The inception of recreational vehicles, more popularly known as RV has changed the travel experience inside out. Traveling no longer means packing bags, booking flights, hotels, etc. All these because your house travels with you! In recent times, living in RV is coming into vogue. Before starting, you need a complete guide and most importantly, costs of RV living.
The first obstacle you will face is the costs. There are some additional costs than living at home, some other costs are deducted. The total monthly expenses of RV living should not exceed 3000 dollars (but it can). But you can bring it down to as low as 1000 dollars if you are methodical and in budgeting. Also, there might be additional costs like repairing, winterizing, etc.
There is a lot to learn about the costs of living on the road. Everything might not feel as comfortable as they sound. Additional errands like winterizing or repairing lamination may feel like a burden. Also, these can take a toll on your budget. The sole purpose of this article is to walk you through everything you need to know before starting a life of nomads.
Life in an RV: Breakdown of the Expenditures
Many travel lovers opt to start an RV life instead of buying an apartment. Especially after graduation and marriage, when a new couple wants to move into a new commodity, RV living pops up as one of the top choices. Among various issues, the cost appears as a major obstacle. I am going to analyze the expenses of RV life to give you a better idea of what you might face:
Purchasing the RV
The first and foremost expense is purchasing the RV itself and that’s not an easy task. There are various types of RVs available in different price ranges. Each type is produced by various manufacturers. All of them can be purchased brand new or preowned, by paying cash upfront or by loan, etc. talk about different types of RV and find out which one suits your need
They are literally what their name means. They need to be towed by a motorized vehicle. Towables comprise 80 percent of the market. The reason behind it is that they are relatively cheaper than motorized RVs. You can get more space than motor campers at the same price point. Towables can be of different variants. Some of them are listed below –
5th wheels are a special class of towable campers. They feature a slightly different towing mechanism from the towing vehicle. They are connected to the bed of a pickup truck or semi-truck. They can’t be towed with regular vehicles like sedans or SUVs. A truck with a special widget called 5th wheel hitch is required to tow these types of campers.
5th wheels are generally larger than other campers. That’s why they are more comfortable and popular for full-time RV living. They have ample space inside to make you feel at home. the bathrooms and bedrooms are noticeably larger than others. Due to its massive size, it can be used to tow a smaller vehicle depending on the power of the towing vehicle.
All these comfy spaces come at a cost and that is no surprise. The minimum amount you have to spend is nearly 20,000 dollars for a 5th wheel. That is almost 5 times more than any generic pre owned campers. Also, you will need a truck with a powerful engine to tow this colossus. Those trucks aren’t cheap. Your fuel cost shall hike significantly as well.
These types of trailers are the most popular choices for full-time RVing. They are almost as big as 5th wheels without requiring any special trucks to tow. Prices are significantly cheaper compared to the 5th wheels. Some of these trailers have a feature where side walls are somehow expandable to increase interior space.
It’s worth mentioning that even though they do not require special trucks, still a powerful engine is needed to tow these massive trailers. So, the gas budget shall remain high like its big brother. Travel trailers are more affordable, starting from 6000 dollars.
These trailers come in minimalistic designs suitable for small families. They usually include just one bedroom and a small kitchen. They are called teardrop trailers because their shape resembles a teardrop. They are super popular for short and quick travels, but not suitable at all for living. They cost around 4000 dollars and can go up to 10,000 dollars.
Toy haulers are one-of-a-kind trailers. They are just as big as 5th wheel or regular travel trailers. The unique feature that sets them apart is that they have a garage. Yes, a mobile garage with your mobile home. It’s located in the back of the trailer with a ramp door to drive your car or bike inside.
Toy haulers can be either 5th wheel design or just travel trailers. These trailers are popular for their versatility. You can carry your mountain bike or snowmobile with you everywhere. You don’t have to rent them separately if you choose to travel to snowy regions or mountain forests. You can carry all the fun with you, all the time.
These are pricey units, however. They are heavy-duty, robust, and have huge space on the interior. Each unit can cost 20 percent more than the same sized travel trailers. The price ranges usually between 20,000 dollars to a whopping 200,000 dollars.
