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Driving around the country in an RV is one of the most American things you can possibly do. But how much does it actually cost to travel across America in an RV?
I never in a million years would have thought I’d spend my entire honeymoon RVing around the country, but that’s exactly what happened. As you may (or may not) know, Alyssa and I just got back from our 48 state RV tour. It was a ton of fun and the most adventurous experience of my life to date.
We faced a broken refrigerator, leaking roof, being struck by lightning, and even breaking down in middle-of-nowhere, Arizona. We had so many reasons to bail on our goal of visiting all fifty states, but somehow we managed to keep going. Above all, I’m probably most proud of the fact that we somehow managed to fund our entire seven-month honeymoon without going broke.
Finding a way to make money on the road wasn’t easy. We aren’t rich and contrary to all the comments on news articles about us, neither of our parents wrote a big check before we left on this trip. We had to pull together, get creative, and have a little faith when it came to making the moolah.
However, this post isn’t about how we made money.
This post is about how much we spent while on the road so that you can have an idea of how much it might cost to RV across the country.
So how much does it cost to travel America in an RV?
The cost of RVing or driving cross country will be different for everyone. It all depends on your spending habits and how much comfort you need to get by. Are you willing to boondock your RV and cook a lot of meals, or do you need to eat out at all of the local restaurants when visiting a new town? There is no right answer, it just depends on your own preferences.
For us, we didn’t have much money to spend. Our goal was to enjoy as much travel as possible for as little spent as possible. Sometimes this meant passing on experiences we would have loved to go on, but it was the tradeoff for being able to continue traveling full-time. So without further ado…
Here are our final travel costs from RVing across 48 states in 2014:
All costs are for two people, just my wife and I.
- Gas: $6,593.57
- Lodging: $2,710.84 (We’re able to keep this so low mostly because of using membership clubs like Passport America)
- Groceries: $2,053.05
- Country-wide Gym Membership (Planet Fitness): $344.84
- Phone Bill: $1,311.22
- Eating Out: $512.88
- Giving: $210
- Maintenance: $1,955.72
- Miscellaneous & Entertainment: $3,432.60
Total Cost to Visit 48 States: $19,124.72
We did work on our trip as well, it wasn’t all fun and games (though it was fun). The majority of our income came through a sponsor we were able to get before hitting the road for our Hourly America documentary. Below is a rough breakdown of our income while on the road during our first year of travels.
Related Post: How Much Does It Cost to Live in an RV Full-time?
(A Little) Income
- Sponsorship (check out our course on how to create partnerships with brands): $8,171.35
- GoFundMe campaign (asked our family to donate to our wedding vs. give gifts): $4,175
- Consulting: $2,400
- Guest Blogging/Freelance Writing: $775.37
Total Income: $15,521.72
Update: We’ve since started multiple businesses while traveling full-time. Listen to our RV Entrepreneur Podcast for more on how to build a business while traveling.
Fun facts from our 48 state road trip:
Our out-of-pocket expenses for seven months of travel was $3,603.28.
Our average nightly cost was $13.55. (When we weren’t staying in driveways or on farms, we used Passport America to get 50% off at campgrounds. They have a $44 yearly membership that pays for itself within the first couple of times you use it. You can sign up here.)
Our average daily food cost for both of us was $12.82
All in all, the trip covered 18, 280 miles, and cost us approximately $1.03/mile.
What is it really like to RV full-time?
In our latest book, we share what it’s like RVing across America—breakdowns, bear encounters, stunning hikes, beachfront camping and all.
Other costs associated with our travel not included here:
Update: The only cost not calculated into this mix was the cost of the RV we bought for the actual road trip. A few comments below asked for more details about the RV so I wanted to include that here.
The cost of our RV was $11,500. It was a 1994 Leprechaun Coachmen that we renovated and eventually named Franklin. At the end of 2015, we actually sold our 94′ motorhome for $9,700 and upgraded to a 2016 Winnebago Brave.
What to do with this newfound information?
I hope you hit the road!
Since you were interested in the cost of RVing across the country, I presume you’re interested in taking a truly epic road trip. That being said, I put together a free seven-day email course to outline everything we learned in our first year of full-time RVing. You can download that course below!
