Gear / Modifications – Your RV dealership may or may not provide some of the basic “gear” that is needed to live and travel in an RV (see our Gear Guide here). You may also want to complete certain upgrades for safety or convenience. For example, we were not happy with the tires that came on the Fifth Wheel, and purchased all new tires (at our own expense). Many RVers like to boondock, or camp off-grid, and outfit their RV with solar. Others remodel and paint, change flooring or fabric to make it their own. This is often an ongoing expense that you should budget for as just like in a sticks and bricks home, people like to upgrade and make changes to improve their daily lives.
I really did enjoy this article. I haven’t camped in Alaska but I have camped in some very cold weather in a tent camper, so I do have a couple of hints. I warm my camper up on very very cold nights with three oil lamps. I use ultra pure lamp oil because it does not smell at all. I have a couple very small oil lamps that I use when we go to bed. I turn them down very low and can turn them up if I have to get up in the night. This saves battery power. If you can place bubble wrap over your windows it lets in light and keeps out the cold.
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.
I think the best thing a person could possibly do if they KNOW they’ll be wintering in their RV is to buy an RV that’s set up for all-season use. Those have better insulation and even heated basements to prevent pipes from freezing. They cost more (of course) and are likely heavier, but I will never spend another winter in a cold climate in an RV that isn’t set up at the factory for winter use.
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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.
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!
Totally depends on HOW you travel. I have male buddies who travel in vans that live this lifestyle for around $12,000 per year (look up ToSimplify, CheapRVLiving and Van-Tramp in my blog links), and I have friends who use much, much more. I would say you can do it on anything from $1,000/mo to $5,000/mo depending on how far you travel, where you stay, how frugal you are etc.
Loved all the info. I will be winter camping this year in my 2008 Itasca Maridian motorhome. Will be in the coach three to four days a week. I ‘m a marketing person for a company that’s in the midwest. will be in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. Will try and hook up to shore poer when possible but will always have the diesel generator to fall back on when camping at Wal-Mart parking lot.. I understand the skirting around the bottom and the benifits but with the short amount of time in between locations this is not practical. I will try insulation in the wet bay along with small heaters in basement and wet bay areas. I will also try space heaters in the coach along with reflective insulation sheeting. Went camping this past weekend with family it got down to +25 degrees. I went through 3/4 tank of propane in there nights. The furnace would turn on and off about every 5 to 10 min. apart . The coach would warm up and within 2min after shut down you could feel the temp drop inside coach. Any other ideas would be great. Heat pump did great during the daytime temps in the 50s
There is land for sale and, with the right utility connections, an RV or tiny house would make a great home. Have you spoken to a Realtor? I know there’s a lot for sale at the very end of my road, but it’s a bit too close to the power lines out there for my taste. The place across the road was for sale, but he’s since taken the sign down and, frankly, he was asking a crazy high price anyway. I don’t know anything about leasing land, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s land for rent, too. A Realtor would know.
Enter PEX. My friend Mike, who’d done most of the interior work on his home in Wenatchee Heights, had raved about it. I did some research. PEX was more costly than PVC but less costly than copper. It didn’t require any welding — or whatever it is that people do to copper pipes to join them — and it was flexible. There were two kinds of fittings. One kind required special (costly) crimping tools. The other kind, known as PTC, let you literally snap pieces together, with no special tools at all. All I needed was a PVC pipe cutter (which I already had) and a very inexpensive tool I could use to separate joined pieces if I made a mistake. The snap fittings were a bit more costly than the crimp type, but I only needed a few. I bought a 100-foot roll of blue 3/4 inch PEX.
I’ve been daydreaming about purchasing a 25′ Airstream trailer and hitting the road full time, and have enjoyed many of the posts on your site. Of all the posts across the blog, this is the one I’ve come to the most times as it’s rare to find such detailed and thorough listing of expenses, which is incredibly useful for a total newbie! Our lifestyles and spending habits seem similar, so I find myself returning to this page frequently while planning my would-be road finances.
You’ve decided to fulfill your heart’s content by exploring the world and being constantly on the move. Nothing could serve you better on the road than a fifth wheel. They’re spacious, durable, easy to tow, and have state-of-the-art features so you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything! For buyers like you, we’ve made our list of the top 5 best fifth wheels for full time RVing. Read on to find out!
how workable do you think it is to slowly accumulate a group of websites of whom you’re an affiliate (rv’ing stuff?) to help or maybe even completely pay your RV’ing costs as you traverse the country (sounds like a doable niche in itself to me) ? I’m a retired programmer and on SS now, but would like the security of knowing I wasn’t completely dependent on SS while travelling. I love your site, BTW. Thanks – Bob

My husband and I both work online, so we were able to earn an income while we traveled. We relied on campground Wi-Fi signals and cell data for Internet service. Even with a Wi-Fi booster, getting fast Internet was often a challenge on the road, especially on weekends when many other campers were using the same signal. We would often have to relocate to boost our signal, and there were plenty of times we had to work in a local coffee shop or Walmart.
