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The Cost of Full-Time RVing: Affording a Life on the Road

The most common questions that we get from people are on the topic of money, so we’re diving into the financial side of full-time RVing in this post. It seems people always want to know how much it actually costs to full-time RV, but unfortunately, there’s not really a straightforward answer.

We often tell people that RVing can cost as much or as little as you want. You can buy an older, used RV to save money up front. Then, you can find free places to park, save on gas by limiting your travel, and stick to free, outdoor activities in the areas you visit.

On the flip side, you can live a pretty 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 (washer and dryers, kitchen islands, dishwashers, etc.). You can also find RV resorts all over the country that make you feel like you’re at a 5-star resort. Obviously, this will all come at a higher price.

That all being said, it can be tough to prepare financially for RV life until you’ve hit the road and determined your personal travel style and preferences. We started out traveling every week and staying at fairly nice RV parks. We’ve gradually started finding more and more free spots to park and staying longer periods of time. You, too, will find what works best for you and your wallet. But, we will do our best to help you anticipate some of the costs of full-time RVing.

RV motorhome driving on scenic road in Utah

Here are the up-front expenses you will need to consider in order to start RVing:

Buying an RV, and/or tow vehicle

Costs will depend on type of RV, if you purchase new or used, choose to do repairs or a remodel, etc.  Click here for our 5 tips you MUST read before purchasing an RV.

RV equipment

Regardless of which type of RV you buy, there are basic items you will need in order to use your RV, such as hoses, chocks, and levelers. There are so many add ons and accesories that you can really get carried away if you’re not careful. Here is our list of must-have RV resources.

RV clubs/memberships

Although you will spend money up front, investing in certain memberships can save you a lot of money in the long run. If you want to know the RV memberships we recommend, you can get the full list here.

Escapees RV club

RV interior items

Not everything that is currently in your home will be a good fit for your RV. There will be little things that you’ll need to purchase to make your RV more livable, such as storage containers to make the most of the space and stay organized. Need tips for packing an RV? Click here. 

Towing equipment

If you purchase a travel trailer or fifth-wheel, you’ll also need to purchase and install a hitch to tow it. If you purchase a motorhome, you’ll likely want to tow a vehicle behind you and will need to purchase the towing and braking equipment to do so.

To give you an idea of how much we spent to get our towing equipment set up: $550 for our fifth wheel and $1,500 for our motorhome. We saved several hundred dollars by finding some items used on Craigslist. Don’t be afraid to look for something used. If you’d like to know which towing equipment we purchased and recommend, you can check out our resources page here.

Gear

While this isn’t an absolute necessity and you may already have the equipment, think about the things you’ll want to have with you on your adventures. Bikes (and a bike rack), kayaks, fishing gear, hiking gear, cameras, propane fire pit, hammocks…

couple biking past RV motorhome parked at vineyard
We love biking around the towns we visit!

Monthly RV life expenses

Have you checked out our survey of 7 other full-time RVers monthly expenses?
We asked a solo traveler, families of varying sizes, a retired couple, and an empty nester couple, to share their monthly RV expenses. To view the results and get a better idea of what RV life will cost you based on your family size and travel style, click here to read the post and download the PDF.

Here are the monthly RV life expenses you’ll need to account for:

We wrote a detailed post about how much it costs for us per month to full-time RV here. You can read how the costs break down if you’d like, but to cut right to the chase, our total monthly cost is $3,033. It’s important to remember that these costs are variable. Also, they don’t take into account anything extra that you are bringing to the table i.e. credit card debt, car payments, student loans etc. so don’t forget to plan for those expenses as well.

RV and/or car payment

If you choose to finance an RV and/or tow vehicle, you’ll need to factor in the monthly payment.

RV and car insurance

This will vary greatly depending on the insurance company, your driving record, your RV and other vehicles.

RV parks and campgrounds

You can find places to park for as little as $20/night or as much $100/night. You can also occasionally find free places to park on BLM land. Keep in mind that free parking will require dry camping, or “boondocking”, which means you will not have access to hookups. Be sure to read our Boondocking Guide for tips on finding free spots, conserving water, getting power, and everything else you need to know about free camping!

rv motorhome by lake in Colorado at sunset
This beautiful spot in Colorado was completely FREE and even had electric hook ups!

RV maintenance/repairs

This will depend on the age and type of your RV. However, ALL RVs require maintenance and repairs…even brand new ones.

Propane

Many RV systems, such as heating, refrigerators, and ovens/stoves, run off propane. Living full-time in an RV means you do run through propane pretty quickly.

Gas

This varies based on how often and how far you are traveling. Completely up to you!

Internet

If you will be working a job that relies on good internet signal, you’ll need to invest in a hot spot or some other internet solution. Otherwise, you can get unlimited data from your cell phone provider and use the WiFi that some RV parks provide. We also highly recommend getting a cell booster to avoid connectivity problems.

Man working on laptop by a lake

Food

You’ll likely eat out at restaurants more often than you typically do. However, you can still cook from the RV often and keep the cost of food similar to what you currently pay per month.

Entertainment

Depends greatly on what you like to do when visiting new places.

Other personal/family expenses

Don’t forget to factor in your own personal monthly expenses, including debt and credit card payments, other memberships, medications, health insurance, personal care items, pet expenses, etc.

Couple standing by RV in campground in Moab Utah

What are some tips for saving money on the road?

As we mentioned, we strongly believe that full-time RVing can be as expensive or inexpensive as you make it. While it sometimes takes some discipline and extra planning, there are lots of easy ways to save money on the road and therefore make RV life much more affordable and achievable. We are passionate about living below our means, saving as much money as possible, and budgeting. So, if you’d like to read our tips for how we save money in order to afford full-time travel, you can check out the following posts:

Tips for Saving Money While Living Full-Time in an RV 

How We Afford to Travel Full-Time

Additional Resources

Full-Time RV Finance: An e-book written by our friend Julie Chickery of ChickerysTravels.com. Julie and her husband Sean have been full-time RVing for 3+ years now and also aren’t retired but have managed to pay off their debt while traveling! They have great tips and advice in their book regarding everything related to RV finance.

Travel America on $2k/Month: A free seven-day course on how to travel full-time on a budget. Our friends Heath and Alyssa Padgett share how they traveled to 48 states and how they kept their monthly expenses at $2,000/month!

We hope this post has helped you understand the financial costs of becoming a full-time RVer!

If you’d like to receive this information, along with TONS of other helpful tips for transitioning your life to the road full-time…

…be sure to check out our FREE 7 Day Email Course “How To Get Started Full-Time RVing”.

RV under night skies how to get started full-time RVing

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