Plus, when you sign up I’ll add you to a private Facebook group of full-time travelers and we can all hang out and be best friends!
[…] any debt while going on our 48 state RV honeymoon. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, I shared some details about the fact that we actually only spent $3,000 on our entire trip. The rest of our trip was completely funded by our sponsor, through our writing, and my consulting […]
[…] I hope this post was helpful, and please ask me any questions you might have in regards to sponsorships or my experience. Lastly, if you were wondering, YES it costs more than $1k/month to travel the country. We had additional streams of income that I’ve written about here. […]
Why did you choose a Motorhome over towing a camper or 5th wheel with a full-size pick up truck?
We chose a motorhome over a camper or 5th wheel for a couple reasons. The way someone described it to us when we first started was like this: if you’re going to be in a place for over a month, then a fifth wheel might be a good option. If you’re going to travel constantly or be moving more than once a month, you might want to get a motorhome.
Overall, it’s really a preference. Some people really like fifth wheels, you can get a lot more room in them for cheaper than a motorhome. Personally, I like the all inclusive nature of a motorhome. We constantly pull over to the side of the road to make a meal and I love being able to do that. Also, when we were looking at RV’s we didn’t have a truck. If we would have bought a big fifth wheel then we would have also had to buy a truck.
Plus, I like the idea of towing our little Honda CR-V better than I like the idea of towing a big fifth wheel. That being said… at the end of the day it’s just preference. If you like having a truck and driving a fifth wheel around, then you should go with that.
Hope that helps man!
Thanks Heath. You make some valid points that I hadn’t considered. I have no experience with either RV type but plan to someday soon!
[…] Heath’s article on the cost of RV living […]
My wife and I have been full time RVing for all of 2015. I think you leave too many holes in your information to allow someone toying with the idea of traveling across the country in an RV to make an informed decision. I can appreciate your view for going with a class c over a 5th wheel or travel trailer. We have a 35 foot 5th wheel and quad cab 2500 Chevy and I disagree with what was explained to you about not using one if you move around a lot. We typically spend 5-7 days at each campground and have no issue hooking up or disconnecting the truck. After the first couple times, you become very proficient at it. Backing it in is the same way, you may have a few tight spots, but for the most part it becomes second nature.
I too have a Passport America membership and while it has more than paid for itself, I still feel it is mostly useless due to the number of restrictions many parks are implementing on the PA use. I really would like to know how you only spent $13.55 a night on average for your lodging cost? Again, referencing PA, most of what we saw was $18-20, occasionally $12, a night and those campgrounds were only allowing two nights max of discount. I agree there are some that give the full discount year round and are cheaper than what I listed above, but they are becoming too few and far between to be cost effective. How many nights did you actually stay in each location? Did you stay in any places that didn’t charge, like rest stops or Walmart parking lots?
Were you just traveling and not seeing many of the sights? People may get the wrong impression that you can see what the country has to offer on such a low cost. We are doing this on a budget and pick and choose what we do because we know we can’t do everything. But if you are going to travel you really need to see the sites and I don’t feel you included that in your presentation. We are planning our stops based on certain events, like Savannah, GA for St Patrick’s Day, Portland, ME for the State Lobster Festival or Pigeon Forge, TN for Thanksgiving at Dollywood. Again, we’re not going crazy with our spending, but these things do cost money. Plus we’re saving a lot by using military campgrounds and military discounts at every location. This helps but in no way does it make it cheap. I also noticed you didn’t include laundry expenses in your budget. Does your class c have a washer & dryer or do you use campground laundry? That can become a huge expense monthly, even using the cheapest of places, if you can find one.
I can appreciate you putting the information out there to help people in making a decision, but too many questions are left unanswered that someone who has never RV’d or long term traveled may not know to ask.
First of all, I’d like to say thank you for sharing some constructive criticism. I’m by no means an expert on the RV lifestyle and costs and I’m glad that you poked some holes in my argument. I’m curious if you’d be interested in allowing me to interview you via email so I could share some of your insights on RV traveling and potentially some of your travel costs + tips so I could share them in a post here on my blog?
Would love to share a different perspective. I think that would be very valuable. Would you send me an email to [email protected]?
