We lived, traveled, and worked full-time in our RV for over eight years! Here are your questions on RV Living answered.
Table of Contents
How Much Does It Cost To Live In An RV?
If you are looking to travel and adventure and get out and see and do a lot it can cost you $5000 – $10,000 a month. If you are good boondocking and doing free things and traveling at a slower pace it can cost way less. Anywhere from $2000 – $5000.
In the end no one can really determine these costs for you. Instead you need to look at your current bills, spending habits and how you want to live and travel in the RV and work out your total from there.
Our post will get into all of this and will help answer all of these questions. We also have a post: Living In An RV Full Time: How Much Does It Cost?
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For almost anything you would need or want for your RV, no matter if it’s a motorhome, 5th wheel or travel trailer, etrailer.com has it! Click here to explore etrailer!
What are the top RV-friendly destinations or campgrounds?
Exploring new places is a significant part of RV living and one we highly recommend and love about this lifestyle! Our top scenic destinations include almost anywhere out West. From Glacier National Park to Yellowstone National Park and doing an Utah Road Trip. The West has so many great RV trips to offer.
If you are looking for RV specific trips check out: RV Itinerary West Coast – 26 Epic Places To Stop and East Coast RV Trip Itinerary – 16 Awesome Stops To Make!
Can You Live Full Time In An RV?
Absolutely! Plus you can do it long term too! We did it for 8 years with our 4 kids. The community of people living full time in an RV is growing like crazy. People are looking for the freedom and love the idea of traveling the country. Read on to see if full time camping life is for you!
There is no way I can share all about RVing with kids in a blog post so I wrote a book!
That is 257 pages packed full of the information you want to know before starting your RV living full time adventure!
What RV Is Best For Full Time Living?
The answer really varies depending on how you want to travel in your RV. If you plan to stay put for long stretches go as big as you can. If you want to travel a lot and visit National and State Parks something smaller makes more sense.
We cover more of this in our post see keep reading to find out!
How much does it cost to buy an RV, and what are the ongoing expenses?
How much it costs to buy an RV really depends on what kind of RV you want to get. We know of people who bought a $4000 dollar RV to start their full time RV adventure. We also know others who spent over $100,000 on their RV.
There are even rigs that are in the half million range! It really depends on the money you have, what luxuries you want, and how much you want to spend.
In our case we started with a $70,000 RV (our 2006 Newmar Kountry Star Class A diesel Pusher) but got a 15 year loan so we had a monthly payment of about $500 a month.
On going expenses of RV living will vary depending on how you want to travel and live. If your goal is to get out and see and do a lot it is going to cost more versus if your goal is to stay in one place and save money. For us we have spend between $5,000 – $10,000 a month.
How do I handle mail and receive packages while living in an RV?
There are a variety of mail services like Escapees where you can set up a mailing service. This can be more difficult depending on what state you live in and if they offer this service. But Escapees is very helpful in getting it all figured out for you.
We were lucky to have parents that would do this for us! Same as the mail service about once a month they would send us our mail and would also keep an eye out and would ask if it was OK to open it if something came that looked like it should be opened and read immediately.
Is RV living more cost-effective than traditional housing?
The short answer is it can be! The long answer is it depends on how you want to live the lifestyle. If you want to move into an RV to save money you can. Especially since you won’t have a mortgage and all the bills.
However, this also means you will want to find places you can stay for a reasonable amount each month. The best way to lower the cost of living is to stay at places for a month at a time. A lot of campgrounds give you a discount if you stay for a month.
Hitting the road
Knowing your Why
I can’t stress how important this is. When we hit the road we quickly found out it is not all rainbows and sunshine and if we didn’t know our reason for choosing this lifestyle, it makes the hard times even harder.
Our why was to spend more time together as a family with less distractions from things and activities.
Here is our story about how we became a Full Time RVing Family.
This isn’t vacation
There is a difference between being on vacation and traveling full time. Your home is always with you, which means so are all the worries and chores that come with it . . . Plus when you go to a new location you don’t have a vacation budget to blow on doing all the fun and cool things. You have to get creative and find as many free things to do as you can!
How will you travel
There is such a variety of ways that families do full time RVing. You have your slow travelers who stay in one place for weeks or months, your boondockers who try to rarely ever pay for camping, your Thousand Trails group who only stays at Thousand Trails parks, the list goes on (more on all these different styles below).
Be ready to plan
There is a whole lot of trip planning that goes into this style of living. It isn’t like having a house that you know you can go back to every night. Instead you have to be sure you have a campsite booked or somewhere in mind to stay for the night – each and every night! You become a full time RV trip planner!
