KurpeDiem

How Much Does it Cost to Live in an RV Full-Time?

Oct. 13th | Posted by 17 comments
How Much Does it Cost to Live in an RV Full-Time?

A Quick Look at Our RV Budget

So, we’ve been on the road for a few months now and have been keeping track of all our expenses. It seems that every month is different depending on what state we’re in, who we’re visiting, etc., and we’ve had some unexpected maintenance costs that have set us back a bit, but we now have a good idea of how much it takes to be on the road. As we’ve mentioned in an earlier blog post, we work on the road and budget wisely – that’s the only way we could afford to do this – we don’t have a pension and we’re not trust fund babies.

To help those of you who are planning a trip or considering the full-time RV lifestyle, here’s a run down of how much it costs to live and travel in an RV – month to month.

Cost to Live in an RV Fulltime

Total = $2,795

It is important to note that the above budget doesn’t include other expenses related to our business, like ongoing training, professional memberships and subscriptions, or personal effects, like clothing and gifts. We also budget for these things, but they aren’t necessary for life on the road so you will have to make your own decisions about what you can and cannot afford. Likewise, the above budget doesn’t include personal insurance coverage such as life, health and disability. We carry all three of these types of insurances and recommend you do the same, but your costs will vary depending on your age, health and the value of the coverage you select.

As you can see, living and traveling in an RV is quite affordable. You can have an amazing time on the road for less than $35,000 a year (not including the personal items I’ve mentioned). So, we hope you are encouraged to start living your dream!

As always, we are interested in your comments and questions. How much do you spend when traveling? Feel free to share your tips for saving.

Photo Credit: Zack McCarthy

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17 comments Add a comment

  1. Ted

    Your budget is definitely that of a high roller. You spend $800 a month on food? Incredible.


    • shannakurpe

      Hi there,

      Well $800 is an estimate for food and household items such as paper towels, toilet paper, shampoo and soaps, cosmetic items, vitamins, etc.Or if we need to buy some extra hangars, dishrags or something of the like. Some months it was more, some less.

      As I mention in the post we spend a lot of money on food. We believe that eating healthy is the most important investment we can make in taking care of ourselves – so we are willing to spend extra money on quality foods.

      Now that we live in Europe, it is must easier to eat healthy because fruits, vegetables and whole foods are much less expensive. Since moving to Europe, we spend about $400-$500 per month on food and household items for two people.

      When we go back to the States, our grocery run that mainly consists of organic fruits and vegetables and other whole foods quickly adds up fast. It’s a result of governmental farm subsidies that promote the production of cheap and unhealthy corn products – which we simply won’t eat on a regular basis. So we have to pay more to get quality food that is not subsidized.

      I hope that answers your question,

      Kind regards,
      Shanna


  2. Patrick Stephens

    HI Shanna,
    I have been thinking about RV ‘ IN for years now, in my research I ran across your blog, although it is old, hopefully you all are still doing it.
    I was quite Impressed with your detailed expenditures, I think Aaron probably had some good points., ie; a fifth wheel truck, and a tow- behind trailer that you could unhook and drive the truck around instead of towing a car.
    That all said I am interested in what your initial investment was, and I noticed that you didn’t mention anything about security, are you armed and have you had any problems in this regard?


    • shannakurpe

      Hi Patrick,

      Thanks for the comment. We are no longer RVing, but we are hoping to get back on the road in a few years. We took a detour and moved to Europe – and we live and travel over here right now (although not in an RV).

      I agree – ideally we would have had a truck and 5th wheel, but we were not in a position to buy one of those without taking out a loan – and we were against going into debt.

      We actually had a friend loan us their C-class RV, so there really wasn’t any initial investment. We had to put in a new generator and tires, but that was all.

      The cost of living in an RV will depend on how much you move – the more you travel the more expenses you will have in gas, tolls, camping costs (it’s cheaper to camp the longer you stay in the same park/lot), etc.

      Anyhow, I hope you are able to make it into an RV full-time. It is such fun!

      Regards,
      Shanna


  3. dr.robert brownphd

    ive been a full time rver for about 6 years now.my expenses are way below yours. its very inexpensive and i live in a very nice home.currently a 26 ft 5th wheel. th anks for your info about dollies and happy trails.


  4. greenminimalism

    Great post on the expenses of RV living. Your internet bill is very cheap and on the whole you are living very minimally. I talk further about the expenses of RV living on my blog at: http://greenminimalism.com/2013/04/28/living-in-an-rv-full-time-the-main-expenses/


  5. Dana

    Thank you so much for this post. How have people treated you, knowing that you live in an RV? I love the idea of it and plan on doing it myself once I’m on my own (I’m not yet 18) and am interested to see if people are as judgmental of this way of life as I think they are.
    Peace and love,
    Dana


    • shannakurpe

      Hi Dana,

      Thanks for your comment. Fortunately we did not encounter any judgement. In fact, most people though we were pretty cool.

