Last Updated on September 22, 2021 by Chris and Lindsay
So you’ve made the decision to transition into full time RVing. That’s awesome! Becoming a full-time RVer is a decision that separates you from most other people.
Opting for life on the road – with both its challenges and its rewards – takes a certain kind of person. And if you’re reading this now, clearly you’re ready to make that decision.
We committed to RVing full time in 2018 with no idea about how to RV at all! We skipped the beginning steps and had not even camped once in our RV before we hit the road for what we planned would be a multi-year journey crossing North and South America.
But as we all know about life, things changed and we found that full-time RVing is more a lifestyle than an activity to be accomplished.
In over 3 years of crisscrossing the North American continent, we have since learned so much about what it takes to live in an RV.
We’re excited to share what we’ve learned and to welcome you into an awesome community of people who love the road as much as we do!
Affiliate Disclaimer: This post may contain links to products we think you’ll like. If you purchase any of the products through the links below we’ll receive a small commission. As full-time RVers, we know our RV products well and only recommend those that we either own or would consider owning ourselves.
Living In An RV Full Time – An Expert’s Guide
There are many aspects to consider when making the transition into full-time RVing. And there are a lot more details you need to consider than you might imagine.
From little things like receiving mail and voting in elections to the bigger ones like determining which RV is right for you and setting a budget, the devil is in the details.
That said, let’s get into helping you discover the answers to questions you have (or may not know you have!) about living in an RV.
Choosing the Best RV to Live In Full Time
First things first, you have to determine which RV is best for you. There are really two ways to look at this question.
First, do you already own an RV or travel trailer that you would like to make your full-time home on the road?
If so, there are lots of things you can do to it to transition it from your getaway RV to your home.
Second, are you in the market to purchase an RV that you think will be the best RV to live in full time? If so, your options are limitless.
In either case, we’re going to give you a few quick things to consider as you make your decision. And we’ll share some pros and cons we’ve found to the most popular types of RVs for full-time living.
To Thyself Be True
The first thing you need to ask yourself is who are you and what do you want to accomplish in living full time on the road? This may seem overly simple. But how you answer this question will determine how you select the best RV.
For example, if you want to constantly be on the move, spending time boondocking and searching for an adventure down a few dirt roads then a Class A motorhome is likely not the best option for you.
Similarly, if you want to take it slow and park up in a spot for a few weeks or months and just enjoy one place for a while you might be interested in a Class A motorhome or a larger travel trailer.
And, of course, if you are considering living in an RV full time as a family then there are lots more considerations for you and your RV options will be somewhat limited.
So take the time to walk yourself through the “who/what/where/when/why” of your decision to RV full time.
Who am I when it comes to camping? Am I a minimalist adventure-seeking active camper? Or do I want to have a nice comfortable spot and a campfire most nights of the week?
What do I want to accomplish in this new life? Do I have to work or start/run a business from the road? Or am I retired, or semi-retired, with the flexibility to go where I want and when I want? Do I want to race around and see as many national parks and states as I can? Or do I want life to slow down from the rat race from which I am trying to escape?
Where do I want to go? Is there a travel bucket list of places I have always wanted to visit? Or will I be content checking out the places I come across as I wander? Am I worried about the seasons (hot/cold/otherwise) and want to escape one and/or go toward another?
When will I begin and for how long do I think this new life will last? Am I financially prepared now? Or will I need to save for a little longer and/or find work on the road? Do I want to spend a gap year on the road or head off on a multi-year purposeful journey? Or do I want to let full-time RVing become my lifestyle indefinitely?
Why do I want to live in an RV full time? Am I trying to save money, seek adventure or challenge myself? Or am I searching for a new beginning or a new chapter in my life?
In our case, we wanted to drive from Alaska to Argentina along the Pan American Highway over the course of a few years. We had one dog, what we thought was half of the savings needed and we knew we wanted to go off-road a little. We didn’t own an RV a the time we decided to commit to full-time RVing so we asked ourselves these questions and ultimately settled on a truck camper.
But in your case, your answers will determine which RV is best for you. Here’s a quick overview of why you may or may not want to choose a particular RV to live in full time.
Pros and Cons of Each RV
Every RV has pros and cons. Without getting into the details, here is an overview of why you may or may not want to choose each type of RV for full-time RVing.
