Fulltime RV Living: Count the Cost

 Fulltime RV Living: Count the Cost

Are the costs of fulltime RV living worth the gains?

Many people are forgoing permanent homes for a more adventurous life on the road.

Although a full-time RV lifestyle can be affordable, there are other things that are involved – emotional, social, and financial costs to consider.

While the gains are well-worth the costs for many, the same might not be true for you.

Becoming a fulltime RVer is something that requires a lot of planning and a solid decision-making process based on reality, not the romance of your dream about what life on the road is like.

The Gains of Fulltime RV Living

photo for fulltime rv living section on joys

Many people believe full-time RV living is a great and rewarding lifestyle. 

More and more people are selling their brick-and-mortar homes in favor of life on the road.

Thanks to the remote working trend that started during the COVID pandemic, more employers are willing to let their workers do their jobs over the phone and Internet. Thus, a whole new class of mobile RV workers has emerged.

They are digital nomads.

Fulltime RV Living offers many perks when you are not tied down to a permanent home.

Discover the World as a Fulltime RVer

Perhaps the biggest benefit of fulltime RV living is seeing the world.

Not only can you travel across North America, you can also slow down and experience life in different regions, staying as long or as brief as you want,

Some fulltime RVers chase the sun, choosing routes that keep them in perpetual 72 degree weather.

They start out in winter in the south, head west along the Gulf states to the Southwest, and then, as spring turns to summer and the temperatures rise, they turn north into the mountains, using altitude to cool down.

Others settle in for two and three months at a time before moving on to new discoveries in new places.

Less Work

fulltime rv living photo of senior
There are a lot of benefits to fulltime RV living

Another advantage of full-time RVing is not having to maintain a large home or yard.

When you choose to live in your RV, you also choose to live a more simplistic lifestyle, meaning one with less “stuff.”

The fewer items and less property you have to maintain, the more time there is to enjoy the hobbies and activities you love.

New Friends

Staying at different RV parks across the nation opens up the opportunity to meet new, like-minded people.

These are people that likely enjoy traveling and can even become life-long friends. Some people stay at the same parks year after year and meet up with their seasonal, cross-country friends.

There is a real sense of community that comes from fulltime RV Living as you encounter kindred spirits.

Some families fulltime with young children. “Road schooling” their kids as they travel.

The Costs of Fulltime RV Living

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Fulltime RV Living Couple Enjoying The View From Their campsite

While there are numerous benefits to fulltime RV living, there are also some practical things to consider before hitting the road.

Before we get into some of the details you might want to check out this story about why so many fulltime RVers are coming off the road these days.

Now, after you read that article, you need to listen to an interview I did on the RV Podcast with Kevin and Laura of Chapter3Travels.com, who have been fulltime RVers for nearly five years now and are known for telling it as it is.

In particular, they talked about how the fulltime life wears you down after a while and their plans to come off the fulltime RV road and move into a house.

CLICK HERE to listen to what they have to say 

How many Fulltime RVers are there?

It's hard to come up with a firm number for how many fulltime RVers are out there but the best industry guess puts the total at around 1 million. By fulltime, we mean 24×7, 365 days a year, with no permanent address.

There are many more seasonal or almost fulltime RVers – think snowbirds or those who travel from spring to fall, or all summer or even half to 3/4 of the years like Jennifer and me, who are on the road most of the time but still return to our sticks and bricks home every few weeks or month or so.

Conservatively, those “almost” fulltimers probably total about 2 million. 

Finances

The first thing you need to know in counting the cost of fulltime RV living is just what that cost really is.

In dollars.

A clear budget makes a big difference!

Full-time RVing may be cheaper than maintaining a brick-and-mortar home in many ways, but there are still a few big expenses.

You will want to be sure that you consider these costs to properly budget for your life on the road.

The most expensive things will be:

  • Purchasing your RV (check out our RV Buying Secrets)
  • Resort or RV Camping memberships (if desired)
  • Campsite fees
  • Fuel (a lot of fuel!)
  • Maintenance costs
  • Emergency RV repairs when things break. 

It would be best if you also considered the cost of food, entry fees into national parks, museums and various attractions you will encounter, and the cost of hobbies or activities.

If you’re wondering if full-time RV living is possible on social security or a low-income budget, it is! Bt it requires the ability to live on a strict budget.

As long as you know what your budget is, you can work within it.

Selling or Renting Your House

If you want to try out full-time RV living, then you’ll likely want to sell or rent your current home.

Selling your home might be time-consuming and require work up front, but once sold, you might feel freer and less tied-down.

Or, you might want to rent out your home.

Renting may offer passive income and provide you with a place to go back to should you ever decide to stop traveling.

But, you’ll need to factor in property management, repairs, risk of vacancy, and such.

Having Access to Less

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Another thing to consider before leaping into full-time RV living is having access to less.

Not only will you need to sell or store most of your possessions, but you will also have less access to creature comforts.

Things like dishwashers, bathtubs, and washing machines are likely to be available only in larger Fifth Wheels and Class A RVs. If you don’t think you can live without these luxuries, full-time RV living might not be for you.  

Of course, you can always spring for some upgrades. Just make sure to plan for the extra cost!

Finding Places to Stay

In the past, you could likely pull into an RV park and find a spot without any problem.

Nowadays, that is becoming more difficult.

In fact, many agree that 2021 is the year of the RV, an unforeseen side-effect from the Covid pandemic.

That means you need to try to make reservations in advance.

Plus, it’s a good idea to re-check pricing for places you’ve visited in the past. Many have raised their rates with the increase in demand.

Decision Fatigue

Another consideration of life on the road is the risk of having decision fatigue.

On the one hand, it can be exciting and adventurous to travel without knowing exactly where you will end up.

