One of the biggest mistakes that we made was how many tools we packed in the RV and truck! We are so tired of hauling around a bunch of stuff that we don’t ever use. We therefore recommend you stick to the basic tools (screwdrivers, drill, pliers, hammer etc). There’s no reason to haul around specialty tools for that rare occasion or instance that you’ll need it. You can always buy or rent it!
It seems like I am really good at always finding something to do and I have had to tell myself to stop and relax and just enjoy the moment. Which does seem easier to do while being the RV. Maybe because we have less to maintain or else because I am truly amazed by the things we are seeing and the reaction that the kids are having. I will continue to work on being better at this!
I see someone asked a similar question, but maybe you just missed it. My girlfriend and I are nurses and we’re about to travel. We’re thinking an RV is the right move for us and I’m trying to figure out what its going to cost. We don’t have much money saved for something like this, we pay student loans of course! It appears you’re not financing your RV, is this the case or do you keep your payment to yourselves? I just dont know if its crazy to think that people are financing say, a 150k RV over 10 years at 1500 a month. Is this what a reasonable couple does? Or is that wacky?
I grew up in a travel trailer for many years. And now my husband and I are going to do it with our three kids. We looked into it financially and found out, it was a very good option the storage unit, truck, trailer and our land payment would add up to be less than the rent we pay. So when we build, the house will not be such a financial burden, if any. Your post has helped me believe it will end up being the best option even with all the kids.
I am 62, single, healthy and fairly strong in mind and body. I love to travel, have family and friends all over the US. I left my job in NJ to live in Fl. I bought a small home for $23,000 and living on SS. Now my expense are increasing, I pay lot rent and my SS is not going very far and can not afford to travel anymore. Thus is mostly due to miscalculations on my part and a retirement fund that was not nearly what it should have been. Anyway I am now considering giving up this life and going RV. I really miss my family and friends and they can not travel to me nearly often enough. Based on selling my house for at least what I paid for it and a monthly income of about $1600 what do you suggest. Any input will be greatly appreciated. I am giving it till the new year before I make a final decision.
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.
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’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.
I agree with your list. Howard and I are part-timers, in the RV during the winter months and home in Colorado during the summer months. We start off at the end of October and we ALWAYS seem to take too much “stuff” and way too many clothes. Last year I took more winter clothes than summer and did not really need them at all. We purchased our coach in 2006 and have been out on-the-road every winter since. You would think I could gage what clothes I will need by now, but for some reason this task eludes me!
You could use LED’s from amazon or ebay, but I have used 12 volt led STRIPS that I wire right into my 12v light sockets. I sometimes uses a 50 watt 12 volt windshield heater to keeps my hands from freezing. I have used black tar on my roof and COMPLETELY stopped the leaking,don’t know why folks are having more leaking problems after that..probably doing it wrong. If you have to snake a 120 volt cord outside your RV to run a window a/c or heater..cut the cord as short as possible. It draws less. Buy brand new breakers, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be in the middle of a meal and have flip the breaker every 5 seconds because it’s 120 degrees outside and I just want a cool 98 inside the RV. It sounds trashy, but I bought a roll of that textured windshield sun-blocker and cut it to fit my windows,thereby blocking a crap-ton of sunlight and heat from entering my poor RV. I use bricks and the outriggers to further stabilize the trailer,because outriggers alone will NOT make all RVs stable. ALWAYS CHECK YOUR ANODE AND HEATING ELEMENT HOLY CRAP! it sucks when you jump in the shower and out comes liquid ice. yeah we all have propane…but propane is for cooking…and maybe the furnace once in a while. If you have to live in an RV, don’t be afraid to REMOVE furniture from it! I removed a pullout couch, kitchen table and the useless cabinets inside my bedroom(don’t know what they were thinking with that curved wall and I was always hitting my head on the cabinets). I removed the stock microwave and put a toaster oven in there. Let me tell you, you can cook damn near anything in that oven. Microwaves suck…especially when you have limited amps available, but you can stick that oven on 180 and cook a damn pizza all the way in about 10 minutes. ALWAYS defrost your fridge and freezer once a month! I actually have a small dorm fridge tucked into a corner that has come in quite handy.