This Is a great review Heath!! My husband and I have talked about RV’ing but you never know where to start!! We enjoyed your article and the fact that you left a broad scope of how much it would actually cost based on preferences. We would be comperable with you guys’ spending as we aren’t drinkers and wouldn’t eat out or be trying to attend big festivals or events where everything’s more expensive on average. Loved the review and will stay in touch if we decide to pull the trigger on RV’ing full time!! 🙂
Awe that’s awesome Deb! Would love to have you join our Facebook group. There is a lot of great resources from people who are currently making the transition into full-time RV life :). Here is a link https://www.facebook.com/groups/makemoneyrving/.
This is some good info. My wife and I are planning to leave around May 1st to begin our 48 state trip. Were in the process now of buying a RV, or we have been leaning a bit more to class B RV (van type). We plan to tow my harley on a 5×8 super light trailer.
As we battle between a Class C and Class B, i have been trying to figure out the best way to go at it. I myself am a medical retired swrvice memeber and our income is a bit fixed. Im thinking and planning to survive off 1500 a month during our trip. Including gas and food. Our trip is mapped and we will be doing 15K miles total from start to finish. Thats in the RV. As we camp for place to place will use the bike to see the sights.
We plan to make the trip in about 4 months. So the accomplishment is more about making the journey and not as much about camping in places for any extended amount of time.
What type of RV did you use?
Did you utilize free camping on BLM land, as well Walmart lots, rest stops, etc?
Any words of wisdom?
Im very intrested in this topic as none of my friends have done this before and we will be the first in our clan..
Taking your questions into considering, I decided to edit this blog and add our RV cost and description above. That being said, we bought a 1994 coachmen (class c) motorhome. It ended up being a great choice for both of us. We didn’t do a lot of free camping at Walmarts, but we stayed with a lot of extended family and friends across the country.
Also, I would heavily suggest you check out this free resource I put together on how to travel on $2k/month or less. It’s basically everything I learned on our 48 state road trip on how to make it happen super cheap. I believe there would be a lot of great resources in there for you guys. Here is a link –> https://app.convertkit.com/landing_pages/1291
Thanks again, Heath.
I added myself to the link as well will search and hope to join your FB page. Were super excited about this journey and have been searching RV’s as I write. We narrowed it down to about 6, all are 22ft and below. Mostly 80’s RV’s. I have some mechanical skills, plus pretty handy with most other things so we are going a bit cheaper then you did on the RV. We actually found a few within the $3500 range.
I dod notice you had started a gofundme page to help with cost. I put some consideration into this, but we haven’t decided to take that step quite yet. I think we’re going to try this on our own. However, thats a great idea.
As we contiune to put things together for our departure date, May 1st 2016. I hope to keep in contact and possibly see you guys on the road. I have started my own jurnals as well have a wix page for blogging and articles. Perhaps will swap emails and links at some point and we can follow each other.
Hey Lonnie, yes, the GoFundMe page was actually just for wedding guests of ours to donate instead of give us gifts (since we left right before our wedding). We didn’t actually try to use that to pay for our trip. And I added you to the Facebook group, excited to chat with you inside and help you guys get started on the road!
I’m in the planning stages of RVing for a long period. My question is what do you do for internet and phone connection ? Did you just go with the company that has the most coverage like Verizon.
Question two when do you decide where you will be parking for the night? it is before you leave in the morning or when it starts getting late in the day
Hey Dan, we use a Verizon Jetpack. I did an interview last week on my podcast where we covered all the different ways to stay connected on the road (you can listen here: http://www.heathpadgett.com/rve-009-technomadia-mobile-internet-self-driving-rvs-nomadic-career/).
As far as parking for the night, we typically google “RV parks near (city we are visiting” before going to each location and then cross check with review sites like Campendium and RVparkreviews.
Hope that helps!
Hi! My husband and I would love to get a travel trailer and do a year on the road with our 3 kids……we probably won’t be able to until the littlest is out of diapers, but do you think it could be done on 1500 a month? (Husbands current disability income). We will have to finance the trailer which is 23,000….but the towing vehicle is paid off.
