Are you considering living the RV life? If so, one of the most important considerations is the cost of living in an RV full time. Luckily for you, I’ve done tons of research and given a lot of thought to how much this RV lifestyle might cost. Keep in mind I haven’t embarked on this journey yet (I have a 2 year plan!) – so this is still just an estimate.
Our Estimated Cost of Living in an RV Full Time
As it turns out, living in an RV full time can get rather expensive. I’ve estimated that the cost of living in an RV full time for a year will be about forty-eight thousand dollars – slightly more than the average cost of life.
Nearly fifty thousand dollars for a year of RV living sounds daunting, doesn’t it? Keep in mind that this cost reflects everything that I can think of that you might have to pay. It also over estimates the costs of maintenance and miscellaneous items. If I didn’t include those things, RV life would be cheaper than traditional life. But, I’d rather be over prepared than under prepared, wouldn’t you?
The Cost Breakdown
How Much Does an RV Cost?
One of the biggest expenses with full time RV living is the cost of the actual RV itself. You can get a very very cheap used RV for about ten thousand dollars on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, but do you really want to live full time in the most used of the used RVs?
You can also go the other way, and get an incredibly expensive motor home for more than the cost of a house in most places. When we went to the RV show, we found motor homes that cost upwards of three hundred thousand dollars!
Since we are combining the RV life with financial freedom, we’ve realized a top of the line motor home probably isn’t the answer. Instead, we are going to go with a mid-line used toy hauler.
RV Trader has some awesome deals on used RVs. Although we aren’t ready to buy yet (still have two years to go!) we’ve found a bunch of great possibilities on that website for around thirty thousand dollars. Our plan is to save money for the next few years to be able to buy the RV with cash, so that will cut our yearly budget down to about $42000 rather than $48000.
If you chose to finance the RV, you will probably be paying around $500 per month in payments. That means you will be paying $6000 per year for your RV.
Cost for RV outright: $30000
Total Cost per Year of financing: $6000
How Much Does It Cost to Live in an RV Park per Month?
The next biggest cost of living in an RV full time is paying for a place to park it. The cost of living in an RV park can vary widely depending on what types of amenities are offered and how long you plan to stay.
Most RV parks will offer discounts on monthly rates. You can find a decent RV park in many states for less than $1000 per month, which is cheaper than renting a house in most places. And, most RV parks allow you to have pets!
RV parks in beautiful places are much more expensive. You could spend upwards of 100-200 dollars per night to stay in the nicest RV parks. These are the ones loaded up with amenities such as pools, clubhouses, hiking, etc., and are generally in higher cost of living states. In my opinion, these types of campgrounds are better suited for short term vacations, but if you can afford it and prefer luxury campgrounds, these are always an option.
Total Cost: $12000/year
What Are Some of the Other Costs of Living in an RV Full Time?
Of course, the 1K per month for an RV park doesn’t include everything, just like rent isn’t the only thing you have to pay for with traditional housing. Let’s take a look at some of the other costs associated with living in an RV full time.
If you are going to be living in an RV full time, you will definitely want insurance on it. These costs can vary wildly depending on whether you chose a trailer or motor home. Since we are choosing a trailer, we are going to estimate the cost with that – keep in mind that it will be far more expensive to insure a motor home.
Camper report gives an amazing cost break down on what it takes to insure your trailer. You will generally be paying between $200 and $500 per year for this type of insurance, which is much cheaper than home-owners insurance.
You will also need to pay for insurance on the truck that you use to haul it. Again, this varies wildly depending on your state, driving record, and the options you chose, but most people will be able to find a policy for around $600 every six months. That’s a total additional cost of about $1200 per year.
Total Cost: $1700/year
It’s harder to estimate the cost of maintenance, because you don’t know what will go wrong with the trailer until you have it. There are some things that you might be able to DIY, and others that will require taking it to a specialty shop. Because I like to err on the side of caution, I’ve estimated that I’ll need $5000 for basic maintenance for my RV per year. I’m considering this my RV emergency fund.
Total Cost: $5000/year
If you are going to be traveling in your RV full time rather than parking it, gas is going to be one of your biggest expenses. I pay about thirty dollars a week in gas just for my around town driving – and hauling an RV is going to do a number on the gas mileage. Although its tough to estimate prices on something that is so variable (gas prices are constantly fluctuating, and if we stay at an RV park the majority of the time it will be much less), I’d rather be cautious again and overestimate. I’m going to assume that we will use a little over twice what we use now, and budget $300 per month for gas.