In the Summer when kids are out of school there are a lot of people traveling which means places book up and they book up early (like again 6-12 months). So keep that in mind when looking at summer travel.
This came as a surprise to me (being from Wisconsin I just assumed most places down south were warm all winter! Not the case.) If you are looking for warm swimming weather with shorts and tank tops all year your options are pretty limited.
To get that type of weather, you usually have to be south of Orlando, in Arizona or Mexico . . . Not saying you can’t stay further north, but just know that the weather is going to be cooler the further north you get.
This being the case, Florida and Arizona are PACKED in winter with RVers. Both families and retirees. This means that planning ahead is usually a necessity. If you want to get the exact places you are looking for.
With a Thousand Trails membership we are able to book sites online up to 90 days out (memberships vary with this number) and then we can cancel them. So if we aren’t 100% sure what we are doing we may book a set of dates and then go and change them or cancel them if we change our plans.
You have to be comfortable with uncertainty and also comfortable with the fact you may end up boondocking somewhere for a few days if nothing is available. It is up to you to decide how that feels to you.
We highly recommend setting realistic expectations. If you think living in a small space with your family 24/7 isn’t going to be hard at times, you aren’t preparing yourself. This lifestyle has its challenges. If you accept that and anticipate it you will be more prepared when they happen.
Here is a post we wrote on the evolving emotions of full time RV travel.
Here is a great post about safe RVing.
RV Purchase – What type of RV is best for my needs? (Class A, Class B, Class C, travel trailer, camper van, etc.)
This is such a fun part on this journey, but also stressful! This isn’t just your place to go on the weekends, it is where you are going to be living. That adds a little more pressure to picking the right RV camper.
There is everything from camper vans to gigantic 5th wheels! It can be hard to pick.
What are the essential amenities and features I should look for in an RV?
We put a lot of thought into our purchases (We have had 5 RV’s since getting on the road in 2014) and for the most part were happy with what we chose each time. Really think through where everything is going to go that you want/need to bring with you. Do you have a lot of camping gear, Kayaks, Paddle-boards, indoor toys, kitchen products?
Where will everyone sleep – will that work? What about the dogs bed – is there a spot on the floor for it? Is there a place for all the clothes to go? Is there a desk area or place for the computer?
Thinking about the things that we knew we were going to want and need room for was helpful in narrowing down our decision.
The big question is always what size RV you should get.
We wrote a post to help you figure that out: Everything You Need To Know To Pick An Awesome Family RV.
Our first RV:
Our 2nd RV:
Our 3rd RV:
Our 4th RV:
Our 5th RV – Keystone Montana 5th Wheel:
We chose to start BIG and got a 39 foot motorhome with 4 slides, then went small and are now back up to a 36 footer.
Our post on downsizing: Why We Decided To Downsize Our RV
Here is a video of us shopping for our last RV:
Be sure to follow us on Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest, all the places!!
If you can, add solar to your rig ASAP! It will give you the opportunity to go out and boondock (camp without hookups). We have been to so many amazing places boondocking.
With our Keystone Montana High Country 335BH it came pre-wired for solar which saved a lot of time and money on the whole process of getting solar installed.
We currently have:
- Precision Circuits Battery Guard
- Magnum MS2000 Inverter
- Victron MPPT Solar Controller
- Magnum Remote
- 2 x 300 watt panels
- 4 Battle Born GC2 Lithium Batteries
We plan on expanding on this system since our usage demands more panels and batteries…full-time living!
Making it your own
Moving into an RV (which is now your tiny house on wheels) you still want to make it your own! We had so much fun doing this with every rig we have had. With our first rig we took out closets and sinks and added bunks and shelves. We also ripped out all of the old fashioned looking decor and made curtains to hang.
Plus we painted the whole RV. Nothing really different here. Craig just primed the walls and we painted them with normal paint. Nothing special.
We were very happy with everything we did and really enjoyed living in it that way, but when it came time to sell we had to repaint everything back to a neutral color. I guess we didn’t have to, but the majority of people shopping for an RV are going to be looking for a more factory style. Just something to keep in mind.
You can check out our posts on our remodels here:
Check out RV Inspiration for RV decorating and redesign ideas.
Have some fun here and come up with a name for your house on wheels. We still haven’t done this and just call ours The Rig, but I know other people have come up with some really cool and unique names! We would love to hear yours so shoot us a message!