Class A Motorhome
|Largest option for space||Massive and cumbersome to drive|
|Most comforts of home||Expensive to buy and repair|
|Tons of storage and tank capacity||Poor gas mileage|
|Can tow a smaller vehicle||Not good off the highway|
Choose a Class A motorhome if you want to take your time getting places (mostly on the highway), will spend much of your time in formal campgrounds and will stay in place for multiple days or weeks.
Class A motorhomes are also good for families and those who need a dedicated space to work or run a business from the road.
Class B Campervan
|Compact and maneuverable||Small living space|
|Most mobile RV option||Often lack amenities like showers and toilets|
|Decent gas mileage||Can be quite pricey|
|Passengers can ride in campervan|
Choose a Class B campervan if you want to live a minimalist lifestyle and are OK adapting to the lack of space and amenities a campervan might offer.
Class B campervans and other van conversions are highly popular among those who enjoy combining adventure and life in what is collectively the “van life” movement.
Class C Motorhome
|Mid-sized and fairly maneuverable||Not great off the highway|
|Many amenities of home||Poor gas mileage|
|Lots of storage and tank capacity|
|Can tow a smaller vehicle|
|Drives like a truck or van|
Choose a Class C motorhome if you would like more space than a smaller camper but want a little more maneuverability than a Class A.
They can be coupled with a tow vehicle and can handle moderate offroad driving. Class C motorhomes are also good for families and those who need a dedicated space to work or run a business from the road.
|Can be quite roomy and spacious||Challenging to maneuver and park|
|Detachable from the towing vehicle||Sometimes flimsy construction|
|Usually moderately priced||Least stable and vulnerable to an accident on the road|
|Typically inexpensive insurance||Require a separate truck to tow it|
|Higher resell values (slower depreciation)||Passengers must ride in truck|
Choose a travel trailer if you want to combine the option for a spacious RV with the ability to detach it from your truck to make day trips when camping.
Travel trailers, particularly Airstreams, are popular for full-time RVers and can be large enough to accommodate families on the road.
|Small and compact||Somewhat cramped living space|
|Agile and maneuverable||Limited tank size|
|Can be detached||Require a separate truck to carry it|
|Moderate gas mileage||Can be pricey|
|Great for offroad activities|
Choose a truck camper if you want to be able to spend time offroad and don’t mind smaller spaces and limited comfort. Truck campers provide everything you need in an RV but just not a lot of space for full-time RV living.
Living in an RV Full Time Costs
Knowing how much it costs to live in an RV full time is an important step in making your next decisions. But RV budgets can vary as much as your choices in RVs.
It is possible to live a minimalistic life for less than $1,000 per month if you don’t travel far, spend much going out and plan to free camp often.
A more reasonable full-time RV budget would afford moderate travel, dining out and activities and free camping a handful of nights throughout the month for $2,000-$3,000.
Of course, you will also have expenses to account for outside of RV living that will vary by your personal situation. Mortgages, storage units, vehicle payments and health care costs are just a few miscellaneous expenses that may vary by your situation.
We think of monthly full-time RV costs in 3 categories: Initial cost, Fixed monthly expenses and Variable travel expenses.
This is the total cost of your RV, including any tow or towing vehicles and remodels, repairs and upgrades.
This may be a lump sum for which you pay in cash up front, an amount you have already paid over time before going full time or an amount you finance while you travel.
Fixed Monthly Expenses
These are the costs that you expect on a monthly basis, often whether you travel or not. Think of these as fixed expenses that you may not be able to reduce and include the following categories:
- Cell phone/WiFi
- RV/Vehicle insurance
- Health/Life Insurance
- Miscellaneous medical (including prescriptions, over the counter meds and doctors visits)
- Personal Expenses (including mortgages, vehicle payments, storage fees and other personal expenses)
Variable Travel Expenses
These are the costs that will vary depending on your travel preferences. Think of these expenses as the base of your budget and include the following categories:
- Meals (including groceries, alcohol and going out to eat)
- Camping (including private RV, national, state and local parks and lands)
- Fuel (including vehicle and propane)
- Spending/Entertainment (including digital subscriptions, activities and souvenirs)
- Repairs/Maintenance (including routine and emergency)
- Travel (including tolls and parking)
There are also some upfront costs that you may incur one-time (or annually) as you begin your full-time RVing. These would need to be accounted for in your budget and include:
- RV memberships such as Harvest Hosts, Passport America and GoodSam
- US National Park Annual Pass and other state park passes as applicable
- GoodSam roadside assistance
Full Time RV Living Tips
The longer you RV and the more RVers you meet along the way the more tips and tricks you will learn to make life on the road safer, more comfortable and more enjoyable.
