RV Lifestyle
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How Much Does It Cost To Live In An RV

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Published on
April 23, 2022
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The Cost Of Living In An RV

Are you thinking of spending your life on the road exploring different cities, towns, and states? Does the thought of moving from countryside to countryside as you work remotely appeal to you? If yes, knowing the cost of living in an RV is the first step to starting your travel lifestyle.

You need to know what you’ll spend your money on when you hit the road. If you’re going to use your saved money, you need to know how to make a budget and the different ways to save while on the road. Keep reading this article to learn how to estimate the cost of living in an RV full-time.

Essential Things To Budget For While Living In An RV

If you choose to live in an RV rather than in an apartment or home, some of your current monthly expenses will remain the same while others will change drastically. You will have to factor in RV living expenses such as camping fees, RV insurance, and gas when you finally make that decision.

However, it’s important to note that the cost of living in an RV varies from person to person. When estimating your monthly budget for full-time RV living, it's essential to consider several factors including where you will be camping and what you will be eating.

Developing an RV travel lifestyle is essential. It is a way of life that mainly excites those who love traveling. Becoming an RVer will help you know if you are the kind of traveler who prefers moving from one zone to another or if that doesn't excite you. In other words, you will realize what works for you and what doesn't once you start visiting and living in different campsites.

All in all, your RV lifestyle will have a significant impact on your cost of full-time RVing. To estimate your monthly RV budget, search for an online RV calculator and create a few scenarios to see what it’ll cost you. Below is a budget breakdown of RV living.

Fixed Costs

First, you need to purchase an RV for your escapades. The most popular RV types include the travel trailer, truck camper, and fifth wheel. Some require a towing car. You can also rent an RV if you're pressed financially. Depending on where you bought your RV, you might need:

• RV surge protector

• RV water heater

• RV air conditioner

• RV toilet

Campsite Fees

As you travel in your RV, you'll need some rest. An excellent place to rest is in an RV park or campsite. As a result, you’ll need to pay for dump stations, water, and energy. This depends on where you choose to pitch camp. If you want to enjoy all the amenities available in-home, then a posh RV park is ideal for you. However, if you prefer saving money, then you can boondock for free.

What are the most available RV camping options?

RV Parks

If you’re a full-time RVer, RV parks are the most expensive alternative for camping.  For a night, you’ll have to part with at least $50. However, for longer stays, such as monthly stays, RV parks offer discounts.

If you don’t mind staying in one location for long, an RV park is a good place. While there, you’ll have water, full power, and drain your dump. Also, some RV parks have golf courses, hot tubs, and pools.

Dry Camping

Also known as boondocking or distributed camping, dry camping refers to free camping on public land. Boondocking sites are administered by the national forest service and other government departments. The maximum number of days you can camp on public land is 14 days. The majority of the dry camping sites have a limited water supply and other amenities. If you prefer living as a full-time RVer, you’ll need to have sufficient resources to last the 14 days.

Established Campgrounds

If you have limited water or RV electrical issues, then established campgrounds in national and state parks are an ideal place to stay. They provide water and electricity hookups. Furthermore, you’ll enjoy the natural beauty of dry camping. Most national or state parks charge at least $25 a night.


It's one of the most expensive facets of living in an RV. If you switch to full-time RV living, the cost of food is likely to vary significantly. But this depends on the number of people you’ll be feeding and also the diet. While making your full-time RV budget on food, it's essential to consider the following.

Your Culinary Abilities

In both typical household life and RV life, being a good cook can save you a lot of money. An easy way to start saving money is by improving your cooking abilities. This will minimize the need to visit local eateries.


Destinations affect the amount of food you carry. For example, if you’re visiting remote locations, you’ll need to stock up large amounts of groceries or budget more. Also, in small towns, convenience stores and supermarkets tend to be more expensive.

Your RV's Cooking and Food Storage Capacity

A large kitchen and RV refrigerators are a must when thinking of full-time RVing. This is important if you'll visit remote areas or stay off the grid for an extended period. Cooking and storing food in a smaller rig is more challenging. With a small rig, you'll need to keep replenishing your supplies and also adapt some recipes.

Dining Out

If saving money while RVing isn’t a priority, dining out rather than cooking is an option. You can also plan on dining several times a month. Especially when living in established campgrounds or RV parks.

However, if saving money is your priority, you should avoid getting caught up in holiday mode or feeling compelled to dine out. Preparing all your meals in the RV kitchen can save you a lot. All in all, dining out is an expense that can be balanced easily.


Insurance needs depend on individuals. For example, employed people working remotely can spend their life RVing and have their health insurance paid by their employer. Others will have to pay their insurance by themselves.