Towing a car or buying a Vehicle to tow it with
Pretty late in the game we learned that there are only certain vehicles that can be towed 4 down behind a motorhome. Wait you can’t tow a minivan?! Crap! I think there are a few older models you can, but it is a pretty small list.
Here is a great list to determine what vehicles can be dinghy towed – 4 down.
If you are buying a truck to tow your 5th wheel or trailer just remember this is also the vehicle you will be driving around to attractions, the grocery store, parking structures, etc. Nothing like driving a dually in a busy city, but hey, sometimes that’s just what you got to do.
Also be aware of weight and how much your trailer/5th wheel will weight with EVERYTHING in it. Here is a post we wrote for Winnebago that talks more about this: Picking A Family Friendly Vehicle To Tow A Travel Trailer
RVing Full Time
Over the years we have learned that the less things we have the more space we have and that is a good thing. Plus almost everything we have gotten rid of we haven’t wanted back and don’t miss.
Same thing goes for outside toys – things like a big grill, a ton of lawn chairs, yard decorations, things like that. Believe me setting them up and taking them down starts to get really old really fast.
It is all about minimizing. Unfortunately, a lot of big kitchen appliances probably aren’t going to work. Instead we focused on things we were going to use day in and day out. If we didn’t use it in a month it was gone.
Here are our recommended Kitchen Accessories.
I can’t believe how many clothes I use to have in our old house. I had 2 closets full! Now I have one bin full and a few hangers and that is it.
It really is kind of crazy, but what I have learned is that I really only wear a small number of clothes. Granted if I had to go into work every day or dress nice, I would probably need more, but that is one of the many benefits of this lifestyle. I can wear yoga pants or work out clothes every day!
Craig always laughs at me, but going to a new grocery store every few weeks has its challenges! This means I can’t always buy the same brand or don’t know where the exact food I want is – since it is a new store with a new layout.
But all that aside, it really is like shopping for groceries when you live in a house minus having the basement or garage space to stock pile when there is a great sale. Other than that, it is all about getting use to the space you have and then learning how much you can and can’t buy.
I can’t tell you how many people have said to me “What do you eat?!” The funny thing is we pretty much eat the same things we ate when we lived in a house. We have a fridge, oven, and stove top, plus appliances like a toaster, donut maker, Instant Pot etc.
The difference is you probably won’t have a huge kitchen to spread out in. I will say I also bake a lot less in the RV. Just not as much room for all that.
The fridge will probably be smaller (unless you get a residential fridge – which people do) and overall storage space for food is usually less, so your shopping style may change – no more stock piling those canned goods!
Internet – How can I stay connected to the internet while on the road?
Oh the Internet . . . I think it is a good thing that we left our house right after we got rid of cable and moved to internet TV watching. Also before our kids started wanting to stream from their iPads. Reason being we don’t know what we are missing not having reliable internet all the time to handle all that bandwidth!
If you need internet to run your business, DON’T rely on campground wifi. SERIOUSLY. It rarely works and when it does you normally have to be at the club house or a designated area for it to really work.
Instead we recommend getting your own hotspot. If you always need a connection and don’t want to stress about having to drive to a location (hello Starbucks), then you may want to get a Verizon and an AT&T plan. Plus a booster. . .
I will say we have made it work (running multiple online businesses) with just a Verizon hotspot, but there have been campgrounds and locations where it was a total nightmare and a booster or AT&T would have worked.
Here is a post from the amazing Technomadia team (not saying you need all of this – we don’t have it all – but interesting to see what is possible!).
Pets – Is it possible to have pets while RV living, and what are the considerations for their well-being?
When we decided to RV full time, we knew we would be bringing our pets with us. That was part of the reason we went with RVing since they could come with us. It has its challenges, but what you will find is most RV parks are filled with people with pets.
You can check out our post about it here RVing with dogs.
We have had to put both of our dogs down while being on the road. They both were getting old when it happened and not doing well, so we had to make the hard decision to put them down. Both times we found a vet and made sure to find a place we could get them cremated so we didn’t have to leave them behind. For us it was the best solution in the situation.
It was horrible and sad, but it was all possible. We had no idea if cremation would be an option. Had it not been where we were we would have gone somewhere where it was.
Cost of Full Time RVing
There are so many different ways to live this lifestyle. Some do it for saving money, other do it because they want to get out and travel and saving money isn’t why they choose the RV life. For is it was never about saving money.
We have heard you can do the full time RV lifestyle for $2,000 – $3,000 a month. We fall more into the $7,000 – $8,000 range but if we really try we could probably do about $4,000 – $5,000 a month.