Here are a few of the most important things we wish we knew before we committed to full time RVing.
Know your purpose/goal
Reflect back on your answers above used to help you select your RV. Knowing why you want to live in an RV full time will help you make decisions about what you do and how you live on the road.
For example, we knew we were more interested in completing our journey driving from Alaska to Argentina than in doing typical tourist activities along the way. We knew we would have to work at some point to afford the cost of the full trip so saving every dollar was important to us.
This mindset has allowed us to continue to travel and live in our RV for over 3 years.
Set the budget
The better you budget your life on the road and the more discipline you have in sticking to it the better off you will be in the long run. Of course, you need to consider balancing a strict budget with giving yourself the flexibility to enjoy your new lifestyle.
It is likely that regardless of your financial background you will still need to set yourself on a budget. Whether you have $2,000 or $10,000 for your monthly budget, keeping an eye on it throughout the month will allow you to continue living on the road indefinitely.
Find your RV
Shopping for the RV you will call home for the next chapter of your life is like shopping for a brick-and-mortar home. You will want to do as much due diligence as you can to ensure that you are making the best decision possible about this significant investment.
Chances are you have some experience with your current RV, or have at least used an RV in the past before committing to full-time RV life. But if not, we recommend that you spend quite a bit of time looking at various options to find the one best for you.
Find a nearby dealer and tour a variety of options. Even better, rent several different RVs in the weeks and months leading up to your decision and find out what you like and don’t like about them before you buy.
If you purchase a used RV or trailer it is worth your money to have it professionally inspected so that you know what it may take to make it safe and road-ready.
Then, of course, consider all of the ways that you can modify and upgrade the RV to accommodate your wants and needs on the road.
Know how your RV works
RVs are not terribly complicated. At the end of the day there is a mechanical component in either the towing truck or in the RV itself.
This can be complicated, but there are numerous mechanics in virtually any town in which you travel who will assist you if you cannot repair your engine yourself.
But what is more important, knowing your RV inside and out will help stay safer and more comfortable throughout your journey.
From knowing how to use your propane appliances to understanding your gauges and tank capacity will save you in the long run. Of course, anything you can do to learn how to fix things will benefit you as well.
Ensure your life (life insurance, health, RV, roadside)
Insurance never keeps bad things from happening. But it is necessary in order to protect you against financial catastrophe in the event that things go wrong. R
egardless of your age and status in life, we recommend that you have term life insurance to protect your loved ones in the event of the ultimate loss.
Second to this is health insurance. Of course the younger you are the less vulnerable you may feel. But being able to access affordable healthcare is an important part of full-time RVing.
Then of course is the mandatory RV and/or vehicle insurance to protect you and anyone you may injure in the event of an accident. It is also important to consider special RV roadside insurance as well.
While your auto insurance company may offer roadside it may not fully accommodate or understand your RV needs.
We recommend GoodSam roadside insurance as the best way to ensure that if your RV needs roadside service or to be towed you will absolutely be covered with no questions asked.
Establish domicile (mail, voting, healthcare, etc.)
Before taking to the road full time you will still need to have a domicile, or “home base,” from which to operate. A few states are popular among full timers.
South Dakota is particularly friendly to full-time RVers and domicile can be established with the help of various agencies and as simple as a one-night stay in the state. And Florida is also highly desirable.
As Florida residents prior to full-timing, we decided to retain our domicile through our family so that we could keep our mailing address, voting and healthcare the same while we were on the road.
But you may want to look into what will work best for your travel plans, life situations and personal preferences.
Have essential gear (can always buy on the road)
Without a doubt having the right gear is proportionate to the amount of comfort and enjoyment you have on the road. And while there are lots of things you will want when you commit to full-time RVing, there are some that you need.
