It is possible to afford full-time RVing on Social Security, but it can be challenging. Here is what you need to know…
Many retirees dream of buying an RV and traveling the country full-time. As Jennifer and I can attest, it’s a fantastic way to spend your golden years. But it can be more expensive than you might think.
Can you RV full-time on Social Security? Can it be done?
The simple answer is YES! We know a lot of couples who do this. Full-time RVing on social security may even support a better lifestyle than living in a house.
Still, there are a number of factors to consider when weighing this decision.
How to Afford Full-Time RVing on Social Security
Here are steps you can take to determine if full-time RVing on Social Security is right for you, and how to get ready for it.
Find Out How Much You’ll Get From Social Security
As a starting point, it is helpful to know an estimated amount you will receive from Social Security per month. This way, you can manage your expectations for a budget down the line.
You can get an idea using this social security calculator.
Is there a minimum budget for full-time living in an RV Life? Not really, but from experience, I would suggest $2,000 per month as the absolute bare minimum.
Despite not paying rent, full-time RVing carries some basic, consistent costs. Just understand that living on $2,000 per month from Social Security alone will be challenging, especially if you're traveling around a lot. Living a more stationary RV life can be more affordable since you're saving on fuel costs.
How to Determine If Full-Time RVing Is Right For You
Right off the bat, we want to encourage you to start things slow! The BEST ADVICE we can give you is to TRY BEFORE YOU BUY.
Buying an RV is a big decision with a big price tag, and you shouldn't make it on the sales lot with an RV dealer. You should make it from a campsite or on a road trip with your travel companions.
The only way to figure out if the RV lifestyle is right for you is to experience it firsthand. And you DON'T have to figure it out after you buy an expensive rig.
Before you make a big investment in an RV, rent one. Or borrow one. Or tag along with an RVing friend on their next trip. Do this for a minimum of three trips! Some RV trips go perfectly, while others have bumps in the road, so three trips is a good minimum baseline to get an idea of what RVing is really like.
If you realize RVing is, in fact, for you, great! But still don’t dive in head first…
Ease Into It
If you’re considering becoming a full-time RVer, we encourage you to ease into it. Before you sell your house, take multiple trips in your RV for longer and longer durations. Make sure you can happily live in an RV full-time before you make it final.
If you decide to go full-time, carefully consider renting your sticks-and-bricks home instead of selling it. Most full-time RVers return to a traditional house at some point, especially once they reach a certain age or because of unforeseen circumstances. We’ve heard too many stories of people having to cut short their RV dreams because of illness or the passing of a travel partner.
Rent Your Home Instead of Selling, If Possible
If you can rent your home for the cost of your mortgage payment or more, then you can travel the country while renters pay for your home. You may even get some extra cash flow. If you need your home’s equity to buy an RV, consider a cash-out refinance or HELOC instead of selling.
If you can rent your house to cover the payments, then you can keep your house, get an RV, and have a house to return to if you decide to quit the RV lifestyle. A house, mind you, that will likely be worth significantly more than when you started your RV lifestyle (unlike the RV that loses 20% of its value when you drive it off the lot).
We ourselves have kept a sticks-and-bricks home even though we RV three-quarters of the year. The remaining one-quarter of the year is spent intermittently at our house and gives us a break to reset and spend some time with our hometown family and friends in a more traditional setting. Then, we get the travel itch again and hit the road. It’s worked out well for us, but every RVer has to find the right balance for themselves.
Research Costs for Different Types of RV Life
“RVing” is an umbrella term, and one RV lifestyle can look completely different from the next. One RVer may boondock in a campervan, while another RVer rolls into a luxury RV resort with their amenity-filled coach.
So, the first thing you need to know is what type of RV lifestyle suits you best, such as boondocking off-grid, hooking up at standard campgrounds, staying at 55+ campgrounds, or stating at luxury RV resorts.