Total Cost: $3600/year
Food and Fun
Currently, I spend about $650 per month on groceries, going out, pet food, and incidentals. I can’t imagine that changing much with full time RV living, except that I might buy my way into more National Parks and hiking grounds. Therefore, I’m going to calculate that we spend $700 per month on these things.
This is highly variable. I’m supporting two people and six pets with my calculations, and I don’t go out much. If you cook less and go out more, your costs may be higher. But why eat out when you can cook around a camp fire most nights? Take a good look at your budget before deciding you that my $8400 a year will work for you.
Total Cost: $8400/year
You absolutely need a truck if you are going to be living in a trailer full time, so although most people have car payments in addition to their rent/mortgage payment, I decided it would be important to include here. This way, you can get a complete estimate of the cost of living in an RV full time, rather than just the cost of the RV itself. It’s best to know all of your potential expenses upfront, right?
Trucks are a bit more expensive than your typical sedan, but you can’t haul a trailer with a sedan. Unfortunately, you need a specific type of vehicle for this type of hauling, and that can get pricey. However, if you shop smart and buy used, you can get a decent pick up truck for hauling for about thirty thousand dollars, which will give you a car payment of about $500 per month.
Total Cost: $6000 per year
I know I’m not thinking of everything. I’m sure there will be special RV supplies that we will need, and we will have to pay to dump our sewer water, and random things will just pop up that I never even considered. Therefore, we need to set some money aside to cover these things as they pop up.
Since I don’t know what I don’t know, I’m going to budget a lot for this to be on the safe side.
Total Cost: $5000
Not Included in Calculations
One big advantage of the RV park is that it usually includes utilities. Most RV parks come with electric and water hookups and also have trash pick-up. These are things that you generally have to pay for separately when renting.
Total Cost of Living in an RV Full Time
If you finance both the RV and the truck, your yearly cost of living in an RV full time will be approximately $47700. Once you get both those things paid off, it will go down to only $35700! That’s not bad for everything you need to live on. You can also live a lot more cheaply by not having pets (a good chunk of my $700/month grocery budget is cat food, dog food, and kitty litter), eating cheaply, and staying put.
Also, those miscellaneous and repair costs are variable. It’s good to have that money ready when you are getting started, but if you don’t have any emergencies you won’t have to worry about spending that money, which can get your costs down by another five to ten thousand dollars. In a good year, you could get by on as little as $25000 per year!
Is Living in an RV Cheaper than a House?
Clearly, living in an RV can be much cheaper than living in a house. It greatly depends on what type of RV you choose, what type of RV park you chose, and what you do with your time. If you are considering RV living to save money, you can absolutely find those cheaper options. You’d be hard pressed to find a home or apartment to rent that includes all utilities for less than one thousand dollars per month in most areas, but it’s definitely doable in an RV.
You can also find free places to park while living in an RV. A lot of federal lands allow you to boon dock for up to two weeks at a time, and most truck stops and Walmarts will let you stay overnight. The disadvantage of both of those options is that the free spots don’t provide any utilities, but if you don’t have the money to pay for a spot, they are great in a pinch.
What RV is Best for Full Time Living?
The only person who can determine which RV is best for you for full time living is you. Everyone has different living requirements. But the fist thing you need to do is determine whether you should get a motor home or a trailer. Read this to find out whether a motor home or a trailer is better for your RV adventure.
Remember that motor homes are far more expensive than trailers, so if you go that route you are going to increase your cost substantially. Most folks who chose the motor home route also have a car that they tow along with them for easy mobility, so unless you don’t plan to do that, you aren’t saving any money by getting the all-in-one.
Full Time RV Living
There’s a lot more to take into consideration when deciding to live in an RV full time than just the cost. You’ll have to consider the small space, your life goals, who is coming with (family and furry friends!), and how you will keep in touch with loved ones.
It also isn’t as free and easy as some folks will make you think it is. However, If you are smart about it and do it right, it can be a lot cheaper than living in traditional housing. It’s a perfect option for those who are seeking the complete freedom of a nomadic lifestyle.
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.