where those costs wouldn’t change based on the rig you have. Links to sources inline.
We had to skirt our first RV and it worked like a champ. We called the Miller Family from RVSkirting.com and even though they couldn’t install the skirt for us they helped us get set for a last minute freeze in Breckenridge, CO and gave us the confidence that we could install it ourselves. Most manufacturers and dealers don’t understand skirting so make sure you do lots of research or give these guys a call if you have questions about winter camping.If you plan to be in an area with snow you can try the poor man’s skirt, it works pretty well: Take a shovel and pile up snow all around your coach up to the bays. Pack the snow well and it can last for months. During an extreme freeze put a space heater under your coach, don’t worry it shouldn’t melt the snow…I call this the Igloo effect!

I was wondering what your thoughts are on a woman (myself) doing this alone? In two years my teenage son will be 18 and my plan is to sell the one bedroom condo we live in and hit the road. You are actually the first site/blog I read when I googled how to rv? I am a very adventurous person and have always wanted to travel. I desperately need so peace and relaxation in my life and love nature. I will continue to research and read your blogs to get as much info as possible. I haven’t even checked pricing yet but I was think buying an rv and living in it and traveling full time makes a lot more sense then putting my money right back in a condo. I want to feel free and I always feel that way when I get out of town. Any advice or direction as to where I should start would be very much appreciated.
When we first started RVing many years ago we had a pop-up trailer that we loved. We would park it under the shade of the Sequoia trees in the Sierra Nevada Mountains or along the California Coast. It was perfect for that time of our lives. Since then we’ve discovered we love winter RVing so a pop-up isn’t going to work. We’ve also grown a bit and were spoiled by our 41’ Gateway fifth wheel.

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.
We all have those items that are our staples. You’ll sit there and try to justify whether you should or should not bring them along. Our advice: BRING THEM! Make room for them. Make it work! If they make your life easier/better, they deserve to make the cut. You don’t even have to justify it. We are so happy we chose to bring along the items that we love and have used for years, even though some of them may seem unnecessary when your space is limited.
I think RV living would be awesome but I’m not sure if we could do it full time (or that my wife would want to) but I could see us trying an extended trip someday. I couldn’t imagine it with 3 kids though – our 1 daughter keeps us busy enough 🙂 I’m glad to hear that shifting to RV living full time has been a good experience and that your online work seems to be going well! Enjoy the experience!
I really liked the couple I bought it from; they were only the second owners and had owned it for 5 years. They took it out a couple times a year. They smogged it (California) and put new front brakes on it before turning it over to me. I knew it needed new tires (the tread was good, but they were old an cracked) and they told me the truck A/C needed to be recharged.  They were asking $9,000, I paid $8,000.
My only issue with this article is the title “The real costs” which implies that you are about to tell us that full time RVing is not as cheap as some people might think. Instead you provided your expenses which I would speculate are much higher than the average. As a number of people mentioned your lot rent is perhaps two to three times higher than the typical rent.
Tom Conces is a friend we’ve bumped into on the road several times over the past few years. He reached out to me a little over a year ago and asked “what do I need to do to survive in my RV during freezing temperatures?” Ya see Tom is a much crazier photographer than I am, he wanted to park his RV in subzero temps in order to photograph bald eagles as they swoop down in the snow banked rivers to catch fish. I told him you’re crazy, then I said read our post on How to Prepare an RV for a Freezing Winter Adventure. Needless to say Tom learned a few things while freezing his tail off in the Midwest during Winter, so I thought he should share his experiences (from the horse’s mouth as the saying goes).
Last but certainly not least, we no longer have the diesel 3500 Chevy dually to pull the RV. After some discussion we decided that we didn’t want to continue paying those expensive truck payments for a truck that our entire family couldn’t fit in. In hindsight, we should have bought a less expensive truck that seated six. Or maybe not. Six of us in a truck would have been tight especially with two car seats. So after a lot of research we decided to buy a diesel Ford Excursion. I’ll do another post on buying the new SUV because a lot of  research went into it but the short of it is that it can seat six people comfortably and it can haul a heavy load giving us more options for travel trailers, the point of this post.
It’s a good tip. We used to have business cards and still exchange them on occasion, but I have to admit we’ve gone mostly online now. I connect with lots of folks through either Facebook or Instagram, and of course there’s also RVillage where you can check in and see where various folks and groups are on a map. Lots of good ways to stay connected.
For electrical power I also will be going with the solar panels (only a few more) but will use a bank of 6 volt batteries and a 3000 Watt inverter, which gives many hours of power and used only when necessary you have a few days of power. I also have a gas Kubota generator for emergencies and a small rechargeable battery booster unit for emergencies. Have used it and it works great.
This item is here because it is a regular part of the boondocking lifestyle (you’ve gotta go every two to three weeks at a minimum). Many RV dump stations are free, but if you have to go to an RV park to dump the tanks because there aren’t any free ones nearby, it will generally cost anywhere from $5 to $15. Our RV dump station page has other tips and tricks related to managing the holding tanks.

