When you’re in the research phase of full-time travel, I’m sure one of your first questions is how much does RV living cost, really? It was definitely our first question. And the big-picture answer is…it depends.
Everyone’s circumstances, reasons for living this lifestyle and family situation is different. So to give you the best idea of how much it costs to RV full-time, we’ll first share our experience and then some details and numbers from two couples without kids and two families with kids.
This should give you a way to compare apples to apples for your situation instead of being left trying to somehow just apply our situation to yours.
How Much Does Full-Time RV Living Cost?
How much does it cost to RV full-time? As much or as little as you’d like it to. It all depends on your circumstances, the size of your family, if you took out an RV loan, how fast you travel, whether you are set up to boondock, and much more.
In the following examples from full-time RVers, you’ll see that you can RV on the cheap and save thousands of dollars to pay off things like debt and school loans. But you’ll also see that it can cost more than living in a stationary home, especially if your goal isn’t to save money but instead to see and do as much as you can.
How Much Did it Cost Us? A lot.
In an effort to be transparent, we wanted to share a little about our experience and situation during the 17 months we spent full-time RVing.
The bottom line for us is: we didn’t choose this lifestyle to save money. (Okay, Todd might have had a little hope that was possible at first.)
So, I’m not going to put our specific expenses out there. Let’s just say we spent more than we would have if we stayed stationary. To give you a rough estimate, on average it probably cost us $800-$1200 more per month to RV full-time than to live in a house.
It feels a little awkward to put that out there, but it’s the truth.
We decided to do this for an adventure our family would never forget. We did it because it was time for a change for all of us. We were in it for experiences, not to pinch pennies. Can you have amazing adventures and experiences with your family that you’ll never forget and not spend a ton of money? Absolutely!
Why it was Pricey
Here’s why full-time RVing was pricey for us:
- We traveled quickly – Traveling slower would have saved us money on RV parks and gas. This is one of the pieces of advice we give full-time RV newbies: travel slow(er).
- I live to eat – While Todd eats to live, I live to eat. Which meant every time we were in a new destination, I was looking at restaurants. And I don’t regret for a minute all the money spent on ice cream, pizzas, hamburgers, mussels, and butterbeer.
- Groceries were more expensive – Before, I would shop sales, clip coupons, plus a number of other things to cut corners on our grocery costs. But when it came to grocery shopping while RVing full-time, I shopped on the fly.
- We spent a ton on airline tickets – Between flying our college student to wherever we were, flying her back, flying me to Texas to move her into her dorm (twice), a family emergency which required a last-minute ticket purchase, and blogging conferences, we spent plenty on airline tickets.
- We traveled to the east coast and Canada – Staying on the west coast would have been more cost-effective, but again, we wanted to see as much of the USA and Canada as we could. We had no idea how long we would be doing this full-time RV thing, so we squeezed a lot in.
Ways to Cut Full-Time RVing Costs
Now, we’re not complete boneheads when it comes to full-time RV living and cutting costs. We definitely found some great ways to save money.
Todd shared 5 ways to cut costs while full-time RVing here. Out of those five, here are the three things we did that helped us the most:
- Used campground memberships such as Thousand Trails and campground discount cards such as Passport America and Good Sam
- Took advantage of fuel savings
- Took precautionary measures to avoid an expensive (and potentially damaging) tire blowout on our travel trailer
Would We Change Anything?
We’ve definitely asked ourselves this question from time to time since we stopped full-time RVing. The answer? Yes and no.
This is a hard question to answer because now that I look back on our time, I am so glad we visited as many places as we did, even if traveling slower would have saved money.
We’ve also said that we wished we’d been set up better to boondock more, which would have saved us money. But in all honesty, when I look back I think “would we have really boondocked more?” I mean, am I more of a full hook-up girl? (I’ve been told not to say that out loud. Apparently, it sounds weird. But you RVers know what I’m talking about! :P)
And instead of saying “man, I wish we would have eaten out less“, I catch myself regretting some of the places we didn’t eat at. But remember, my name is Julie and I live to eat.
