cost of living in an rv full time

How Much Does It Cost to Live in an RV Full-time

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Ever wondered how you can enjoy your life even if you don’t have a house (and maybe even single)? If that’s the case, then you have come to the right place.

What if I tell you there’s always a way, even a shortcut to every problem you face if you have the will to exercise it? If you simply don’t bat an eye to whatever insults or condescending glares thrown at you, then I have good news for you, you are as free as a bird, and living in an RV is the way to go.

If RVs are not your thing, or you don’t have an RV, then there are alternatives to RVs for accomodation, although be prepared to pay up for a cramped motel and the likes. That is not to say living in an RV is cheap, however. Let’s dive right into the cost of living in an RV full-time.

cost of living in an rv full time
Photo: @peterholcombe

Types of RVs/motorhomes

First things first, if you are willing to buy an RV to experience this lifestyle, then I have some extra information for you.

There are four classes of RVs. To give you an overview, class A includes the biggest RVs on the market, they look like buses and are most suited for full-time living due to their excessive storage. Class B features the smallest of the three types of RVs and are most recommended for parking and ample mileage. Class C RVs are mid-sized, yet these cars are the least expensive and go well with most people’s needs and budgets. Class C RVs are the ones that I recommend due to the cost-effectiveness and combine the best advantages given to class A and class B. It is not just me, but the majority are also in favor of class C. ABC class are all motorhomes, or motorized RVs, but there is another type of RV that is the camping trailer, these are towed behind trucks and several types of cars.

The average class A motorhome is between $50,000 and $200,000, and some goes beyond that. Class B features motorhomes that are around $80,000 to $140,000, while class C motorhomes average around $50,000 to $200,000. The cheapest RVs are travel trailer type, you only need to pay $11,000 to $35,000 for one. 

Renting RVs’s price can range from $60 to $200 a month. If you want to cut the cost of full time RV living to a minimum, then you should put renting and buying RVs on the scale.

Insurances: The average premium for a 12-month RV insurance policy at a company called Progressive in 2020 was $502 for a travel trailer and $848 for a motorhome. So around $40 to $70 per month is all it takes.

Fuel expenses: Fuels like gasoline and propane are another important aspect of RV life. Propane tanks account for almost everything heat-related: refrigerators, heater, stove, etc while gas keeps your mobile homes mobile. Diesel is more efficient and provides more power but is also more expensive. Gas costs anywhere around $250 and $400 per month while propane can cost around $5 to refill if you know the right providers.

Related:

The Essentials to Buy for Your RV

There are several things I would recommend buying and installing inside the RV to make your life easier. Since an RV has minimal space compared to even a dorm room at college, you really need to think twice before cramming another item into your mobilehome. Most of these are once in a life-time purchases, so as long as you don’t break them every so often, the monthly cost of living in an RV full time won’t be affected. 

We’ve all seen a house before in our life, and now you should be wondering how can I fit all those cooking utensils into this cramped space?

For starters, you obviously need clothes, shoes, and other personal belongings. You also need toiletries, towels, toilet papers, emergency kits. More importantly, if you are on a trip far off the beaten track, you don’t know when you will need some specialized mechanical equipment to handle problems by your own hands.

Before you actually work out the answer to the question: “How much does it cost to live in a camper?”, check out these lists.

1. The Kitchen

When making transitions to living in an RV full-time, kitchen essentials are a pain for people to make choices, but generally we would recommend that you have:

  • Cutting Board: $20
  • Utensils and Cutting Knives: $30
  • Dish Soap: $4
  • Cooler: $20
  • Matches or a lighter: $6
  • Skillets: $10-20 per skillet
  • Dish Towels: $3 (4 piece)
  • Garbage Bags: $6
  • Paper Towels: $10 (double rolls)
  • Can Opener: $5-10
  • Potholders: $3-20
  • Napkins: $2-5
  • Reusable storage bags: $2-5
  • Tupperware: $3-10
  • Sponge and other cleaning utensils: $12 (Scrub-It)
  • Disinfecting wipes: $5-10

Total: around $210

rv kitchen accessories
Photo: Photo: Voyagerix / Shutterstock

2. Games and Leisure Activities

One cannot overlook the need for games and leisure activities. They are simply great ways to pass the time. Especially when you are single, it is advised that you retain your enthusiastic view of life, but that is not to say you should pass the time all day long though! Go outside and interact with real people as well. Anyways, these are the recommended items:

  • Frisbee
  • Yard games (corn hole, horseshoes, etc.)
  • Puzzles
  • Cards
  • Board Games
  • Laptop
  • Guitar

You can choose whatever suits you.

