This RV couple is in between 35 – 45 years old and also lives in a travel trailer. They both quit their jobs and are currently living on saved up money, which requires them to boondock as often as possible to cut costs. They aim to to find free spots to park at least half of the month. When they arrive in a new destination they like to stay anywhere from 2-4 weeks. They enjoy both outdoor activities and exploring cities.
On the one hand, these are supremely useful posts. Costs are a huge question for anyone who is considering getting on the road and one of the most searched-for items for newbie fulltimers. I remember it was one of the top things we fretted about before we went fulltiming and we had such a hard time figuring it out. Could we afford it? For how long? What kind of budget would we need? We found several blog posts, but no-one seemed to be able to give us an exact number. How are you supposed to work with that??
In addition, we get to utilize the mortgage interest off our RV payment as a tax deduction (it’s a second mortgage if you have a bathroom—see IRS laws). Besides the memories we make starting from the moment we drive out of our driveway, we are making our money go further. That means more money for more vacations! In addition you will save even more money making your own meals on your travels. Can you say “Ca-ching!”
New or Used – Our first two trailers were used and they held up great. Normally, we buy everything used so it was a big deal for us to buy a new trailer when we bought the Gateway. We had looked at probably over a hundred floorpans and it was the only one we loved everything about and it was new that year. Of course. We decided it was worth it to purchase the Gateway even though we rarely purchase new. We are facing the same problem again, a few of the floor plans we love are new this year. Obviously, we would prefer to keep cost down and purchase used. However, we don’t regret our purchasing the Gateway new at all. Surprisingly, it held its value very well and we sold it quickly. Since we had such a great experience with a new rig (the warranty is nice) we are considering new.
This includes both truck and full-time RV insurance for our 5th wheel trailer. We pay it annually, but the monthly cost is shown. If we had kept our Arizona home address, this line item would have been twice as much. There is more detailed info on the selection of a domicile (home address) and the implications that choice has on your vehicle insurance in the fulltiming section.
While you can certainly live for free out of your van, especially if you get a Northwest pass (I think that’s what Washington’s is called…or maybe you won’t need one if you’re working for DNR) then there’s ample free camping up in the Evergreen State, but you’ll still have costs. Gasoline, a solar setup if you want to have power, and propane if you want to have heat and a stove, which I would think you might in Washington…
I just found your website and am going to read all of it. I am so excited to say that we are starting to plan a full time RV trip in about 4 years. This is the start of our plan. research Research Research and by the time my daughter is about o go into high school we will hit the road. Homeschooling across america. I just wanted to take the time to say thank you for blogging. I am also researching blogging as a family, (from my point of view, from my husbands point of view and from a hormonal teenage 14 year olds point of view should be interesting) Reading your blog gives me hope to having our dream becoming a reality. And let the research begin I hope to one day meet you on the road 🙂
The time living on the road has been a lot of fun, and a big learning experience. I’ve met countless people that have influenced my life and heard stories that have rearranged my perspectives on life’s shenanigans. Most encounters have been very positive and the RV has helped open windows of connections with people that I would not have had otherwise. As for the other end of the spectrum, I’ve only had a couple of run-ins with people telling me to move on to another camping spot (literally only 2 times the last couple years).
I have spent the last 3 hours browsing many of your articles and have really appreciated your depth in explanations (from the dump station details, to which solar panel to buy to the realistic cost of repairs). My husband and I are in our mid-twenties and plan to move into an RV full time within the next few months (a cheap used one!) and then camp for free either by camp hosting or working for a free spot or most likely (for much of the year at least) living off the grid. While we won’t be traveling with it (when we travel we typically bike-tour) we will be living in it full time as we work (we work seasonally in two different locations) and plan to raise kids (at least while they are small) in it! Thanks for all the time and effort you have put into your blog and into the relevant information you share! Happy trails.
