I understand better than most the costs involved in RV living and travel and am happy to share this knowledge in my articles.
If you want to have an affordable home, the best way to do so is to make one out of an RV.
While doing this correctly can be a great deal of work and require much research, it is a definite possibility for those who are willing to take the time to create the type of living environment that will be reasonably priced and will serve their housing needs.
There are many options available, so much will depend on the desires and financial abilities of those who want to live full-time in a nice environment without necessarily having to spend a fortune to do so.
Clearly, those who are content to simply place a coach in a campsite and live in it full time can do things to make it more homelike.
However, those who want the benefits of RV living but also want more living space need to find better options. This article will provide several.
The best way to achieve long-term, full-time RV living comfort is to integrate the best features of home ownership with those of recreational vehicles.
This is because
- home ownership has become very expensive,
- tiny houses don't provide enough living space, and
- mobile homes have limitations that can make them bad choices for permanent housing.
Thus, if you can choose the best of all worlds, create a great living area, and pay less to do so, why wouldn't you?
RVs as Homes
Although many people do live year-round in trailers and motor homes, they often sacrifice space, convenience, and comfort for financial savings.
In some instances, people can add decks and storage sheds to their campsites to increase living area, but even these things do not provide total comfort.
A better, albeit more costly, choice is to buy a piece of land, develop it, and then place your recreational vehicle on it.
Doing this will not improve the lack of living space, but it will provide the potential to add on to the coach as time permits in order to integrate the RV with a small house to create a more livable home.
Important Decisions to Make Before You Begin
Before you embark on such a project, you will need to decide whether you want to keep your coach permanently parked or use it for both living and travel.
The difference between the two options will come in terms of how you set up your site.
- if you park it permanently, you will want to surround your unit with skirting and shore up the frame with additional jacks for more stability, which both are things that will stabilize your unit, or
- if you want to use it to travel, you would avoid skirting and extra stabilization so that you could move your unit for vacations more easily.
The first option is popular because it creates a better option for adding living space, can lower the cost of purchasing a coach and makes protection easier.
The second is also well-liked because it provides the opportunity for travel.
The bottom line is that the plans you make must coincide with how you expect to use your RV if they are to be successful.
1. Do a Cost Analysis
The first thing you will need to do is create a cost analysis so that you can find out how much your project is going to cost.
To do this, you must research property costs, land preparation expenses, and RV prices.
This means doing things such as
- talking with real estate agents,
- checking on pricing for water testing, land clearing, and installing utilities, and
- researching pricing for the type of recreational vehicle you wish to own.
Once you have all of the details and feel that you will be able to pay for your project, you can then purchase your land and start preparing it for full-time living.
2. Find Your Property
You will need to buy property that is zoned such that you will be permitted to park a recreational vehicle on it and also live there.
In some areas of the country, this can be difficult to do if not impossible. Watch the attached video, and you'll see why!
So, before you buy, you need to find a knowledgeable realtor who can tell you where affordable, available and properly zoned properties are that will suit your purposes.
It will be much easier to find raw land, but if you do, understand that you will have to develop it.
This means that you will have to clear it, level it, arrange for utilities, phone and cable services and pour concrete pads for your vehicles.
However, if you can find property that has already been developed, you can avoid having to deal with all of these issues.
Finding it won't be easy and will cost more, but in the long run, will be worth every penny you spend to own it!
Either way, you should be sure to read "Can I Live in an RV on My Own Property?" because it provides extremely valuable information that will help you immensely with your plans.
3. Buy an RV
If you already own a recreational vehicle, it may or may not be appropriate for your game plan.
If it is, fine if not, or if you don’t own a coach, you will need to start RV shopping. This may seem a small task, but it is every bit as important as developing your land.
A book that I have often used in the past that can help you with this task is How to Buy an RV and Save Thousands of Dollars. The author is a well-known RV enthusiast who really knows his stuff, so if you follow his advice, you likely will save a good deal of money.
I strongly advise you also to take your time when buying. Visit dealerships, read online RV forums and go to RV shows so that you get a feel for the various types of floor plans and amenities that are available. After all, this is going to be your home for many years to come!
Your best and least expensive choice for full-time living would be an older fifth-wheel travel trailer that is well constructed and has been properly maintained that
- has at least one side entry door,
- is at least 36 to 40 feet long,
- has a washer and dryer,
- is well insulated,
- has plenty of storage space,
- has several slide rooms and
- can be easily towed by the vehicle you own.