3. Camping Gears and Technologies

If you are on a camping trip with your family, or you just want to experience the breeze by your side and the captivating outdoor view when eating in the open space, then be sure to get these utilities. For the same reasons, these items are just there to satisfy your need of a wholesome full time RV lifestyle, so be free to leave out any one of these:

  • Camping chair: from $8.30
  • Outdoor grill or cook station: from $80
  • Camera: from $30 (camcorder)
  • Fishing gear: $10-20
  • Hatchet and wood: $10-20
  • Small backpack for day hikes: $15-20
  • RV GPS: $60

Total: from $250

4. Bedroom

A house can never be complete unless it has the perfect bed to boost your energy for a perfect tomorrow. Sleeping for me is always the best part of the day, all that stress just goes away to make way for the most incredible sensation especially when we’re spending all day hiking, fishing or just driving between destinations. If you’re not happy with your stock mattress, invest a comfortable camper mattress to enjoy quality rest time after a long day on the road. I’m sure this can boost your camping experience to a much higher level. Another more affordable solution for a good night’s sleep on your camper is placing an RV mattress topper on your current bed to have the firmness as you need without buying a brand new mattress which is quite costly.

Here are my recommendations:

  • Mattress and sheets: ~$300-500 or Mattress topper: ~$100-150
  • Clothes hangers
  • Sewing kit: $10
  • Towels
  • Blankets
  • Pillows

Total: from $500

5. Clothing Items

You should bring only part of your closet onto the RV, the ones that really matter. 

  • Sun protective hat: $10-20
  • Rain Gear: $10-20
  • Shoes: hiking boots, running shoes, etc.
  • Bathing suit
  • Down Jacket: $40-80
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Short and long sleeve shirts

Total: around $90

6. RV Essentials

rv living expenses
Photo: Stellalevi
  • Drinking Water Hose: $10-20
  • Sewer Kit: $20-40
  • Surge Protector: $60-150
  • Generator: $300-500
  • Electrical Adapters: $10
  • Water Pressure Regulator: $10-20
  • Tire Pressure Gauge: $10
  • Duct Tape: $5
  • Flashlight: $10
  • Emergency Road Kit: $20
  • Extra Motor Oil and Transmission Fluid: $40
  • Fire Extinguisher: $20

Total: around $700

Read more: 10 Best 30 Amp & 50 Amp RV Surge Protectors

7. Toiletries

  • Phone charger
  • Bug Spray: $5
  • Shampoo, conditioner and soap: $20
  • Medication
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste: $5
  • Deodorant: $5
  • Nail clippers: $2

Total: around $40

There are several things I would like to disclose to give you a better estimate on the cost of living in an RV full time.

Food

Not taking eat-outs into consideration, if you plan to buy your own groceries, the average budget is between $175 and $345 per month.

If there are two or more of you, then you can multiply these figures to give rough estimates, although in reality, you should expect it to go lower than that. The average spending for a child should be lower than that of an adult in comparison. 

Campsite Fees: RV Parks, National Parks, Boondocking

1. RV Parks

RV Parks with full-hookups (electric, water, sewer) will cost around $30-$50 for a night. We can pay for showers in some parks as well. As a nice extra feature of RV parks, you can fill-up clean water and dump your tanks for free.

Monthly: $900-$1,500

2. State Park Campgrounds

State Park campground fees will differ by state and number of services. State Park campsites with partial hookups charge around $15-25. Most State Parks that don’t have hook-ups are around $5 cheaper in comparison.

Monthly average with hook-ups: $600

Monthly average without hook-ups: $450

how much does it cost to live in an rv park
Photo: South Haven Jellystone Park

3. Boondocking

Boondocking is something that you might choose as a first-time RV-er. It is camping in free space. However, you don’t have access to hook-ups that RV parks provide. You can only stay in one location for a maximum of 14 days, that is a rule. You also have to pay for dump stations while you are at it. I would wholeheartedly recommend this as well.

Monthly: $0

Phone / Internet

You should either get a 4G or mobile hotspot for internet usage. The actual cost also depends on your choices of apps on your phones (such as Netflix)

Monthly: $150-$200

Laundry

Doing the laundry has always been my least favorite chore. Once we bring RVs into the picture, laundry suddenly becomes even more troublesome, since now we might have to bring dirty clothes to laundromats. Nevertheless, it has to be done. Most campgrounds offer washing and drying services, so try to make the most of your stay.

You should be careful not to stain your clothes or exert yourself too often, since that will hit you right in the wallet. Some interdependent washing services like Launderama, a load will cost you less than $4. Purchasing your own washer dryer combo helps ease burdens on your budget.

