If you have decided to go fulltime RV living and are bothered with the cost, I can tell you it is really variable. It essentially depends on you. You can pull it down by using an old RV, finding free places to park, using less gas by traveling less and sticking to outdoor activities that come for free in the areas you would be visiting.
Again, you can make your RV trip most luxurious by moving in an RV equipped with all amenities that you would get in your abode like kitchen islands, washer and dryer, dishwashers and more. Such RVs will make you feel as if you are living at a 5-star resort.
So, if you are a bit puzzled at what should be the optimal costing for full time RV living, this article should be an ultimate guide that will clearly give you a picture of the expenses that are to come, the ways you can save some money so that your expenses fit your budget and again the paths that will help you earn a few cents as you live in your RV full time.
The idea of the total cost will help you find out whether you can afford fulltime RV living and how to set your income and savings goal to achieve your dream lifestyle!
A Breakdown of RV Living Cost
This is a summarization of the heads under which money is likely to be expended while you are living in an RV fulltime and the approximate amount spent on each!
First, the upfront expenses…
RV clubs/memberships – You can save a lot of money in the long run by investing in certain memberships. But you need to research a bit to find out the best options.
Towing equipment – Towing equipment is absolutely essential if you have purchased a fifth-wheel or a travel trailer. So purchasing towing and braking equipment is a necessity. You can set up the equipment at around $550 for fifth wheels while for motorhomes it would be around $1500. You may go for some used items as that will save a few dollars.
RV equipment – You will need to buy some basic items like chocks, hoses, and levelers irrespective of the kind of RV you have. But do not get carried away as there are innumerous accessories and add ons. Only go for those which are simply necessary.
RV interior items – Things available and in use in your home might not just fit in and with your RV. You will have to buy such small things to make your RV more livable. Say, for example, storage containers need to be purchased so that the RV space remains organized.
Gear – This is definitely not a necessity. Maybe you already have all the equipment. But then again if you are planning for some new kind of adventure this trip, you may need some more. These might be kayaks, hiking gear, propane fire pit, bikes, fishing gear, bike rack, cameras, hammocks and so on.
Now for the monthly RV life expenses …
This data is a compilation of experiences gathered from many full-time RVers including families of varying sizes, solo travelers, empty-nester couples and retired couples.
Rent of the Campground:
The cost for campground rent is highly variable depending on the location, length of your stay and the time of the year. It varies from a few dollars per day to almost $100 or even more.
You can choose your campground depending on your budget and camping style. RV parks with complete hook-ups (water, electric, sewer) will on average cost around $30-$50 per night. Some will provide showers which is an absolute bonus. You can dump your tanks and fill up potable water at no extra cost.
With State park Campgrounds, the fees will vary state by state and what is on offer. Such campgrounds with partial hook-ups (electric and mostly water) will charge approximately $15-$25. Dump stations are hit or miss. If such parks are with dedicated campsites but no hook-ups they will cost $10-$15 almost.
Insurance (Vehicle & Health) :
Health Insurance comes to around $100 to $250 per head. The rates of RV insurance are quite economical. It is approximately $550 every year for motorhomes while for non-motorized trailers it comes to around $250 per year. Again the insurance amount depends on a few factors like your driving record, the insurance company and the kind of vehicle. Also, take into account the insurance of your tow-behind car!
If food is your passion and you are into grass-fed meats and fresh produce, your grocery bill will amount to around $800 every month. But then again with a little planning and control, this amount can be scaled down to almost $400 per month for two people.
But for that, you will have to compromise a bit on both the quality and quantity aspect. The costing is going to be more if you are eating out at restaurants than if you are cooking in your RV.
Fun/Entertainment: You can enjoy your stay in the RV by snorkeling, a few date nights, trying out local attractions, fishing licenses, eating at local jaunts and going out for the movies. So set aside a few hundred dollars every month to add the fun quotient to your RV stay!
RV Payment: You might be taking a loan to buy your RV. The costing might vary from a few hundred dollars a month to zero if the loan has been repaid totally. And the amount also varies depending on the type of rig. So if you have taken a loan to purchase your RV, keep in mind the monthly installment to be paid.
This is again a variable component and it could amount to several hundred dollars in one month to absolutely nothing depending on the amount you wish to travel.
Some RV parks are equipped with washers and dryers onsite. This gives you the chance to complete your laundry in the park itself. But if you are boondocking, you will have to visit the Laundromat time and again.
If you come across one which has huge sized dryers and washers, you may wash almost eight loads in a single machine at the expense of just $8. But if you intend to wash bedding, clothes, dogs’ stuff and towels, you will need to spend $18-$20 for washing and drying.
Internet: If you will be pursuing some job from your RV that requires a good internet signal, you will need to spend some bucks for investing in a hot spot or other net solutions. Or else, you may unlimited data from your cell provider and use the WiFi provided by some RV parks. A cell booster can also be of immense use.
Propane: RV systems like refrigerators, heating and stoves/ovens need propane and if you are living full time in your RV, the consumption is sure to be more.
