Full-time RV Living
If you have been dreaming of living in an RV full-time, you are in the right place. The biggest question many RVers ask themselves at this point is -what is the cost of full-time RV living?
Keep reading this post to discover how much it costs to live in an RV full-time, factors determining RV park costs, and tips for downsizing life. Let’s dig in!
The Cost of Full-Time RV Living
The cost of living in an RV full-time varies for every family and person. First, some people opt to live in an RV to save money. On the flip side, some go for full-time RV living to enjoy the freedom to travel. Therefore, the cost of living in an RV full-time will vary depending on your lifestyle.
So, if you opt to move into your RV, saving up as much money as possible before you hit the road is advisable. One essential factor that might determine the overall cost is whether you have a monthly payment on your truck or RV.
If you have truck and RV payments, they can significantly affect your budget. So, it is an essential factor to consider. Also, where will you spend most of your time?
If you are in the middle of the road most of the time, your gas expenditure will be higher. Also, the number of nights you spend in campgrounds and RV parks will affect your overall costs.
Is it Cheaper to Live in an RV?
As stated earlier, several factors determine the cost of RV living full-time. There are reports of RVers who spent $1600 per month while others spent as much as $5000 per month.
Experienced RVers suggest you can spend as low as $1000 per month by adopting certain approaches. For example, you can find a free spot to park your RV for longer periods or by becoming a camp host.
Therefore, you can make your RV living cheaper by embracing such measures. But, other expenses such as student loan payments and food might not change when you move to an RV. In this sense, ensure you track your expenses to know how much they cost.
The Main Costs for Full-Time RV Living
While some of your typical expenses might not change when you move to your RV, some costs will vary significantly. For example, you will still have significant expenses like insurance, gas, and campsite fees. But, their percentages of your budget are likely to change.
Therefore, because of the full-time RV living monthly costs, it would help to consider these main expense categories. They will guide you in estimating your monthly expenditure for your new way of life:
1. Cost of Gas and Propane
Gas and propane are usually the highest expense for people who live in their RVs full time. Several factors will affect your gas and propane costs.
Your Rig’s Fuel Economy
This cost ranges from approximately five mpg if you own a gas truck towing large rigs to 20 plus for those with diesel Sprinter vans. In this sense, larger motorhomes usually pull smaller vehicles around town to save on gas. It also makes it effortless for RVers to navigate crowded areas.
The Distance You Travel Every Month
It’s up to you to decide whether you will travel much or a little. During the summer, people tend to travel a lot as they view attractive places. On the other hand, during winter, there are fewer options for RVers, so they stay in areas longer, reducing towing time.
Season and Weather
The season does not only affect how much you travel; it also affects the amount of propane you use. For example, you will use up to three times more propane in the winter because you will use propane to heat your RV.
Moreover, shorter days mean less solar power. Therefore, you will have to use propane for cooking more than electricity.
Gas and Propane Prices
Gas and propane prices will change, especially if you move from state to state. Additionally, global economic and political situations usually cause gas prices to fluctuate. You will need a mobile application to help you check gas prices.
2. Campsite Fees
Campsite fees for full-time RVers are in the form of costs to stay in a campground or RV park. You must also consider other expenses like water, dump, and electric fees, which you will incur along the way.
You can pay high or low campsite fees based on where you set up camp. If you want to live in fancy RV parks and have the comfort of home, you should be ready to spend more. On the other hand, you can reduce your RV park cost per month by braving the wilderness and boondocking for free.
Here are the main camping options:
This is the most expensive option for full-time RVers. They usually charge around $50 to 70 nightly rates. However, you will get a discount for weekly stays and even bigger discounts for monthly stays.
For example, an RV park can charge $65 per night or $700 if you stay for a month. Therefore, it is best to consider monthly RV park stays. You will enjoy full electric, sewer, and water hookups. However, you should be willing to stay in one place for at least a month. You can even find RV parks having hot tubs, pools, and golf courses.
National/State Park Campgrounds
These established campgrounds provide an excellent balance between the comfort of RV parks and the nature found in boondocking. While the parks are different, the average nightly cost is $25 to 40.
The beauty of state parks is you get more room between you and your neighbors compared to RV parks. Moreover, most have trees between sites which make them more private.
Another advantage of camping in a state campground is that you can access beautiful trails, rivers, and lakes. You can also select an established campground to immerse yourself in a specific park.
We also know Boondocking as “dispersed” or “dry camping.” It means free camping on public land. The popular boondocking sites are on land that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the National Forest Service manage.