Monthly Laundry Budget: $40

Maintenance Costs

Whether you are a guy who likes to live free, an enthusiastic wanderer who loves a mobile home to travel with them to distant places; or you just want accomodation for some time before you settle down to a real home, then your RVs will need some care either way.

As the owner, you should be able to do several things to keep your RVs in pristine conditions. It is said that you should definitely check on your RV once every month or more. Once you get the hang of techniques and maintenance rules, the cost of living in an RV full-time will inevitably go down.

Here are some of the tips I would recommend you learn by heart. If you already have most of the RV living essentials above, then the regular RV living cost depends on how you handle these maintenance issues.

1. Check your wheel lug nuts and tire pressure

Safety on the road is the number one reason you need to maintain your car’s form at all. Nothing damages a vehicle more than the road itself, and the only parts that make contact with the road are the RV’s tires. RVs are heavy, and when they are on the road, the pressure on tires is even greater than when stationary. It goes without saying, but your tire pressure plays a big part in your RV’s longevity.

Underinflated tires mean that you will need a little more dragging power and it makes for a harder controlling and steering experience, while overinflated tires might explode and damage your RV as well. It is important that you tighten the wheel lug nuts with the wrench. If you buy new aftermarket wheels, which are priced at $250 to $300 for each, then the lug nuts should also be aftermarket, which will cost you $62 to $70, since the original ones won’t fit most of the time. It’s highly recommended to invest an RV tire pressure monitoring system to have timely notification about tire pressure of your RV tires.

2. Change windshield wipers

Good windshield wipers make for comfortable driving experiences during the rainy days. Windshield wipers are really inexpensive so you should definitely change them once in a while. There are literally no excuses. Just try to save up $30 and you got yourself a new pair of windshield wiper replacements.

3. Change your oil

Compared to other types of cars, the RV tends to not be on the road very frequently due to its nature as a more recreation-oriented vehicle, and loved by Americans for its versatility, the possible uses of which include being a substitute for a house!

With that said, the average mileage driven by RVs is only 5,000 miles per year, really low figures compared to the average for all types of cars which is upwards of 14,000 miles per year. You only need to change your oil after 3 months for a price of around $40, at most you will be paying less than $100 for sure.

4. Protect your RV from the weather

This is without a doubt important for any car owners out there. Visible damages on automobiles often present themselves to us in the forms of car crashes, however, mother nature can be harsh on our cars as well. Excessive moisture if trapped in the bare metal will cause it to rust, so you should keep an eye on the protection layer of metal, the paint. Scratches and flaws should be dealt with immediately.

Hailstorms are creators of dents, as you already know. Dent removals are usually $150 to $250 for paintless removal, and sophisticated dents are pricier. It is usually better safe than sorry. Even the Sun can make the RV’s paint fade (if your RV is anything but white).  

5. Inspect the roof seals and seams

Inspecting your roof every three months is a good practice to avoid unwanted leaks that will lead to water damages to your RV. After the outer wood layer is soaked, water will find its way inside through the inner ceiling and you wouldn’t want that.

Not just the roof, but vents, skylights, air conditioning combined leaves your RV even more vulnerable to this type of damage. In case your roof needs patching, you should buy a sealant compatible with its material. The average cost is $971 and is typically around $382 and $1,568.

6. Take care of your RV brakes

Brakes are crucial in that they keep you and other drivers safe on the road. There are four types of braking systems: electromagnetic, hydraulic, servo and mechanical braking systems (mechanical systems are almost obsolete nowadays).

If your RV has an electromagnetic braking system, then there is no need for maintenance, it is also cheap and lasts a very long time. For other systems, you should get them checked every 3,000 miles traveled to avoid brake failures in the long run.

7. Check your RV batteries

Batteries make your life portable, and it is extra crucial when you are living in an RV full-time. When talking about RV batteries, you are generally looking at two types of batteries: deep cycle and starting batteries. Starting batteries are used for short bursts, while deep cycles are used to infuse a flow of voltage at a steady rate, in other terms, it is used to power your appliances in the long term.

Maintenance is mostly connected to the water levels in the battery, and also a visual inspection as well as cleaning of corrosion are needed. Even get an upgrade to lithium-ion batteries if your RV only has a house battery. This will cost you around $200 and $300. It is best that you look up how to change the batteries for yourselves.

8. Check wastewater system

To clean the wastewater system, use chemical fluids. Keep in mind that there are chemicals designed specifically for each system, among them are gray water or black water systems. In addition, you need to use the right amount of fluid to start the system after flushing, and also set a reminder for yourself to flush the system on a regular basis.

If you don’t take good care of your RV’s water system, clogging of the system may occur due to buildup of waste particles, it won’t operate properly anymore as a result. You should also clean your water tank every 6 months.

