I've lived full-time in various RVs over the years and have loved every minute of "living the life." Learn if doing the same is for you.
As housing prices increase, some people begin thinking that selling everything, buying a recreational vehicle and living in it year-round might be a more realistic financial option for them.
On the surface, doing this seems like it might be a great idea, especially if people are so stressed out financially and emotionally that they think living on wheels will provide the freedom they would like to have.
If you are one of these people, before you decide to make the move, you really need to understand what it will cost for you to start living year-round in an RV and then consider whether this is something you really can afford to do.
Much will depend on:
- how you plan to use your unit,
- the state of your finances and
- what the costs will be of making such a move.
People use RVs in a variety of ways once they start full timing, however, what you plan to do with yours can make a big difference to your finances.
- You can park your unit on a piece of land that you purchase,
- keep it in a campground,
- simply use it to continuously travel around the US or
- use some combination of these three choices.
Let’s look at a few scenarios so that you can better understand these statements.
Buying an RV
Before you do anything, you'll have to purchase a camper, trailer or motor home in which to live.
If you buy new, understand that the costs involved in doing so can be prohibitive. For this reason, many people purchase previously owned RVs.
There was a time when people could buy a good used unit for relatively little money, but these days doing that is not so easy, especially when people need to have one that is suitable for full-time living.
I saw a 20-year-old motor home just the other day that was priced at $58,000! For that much money, you can buy a condo in Florida! Why Buying a 20-Year-Old RV Is Risky explains why making a purchase like this at any price is not the best idea.
- If you are going to stay put in one place in your coach, you will need to buy a recreational vehicle that is fairly long and has enough storage space to suit your needs.
- If you plan on moving around a lot, you’ll have to compromise and buy a coach that is shorter but easier to drive.
Either way, even for a used, livable RV unit, you’re going to spend a fair amount of money.
Read More From Toughnickel
One thing you can do to help yourself learn more about buying used travel units is to read Budget Friendly Guide to Buying Used RVs. There are similar books on the market, but this is the one my husband and I use to remind us what to look for. It’s concise and provides excellent and helpful information.
High prices often mean that you’ll have to borrow money. If you do, you’ll be creating debt that will replace the home mortgage from which you’ve been trying to escape.
You’ll probably be paying less, but you’ll still be paying!
Living in a Parked RV
Parking your RV permanently on a piece of land will save you money on:
- storage costs.
- travel expenses.
- wear and tear on your unit and
- excessive repairs.
You also will be able to work on a regular job (if you still need to work) which likely will provide you with health insurance, savings plans, and other similar money-saving benefits.
These things will mostly be true whether you stay in an RV park or locate your travel unit on your own land.
Be aware that doing this can be costly because you'll have to pay for property tax, utilities, phone, internet and cable TV, as well as the costs involved in developing and maintaining your property.
A better choice can be to purchase a deeded RV lot.
In this scenario, you’ll have to buy your campsite but will not have the costs involved in developing it. However, you’ll have a monthly maintenance fee that will cover lawn care, water, and sewer, but will still have to pay for electric, internet, phone, cable TV and taxes.
Buying or Renting Land
In addition to paying for an RV, you’ll also have to pay either for land or lot rent.
The amount will depend on the type and location of the site on which you wish to live.
When my husband and I first started full-timing 30 years ago, we paid $189 per month for our site. Today, that same site costs $420 per month.
However, I have recently seen campgrounds that charge as much as $1200 per month, which is a pretty scary figure!
Ironically, they have waiting lists for full-time spots, despite their high prices!
I have also seen deeded RV lots that sell as high as $200,000 and as low as $60,000. People are buying them up, too.
You can pay much less than the figures I have mentioned here, depending on location.
For example, Mom and Pop campgrounds in small towns certainly won’t get prices like those mentioned here, but if they are not well located and you have to work, they might not be suitable for you.
The bottom line is that before you make any decisions about staying in permanent sites, you need to do a lot of thinking and a lot of research!
Full-Time RV Travel
The best way to avoid many of the financial issues mentioned above is to simply travel all the time, camp randomly and avoid keeping a home base.