These sites are usually primitive, so don’t expect to access water or bathrooms. However, you can comfortably boondock if you have water-holding tanks and a solar setup that enable you to live off-grid. Note that the authorities allow RVers to camp on public land for 14 days at a time.
3. Food Costs
Food is one of the costs that won’t change significantly when you choose to live in an RV full time. For example, you’re likely to feed the same number of mouths and wouldn’t change your diet. Also, if you love eating out, you will still find multiple eating-out options.
On the other hand, if you live on a budget and prepare all your meals from scratch, you can continue the tradition in your RV. You can continue using your typical food budget, but several other factors can affect your RV life food budget:
Food prices vary from place to place. Therefore, if you plan to visit popular tourist sites like Yellowstone, it would help to stock up on groceries before you go there. This is a smart move that will help you cut your food expenditure.
On the other hand, you will not find big box grocery stores in small towns. In addition, the mom-and-pop convenience marks usually have higher prices. This trend is particularly true for famous tourist destinations.
Your Cooking Skills
If you are a good cook, it will save you a lot of money! Therefore, if you want to reduce your full-time RV living monthly costs, it would help to work on your cooking skills. Traveling in your RV allows you to try various local cuisines. Remember that going to restaurants and breweries frequently increases your food budget.
Each RV has a different cooking and food storage capacity. Therefore, ensure your RV has a big kitchen and fridge. This will help you when you go camping in remote areas.
On the other hand, small rigs will make cooking and food storage more challenging. Therefore, you might need to modify some recipes to be able to cook from the RV kitchen. Also, smaller RVs will force you to visit the grocery store frequently.
4. Rig Maintenance and Repairs
This is a challenging RV living cost to predict. For instance, it is $0 in some months while it can shoot to $1000 severally in a year. Therefore, consider budgeting around $200 per month for your RV’s repairs and maintenance.
Experienced RVers suggest you have $5000 in reserves for the unavoidable rig breakdown. Repair costs are part of full-time RV living, although you can’t predict when and where it will happen.
It would be best if you considered investing in a tire pressure monitoring system and an air compressor. These devices will save you a lot of headaches while you are on the road. Ensure you monitor the condition of your tire conditions and air pressure like a hawk to avoid inconveniences.
Additionally, ensure you stay up to date with your RV’s oil changes and brake replacements. This will help prevent expensive mechanic costs while on the road.
5. Insurance Costs
Insurance needs differ; therefore, you can estimate the total insurance costs at the individual level. For example, some people work on the road hence taking advantage of their employer paying health and/or life insurance. On the other hand, some RVers finance their insurance costs.
The factors influencing your insurance costs include your insurance policy, rig, and state of residence. Remember, finding an insurer to insure your full-time RV living is not straightforward. For instance, some insurance companies won’t insure your RV if you live in it full time.
Therefore, talk to your insurance agent to determine if they will insure you. Also, shop around to ensure you get the best rate for your preferred policy.
6. Phone and Internet Costs
When you choose to live in an RV full time, you need a stable internet connection. Go for an internet provider that can still offer service in remote locations and small towns. Seasoned RVers suggest that Verizon is the best option as its signal is available almost everywhere.
On the other hand, while choosing your phone plan, consider hotspot allowance. This is important because you rarely find RV parks with reliable WiFi. In such instances, you will need your phone’s hotspot to connect other devices to the internet.
Additionally, you will likely need extra hotspot data if you are working on the road. So, consider carrying another mobile hotspot device. Also, go for a device with a different service provider from your cell phone.
Veteran RVers state in their reviews that they use Verizon on their phones and an AT&T mobile hotspot. This combination ensures you can access the internet everywhere to go.
7. Entertainment Costs
Living in an RV full-time doesn’t have to be boring. This section of the budget covers your TV provider, tickets to a concert, or shopping for new shoes. Also, because your RV has limited space, you spend most of your entertainment on experiences.
Therefore, even as you budget for your entertainment, please be flexible. If there is something you really want to do, just do it! This approach will see your monthly entertainment budget fluctuate. Also, learn how to take advantage of free entertainment in nature.
8. Other Costs
The other costs you will incur while living in RV full-time include:
- Laundry: you will spend some money to wash and dry a load
- Mail service: you will need around $100 annually plus postage
- Pets: you will incur food, medications, miscellaneous toys, vet care, and leashes
- RV wash: you will also have to spend cash on your rig wash. However, not all RV parks allow a washing service to come to where you are, while others will allow it.
