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The Cost of Driving an RV Across America

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Below in this post I share the screenshots of Alyssa’s and my budget from our RV trip across America last year. I share exactly how much we made and how much it cost to drive an RV across the country.

I understand that people don’t like talking about money. It’s uncomfortable and weird and you don’t want to be that guy who talks about how much money he makes (or doesn’t make). But recently I learned the value of being transparent about money in certain conversations.

Last week Alyssa and I went out to dinner with a couple we just met. They were asking us about Hourly America and how we were able to RV across the country at 23 years old. Then, the husband started softly poking at how much money we were making and exactly how much we spent in order to travel. At first he seemed hesitant, but I opened up and told them exactly how much it had cost us to drive our RV cross-country and how we had spent most of 2015 working to pay off student debt.

After dinner he thanked me by saying, “I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to be able to talk about things like money. People are so closed off.”

As it turns out, they were also dealing with student debt but wanted to travel the world. A few days later he called me as they were looking at RV’s, considering making a trip of their own! I was pumped for him and I’d like to think that a little insight into how little it actually costs was a factor that helped push him towards the idea of RVing.

Our conversation inspired me to write a fully transparent blog about how much it costs us to drive our RV across the country (and how much we made during that time).

Update: If you want to check out our full income & expense report from Year #2 of living in an RV, you can click here to see it.

In this post, I’m pulling back the curtain and showing you everything. Every dime we spent on the road is in the screenshots below. Much like the rest of my blogs, this post is much less “how to” and much more “this is one way out of a million ways you can do this”. None the less, this is the budget that worked for us.

The screenshots below also show exactly how much money we MADE during our first year of traveling across the country. You’ll see there was only one month out of our 7 months of travel where we actually cleared more in the income than in the expenses account. This is because, well, we weren’t making all that much money.

However, we were still able to do an RV road trip to 48 states for less than $4,000 of our own money, which is pretty awesome.

What I mean by that is, we found a sponsor, did freelance work, and raised enough money to go on this adventure without having to use all of our savings or go into credit card debt.

Below is our entire cost log from beginning to end. I was going to cut out the expenses such as “wedding” or “books we bought”, but those seem relevant in their own way. Everyone has different hobbies or things they spend money on, these are ours :).

cost of rving across america

As you can see, our first month was by far the most expensive. This is because we had to cover so much ground headed west through large states like Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, California, etc. Also, gas prices on the west coast were reaching $4.00/gallon and more. It was pretty rough.

Also, RV parks along the west coast in California tend to be on the more pricey side. We were just getting our feet wet as RVers so we were still learning the ropes. By the third month we were able to cut down our expenses to only $2,600. And then by month four down to $2,083.16. I definitely recommend Passport America as a way to cut down expenses when booking campgrounds, it saved us hundreds of dollars.

cost of rving across america

Snapshot of expenses for 200 days of travel and 48 states:

Total spent on 200 days of travel: $19,124.72

Total earned: $15,521.72

Out of pocket expense: $3,603.28

Gas: $6,593.57
Lodging: $2,710.84
Groceries: $2,053.05
Gym Membership: $344.84
Phone Bill: $1,311.22
Eating Out: $512.88
Giving: $210
Maintenance: $1,955.72
Miscellaneous & Entertainment: $3,432.60

Our average nightly cost for lodging was $13.55.

Our monthly cost of maintenance was $340

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 ~$1.05/mile.

After some experience of being out on the road we were able to get our expenses down to $2k/month, which is less than our monthly living expenses were when living back in Austin, TX.

To be completely honest, it’s very possible to live for much cheaper than $2k/month when full-time RVing. As I type this we’re camped out on a lake in Austin, TX and only paying $360/month for lodging. If you’re more extreme and willing to boon dock more often and travel slowly, it’s definitely possible to cut these expenses back significantly more.

If you’re interested in learning more about cheap travel, I put together a free 7 day course (see below) that you can check out. It goes into much more detail on how we were able to transition into living full-time in our RV (and traveling) without spending a crazy amount of money.