You’ll still have to pay for an RV as well as camping fees, and you’ll also have to pay for gasoline or fuel and repairs.
However, Wi-Fi and all utility fees, including electricity, will be included in your camping fees.
Furthermore, you’ll be able to greatly reduce your camping fees by following the advice in Live Rent Free in Your RV and How to Save a Small Fortune on Your RV Camping Costs.
- If you already have a steady income from pensions or investments, you won’t need to work.
- If not, you’ll still be able to earn minimum wages by work camping and will likely get a free spot with utilities included in the deal.
How to Earn Money as You Travel in Your RV provides other ideas that will help you to earn while on road trips.
No matter your work and travel plans, you will have to find and pay for a health insurance policy that will cover you nationwide, and you'll also need to figure out how to get your mail and stay connected.
So, as you can see, even when just traveling, you'll need to have enough money to support your lifestyle.
Moving from a brick-and-mortar building to an RV can be costly.
- You will have to sell most of your belongings and undoubtedly will lose money doing so.
- You may also feel the need to store the rest of your items, which can be very costly.
- If you’re upside down on your home loan, you’ll have to come up with the balance in cash or take another loan to pay it.
- There will also be costs for real estate sales fees and possibly taxes on any profits you might make.
In addition to financial losses, you will be moving away from everybody and everything you know.
You’ll have to find new places to get your hair cut and buy food; you’ll lose your doctors and dentists, and you may even have to get used to new climates and different lifestyles.
Thus the costs of making such a move add up to much more than just money.
One of the best things about recreational vehicles is that once you own one, nothing is written in stone.
If you try one way of living and find you don’t like it, you can change:
- how you camp,
- where you camp,
- whether you want to travel or not or
- even which RV you want to own.
These are things you cannot do with any other lifestyle, and they are the main reasons why people like to buy travel units.
Can You Afford to Live Full-Time in an RV?
The bottom line here is that while making a move like this may seem to be the answer to your prayers, it is up to you to determine whether this will be the case.
For many people, the financial benefits are terrific, but for others, things don’t work out so well.
For this reason, it is very important for you to learn the facts and do your homework so that you can make a good decision about the affordability of living full-time in an RV.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do you worry about availability at parks for RV living? If so, do you reserve in advance?
Answer: No, I don't. However, I've been RVing for more than 50 years and know which parks likely will have availability. When I'm not sure, I reserve..but I rarely do this. Availability is becoming a problem due to the huge increase in the numbers or RVers in recent years. If you're not sure, reserve, but bear in mind that if you have to cancel, they'll keep at least the first night's costs or charge a fee.
Question: We are retired and own our home outright. We are very interested in selling our home and living in an RV full time. Our problem is space rent. We worked hard to not have a house payment & paying up to $60.00/night ($1,800.00/ month) feels like a house payment. How do folks do this? Just budget for it? Discounts?
Answer: The answer is that you don't pay the same amount of money at every RV park, and the longer you stay,, the less you pay if you choose good parks. If you join a good discount camping club you can pay half price at many parks when traveling. If you live year-round in one park, it usually will cost between $400 and $600 per month. I have many articles online about this issue, and you should take the time to read them. Just click on 'Timetraveler2" at the top of the article you just read to find them. Also, if you want to exchange labor for free camping, you can do this as well. Good luck!
Question: What is Boondocking?
Answer: Boondocking is a term that is used by RVers when they discuss camping without hookups. Many people do this on BLM lands because it is inexpensive to do, and they can remain on those lands for long periods of time. It's only for the hardiest of individuals.
© 2018 Sondra Rochelle
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on February 13, 2018:
Sally: They do make much smaller units that serve the same person but also are much easier to drive. Also, there are classes you can take that teach you how to drive. You don't need a "monster" to be comfortable anymore, especially now with the slide rooms. The roads where you live? Those I can't speak for!
Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on February 13, 2018:
Seems like an impossible dream! I love to travel and often wonder if an RV is the solution but just the thought of having to park a monster like some of these turns me right off the idea. British roads are so narrow, even navigating a car around some of the rural roads is fraught with problems.