Motorhomes or motorized RVs are campers with an engine. Many of them closely resemble large buses. You don’t need any separate vehicle to tow it. Instead, you can tow your private car with it. Motorhome RVs are usually not toy haulers. So, many owners choose to tow their sedan with it. Thus, they can leave the camping site and visit the nearby country or small towns.
There are several types of motorhomes discussed below:
Class A Motorhomes
Class A motorhomes are like those huge buses. They can long up to 40 feet. But they are slightly smaller than towable 5th wheels or travel trailers. It is because that 40 feet length includes the engine, driver’s seat, etc. These vehicles can be either diesel operated or gas-operated. Price varies depending on the fuel type.
Some of these motorhomes have a toy hauler style. Also, many latest models have a side expansion mechanism. This means the sides of these vehicles can slightly expand when parked to increase the living space inside. Class motorhomes are perfect for RV living as you won’t feel any different than home. But it will cost you a fortune as the starting price is 60,000 dollars.
Class B Motorhomes
These are smaller, more compact motorhomes. They look like a van with living space on the back. Their small size is what makes these vehicles unsuitable for living. They offer living space for two and that might sound great for newly married couples. But in reality, the space seems much congested. They are great for short trips, however.
If you are alone you can choose class b for a living. Fuel expense and parking costs will be minimal due to their size. Their price range is between 40,000 to 200,000 dollars. There is a larger model available of class b motorhomes called class b+. Their building is the same as class b but larger. They offer a bigger space for living and can be great for couples to start RV living.
Class C Motorhomes
Class c’s are the most popular motorhomes that we see everywhere. Movie, tv series, advertisement, newspapers you name it. The van has a big chassis and a big RV box, bigger than class b’s are set on the back. They have ample space inside with additional sleeping spaces.
They are perfect for families of 4 or 5 to start living in RV.
The most positive feature of these vehicles is their price point. They start at 50,000 dollars and can go up to 150,000 dollars.
Super c RV is a different model of class c RVs. They look just the same. Only the chassis is bigger and offers more room. Their engines are powerful and built on truck chassis rather than a van. They are great if you can afford as the price starts from 150,000 dollars per unit.
This can be your biggest expense or a minuscule one depending on your discretion. Mileage of RVs is lower, ranging from 10 to 20 miles per gallon. Diesel engines offer more mileage, but their cost is significantly higher. Whether you have towable or motorhomes, the cost remains more or less the same. It all dials down to how much you travel.
Travel short distances in long intervals. Get a diesel-operated camper if possible. It will save a lot of money in the long run. Troubleshoot the engine often to find out any malfunction that might affect the mileage. The best way to cut down fuel expenses if you keep score on everything. Try using your phone or keep a notepad and pen to write everything down.
Gas cost per month should be around 300 dollars.
Parking fees vary but depending on the area, they can be as as much as $160 dollars per night. There are lots of cheaper options, you can find camping ground as low as 10 dollars per night. The price is also dependent on the location, region, size of the RV. If you stay longer, you are more likely to get a discount. Many of the camping grounds include fees for water, electricity, internet, tank dumping, etc.
There are plenty of free camping sites but they often have no utility facilities. So that may not be an option for you if you aren’t used to having facilities. Many campgrounds have a membership facility. This significantly reduces the cost of full-time RV’ers. If you want to save some extra bucks, you can always go for boondocking. But make sure the area is safe.
The overall parking fee should not exceed 1500 dollars per month, but depending on the time of year and location, it can.
You have to pay utility bills just like apartments. Utility usually includes electricity, internet, phone bills, and propane tank.
For cooking or for if the weather is cold, you may need a full propane tank per month. A standard sized propane tank takes around 20 dollars to fill.
Electricity bills are usually included in the parking fees but that is not always the case. There are a lot of campgrounds that charge electricity if you are staying on a monthly basis, but not all of them do.
Phones are super important for communication all the time. As a full-time RV resident, you will always be on the run. So, you will need at least one phone which will cost you roughly 45-200 dollars per month.
If you are that type of person who is always on social media or streaming movies, camping grounds free Wi-Fi won’t do for you. They are very slow due to more users. You can use portable Wi-Fi routers and purchase internet plans for reliable connection on the go. Many service providers offer special packages for RV living families.
