The Real Cost of Full-Time RV Living
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Much like living in a traditional home, the cost of full-time RV living can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you want it to be. It all depends on your travel style and personal priorities.
Some RVers prefer to cook in their RV, enjoy free activities, and dry camp or boondock to save on camping costs. On the opposite end of the spectrum, other campers choose to live a luxurious full-time RV lifestyle, staying at high-end RV resorts and enjoying local cuisine daily. This can cost as much or more than a traditional sticks-and-bricks lifestyle.
Of course, many RVers live between these extremes, spending what they feel is suitable for their personal situation.
Full-time RV living costs will also vary depending on your RV type. A fifth wheel will generally be more expensive than a travel trailer, and both RV towables will likely be cheaper than a comparable motorhome. Your travel expenses will also be affected by how far you travel and how often you move.
The bottom line is that the cost of full-time RV living can vary greatly depending on your circumstances. Whether you’re just starting to create your full-time RV budget or looking for ways to trim expenses, we’ve got the cost of RVing broken down for you.
How Much Does Full-Time RV Living Cost?
Assuming you have a medium-sized RV and travel an average amount, you can expect to spend $3,000 – $3,500 per month on the cost of full-time RV living. Of course, this is a rough estimate, and your actual costs may be higher or lower depending on your specific situation.
We average a little under $3,000 on all our monthly expenses, detailed below. Here’s some information about our RV and travel style to give you an idea of what our life looks like on this budget.
- Travel style. We have big travel months, which include mostly dispersed or dry camping to save money. These are followed by stationary months of moochdocking or staying at affordable campgrounds where we can complete RV projects and catch up on work.
- RV setup. We have a smaller full-time RV (a 29-foot travel trailer) and an older truck for towing, which allows us to eliminate loans from our monthly budget.
- Maintenance process. We DIY repairs and maintenance 90% of the time. We spend money on parts but mostly do the labor ourselves regarding remodeling and RV and auto repair.
Your RV camping and travel style will greatly impact your RV budget. Below we’ll dive further into each budget category so you can start to put together your own budget.
To help you along your journey and be transparent as possible, we’ve included our average monthly expenses for each category.
The cost of a campsite can range from free to over $100 per night. Most campgrounds fall into the $40-55 per night range. Of course, there are always exceptions. For example, state and national parks typically charge around $20-30 per night, while private RV parks and resorts can charge $50-100 per night (or more).
If you’re looking to save money on camping costs, there are a few things you can do.
- Look for free or cheap campsites. Several websites and apps can help you find boondocking (wild camping) or dry camping (camping without hookups). We like Campendium and The Dyrt.
- Join membership clubs like Passport America or Thousand Trails, which offer deeply discounted rates at participating campgrounds.
- See if the RV park offers a weekly or monthly rate. Some parks provide a price break when you stay longer. This can save money if you’re planning to stay in one place for an extended period.
- Opt for free overnight parking on travel days. Take advantage of free overnight parking at Walmart, Cracker Barrel, Cabela’s, rest stops, etc. These spots are great opportunities to save money if you’re pulling in late and leaving early. (Always call ahead to ensure overnight parking is allowed at each location.)
Our Monthly Campground Costs
*This average is based on camping in the western U.S. where we opt for dry or dispersed camping 85% of the time. We’ll update this to reflect east coast camping costs in 2023.
2. Fuel (Gas, Diesel, Propane)
Fuel cost is one of the most significant variables regarding your RV budget. Staying in one place saves money quickly but keeps you from exploring and enjoying the RV travel lifestyle. Finding a balance is the key!
Your gas and diesel costs are impacted by the following:
- size of your RV
- frequency of travel days
- gas or diesel prices in your area and the areas you plan to travel
Generally, RVs get around 10-12 miles per gallon. So, if gas is $3.75 per gallon and you drive 200 miles, you can expect to spend about $68 on fuel for that day. This can add up fast, especially if you plan to move halfway across the country each season. To spread out fuel costs, use our RV Gas Cost Calculator to plan your travel day fuel expenses.
Also, keep in mind that if you’re wintering in a chilly spot, your propane costs will be much higher to run your heater. If you run a generator when you dry camp, your gas costs will also be higher.
READ NEXT: For more ways to save on fuel for your vehicle, check out our post Discount Fuel Cards for RV Owners & How to Save at the Pump.
If you have a traditional RV fridge, it will run on propane unless you connect to shore power. Your RV stove/oven will most likely be propane as well. However, these appliances typically sip fuel. You won’t notice a massive jump in propane costs unless you’re running the RV ducted furnace.
Our Monthly Fuel Costs
Diesel: $404 (fuel for truck)
Propane: $15 (fuel for stove, RV fridge, heater)
PRO TIP: We’ll often run an electric space heater instead of our ducted propane heat if we are in a spot where we can connect to power.