Please note we move a lot. If we choose to stay put in places for longer things would cost less. Instead we normally move every 4 days or so. If your goal is to save money by living full time in an RV it can be possible. Below we hit the costs of full time rving that we have seen.
I think we thought living in an RV was going to be a lot cheaper than living in a house . . . It can be.
In our case we have an RV payment – on our first RV it was $532 then for the next few it was around $300. Plus if we stay at campgrounds that can be a $600 – $800 a month so right there we are getting close to what our mortgage was (minus property taxes).
Here are detailed write-ups on how we afford full time travel. Plus a couple months of detailed budgeting for our family. Our goal when we started was $4000 a month but we were closer to $7000 – now as the kids have gotten older it is closer to $8000 or sometimes more.
Video with us talking about how we afford full time family travel:
Campground prices range from $0 a night to $200 a night. It all depends what you are looking for. If you purchase a membership like Thousand Trails – you pay a flat one time fee to buy the membership.
In our case we bought a used one for $3000 then we pay $545 a year. We bought our used membership here: Campground Membership Outlet.
Once that yearly fee is paid we can stay for “free” at these campgrounds around the US. We have mixed feelings about them. Some are really nice, others are not so great. They are normally pretty far from attractions and a lot of the time our Verizon hotspot does not get coverage . . .
However they are great for meeting other full time traveling families!
We love staying at state and national parks which can range from $25 – $60 a night and normally don’t have full hook ups, but instead just electric and maybe water.
Then there are private RV parks. There are times we really like these concrete centric RV parks with full hook ups and a nice clean setup – and cable – the kids love cable :).
Then there is BLM land and boondocking opportunities where you can stay for free but have no hook ups. You find most of the BLM land on the west coast – not as much on the east coast. Here is a post we did on how to camp for free or close to it in the US.
Here is a post we have on our top 15 favorite RV campsites in North America.
There are a decent amount of RV memberships sites out there. We belong to:
Fulltime Families – all about families traveling fulltime in their RV. Lots of great resources and rallies! Click here to join Fulltime Families!
Thousand Trails – as mentioned above. Great for inexpensive camping (once you buy the membership) and for meeting other full time traveling families.
Passport America – great discounts on campgrounds (usually for one to two nights, but sometimes more).
Good Sam – We don’t really use this one, but when you RV full time you have Good Sam . . . you can be the judge of that one.
Harvest Host – Great opportunity for staying for free at wineries and breweries!
Boondockers Welcome – An awesome way to find unique stays on people’s property around the US!
I know there are more out there but that is what we do for now.
Have an RVer in your life? Check out these Best Gifts for RV Owners – 43 Gifts They Will Love
If you work for a company you probably have health insurance through them, so you are good to go. If you don’t you may need to get insurance elsewhere. We have gone the route of the Marketplace/healthcare.gov – https://www.healthcare.gov and it has worked great for us. Just make sure you know where you coverage works – ER visits are the only thing that works out of state for us.
We also purchased a Teledoc plan, which I would HIGHLY recommend.
Here is a great post about Healthcare Options.
For RV insurance I recommend you research which companies currently will cover full time RVers and also get a plan to cover your things in the RV.
RV Maintenance and Repairs
RV’s take a lot of maintenance and repairs. What we have learned over the years and lots of repairs and maintenance is the more you can do yourself the better!
YouTube university has almost everything you need. You just have to be willing to go out and learn.
If that isn’t your gig there are a lot of mobile RV techs around the country. A lot of them are full time travelers themselves so it is a good way to get help if you need it.
For maintenance, always be sure to stay on top of it. It will help eliminate potential issues.
Here is a list of our favorite RV blogs that we come back to time and time again:
OR else we google it :).
Full Time RVer Blogs
Here is a list of our favorite blogs of other families or couples who are (or have) traveled full time in an RV:
Looking for inspiration through You Tube? Here are some great channels from full time RVers!
Our Podcast 🙂 – we come and go with it but will be adding more episodes soon!
Check out this post by Boondockers Welcome: Top 5 Podcasters For RVers
Instagrams To Follow
Facebook Groups To Join
What Happens When You Want To Get Off The Road?
After 8 years of full time RV travel with our 4 kids we knew it was time for our family to get off the road. It wasn’t an easy decision in some ways. In other ways it was easy since we knew it was time. When you know you know.
Here is a post we wrote about it: Getting Off The Road After 8 Years Of Full Time Travel
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