For our internet, we use our hotspot on our Verizon phones. For us, it is good enough to stream movies, do our work, and for our son to do his schoolwork.
The overall bill is more or less around 250 dollars.
Servicing and maintenance are some of the major issues that might heavily increase your expenses. So, you should remain cautious about any damage or problems that might become costly at a later time. Clearing black and gray tanks from service stations, repairing leaking propane tanks or flat tires, winterization, checking for delamination all of these are involved in maintenance fees.
If you stay on top of everything, you should probably figure on around $150 a month on service and maintenance fees. If you disregard any of the important alerts, this might cost you heavily.
This really won’t change much from your sticks and bricks home. However, if you are used to buying in bulk, then you can expect it to go up.
Food and groceries prices vary from state to state as well as person to person. If you tend to eat out, you have to increase the budget. However, one person can easily eat for a month for 150 to 200 dollars or less. Eating in a fast-food restaurant occasionally may add 100 dollars more to the budget.
You can communicate with anyone and everyone using cellular phones and the Internet. But using postal service is kind of impossible since you are never in the same place for long. You may need to send some important documents to any friend or colleague and there is no post office within a hundred miles radius. That is not pleasant.
You also may need to receive any document or parcel from someone. No postman would come and knock on the door of your RV because you have no address. There are several RV mail forwarding services available to make RV living more convenient. You can use them to stay connected to the mailing service all the time. It will cost you 50 dollars or so each month.
RV insurance depends on models and types of the RV. Larger models will cost more and smaller models insurance will be affordable. RVs are expensive so make sure the insurance covers everything and there are no hidden terms and conditions. Avoid cheap insurances. Most importantly, include roadside assistance with your insurance.
Roadside assistance provides quick service in emergency cases like a dead battery, flat tires, leaked tanks, etc. When you are miles away from everything, it is a lifesaver. RV insurance should be 100 dollars per month on average.
Health insurance should also be taken into consideration. This can be tricky because if you had a permanent job, you would have insurance through your employer. But that is not the case here. You may need to find independent insurance companies and payout of your wallet. Health insurance costs about 200 dollars per person on average.
So, the average cost of two-person for living full time in an RV is around 2800 dollars excluding the buying price.
A Guide to RV Insurance Rates
How to Reduce Costs of RV Living?
If you think that 2800 dollars are too much, there is no need to be disappointed. You can cut down the cost by adopting some crafty approach. I am discussing some of those below:
Reduce Utility Bills
Utility bills are something you can easily reduce with some tweaks. Try to find parking spots that include several utilities such as water, electricity, internet, etc. Thus, you won’t have to spend separately on utilities. Many cheap camping grounds do not have to hook up facilities. Do not go for those. The overall cost will be the same or maybe even more.
If you use propane tanks to repel the cold of winter, try to switch to electric heaters when you are on the camping ground. You are paying for parking and all the utilities so you might as well take full advantage of those. Also, you may consider heading somewhere warm during the winter.
Take Campground Memberships
Camping ground fees are a constant expense you have to bear. Depending on the type of parking, it will cost you 1200 to 1500 dollars per month. You have an opportunity to reduce this cost. Many RV camps offer monthly memberships at a discount price. Try to take those offers as they will drastically reduce your parking cost.
Also, try to find boondocking places now and then. This will serve two purposes. One is that parking will be free. And another is sight-seeing. Just make sure the place you are boondocking is safe.
Different Types of Campground Memberships
Don’t Eat Outside
If you have a habit of going to fast-food restaurants often, it’s high time you changed it. Eating outside tremendously increases monthly expenses without you even realizing it. Just make a plan of what you are going to eat when you are going to eat. Buy groceries and cook your food. The RV kitchen shall have a purpose and your expenses will be minimized.
Drive Safe and Slow
Fuel price is sure to take a toll on you if you are not cautious enough. Avoid driving long distances. Drive slowly as it will reduce fuel burn and you will have more opportunity to enjoy the beauty of your surroundings. Safe and slow driving will ensure the safety of your vehicle and yourself. Any minor accident will cost you hundreds of dollars. You don’t want that to happen.