Some Extra Cost

No one can live without entertainment, but spending a lot on bars and eat-outs and other extravagant recreational activities just won’t make life easier for you. You should always spend with care on this one. But in the end, the cost is totally up to you. 

Monthly: $50-$200

So, How much does it cost to live in an RV full-time? If you have been following what we discussed before, then for a month, RV-ing full-time can be as low as $1600 or as high as $5000. I have even heard of people living an RV life for $500 a month, which may seem ridiculous.

However, to pull this off, you are sure to miss out on a lot of things. Obviously, one of many ways to cut costs is to find free space to park your RVs, as well as becoming a camp host to even generate some income. Parking space takes up a great deal of your budget, so even be prepared to drive across the country if you ever feel adventurous or not-so-generous with your expenditure.  

FAQs about RV Full-time Living

1. Is it legal to live in an RV full-time?

Yes, it is legal to live in an RV, but you have to follow the rules of the game. Local municipalities demand that you build a permanent place to live in, so it’s illegal to live full time in an RV, even on land that is yours.

To solve this problem, you have to have a mailing address. After you have chosen a state to domicile in, pay the taxes, get a driver’s license and a mailing address, you will be considered legal. Also follow the rules of RV parks, and if you are staying somewhere permanently, be sure to have all the necessary amenities working properly.

2. Is full-time RV living worth it?

Full-time RV lives are well worth it for many Americans who love being free as a bird. After all, what is so desirable about living in a camper? RVs provide both transportation and accommodation, but is that really it? Definitely not. You “bring your houses with you” on every trip, with zero extra price. The only thing to keep you from going full RV mode is most probably society’s views of you and your family. Dream big, and get what you want regardless of what others think.    

3. What kind of RV is best for full time living?

As discussed above, there are 4 types of RVs. There are certain pros and cons associated with each type: Travel trailers/Fifth wheel trailers are very affordable, but you must have another car to accompany it but these are the choice of many RV campers. Class Cs are my personal favorite, and so are the majority of RV owners’. It is like an all-in-one vehicle, spacious, easy on your budget, cheap to maintain as well. Class As and Bs are expensive, but only type As have enough room for full-time living (in my opinion). Actually, one can effectively put type Bs out of the picture. Let’s check out the list of best RVs for full-time living complied and recommended by RV experts from RVing Trends.

4. What are the best full time RV living tips?

I have selected a few full-time RV living tips that you should take primary notice of: 
+ “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”
+ Be flexible: Have a malleable enough schedule to make your RV life more entertaining, as well as make the cost of living in an RV full time go down a bit.
+ Throw it away: RV space is very limited, so to prevent the utilities from piling up, when you buy something, try to find something else to throw away. Don’t be hasty, though, you just want your RV as spacious and comfortable as possible.
+ Your RV is your most prized possession: Keeping your RV out of harm’s way is nice, but it is unrealistic. Rather, when there are malfunctions, you should react immediately.
+ Be the best driver you can be: This is important in that it allows for the best experience on the road.
+ Enjoy the journey: RV living is supposed to be fun, but it’s okay if you don’t feel that way.
+ Try to live the best life you can: Hit the road whenever you can, go to different lands in your spare time. Above all, enjoy your life, as it is a journey, do what you want, buy what you want.
+ You don’t have to feel generous with your money, just live on the spur of the moment.  
+ Living in an RV full time’s cost is food for thought, but let the part of you that is adventurous (and a bit of a child) decide whether or not you want this life or not.

5. What are the best states for full time RV living?

Choosing a state to stay is a defining moment of your RV life for sure. It is never easy when legal paperwork is involved, examples include vehicle registration and tax filings.
The top three states for full-time RVers to domicile are Montana, Florida, South Dakota, and Texas. These states are income tax-free, and compared to the rest of the states, the vehicle licensing fees, and annual inspection requirements are reasonable. 

6. What is the cheapest state to buy and register an RV

With no sales, city or county tax, low registration fees, and many other advantages, Montana is definitely the best state to buy and register a camper/RV/motorhome or travel trailer. You don’t even need to have a permanent residency there to buy and register a vehicle. Just create an LLC for the registration, and the whole procedure costs around $300. You can also exempt the registration fees once the trailer turns 11 years old. Learn the full list of cheapest states to buy an RV here.

7. When is the best time of the year to buy an RV?

To get the best deals, you should look to buy RVs during the seasons when the price drops, for examples:
+ At an RV trade show
+ At the end of the sales season
+ Before the release of new models
+ When fuel prices are high
+ Fall or winter
Check out our full guide on the best time to buy an RV here!

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