Even my writing has its expenses. Keeping a blog can be free, but hosting, backup services, firewall services and other things add up. Writing also requires a computer. When we started out, Mark and I shared a single MacBook Pro laptop. After four years, this became impossible because we always wanted to use it at the same time. So, we replaced that one MacBook Pro with two newer ones in 2011 and 2012. Then, in 2014 we replaced the older one of those with yet another newer one.
To get around this, you can look up the nearest warehouse distribution center for either FedEx or UPS and have the package shipped to that distribution center with “Hold for Pickup” written on it. You will not be charged a fee at pickup. However, you will need to track the package and you will have 5 days to pick up the package before it is returned to the sender.
Boondocking is basically camping at free spots without hook-ups. Several State Forests and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) locations have free dispersed camping. Typically, you can stay in one location for a maximum of 14 days. We have also found a few state parks have free campsites. While this option is free, you do have to find and pay for dump stations.
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I think it’s important for any couple to purchase an RV that fits comfortably in their monthly budget. You need to consider the monthly RV payment, insurance, fuel, maintenance, repairs, general upkeep, campground fees—and still have money left for other day-to-day expenses and discretionary spending. In most situations your first RV won’t be your last RV, so it is practical to find an affordable RV that won’t break the bank, as the old saying goes.
Recently my wife and I have been thinking that it would be really fun to RV full-time, since right now we just seem to sit at home. We have always loved traveling, so it would be perfect to have our own space. It sounds like it can be a fairly good idea for those with some good retirement set aside. First, we should probably start looking around at nice RVs to see if we can find anything that we like. I will also see if we need to get things like internet put in, as well as looking at any other features that we may need added. Thanks for the great post!
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?
I admire your stamina and am jealous of your bravado and lifestyle. Just a note to tell you how to fix almost all of the things you mentioned as extra-difficult living in an RV in the winter in Alaska. I have seen RVs designed specifically for use in such conditions. The alterations are designed in from the beginning and built into it. The era your unit was built, they didn’t do these things and I’m sure buying one that is equipped this way costs WAY more than the one you bought, but I can also say I suspect you could sell yours to someone living a bit more southerly for a pretty good penny, though I also suspect you’re not particularly interested in making a change since what you have is actually working for you.
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!
I’ve got to give props to my girlfriend Kage, who has been living along with me on the road (and her husky Tobias). Being a man, the camper life isn’t too difficult, but for a woman, it’s an entirely different challenge. According to Kage, it is definitely more difficult to live in a camper full-time as a woman (where society expects you to still look good, as well as having to take care of feminine things), but she really does make it work somehow.
Year 3 was our first year of roadschooling. Like watching a 3D movie for the first time, this was the year where learning came to life as we visited battlefields, swam with manatees, explored cities, experienced caves, imagined life as an American colonial , hiked mountains, stayed on a farm, canoed with alligators, and experienced more in one year than many people experience in a lifetime.
Our fifth wheel is a 2005, which means it needs repairs quite frequently (we have a new issue come up about every 6 weeks or so). We try to do repair projects ourselves (thanks to YouTube) to avoid the outrageous costs of paying an RV mechanic. We also cook in the RV often and typically turn on the heat during the cooler evenings, which uses up our propane. It costs about $20 to refill our propane tank each month.
Our health insurance we have gotten through Healthcare.gov. This cost is relatively low because we enrolled in catastrophic health plans and qualified for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. It has changed every year, and this year they got rid of PPO plans that have in-network doctors across the country and not just in one state. Next year we may be looking into joining a Health Share program if prices continue to rise and coverage drops.
Our boat has two diesel Cummins 370 engines, and we’re still tracking our burn rate (with a 440 gallon tank and our slow poke style, it takes a while to get numbers) – but we’re expecting it to be about 1.25 – 2 miles per gallon. A typical ‘driving day’ will likely be 15-30 nautical mile range at 7-8 knots. While our fuel “economy” sucks in comparison to our RV, we anticipate we may cover a 1000 miles a year. So thus our fuel costs boating will be similar to our RVing costs on a monthly basis.
