The Basic Costs of Full-Time RVing

Many assume that full-time RVing is cheaper than owning a house or renting a condo or apartment. For those of you who are contemplating full-time RVing, you should take into consideration, at least, the basic costs associated with our RV lifestyle.

So, we’ve put together a compilation list to provide a better picture of our expenses incurred in this thing we call, RV LIFE.

Before you go on reading, please note, this is PART 1 of a two-part series of our RV Finance education. If you think of an expense that isn’t in this list, it will most likely followed up in the Part 2 of our two-part series which can be viewed soon.

What DOES it cost to go full-time RVing?

Recreational Vehicle

Unless you’ve been able to purchase your RV outright, many will finance because most don’t have upwards to three to four hundred thousand sitting fat and happy in a bank. That’s certainly not what ours cost, but we still had to finance so we didn’t end up RV poor. Similar to being house poor, being RV poor is affording only the RV but not having any money left over to enjoy the whole principle of RV travel, amenities and other necessary living expenses.

Toad or Pull Vehicle Payment

If you own a motorhome, you’re more likely to be towing a car behind for local transportation once you unhitch. We, on the other hand, tow our 5th wheel. So, we have our 2014 Dodge Ram DRW (dual rear wheel) “Captain America”. Let me tell you, trucks like ours aren’t cheap. So, unless you buy a small Class C or Van, there’s an extra vehicle payment to consider.

Vehicle and RV Insurance

Insurance fits in that whole death and taxes requirement in life. We must insure our truck and our RV. However, it doesn’t stop there. We also need a renter’s policy to cover the personal contents inside our home on wheels as our RV insurance policy only covers up to a certain amount.

Vehicle and RV Registration

Again, another must-have expense you can’t escape. In some states, registration is relatively inexpensive while others are more excessive. And since we have a truck and RV, we have to register each separately. Its just one of those things we just have to suck it up and pay the pauper.

Fuel & Propane

We can’t get anywhere without the good ole fashion petro products. Depending on our travel itinerary and locations, our fuel expenses will fluxuate. Though we may be in a part of the country where fuel is cheaper, we may be pulling some mountains which decreases our gas mileage.

We also need propane for our hot water and furnace. Like fuel, propane costs differ in different parts of the country. And, let’s not forget the added fuel you may endure to even find a propane filling station.

Tolls

Tolls are a love-hate relationship. States who have highway tolls love us because we have a couple extra axels and boy, do we pay for it at the toll booth. Its always good to stash some cash for unexpected tolls.

To save money, you can purchase an EZPass or other toll transponder. But if you’re like us who don’t traverse many toll roads, cash is king.

Maintenance and Repairs

Even though we have a new(er) RV, we still have a slush fund set aside for both, our RV and truck’s maintenance and repair expenses. Whether its to fix our RV furnace or replacing tires on our truck, we know those are going to happen. And, usually, they happen when we least likely expect them. We also realize these aren’t cheap fixes so we socked away enough for even catastrophic repairs. Dare I admit that our slush fund is about $10,000.

It’s always best to be prepared.

RV Upgrades and Mods

We are always upgrading or modifying something in our RV to make life more comfortable and more efficient. And, we prioritize them to what we need vs. want.

Recently, we completed our solar panel installation and energy management and lithium ion batteries upgrade which certainly didn’t come cheap; hence, why we are blogging my ass off to pay for them.

Campground and RV Park Fees

Another necessary evil is campground or RV park site fees. While we love to boondock, we still have a need to consider banking cash for those fees. Sometimes, we will opt to stay in one place for a month because its cheaper however, in other places, that may not be feasible.

If we are just passing through and need a place just to lay our heads for the night, we rely on cool memberships like Harvest Hosts or Boondockers Welcome. In reality, even those aren’t ‘free’ as there are customary expectations that go with that. Also, there is an annual fee for each membership.

Boondocking Fees

If we are boondocking, we still have to account for dump and water fees. Again, nothing is free. Usually, dump stations cost  about ten bucks per dump or a water-fill. Additionally, we may run into a cool boondocking area that requires a small fee or customary donation.