3. RV Maintenance and Repairs
Just like with a sticks-and-bricks home, there will be ongoing maintenance and occasional repairs on your RV.
Fortunately, most of the time, these are small and easy to fix yourself if you’re handy. But every once in a while, you’ll have a more extensive repair that requires a professional.
The cost of maintaining and repairing your RV is impacted by several factors:
- age of your RV
- how well the RV has been maintained
- where and when you travel
Some common maintenance and repair costs include:
- Dump Fees: $10-20 per dump
- Tire Replacement: $100-300 per tire
- Oil Changes: $50-200
- Roof Repair: $500-5,000
- Awning Replacement: $1,000-2,500
- Generator Service: $200-400
These are just some of the most common maintenance and repair costs. Of course, every RV is different, so your maintenance and repair needs may differ (and be more or less expensive).
If you have a small travel trailer or motorhome, your maintenance costs will typically be on the lower end of the spectrum, while class A motorhomes will be on the highest end of RV repair. With a class C motorhome or tow vehicle, you might be able to do some engine maintenance and repairs yourself, while large motorhomes will require you to find a professional.
Learn to DIY Repairs to Save Money
You can save money and get back on the road faster if you can DIY your RV and vehicle repairs. Even if your insurance covers a repair, you can often save part of the payout by doing the work yourself.
For example, a wind event broke our RV awning arm. It was covered by insurance, and we could save money on labor since we installed it ourselves.
With another recent repair issue, the tow truck coolant was leaking. Ross was able to fix this with a little trial and error. We could find the parts locally in stock and didn’t need to wait to get into a repair shop, allowing us to get back on the road quickly.
Our Monthly RV Maintenance & Repair Costs
Examples of Our Recent Repair Costs: $438 for an awning arm (paid by insurance), $156 for truck engine parts, $74 to replace the propane regulator, $64 for parts to repair RV steps, $32 for a new jack to change tires
Examples of Our Recent Maintenace Costs: $51 for waxing supplies, $73 for 303 spray protectant, $70 for Clearsource water filters, $5 for leveler batteries
4. RV Insurance
Insuring your RV can be costly, especially if you live in your RV full-time. Some insurance companies will not insure full-time RVers at all, while others will charge sky-high rates.
The cost of RV insurance will depend on the size of your RV, your driving record, and the coverage you choose. Expect to pay at least $500 per year for full-time RV insurance and quite possibly much more.
Our Annual RVing Insurance Costs
Auto: $638 annually / $53 monthly
RV: $1045 annually / $87 monthly*
*We use Progressive for full-time RV insurance and are satisfied with their service. We recently filed a claim, and the whole process went super smooth!
PRO TIP: Some insurance companies will let you combine RV and car insurance to save money. For example, both our RV and tow vehicle are insured through Progressive. However, be sure to shop around for the best deal!
5. RV Loan Costs
If you choose to take out a loan for your RV or tow vehicle, the loan payment will be a large part of your monthly RV budget.
Whether or not you choose to finance your RV (and other vehicles you travel with) is a personal decision that will be different for everyone based on their current financial situation, the economy, and how long you plan to keep the RV.
RVs are considered luxury items, so they will carry a higher interest rate than the average auto loan. For more info on RV loans, check out this article from the Nerd Wallet.
Our Monthly RV Loan Costs
The cost of food is one of the more predictable expenses in your RV budget since it likely won’t change from what you currently do.
Your eating habits tend to stay the same when you RV full-time. If you like eating out or grabbing a “treat” when you’re out and about, chances are, you’ll still do that when you RV full-time.
Remember eating out is also part of the travel experience, so make room for those costs in your budget.
One thing to note is traveling full-time might require stocking up on specialty items. This will lead your food budget to fluctuate more month to month. For example, we order meal replacement shakes in bulk whenever we are in a spot where it’s easy to receive shipments. We usually stock up once every other month.
Our Monthly Food Costs
Alcohol / Night Out: $51
*We tend to buy high-quality grocery products. Whatever your eating or grocery shopping style, reflect that in your budget.
The cost of entertainment will be different for everyone and typically varies from month to month.
In this category, we include things like:
- sightseeing (entry fees, parking, etc.)
- other activities (theme parks, parasailing, etc.)
Also included are any monthly recurring or one-time costs for:
- streaming music
- streaming movies
- audiobook membership
- digital purchases for movies and books
There are endless free ways to entertain yourself while living in an RV. However, you’ll want to allocate some budget here for paid experiences. Some months might be low-cost, while others will include a splurge for a particular activity.
