NW Travelers

July 20, 2018


There are multiple websites, blogs, Facebook pages, etc., devoted to full-time RVing. One of the questions that comes up often is "How much does it cost?", and the basic answer is, "It depends."

If you are retired, your day to day life will not change much, except for the scenery. Most people will tell you that if you were a couch potato (such as me) before you started on your journey, you will pretty much stay a couch potato. If you are a "Let's do something" person, you will be finding things to do. If you are a hiker, you will look for places to hike. If you like to shoot pool (like my DH), you will find places that have pool tournaments or at least a decent pool table. If you like to eat out a lot, you will eat out a lot. Not much really changes, once you've eased yourself into the lifestyle. Most full-timers eventually have an A-HA moment where they realize they are not on vacation. You don't have to stay busy all the time. You dont have to see everything there is to see, do everything there is to do, experience everything there is to experience the first time you visit someplace new. It's nice to save a little something to do next time you travel through.

Some expenses never change. You still will have to pay for your vehicle insurance. If you have given up your home/condo/apartment, and live only in your RV, you will need "full-timer's insurance" as well. It may require that you do some investigation into companies that offer this option. We use Progressive, but I think Geico, The Hartford, USAA, and Good Sam are a few of the others that offer this coverage. You will want coverage for personal liability (if someone slips on your stairs, whacks their head on your slide, trips over your sewer hose, etc), replacement costs, personal property, etc. All this will replace your basic "homeowner's insurance".

You still have your medical insurance to pay for. This has become a big research project (and headache) for those of us who retired before we turned Medicare age, and even beyond. Things to keep in mind are monthly premium costs vs the likelihood that you need to see a doctor on a regular basis. We've been lucky in that we are both relatively healthy, and only require doctor visits twice a year. So far, no emergencies have arisen, but we have coverage should that happen. Don't forget to think about dental expenses as well. We have a separate fund set aside for medical/dental expenses on the road. It pays to be prepared because you just never know.

You need to factor in whether or not you have loans for your RV, truck, car, etc. Is there credit card debt? Most retired full-timers will recommend that you do your best to be debt-free prior to undertaking this lifestyle. It just makes things easier in the long run.

Other cost considerations include cell phone expenses (if you travel a lot, you will want to stick with Verizon or AT&T or both), internet coverage with your own wifi and router (it is rare that the coverage provided by RV parks, either free or for a fee, will come anywhere near your expectations based on what most people are used to), and satellite TV. How often do you plan to eat out? Are you particular about the type of food you eat? (sometimes finding good or even decent organic foods on the road can be a challenge - expect to pay more than you would if you currently live in a large metropolitan area that offers these choices). Be sure to include in your budget entertainment and clothing costs.

The two big expenses that will change with this new lifestyle are fuel costs and RV Park expenses. These costs change for everyone, depending on whether or not you have a gas or diesel vehicle. Do you want 5 star resort type RV parks, state or federal campgrounds, membership campgrounds? Will you boon-dock/dry camp in free areas such as BLM land? Again, it is research, research, research.

The other given is that once you make all these plans and budgets, as you get more experience and learn what you like or don't like, things will change. I personally prefer to over-estimate my expenses, and be surprised when I have money left over. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that this is a cheap lifestyle. Shit happens. Things break down and need repairing. Remember, you are living in a house on wheels, built on an assembly line, by who knows who. You are pulling or driving your home down bumpy roads, over mountain passes, on freeways and country lanes. Things will come loose, get broken, spill, etc.

So back to the original question. How much does it cost to full-time in an RV? It depends on you and your needs and desires. Just for reference sake, I would guess the average full-time RVer who travels to new spots two to three times a month spends between $2000 - $4000. This would not include the costs if you are paying back loans on your vehicles or rig. I can't say it often enough - DO YOUR RESEARCH! We spent a few years investigating the lifestyle, including practice months, before we jumped in and committed. As of this writing, we are eight months into the lifestyle and loving it.

Here are a few websites and blogs I used in my research:

Wheeling It (although this couple has sold their RV and are currently living in Europe, their blog has some really great information.)

RV Love

Technomadia - (This couple enjoys life in their RV and on their boat.)

We're The Russos - (A third young couple who are full time RVers. They started out with a MH and have recently downsized to a camper van. I enjoy their blog and their You Tube Channel.)

Hitch Itch - This website lists many blogs and websites geared toward the RVing life style. Go and browse and see what you learn from all sorts of folks!

Don't forget to search You Tube! There is just a ton of research opportunities for your perusal.

And my last piece of advice, talk about contingency plans. What happens if you get out there, and just hate it? What happens if you (or your partner/travel companion) get sick? Talk all this stuff through. Although I'm not a fan of worrying or spending a lot of time thinking about "what if" stuff, a discussion about worst case scenarios isn't necessarily a bad thing.