Utilities: You might need to fill up your propane tank once or twice a month depending on the outside temperature and the amount you cook. A 20-pound tank costs almost $19 for a total fill-up. At times you will have to pay extra for your internet, electricity, etc. at the campsite. But, at times, this is usually taken into the rental cost. Your phone bill will amount to approximately $75 – $100 per person every month.
Repairs will be an integral part of your RV trip. You might have to replace your RV water pump if the water stops coming mid-shower and so on. The amount will depend on the type and age of your RV. But, keep in mind even brand new ones need repair.
So it would be wise to keep aside a few pennies in your budget, say around $100 every month for repairs or maintenance so that you are not caught unawares and are saved from the creation of holes in your pocket!
Other expenses (family/personal): Keep in mind your personal monthly expenditures like credit and debit card payments, medications, personal care items, other memberships, health insurance, and pet expenses.
Miscellaneous: Just add 10% to your monthly costs for miscellaneous purchases and to cover security. The purchases may vary from tools, portable grill, souvenirs and the like!
What is the expected total monthly RV Living Cost?
The total monthly RV living cost varies from $1,400 to $3,000 per month. The gap is definitely huge. But as you can see from the breakup above, there are quite a few variables, like where you stay, the duration of stay, how much you travel, the costing of your rig and the amount you spend on your entertainment/ groceries.
How do you save money on an RV travel?
The following tips will help you save money while living on an RV :
- Planning the Route – It is always advisable to plan your route well in advance. This is because once you know where you intend to go, you will tend to drive less and thus spend less on your gas.
- Try Boondocking/dry camping/free camping/ dispersed camping – Find free campsites. Check various guides and search online to locate such free campsites. Get to know about the details of such sites, their locations, amenities, type of RV parks there and then go ahead!
Usually, you get to stay for a maximum of 14 days in such locations. Though the stay is free you need to find and pay for dump stations.
- Longer Stay on Campgrounds – Most campgrounds offer discounts on longer stays. So if you plan longer periods of stay at campgrounds, there will be a control on your budget. Also longer stays mean lesser driving. Thus you will be saving on your gas and money!
- Staying on the west coast – RV campgrounds on the west coast are far more economical as compared to those in the east. Also, there are more campgrounds on the western coast. Some campgrounds on the western coast cost as less as $300 per month.
- Fix a budget – You must set a budget before you venture. This is because with a set budget before you, the plan will be fixed accordingly and you will have some barriers restricting you!
- Restrict dining out – The less you venture out to have meals at restaurants, the better. Eating out is going to burn a hole in your wallet! You can buy a wine bottle from the store and drink it under the sun or rather stars than going out for drinks.
- Keep a track on your expenditure – Keep a tab on all the income and expenses. This will give you an idea of whether you are spending too much and will exceed the budget. In such a case, you can restrict your expenses and think twice before going ahead with the next buy!
How to make more money while staying in an RV full time?
These are some ways to make money while you stay in your RV full time :
Work as a virtual assistant – A fantastic way of earning a few extra bucks is by becoming a virtual assistant. You can work as a virtual assistant just from anywhere in the world. You will just need an internet connection and a laptop. You will be helping someone run his/her business by booking events, gathering data, managing projects and much more. It is not only virtual but versatile too.
Venture into workamping – What is workamping? It means that you will be working for your campground host and in turn would be living for free, i.e. no rent. And maybe you might earn something extra other than living for free.
Take up some remote work – You can do things like writing blog posts, acting, consulting, creating online courses and much more! All this while staying in your RV!
A few experiences from full time RVers
With all said and done, a few words on this very topic of fulltime RV living cost coming from full-time RVers will surely do a world of good, right?
Roger from CasaRodante.org
According to Roger, if you are new to RVing and not sure if the lifestyle will suit you, you should go for a functional RV that is economical. You might need to put in some enhancements and repairs. You should save depending on your income and lifestyle and have an amount stashed before embarking on your RV fulltime trips. For Roger & family, the yearly maintenance cost of their relatively new rig was around $500-$1000.
Jim from Chaos Leaves Town
According to Jim, a full time Rver, his yearly expense for full-time RVing averaged $15,127 per year over twelve years. With that is added the RV’ing expenses and it totals to almost $19,407 annually. But he did earn a few bucks here and there on the road which was roughly $3500 every year. He says the needs and wants will go on to determine the kind of RV you buy along with definitely your income and savings. If you are skilled you can always avail the benefits of workamping and then you will get ample chance to put up free of cost. Maybe you can earn a few dimes too.
He says that you should preferably go for a small and used RV as it won’t be sitting in one place but would have to deal with all the hazards of the road just like a car but loaded with a lot of weight! To cut on your travel expenses, you can live at a place for a longer period and can live frugally.
Andrew M. Odom
The budget as spelled by Andrew in his “Tiny House Blog” for the month of March 2015 is as hereunder:
|30-amp Camp Site
|Woodsmoke Camping Resort
|Cody’s RV Park
|Reed Bingham State Park
|Auto Insurance (truck and trailer)
I sincerely hope this guide has given you a fair idea about realistic cost or expenditure you will need to budget for a full-time RV living.