1980s Vanagons can go for quite a few dollars. I recently met a guy who bought a decent one, with the Westy camper and all, for $4000, and he’s in Texas. If you look out west, though, prices are typically higher as those vans are in high demand. A search on Craigslist in Bend shows them going from $3000 – $30,000. The latter is insane, but I believe people get that much for a well maintained, running vanagon with a camper. Still, it’s insane.

7. Have fun!: Copy your CDs or DVDs over to a laptop and consider investing in an e-reader. Of course, a good deck of cards, or other compact board games, can go a long way while on the road. Additionally, a bike rack and some hiking equipment will come in handy for all of your destinations. The real fun of RV living is getting to travel each day, so make sure you have everything on hand to best enjoy your destinations.

​​For us, we sold everything and quit our jobs, so we had zero income at the start of our journey. It was important to track all our expenses carefully so that we could stay on the road for as long as possible while not bringing in any income. We had enough in savings to comfortably go a year or two without making any money. You’ll want to figure out what your limit is so you don’t find yourself hitting the bottom of the bank before you make any changes.


When I travel on a 6-8 week roadtrip with two people, my expenses average about $100/day. That includes food, fuel, and lodging. I drive a lot (20,000 miles/ yr), so my expenses are high. When I stay at an RV park in FL for the winter, my expenses are lower because I have little to any fuel expenses. Lots of RVers spend less than I do because they drive fewer miles and often do free camping on Federal land. Also, some don’t include food expenses because those expenses would be the same if they didn’t do RV travel.
Hi! My husband and I want to go from living in a home to rving around America. Mostly because we want to find where we want to settle down to have and create a sustainable farm but we really would love to have adventures and explore as well. We have three kids 7,4, and seven months. Our goal is to have an rv and sell all our things or most by July of next year. The only thing we are wondering about at the moment is how you fund living this way? Do you have a business that allows traveling? Also do you ever set up a tent for your older kid to be able to get away and have a quite place? One more question is schooling. I do unschooling but was curious what you do for school? Thanks!
$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!
Definitely! The “fun” budget is something I include in our “entertainment” category and that’s definitely a part of the flexible budget that’s worth planning for when you go fulltime RVing. We actually spend less on entertainment than we did when we lived in a stix and brix in CA (mostly because we go out to eat less than we did when we both worked in a corporate job), but we do spend something in this category every month. It’s year-round entertainment now 🙂
You could also go the old-fashioned route and pick up some actual board games to take on the road. many lifelong camping memories revolve around evenings spent at the table over a pair of dice, a deck of cards, and a game of chance and strategy. You can’t go wrong with favorites like Monopoly, Scrabble, Sorry or, for younger players, Candy Land — although fun, new games are still being produced all the time. Have you played Speak Out yet?
I’ve spent quite a bit of time skimming through forums and have found some overall themes on types of rigs. My only concern with my current is size. When I purchased it with the purpose of a few months at a time it was perfect but full-time is another matter. Most blogs on the subject say- stay small as possible but then focus on Class A or 5th Wheels- not so small. Other concerns are roof construction, slide out reliability, moving versus squatting, etc. I am single so that cuts down on size requirements but again, how much space is too little? Doing research on parks in my state (FL) most public parks become site limited past 36 feet with the most sites rated for 20-35 foot rigs- easier to get and make reservations.
Personally, I prefer the smaller the better, but you will need to make that choice on your own. Check out this service if you want to try and give a couple of different types of RVs a spin before you buy, even if it’s just for a weekend here or there. Probably less likely to get a truck / trailer combo on that setup, though, but look around, you never know!
I think the best thing a person could possibly do if they KNOW they’ll be wintering in their RV is to buy an RV that’s set up for all-season use. Those have better insulation and even heated basements to prevent pipes from freezing. They cost more (of course) and are likely heavier, but I will never spend another winter in a cold climate in an RV that isn’t set up at the factory for winter use.