Jay, you have made some very big assumptions here and they are wrong. As for our expenses, they are very accurate and contrary to popular blogging beliefs we don’t all get everything for free. Our meals, fuel, insurance and all of our day to day expenses that everyone else has, are not free. We pay for everything, including our RV. We have actually gotten very little for free over the years and when we do get something in exchange for review, you’ll see it noted. Expenses vary greatly per person. Even within these comments you’ll see others spending way less and way more. We blog, because we like sharing our experiences and helping others. If you don’t find that we are doing that for you, then you are correct, time to move along.
Do you have a blog? I would love to hear more about life on the road with kids. I’m trying to talk my husband into doing something like this. We don’t currently have kids, but are trying. He is hard to break out of his comfort zone, but once he’s out, he loves it. Your story sounds so interesting and I would love to read more about your travels and living on the road with 4 youngsters.
Question: How did you arrive at the $2,133 cost? It seems that you left out the $900 daily camping fees. If your goal was to COMPARE FT RV costs with a bricks & mortar home, then lots of other costs could be deducted – like groceries and insurance costs. I’m age 68 (spouse is 66) – and not retired (never hope to!) But we’ve arranged our lives around working “full-time” while still traveling extensively. We still have our bricks & mortar home (not really interested in full-timing) but yet, because of the way we have organized our lives, we still… Read more »
Like I mentioned above we are working on fixing the non-baby-friendly parts of the camper before we move in. To find these spots and areas I just let the baby crawl around in the camper right now to see where he goes and where he gets into! Mostly this means working on the front area of the camper where the seats are, I will be posting pics of our renovation once it’s complete! We are also making room for another bed, our rv does have pull out beds but we want something permanent and something that will work for a growing toddler (that would easily escape anything without sides!).
Sewer lines need special attention in sub freezing weather too. It's necessary to support the hose and provide a continuous slope from the RV sewer connection to the park sewer hookup. That way, water will drain from the hose and not create an ice plug at the low point. Alternately, you can use a straight section of thinwall PVC sewer pipe and the necessary fittings to complete your sewer hookup. The PVC will stand up to cold temperatures better than your plastic hose and is fairly inexpensive.
I may be relocating from Idaho to Concordville, Pennsylvania for a job. My concerns are that the cost of living may be more than I can handle financially, but I could live in a travel trailer easily. What advise can you offer a person who has not even gone camping much less RVing. I’m sure there is much to know about the area and does it accommodate this style of living?
If they are new to RVing and unsure if the lifestyle fits, they should go cheap but functional. I have Airstreamed all my life, but our first trailer was a 24’ Nomad that cost $3000. We learned a LOT in that trailer. Lots of what to do, and even more of what NOT to do. We had repairs and enhancements to do. We sold it 1 year later, but that was due to my parents giving us their Airstream.
Gift Cards – If the gift card is for a full-time RVer, try to stick to larger national chains or internet stores like Amazon. Even though RVers take their kitchens with them, it’s still nice to not have to cook all the time so restaurant gift cards are nice as well. Or an Amazon Prime Membership is a great gift for full-time RVers if they don’t already have one. Our Prime Membership made getting items while traveling full-time so much easier.
Small electric space heaters are an excellent way to conserve propane burn and provide added warmth to the areas occupied during the day and evening. Be careful to purchase only brand-name, heavy duty space heaters with undamaged electrical cords. Adding a small space heater to the lavatory will help keep the black tank from freezing and is a nice addition for people coming out of the shower.
Sometimes packages shipped by UPS or FedEx to a General Delivery address at a post office are handed to the recipient free of charge. However, sometimes the Postal Service charges the recipient a fee at the pickup counter before handing over the package. I know this seems odd, because FedEx or UPS carried the package all the way across the country while the Postal Service is merely carrying it from the mail room to the front counter. But it happens.