Hi Melissa! I’ve met people who have traveled on less than $1,500/month. But if I had to finance the trailer and had 3 kids, I personally don’t think I could do it … nor would I try. I’m a super optimistic person, but that is certainly cutting it close. While it can be done on $2k/month, you don’t want to be cutting it so close that you aren’t able to have fun on the road. Hope that helps and isn’t discouraging. That $1,500 gives you guys a TON of flexibility to build up some more income on the road however. I would recommend checking out workamping opportunities, where you can have your housing and things like that covered. If you were to workamp in different locations, you would probably be able to make that amount work. Thanks for reading! 🙂
Hey Heath, my wife and I will be heading out on an adventure this coming June. Our attempt is to hit all 48 states (we have already seen all of the east coast) and see as many of the national parks while on the road. I have only seen one map out there for such travels. Any suggestions on routes or must stop places would be greatly appreciated. We have about 6 to 7 weeks to see as much as we can.
My wife has posted a lot more about specific places we’ve visited on her blog at http://alyssapadgett.com/ , would definitely recommend checking out some of those places. My top list of national parks are Glacier National Park, Teton National Park, and then Yellowstone. The pacific coast highway in our RV was unforgettable (an absolute must). There are way too many things to list here in one comment :). Come over to our Facebook group and ask there! I’m sure people will be able to give a lot of awesome recommendation! https://www.facebook.com/groups/makemoneyrving/ Thanks for reading!
Hi Heath! My husband and I are planning on RVing the country as of January 1, 2017 with our son – who will be 18 months by that time…and of course, our cat! I was wondering what you did, if anything, about having some kind of health care coverage while traveling. We just want something for emergencies/hospitalization only (God forbid). Do you know if there are any health insurance companies that offer statewide coverage? Thanks so much – your website is great – so inspiring and
So, we do have coverage that will take care of us on the road. I would recommend talking with the folks over at the RVers Insurance Exchange. That’s who took care of us :).
[…] How Much Does it Cost to Travel America in An RV? […]
[…] and we spent around $6,000 total on gas throughout 7 months. You can read more of those financials here on this post I […]
Hey ! We are 2 friends that want to trevel in america for 2 months with a rv.
We are coming from Israel and we would for some more info, costs, young trip
(we’re 22 y o ) thanks!!!!
Hey Dan! That’s awesome. Why don’t you check out this blog by my wife? http://alyssapadgett.com/cost-to-live-in-rv/
Hopefully that will answer some of your questions! I would recommend looking into a company like Cruise America, RV Share, or El Monte for renting an RV for 2 months (unless you choose to buy and re-sell one!)
The adventure of a lifetime for us (wife, dog, & 2 kids) is in phase 1. I am in software sales, burnt out, and want to get back to what’s most important to me…family (which is tattooed horizontally across my left bicept). I am new to your site, just downloaded podcast #1, and are plotting our course. Lots of questions, hopefully most will be answered by folks like you. looking at what I can do for income. I enjoy woodworking, film school grad (video work maybe), and lifetime salesman. I want to start a video blog/website…any suggestions?
Great to hear from you man. I can relate to a couple of those things (burnt out sales guy and film experience). That being said, advice for starting a video blog? Advice other than just start?
My advice would be to check out the niche of woodworking and study some of those guys on youtube that are earning an income doing their woodworking skills and accruing lots of views. The next step would be studying them and then starting a channel of your own. The biggest thing to realize would be that it could (and most likely will) take years to monetize and build something profitable (depending on your personality, skills, consistency, etc).
It’s possible to make an income doing video blogs via sponsorships and whatnot. But like with any unique lifestyle, it takes a lot of time.
Hope that helps,
I’m sure this is a really obvious question, but… the costs you’ve listed, are they for the two of you, or per person?
Also, me and my boyfriend both live in the UK and are looking at packing it all in, in just over a years time, to spend 6-8 months on the road in the US. We’re looking at doing it all in an RV (hence finding your site) and I wondered if you had any tips or advice on where to buy an RV from? Should we try and track one down online before we come over, or will it be fairly easy to find one when we get to the States? We’ll be on a tight budget for the RV – $3,000-$4,000 – and will most likely be looking for a Class B – nothing too long and with the bed above the cab so we don’t have to make it every day. Any advice is hugely appreciated!