You do You
I guess the point in sharing our pricey full-time RVing experience with you is to say, you do you.
Do you have the means to just go for it? Then do it!
Do you need to pinch pennies in order to make this dream a reality? Do it.
Are you full-time RVing so you can pay down debt? What an incredible way to achieve that goal.
Are you up for a challenge to see how little you can spend? I love it. Teach me your ways. (Or at least teach Todd. He will probably pay more attention.)
RVers Share How Much Full-Time RVing Costs Them
Now that our personal experience is out of the way, let’s see some real numbers shall we?
Two Couples Without Kids Share Full-Time RV Living Costs
Heath and Alyssa from www.heathandalyssa.com
This is probably the best post I’ve seen on full-time RVing costs. Alyssa broke it down so well and gave so many details, it seems she didn’t leave anything on the table.
To give you the cliff notes version of Heath and Alyssa’s story, they started full-time RVing just four days after they got married. In one year, they saved enough money to pay off $13,000 of student loan debt. You can read how they did that here.
In this post, they shared the numbers for their situation, which adds up to about $2,500 a month to live comfortably.
Alyssa also wrote a fantastic, and highly rated, book titled “A Beginner’s Guide to Living in an RV: Everything I Wish I Knew Before Full-Time RVing Across America” and we highly recommend snagging a copy of it.
The McKenzies from Follow Your Detour
The McKenzies travel full-time and work from the road in their RV named Wanda.
In this post, they list things like the bare necessities needed to RV full-time, plus a breakdown of each. RV parks and campgrounds are their biggest expense, followed by food, gas and health insurance.
I love this quote from them:
“Many people think you have to make a lot of money to travel full-time, but that’s not the case. In fact, full-time RVing can be as expensive or inexpensive as you choose.”
So, how much does it cost them a month to full-time RV?
They also share how much full-time RVing costs other RVers, from solo travelers, staycationers, an adventure family, empty nesters and more. Just fill out the form on the bottom of their post and they’ll send you the details.
Two Families with Kids Share Full-Time RVing Costs
Nathan and Renee from Wand’rly (Family of 6)
Wand’rly, a family of six which includes a mom, dad, grandma, and three kids have been on the road since 2008. So, I’d say they know a thing or two about this full-time lifestyle.
I really enjoyed this part of their article:
“It can be difficult living this type of full-time traveling life, and the planning and mundane tasks are certainly a part of it all.
The rewards are innumerable though. Seeing your children’s first step, when they learn to ride a bike or you being the one who shows them how to read.
I just can’t imagine a different way of life I’d prefer, and so I prefer to not imagine and just live it instead.”
They shared numbers just a bit differently, choosing to compare living expenses over 15 years between RVs and homeownership. To see those numbers, click here.
Jill from Let’s Travel Family (Family of 6)
Jill shared with Money Can’t Buy Me Happiness, how much it costs her family of six (mom, dad, and four young kids) to travel full-time via RV.
One thing she points out is that going into this, you need to know that your expenses will fluctuate depending on where you’re traveling. We definitely found this to be true.
She broke down the general categories her family spends money on every month such as cell phone bills, RV loan payment, groceries, Netflix, etc. She then chose one month and gave actual numbers.
I added up the numbers she gave and their grand total was:
Their four largest expenses were groceries at $1200, RV loan payment at $709, medical insurance at $600 and campground fees at $600.
RV Living Can Cost As Much or As Little As You’d Like
We hope these numbers and information left you with some of the answers you were looking for. But if you have your own numbers to share with us about your full-time RV living adventure then feel free to drop them in the comments below or email us. We would LOVE to hear from you!
Julie Bonner is one-half of the TREKKN team. She specializes in helping you whip up delicious meals in your tiny RV kitchen, as well as RV organization tips and helping fellow RVers make their RV feel like home. Her favorite RVing spot is in Banff National Park in Canada where yes, the water really is that blue and the people really are that nice.