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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 costs 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 RVs, 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 and staying mostly in full hook up RV parks. 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 on camping fees.

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.

16 Responses

  • I am a little surprised that Alyssa needed additional entertainment when she has you 😉

    I’m pretty sure my regular living expenses and spending looks scarier than this so perhaps I should hit the road!

  • Cool Heath, that just goes to show that road travel doesn’t have to break the bank!!

  • When I started to read this post I was hoping the total costs would be a lot lower. $19k for 200 days seems really high to me, and that doesn’t include the cost of the RV. We spend about that much per day traveling in Europe and a lot less in Asia. I realize you got your costs down but I suspect the average person would go through the same learning curve. I would need to explore more boon-docking options for it to work for us. I’m afraid to go to the expense of buying an RV only to find out it’s not what we thought it would be, and now I’m worried it wouldn’t be as cheap as we hope.

    • If you were to have a more fuel efficient RV and traveled much slower, you could easily cut a ton of costs. The majority of our expenses came from the gas itself. As I’ve mentioned quite a bit before, everyone has quite a different method for things they want and need on the road. We also could have cut more expenses in the RV park department, but I’m glad this was insightful at the very least for you to realize some of the costs that could be associated with longterm RV travel.

  • […] It’s not as crazy expensive as I thought it would be. In fact my wife and I learned how to travel full-tie for less than $2k/month (here you can view a breakdown of all of our expenses). […]

  • […] There are a lot of other financial factors to consider if you decided to live in an apartment or drive an RV, but if you want to an example of the real costs associated with driving an RV across the country (plus how to do it super cheap) you can view our full expense breakdown from RVing to 48 states here. […]

  • […] we did not accrue any additional debt, but we didn’t exactly rapidly pay it off either (click here to see a breakdown of exactly how much it costs to drive to 48 […]

  • […] 48 states we did not accrue any additional debt, but we didn't exactly rapidly pay it off either (click here to see a breakdown of exactly how much it costs to drive to 48 […]

  • […] I calculated the costs for our first year of traveling and living in an RV. We published that in a post here and it’s been one of my most read blogs this year. After another year of living in an RV, I […]

  • You’re healthcare costs were almost non existent. How do you manage to find anything on the Affordable Care networks that cheap?

    • I think theyre both on their parents’ healthcare until age 26, so although some people may not consider them fully self-sufficient, they are using the resources available to them to make the lifestyle work. Once they reach the age where they have to get their own healthcare, im sure they’ll have this lifestyle figured out enough to make room for that expense.

      • Hey Celeste,

        Bredyon is half right. I am still on my parents health insurance until I’m 26. This is mostly a request from my father who has worked for the same large company for the past 25+ years. He has a really good plan and wouldn’t have changed much to remove me, so that’s the reasoning for that. My wife did the Affordable Care plan last year and I think it was something like $15/month and then we weren’t able to do it another year. I’m not exactly sure what the reasoning behind that was… but anyway, we switched over to Scott and White health as of December and it will cover us being on the road more than 6+ months out of the year and it’s $265 for my wife. Now it’s become one of our largest monthly expenses, but we didn’t really see any other option. We found it through the RVers Insurance Exchange.

        Hope that helps.

  • Thanks for sharing your numbers. It’s always helpful to see another person’s budget to see how they do it. Don’t mind the naysayers and superskimpers who think the only way to budget is to race to zero. I’m all for a healthy balance between being frugal and getting the most out of your money along with enjoying life and maximizing TIME ON EARTH, and not just money. If spending some money saves a certain amount of time or headaches, the trade off can definitely be worth it.

    • Definitely agree Seung and thanks for your insight! I definitely believe there is a healthy balance to strike :).

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