For years, Brent and I have talked about buying a vintage trailer or bus.  In a post I wrote in March 2011, I mentioned my dream of rolling down a dusty highway in an Airstream, a shiny piece of Americana. We love bringing old things back to life. Although, we don’t have experience renovating a trailer, we did renovate two 1950s houses in California. A trailer can’t be that much harder to restore than a house, right? Years ago, when we bought our pop-up trailer, our tow vehicle was a Honda Odyssey so we were very limited by weight and budget. Today, we have a bigger budget and tow vehicle so maybe now is the time to pursue our dream of restoring and remodeling a vintage Airstream! We have a perfect space to park it while we work on it.
Hi Nina, thanks so much for the prompt reply. Follow up question to your comment “couple who had a large 5th wheel last year and they had so much low overhang on the back of their rig that it kept bottoming out on bumpy roads” Are you referring to the distance of the furthest rear axle to the back end of the 5th wheel or simply the ground clearance at the back end of the 5th wheel? I can see it being a problem the greater the distance between the rear axle to the end of the trailer on any bumpy road as being a problem, and I have seen some motorhomes that would have the same issue.
Very poorly written - lots of typos and grammatical errors. Granted, I'm extremely picky about those things, but there's no excuse for a published author to make these errors. The content wasn't all that great, either. I didn't learn anything new from reading it. There are hundreds of better-written RV books out there, don't waste your money on this one.
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!
Of course, at $500 per month this is a sparse life, but I am just showing you that it can be done. In fact I personally know dozens of people who live in their vans and make much less than $1,000 per month, so I know for a fact that it can, and is, being done right now. That still leaves us with the question, where will the money come from? Let me show you some simple strategies for living the cheap RV lifestyle.

Seeing everything our country has to offer is one of the biggest benefits of living and traveling in an RV. However, you don’t have to see the entire country in the first six months. Constant travel – traveling to a new place every day or two – will get expensive quickly. It will also exhaust you to the point where you’re ready to throw away your keys and give it all up.


Greetings. Nice post and food for thought. on size, you post that 35′ would be perfect for the two of you. What if you were traveling alone. Would 35′ be just right or more toward 30′? Just curious as I am considering 3-5 month living periods from my home as a single. Ironically some have shared that a small Class C or A would be great, like 24-26′ but as I looked at them there was little storage. The trailers of the same size had more storage. I just am not sure about the amount of storage needed yet. They all seem to have the basics but…
We are with Progressive Insurance. It helps that we have been with them for 10 years now through various vehicles, have no traffic infractions, and have not once relied on our deductible. Other than that though Jerry (which is comparable to your history) I don’t know. We don’t use an agent but rather deal directly with the insurance company, we are a one-car household, and keep low miles (by their standards).
After many years of Singapore math I realized I couldn’t keep up with Thing 1 so began the search for a new math curriculum that required less parental involvement. We tried the Art of Problem Solving which would be amazing for the right kind of kid. It was a horrible fit for us. After a few more weeks of research, I narrowed math down to Math-U-See, Teaching Textbooks, and Life of Fred. Thing 1 looked them over and chose which one he wanted to study. He chose Life of Fred and after two years I can’t say enough good things about it. (The Kahn Academy was used as a supplemental resource for extra practice when needed and not as a stand-alone program.)
Knowing how to budget for the RV Lifestyle is done when potential RVers understand why they want to become full timers and what they want to accomplish. It’s a lifestyle choice that should be carefully thought out and may take a great deal of discussion between a couple who are thinking of doing it. They should ask themselves what kind of traveling they plan to do—long distance, a slow ramble, or only move once or twice a year. Do they plan on working to subsidize their savings, or is this a once-in-a-lifetime trip? Be clear and understand the pros and cons. Understand what is required to enable you to make the decision of becoming full time RVers.
Yeah I’m really, really disappointed. The old BLM website was a bear of a thing to navigate, but had so much useful info once you figured out where to find it. The new BLM website looks sleek and snazzy, but has literally zero useful info. I keep hoping they will “flesh it out” with some of the old stuff, but I’m starting to think this will never happen. It’s such a bummer.
We create a monthly budget. While many expenses are not monthly in nature (registration, insurance, maintenance, etc.), we choose to break them up into monthly line items for our budget, and put that amount into savings each month. This ensures we don’t come up short when the expense is due. For example, our RV and truck insurance is due twice a year. We divide the amount into six and that is what we put into savings each month.

With the bigger rigs I always feel it’s harder to back-in and maneuver in tight spaces (always better with a spotter since there are so many blind spots in a big rig), whereas the smaller rigs drive more like a car and can more easily be parked without help in just about any space. Also the smaller rigs use smaller (= much cheaper) tire sizes, can get serviced at a regular oil change place (instead of a specialty truck spot), and are easier/cheaper to maintain. All stuff I’d prefer as a solo traveler.
*European type all-year RV’s (like Exploryx/Bocklet/Unicats/Action Mobil//etc, as well as the winter versions of Hymers/Concorde/etc.), will have some or all of three items: a heated fuel pre-filter, a heated airbox, and a diesel engine heater (works down to -40 Celsius). This unclogs/loosens/melts any wax in the diesel lines on the way to the engine.