Don’t Purchase Expensive RVs
Buying an expensive RV will mean a higher monthly payment. To avoid the higher monthly payment, you should consider a cheaper RV or find one in your budget that you can pay for outright. Also, their insurance will be much higher than any average RV.
Even the slightest accidents shall cost you thousands of dollars in parts. Their servicing and maintenance are more costly than normal RVs.
Is the RV Life Cheaper than Apartment Life?
Many consider starting living in an RV because they think it’s cheaper than apartments. That is partially true. It may seem costly initially but reality changes gradually in time. Let’s break it down and see how economic it’s when compared to apartments.
A basic preowned RV will cost you 10000 dollars. The monthly cost we have discussed above 2800 dollars will sum up to 33600 dollars at the end of year one. So, in total, you are spending 43600 dollars in the first year. From year two, it’s just 33600. That’s way more than you would spend in apartment life. But there’s more. Let’s analyze apartment living costs.
Any standard apartment for two will rent for 1500 dollars per month. That fair includes everything like utility, electricity, etc. Grocery, internet, travel, and others will add 1500 more. So that’s 3000 per month, 36000 a year. That’s 10000 dollars less than RV life in the first year. But wait, it’s just the first year.
From year two RV life will cost you only 2800 per month so 33600 per year. But in apartments, you will keep paying rents plus other familial expenses. So, it’s that same 3000 dollars per month and 36000 dollars a year. In RV life, you are saving almost 3000 dollars per year. That’s a good chunk of money.
If you properly take care of your RV, it should easily last you 5 years without any trouble. After that minor or major repairs may be required. By that time, you will save enough to buy a new RV. So, if the old one is beyond repair, you can just get a new one.
So, RV life is cheaper than apartments. Not significantly, but cheaper. But beware of some costly repairs of RVs like delamination or faulty winterization. These will cost you a hefty amount. In apartments, there are no such things.
Best Jobs for Full Time RVers
Now that you have a good understanding of the expenses associated with an RV life, you might want to start thinking about how to actually pay for those expenses.
As you are always on the road, you cannot do any permanent desk job. That should not be a thing to worry about in this era of internet and technology. There are plenty of freelance jobs that you can do from your RV. Let’s talk about some of the best jobs you can do from the comfort of your mobile home:
If you are not familiar with writing jobs, you may be astonished to find out how much you can make by writing with so little effort. You can Copy-write for website owners, product descriptions for e-commerce sites, job resumes, and so on. There are thousands of writing jobs in online marketplaces. Just find that suits you best, you won’t have to look any further.
Graphics designing can offer you a variety of jobs. Logo designing, banner designing, flyer designing, t-shirt designing, visiting card designing, etc. all of these falls under graphics designing. It takes some time to learn it but there are plenty of courses online that will teach you A to Z of this job. You will be a professional graphics designer in no time.
Web development is one of the most demanding freelancing sectors these days. For anything you want to do, you will need a website. Blog, e-commerce site, affiliate websites everything needs a web developer to start with. If you are capable enough, there should be no shortage of jobs.
Teaching Courses Online
You can also teach various courses online. People nowadays don’t want to leave the comfort of their homes to learn something. So online classes demand is growing rapidly. You can teach cooking, mathematics, or various freelancing courses that you know of. Whatever you teach, there will be no shortage of students.
Last but not least, Blogging is the best job you can do to make money in an RV life. Just write your day-to-day chronicles in your blog site and that’s it. Once your blog site has enough visitors, you can start affiliate marketing as well. In this way, you will make some money without leaving the comfort zone.
RV living can be fun and exciting if you can fully commit yourself to it. Lack of internet, daily grocery shopping, new faces in the neighborhood can be a bit awkward, but time heals everything. The more time you pass, the more comfortable you become in this new life.
I have included everything you must know before starting an RV life. I have also discussed in detail about different types of RV, their prices and which are the more suitable ones for living so you can choose easily. The costs of living on the road and how you can reduce them are explained. The major difficulties that you will face are also included.
I believe this article should be enough to guide anyone who is thinking of becoming a modern-day nomad.