The Short Answer
My husband (Levi) and I often get asked the question: how much does it cost to full time RV? We can’t speak for other travelers, but our monthly budget stays somewhere around $2000. One-time annual fees are an additional $4000. Those numbers have fluctuated, but keeping an emergency stash available for unplanned events has helped tremendously.
Background on our Caravan
Levi and I are in our 30s, no where in the vicinity of retirement. We travel with our dog and three cats. Save the RV, we are debt free. Upon embarking on this adventure, we accumulated a savings cushion equaling at least one year of expenses. This was not only for financial security, but peace of mind.
Currently, the bulk of our income is obtained from work camping positions we set up months in advance to ensure continuous money flow. When selecting the next job on the trail, we ask two questions: is the compensation enough to cover our monthly expenses and is this location uncharted territory. If both answers are “yes” we take action towards pursuing that position.
Budget Breakdown (Monthly and Yearly Expenses)
Our typical monthly disbursement is charted below.
|RV Payment |
Beginning full time RVing with zero debt is ideal, but we were able to choose the right rig for a price we could swallow. We are still making it work with this one loan. Luckily, our car and scooter are paid for in full.
|Internet/Smart Phone Coverage through Verizon |
Coverage includes phone warranties and a 15GB plan with two Androids and a Jetpack. Before tapping into our wifi source, however, we will test out the park’s wifi or visit the local library. This has happened quite a bit as the wifi is not always the greatest in RV parks.
|Health Insurance: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas HMO |
With the help of Connie Elkins, a broker with the RV Insurance Exchange, we selected a plan under the Affordable Care Act with a high deductible, 6000 per person/13,100 per family; it’s not the best option, but one we can afford in the meantime. PPO plans through the ACA are drastically decreasing or altogether disappearing in Texas, and many states for that matter, creating quite a challenge, especially for us, full time RVers. At least emergency visits are covered. In the meantime, doctor visits will either entail a trip to the state or a phone call to Telemedicine (described further in annual fees section).
All of our vehicles, rig included, run on gas. The total price of gas varies as some months include traveling across states with the rig and car/scooter, in tow, to get to the next destination. Otherwise, we use the Yaris or scooter to get around the towns we work and live in or near.
On average, we try to spend $75 a week. Creating a grocery list and comparing prices with local grocery store ads has helped keep us on budget.
|Pet Costs |
This portion of the budget covers speciality dog and cat food, paper cat litter, medication (parasiticides), and if there is extra in the pot, treats or new toys. The reason for specialty food: our pets are either on weight management diets or have a sensitive stomach. Although clumping litter lasts longer, it is often tracked throughout the rig and we don’t care for the extra dust. Paper liter , although purchased more often, alleviates both issues. Much of the food products are purchased at a specialty pet store like Petsmart and meds are purchased online thru Allivet.
Surprisingly, it isn’t the locations we tour that are costly, as we typically visit sites that are free or discounted, it is more the food. Levi and I love eating out, especially at local Mom and Pop restaurants or breweries. This, however, can be very costly. Our solution: cut down on eating out, keep the budget in mind, and pack lunches every other venture.
|Miscellaneous Expenses |
These expenses are not often visible in the monthly budget since our selected work camping gigs fork the bill, for the most part.
Campground Stays: We typically work for pay and a full hook-up site. When we travel between gigs, covering three hundred plus miles in between, we either stay at public rest stops or in parking lots of establishments that allow overnight campers. Walmart and Travel Americas are examples.
Laundry: Most of our jobs include laundry money as a portion of the compensation. Family and friends have been quite generous, allowing us to use their washer and dryer, when we visit.
Propane: Propane is probably the one expense in this category we revisit a lot, especially during winter. Although it has not been a part of our pay with work camping, many places we have worked offer a nice discount.
|Health Care Needs|
Health expenses include any doctor visits or prescriptions we may need.
|RV/Vehicle Maintenance Repairs|
Besides scheduled maintenance for each vehicle, there is usually something that needs to be repaired or added to the RV, car, or scooter in the way of improving our living arrangements. So far, expenses have included anything from oil changes to new tires and purchasing an efficient dehumidifier to creating an RV skirt.
|Retirement and subsequent savings |
Most of our expenses are paid via our Cash Back Rewards credit card. We are able to accumulate money while we pay bills. Every few months, we transfer the amount accumulated into our savings. Of course, we strive to live below our living expenses, so excess flow is directed to the emergency stash. For fun, and in addition to the above mentioned savings tactics, we have tried different versions of the 52-week money challenge.