RV insurance depends on several things. The condition of the rig and your state of residency are some of the factors that affect how much you’ll pay. Some insurance providers don’t cover a full-time RV lifestyle. Shop around for the most incredible pricing on the policy you desire, just like you would for any other insurance.

Rig Repairs and Maintenance

Rig repairs and RV maintenance costs are complicated to predict. Repair costs are an inevitable aspect of RV life, where they occur. It's essential to have at least $4000 in reserve in case your rig breaks down.

Carrying out routine maintenance can help you avoid some of the most expensive issues. For example, investing in reliable tire pressure monitoring systems and air compressors can help you save a lot of time and annoyance on the road. Another way to avoid hefty mechanical changes is to carry out regular oil changes and brake replacements for your truck or RV.

Phone and Internet

Having a stable internet connection is essential if you’re living full-time in an RV. In the United States, several internet providers are suitable for the RV lifestyle. Verizon and AT&T are the most popular because they provide coverage in tiny towns and remote areas. A combination of the two can guarantee internet everywhere across the country. Verizon is the most expensive internet provider, at $75 a month for a single line. The majority of RV parks and campsites have Verizon signals.

One more crucial thing to consider when purchasing a phone plan for full-time RVing is the hotspot allowance. A phone's hotspot is crucial if you have to use several gadgets. You can save money on the internet if you park at an RV park with good WiFi. If you operate from the road and require more hotspot data, purchasing a separate mobile hotspot device is worth considering.

To save on phone bills, use a secondary mobile service that uses AT&T towers. Mobile service providers such as visible and cricket are popular alternatives. Visible charges are as low as $25 a month.

Mail Forwarding

As you explore the country in your travel trailer, you'll need to get your mail on the road. Your best bet is by signing up for mail forwarding. Keep an eye for the best option available. You can search for mail forwarding providers who can scan your mail and let you read through an app. Furthermore, the mail forwarding service cost depends on the number of mail forwarded.


If you decide to travel through big cities, you should consider tolls in your budget. Toll costs vary from city to city. You can save a lot by avoiding certain cities.


You'll have to visit the laundromat at RV parks and campgrounds if you don't have a washer in your RV. Each load of washing costs money unless you have your laundry machine. The cost also varies depending on how you frequently wash your clothes. It's important to note that some laundromats are pricey.


Gas and propane are the most expensive items for RVing. As a full-time RVer, it’s more expensive since you will use them daily. The cost of your gas and propane depends on:

Fuel Efficiency

The fuel efficiency depends on the type of fuel. For gas vehicles, the fuel efficiency is 5 mpg, while for diesel vehicles, the fuel efficiency is over 20 mpg. To save money on gas and make it easier to manage crowded locations, use large RVs to tow smaller automobiles.

Monthly Mileage

Monthly mileage is another factor that affects how much you’ll spend. The more you travel, the higher the money spent on gas and propane. Many RVers frequently travel more during the summer than in winter.

Season and Weather

This also determines how much propane you’ll use. For example, during winter, you’ll need more heat. If you use gas to heat your RV, then your living costs will skyrocket. Furthermore, cooking is mainly with gas rather than electricity during winter due to shorter days, which means less solar power.

Gas and Propane Prices

The prices of gas and propane vary from state to state. Political and global economic conditions influence price variations.

On average, you’ll spend over a hundred dollars a month on fuel for your RV or truck. Also, depending on the RV appliances, you’ll spend at least $40. These costs are dictated by the season. You can spend more on fuel during summer but less on gas and propane if you use solar heaters. However, during winter, the need for heating will see the cost of gas and propane rise.


You can’t spend your entire time moving around. Sometimes you’ll need to turn on the TV and watch your favorite show. Other times you’ll want to leave your RV and walk around the park or scour the city on foot. You need to include entertainment expenses in your budget.

Entertainment budgets can be easily cut back or overspent if not adhered to strictly. You can sign up for America the Beautiful pass. The park pass costs $80 per year and guarantees entrance to all national parks and over 2000 other government sites and landmarks.


Having pets has its advantages. For example, it can help you keep fit and socialize with others. While RVing, you’ll need to walk your pets around the park. They also affect your monthly costs. You’ll have to budget on flea and tick treatments, heartworm preventions, and so on.

To save money on pets, do some pet care at home. Skin issues and minor cuts are some of the things you can take care of. You can save more by traveling to vaccination clinics where you can receive rabies and annual vaccinations for a small fee.


This is a category for all the expenses that don't fit in any of the categories. This could include family gifts, fees on new clothing, and strange costs that appear from nowhere. You need to budget all this to avoid eating into money meant for other expenses.

Tips For Saving Money When RVing Full Time

Look For Free RV Parking Locations

There are copious websites and mobile apps that can assist you in finding free RV parking across the United States. You can check for free camping sites on ultimate campgrounds, all stays, and Campendium. If you're looking for quick overnight stays, cracker barrels, Cabelas, and Walmart are places you can get free parking. However, it's essential to check before time.