My goodness. You spend A LOT. Some of your expenses I can’t comprehend. They are or should be one-time expenses, and why the large expense for the website? Hosting is $10 a month. There are free websites. Do you pay for SEO or advertising? I am not understanding. And the cell phones. My Lord. I pay $98 per month for mine; my fiance pays $55, because with mine being a smart phone, he doesn’t need anything fancy. There are family plans, too, with most carriers. Your grocery expenses are a bit over the top, too. Do you or would you use coupons, buy red tag items, etc.? All grocery stores have clearance items, and since your space is limited, this would be ideal. You likely don’t freeze things. If you buy red tag/orange tag/yellow tag/whatever color tag items, and then you use them in the next two days, you could feed your family on as little as $10 a day. And you’d eat well. Gas costs… well, gas costs!!! A lot. No getting out of that one. There are other expenses we wouldn’t have, and I’m thinking your RV is a lot nicer and newer. Anyway, good for you for living on the road. That’s a great experience for you kids. And the Mexican dental is brilliant! People may not know that they can get great dental work done on the cheap in Mexico. That’s why there are travel medicine groups springing up.
I also found that the power steering fluid, transmission fluid and generator oil were bone dry, the engine oil desperately needed to be changed and I discovered that someone put the wrong fuel filter on, so now it’ll have to be cut off to be replaced (who knows how much that’ll cost!). It also now needs rear ABS service and the air conditioner wasn’t just a recharge, but the compressor is blown which will cost $1000. I knew an older RV would need work, but I didn’t expect it so soon…
- Keeping fresh-water lines open can be very difficult in North Dakota winters. Wrapping the hose line with heat tape and insulating with pipe insulation is an option, but this may create a fire hazard. Using the fresh-water tank on the RV might be easier if the tank is insulated and will not freeze. Also, fill the tank periodically and isolate it from the exterior
One thing in my traveling, I have to have a dependable vehicle & RV to travel with. That is the last think I want to worry about is a break down. Presently looking for that next RV trailer (Arctic Fox, ORV or Highland Ridge). Full times travel in a full range of RV’s from cars, vans, B’s, C’s and A’s classes. New million dollar rigs, to $1,000 cars or vans. All the power to them….I follow many on their YouTube channels the last 5 years.
The entire process – selling items (sometimes even your house), putting other items in storage (“we will need that someday!”), putting aside what you want to bring in the RV and then cutting that in half…and in half again. It ends up being much more difficult than you anticipated. We Googled, asked the advice from other full-timers, and went back and forth on a lot of items. Yet, we still made some mistakes.
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.
We try to keep our expenses down as much as possible with the RV. Unfortunately, there are always surprises in life. It is a good idea to make sure you purchase an extended bumper to bumper warranty. We prefer to not have to come up with a huge sum of money to fix an issue with the RV. Let’s face it, you are driving a house on wheels… things break and accidents happen. We have our warranty through Good Sam and have never had a problem with coverage. It’s definitely worth having the peace of mind. As for our other expenses, besides gas and propane, they are just simple upgrades or swap outs for house ware items, etc. We Glamp after all!
My mother always told me that if you don’t learn to live within your means, you never will. Meaning: if you can’t figure out how to life with the money you have, it doesn’t matter how much money you have – you’ll always need more. Now "never" is a strong word, but the moral is there - you have to look at your lifestyle and spending choices. If you're struggling for cash now, should you buy a brand new RV? Should you be paying $100+ a month for cable TV?
With our retirement within 5 years, your blog is a continual source of information, inspiration, and encouragement. Thank you so very much. As far as saving money, have you read “Retire to an RV” by Jaimie Hall Bruzenak and Alice Zyetz? It’s an e-book that I found on-line and downloaded (PDF-format). It seems to be a great source of “living in an RV” information including how to save money. Thanks again. Neal
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.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area offers a wide variety of accommodations, including trailer and RV parks. Area mobile home and RV businesses provide year-round sites, with full hookups and daily, weekly, monthly and annual rates. You can find a wide range of sports and activities centers for fitness and relaxation, such as golf courses, day spas and tennis facilities. The humid, subtropical climate in the area often provides pleasant weather for enjoying outdoor activities at local parks and lakes.