These are one-time annual payments.
|Auto Insurance with National General Insurance and Progressive |
We obtained auto insurance through Good Sam Club Insurance. National General Insurance is affiliated with Good Sam and offered the best comprehensive coverage for our Sunstar Itasca and Yaris. It was important that we had RV insurance specific to our full time RVing life. This insurance covers lost or damaged belongings, total home replacement, and expense coverage like food and a hotel if your rig is undergoing repair. RV insurance is treated much the same way as homeowner’s insurance. The scooter is insured through Progressive as it was not a coverage option with National General. We paid the yearly fee upfront; it saved money as opposed to paying monthly.
|Texas Registration |
Once a year, we are required, as Texas residents to renew our vehicle registrations. This includes annual inspections. Although registration expenses can be settled remotely, upon reentering the state, we must get all vehicles inspected.
|RV Warranty through Wholesale Warranties|
We purchased our motorhome used, and for the sheer purpose of having a safety net in case a major appliance failed, like the refrigerator or air conditioner, we purchased a 5-year warranty plan. As part of the initial setup, we were required to get an inspection from a company approved inspector. Additional stipulations to the warranty include keeping a record of maintenance and repair tasks, along with the company that performed said labor.
5-year-plan; purchased Diamond Plan at $4,700; this was part of our full time start-up fees
|Roadside Assistance through Coach-Net |
This was another full time RV start-up fee, aside from the warranty plan. We purchased a 5-year-plan that has already paid for itself. We used Coach-Net only a month into purchasing the plan when we slid the rig off the side of the road. Read about that here.
$500 for the 5-year-plan; this was part of our full time start-up fees
|Membership and Mail Forwarding through Escapees|
Among its many advantages, Escapees RV Club has helped us establish Texas residency with a physical address. I have written an article outlining the many features this full time and seasonal RVing-based organization offers. Annual membership fees are about $40 which gives you access to discounts at RV parks throughout the nation, information on the RVing lifestyle through affiliate companies and workshops, and potential work camping opportunities. Annual mail service fees start at $95.
|Workamper News Bronze Membership |
We have learned about most, if not all, of our work camping jobs through Workamper News, and as the business name implies, they specialize in everything relative to full time or seasonal RVers seeking employment or volunteer opportunities in and around the nation. The following article touches base on how Workamper News operates and tips on questions to ask potential employers when interviewing for a job. For those interested, we have included a description of our previous work camping gigs here.
Workamper News offers various levels of access to their wanted ads. We opted for the Bronze plan which allows us virtual access to their quarterly magazine that offers a slew of work camping opportunities all over the US (and beyond). Silver and Gold membership plans, among other incentives, offer daily job announcements that can be viewed via email.
|Telemedicine Program through Careington Annual Access|
An important note to keep in mind, Careington’s Telemedicine Program is NOT a health insurance plan. It is a convenient means of connecting you to a board certified physician for non emergency issues when your personal physician is out of reach. Examples of use would be if you were experiencing symptoms of a cold or flu, pinkeye, or poison ivy and were states away from your primary doctor. In this situation, a physician would contact you (via phone or online) within three hours of your initial inquiry and prescribe the appropriate medication based on your consultation. In addition to these services, the program encompasses discounts on dental, vision, and prescription plans throughout the nation. Single, couple, and family plans are available for one-time annual or monthly fees.
These expenses are unique to our hobbies, interests, and at times, immediate needs.
Website through Bluehost: We regularly contribute information on the rving lifestyle through our website. Not only does this serve as a virtual memoir of our lives on the road, but we hope it helps others wanting to pursue or currently pursuing life on the road.
Scuba fees through DAN and PADI: Levi is a certified scuba instructor and therefore has to keep all licenses and liability insurance up to date. I am an open water diver so we maintain a dual diver accident insurance plan.
Amazon Prime: Because some of our work camping gigs are located away from speciality stores, we often shop online with Amazon Prime. We have purchased parts for the rig, pet supplies, books, and presents for friends and family.
Obviously everyone’s version of what is comfortable differs. Like all budgets, this one will grow or shrink depending upon our circumstances. We certainly aren’t living a lavish lifestyle or striking it rich work camping, but we are continuing to enjoy the journey and live a life that, at one time, we didn’t think was possible.
Your budget will not look exactly like this one, but when we first started researching this lifestyle, having an idea of what other travelers spent helped us to create our own budget. We hope that by sharing ours, we can help other prospective full time RVers.