Find the Most Affordable Campgrounds

Those who prefer to stay in campgrounds rather than dry camp might extend their vacation budget by finding the best campground rates. During the holidays, weekends, or peak seasons, campgrounds may raise their rates. Staying during the week or during the offseason will get you the greatest rates.

Stay in One Place For a Long Time

Another excellent way to save money while living full time is to stay for longer periods in one place. It’s ideal if you prefer staying in RV parks and campgrounds. This is possible since most campgrounds and parks have weekly and monthly prices, which cut down on each night’s cost. Furthermore, you’ll also save money on gas.

Make Your Own Food

The average cost of food per person in a fast food joint is at least $5. The typical price of a home-cooked meal is $2. While moving around with your travel trailer, avoid convenience stores and fast food takeout meals.

An excellent way to avoid food from such joints is to stock your RV cooler with healthy snacks, lunches, and beverages for busy days. You can prepare food prior to the time to help you avoid impulse buying at the convenience shops.

Use Solar Power in Your RV

Solar electricity could be an excellent option if you're serious about long-term money savings. While there is an initial outlay, you will save money in the long run on your electricity bills. Solar power is especially crucial if you frequently boondock and need to keep your generators topped off.

Budget-Friendly Outdoor and Indoor Activities

Outdoor activities are another sneaky expense that can eat into your RV travel budget. Look for free walks or must-see sights in the region. Alternatively, if you want to go on a more expensive adventure, ask for a coupon or a discount day.

Going to neighborhood movie theatres or recreational facilities can be tempting when the weather isn’t ideal for outdoor activities. This costs a small amount for one person. However, for a family adventure, the cost can quickly add up. Instead, you can spend your day enjoying indoor games like chess and cards. Also, you can enjoy free games on the internet or at the local thrift store.

Make Use of RV Membership

There are hundreds of RV memberships that can help you save on various RV expenses. Become a member of an RV club like the Harvest Hosts, Thousand Trails, Escapees, or Passport America.

With RV membership, you can get discounts on RV parks and campgrounds. For example, as a member of Passport America, you’ll enjoy a 50% discount on camping costs at more than 1800 locations.

Locate Low-Cost Gasoline

The cost of gas depends significantly on the state you are exploring. With prices varying in different states, it's critical to keep an eye on where you fuel your truck. For example, the cost of gas in western states is 20% higher than the national average.  If you're moving through cities in California, be prepared to pay 50% higher. The lowest fuel prices are in the Midwest and southern states.

Another simple way of saving money is to avoid highway gas stations if you can. In towns, fuel prices are way less than in highway stations. You can achieve this by constantly fuelling ahead of time. Also, you can use full tracking apps such as Fuelly to keep track of your gasoline costs.

Maintain a Budget

To travel full-time in an RV, you need to manage your money effectively and live within your means. You need to have sound financial habits. Budgeting will help you pay debts like RV loans and save money as you transition to a full-time travel lifestyle. However, It'll be tough to determine whether you can afford a full-time RV if you don't know exactly where your finances go each month.

Service Your RV Regularly

Finally, if you want to reduce the cost of full-time RV living, regular RV maintenance is a must. Any breakdown on the road can eat into your monthly budget. With some mechanics charging over $100 an hour, RV maintenance can't be ignored. A fantastic way to accomplish this is by learning how to perform periodic maintenance on your own.

How Much Can You Spend When RVing?

Compared to the cost of a home or apartment, it’s well within most people’s financial means. Furthermore, the sense of adventure and the freedom experienced when living in an RV is unmatched. The challenge is to either select a place you are and try to remain there for as long as you want or alternate between low-cost parks or boondocking and others that may be more expensive but closer to the things you want to see.

The minimum you can spend when RVing is $400 a month. What you need to do is take advantage of discounts and offers whenever you can. If you want to spend your entire time RVing, a budget of at least $2500 should be enough for a month. However, with an RV membership, food and expenses won’t cost much each month.

It's crucial to note that every situation is unique. It's vital for you to sit down and think about what is important to you, what monthly expenses you know you'll have, and what extras you'd like to have. Take a look at what you can afford, and then go for it.

Consider Renting An RV

Not having an RV shouldn’t stop you from living your life on the road – especially if that is the life you've always desired. You can start by renting an RV even as you plan to have your own. This will help you to stop postponing your adventures but instead, start going for camping expeditions and fun road trips.

Just try and figure out the best company that hires RVs within your budget and for the duration you will need it. Moreover, when it comes to receiving your mail and other parcels while on the go, you can enlist the services of a mail forwarding company.

These mail forwarding companies are experienced and will handle your mail securely and safely no matter where you are. There is always one near you.

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