      One time we did visit someone who asked “how can you dress so nice when you live in that thing? Isn’t it hard to keep your clothes nice?”

      This person didn’t understand that we had all of the same amenities as someone living in a home, like a closet with hangars, an iron and ironing board, etc.

      It wasn’t judgement, as much as a misunderstanding and curiosity about how someone can live in a vehicle.

      Best of luck,
      Shanna


  6. Troy Downing

    I’m a 50year young male. I’m single, no kids, no pets, not even a plant. I’ve been rving for three years now. I’m on full disability due to health and medical problems. I receive $1000 per month and Medicare with a small co-pay. For a fixed income, it’s not that tight of a budget. I average somewhere between $200-$400 per month left over. If you’re careful, and you budget and use common sence, you can rv full time for $12,000 or less, (much less if you know anything about the world) per year. If you’re paying anything per month for power and water, you’re just to dumb to be breathing. Many things are free. Do your homework, and you can make it happen if you really want to. The night sky and the night air are worth more than all of the gold in the universe. Have fun, and I hope to see you out there. KISS.


  7. Catherine

    What can one do to work on the road and live comfortably in an RV?


    • shannakurpe

      Hi Catherine,

      Thanks for the question. Well, there are a lot of options and a lot of great resources for your to consider to help you figure out your income while on the road.

      Kevin and I both work from the Internet, so as long as we have WIFI we can work. Our jobs are a result of our careers in marketing and technology – so we have degrees and formal training and experience, and just created our own consulting firm and that allowed us to go on the road. The only drawbacks are that we have to always find reliable Internet, and be available during working hours for clients – which cuts down on our excursion time. That’s why right now we are in the middle of launching an online business, which will give us even more flexibility when traveling.

      You can check out Unicorn Free’s class called 30 x 500 to learn more about launching an online business: http://unicornfree.com/30×500/.

      There are also work camping opportunities, where you work in RV parks in exchange for lodging and a nominal income. Here are some links to a few resources:

      http://www.work-camping.com
      http://www.work-for-rvers-and-campers.com
      http://workingcouples.com/jobs-category/work-campers-campground

      I hope these ideas help!

      Best,
      Shanna


  8. Beth

    Hi Shanna,
    I know you posted this quite some time ago, but it was just forwarded to me by a mutual friend (Liz A.) who knew my husband and I are headed towards living full time in our RV. We just bought a 31-footer less than a month ago and have been making short runs to test everything out, and I have to say we’re in absolute agreement with you about having a car in tow. Maybe it’s because we’re newbies, but in just a few trips, there was more than once where we pulled into a place, not thinking about having to get out–there were a couple of moments where we said, “Well, I guess we’re going to live at Chik-fil-A for the rest of our lives.” Anyway, I want to thank you for the great financial info. We are both in the service industry, so it will be very important to have reliable connectivity. Do you have any advice in that area? Currently, we have Verizon Wireless with a MiFi, which works fairly well, but not sure if there might be other options. Also–and this is really important–why do you recommend not using a dolly? We’ve had about a 50/50 split from people we’ve asked…can’t seem to get a consensus. Thanks again! Beth


    • shannakurpe

      Hi Beth!

      Thanks for the post! So what takes you to the road, and how long will you be traveling? I am interested in your story.

      The Internet was very tricky for us. We’ve heard satellite is the best, but at the time it wasn’t an option for us. We did Clear 3G/4G – which is similar to your MiFi. It will work pretty good, unless you go really remote. We also used campground WiFi – which was less reliable and a bit stressful. The most reliable was using our friend’s Internet connections when visiting them. To learn more about Internet Options you can read our post, http://www.kurpediem.com/the-best-internet-options-for-rving/.

      We don’t recommend a Tow Dolly because it was an absolute nightmare for us! Actually rigging your car up to tow appeared to be a much easier and simpler solution – or getting a 5th Wheel, which is what we want. We talked to many other RVers who also agree, and it was obvious by the limited number of tow dolly’s we saw on the road and in campgrounds. For more information, you can read our article http://www.kurpediem.com/how-not-to-tow-your-vehicle-behind-an-rv/.

      Best of luck on the road!

