The Actual Cost of Living Full Time in an RV

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Introduction

How much does it cost to live full time in an RV? This is the number one question that Rv’ers get. Living in an RV is great. You get to live and travel in your own home. Think about not having to pack for your next vacation. Picture living life like you are on vacation. Take your pets with you everywhere!! This life is very attainable. Most people want to know how much money it costs to live this way. 

So…What are the actual costs of the RV lifestyle? My husband and I have been living full time in our 33 foot Airstream Classic for just over one year and we are loving it. We have been able to live, work, and travel all from our recreational vehicle. We enjoy our lives, visit family, and have been able to figure out how to make it work. This article will break down the living expenses associated with this lifestyle for you. By the time you are done reading this, you will have a great idea of how to prepare and plan your finances to begin your great adventure!! We have even included a budget spreadsheet for you. 

RV

The first, and possibly the largest expense is the recreational vehicle itself. This is a huge variable. RV prices range anywhere from a couple thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. It all depends on what you purchase. There are many types of RV’s out there. There are travel trailers, motorhomes, vans that have been converted, fifth wheels, pop up trailers and toy haulers. These all vary in price greatly. 

You can purchase these vehicles new or used which also affect the price. Do you plan to purchase with cash or do you plan to finance the vehicle. All of these factors will affect your monthly budget. You could be paying $0 or you could be paying $2000 per month depending on how much you finance. We pay $1029 for our 2020 Airstream. 

Tow Vehicle

If you are pulling your RV, you will need a tow vehicle. This monthly payment will also vary depending on the size, year, and how you purchase. The larger and newer the vehicle, the more the more expensive it will be. For example, a large fifth wheel will need to be pulled by a large truck. Do you plan to purchase a new truck or a used truck? Do you already have a truck that is paid off? These things will determine how much money is coming out of your monthly budget. This could be anywhere from $0 to $1500 per month. We pay $1350 for our 2018 F350 Diesel. 

Vehicle Insurance

You will need insurance for your tow vehicle and your recreational vehicle. You will need to make sure to purchase insurance that covers you for full time living in your RV. Some insurance companies will not allow this type of coverage. Good Sam, Progressive, and National General are three that offer this service. This type of coverage is a bit more expensive than part time coverage and is somewhere around $240 (this is what we pay for our Airstream and Truck) per month. This depends on the age and price of the recreational vehicle. 

Campground Site

Campground sites range anywhere from $20 per night to $1600 per month in the state of Virginia (that is where we currently reside). We have found that this range is fairly consistent throughout the East Coast. We currently pay $756 in the off season and $1550 during summer. We have plans to move to a Thousand Trails campground in the near future which will cost us $330 per month for 5 years (until its paid off) and $550 per year to stay full time with no other fees (A GREAT SAVINGS). 

Use Military, Good Sam, AAA, or other club discounts to save!!!

Memberships

Those savings require membership fees. Don’t forget that you have to pay for those fees. They usually come in the form of annual dues. Harvest Hosts, Good Sam, Passport America, and others require a yearly fee. Those fees will sneak up on you if you forget to budget them in. It may be a smart option to add a $10 monthly club fee into your budget to make sure that you are prepared. 

Fuel

If you plan to travel frequently, fuel is something that you need to budget for. When we travel, we try to drive no more than six hours per day. This adds up to about $150 in fuel costs per day. This adds up fairly quickly. Fuel costs continue to rise. This puts a huge dent in your budget. Make sure to prepare for it!!

Laundry

If you have a larger RV, you may be lucky enough to have a washer and dryer inside. Otherwise you will need to save for laundry expenses. There are wash and fold laundry services available in many areas. Check out SudShare app. It is fairly affordable. Laundromats and Laundry facilities at campgrounds are other options. Plan on setting aside $20 to $40 per month. 

We invested in the Wonderwash. It is a portable, hand crank washing system that saves us some money. Check it out!! 

Health Insurance

If your remote or local job doesn’t provide free health insurance, you will need to add in the cost of health insurance. This price can be steep as many Americans are well aware of. This can be as much as $1200 for a family for private coverage. Wow!!

Internet

Many campgrounds offer wifi to guests. It is very unreliable. Most Rv’ers find that they need to provide their own for TV streaming, computer use, or work options. We joined Family Motor Coach Association and use their Tech connect program. It is through Sprint. It is truly unlimited (meaning no throttling) for $50 per month. It is the best and least expensive program that we have found. 