Since selling our house, our monthly bills have decreased. We no longer have utility bills or cable bills. Wahoo! We did finance our RV, but the payment is nowhere near what our house payment was. Spending less on our living expenses has actually allowed us to live more. We are able to travel, have experiences, and buy recreational equipment that we would never have been able to afford before.
Odd, why on earth would anyone snub their nose at you for showing all of your expenses? I personally believe that you have done a wonderful thing with all the work you put into this blog of yours and people can simply add or remove what doesn’t apply to them! You both found a way to still bring in some added income by running a small business on the road and believe this is valuable for many who may want to free themselves from the reigns of a 9 to 5 career who may have some retirement to be self supporting, yet want that little extra to enjoy a lifestyle full timing it on the road that’s a little more comfortable and not too limiting.

Skirting your RV – If you have an RV without insulated bays, or a trailer, you will need skirting in extreme weather. The majority of RV’s are not made for extreme cold so chances are if you plan to be in consistent freezing temps you should look into investing in this. In some cases if temperatures drop below 0 degrees you will need to run a space heater under your coach (inside your skirting) to keep it warm. I stay away from propane heaters and use an electric commercial heater under our RV.


Our first major engine maintenance, including generator, was about $2k ($1200 parts including lots of spares, $800 labor – which including training us on doing it ourselves) – subsequent general engine maintenance has been much cheaper, as we’ve been doing oil, filter and zinc changes on our own.  We spent about $7k in our first year on bottom paint, changing out zincs, divers to clean the bottom ($100/mo), replacing thru-hulls, wash/waxes and other necessary maintenance. We’ll continue to track this and share.
Thank you for providing so much good info. Sorry to hear the internet trolls have been critical. Ruins it for the rest of us that want to learn. It appears your average cost of leaving is ~$10k per quarter. Really appreciate you both share what your doing. Don’t know if you have posted this, but would be interested in what each rig cost. Feel free to email direct if you like. The way you live / travel appeals to us and we are trying to figure how much it will cost initially to start the RV life style. Thanks again and safe travels 🙂
Hi-just wanted to update here for some real experience and family life. First, THANK YOU MERISSA for your invaluable advice on the choice of camper. We chose a 29′ fifth wheel-1990 model. We have a 14 and 17 year old with us. We have been here for over a month now in our camper and couldnt be happier. We camped for months on end before so the teens were used to it but I can safely say my 17 year old was not too thrilled at first. Over the past weeks however, we have actually gotten him to say that he has adjusted and is really happy here. We are in Fl so the days are perfect really while the nights are still fairly cool. We have used our heat occasionaly but prefer to bundle with blankets if we need to. Downsizing was a little difficult for a few items but actually all of us did fine. There is also plenty of storage room in this camper. The kids, whom lived in theirs rooms on x box or with cable, or both, are now together without problems most of the day and much, much less fighting (mostly about items they had anyhow….). My daughter has been home schooled so this is no change while my son has been enrolled in the local high school. He has recently, however switched half of his classes to at home online with the school (an option here) and only attends now part time. He drives himself now so it is simple. He actually did this because he began to enjoy more time here with us at the camper. Much else has changed and wanted to really put out there. I am in my mid forties- I have suffered severe migraines for the past 6 years now. My husband and I noticed when we were camping last year that they were more manageable. I was getting to be completely unable to function without days of crying and constant pain. The kids didnt have a great mom for that. Stress was another large factor, even maintenance of the house besides costs.Cleaning on top of that was just so stressful as I am leaning on OCD as a personality. I dont know which helped but I am almost certain it is being able to keep air flowing, even in the bedroom. My migraines are less frequent and when they hit I can manage them so much better. I have not slept this well in years in all honesty. I am better for the kids and we are able to do more as a family. At the house I would try to make a day to force seeing each other at least once a week. My very great kids would look forward to it and then I would be down with a migraine and not even nice to be around. We play games together a lot (our christmas was gifts for the camper such as boardgames, karaoke machine, new thick roll up comforters, more pjs and activities with books) and they read more. We do have internet but opted to not have cable. Ours comes off of a dish so that we can move next year without being tied to this spot. There are also other very nice rv parks around here within a few miles and we would like to be free to do that. Our plans have solidified more this past month; we would like to travel more when our son graduates. He would like to go to NY state next year so we are planning to head there for the nicer months. I do work now and we do get monthly rental payments from renting the house out. We would like to follow parks that need local help as part time work to add to savings but it’s not something that is a necessity for us; our expenses are much lower now for sure and we are able to save for the first time in a very long time. No taxes to pay anymore (our yearly taxes on our house actually could pay half of the monthly rent we pay here yearly including our utilities). The downside is you have to be more patient with everything; I have a 30 second rule with the kids, putting something back or washing one of our 5 plates, 5 bowls, 5 cups etc, takes 30 seconds, opening a cupboard or putting something back under your bed takes this time or less. It has worked for all of us so there is minimal cleaning now. I have help for the first time in ages as well! My son is actually saying he is happy to have a nerdy but great mom and pop (smile) and they are both now happy with the smaller things (a barbecue, extra weekly ice cream, a walk to the state park, even a new local baseball hat or even a dvd for the family we can watch together). I am very proud of my kids really. While this cant work for everyone it has been fantastic for us. I am better for my family and they are happy for that; couldnt be more proud of them. Our homeschool schedule is very strict right now and we spend a lot of time at the local library as well. I am in one area but can say for anyone travelling that anywhere you visit for some months, there is a library close enough with guest passes that can be used. Some have options even for a local monthly card for guests that will expire 30 days from the date purchased. It is very inexpensive. We have a state forest pass that will get us into any park here in Fl; there are many other memberships that can be used for full time on the road rvers. We do laundry at the local laundromat once a week-cost runs 5 to $7 depending. We have our showers here in the camper and they are not long-also not every day but every other day on a schedule. The space really is not a problem with the bunks (something I now tell anyone to get with or without kids if they want space or some privacy. This was the largest concern for my son but, with the curtain he feels he can go there for privacy). We are planning to take out the sofa and put a daybed there for my daughter then add curtains along the divider of the slideouts for night privacy. There is a shelf and other areas she puts her books and stuffed toys there behind where she sleeps so she is very happy.
Hi there, Just stumbled onto your site while looking for info on the best small motorhomes. My husband and I are in our 60’s and want to get our first motorhome. We have hesitated before because I was afraid of taking on the task of driving something big at our age. Then a friend showed me their little Winnebago and said it drove and parked beautifully, and we are thinking that could be a good compromise to a big RV. We will spend extended times at our children’s homes, and travel around California mainly, and perhaps to a few surrounding states. Do you have any advice on purchasing a smaller unit, perhaps other brands, or what we should look for?

