Updated February 2023
We have been living in our RV full time for 8 years. However, each one of those years has looked dramatically different. In this blog, I’m breaking down what it currently costs us to live in our RV full time.
We moved into our RV back in 2015 without really knowing what our long term plan would be. At first it started with the idea of just living in it for 5 months and doing some long road trips mixed in with camping in our hometown of San Diego, California. It gradually evolved into something much bigger. Now we’ve lived in our RV with our 5 kids for 8 years!
And some of those kids are now adults living in their own RV.
They have loved the freedom and adventure that living in an RV full time has provided them in their teen years that now they want to know how much it costs to live in an RV full time so that they can keep living the dream.
Related Blog: RV Living with Teenagers
The cost to live in an RV full time will be significantly less if you have no debt.
Before we moved into our RV in 2015, we eliminated almost all of our monthly expenses, had no debt, and paid for our RV in cash so we truly wouldn’t have any daily expenses other than food and insurance.
Related Blog: How We Saved Money To Travel
Why we Live in an RV Full Time
We embraced RV living after our 5-month travel stint and continued during the 2015-2016 school year to save for a 6-month European trip in 2016. The cost was far less than San Diego’s rent or mortgage, helping us stash away $30,000.
Europe meant six weeks camping in Norway, Ireland, and Germany, then four months in a cramped campervan across 12 more countries. We used San Diego as a base in 2016-2017 to save up for more adventures.
That year, we embarked on an 11-week RV road trip across California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Alberta, Idaho, and Utah.
Of all our travels, this type was my favorite.
I loved the constant slow paced movement in search of adventure. We climbed, hiked, and biked almost every day and to some really epic destinations.
We then spent 6 weeks in the fall back in France and Spain. This time opting for Airbnb’s instead of camping. This trip also revolved around hiking and rock climbing and took us to more epic destinations.
Basically, living in an RV costs way less than most houses and frees up money to spend on more fun!
But if you are just looking for a way to save money, living in an RV may not be your best answer.
Living In An RV Is Different Post-Covid
The fact is that so many people moved into their RVs to save money but not necessarily to travel, that it is really hard to find affordable monthly rates at RV parks.
Most RV parks in cities have a waiting list to get a site.
And with gas prices climbing, being on a full time road trip like we are gets to be expensive.
Your affordable option might be to get a van so you can sleep in it discreetly or an RV that you can easily take to BLM land or free camping areas.
Related Blog: How We Have Lived Full Time In An RV for 8 Years
Cost of Campgrounds
Where you decided to park your RV can make a huge difference in what it costs to live in an RV. One option is to find a long term campground in a city near where you work.
While campgrounds like this with full hookups and amenities like free hot showers may normally cost over $65-100/night, they often offer huge discounts for monthly rentals in the off season that make the cost $30-40/night or less.
It really depends on the overall cost of living of that city. If you can handle the cold, there are some great and affordable long term RV parks in cute ski areas like Whitefish, MT that are way less expensive.
Currently, my oldest son lives in one of our RVs in St George, Utah and the current monthly rate is $1,075 plus electricity which is around $100-150/month.
The downside of living in these type of campgrounds is that during the high season it can get very expensive and the one we stay at only allows you to stay 62 consecutive days before having to leave for 24 nights. This is certainly important factors to keep in mind and not all RV parks operate like this.
Thousand Trails are a very affordable way to live full time in an RV at, but again, there are limits to how long you can stay in one resort. We have the lowest tier membership so we can only stay 2 weeks in a resort before having to be out of the Thousand Trails system for a week.
But honestly, I wouldn’t recommend a Thousand Trails membership because most of the resorts are run down trailer parks and they aren’t in the best locations.
We love State Parks and National Park Campgrounds. They are usually in a setting that lends itself to outdoor exploration (hiking, biking, etc) and tend to be more affordable, typically around $20-35/night although State Parks by the coast in California can get much higher than this. There is usually a limit for how long you can stay, somewhere between 7 and 14 days for most.
Forest roads and BLM land is a great way to live in your RV for free. These lands are protected by the government and free to stay at as long as you camp in designated areas, practice leave no trace principles, and obey their limits for the duration you are allowed to stay
How Much It Cost us To Live In Our RV
For us, the secret to travel and adventure has come down to minimizing our living costs when we are sitting still. This was our monthly budget when we would sit still in an RV park for a month at a time.
