The Cost of Full-time RV Living
Apr 20th 2020
At the time of writing this, we've been on the road for almost a year (11 months to be exact). We're a family of four and currently make our home in a 24' off-grid RV.
We camp exclusively on public lands for free, which mostly consists of National Forests and land managed by the B.L.M (Bureau of Land Management).
For the most part, we follow a pattern of moving every two weeks to a new location, a few hours away at most. Along with the RV, we have a crew cab truck for exploring and running errands once we've set up camp. Brandi and the kids follow behind me in the truck when we move (it's a little too heavy for the motorhome to tow safely).
When you don't pay to camp, RV related expenses aren't that high. The bulk of the costs comes from gas, vehicle maintenance, and maintaining Internet connectivity through two different carriers.
So how much did a year on the road cost?
This item is pretty essential. Well that is, until we have an electric RV (plz Elon!).
- Monthly Average (Motorhome) - $255
- Monthly Average (Truck) - $281
- Yearly Total (Motorhome) - $3,060
- Yearly Total (Truck) - $3,372
- Yearly Total for both - $6,432
As mentioned previously, we primarily camp on public lands. If we're traveling between locations and we need an overnight stay, we camp out at Cracker Barrels, Casinos, or Walmarts. On the rare occasion that there is no public land nearby, and we want to either see something cool or need to be in the area for some reason, then we'll opt for a campground or RV park.
A big part of this cost ($180) was for an LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area). You pay the fee and you have access to land managed by the BLM, only you don't have to leave for six months (instead of the typical 14-day limit on most other public lands).
- Monthly Average - $60
- Yearly Total - $720 ($180 of which was for our time at the LTVA)
This is another essential. Without internet access, none of this would be possible for us. We have internet through AT&T and Verizon. When we don't get LTE with one, we always seem to get it on the other.
- Monthly Average - $130
- Yearly Total - $1,560
Dump / Water / Propane
Our refrigerator runs off propane, as does the heater, and stove. We have a 16lb tank that lasts us 4 weeks, like clockwork. We have a 22-gallon black tank, a 28-gallon grey tank (both are dumped every week), and a 50-gallon fresh tank (which is filled every week).
- Monthly Average - $52
- Yearly Total - $624
Museums & Activities
Traveling with kids means you have curious minds to keep occupied. For the most part, our boys are happy to just be out in nature, exploring. But we do try and navigate to locations with museums and National parks.
- Monthly Average - $29
- Yearly Total - $348
RV Repairs & Vehicle Maintenance
Our vehicles go through a lot of wear and tear and need a lot of preventative maintenance. Before we left on the road, we got new tires for the RV. That was $1200. A few months later, new tires for the truck. That was another $1200, and the purchase was merely a preventative measure because of the road conditions that we encounter often. Then a few months after that, $438 for new brakes and an oil change for the truck.
Also, keep in mind that stuff breaks. It's just part of it. Especially in this rig, as it wasn't meant for a family of four to live in it full time! We've been pretty fortunate, but we maintain an RV emergency fund for when (not if!) the next time something breaks.
- Monthly Average - $400
- Yearly Total - $4,800
This is another essential item unless you want to end up with a ticket! This has varied a bit because we've switched insurance plans and companies since switching our legal address to TX.
- Monthly Average - $194
- Yearly Total - $2,328
Our first year on the road cost us $16,812, or $1,401 a month.
If you plan to be in campgrounds and/or RV parks, you can add another $500 - $1200 a month (sometimes more, sometimes less).
But this isn't a comprehensive listing. It doesn't include groceries, cell phones, or personal spending, and it doesn't include covering the mortgage of our (now) vacation rental back in Boone, NC.
Hopefully it gives you an idea of what to expect, straight from a family that lives the lifestyle.