On the other hand, having to make decisions on where to go, where to stay, finding the best route, or making sure there are gas stations and amenities along the way…take it from us— can be exhausting (and frustrating!).

Combat the fatigue by doing as much planning ahead as you can.

And be open to following in others’ footsteps!

We’ve made it part of our life’s mission to map out great itineraries for others to use. That way, it takes the stress out of planning.

You can check out our 7-Day Adventure Guides to our favorite places across the country.

Loneliness

Life on the road can sometimes feel lonely. Although there is the possibility of meeting new people where you stay, it can sometimes feel isolating when you have new neighbors all the time.

One way to combat loneliness is to join travelers' clubs or groups. There may be one offered in your RV park or in the city that you are hitched in.

A great resource is our RV Lifestyle Facebook Group, where you can connect with other people in the area with similar interests

Bad Internet

For fulltime RVers who work from the road, saying connected to the Internet is a requirement and, often, problematic.

WiFi in RV parks is notoriously slow. If you depend on the Internet for your life, such as working or streaming apps that you enjoy, you might want to consider paying for a dependable, unlimited plan from your wireless network.

And in a campground, with so many people also accessing the Internet through cellular connections, the Internet “pipeine” can be quite congested at times, meaning it can be slow.

Having a cellular booster is also recommended when you are far from a cell tower.

Some people even consider paying for wireless plans from several carriers so they have coverage in more spots across America.

But, clearly, this blog is proof that it can be done! We update this blog, upload video to our YouTibe Channel and audio to our Podcast from the road. 

You can stay connected with the digital world. You just might have to get creative and pay for extra services.

Mail Forwarding

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One big drawback of not having a permanent address is not being able to readily receive your mail.

Granted, most communications these days are digital. But, from important documents to Christmas cards, snail mail is still a part of our lives.

You could opt for a mail forwarding service and update it as you travel.

Or, you can go for a long-term PO Box at your home base.

Yet another option is asking a friend or family member to act as your personal post office.

CLICK HERE for a detailed article on mail forwarding for those who are doing fulltime RV living.

The Total Cost of Fulltime RV Living

When you add up all of these costs, you might be surprised by the total.

Fulltime RV living can easily cost thousands of dollars a month. Not to mention, RVs can cost as much as a house!

But, as a baseline, you can expect a minimum cost of $2,000 per month. Our personal recommendation is that $3,000 to $5,000 a month a more resonable range to shoot for if you want  a fairly comfortable fulltime RV Lifestyle

In general, the bigger the cost with:

  • the larger the RV
  • the more upgrades
  • the more amenities
  • the more activities
  • the more you travel
  • the more you choose campgrounds over boondocking
  • the more you eat out
  • the more entertainment you partake in

But you can also expect a lot of fun, great memories, and an ever-changing, beautiful view of the world!

How Much Does Fulltime RV Living Cost You?

Please share your monthly budgets in the comments to help others learn what to expect!

Looking for Fulltime RV Living Travel suggestions?

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We've written a library of RV Travel books that lay out seven-day guided explorations of scenic areas of the US that we'’ve explored and think would make an excellent RV trip for you.

In each location, we provide a suggested route and itinerary (7 stops in each guide, one for each day of a week trip!) as well as links to multiple campgrounds and boondocking spots, local tips, and interesting things to do at each location.Fulltime RV Living: Count the Cost 9

You can hit everything in seven days, do a whirlwind weekend tour, or you can take your time and explore the area over a 2+ week period.

Planning an RV trip can be very time-consuming so that’s why we’ve done the research for you! Just take our guides and use them, we’re sure you’ll have an RV trip for the ages! Instant download. CLICK HERE for information on our RV Travel Guides

Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

2 Comments

  • I’ve been living full time in an RV almost 4 years. I realize you are giving an overview of a few people’s negative experiences but it’s possible to get around all of these issues.

    You do not have to move every day. We add an occasional week at some stops. Or sometimes a month. Most commercial parks have a better deal for a week or even less for a month.

    Staying in state, federal, or commercial parks gives you an opportunity to meet the neighbors. And you can always join up in groups of travelers. We’ve met dozens of people that have been doing it for multiple decades.

    It’s ok to settle down and buy a house. I wouldn’t do it because I’m tired of traveling. I would only do it if in2anted to live in a particular place for the rest of my life (or a while).

    It’s possible to do this without getting burnt out.

  • We lived full time in a 36′ fifth wheel for 41 months between 2017 and 2020, traveling three fourths of the year and spending summers at our Ohio property. It was the best of both worlds, taking a break in the summer when campgrounds are crowded to take care of medical and dental checkups, maintain the property, visit nearby family, plan the next long trip and in general take care of business. My brother in law that lives next door kept an eye on the property and picked up any mail while we were away. In the spring of 2020, when the pandemic hit we decided to take a break and build a modest retirement home on the property. We did a lot of the work ourselves to save money so it took a full year.

    As I reflect back on the 25,000 miles in the RV and 52,000 miles in the Jeep (we took two vehicles), across the country from east to west coast and border to border for three long journeys it was so much more than I ever imagined. The nature, culture, history and magical moments we experienced will last a lifetime. We were able to reconnect with family and friends and met many new friends all across the country. These memories are priceless but I added up what was spent and it only averaged out at around $1800. a month for fuel, campground fees (we don’t boondock), admissions, tours and entertainment. This did not include food or maintenance or normal expenses like cell phone or insurance. But it even included a five day stay in Key West in an historic conch house while we left the RV in Homestead FL.

    We moved in the new house five months ago and I am sad to leave this lifestyle behind even though I love my retirement home. I yearn for the adventure of RVing and the call of the open road. My husband is not as enthusiastic about traveling again but planning for a long trip to the Pacific Northwest in the summer of 22. Meanwhile I am longing for this wonderful way of life.

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