Cell Phone

There are many options for cell phone providers out there. We use Verizon. We find that no matter where we travel, we have the coverage that we need. We actually switched to T mobile at one point and it just didn’t cut it. We switched back and couldn’t be happier. Our bill including a jetpack as a backup hotspot is $200.

Food

Everyone Needs to eat. It’s better to eat and use your own kitchen than to go to restaurants on a regular basis. It’s ok to splurge once in awhile but, if you are looking to save money, this is the number one place to do it. We spend about $300 on groceries per month. 

Repairs and Maintenance

You live in a vehicle. Let’s face it, things happen. You will be living in the elements. It’s better to be prepared. Set aside a bit of money each month to be prepared for emergency repairs. We have had two tires deflate (no blow outs thank goodness) during trips, one fuel related repair, one slide repair and one undercarriage repair in the past year and half. Boy, were we happy that we had the funds to take care of these things. Warranty covered some of it but, it didn’t cover trip interruption and extra expenses that we needed to come up with.

This category should also include regular maintenance. Keep your vehicles in tip top shape in order to avoid unnecessary  repairs. These maintenance items include oil changes, inspections, tire rotations and more. Plan on setting aside at least $50 to $100 per month for this category. 

Propane

You will be living full time. Most ovens and heaters run with propane. If you live in any type of cold weather, you will be going through propane. This will need to be replaced regularly. Set aside $25 per month or more depending on how much you use. 

Mailbox

How do full timers get mail? This is a question that deserves a whole other post. I will briefly tell you what we do. We use a UPS box. It gives us a street address and they forward mail to wherever we are. They will also hold mail. It is very easy to transfer the service to another area if we move. The cost of a small box is $240 per year. It is well worth the cost for what they provide. There are many other services available. This is just one option. 

Boondocking

If you decide to Boondock or otherwise referred to as dry camp, you will save money on some of the other expenses. This is great. You will however, incur different expenses such as dumping. Make sure that you add that to your list. These prices differ. Check local campgrounds or travel centers for their pricing. 

Netflix, Hulu, and Other Streaming Services

If you have streaming services, these need to be added to your budget. We use Hulu, HBO Max, and Amazon. These cost us $30 per month. 

Pets

Sabi The Savanna Cat

Do you have pets? Don’t forget to add pet food, vet bills, immunizations and other care needs. These items tend to sneak up on you and can be very expensive. You don’t want Fido to suffer because you don’t have the Dinero to pay for his monthly medications. 

Annual Fees

Annual fees to remember include vehicle registration, taxes, tax preparation, vehicle inspections, and any licenses that you have to renew. 

Misc/ Fun Money

Let’s not forget the fun money. What is the fun in traveling if you can’t stop in a brewery or have some extra cash to splurge. Everyone needs some cash in their pockets. This amount can vary and each family will have to figure this amount out. This is your “let’s go out for ice cream,” or movie money. Don’t leave this out. It is very important. 

Ways to Save Money While Traveling and Living in an RV

Ways to Save Money While Traveling and Living in an RV

How to Save Money While Rv’ing Full Time

  1. Memberships

Check out memberships that will save you money on campground stays. 

  • Passport America
  • FMCA
  • Boondockers Welcome
  • Good Sam
  • Thousand Trails
  • Harvest Hosts

2. State Parks

3. Shop for Fuel to find the lowest price when on the road

4. Take classes on maintaining your vehicle and RV instead of paying someone

5. Buy a used RV or Truck

6. Pay cash for your Vehicles

7. Cook at Home

8. Shop for Lower Insurance Rates

Conclusion

Now that you know how much it costs to live full time in your RV, get out there and live your adventure. See our post on the must have accessories you need to get started https://www.tincanliving.blog/2021/01/28/30-must-have-rv-accessories-for-the-brand-new-owner/. RV’ing is a blast. See the world. Just be responsible and spend wisely!! Write us with any questions or suggestions that you may have. We will see you out there!!

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One comment

  1. Alison

    Wow, this is so interesting-a lot of costs I wouldn’t have thought of. I don’t think I could do it-I love the idea of the freedom, but am scared of driving large vehicles!

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