Cheap Heat Options – We’ve seen 2 options that seem to work well for heating the RV inexpensively in the winter (when you’re staying at an RV park for a month or more you will often have to pay for electricity, so space heaters might end up costing you some extra money each month in electricity bills). Of course you have to calculate the expense of the product and the install costs:
Hey Claire! By “gas” do you mean propane or gasoline? Because gasoline, yeah, it’s pretty expensive, right? Propane, not as much. We’ve downsized to living in a VW Bus, and we’ve been in Mexico for the past year, so it’s all warm weather down here and we rarely ever need to refill even our tiny propane tank, but in the US I recall filling our two tanks cost around $30, and we’d need to refill them every two months or so in the winter, and then they’d last all summer just powering our fridge and stove. I’ll shoot you an email, too. 🙂
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.
I found living in our Airstream (31′) in winter, in places in Ontario, Vancouver B C, Whitehorse Yukon, back in 1972 to 77; very comfortable. Airstreams have windows with double glazing, so that was a big help. Furnace worked fine. Hot water heater worked fine. Used more propane which was expected. When we were plugged in to AC power we had water (had a heat line) and sewer hook ups. I closed the bottom in with snow. We managed the humidity issues, and everything was fine. Traveled up the Alaska highway with snow and glare ice, the trailer towed perfectly with our rear wheel drive Chevy Suburban.
I am so glad to have found your site. Retirement is probably a decade away for me but I find myself dreaming about traveling around with a little trailer I plan to buy (a Happier Camper or HC1). I have started researching being a full timer. I am single, have two dogs and plan to continue having dogs. (i.e., if I don’t get to do this for 10 years, I will have two dogs then; possibly three). I would not have all the luxuries of an RV with fully equipped showers and stuff, but I guess that would cut down dramatically on some expenses too. Were I to do this today. I’d be driving my 2016 Jeep Renegade, pulling the lightweight HC1, a kayak and my bicycle. And writing about my travels. I am so glad that well-written sites like yours are out there! Any ambitions to go International in your travels? Thank you again.
Yes on the dual sided heated mattress pad. Your friend in the winter! This winter I slept on an 8″ memory foam mattress, topped with the heated mattress pad, then a 3″ memory foam on top of that. I turned on the mattress pad about an hour before I go to bed (if it isnt already on!). I cranked it up to High and turned it down to 3 or 4 when I got in bed. It will warm up the top pad. When you get in bed the top MF is soft and as you sink into it you get the warmth rising. This winter I was in a really, really cold cinderblock house in the Midwest. Last winter I did this in my Teardrop trailer with a 4″ regular foam mattress, the heated mattress pad and the 3″ of MF.
I get it. I grew up with my parents RVing all over, went in the military and traveled all over and got out and bought a small 16′ toy hauler, that lasted a year (do to the cramped style of it). we then bought a 27′ toy hauler and full timed in it for 5 years (still cramped with no slide outs)before deciding to take the leap. We now live Full time in a 36 1/2′ RV with 4 slide outs. it has a nice size bedroom w/ king size bed and washer and dryer, nice size bathroom with shower, big kitchen and dining area (which I re-modeled) and a big front living room with two fold out sofas and a complete entertainment system which I upgraded. did I mention that it’s a 5th wheel? any how, we have no problem that can’t be fixed at a lot cheaper price than a house and sleeping arrangements, she gets the bedroom and I get the sofa when snoring, which i might add is NOW very comfortable with the extra 4″ thick full length padding I added. we have a house on wheels 3 heaters, 3 AC units, wine cooler, ice maker, washer / dryer, 3 TV’s and so much more. I have added a lot of this to make life comfortable . I just wanted to say that RV living does not have to be a nightmare. It is what you want to make of it. It looks like you have decided NOT to make it a permanent life style like us and just use it as a means to get by while you build your dream home. that’s great too. however, I would change the title of your segment to “OUR 10 ugly truths of fulltime RVing in a small RV.” or something more related to the size of your RV. because when you get into the bigger RV’s your 10 ugly truths don’t really apply. except one item, GENERAL WEAR AND TEAR. I totally agree that the furniture is not made as durable as it should be. but then again things in or on a house wear out also. and that stuff will cost you a lot more than on a 5th wheel or TT Type Trailers. motor coach’s are different. depending on what breaks, they can get very expensive. I have one small question, when your house is built and you are settled in will you take your trailer out and go camping?