Our Entertainment Costs
Music & Video Streaming: $9.99 (Spotify/Hulu bundle subscription)*
Audiobooks: $16.22 Bi-Monthly (Audible)
Other Digital Purchases: $0 (paid with Amazon digital credits)
*We recently switched from the Spotify/Hulu bundle to YouTube Premium for music and video streaming for $11.99/mo.
**We also include firewood (which can add up fast) under this budget category. It definitely contributes to the fun factor when camping!
If you plan to work while living in your RV or just want to stay connected while on the road, you’ll need some form of internet and cell phone service.
Remote work will require multiple data plans to ensure a connection and will drive up the monthly cost of your internet service. You may also want a satellite internet connection such as Starlink if you plan to RV in places with limited cellular coverage.
However, if you don’t need internet for work, you may use only your phone’s hotspot or stay in places that offer free WiFi to save money.
You’ll also need to consider one-time costs to get up and running. If you’re going to install a mobile internet router with an antenna to boost your data signal and manage multiple data plans, that will cost $650 to $1,200.
Our Monthly Internet Costs
Cell Phones: $60 (2 mobile unlimited plans on Visible)
RV Mobile Router: $85 (AT&T 100GB prepaid plan, Visible unlimited plan)
NOTE: We have also used US Mobile but recently switched to Visible because we were no longer permitted to use US Mobile in our RV router.
9. Campground Memberships, Passes, and Apps
Camping memberships are a great way to save money while RVing. Once you figure out your camping style, you can decide if you want to invest in campground memberships, park passes, or a combination.
Here are a few different options to consider:
- Thousand Trails and Passport America are two of the most popular memberships. Both of these memberships offer discounts at participating campgrounds. (Here is a great article to learn more about the benefits of Passport America.)
- Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome are memberships made possible by private businesses and residences that allow you to camp overnight on their property.
- State parks might offer camping deals with their passes (check each state for details).
- American the Beautiful Pass not only offers free entry into the National Parks but discounts on select national forest camping spots around the country.
As mentioned earlier, camping apps like Campendium and The Dyrt are also excellent sources for searching and filtering for discount camping options.
Our Memberships, Passes, and Apps
Harvest Hosts: $80
State Park Passes (New Mexico and Texas): $231 and $70
National Park Pass (America the Beautiful): $80
Good Sam: $50 (two-year membership)
The Dyrt: $24.99
All Trails: $14.99
TOTAL: $46 per month
NOTE: If your camping style leans toward campgrounds, this budget category may look different. You’ll most likely want a membership like Thousand Trails or Passport America to keep costs down.
10. Other RV Monthly Expenses
Several other miscellaneous costs can add up when you’re RVing full-time.
Some of these costs won’t change much from your average home costs, such as personal care and clothing costs. However, items like laundry, health insurance, and even pet expenses can change a bit on the road.
Laundry costs can add up while RVing. Doing laundry while living in an RV can be a challenge. Some campgrounds have on-site laundry facilities that you can use for a fee. However, these can be expensive, costing $4-6 per load. You might want to install a washer/dryer combo unit if you have a large RV.
We cut costs by doing small washes in a collapsible tub and investing in merino wool or quality synthetics with antimicrobial priorities for odor control.
Health insurance is another cost that can be different while on the road. If you have a health plan through your employer, you may be able to continue that coverage while traveling. However, check with your insurance provider to ensure you’re still covered while away from home. You may also consider a healthcare sharing plan like Liberty Healthshare or Samaritan Ministries.
Depending on your full-time RVer situation, you may also need to consider expenses for mail forwarding or a storage unit.
Our Other Costs
Personal Care: $35 (personal care items, haircuts, etc.)
Health & Dental: $128
Pet Expenses: $218 (higher vet expenses this year)
Amazon Prime: $11 recurring monthly charge
iPhone Cloud Storage: $10 recurring monthly charge
Travel Memberships: $21 ($252 annually)*
*Travel memberships include multiple credit card annual fees that we use for travel hacking, earning points, etc.
Total Cost of RV Living
The total cost of RV living can vary widely, depending on the factors above. A couple who lives in a small RV and travels slower will have much lower expenses than a family of four who lives in a large RV and travels frequently.
It’s important to remember that RV living costs are just one part of the equation. The other side of the coin is the lifestyle itself. For many people, the freedom and flexibility that comes with RVing are priceless. So, even if it costs a bit more than living in a house or apartment, the RV lifestyle can still be worth it. Only you can decide if RVing is the right choice for you!
I hope this breakdown gives you a better idea of the cost of full-time RV living. Please comment below if you have any questions or want to share your experience.
Want to learn more about how to go full-time RVing on a budget?
Find more tips for RV living on the cheap, including finding deals on campsites, calculating your fuel cost, and more – view our complete guide.
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