While we don’t plan on being entirely full-time in our RV, we do plan on spending at least half of the year on the road. Now a couple of months into our travels, I’ve had time to process all the things we read or wish we had known before making this big lifestyle change. Here I’ve tried to compile them into a helpful list for others to reference if you are contemplating downsizing to an RV lifestyle.
On the upside, full-time RVers get the perks of saving on a lot of common expenses that homeowners have to deal with. Here are some of the pros to living in an RV in terms of cost:
- Cheaper Travel: RV travel is a much more affordable means of traveling and seeing the country. Even the cheapest hotel rooms will likely set you back at least $100/night, plus if you don’t have access to a kitchen, you’ll be forking over a lot of money every day for meals out. Additionally, if you have pets, like we do, finding pet-friendly hotels is almost impossible, while boarding rates can be exorbitant. Most RV parks offer full water and electric hook-ups plus a boatload of amenities for somewhere between $25-$70/night. If you do your research and homework ahead of time, you can stay closer to the lower end of the scale or even find free campsites, commonly referred to as boondocking. Uscampgrounds.info has a very thorough list of public campgrounds in North America.
- No Mortgage Payment: There are many really affordable options for purchasing an RV. Fifth wheels and travel trailers are generally less expensive than most people’s homes. Even if you must finance a portion of your motorhome purchase, it will still likely be less than what you would pay for a mortgage.
- Reduced Bills: Most RV park stays include free internet and cable, and sometimes include the price of water and electric in the price of the nightly fee (some charge extra). Either way, your bills on the road will likely be lower than previously.
- No Property Tax or Homeowners Insurance: If you sell your property before hitting the open road, you could save huge on both property tax and homeowners insurance!
On the other hand, there are some additional expenses you must contend with in order to RV:
- Gas: Unless you plan on staying parked for long intervals, you’ll likely spend as much or more on gas than you did when you lived in a traditional home and commuted to work.
- Repairs & Maintenance: Traveling extensively in your RV means it must endure thousands of miles of wear and tear every year. At some point, you will probably encounter some pretty significant repairs and maintenance expenses. If your vehicle is under warranty most repairs should be covered, but if not, you could spend thousands on servicing your motorhome or trailer. Make sure you know what is covered in the warranty before making a purchase! Part of our reason to splurge on a Tiffin was because it comes backed with a 5-star, 10-year construction warranty.
- Additional Expenses: While you might save on utilities bills, you may have to spend more than normal on a few other expenses. For instance, if you work remotely, you may need to consider a personal WiFi hotspot to ensure consistent and reliable internet connection. Also consider whether you’ll need mail forwarding, propane, the expense of laundry, and how much your vehicle insurance will increase.
- Depreciable Asset: Keep in mind that just like with a car, the value of an RV decreases over time. So the brand new model you roll off the lot in might be worth half as much in about 10 years. This is important to take into consideration because a similar purchase in real property would almost always appreciate over time.
Since we didn’t sell our home, it’s hard to say how much more or less we would be spending by living full-time in an RV. However, this site has lots of helpful tips and considerations on RV budgeting, including how much the couple actually spent on a monthly basis.
Confined Living Space
This goes without saying, but living in an RV means you’ll likely have a lot less room than you do in a traditional home. The average American home is now well over 2000 square-feet, so shrinking your belongings about one tenth of that size can be challenging, especially when it includes accommodating pets. Tips for staying organized in small quarters?
- Learn to Live with Less: Why keep hauling stuff around that you’ll never use? If you take a look around your current home, you probably have tons of items that you could live without. Those old tattered jeans, the dresses that fit a few decades ago, all that stuff shoved in the attic…If you haven’t used items in the past year, chances are you won’t, so start donating and selling your extra things today. You don’t want to take extra clutter on your RV or pay to put it in a storage unit if you’ll never use it again.
- What to Take: Since the furniture is already built-in to your RV, the bulk of your extra belongings will be clothing and kitchen gadgets. We really pared down our wardrobes for life on the road. I chose a few outfits for different seasons, with a variety that included regular clothes and athletic wear for our more active days. If you’re constantly on the move, you won’t be encountering the same people every week, so who cares if you wear the same outfit 5 or 6 times in a month? As far as kitchen gadgets, read my blog on cooking in an RV.
- Designate Personal Space: If you are the type of person who needs a quiet retreat, make sure to designate a small area for reading, reflection or meditation. For me, my personal sanctuary is the bedroom. This is an area that’s off limits to the dogs, so I can relax and read a book in peace and quiet.
- Less Cleaning: The biggest perk to having less space is that there is far less to clean! Though living in an RV does mean you’ll be cleaning the floors more regularly (think of all that dirt and those leaves that get tracked in), it takes far less time to vacuum and mop a tiny house.
So far living in an RV has been incredible. We’re on our own schedule, so whenever we get restless for the next place, we have the freedom to pick up and move on. No canceled flights, no house sitters, no dog boarding. It’s been really fun getting to meet fellow RVers at various campsites and enjoy the many amenities of the nicer campgrounds where we’ve stayed.
One of the downsides to traveling, of course, is that we’ve heard it can be a lonely and isolating experience. While we haven’t been gone long enough to experience this, we have been encouraged by more veteran travelers to stay connected with friends and family.
I’m sure there are plenty of other things we will learn along the way, so make sure you stay tuned for future posts!