My wife and I have lived in an RV full time for over 10 years. Starting in June 2014 we will begin our travels around the country. Many people have asked about the expenses of living in an RV full time, so I thought I would explain how we do it.
We recently purchased a used Class A (bus) RV and a campground membership. Total for both were a little over $50,000. Let me explain how this works. The campground membership was purchased used from a broker. It allows us to camp 21 days in a row before we have to leave. The campgrounds are mainly up and down the East and West coasts and within a few hundred miles of each other. The annual maintenance fee is $570 which works out to $48 a month for camping. This includes the water, electric and sewer.
I have not included the cost of getting started living full time in an RV as the cost will vary for everyone and some of it will be recovered in taxes and the sale of the assets. I also am not including any personal bills, just the cost of living while on the road.
I am going to start with an overview of the expenses. When you live full time in an RV your expenses vary depending on your lifestyle. For us, the expenses are fuel, repairs, food, medical, campground fees, miscellaneous and entertainment.
Our RV gets about 10 miles per gallon on average. We have serviced it using AMSOIL products so our maintenance is annual regardless of the miles (less than 25000 a year). The annual maintenance expenses are about $138.00 due to AMSOIL’s extended service interval. That works out to be about $12 a month. Because we only travel about 150 miles or so a month in the RV we spend about $60 in diesel fuel. The majority of our travels are with our car. Our 2007 Hyundai gets about 30 miles a gallon and we travel about 400 miles a month. The fuel costs are about $47 a month. The Hyundai is also using AMSOIL and its annual maintenance cost is about $60. Our total monthly transportation costs are about $124.
Food expenses will vary by family. It is just the wife and I and two small dogs. We spend about $300 a month on food and supplies.
Entertainment expenses can vary by family as well. For us, I have included satellite TV, books, videos, attractions etc. Our satellite TV is from DIRECTV and we have the basic package at about $30 a month. Both my wife and I like to read. We both have e-readers which we use with Amazon Prime ($80 a year) as well as other online services to download books, most of them are free. Our cell phone service is from Verizon and we spend about $80 a month on it. Being over 62 means we also get a discount at a lot of attractions. Total spending here varies each month, but on average we spend about $150 a month.
Maintenance expenses are a savings account that I put money into each month to cover the various costs of maintenance. I also have an extended warranty to help cover the cost of major repairs. This is the largest area of expense. The warranty is about $100 a month and I put another $150 a month into savings for a total of $250 a month.
Insurance will vary as well depending on your coverage, age and where you have the vehicles registered. We have found the cheapest place to register and insure vehicles is South Dakota. Our annual insurance for both the RV and the car is just under $1000 a year. Vehicle registrations cost about $400 a year and drivers licenses are good for 5 years (I recently heard they increased this to 10 years, but have not verified it). Our total vehicle insurance and registration costs work out to be about $120 a month.
Miscellaneous expenses are things like propane refills which may happen once or twice a year and other items that don’t fall under living or food expenses. I have yet had to fill our propane as we only use it for cooking. But it will be about $2.40 a gallon and we have a 30 gallon tank. So if we refill once a year our annual cost would be about $70 or $6 a month.
So there you have it, the costs of living full time in an RV and traveling around the country. We spend about $998 a month. Some months will be more and some months less. I am retired military and on early Social Security. More than enough to live on while traveling around the country.
I realize that every family is different. Some may not have the desire to live a simple lifestyle, will have more family members, higher start-up costs, more bills, etc. You may not have the level of income that we have. There are many ways to both reduce your costs as well as increase your income. That is up to you.