RV Park: $1085
Parking for Extra Car at RV Park: $155
Gas + Maintenance: $400
Auto/RV/Health Insurance: $300
Cell Phone/Plan: $160
Netflix, iCloud, & Spotify: $30
Membership to Climbing Gym & Jiu Jitsu: $175+140
Misc clothes, laundry, gear: $150
Cost Of Living Full Time in an RV Example
Mission Bay RV Park: $1085 + $155
There aren’t many places you can live in San Diego for a family the size of ours for this price. While there are many places around the country that you can live at for much cheaper, staying here is perfect for the types of adventures we love to do. It is centrally located and only a few minute drive to our favorite places.
We’ve stayed at an RV Park in Lander, Wy for a month at a time and the cost there is only $550/month plus
Related: How To Find Free Camping In The US
Like I mentioned, our favorite thing about Mission Bay RV Resort is because it’s centrally located to all of our favorite activities. Because of our proximity to everything, we didn’t pay much for gas. However, when we are traveling, our gas expense is at least double this.
Maintenance: $ Depends
Maintenance too varies (what doesn’t?!). We’ve been lucky and haven’t had to do a lot to our RV for the past three years other than get oil changes and new batteries (our batteries always go bad when we travel abroad and the RV sits for long periods of time). It is getting time for bigger projects and we will need new tires before our next long road trip. Just keep little things like this in mind, especially tires, when buying your RV.
Food & Fun: $2500
We spend a lot on organic, high quality food, but we almost never eat out.
We eat like kings. Actually, like very healthy kings. And there are a lot of us so our food bill is between $75 and $100 a day. RV living full time means we prioritize quality, organic meat, veggies—though sometimes, to cut costs, we opt for beans and rice, reluctantly. I won’t compromise my one IPA or wine daily. You likely could manage on a tighter food budget.
The flip side is that we don’t normally spend much on clothes. In fact, until we tried living in the Breckenridge area for a few months and decided we wanted to learn snow sports, we hadn’t really bought much more than a new pair of shoes each year and a few basics.
The same goes for fun. We get most of our entertainment from our sports and most of that gear we already had. Things are starting to wear out and break so I know we will need to budget for more gear, but overall our fun expense is limited to occasional movie rentals.
Auto/RV/Health Insurance: $300
Check out Roamly for RV & auto insurance. They specialize in insurance for full time RVers.
How do you afford health care? We don’t. Remember that large chunk of money we spend on food, well that’s because we are huge believers in
Let thy food be thy medicine
It costs us less to pay out of pocket to see a doctor when we need to and to pay the penalty for not having health insurance than to pay a monthly premium. Plus, we travel abroad a lot and having World Nomads for travel insurance protects you medically also.
Cell Phone/Plan: $160
We have Tmobile so our bill is moderately cheap considering we have 5 lines (for the oldest 3 kids). T-mobile is great because of this but it’s good to note that with T-mobile we lose service anytime we’re not near a major city (which is pretty often).
Because we work as coaches digitally, it is very important that we have WifiWe pay $100 for 2 different hot spots. One is with ATT and the other through Verizon. In the US, Verizon seems to be the most reliable.
Related: Full Time Travel with Teens
Netflix, iCloud, & Spotify: $30
We pay $10 per month for Spotify, $10 for icloud, and $10 per month for Netflix. That’s it.
Membership to Climbing Gym + Jiu Jitsu: $315 + 140
The climbing gym we go to is a little pricey but it’s 100% worth it for us when we’re sitting still. Our climbing gym not only has a huge TR and lead wall, but it also has a large bouldering area, small gym, climbing training section, and a yoga studio. We love being at the gym and we pretty much spend most of our day here so we don’t mind the expense. Plus, they have nice clean showers!
Victor also belongs to a Jiu Jitsu School and pays a monthly fee of $140.
Many people who live in an RV full time pay for a membership at Planet Fitness or 24 Hour Fitness.
Before, we did laundry at the laundromat in our RV Park and cost about $60 a month. Now we have a we fifth wheel with a washer/dryer combo so it’s $0.
There you have it! Our cost of RV living full time or at least a starting point. We established residency in South Dakota so that had some costs for a drivers license and titling vehicles. I have been so impressed with how easy it is to register vehicles in South Dakota even if I am in a different state.
Ready to launch into RV Living but haven’t pulled the trigger yet? Watch This Video
I also did not include in this any of the expenses we incur to run the blog 🙂 If you buy any products through our affiliate links, it keeps our blog running and we appreciate it tremendously!