The biggest question most people have before they run away to live in an RV full-time is: Can I afford it?
When we first started talking about RVing full-time, we had no idea how much it cost to live full-time in an RV. Was it going to cost more than living in a house? Was it going to cost less? How much would we spend on gas a month? We had no idea. If you are thinking about RVing full-time and wondering if you can afford it, this post is for you.
Living and traveling full-time in a RV is of course not free, but we were surprised how affordable it can be. You actually have a lot flexibility when it comes to expenses – depending on your budget and how you like to travel.
People enjoy the full-time RV lifestyle on all kinds of budgets, and the money full-timers have to work with comes in all kinds of forms. Some retirees have big pensions but not a lot of savings. Others have a nest egg of savings but no pension. Many younger full-time RVers work while they travel, either to cover all of their living expenses or to supplement other income streams.
We hope you find todays post helpful to anticipate some of the costs of full-time RVing.
Full-time Campsite Budget
Think of campsites like your mortgage or rent. Campsites are, in my opinion, where you can either spend the most money or make full-time RVing cheaper than “normal” life because there are so many options. Depending on your budget and camping style, you can stay in RV parks, State Parks, on free Boondocking land, or utilize RV Discount Clubs.
RV Parks with full-hook ups (electric, water, sewer) will cost on average anywhere from $30-$90 a night. Many provide showers and other great amenities, which has nothing to do with the budget but sure is nice. Average Monthly (which can vary greatly): $400 – $1,600
State Park Campgrounds
State Park campground fees will vary by state and what is offered. We’ve been found State Park campgrounds with partial hook-ups (electric, usually water) anywhere from $15-45 but have dumpsites available on the premises. We found most state parks do not allow monthly stays.
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. Monthly: $0
RV Discount Clubs
There are several RV Discount Clubs out there that allow you to pay an annual fee to camp at various sites. For example, there is Boondockers Welcome which costs us $50 a year. You are able to stay with Boondockers Welcome hosts throughout the country for no additional charge. Another option is Harvest Hosts which starts at $79 a year. We’ve haven’t tried this one yet, but it looks awesome! With either option, spend a few nights a month at different locations and it pays for itself after a few nights.
Our Monthly Campsite Budget
We budget $450 a month for campsites, but that is because while we are working, we are provided free onsite generator, water & sewer onsite. It works great for us – it’s free!
Full-time RV Gas Budget
Honestly, I’m not sure if there’s a way to generalize the gas budget, since gas prices, gas mileage, and the number of miles you travel varies so much. However, we do recommend a discount fuel card if you use diesel. A TSD Fuel card has been very helpful to keep our fuel costs down. We budget anywhere from $300-$500 a month depending on how far we travel, the fuel prices and how much driving around we do in our tow-behind car.
Since our RV is our home, we upped our RV insurance when going full-time. If you are living in your RV rather than just taking vacations, you will need specialized insurance. We recommend doing some research on providers and finding out exactly what you need. Our RV insurance is $54 a month.
RV Maintenance and Repair Budget
If you’re planning to RV full-time, just know things break – often. This isn’t to scare you – full-time RVing is totally worth it, but just be prepared to spend $50-100 a month on repairs or maintenance. Thankfully, ED can fix most things on our RV, so we just have to buy the parts. Depending on the condition of your RV and your handiness, you may need to adjust this number.
Remember, you’ll also be putting some miles on your RV or Tow Vehicle, so oil changes and regular maintenance should be in your budget.
RV “Utilities” Budget
While you may no longer have a water, sewer, or trash bill, you may need to include utilities in your budget. Since we are provided a site during our work assignments over half of the time, we only budget $75 a month. This too will vary greatly. Some campsites your rental fee covers the cost of all utilities however, some monthly sites charge electric.
Cell Phone + Internet RV Budget
Before we hit the road, we upgraded our cell phone plan to the Unlimited Plan with AT&T but later got rid of those plans and now use Straight Talk utilizing AT&T towers. We saved appropriately $60 per month by doing this. Between both of our phones we pay $110 a month with unlimited data however only 15GB of data on our hotspots. So, we purchased another phone plan through a third-party vendor that allows us to use the hotspot with unlimited data. The cost of that plan is $45 per month. Our monthly costs for both our cell phones & internet phone is $155.
Full-time RV Laundry Budget
Laundry budget. This is our least favorite chore – even before full-time RVing and we do have a washer/dryer combo in our RV. But the larger items such as our bed quilt, we have to pack everything up and go to a laundromat, it’s really not our favorite. But it must be done. Some RV parks will have washers and dryers onsite, but if you are on remote jobs sites or boondocking, you’ll find yourself at the laundromat.
If you can find a place that has the industrial size washers and dryers, then you’re in luck. You can wash several loads in one machine. If we are washing clothes, bedding, towels, and the dogs’ stuff, we spend about $18-20 to wash and dry it all.
We really weren’t sure how much to budget per month for propane. We read online that you can spend $40 a month, so that’s what we originally budgeted. Luckily, we don’t spend anywhere close to that. We refilled our propane tanks approximately 2x’s a year. We only use propane for cooking, our refrigerator as we travel, and if its super cold out and our electric heater cannot keep up, we do run our furnace.
RV “Fun Money” Budget
This totally depends on what you want to do for entertain and fun while full-time RVing. Our fun money budget is way less on the road. This for a few reasons: We eat out way less on the road than we did at home. We can go explore or hike for free versus paying for entertainment. We do spend fun money on is the occasional dinner out, park fees and drinks if we are meeting up with someone. Your monthly budget is up to you!
Normal Living Expenses
Normal living expenses include food, cleaning supplies, toiletries – all the non-specific RV items you already pay for. This varies from family to family and should not change too much from your current budget. Except there is a lot less space to clean meaning fewer cleaning supplies!
Hit The Road
As you hit the road you may find several ways that you can reduce your overall monthly costs. However, on the flip side, you can live a luxurious life on the road, too. More and more RVS are being designed for full-time living and offer many of the same features that houses do. You can also find RV resorts all over the country that make you feel like you are at a 5-star resort. Obviously, this will all come at a higher price. We strongly believe that full-time RVing can be as expensive or inexpensive as you make it. While it may take some discipline and extra planning, there are a ton of ways to save money on the road and therefore make RV Life affordable and achievable. So, get out and get started today. You will not regret it. It’s A Good Life!