If you’re a traveler at heart, there aren’t many more comfortable alternatives than hitting the road in an RV. On top of having your own bed, bath, and kitchen that you know are clean, you can live anywhere on your schedule.
Also, you’re able to avoid two of the most costly and headache-inducing aspects of travel: hotels and airports.
Sure, there are limitations. You’re not going to drive your RV across the ocean, but you could rent one if you want to live overseas. You won’t be able to pack your entire apartment into the RV, but you could keep your most sentimental items in storage or with family.
One thing many full-time RVers have attested to is that RVing can be expensive if you’re not keen on ways to save money. Gas is expensive and RVs can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Before this scares you, remember that RVing can and usually does cost significantly less per month than living in an apartment. This guide will show you how to live in an RV affordably while also maintaining the lifestyle you desire.
Rent before you own to try out the lifestyle.
Full time RVing isn’t for everyone, even if you’re a seasoned traveler. In fact, there are certain aspects of the lifestyle that you can’t fully comprehend until you experience them firsthand. To complicate matters, everyone’s perspective on dealbreakers is different.
If you haven’t spent more than a week in an RV before, consider renting one and taking it for a month long test drive. Do this before you make any solid plans on downsizing or hitting the road for good.
Another option? Read as much as you can from other RVers. Find out their gripes and things that either made them fall in love with or set them off the lifestyle. Don’t just read thoughts from people who love RVing. Learn from the people who tried RVing and decided it wasn’t for them.
This due diligence could prevent you from making a costly lifestyle mistake.
Purchase an RV from experienced vendors.
The most expensive aspect of RVing is the RV. Buying the right one could save you thousands and buying the wrong one could cost you thousands.
Most vehicle dealers are going to have a hard sell tactic to get you to buy the RV that will make them the most money. Instead, try to find a dealer that has a genuine passion for the RV lifestyle and knows a thing or two about how to live in an RV. Get someone who can talk with you honestly about the drawbacks of every type of RV.
Consider these factors:
- The type of RV you purchase and how much you spend on it will depend on your lifestyle. Someone who is capable of roughing it and living in small spaces will be able to take on smaller, used models more than someone who prefers a bit of luxury.
- Buy within your means but don’t buy something you know you won’t be comfortable in for months at a time. There is a balance to find here between spending for what you need and compromising on what you don’t.
To get a good feel for an RV, look at as many as possible. Spend time in them, take them on the road, and be realistic with your budget. Don’t just buy the first RV you fall in love with because you’re itching to get on the road. Strictly emotional purchases are often accompanied by buyer’s remorse.
Figure that the average RV costs anywhere from $70,000 to $250,000.
- Research RV types to weigh the pros and cons.
Plan on being a snowbird to avoid extreme weather.
This RVing tip is geared more toward your comfort than cost savings, but many RVers will advise you to follow the weather. What this means is that you should simply try to stay in places with ideal weather conditions.
Staying in the Northeast in the winter can be as miserable as staying in the deep south during the height of summer. Follow common snowbird routes, so that you can avoid extreme temperatures and the headaches that go along with them.
As you sketch out general travel plans, one way to save money is to travel to a destination and then opt to stay there 3-6 months at a time. How do you decide where to stay? Pick a place that has comfortable weather and is so beautiful that you want to spend all your time outdoors.
Make a list of suitable RV parks.
The amount and quality of RV parks vary throughout the country, and there isn’t a short-cut way to find the best ones. Your best bet is to narrow down a location and then start doing searches for RV parks based on that location and specific amenities that you want.
Read reviews and talk to people who have stayed in these parks. A reference is ideal when you’re planning on settling down for a few month stay. But don’t get too caught up in this process. The great thing about RVing is that if you end up in a park you don’t like, you can leave and travel to the next one.
If you’re having trouble finding a suitable RV park, research the snowbird states like Arizona, Florida, and Texas. There are tons of parks and plenty that are geared to the 55+ demographic.
Don’t forget about state parks, campgrounds, and even parking lots for other inexpensive alternatives.
- Sign up for Good Sam Club and Passport America for discounts.
- Visit Harvest Hosts to find free places to stay.
Stock the RV with things that make you comfortable.
One key for how to live in an RV comfortably is stocking up on the things that will make you feel at home. Space is limited, so the selection process here is crucial.
For instance, if having a nice set of chef knives will make cooking more enjoyable in the RV, bring them along. The cost of the knives will outweigh the cost of eating out every night. Do you really need a waffle maker taking up space, though? Only you can be the judge.
Also, read forums and threads where RVers talk about their most prized items on the road. It could be as simple as a throw blanket for the couch or as elaborate as a customized work station. These little comforts can be the difference that makes or breaks your travel experience.
Budget for gas, maintenance and unexpected repairs.
RVers save money by budgeting for the expected and the unexpected. You can expect to spend a lot of your travel budget on gas, which is one of the biggest money tradeoffs of RVing. Most RVs will average 6-8 miles per gallon.
Another big part of saving money on the road is maintaining your investment. Don’t forget basic RV maintenance throughout the year. Winterize when you need to, change the oil, and keep everything inside clean and dry.
Have a plan for making money.
If you’re not retired, you will need to figure out how to keep cashflow coming in while on the road. While this might be a challenge, it is no where near impossible.
Some ideas include starting a business, working remotely, or investing retirement money. Whatever your plan, you should have enough cash set aside for a few months of living expenses while you work on your plan. If plan A fails, make sure you have a plan B.
If you start the RV lifestyle and hit a roadblock, you can always head back to home base and rent out your RV while you work to save money to try again.
We hope this guide explained a thing or two about how to live in an RV full time. Join the conversation on our Facebook and let us know what you love and hate about this lifestyle.
If you have an RV but are currently on a travel hiatus, find RV storage nearby.