In between the pop-up and Gateway, we had a 35’ Cedar Creek fifth wheel. It was really great but the big boys really wanted more space if we were going to keep full timing and I was kinda tired of the small kitchen counter. The one thing we loved about the Cedar Creek was the shorter length opened up more camping options. Many parks have 35’ length restrictions and we fit in a lot of driveways. The Gateway at 41’ no longer fit in my or Brent’s parents driveway and occasionally we couldn’t stay in some parks because it was too big. We don’t regret purchasing the Gateway and would buy it over again if we were full time RVing but now that we aren’t, we are looking for something shorter so we have more options.
A non resident has to leave the country after his staying permit expires which is usually after 6 months (Max) so we cannot do it full time but I consider ourselves as “Summer full timers” that have 2 residents:one at our home in Israel and the second on wheels in North America-this is for as the optimum and we are enjoying it for the last 10 years.
Our second year of roadschooling was similar to our first year as we continued to explore the United States with the exception of Thing 1’s work. His work was more challenging than the previous year and we began to do some testing. I did not do standardized testing but subject testing so he would learn test taking skills should he need them later down the road.
When you first hit the road, you’re going to want to see it all. You might log thousands of miles the first year in a race to see Seattle, the Everglades, and everything in between. The constant go-go-go of new full-timers is a common trap. Of course, it’s a trap that we fell into as well. But, you might ask, isn’t seeing the country the whole point of full-time RVing?
RV Parks in San Diego area are slim. we’re staying at a park that runs 1075/mo and with this heatwave we’re paying anywhere between 350-450/mo for electric, some are paying up to 700. We’re retired and on fixed income and have 5 years left on our loan. Our rig is a 2004 and are at a loss as to what to do with everything going up. Stay in it til it paid off ? Then no mortgage, just rent or sell and move to an apartment. We’re 72 & 78 years old and now regretting our lifestyle change that we took in 2004.
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.
depending on where you are planning for your overnights, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. If you are worried and aren’t allergic, my best solution would be to get at least a medium sized dog. The barking is usually enough to deter anyone with nefarious plans, especially if they have been staking you out and have seen this is not a chihuahua, though even those are good for the noise. Anyway, most RVers are pretty good people and tend to look out for each other. Lock your RV door(s) at night, be aware of your surroundings and the people in it and you should be just fine. Also, dont promote that you are traveling alone as a woman. No sense painting a target for those with deceitful plans. I’ve never had any problems but, then again, I have three large dogs traveling with me. 😉 Good luck!! Now, start living your dream!!
You can pay $1500 for a decent house that can fit a family of four or five. You live there, in one place, and spend oodles once a year on a vacation. Then you come home, pay that rent (and then some in utilities), and twenty years later might be doing the same thing. Meanwhile everyone has their space. Space to disappear into their video games and man caves and kitchens. You, as a family, live together but you’re separated as easily as a staircase can be climbed, a door can be closed.
I plan on retiring Nov 2016 and want to RV for a couple of years before settling down in one place. I’ve been researching the fulltime RVing and my head is spinning with all the info out there. I just want you to know that your site is actually the first one to give direct answers to all the questions I have like taxes, health ins. Car/RV registrations. I’ll be stopping by quite frequently…..
In the winter you’ll notice condensation accumulating on the windshield, on walls, etc. Condensation is your enemy. I know it sounds contradictory but you need to crack a vent or a window at all times. Condensation can build up, get in the walls, etc and cause mold. You do not want this! Simply crack a window and turn on a fan to circulate the air, if you’re already using a space heater with built in fan you don’t have to worry about running a separate fan. You can also put the dehumidifier pellets like Damp Rid or DriZair (you can purchase at most stores) in the areas that seem to draw the most condensation. We’ve found the condensation will not pose a problem as long as it’s 40% relative humidity or less inside the RV.