Life in RV’s Top Full-Time RV Living Tips
Living in an RV full-time is fun only if you prepare for it. The 21st-century wise person is that who learns from other people’s mistakes and not their own! In this sense, here are tips collated from the mistakes and experiences of other RVers to help you have a better understanding:
Always Carry Cash and Change
Most transactions in the modern world have become cashless. However, it is different for RV living. Cash and change are essential for unexpected tolls and Laundromats. You will likely incur a highway fine or amass a heap of clothes.
Alternatively, if you are in one state for an extended period, consider getting an EZ pass or the highway toll equivalent the state uses. This will save you the constant headache at the tolls.
Be Prepared to Boondock
If you have never boondocked before, get ready to boondock when you start full-time RV living. It will not be the most comfortable experience, but it is part of the experience.
Download Road Trip Apps
You will need these apps to tell you the fuel cost, the distance, restaurants, and any attractions along your route. The apps will also help you map out nearby gas stations, prices, and public bathrooms. Read our article and find out THE RV Life App.
Listen to Podcasts
When on the road, podcasts are your best friend. They will help you pass the time and distract you, especially when the subject of discussion is engaging.
Get Ready to Downsize
Switching from a condo to living on wheels requires significant downsizing. If you are a hoarder, consider donating some of your stuff. Your RV does not have enough storage space to keep all your belongings.
Buy a Space Heater
Although your RV has a heater, it would help to have a backup. You will find yourself in situations where the standard heater is not sufficient. In this sense, you need a space heater. You can also get a heated blanket for your bed. Having both is the ideal situation.
Stock Up on Antifreeze
Ensure you have antifreeze on hand always, as you don’t know when you might need it. Sometimes, the temperatures dip well below freezing. Moreover, even if you have a space heater, your sink piping, shower, and toilets may not be toasty.
This usually happens when you park your RV somewhere cold and stay elsewhere. In this sense, you will need to prevent your pipes from freezing by pouring the antifreeze into the drains.
Stock Up on Healthy Snacks
Fast foods are usually perishable. Furthermore, there are few healthy snacks while on the road, and the stopover restaurants are far between. Therefore, get snacks, meals, and drinks at grocery stores before you go on a long trip.
Use Public Transport in Cities
Parking is a challenge when living in an RV. Finding a parking spot for your RV in cities can be challenging unless you are in rural locations. Therefore, find a secure site to park your RV and use public transport to get into cities.
Factors That Determine RV Park Costs
There are two types of RV living: mobile and stationery. The lifestyle you choose will significantly affect your cost of living.
Stationery RV Living Cost
If you plan to stay in one place, you require a plot of land. It can be your land or rented land. Here are the factors that determine stationary RV living costs:
- Location: If you select a campground next to a famous tourist attraction or cities with a high cost of living, you will spend more. On the other hand, campgrounds in lesser-traveled areas will cost less.
- Length of stay: Parks usually have weekly, monthly, seasonal and yearly rates. You will spend less when you stay at a park for more extended periods.
- Amenities: If you desire to stay in parks having exercise rooms, pools, and recreational areas, you will spend more. On the flip side, consider barebones parks if you are on a limited budget.
- Season: Visiting RV parks during high season will mean spending more because the demand is high. Note that the high season varies by location. For example, mountain destinations are trendy in summer, while warm areas are popular in winter.
- RV size: Various RV parks and campgrounds use your RV size and the necessary hookups to determine costs.
Typically, you can spend between $200 to more than $1,000 monthly to stay in an RV park for an extended period. The lower rates will get you an economic trailer park. Conversely, the higher rates can get you a luxurious spot by the beach.
You can also find other RV parks that fall between the two extremes. Generally, stationery RV living cost is lower, especially on gas and RV maintenance. However, you will incur expenses on the separate vehicle you will use to move around.
Mobile RV Living
This RV full-time living mode is ideal for retired people or those working remotely. It offers a freedom that can make or break your budget depending on your use.
For example, staying in campgrounds for shorter periods attracts higher daily rates. Therefore, you need specific mobile RV living hacks to help you score discounts:
State Park Passes
Annual state park pass cost ranges from $10 to more than $100. The exact cost depends on the state, your residency status, and your age. Furthermore, each state provides exclusive perks for pass holders. For example, they can allow free entrance and day use in all state parks.
National Park Passes
Consider getting the American the Beautiful pass, an interagency pass that costs about $80 annually. This pass grants you access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites across the United States. Pass holders enjoy free admission to national parks and free or discounted entry to government-run campgrounds across the country.
Senior citizens and veterans can enjoy special discounts in many parks. For instance, Idaho offers a 50% discount to any RVer aged 62 or more on campsites. In addition, disabled veterans can camp for free.