Tim you are certainly impressing the hell out of me. I love what you are doing and have been doing the same for about the last 6 months, however, in a much smaller unit. Mine is a truck and older style pop up camper. The winter in the mountains I have been in are far too cold for an old fool like me but I made it work with a few nights in motels and a couple of trips back to the shack for a few days and a couple of weeks on a stretch but for the most part, the camper was home. The morning jumping up and lighting the stove top naked was no fun either.

For electrical power I also will be going with the solar panels (only a few more) but will use a bank of 6 volt batteries and a 3000 Watt inverter, which gives many hours of power and used only when necessary you have a few days of power. I also have a gas Kubota generator for emergencies and a small rechargeable battery booster unit for emergencies. Have used it and it works great.
Depending on your RV's design, you may need to take extra steps to protect your fresh water and holding tanks from freezing. In milder climates, where the temperature routinely rises above freezing during the day, you can usually get by with draining your fresh tank and simply keeping both the gray and black tank valves closed until you need to dump them. If it gets down into the single digits at night and rarely rises above freezing during the day, then you will almost have to insulate and/or heat your tanks or use significant amounts of RV antifreeze in them to keep things flowing…. If you are parked for a while, tank insulation for exposed holding tanks can be fabricated from fiberglass insulation and light plywood… just build a small lightweight box around the tank and line it with fiberglass. A small electric light bulb can be used to provide a safe source of heat.
I am fortunate in that my company pays for my cell phone. This includes the grandfathered “unlimited” data plan. However reliable that is though we still look for campgrounds and camping sites that offer reliable WiFi and relish in those moment we get to a cafe or a friends house that will allow us to download a movie or two for future watching. Let it be known though that our call phones and our ‘net connection are essential to our livelihood and therefore our lifestyle. My wife does have a Verizon “Pay As You Go” that we purchase minutes for on a semi-regular basis (every four months or so). For a good look at what WiFi on the road may cost though feel free to check out the expenses of Technomadia.
We also use uscampgrounds.info. Great resource. Full-timing is certainly not for everyone. It requires some risk taking, overcoming fears of the unknown, saying good-bye to family and friends, and doing some things that may not seem wise. In the beginning, Paul admits, that one of his biggest full-timing faults is, he has difficulty “rolling-with-the-punches.” I find that the most challenging thing is not looking back so much. I love to reminisce and this leads me to get a bit melancholy. We have enjoyed worshipping with many different denomination and at nondenominational churches. We have made so many new friends that we stopped counting. This is one of the biggest advantages to our lifestyle. Thanks, Nina, for the great blog and giving Paul and I a few minutes of reflecting on our past year.
We have met several full-timers who are members of the Moose Club and Elks Club and use their RV facilities on a regular basis. This seems like a terrific option, although we have not joined either organization yet. Membership requires a sponsor, but each time we’ve stopped in and inquired, people have offered to be sponsors right at the bar! The membership fee is on the order of $100 or so a year and overnights in the RV parks are $10 to $20 or so. Some lodges without formal RV park sites may allow members to dry camp in the parking lot if there’s room.
Clothing is something to consider as well. You’ll likely have less space to store a huge wardrobe, but you will also likely be exposed to more climates and variety of venues – thus requiring a well balanced selection. We tend to do a lot of thrift shopping for our clothing, this helps us affordably adapt to local weather & venues.  But we’re also not afraid to spend good money for quality staples in our wardrobe.
Truck Tires (6 for our dually truck) and an oil change for the diesel engine $1,450.96. These tires were 3 years old and had about 50,000 on them, but the tread was starting to wear and we saw cracking in the sidewall of a few tires. We made the decision to replace all 6 at once. We feel that tires are a high priority because our lives and home are resting on them when we travel.
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.
I have been throwing this idea around to my husband. He is a railroader and is gone many days at a time. I was thinking of getting a small cabin as a home base and an RV we could travel with him in and go other places when he is not working. It’s a big crazy idea! I keep going back and forth on it, but we really miss him and he misses out on my boys. What are some of the downfalls of this lifestyle?
It Sounds like your rear brakes may be freezing up. Are you setting the parking brake? If so there is probably moisture in the brakes and when you set the parking brake, (which sets the rear brakes only) the brakes then cool and the moisture turns to ice, thus freezing the brake pads to the brake drum. I am assuming this is the trouble because they seem to release when you try to reverse, which is a common reaction to this problem.
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.