I know that if it was just me, and not my family, I could “make it work” on $650 / month, but if you factor in car insurance and a monthly trailer payment, that starts to really limit things…and other stuff like health care and even food stamps or other government aid (which I’m not saying you’re asking for, but if it’s currently in the picture), are much more difficult to maintain if you don’t have a permanent address in a specific state.
One of the happiest couples we met when we were sailing in Mexico was a retired couple who had returned to cruising after raising their kids. They had sailed across to the South Pacific and beyond when they were in their twenties and had hilarious stories of what it was like to be a pair of inexperienced free spirits in a little, used, cheap boat on the big ol’ ocean as “kids,” and they were sooooo worldly wise and such seasoned travelers compared to the rest of us retirement aged newbie sailors. I recommend workamper.com and workingcouples.com to find interesting camp hosting and other jobs that are suitable for RVers where a free or inexpensive site is often part of the deal. Have a blast — and please come back and read some more!!
I need your advice if you don’t mind. My wife and I saved about $25k and we thinking about quit the jobs and travel around US next year. We thinking about buying an used trailer and a reliable (used) truck to tow. I want to buy (used)class C rv and a (used)small car but we have limited budget. What will be the best choice for us you think? Thanks for your help in advance!
And finally there’s just the whole money thing. Money is a “hot” topic and these kinds of posts almost always generate heated debate about how much it really costs. What one person might consider “a pretty good deal” could be construed as “ridiculously expensive” to some one else (“you spend that much on xxx??” is a common response). So I’m going to say this up front. Don’t take ANY of these numbers as fixed. Rather use these posts as a guide together with other folks who publish their data (which I’ll link to) to create your own, individual financial plan.
Last but certainly not least there is always the option to winterize your RV before you hit the cold weather. Whether you’re lazy, cheap, or you just plain don’t want to deal with all this crap I’ve rambled on about above, this option works like a champ. Before you hit the road purchase a couple 10 gallon jugs of water for drinking. Shower & use the toilets in the facilities at the campground (they’re usually heated during the winter). Of course this means when nature calls you have to high tail it through the freezing weather to use the Jon, but at least you don’t have to worry about your pipes freezing! If you decide to go this route make sure you stay in the site located closest to shower and bathroom facilities, you’ll thank me later.
Love this interview! With 4 kids and dogs in an RV… We live in an RV with only 2 kids, and they don’t take many space (yet) as they are 2,5yo and 7mo. So I’m impressed 🙂 Love the tip about taking it one day at a time. That is what I should do more too. I have the tendency to plan ahead to much. Maybe a tip for other RVing families: come to Europe! Europe is great to explore in an RV, but choose a smaller vehicle because the roads and campsites are small compared to those in the US.
Our second year of homeschooling, we enrolled the boys in a new a hybrid classical school. It was a fantastic year blending the best of both worlds. The boys were home with us four days a week and went to school three days a week. They got the benefits of a classroom setting, like positive peer pressure (and a teacher who could keep up with Latin) and I got a break. Since I didn’t need to create schedules, choose curriculum, and find social opportunities our homeschool days were even more relaxed. The one thing I would have changed about this year was math. At the time, the school used Saxton which turned out to be a poor fit for both boys. Not only was it boring but it was less advanced than their previous curriculum. When we went back to homeschooling the following year we had to go back a year in Singapore.
Ok, all of that information applies only as long as you are in a relatively temperate location. However, there are a number of hardier souls who gladly brave the snow and cold and stay well north all winter long. Many families, in search of winter recreation, use their RV well into the sub-zero winter months. For those of you who intend to winter in extremely cold parts of the country, I really can't help you much. I'm one of those fulltimers who run south at the first sign of a snowflake. However, you can check the weblinks provided below for some first hand tips from folks who like their Rving with a topping of snow!
I’m a christian and the more I learn about and from God the more I realize we aren’t supposed to be living so that we can work. I feel like a prisoner in my home because the utilities control my ability to enjoy my home and then I feel like a prisoner at work because if I want those bills paid I have to work those 12hr shifts. So I appreciate your information on finding your land and your list of needs…. I’ve considered an RV for a temporary place between the selling and buying time after seeing it on your site.