NOTE: ONLY use water facilities that read ‘potable water only’. Do not use the same water spigot at the dump station unless it specifies potable water.

RV Memberships

Isn’t it funny that we have to spend a little money to save even more money. That sounds like an oxymoron but its true. We buy certain RV memberships like Escapees, Harvest Hosts, Good Sam for discounts on campground fees, store and services. The annual memberships are relatively cheap but the return can be quite rewarding.

LIVING EXPENSES

Household Effects

Did you know that we’ve gone through three different coffee-making systems until we finally decided on the one that works for us? We also need pots and pans, dishes, kitchen and bath towels, etc. We have similar household needs as what we had in our sticks and bricks. We still need toilet paper, batteries for our remotes, occasional new bedsheets and towels, etc. So, we always leave a budget line item for those as well.

WiFi and Cell Service

Connectivity is a hugely important expense not only for us, but all digital nomads who live and work on the road. We have two data plans to facilitate our remote work, research and fun; one with AT&T and the other with Verizon. We’ve found that data coverage varies from place to place thus, needing both plans to cover areas where the other doesn’t.

Food

Hey! Everyone’s gotta eat!

Since we are healthy eaters, we try to find farmers markets or fairs to get the local produce. We also try for health food stores but grocery stores suffice. Like our fuel expenses, our food bill varies based on location (ie. avocados are cheaper in Arizona vs. Pennsylvania).

This line item does not include our dining out.

Clothing

We have this rule ‘one thing in; one thing out’ rule when it comes to our wardrobes. Admittedly, I still don’t have that one down yet. But eventually, I do clean out my side of the closet and drawers and sift through what I haven’t worn. Then I will reward myself with buying a new top or shorts. I tend to not buy designer clothing anymore because I know that I will be donating it in a year or so out of boredom or climate change.

Psssst! Read my Fashion Tips for RVers and Travelers

Health Insurance and CoPays

Another death and taxes requirement and a costly one at that. Though we don’t have a huge expense because we’re retired military, we still have to pay for health insurance monthly/annual premiums and  copays. We try to stay well to avoid those copays.

Prescriptions and Dental Expenses

We only have to worry about two prescriptions and those are relatively low comparatively speaking. But we still allocate money for them each month. We try to get our pharmaceuticals at Military Treatment Facilities because they are no-cost however, when we’re not close to them, we utilize mail order Express Scripts. But we understand that isn’t the norm. Always allow for emergencies and copays.

We are blessed with good dental health so this cost is relatively low barring dental exams and cleanings. An alternative to saving money is we get our dental care when we go to Mexico every winter. Its about ten times cheaper for the same level of care.

Taxes

Taxes is probably the most hated word in the dictionary. But of course, we need them to keep up with our Country’s national defense, government programs, schools, infrastructure, and whatever else the government can drum up. So, we always must consider one of our civic duties; paying taxes.

We end up paying at the end of the year so we just put aside an estimated amount in savings until it’s check-writing time.

Life Insurance

We never really think about this expense because it automatically is deducted from our checking account every month. We never have to worry about ‘oh crap, did I pay that?’ or relapsing payments.

That said, it’s again, death and taxes; you need life insurance so your loved ones aren’t sacked with YOUR unpaid debts when you kick the bucket. If you don’t have one, GET ONE. You’re family then, won’t hate you for dying.

Dining and Entertainment

This line item is necessary because of our RV Life. There are always admission fees and dining out bills when meeting our friends for a meal. Though this line item isn’t huge, its still a necessity to enjoy this lifestyle.

So, there’s our major budget line items to give those contemplating this RV Life in the future. This should give you a basic idea of what expenses to expect. Before hitting the road, we first recommend that you evaluate your personal finances. Secondly, get out of debt as much as possible.

But that advice isn’t just for RVing but obtaining a minimal life standard.

Tune in for PART 2: “Hidden Costs to Expect of Full-Time RVing”.

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