Hey, if you manage this, I live in NJ, near the Jersey Shore… Would love to have you come and Visit! lol South Jersey has some great beaches – from May to September. I also will be listed on AirBNB, in case you want to try a room for the night, and a lot cheaper than the motels. OR we have a lot of campgrounds in this area, offshore. Just in case. Wish you the best in your RV Search. I’m considering buying one, and living in it permanently. Not sure how THAT will work out, but I’ll have to seriously look at this for my future. Juliana
I’m Matt and I just had a year long sabbatical approved, and had similar thoughts to you.
How is this all going? 🙂
I like the information that you have mentioned in your blog. Keep sharing good stuff with us. Thanks
Thanks, Ria! We try to help 🙂
[…] to all 50 states and spent $6,000 in gas alone (see rest of our expenses from that road trip here). Being able to financially cover the lifestyle removes a ton of burden and allows you to enjoy […]
[…] How Much Does it Cost to Travel America in an RV? […]
Hi I like to go the new place for visit and I also try it with fexible cost. I know I found the best information from here and I make it smoothly in here. Thanks for travel service information in here.
My girlfriend and I have been considering doing this for the last six months or so.
She hates her job and I work on whatever I can find online as a content writer and PHP/MySQL programmer/IT consultant after quitting my very stressful job as a manager of programmers and IT support persons at a large pharmaceutical company.
Money isn’t super consistent but I know I can always at least pull in 3000 per month writing random content for blogs and businesses and she is learning Photoshop so we can start creating sites and blogs for others from design to deployment on our own.
We’ve set my birthday (July 11th) as our departure date and we have so much to do before we leave. This is the first article of yours that I’ve read but I intend to scour the rest of your site for information.
We intend to create a large social media presence for our adventures across FB, blogging, Instagram, Snapchat, etc… so I get the feeling I’ll be asking you for help along the way
Safe travels and thank you for the excellent post!
That’s awesome Charles!!! Congrats dude. Y’all are in for an adventure! We’ve been fulltiming it for three years and we absolutely love it!
[…] Read More here: heathandalyssa.com/cost-to-travel-america-in-an-rv/ […]
Thank you for sharing your experiences! So inspiring! We’re a family of four, from Brazil and we love to travel. In the last 6 years we’ve been coming to USA to drive around, with no stablished routes, but an initial point and a last one, then, returning to Brazil. Today we (me, my wife and my daughter – our son stayed in Brazil for his school’s last exams) are in Akron, Ohio, resting for our next step, spending a couple of days in Chicago. Where after there? Don’t know yet. But incredbly I’ve talking with my wife about taking a year or two and buy a RV and travel around the contiguous states. And I found you. Once more, than you for sharing your experiences. And I already started dreaming about this trip. God bless you!
Hey Bob! Wow that sounds awesome!! I would definitely recommend it. The more we see of America, the more beautiful we realize it is!
how much did y’all pay for the RV?
We bought it for $11,500 and sold it 18 months and 20K miles later for $9,750.
[…] we put into the interior and the maintenance costs during our 50 state road trip (you can see those in this blog post). But hey, $1,800 to live and travel in an RV for 18 months isn’t […]
[…] and there are many other examples of full time RV budgets that weren’t as high as ours, like Heath and Alyssa who lived for under $30,00 in 1 full year (although they lived SUPER frugally), or this couple who […]
[…] we put into the interior and the maintenance costs during our 50 state road trip (you can see those in this blog post). But hey, $1,800 to live and travel in an RV for 18 months isn’t […]
[…] How Much Does it Cost to Travel America in An RV? – · Driving around America in an RV is one of the most American things you can possibly do. But how much does it actually cost to travel America in an RV? I never in a million years would have thought I’d spend my entire honeymoon RVing around the country, but that’s exactly what happened. […]
[…] How Much Does it Cost to Travel America in An RV? – Driving around America in an RV is one of the most American things you can possibly do. But how much does it actually cost to travel America in an RV? I never in a million years would have thought I’d spend my entire honeymoon RVing around the country, but that’s exactly what happened. […]
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