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.
My wife and me lived in a 19 1/2 foot Winnebago Brave class A for 8 months and oddly enough it was winter that made us move out. The way you’ve figured out solutions that works for you certainly put a smile on my face. Living with less is the only way to enjoy a whole lot more. Meanwhile you’ve got the perfect layout, especially for a unit this small. Is your band your only income source or do you find other jobs as they come along? Enjoy the moment. It’s a whole lot more precious than you’d think. I know, my body is closing down but our tiny memories are the ones I reflect upon the most. DARN IT WAS FUN!
This is such great info and good to know the numbers. It sounds like it depends on the size of the Rv and where you are staying. I stayed at an RV park for a month for $500 in Florida all utilities included. I had a travel trailer at the time. I also have noticed on the fees at some parks charge large class A motorhomes additional fees. So much to learn! Trying to go full time soon. 🙂
Legally you must carry chains to drive many mountain passes during snow storms (especially in California). If you don’t have chains on board and you get busted it’s a hefty fine. We’ve spent winters all over the states, and fortunately we’ve never had to put our chains on. Of course we watch the weather religiously before we plan to drive anywhere. If you’re flexible like we are and you know a storm is coming you have 2 options: 1. Bust out of there ASAP before the snow or 2. welcome the snow with open arms and extend your campground reservation a couple more days.
Now that we've gotten the rig pretty airtight, we've got a new problem to deal with. Moisture from cooking, washing and just our breathing raises the humidity inside the RV. As it gets colder, this moisture condenses out on cooler inside surfaces like window frames and doors. This can lead to mold and mildew, water stains or even worse. The best way to prevent condensation is to avoid introducing excessive moisture into the air. A good practice is to always use the range hood vent when cooking and the bathroom vent when showering. This will draw most of that moisture out of the rig. It may be necessary to keep a roof vent open slightly to provide some ventilation and keep condensation in check. Insulating exposed surfaces that tend to collect moisture will also help. A small dehumidifier or some of those little tubs of desiccant crystals may be necessary, depending on the RV and how many are living in it.
While living by yourself in a camper allows more space and freedom, it sure is nice having another warm body around, ha. But seriously, it does keep you a lot warmer at night if you’ve got your lady or your man by your side, so if they are up for having an experience they’ll remember the rest of their lives, have them move on board with you for a bit. And believe me, you really get to know someone when you share a 10 ft. long living space with them!
We've had this motorhome for almost two years but never had the propane system checked to see if everything worked correctly since we were in California for much of the time. Plus, we don't know how expensive it is to get this system checked. (The small propane tank is still half full.) Can electric heaters be used for inside heating as long as they're the kind that shuts off if tipped (and never left on when we leave for a few hours)?
For your expenses, you’re going to have both fixed and variable expenses. Fixed are going to be the same every month and HAVE to be paid. These are things like cell phone, internet, and insurance bills. If you have a loan on your RV or vehicle, they would also fit into this category (*Note: we highly recommend eliminating this monthly expense if possible by buying less-expensive used RVs/vehicles.) Trying to get these Fixed Costs down is key to a low-cost lifestyle, so try to find way to eliminate or reduce these when possible.
One of the easiest ways to winterize an RV is to shrink-wrap the screen door. By covering the screen door with a thin layer of plastic, you can keep the big RV door open all day long, close the screen door, and let the sunshine fill your rig with light and warmth. It is really surprising that just a thin layer of plastic on the door is all it takes to keep the cold air out and let the warm air in (if you aren’t in sub-freezing temps!!).