Join RV Social Groups
Instead of just reading articles, join Facebook groups or, better yet, our RV Lifestyle Community (it's free!). You can join the conversation with other RVers, including retirees. People who are already full-time RVing on Social Security are always the best resources. Many of them know the tricks and secrets to save considerable amounts of money.
Rest assured, this is a community that gets joy out of helping each other. They are some of the nicest people you can meet, so don’t hesitate to ask them for advice.
Budget for Life on the Road
Now that you have done the research, you can start putting together a budget.
Is this realistic given the amount you will receive for Social Security? If not, what sacrifices can be made to afford this lifestyle in the long term?
Log and plan for cheap or even free places to park, like in our article Free and Cheap RV Sites for Your 2021 Travels. Choosing to stay in places like these adds up to considerable savings.
Regardless, there are certain costs where you can’t budge much if living full time in your RV. Your fixed income would need to cover basic expenses such as:
- RV payment
- Maintenance and repairs
- RV insurance
- Medical expenses
These items would all need to be included in your most conservative of budgets to be feasible.
If You Want to Go Full-Time RVing on Social Security – Start Saving Now
Now that a realistic, researched budget is in place that takes your own preferences into account, you can start saving.
This is especially important if your Social Security earnings won’t completely cover your monthly expenses. Savings can enable you to sacrifice less if Social Security doesn’t cover your whole budget.
Ideally, you’re still a year or more away from retirement and still have time to save. The larger the nest egg you can collect, the better. It will come in handy for unexpected repairs or other rainy-day costs.
Make Your RV More Fuel Efficient
Let’s say you haven’t bought the RV you would use during retirement yet. In this case, you have the freedom to choose an RV based on its long-term reliability and up-to-date efficiency.
Fuel consumption is a constant cost that will yield great returns if you invest in an RV with higher fuel efficiency. Models vary significantly in terms of fuel use since some are not ideal for full-time living.
See our RV Buying Secrets to find the best RV for a full-time RV lifestyle.
If you already own your RV and are happy with it, there are some things you can do to get better gas mileage:
- Keep up on regular maintenance
- Check tire pressure regularly
- Travel lightly, declutter as needed
- Keep the weight balanced
- Use the A/C as needed
- Drive smooth and steady
- Know where you’re going
You can also save by getting (RV Fuel Discount Cards & More).
Supplement Your Social Security With Work Camping Jobs
If Social Security doesn’t cover your costs, you can supplement your income with work camper or side jobs- either for pay or in trade for a campsite.
In today’s world, there are plenty of options for exchanging work for RV parking. For example, many RVers work as camp hosts at a campground in exchange for a free RV campsite.
Check out sites such as Workamper; this is a great place to find seasonal jobs all over the country. For example, in some campgrounds, you can work hospitality jobs in exchange for a modest wage and a hook-up site for your RV.
Here are some other helpful resources for earning extra income from the road:
- Work Camping Jobs: 10 Best Resources for Workamper Jobs
- Camp Host 101: What Do Camp Hosts Do (& Don’t Do)
- Make Money While RVing as a Pet Sitter!
If you’re capable of working, explore all options. You might be pleasantly surprised by how many opportunities you come across.
In the end, I’m a big proponent of full-time RV life. As long as you budget and plan, you can enjoy RV life on Social Security.
Are You Full-Time RVing on Social Security?
Do you “do” full-time RV Life on Social Security? Is it what you expected? Or do you dream of full-timing and have insights you'd like to share? Comment below to help others plan!
Two Money-Saving E-books
If you're looking for ways to stretch your retirement dollars, we recommend our Boondocking for Beginners and Free RV Camping Spots EBOOK Bundle. These books can save you SO MUCH MONEY on campground fees.
- How We Started Our RV Life (& How You Can Too!)
- 11 Insightful Ways to Embrace Being a Senior RVer
- Becoming Full-Time RVers? How to Tell Family & Friends in 5 Steps
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- Women RVers Share Their Secret Tips for Successful Solo RV Travel
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