Full-Time RV Financial Fitness: RV Budgeting Tips

Do you dream of living a life of full-time travel, but aren’t sure if you can afford it? Living and traveling in an RV goes beyond the purchase price can become overbearing for the ill prepared. Consider these finance implications to set yourself up for success. Here is some worthy Full-Time RV Financial Fitness!

Purchasing an RV

Before planning to purchase an RV for full-time living, realize its is more like a car than a house. By that I mean it is a depreciating asset. Therefore, it is not wise to sell a home which is typically an appreciating asset to purchase an RV. If you do choose to sell your home, I recommend putting the money into savings or investments. In doing this, its easier to transition from full-time RV living in the future, you have options.   

When considering whether to buy a new or used RV, price is typically a limiting factor. A brand new no frills travel trailer can be purchased for as little as $14,000. On the other end of the spectrum, a new diesel motorhome with luxury amenities sells for $300,000 or more. Prices for used RVs range significantly based on the type, age, and condition. 

If you’ve never owned an RV before, you may want to consider renting to get a feel for what type of RV will suit you best. Companies like Campanda, RV Share, and Outdoorsy serve as brokers for private owners and have rentals of every type of RV.  

Whatever you choose, don’t fall into the trap of only looking at a monthly payment. That is a salesman’s favorite thing to point out, but they rarely explain the true cost of financing an RV. That would include a close look at depreciation and interest which quickly add to the bottom line. These factors can easily cause you to be upside down on their loan, meaning they owe more than the RV is worth. A better option is to choose an RV you can pay cash for. If not, put as much as possible down and pay as much over the minimum as you can each month if you finance. 

When considering how much you can comfortably afford to pay for your RV, you will first want to consider all the cost of full-time RV living.  

Budgeting for Full-Time Travel 

The cost of living and traveling in an RV varies greatly and depends upon numerous factors. These are a few of the most expensive: 


If you choose to stay in campgrounds (rather than boondock), this can easily be your biggest expense. Nightly fees might range from $15 for a partial hook up in a state park to $80 for full hook up resort in a tourist area. We offset fees at full hook up resorts by staying a little longer and getting a monthly discount rate. Others purchase campground memberships like Thousand Trails that allow you to stay in their network for a nominal fee. 


This expense can also be significant if you are traveling quite a bit. RVs aren’t known for great gas mileage. One month we had to hurry back to the east coast from Texas and spent $1,000 in fuel alone! While that isn’t the norm for us, it is for some travelers. 


Even new RVs have maintenance costs, particularly if you live in them and don’t want to take them to a shop for every little thing to be covered by the warranty. We mostly DIY the simple tasks, and have used a mobile repair technician for more involved tasks. While some of those were covered by the extended warranty, there is often a $50-$75 fee for them to come assess the issue that is not covered. 

Gear / Modifications

As you settle into your new home on wheels, you’ll likely want to complete certain upgrades for safety or convenience. For example, we were not happy with the tires that came on the Fifth Wheel, and purchased all new tires (at our own expense). Many RVers like to boondock, or camp off-grid, and outfit their RV with solar. Others remodel and paint, change flooring or fabric to make it their own. This is often an ongoing expense that you should budget for as just like in a sticks and bricks home, people like to upgrade and make changes to improve their daily lives

Click here for additional expenses associated with the full-time RV lifestyle. 

Will You Save Money Living in an RV?

Many people initially think that they will save money living in an RV, but find they trade one expense for another. For example, they may eliminate rent payments of an apartment, but replace it with campground fees and increased fuel costs. Only you can know what your expenses will be, but hopefully these pointers gave you an idea of where to start with creating your RV finance budget.

For additional information on budgeting, saving money, and earning an income on the road, see our book Full-Time RV Finance. 


Special thanks to our friends, Julie and Sean from Chickery’s Travels for being our Guest Bloggers. 


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