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Is Full-Time RV Living Worth it?

Is it worth it to sell your house and travel full-time? The answer really depends on two things - your desires and your expectations.


We did not actually intend to start full-timing when we did, but sometimes life just gives you signals that your plan needs to change. That's ok - its usually for the better. While we always knew we wanted to travel, we were only a year into a 5-year plan when the stars aligned... and since I was able to work remotely, we figured out a budget that made it work for us.


Is RV living cheaper than having a house?

That question has become a huge debate in the full-time RV living community. The answer is not as complex as it is being made out to be - just like in the "brick & mortar" world of home ownership, there are many options with full time RV living, and thus many budgets. Also - everyone is coming to full-time RV living from different scenarios, so the cost is always relative.


Full Time Stationary

Some people choose not to travel at all - is it cheaper for them? Well, that depends on their individual previous situation, doesnt it? If you were renting a 2-bedroom apartment at $1500/month and now you are paying $800/month for lot rent - arent you saving $700/month? Consider the total picture when trying to figure this out - your lot rent is cheaper, but now instead of calling the landlord when something goes wrong - all of the maintenance & repairs come out of your budget. You must also consider the payment on your RV if you didnt pay cash for it. Most of the rest of your expenses will be pretty similar to apartment living.

What about the scenario where someone sold their house? They were already used to paying for repairs and maintenance - it has to be cheaper in this scenario, doesnt it? Well, again it depends on YOUR desires and expectations. Some luxury Class A diesel pushers can cost the same as a house or more. If you already have an RV, that is a big plus in savings and one less thing on your checklist to take care of. If you have already paid off your RV, you will likely be in a scenario where stationary full-time RV living is cheaper.


Full Time Mobile

One of the biggest reasons we wanted to "convert" to full time RV living is the opportunity to travel the country to live and learn about different areas, visit 'bucket list' attractions, and chase the sun.

It would be difficult to find many scenarios where full-time travel is abundantly cheaper than the 'brick & mortar' choice. You can certainly make it cheaper - and many travel bloggers have done this! We will share some of our favorites for each topic later in this article.

There are many considerations in budgeting for full time travel, the most costly being:

  • The cost of your RV 'home'. If you will have a monthly payment, this will likely be your biggest expense.

  • Fuel. This is an expense that is controllable based on how often you move, how many miles you cover and of course how carefully you plan your logistics. Sometimes you will be tempted to not use a linear route because you want to attend events that occur at different times of the year in different states, but be sure that you account for the additional travel expenses (fuel, wear & tear/maintenance) in your monthly budget. If you budget for about $1/mile you should be able to stay within your budget easily, and its an easy number to use for general budgeting.

  • Camping Fees. Camping fees are usually MUCH cheaper by the month or week than by the day. There are many places we've seen that charge $50/night, but only $250/week or $800/month. The savings in this scenario can be as much as $8,650 per year! You can also save quite a bit by using a membership like Thousand Trails (links below).

  • Insurance. You will need insurance on BOTH the RV and the tow vehicle, regardless of which is towing which. If you are RVing in a van or motorhome and do not tow a separate drive vehicle, you alleviate one insurance policy but you also limit mobility at each stop. The cost of insurance will depend on the type of vehicle & RV, the state they are registered in, and your personal record.

Non-Financial Considerations

Now that we have busted the myth of RV living being cheaper than brick & mortar, lets circle back to your desires and expectations. Assuming you can actually afford to live the adventure and travel life the way you want to, the financial part of it is not as important as your desires and expectations.


Expectations

  • RV living is NOT equivalent to a luxury vacation, regardless of where you stay. Even at the most expensive RV resorts, you still have to dump your own poo & take out the trash (with very few exceptions) as well as troubleshooting the myriad of things that can go wrong with an RV that dont happen in houses. Do not expect that you will not need to be self-sufficient! If you have always had the luxury of calling the landlord for every issue and maintenance, RV living will be culture shock.

  • An RV is NOT a house or apartment. RVs are simply not built to be lived in every day or driven/towed every week into perpetuity. If the average life of an RV is 10 years with the expectation you will use it for weekend or monthly travel, you can bring that down to 5-7 years with daily use if you do not maintain every part of it impeccably. This includes regularly checking and lubricating slides, checking seams, tires, batteries, plumbing and interior furniture (and sooo much more). If youve never disassembled a built-in seating area in an RV, you would be amazed at how little is holding it together. Remember, RVs are built to be light and transportable, not to be lived in like a house.

Desires

If you are not surprised by the above two bullet points, you may have realistic expectations of RV living. That is a good start. Now you have to think about WHY you want to do it, and what that is worth to YOU. Unfortunately, there is no formula for that, though it wouldnt hurt to sit down with the people you are taking with you to discuss and document each persons expectations and desires.


The first few steps

Planning

We actually put together a spreadsheet where we listed all of the places we wanted to visit, the budget for each, and what we wanted to get from the experience (sometimes that answer is just curiosity, and sometimes there is a deeper rooted reason).

Scheduling

As we scheduled each leg of the first trip we left some space in case we found an opportunity we didn't want to pass up. This can be a tiny bit risky, as you could end up without somewhere to stay for a few days, but you can usually find a Harvest Host (link below) spot for a day or two each, and depending on the time of year and local events, its usually not too difficult to add a few days to your stay if needed. You do not NEED an app to help you with scheduling, but we really love the RV Life Trip Wizard (link below) because they have information on almost every campground, and if they dont have one, you can add it!.


As you can see, there is no single answer to whether full time RV living is "worth it". The answer to that question is in your hands - its what you make of it. The one piece of advice we will give is to think deeply and discuss with everyone you are taking with you what you want out of the adventure, how long you expect or desire to travel, and have a back-up plan in case you find out it is not for you.


Finally, the LINKS !


Here are links to some resources we have found very helpful. At the time of this writing, we are not receiving payment or credit for any of these links - this is purely what we have found helpful for our adventure.


Tools :

RV Life Trip Wizard: https://tripwizard.rvlife.com/ - For scheduling your trip

Harvest Hosts: Small businesses or individuals (farms, ranches, breweries, wineries, etc) will let you park free overnight for patronizing their business. There is usually no minimum purchase, and usually no hookups.

Escapees: https://escapees.com/ - Mail Service for life on the road that will also help you establish residency without having to own a home.

Thousand Trails: https://thousandtrails.com/membership-info - Subscription camping passes by region


Blogs:

Cheap RV Living: https://cheaprvliving.com/ - Hints and tips for full time RV living on a budget

A Million Miles of Memories: https://amillionmilesofmemories.com/ - A funny and entertaining blog on full time RV life with kids.








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djfairfax354
Apr 25, 2023

Very informative article. Djfairfax354@charter.net for you forward this article to me including the links. Preparing to venture out in a 1993 Pace Arrow 32’ Class A with gasoline engine. Thanks! Dave Fairfax; 354 Twin Cove Drive, Lebanon, TN 37087

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