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!
$5,800 Additional Gear – Well……I dropped my 5dmkii in the water; oops. So I had to purchase a new 5dmkiii and a few other small items I needed for filming. Insurance will likely cover the majority of these costs so I’ll take that into account on the next financial post. Also we purchased Nikki a new laptop (she was using an old one and the battery wasn’t working), now she sits happily outside while working on the blog.
The thing is when we work is totally up to us. We could work starting at 6am or not open our computer until 10pm. It is totally up to us. We can also go out and explore a new location or just stay back at the campground and go swimming. I know it sounds great and it is, but it is puts a lot of pressure on us to make decisions about what we are going to do with our time since no one is telling us what to do.
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 guess my best recommendation would be to look at back clearance. What we’ve found boondocking with friends is that some of the longer 5th wheels have a lot of back overhang (behind the rear wheel) and/or low clearance at the back. We went to some BLM land with buddies last year that had a 38 foot 5th wheel and they were scraping the back end over all the bumps while our 42-foot MH cleared them all with no issue. It’s not a critical thing, but I think if you really feel like you’ll be doing a lot of boondocking, then it makes a difference.
When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, being able to “thrive” depends not on someone else’s description of the term, but on our own. Each of us, you and I both, need to decide what makes us happy in life. Deciding that you don’t need to be like everyone else is the first major hurdle jumped in living debt-free, and every person who decides to live without debt has their own reason for doing so.
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The various RVs were scattered about a sheet of ice. It was treacherous walking. Our neighbors were predominately construction workers with pick up trucks in abundance. We all had problems getting in and out with those, and sometimes had to park at the office for fear of not getting back out from the sites the next day. So moving the RV was not an option.

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.
If the distribution center is too hard to get to, you can opt to have the package shipped to a UPS Store or FedEx/Kinko’s store or other shipping store like MailBoxes Etc. The store will likely charge you a fee, even if it is a UPS store and you are shipping via UPS or is a FedEx/Kinko’s and you are shipping via FedEx. We’ve seen the fee range from a flat fee of $3 whenever you pick it up to $7 per day, however these stores are more likely to hold the package longer than 5 days. So, check with the store before having something shipped to them to get the details and verify how they want the package to be addressed.
Very informative site, thank you for all the work putting it together. My wife and I have a small rv and are intending traveling from Fl. to the Jackson Hole/Yellowstone area and would like to know how much hard cash we should carry. We are not trying to skimp, we don’t need to(thank God) and besides we want to enjoy ourselves, but feel we should have some cash with us but not too much.
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.
My wife and I just purchased our first travel trailer. We bought it as a way to allow our two newly adopted children from China to see their new country and create some amazing memories with us. I am sorry to hear people are judgmental and rude but we have really appreciated all the information (including personal) you have shared. I am certain for every jerk there are ten “newbies”who you have really helped and I am sure that’s why you started this site in the first place! Thanks again, keep up the great work and we look forward to seeing you at a campground in the near future!
I hate getting old as insurance goes up, but being retired with only Social Security, and not having to pay taxes sure helps. We are considering Texas as our domicile for family and our truck registration, but it depends on the cost of changing health insurance. We have an old travel trailer we bought for $4,500, so we will save if we want something newer. All we can do is try. We will have a storage place though, just in case.

You can do wonderful things in a small RV. I grew up in a small trailer home. My parents and 4 kids lived in a 8X30 mobile home. My father built bunk beds in the ‘living room’ that folded up against the wall….we had just one sofa for all of us to sit on. Everyone else sat on kitchen chairs. Most meals we ate out side on a picnic table…or in rain we had some snack trays. Toys were kept under my parent’s bed or in the back of my parent’s car.
Finally, we need to seal all those other places where cold air can enter our rig. Any compartments that open into the inside of the rig need to have good weather seals. Under the rig, there are many openings where water and gas lines enter the living area. These openings need to be sealed and some of that aerosol self-expanding foam is great for this. Alternately, foam rubber can be forced into gaps to help reduce air leaks. Finally, the entry door needs to be checked to make sure that it seals properly. Adding some inexpensive foam tape or weather-strip will really help seal those air leaks.
Thus, we ended up back in our VW Bus, which is super easy to set up / tear down, can be driven anywhere, but you loose out on space. We also want to be in more natural areas, where the larger your rig, the more difficult it is to access or get any remaining spots. But that’s just us, and it sounds like you’ll be closer to towns and therefor possibly more likely to be in RV parks, so with all of that, best of luck in making a decision!
I’m terrified and excited at the same time! We’re both In our early 50s and planning to sell our home to live a simpler life. My fear is being in a small space while a crazy storms is going on around us (our home base ATX so we won’t be on the road) or if the weather drops below 20s. My hubby wants a 5th wheel but I’m not sure because we want to try this for a year and see how we do, but of course need to make the right choice because money doesn’t grow on trees. We have two 10yr old chihuahuas who hate the thunder! Any advice?
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