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How much does it cost to live in an RV? We’ve been RVing for nearly six years and our costs have actually stayed pretty consistent.
When Heath and I moved into our RV, we had no clue how much campsites would cost, how high our Verizon bill (AKA what we used for internet would get), or just how many thousands of dollars in gas we would pay to visit all 50 states in a year (learn our exact finances from visiting all 50 states here).
We moved into an RV because we wanted to travel across the country for our honeymoon, but we’ve continued to full-time RV because it’s a cheaper, more freeing way to live. In fact, over a million Americans full-time RV. That’s crazy!
(If you have a million questions about living in an RV, we have a book on Amazon called A Beginner’s Guide to Living in an RV. You can check it out here on Amazon.)
So exactly how much does it cost to live in an RV? Let’s break it down by all the major categories:
RVs aren’t cheap. Well, new ones aren’t at least.
For our first RV, we bought a 1994 Coachmen Leprechaun on Craigslist and sold him 48 states and 22K miles later. After buying and renovating “Franklin” for 12K and selling him for almost 10K, we really only spent $2,000 for our home for two years. This is the definition of a steal and probably the main reason why I highly recommend buying a used RV with cash.
Our 2016 Winnebago Brave (MSRP 123K) required a 10K downpayment, which selling Franklin covered for us. We paid $600 a month for our RV, which is fairly high considering what I’ve heard from others who have bought new RVs. Most people I know who are financing rigs pay between $400-$600 a month.
After your RV payment, gas can be your biggest expense on the road. It is also the expense you can control the easiest, by traveling less or traveling shorter distances.
We average about $250/month in our Winnebago + filling up our tow car. That includes months where are parked in a single RV park and don’t move, as well as months where we drive somewhere new every 3-4 days. Our most expensive month of gas EVER rang up at a whopping $1200, which is when we traveled through California when prices soared to $4/gallon in 2014. It was terrible.
We spend less on gas each month than we expect to. Now we average $2,000-$4,000 per year in gas (that is for our tow car and motorhome combined). Our Honda gets 20-25 mpg and our Winnebago gets more like 7-9 mpg. Expect a few hundred dollars a month, depending on how many miles you’re covering.
Want to save money on gas? Just stay in places for longer and travel shorter distances! If you have a diesel RV, you can save money on gas by getting a TSD Logistics card. I haven’t used one yet, but our friends swear by it! You can also get a Good Sam Club membership to save a few pennies per gallon on both gas and diesel.How much does it really cost to live in an RV and travel full-time? Click To Tweet
We used to spend an average of $400/month on camping fees. That’s roughly $13 a night.
But camping has EXPLODED in the past three years and with it, campground prices. When staying at campgrounds every night, we spend closer to $1,000/month. But this is a really easy number to lower!
To save on lodging costs at RV parks and campgrounds, you can always opt for fewer hook-ups. When we want to save a couple of dollars, we will choose electric and water only sites and use the dump station when we leave the park. Or you can use an RV membership like Passport America or Good Sam for big discounts.
You can also boondock, moochdock, or dry camp for free to save too.
We have a whole (free) course on how to save money on camping costs you can enroll in here.
*Note: The above costs include our electric costs, which are only incurred at some RV parks and typically only on longterm stays.
This number will stay roughly the same as what you spend wherever you’re living now. We spent up to $400 a month on groceries for our family of two. We buy mostly fresh foods and shop 1-2 times a week since there is limited cabinet space in RVs. With the addition of our daughter eating real food in 2020, our grocery bill is closer to $600/month.
I do not eat out often. If it were up to Heath, we’d eat out every day. Probably for breakfast. He is a sucker for pancakes and since I am gluten-free, we rarely have pancakes in the house.
Anyway, we average about $120 a month in eating out, which is mostly restaurants and Starbucks. From people that I’ve talked to, this is extremely low. Many full-time travelers are super into trying local restaurants when they travel, so they obviously spend a lot more on restaurants. But if you’re moving into an RV to downsize, pay off debt, or build wealth, you’re in control of spending as little eating out as you want. If you’re moving into an RV because you want the full experience of all the places you visit, you’ll drop a few hundred on eating out each month. It’s your call.
Phone & Internet
We pay roughly $300/month total for unlimited data on our two phones (through Verizon) and on our hot spot (through an off-market AT&T plan).
If you’re planning on working on the road, you can’t plan on “just using the RV park wifi” to accomplish anything. They are notoriously slow or non-existent. You cannot RV full-time without purchasing a hotspot that is not your phone. You can also buy wifi boosters and other techie products to make a “meh” signal strong enough to use for work.
Always, always, always expect to incur maintenance charges each month. Expecting to pay each month for maintenance will save you many headaches and knots in your stomach when you inevitably break down, blow a tire, shatter a brake pad, or have a propane leak—all of which have happened to us. You’ll need to be changing your oil and refilling propane regularly anyway, so it’s best to just count this as a guaranteed expense.
Our biggest maintenance occurred when our fuel pump gave out just south of the Grand Canyon. We paid $600 to get it replaced and get back on the road. We are probably pretty lucky that our biggest maintenance expense was that low, but I’ll take it!
We typically spend around $1,500 in maintenance annually. Based on our experience, I’d budget $100 a month for this so you are prepared when bigger fixes arise.
This number can vary wildly depending on your rig. Nicer rigs like diesel motorhomes will be more expensive. Inexpensive rigs like travel trailers will be cheaper to insure.
For our 1994 Coachmen RV, we paid between $700-$800 a year for RV insurance.
For our 2016 Winnebago Brave, we paid just shy of $2000 a year for RV insurance. And for the record, my husband is the guy who is on the phone with the insurance agent always saying, “Oh yeah, I want that covered. An extra $200? Sure no problem!” We are ridiculously over-insured, I’m sure.
Our car insurance is closer to $500 a year since we pay for the lowest possible package and have an old car. Plus, our RV insurance should also cover our tow car in case of an accident. I say “should” since insurance companies have terrible reputations for telling you things that aren’t true.
We found our car + RV insurance through Good Sam, which connected us with National General and Allied, respectively.
Pro Tip: Even if you don’t insure your RV through Good Sam, you should spring for their Roadside Assistance service. It’s $80 a year and completely worth it. Plus, if they can’t get to you in time for roadside assistance, they will pay for whoever does end up coming out to save you from the side of the Interstate. After getting a blown tire outside of Coalinga, California, I’m a HUGE fan of Good Sam’s Roadside service. Getting our tow dolly tire replaced billed us $150, which Good Sam promptly reimbursed us for. I’m a huge fan of any service that pays for itself. (PS They don’t pay me to say nice things about them)
I cannot give you an estimation of costs for health insurance. It changes too rapidly! But we pay about $250/month.
Those will be all of your big-ticket expenses. There are always other random expenses: Spotify, Netflix, taxes, fees, movies, books, clothes, etc.
So let’s see, for two people living full time in an RV, that gives you a monthly breakdown of that looks like this:
- The Rig: $600 (or less!)
- Gas: $250
- Lodging: $750 (splitting the difference here!)
- Groceries: $600
- Eating Out: $100
- Phone/Internet: $250
- Maintenance: $100
- RV Insurance: $2000 for the year, or around $150 a month
- Health Insurance: $250
That rings up to $3,050 a month, living comfortably. In our ’94 rig, we paid as low as $1,400 one month. When gas cost $4/gallon and we spent two weeks driving the coast of California, we spent over $4,000.
These numbers are all approximations and averages based on our 6+ years of experience. Every RVer is different, but if you’re planning to start full-timing in the future, keep these numbers in mind as you budget.
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