The benefits you will enjoy depend on the RV club you join. Nonetheless, it is an excellent way to save. For instance, joining an RV club can qualify you for special discounts at several campgrounds. You can spend several nights in the discount-eligible campgrounds to cut the overall costs.
How and Where to Find Discounts on RV Living
One of the ways to cut the costs of your full-time RV living is by taking advantage of discounts. Here is a guide on finding deals for your RV living.
Discounted or Free Parking
Campgrounds and National Parks usually offer free or discounted RV parking. However, they rarely advertise these offers. Therefore, you have to research to get these parking deals consistently. If you are new to the RV living world, there is a high likelihood that you might not find these offers as you hoped by simply showing up.
Join RV and Camping Discount Clubs
Many RV and travel clubs offer their members discounts and point systems. You can enjoy free parking during your travels if you join such clubs. While it will take some time to earn these deals, it is one of the benefits of joining RV communities.
It would help to check what each RV community offers before joining. Check out websites that guide RVers on available cheap parking. Some top clubs to consider include:
- Passport America
- Good Sam Club
- Boondockers Welcome
- Harvest Hosts
- KOA Value Kard
Visit Places During Free Days and Events
National Parks and campgrounds usually offer free RV parking during special occasions. You must register in time to get free parking during such events.
Lowering Monthly RV Living Expenses
How much does it cost to live in an RV? This is the first question people ask when researching full-time RV living. That’s a sensible thing to do, right?
Fortunately, you can use several approaches to cut the costs of your full-time RV living. Here is a compilation of the tips you can use to lower your monthly RV living expenses:
Invest in Camping Clubs
We have already established that campground and RV park fees form a significant part of your budget. You can reduce these costs by joining camping clubs to enjoy different perks. We have already covered this in detail.
Learn to Boondock
Boondocking or dry camping is free in several locations in the U.S. you only need to learn how to boondock and get a few pieces of gear. When you boondock for decent amounts of time will help you save a lot of money.
Save Money on Food
You can save money on groceries by planning your meals. For example, cook your meals in advance, pack lunches, and leave your dinner to cook in the slower cooker when you are away. Furthermore, you can plan your grocery trips for when you are near discount stores.
When eating out, seek special deals to help you save. For example, you can get “kids eat free” nights. You can also find travel coupon books worth your while.
Slowing down will reduce monthly fuel costs because you will travel fewer miles. It will also enable you to take advantage of monthly campground fees. Slowing down will also give you more time to explore; hence you will spend less on attractions and eating out.
Reduce Fuel Costs
You can also reduce your fuel consumption by proper route planning. This will help you avoid excess travel and avoid burning fuel. You can also get an app that can help you track your mileage and fuel costs.
Reduce Propane Use
If you stay in campgrounds with electricity included in the nightly fee, take full advantage of that. For example, switching to electric space heaters instead of the propane furnace will enable you to save on propane.
Look for Free WiFi
You need a reliable internet connection if you are working on the road. However, free WiFi will work fine if you are using the internet for leisurely activities. Reducing your internet expenses will help cut the overall monthly expenditure.
Go for Free Fun
One trick that helps reduce RV living expenses is taking advantage of free fun. There are many hidden gems you can take advantage of. Luckily, you can get an app that can guide you to local libraries offering free entertainment.
Our Tips on Downsizing Life
Downsizing your new lifestyle can cause stress and anxiety if you love your belongings. Here are some tips to help you downsize:
- Plan ahead: Start planning your downsizing early and have explicit goals. Ensure everyone in your family agrees.
- Establish your lifestyle needs: Determine the lifestyle you will embrace when you switch to live on the wheels.
- Find purpose: Every corner in your RV should have a purpose and a function. This will help you avoid bringing too much stuff.
- Keep out the clutter: For example, edit your technology using a WiFi printer to eliminate extra cables. Go for a TV you can mount on the wall.
- Go for quality and multipurpose: It would help to go for quality over quantity. For example, go for multipurpose furniture pieces to help you save on space. You can also go for a nightstand having open and closed storage.
- Get help when in doubt: If you love your stuff so much and can’t get rid of any, get professional help. Consider going for a professional organizer to give you objective opinions when deciding what to eliminate.
Living in an RV full-time will be worthwhile if you are willing to downsize and simplify your lifestyle. There are multiple steps you should consider before you make a move. Most importantly, ensure you do proper planning before you shift to living in an RV full time.
One thing you must be ready to do is downsizing. Living in an RV differs from living in an apartment because of the limited space. If you love your stuff that you can’t let go of, a professional will help you declutter.
Finally, you need to be an open-minded person. You will have to make several adjustments while on the road. Finally, once you have a solid plan, you can rest assured that living on the wheels is real fun!