If you plan to travel with your unit, keep the length at 36 feet. If not, go for a 40-footer.
For example, you can purchase a ten-year-old Holiday Rambler 36-foot fifth wheeler with two slide rooms for around $15,000 or a Jayco 40-foot fifth wheeler with three slide rooms for $20,000. These are both quality brands that will serve you for a long time if they have been properly maintained.
Bear in mind that units like this are heavy and will need a tow vehicle that is capable of pulling them. Therefore, if you don’t already have a heavy-duty truck, you’ll need to buy one.
There are many options for both types of vehicles, so if you look long enough and hard enough, you'll find what you need that is in your price range.
You can either rent a campsite and live in your coach or store it until you are ready to move onto your land.
4. Create a Land Use Plan
It will be very important to have a plan in place before starting to prepare your land.
You'll need to decide how much concrete you want to lay, what additions you'd like to have and whether you will want to add living quarters, garages or sheds. You'll also have to think about where you will locate these items, even though you might not be building or adding them immediately.
At the very least, you should plan on building a port for your RV so that it will be protected from the weather.
You also need to figure out where you'll place your RV connections and how many you will have. Bear in mind that you may need some for a future house that you may decide to build.
5. Prepare Your Land
If you purchase developed land that already has utilities on it and already has any additions you feel you'd like to have, you can place your RV on it and move right in.
Otherwise, you'll have to spend a fair amount of time doing the things mentioned above in order to make your property livable.
Once it is, it will be time to start living your dream.
You'll still have work to do, but the worst will be over.
Those who are willing to spend more to have more should seriously consider integrating the benefits of home ownership with RV living.
There are many options to choose from, but you should decide before you prepare your land if integration is what you want. The best and least expensive option I've found can be seen in a little resident-owned RV park in Central Florida, but it can work well for anybody wanting to create an affordable and comfortable integrated home.
To do this, have someone build a prefabricated one-and-a-half-story room in the size of your choice that has a roof that stretches over your RV's concrete slab to create a protective port for it and also covers the ground in front of the building to provide patio space or extra parking.
Design the interior such that it has a spiral staircase that goes to the second level and has a living area, small bathroom, kitchen and washer and dryer on the first level.
Be sure to leave room for a shed in back of the RV slab.
By using this type of design, you literally have created a two bedroom, two bathroom living area that protects the RV's roof and slide rooms from leaks, more than doubles your square footage and provides more storage options.
What About the Financials?
It is very hard to figure costs on a project like this, but I can tell you that as of this writing, you can purchase this type of setup in the park I talked about above for as little as $95,000. In some places, you can have the same thing for $67,000.
You likely will pay the same amount to buy and develop your own land with a similar setup, but when you’re finished, you’ll have your own custom-designed home on your own land and will have paid much less than for a standard house.
If you've purchased enough land, you'll also have the option to add more structures if you choose to do so.
If you have a lot of money to spend, you can also purchase a larger, fancier RV port home that is already built and ready for move-in that is located in a community.
An Example of Bigger, More Costly RV Port Homes
The Bottom Line
As you can see, there are many ways for people to live in their recreational vehicles year-round.
It is up to them to decide how far they want to go, be it renting a campsite in a facility or building an integrated RV port home on their own land.
The design I described above is only one possible configuration you can use to build an RV port home. You need only search on the internet to see others.
The bottom line is that if you want to use your recreational vehicle as an affordable long-term home, you can do so, and there are many ways to accomplish this goal.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Are you able to tell me the name of the integrated RV Park you referred to in your article?
Answer: Emerald Pointe RV park in Zephyrhills. However, there are many others in Flordia. Search for RV Port Homes in Florida to find listings.
© 2018 Sondra Rochelle
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on March 27, 2018:
Dora Weithers: I'm just the messenger, but I think this message will solve lots of problems for people looking for a way to live well without going broke! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
CaribTales on March 27, 2018:
Great idea and you seem to have covered all the basics with your practical suggestions. Really the best of two worlds!
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on March 26, 2018:
Alexander James Guckenberger: I agree. I first saw these about 30 years ago and loved the idea but they weren't located near where I worked. It's the perfect answer to getting the best of both worlds, that's for sure.
Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on March 26, 2018:
An RV port home sounds fantastic.