One of the most asked questions by people looking to go full-time RVing is “How much does it cost?” The problem with answering this question is it is very subjective as the variables for full-time RV living seem to be unlimited and there is no uniform cookie cutter option when it comes to this lifestyle.
Just asking a few questions will make you quickly realize how much a full-time RV budget can vary between families:
- What type of RV do you want to travel in? We own a 40′ Class A diesel pusher and our cost stucture is going to be much different and more expensive than someone who owns a travel trailer, 5th wheel, Class C or even a Class A gasser.
- Do you own your RV outright or are you making payments? This question alone could be a budget breaker and the difference between being able to afford this lifestyle or not.
- Do you have a second vehicle? We tow a Jeep which also means additional maintenance and fuel costs.
- Do you own your second vehicle outright or are you making payments? See #2 because now you could possibly have two payments.
- How often are you planning on moving or relocating? The more you travel, the more expensive this lifestyle gets. So deciding how long to stay in one place or how far you want to travel between places could be a major budget factor. This decision not only inpacts the cost of your stay at locations, but fuel and maintenance costs for your vehicles.
- Do you have kids? Our son is in college and we are paying for the first two years. That’s expensive stuff! But it’s even more expensive if your kids are young, traveling with you, going to school AND you are still saving for college.
- What is your lifestyle like? We enjoy having some amenities when we travel and we spend more time at RV parks and resorts than we do boondocking on BLM land for free.
- Do you like to go out to eat or do you cook your own meals? Going out is an added cost most people underestimate. Add our names to the guilty list on this line item.
- Do you like to go sightseeing or do you plan to just hang out around the RV? Going sightseeing costs money for fuel and entrance fees so it needs to be properly accounted for in your budget.
- Do you have pets? We do and he needs special food and he is getting up there in age which will probably increase our costs over the next few years. Pets are an expense that is often overlooked when creating a budget.
You can see just from these questions how much variation there can be from one family to the next when it comes to creating a full-time RV budget. There is no right or wrong way to live this lifestyle, but much like living in a sticks and bricks home, it could range from inexpensive to extremely expensive depending on your standard of living.
When we started planning our full-time future, we did the best we could to estimate expenses and get as close as we could to our budget. We have always known that our budget would be $5k per month based on our F.I.R.E. number, but we also felt we could live below this amount with proper budgeting and limiting purchases. Now that Mrs. RVF has left her job and we both fully retired, we are starting to see how our budget is actually playing out in real life and there have been some suprising results.
Before we get into the numbers, please note that our original budget numbers were based off research, and at times, just using our best guesstimate with the information we had. We created our original budget back in February 2020, before the pandemic hit, and RV’s started flying off the lots faster than they could be made, which has now changed the pricing for many campgrounds and resorts drastically.
We are only comparing expenses related to full-time RVing and the difference between what we prepared for and what they actually cost. We are not including those expenses which are specific to our living situation such as our budget for personal and household items, insurance, RV payments, etc. as those are specific to us. Everyone makes choices and has a history that impacts those categories and they don’t specifically pertain to RV living.
The below table reflects a comparison between what we planned for originally and what our new budget is based on our actual living expenditures. Please note that all expenses are monthly and annual fees are broken down to monthly costs.
|Expense||Original Budget||Current Budget||Difference +/-|
|RV Resort Fees||$1000||$750||-$250|
|Gas / Fuel||$400||$300||-$100|
|Repairs & Maintenance||$250||$200||-$50|
|Cell Phone & Internet||$250||$280||+$30|
|RV & Vehicle Registration||$60||$54||-$6|
As you can see the biggest positives we have experienced are in the budget for RV resort fees and fuel costs which was a surprise to us. This is mostly due to the fact that we have stayed at least a couple of months in each location we have visited and this has given us the opportunity to pay a monthly rate. Monthy rates are typically much more affordable than the daily or weekly rates and they are a great bargain for the most part. Additionally, staying in one spot helps us cut back on fuel costs because the RV isn’t going anywhere. That’s a win win situation!
There are a few expense categories we underestimated which are food, utilities and internet. This is not totally unexpected as these are items you don’t really know the cost until you get started. Our original food budget was a best guess because we didn’t know what we would spend on groceries without our son at home and we underestimated our appetite a little bit. Internet expense was underestimated because we didn’t really have a plan past our cell phone hotspots. For now we are paying a monthly fee through the resort for premium Wi-Fi services and so far we are happy with it. When this option is no longer available we will have to figure something else out.
Also of note is the lower costs for repairs, maintenance and leisure. These are very subjective categories and I expect them to be adjusted as we travel more. So far we have only incurred very minor expenses for repairs and maintenance, but that could change at any moment so we need to be prepared. As for leisure we have been very good about controlling how much we spend by not doing expensive activities. The most we have paid are a couple of fees to the National Forests so we could park and go hiking which was well worth it. Not only have we seen amazing sights, but it’s cheap and is a great workout. That’s a trifecta in RV life!
As we continue to gather data we will revisit and share updates to our budget. I’m sure there will be adjustments as we have only been living on our RV budget for just under two months now, but so far we are pleased with our results.
Everyone’s financial situation and budget is different, yet this lifestyle really has something for everyone. It all depends on what you are comfortable with, and in some cases, what you are willing to sacrifice to live a more mobile and freeing lifestyle.
This journey is all about getting out of the corporate grind and living our best life. To do that we need to maintain our budget and stick to our goals. Now that we are retired, our goal is to keep our overall costs below our $5k monthly budget based on a 4% annual withdrawal rate from our F.I.R.E. number of $1.5M so we can extend the life of our investments and savings, which in turn will allow our investments to compound for a longer period of time.
Your goal might be different, but the desire to live the best life possible is a common purpose we all have. Whether you are pursuing full-time RV life and/or financial independence, it is important to know your budget, set your goals and most of all be honest with yourself. It’s ok to be wrong and have to make adjustments, but it is not ok to be out of touch with your own situation.
Thank you for reading our blog. Hopefully this will give anyone considering the full-time RV life some insight into the cost of living this lifestyle. Just remember there are many factors and decisions that need to be made, each of which can make this lifestyle more or less expensive. The beauty of all of this is that it’s your choice to make and the options are endless.
P.S. If you haven’t heard we started an online store called StuckonCamping where you can get some of our designs on stickers, magnets, shirts, hats, tote bags and more! Check it out for camping, RV, Jeep and other outdoor designs!
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4 thoughts on “Full-Time RV Budgeting”
This is a great breakdown. I am considering buying a travel trailer for the next few summers to slow travel our way through the US, and with a family of four certainly some line items would be significantly difference, but I like the idea of potentially staying somewhere for say the entire month of June and then somewhere else for July. This is a great way to better help estimate what the summer trips would cost us!
Monthly rates are much cheaper just make sure you book early.
Thank you for sharing! Great info! Question for you about healthcare. I didn’t notice that factored into your budget – can you please elaborate on that?
Hello, thank you for reading our blog. I didn’t include healthcare because it is too specific to each person. Some people have free lifetime healthcare through government jobs or unions while others need to find private health care or use the ACA. For our budget we planned on buying private insurance but we were unable to so now we use the ACA. In our case budgeted $600 a month but with the ACA we only pay $100. It’s just one of those categories that has too many variables.