How much does living in an RV cost?

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.

Month-to-Month

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.

$400
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.

$200
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).

$130
Gas  

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.

$50-$200
Groceries

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.

$300
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.

$200
Entertainment

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.

$300
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.

$50-150
Health Care Needs

Health expenses include any doctor visits or prescriptions we may need.  

$50-200
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.

$50-200
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.

varies

These are one-time annual payments.

Year-to-Year

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.

$2300
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.

$600
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.  

pre-paid
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.

pre-paid
$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.

$160
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.

$27
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.

$170
Personal Interests

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.

 

 

 

$60

 

 

$600

 

 

$100

In Conclusion

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.

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8 thoughts on “How much does living in an RV cost?

  • March 30, 2016 at 11:34 PM
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    Levi and Natalie,

    This is Doug DuLac who stayed at your camp in Wichita Last week. We are the the 1st timers from Las Vegas.. 1st I want to thank you very much for recommending we stay a extra night do to weather( Extreme winds) again we are so thankful for you two.
    We made it safely home to Vegas and had a wonderful trip except for the 40mph. plus winds we did run across. Our coach as large as she is handled wonderful. Thank you both for all your help. May God Bless and keep you both safe,
    Doug

    Reply
    • March 31, 2016 at 1:50 AM
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      Mr. Dulac and family…we are SO GLAD you made it back home to Vegas, our old stomping grounds!! We have been thinking about you guys and hoping that the trip went well!!! Thank you very much for letting us know you made it safe and sound!!! You will have so many fun adventures in your beautiful motorhome!! Please keep in touch!! All the best to you and your family! Be safe, have a blast, and happy trails!!!!

      Levi and Natalie

      Reply
  • February 5, 2016 at 10:14 AM
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    Thanks for sharing a true life expense report. Most that are shared do not go into th the details that you have. Most do not list things like groceries entertainment and pet expenses. We all know those are real life living costs that must be considered.

    Reply
    • February 5, 2016 at 12:16 PM
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      Thanks Alvin!

      Reply
  • February 3, 2016 at 11:12 PM
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    Great information, Natalie. Thank you for sharing. You guys are awesome, and I am happy that you both are enjoying your exciting journey. Your budget is very impressive, and I can tell you all did your research! Thanks again. Happy trails!!

    Reply
    • February 3, 2016 at 11:40 PM
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      Thank you Denita, Hope the school year is going well!

      Reply
  • February 3, 2016 at 10:21 PM
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    I think what you are doing is great. Thank you for sharing your adventure with me.

    Reply
    • February 3, 2016 at 11:42 PM
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      Hi Mrs. Trumble, thank you for following us. Hope the school year is going well!

      Reply

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