What a shame that you dropped your 5D MkII in the water; however, I’m surprised that you could not return it to Canon to be repaired (unless it was salt water). The new MkIII — easily the finest full-frame semi-pro camera in existence and one of the best cameras ever made — is $3500 for the body alone, so it isn’t inexpensive. But for what you do, and your imaging requirements, perhaps the MkIII camera is a practical investment even though you guys are trying to save money! Good luck on your new travel plans!


My family and I are really contiplating this in the next month. My husband is a general contractor and I just had my 3rd baby, we have a 6 year old, 2, & 4 month. What kind of homeschooling do you use? I sold my salon and I’ve been looking into working from online especially if we do decide to travel the country. Any tips would be great, ty for this blog!
Your numbers are more complete than others that I have seen. We have been full timing for 9 years so I know there are a lot of things that need to be considered. It appears that laundry is in your misc. entry. Maybe other things are hidden in there too but I wonder about propane, co-pays for medical and drugs. I think you should have a line item for RV and Jeep maintenance and repairs. This can be a significant amount. Another item is admissions and entertainment. Don’t you buy gifts for each other or for relatives? I didn’t see anything about that. The last item has been mentioned in other remarks but I have to bring it up again and that is RV parks. You mentioned in August, 2016 that you spent 21 nights in RV parks and only spent $260. That is an average of $12.38 per night. I don’t know how you found sites this cheap unless you were in a membership campground such as Thousand Trails. If that is the case then you need to add in the prorated purchase price and the annual fees. If it is not the case then good for you. I have budgeted $25 per night and more recently $35 per night. Going to the east coast is more expensive than the midwest or western states. I agree that boonbocking can save some money but it seems like your numbers are pretty unrealistic.

There is an RV ready to match your dream. Use your vacation RV trips to test different rigs. If you are visiting off-the-beaten-track tourist nooks and wilderness sites a more maneuverable RV could be preferable to a motorcoach. Or your dream RV just may not have as much room as you need to live on the road full time comfortably. Be honest with yourself up front and you will save yourself the hassle of trading up or down in your first few years untethered from a home base.


a tip for those that may come upon a bear or timber wolf or large cat; carry a boat horn with you. you can get them at any boating outlet or cabellas or dicks. it’s pressurized and is very very loud. i put a lanyard on it and carry it around my neck. if a creature that can do me harm is within sight, I give it a blast or two and they hi-tail it out of there. it would be helpful in finding me as well if i were injured or lost.
This is mainly because it is our home and office and it can be disruptive. If we need to be out of the RV while work is being performed, we have to find somewhere else to work or wait with our pets. We've done this at the service center, at a friend's house, and once we just rented a hotel room because we didn't want to work in the car all day with two dogs and two cats. We don't think they wanted to sit in the car all day either. We've also spent the night at service centers which are not the most scenic locations, but really aren't all that bad. Sometimes you even get to plug into power.
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