      Shanna


  9. Aaron

    Before you read this I want you to know that it’s your money and you are free to burn through it. I am just trying to help anyone who want’s to budget their money better and give my own advice. Take what you want from this. I’m just here to give suggestions.This might be affordable to most but I think this chart is way over priced. I can understand $100/week for food (assuming there’s 2 people). But $1000/month is crazy. That’s double most people’s rent. iphones have a coupon app that gives you both the bar code the cashier scans on your phone and the location that is cheapest (easy). Plus stocking up on food at the end of the month is a way to save money. That’s when stores want to clear the shelves for other things…I don’t see the issue with just using the r/v to drive around. It’s actually cheaper. Car insurance, gas for that, bringing it in the shop, tires and brake replacement. That’s assuming you don’t have a car loan too. So the all that extra expense just to get an extra 15mpg isn’t worth it to me. Plus the extra gas used by the engine to tow the car on the r/v…I don’t see a need to spend all that money on 2 iphones with top packages. If you want an iphone fine. But that kind of defeats the purpose of getting internet too for your notebooks if you are going to use a cell phone THAT much. I would just get the base package and use the notebooks more. Or even go with virgin mobile or boost for $35/month with unlimited internet and txt. Only YOU can make the choice to live like a tourist spending money left and right. Or making it a home. The nice thing about an r/v is the biggest one’s you can buy have 400 sq ft. of space. The smaller ones have half that. So there’s only so many things you can own. Which can force you to budget better. The downside is there’s a limited amount of space to keep your memories. So you might have to rent out a storage garage in the area closest to your family and give them a spare key to it in case you need something mailed to you. Yes it sucks you can’t take that model train set with you. All those bumps on the road will turn it to rubble. Plus having a storage garage will let you keep your memories in case your r/v gets stolen or catches fire. So not all is lost. Just with my budgeting you can easily shave 1500 off this expense list. And if you use public or family bathrooms you’ll never have to pump crap again. But you’ll still need to dump the grey water from shower and sink. There are places all over that can do that for you. Finally, for those looking to buy or rent an r/v those 40 footers are nice and tall. especially those million dollar 10 tire ones. but the ones that have have the big back and a lower level driving area (think Winnebago style) are MUCH easier to drive. Feels more like a van then a home. The larger ones are intimidating with blind spots for new drivers. My father used to sell r/v’s so i’ve had the chance to test them. Don’t forget when you make turns at lights to pull half way out then cut the wheel sharply to avoid hitting the curb and the car next to you that’s half the height of your r/v you didn’t see. Time your turns. You can just floor it on a busy corner. You have 25-40 ft of butt in back of you. And even more if you have a trailer or car in tow that another vehicle will smash into if you don’t give yourself enough room. Also a 40′ trailer and a new dually truck are a lot cheaper then an r/v of same size. The trailer can be disconnected when you get to your spot. So the truck can be used to drive around town. Keep in mind trailers are harder to corner. Practice late at night at intersection to get used to it.


    • shannakurpe

      Hi Aaron,

      Thanks for the post. How did you find our blog?

      Yes, it is true that $1000 on groceries is a lot to spend – we agree and even noted it in our blog post. You have to remember a few things though – 1. We eat very healthy and mostly all organic so this makes it more costly. 2. As we travel we are usually staying with people for free, and so as a thank you we often feed them too – our two people can quickly become 4-6 or more. 3. We don’t coupon – or I should say “didn’t” coupon. I recently started in November thanks to a workshop I took with http://www.truecouponing,com. I am saving 50% on groceries now. 4. In an RV you don’t have room to stockpile – so it it can make coupling a bit more difficult since the premise is to buy as much as you need for 12 weeks when the item is on sale. We don’t have room for that in an RV.

      In regards to the iPhones – you have to remember that we run a service business – so we have to be in touch with our clients on a consistent basis. Without the iPhone we wouldn’t be able to sightsee as much as we do while still remaining in contact with clients. We can’t lug a notebook around with us all day if we want to tour a city. Plus, it’s a luxury that we are willing to spend our money on.

      As for towing the car, we would absolutely NOT consider driving everywhere we need to go in a 30-foot RV – it’s just completely impractical. There are so many places you cannot visit because there is no place to park an RV. We often parked with a friend or outside of the cities to save money and then used our car to toil around. The small amount of savings in gas is not worth it to us. However, we would not recommend towing a car with a dolley if it can be avoided. That is something we won’t do again.

      You are right that not having enough rooms keeps us from buying things we don’t need – like trinkets and souvenirs. So we are able to save money there.

      Anyhow, thanks for the post and keep reading!

      Best,
      Shanna


  10. Alex

    That’s amazing. I think me the wife and child live in DC on less per month. I was expecting to pay more.


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