We are avid birders and love the solitude of nature. We imagine we will be staying and volunteering in wildlife refuges, state parks and boondocking for the most part. We are looking at the Northwoods Arctic Fox 32-5M (34’11’).( We love our daily yoga practice and need a floor plan that fits 2 yoga mats) We are heading to the Northwoods dealer in Oregon in the beginning of april to see about trading our truck in for a diesel long bed and buying the fifth wheel. Northwoods just came out with a new fifth wheel floor plan that rocks(35-5z) but it is 38’11”. In regards to bigger is not better do you have any guidance here to help our decision making process? I know this is a very personal decision. ANY input will be helpful. It is just the two of us and our binoculars, camera, bird books, and laptop computers for the most part. This is such a huge decision and we will be living with it for a long time.
We have been using ours since Mark installed it in 2008, both during the winter and the summer, and we love it. We have a whole blog post explaining how this kind of heater works, what the technologies are behind the different styles of vent-free propane heaters on the market, what kind of heat each type of heater produces, and how to install one here:
Just found your site. What a relief it is to find other like minded souls. My wife and I are currently in the scared as sh$* phase as we are putting the house up for sale next month. We did our budget and are more conservative (have higher monthly allowances) than you are showing so it is comforting seeing it can be done for that. Love the idea of living life as we choose and will be following your site and really digging into your tips and suggestions over the next few months. Keep up the great postings! They are very inspirational!
Nothing could be further from the truth! We too were concerned how our dog Ella and cat Mr. P would handle life on the road. But we quickly learned, they might actually enjoy it more than us! Longer driving days certainly took a little getting used to, but in short time Mr. P loved his spot on the dashboard basking in the sun while Ella reveled in our 20-minute play sessions during travel day stops.
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.
Nina, I am hoping to set aside some money from the selling of our home and trying to stick close to my financial goals for how much the travel trailer, tow vehicle, and merchandise will cost. Only a real estate agent will tell me if I have that as a realistic number goal wise. I hope to contact a real estate agent next year to see how much the house could sell for after paying the Michigan real estate transfer fee and real estate commission plus how long it will take to sell the house. If I am realistic on that amount, then and only then will I travel down to Indiana to see how much the dream travel trailer will cost or otherwise the Northwood Arctic Fox will have to be it based on what I have seen so far. About the upgrades – most of the things that you would consider an upgrade will be on the travel trailer or merchandise wish list already. Plus you like Mr. Buddy while I will see how the goose down sleeping bags do as those only weighs 8 pounds for the two of them. Plus some of the merchandise that we have is getting old and needs replacing (want to purchase new after getting the travel trailer). There were other things included in the merchandise start up costs such as GPS, maps, kitchen, tools, furniture, sewer/water related products, bathroom, spare parts, cleaning stuff, etc. The solar power was low since I want to have more solar power and another battery or two than originally budgeted for.
We are just putting our house on the market. timing is not perfect but at least we have made the decision. We are really looking forward to hearing more helpful information. The storage thing is a little difficult we have been married 50 years and we know that we will not be able to do this forever. We also know that we have a life style to come back to. So it has been a challenge. Happy trails
He did not seem like he wanted to move . . . we all quickly ran up the hill on the side of the path and waited for him to pass . . . He made a few grunting noises at us and walked past. In the meantime, Craig had gotten his bear spray out just in case! We were glad it wasn’t a bear but were all still a little freaked out. Luckily he just walked by and went on his way.
Lillian, you took the words right outta my mouth. I don’t understand the haters, but I know they’re out there. I, too, appreciate the expense breakdown of full time RVing. I’m 6 years away from making the leap myself, and it’s nice to see in black and white where monies get spent, and it might be in some areas that I hadn’t considered. People can always adjust accordingly. Reading Nikki and Jason’s posts and watching their videos has convinced me that when my wife and I pull the trigger, we’re going solar and installing composting toilets. I wouldn’t even know they existed if not for this website. Thank you, Wynn’s!
Since we live in a mobile home park and are connected to a city water supply, we have never used our fresh water tank, and we needed to protect our fresh water line from freezing.  To do this we purchased a Pirit brand heated hose.  Some people wrap their regular hose with heat cable and pipe insulation, but our water connection is so far from the city water pipe that we wouldn’t have saved much money doing it that way.  We have been happy with our heated hose; it is very convenient and we left hooked up (but unplugged) over the summer as well.
This transition to full time entrepreneurs has pushed Craig and I to dive deeper into our relationship and how we work together. We will be the first to tell you we do not work the same. I like to go at 110 miles an hour and dive into everything and push through it. Craig likes to take a slower approach where he analyzes things and doesn’t like to have too many things going on at one time.
This is an amazing lifestyle to live with your kids. There’s lots of downtime to just hang out and enjoy each other and tons of adventuring and exploring. Overall, it’s an awesome way to deepen your family bond! After 3 years of living this way, we have always been able to figure out how to make it work so everyone can enjoy this journey we are on!