Thanks for the blog. Do you have any suggested blogs on full time rving with kids? My wife and I have 4 kids and the thought of cutting the cord locally while I still have my sales job (I cover all of So Cal) so I can pretty much go wherever for the timing. Basically changing scenery weekly or monthly sounds fun. Just didn’t know if you had any details on doing it with 4 little ones. Thanks!
Yes, I’m sending you a hug Raven! RV living has been lifted up quite a bit in alternative media lately, but it is never an easy decision. I go through my own emotional roller coaster of emotions about our living situation. Earlier this fall I found myself in a hard place because I started thinking about how we are about to spend our third winter here. But I am reminded every time of all the reasons I am glad we are here and how I wouldn’t change it – even if I am looking forward to our new house. The plan is to lay the foundation in the spring, so that gives me hope. Make small goals for yourselves and be encouraged every time you reach a small goal – all those small goals add up!
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.
Hey savvy savages! We have an absolutely incredible story to share today. We had the privilege of interviewing one of the coolest couples around. Heath and Alyssa from HeathandAlyssa.com share their story on how to live in an RV full time. This young couple is the definition of daring to live different and we are obsessed with their story. Enjoy! – T$C
Fuel – Before entering freezing temps make sure to add a Diesel Anti-Gel Supplement. Both Cummins and Freightliner recommend the Power Service brand of anti-gel claiming that it works best. After adding the supplement make sure you drive and run the Generator to get the additive inside the fuel lines. If possible fuel up with a winter blend fuel which can be found at many truck stops during the winter.
When we first started RVing we signed up to just about every camping club out there, Sam’s Club, Escapees, Club USA etc. In retrospect (again because of where/how we like to camp) these were not worth it. The only camping club I currently consider is Passport America, mostly for short stops and I do like the Escapees Days End list, but even these have mostly been replaced by overnight “freebies” when we need them. The rest of the time we’re out in nature/boonies where club memberships do not go. For some people clubs are great and they can certainly be cost saving if you make use of them, but for us they’ve simply not made the cut.
I’ve been trying to feel grateful for the life we had and I do. I feel extremely grateful but when I only focus on being grateful and try to bury all of the other emotions, I feel bad. I feel angry at myself for feeling any other emotion other that gratitude. Then I feel disconnected from the people around me because “they don’t get it”. And mostly I feel guilt. Guilt for feeling angry and disconnected and for basically feeling anything else other than gratitude. So then I try harder to feel grateful and the cycle would continue.
Thanks for the info. I’ve finally convinced my wife to go live in an RV full time. We’ve rented an RV twice this year and so far so good. We almost bought a new RV 2 months ago but since we’re still working, we decided not to do it this year. We own our house and still paying $1200 a monthly mortgage. I’m leaning on selling the house when I retire in 7 years and buy an RV.
My family consists of myself, my husband, and two toddlers. We are hitting the road next summer for a few months of slow cross country travel. My question is, do you have any campground memberships, and if so, which one do you think would be best for my young family? We prefer to be in more of a campground setting than an RV resort, and we would also like full hookups and bathroom facilities if possible but we would be willing to forgo the bathrooms to save on price. We want to spend a lot of time reconnecting with the outdoors and visiting some national parks. Your budget and all of the wonderful work you do has really helped me begin to plan our trip and I can’t thank you enough.
It kinda depends. Most places you can be somewhat creative on how you park, but you do want to factor some space for your extra stuff. I would start by booking larger sizes until it get a feel for how you can arrange everything on-site. We’ve been able to park in most 40-foot sites with our little toad squeezed sideways in the front. We’ve even made it into smaller sites as long as access was good and the site provided some overhang. Then again, there are some 40-foot sites that won’t fit us at all because trees are in the way, or roads turns are tight etc.
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.
Ya’ll are killing me with these videos! Each one gets funnier and funnier! Super great info for people who might be dreaming about RV living! We have friends who lived in an RV with their 3 kids! Talk about space issues! Pretty sure they stuck to warm climate areas so they could utilize the outdoors! Here’s to warmer weather…and a house someday soon!