This article isn’t personal financial advice, but it does show you how a wide range of RV experts handle the financial aspect of their lifestyle. We’re grateful to all the experts who responded—especially considering the fact that we asked for personal financial information. We really appreciate the sincerity, transparency, and humility of everyone who took part in this survey. Thanks, guys!
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??
The boys certainly don’t dislike traveling (They keep reminding us we haven’t been to Hawaii and asking if there’s a chance we can go to Europe soon.) but they were developing a “been there and done that” attitude and were ready for new challenges, the challenges that come with dealing with teachers other than mom and relationships that are more face to face than virtual. Traveling full time in the RV gave them so many experiences and the life lessons are still unfolding, teaching us even now as we adapt to a stationary life, but there are lessons to learn from living in community as well.
Thank you for giving me some ideas. I am interested in going on long trips, and or living in an rv. Of course different lifestyles change the amounts of money. But, do you think a single person, in a realistically priced trailer, with a decent size truck, and doesn’t require a lot of entertainment and food, do you think I could make it? I am but a modest lady wanting to travel some. I appreciate your advice. Thank you.
Like the big roof insulation R-factor that doesn’t account for the hatch vents, the well advertised high R-factor in the walls doesn’t account for the windows, which is where much of the heat in a rig escapes, especially at night. Closing the blinds makes a difference. When we’re in a remote area with no one around, we prefer to keep the blinds open so the first light of morning fills the rig. But we can’t do this in the wintertime unless we want to wake up to a rig that is 5 degrees cooler than it could be.
Worst case scenario: our RV’s transmission went out a month before we were supposed to head out on our trip. That took $2000 out of our emergency fund before we even started, but it gave us peace of mind that the transmission would be good for the trip. So, we kind of got lucky. Moral of the story: have an emergency fund that can cover your worst case scenario.
Love you guys! You have such great energy and enthusiasm and are ready for an adventure! We have been on the road for a year now and have discovered Corp of Engineer’s parks. They are lovely, well kept and reasonable. (for us older folks they are half off too… usually have elec. And water and run $14-20 a night. We do have solar and AGM battery so have boondocked on BLM land too, which is definitely a money stretcher. You probably know all this already. Best to you, Cathy
*About the hose that will not drain properly.  To be fair, that is what the person was trying to accomplish.  By forming this "P-Trap" in the line they could leave their dump valve open all the time without sewer gas entering their RV.  You could certainly do this where you need not worry about freezing temperatures.  However, if it freezes, it will block the flow and possible rupture the hose.
It also takes a long time to let go of old living patterns and establish new ones. When we first started fulltiming we were accustomed to one- and two-week vacations, and we lived as though we were on vacation. It was only after a few months on the road that we began to realize, deep inside, that we didn’t have to see all the sights in three days. We could stay three weeks and see them only when it was sunny and when we were in the mood for sightseeing.

To set up residency in almost any state all you have to do is establish a physical address at a place like mailboxes and more or the UPS store has mailboxes that count as a physical address and you need to receive bills like a power bill, or other utility bill. You will need to have these bills with your address on them when you go to the licensing dept. to get your new license that makes you a residence. It gets easier or more difficult depending on the state.
Well we just closed the deal. We have our new 2012 Monaco Vesta 35PDB. We will pick it up at the end of this week. They need to prep it and I am having them install solar panels and a satellite dish. I do have a queston on tire pressure monitor system. I have been reviewing them on Amazon and not sure which one to go with. I never had one on our 2001 36′ Winnebago but I would like to get one for the Vesta. What do you have and how do you like it?

Neither of us knew anything about RVs. My parents and I lived in a small travel trailer off and on for three years when I was in elementary school, and Mark’s family lived in one for a few months while his dad was transferring jobs, Other than that, neither of us had spent any time in an RV since we were kids. While Mark had towed several big boats and U-hauls, neither one of us had ever towed even a small camper, let alone a king-sized RV like those you see on the roads today.
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.
Unlike Maintenance & Repair costs which must be done (although some can be put off until you have the funds to do them), upgrades to the rig are entirely optional. The figure here is the average of all our improvement and upgrade costs on our truck and trailer since we bought them rather than just the upgrade costs we incurred during our six months of summer travel in 2014.
I was raised on a farm with not much but we didn’t mind. We were warm, clothed,sometimes used, and not hungry. I don”t think it is a bad thing to not have much money… it teaches us a better way of life, and how to treat others. ( I’m 62) take your time and get it the way you want it… but if you find that it just wasn’t quite what you thought… change it. It is a real good thing you both are on the same page!! I am still learning…I guess that doesn’t ever stop. I will keep following you. One thing Doug and Stacey have that you don”t and I just got is a “sun oven”..
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