We always prioritize safety essentials first. Think smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, jacks and a good set of tools. Then you will want the things that will make daily life on the road more convenient.
These are things like a great coffee maker, storage containers and USB appliances.
Lastly, you can invest in some of the bells and whistles that make RV life comfortable. Things like a TV or projector, standup paddleboard and other electronic devices aren’t needed but definitely put RV living at its finest.
Full-Time RV Living on the Road
We’re going to guess that you already know why you want to commit to RVing full time. You like the idea of freedom, waking up in new and beautiful places and of finding adventure at nearly every turn.
But life on the road has its challenges. In this section, we’ll help you confront some of the resources that will help you overcome these challenges so that you can have a safer, more comfortable and more enjoyable RVing experience.
Among full-time RVers there really aren’t any loners. You’ll find that one thing that unites all full-timers, aside from a love of the freedom of the road, is their membership to a few important RV clubs.
You may not choose to join all of these memberships. However, to make the most of life on the road (and to keep your budget in check in the long run) you’re going to want to consider membership in each one.
You can expect most campground fees without memberships to range from $20 – $50+ per night. So spending $250-$850 per year for free camping will literally save you thousands of dollars each year.
There are a few RV camping memberships we want you to consider joining. Altogether they will not cost you more than a few hundred dollars in total. But especially if you are RVing full time these memberships will pay for themselves very quickly.
Harvest Hosts is our first and favorite membership we’d recommend you consider. For $99 per year (15% off using this link) you gain access to nearly 3,000 wineries, breweries, distilleries and farms across North America.
With your membership, you’ll be able to camp on-site for one night and enjoy all of the beauty, products and services that each small business offers.
Instead of paying camping fees, you are asked to support the host by purchasing items they have available. But cracking open a bottle of wine while you watch sunset over a vineyard is a fraction of the cost of the same experience in an RV park!
Plus you’ll meet amazing people, including fellow travelers, and learn the best things to do in the area. You’ll be dry camping and are only supposed to ask to stay for one night. But this is a fantastic membership to have.
Passport America is sort of the gold standard of camping memberships. It has been around for years and you’re likely to have seen a sticker or advertisement in an RV forum before.
With a Passport America membership, you receive 50% off participating campgrounds. For under $50 per year, our annual membership usually pays for itself within 2-3 nights of camping.
We think this is a great backup to Harvest Hosts. While it doesn’t offer the same scenery, you can usually stay at Passport America campgrounds for multiple nights and also have the amenities that campgrounds offer.
Escapees RV Club
Escapees is a smaller RV club that has extensive resources, particularly for full-time RVers. For around $50 per year, you’ll gain access to a like-minded RV community with a wide range of resources and discounted products and services.
If you are RVing full time then this will be a must as you’ll be able to establish domicile, set up mail forwarding, stay at Escapee-only RV parks, find seasonal employment and a ton of other opportunities that will make life on the road more enjoyable and affordable.
Boondockers Welcome is another RV membership worth its $50 annual price if you plan on spending 2-3 nights camping at one of its participating hosts. It is sort of an Airbnb for RVers.
Different people will list a camping site on their property and as a member, you can search for properties where you would like to camp.
The host then welcomes you to their property and permits you to stay the night (or more). Sometimes there are hookups. But the best part is meeting like-minded people interested in meeting fellow RVers.
Thousand Trails is on the higher end of RV memberships but well worth the expense if you’d prefer a little more exclusive and traditional camping.
Membership is just over $600 for camping in one of 5 zones. For an additional $65 each you can access other zones.
These Thousand Trails properties are well-maintained campgrounds so you can expect higher-end amenities and experiences. If you prefer the RV campground experience and are looking to spend most of your time in one of the 5 zones then this membership will pay for itself in 12-15 days.
General RV Memberships
In addition to the camping memberships, we do recommend that you consider a few more options to extend your safety and comfort on the road as well as provide discounted opportunities.
Good Sam is almost mandatory if you own a Class A motorhome simply because of the discounted fuel perks at highway travel centers. But additionally, members save 10% on over 2,400 participating campgrounds as well as discounts on products purchased at Camping World and Gander stores.
While this is not our favorite membership, at under $30 per year it is definitely worth having in your back pocket.
Good Sam Roadside Assistance
Although it is the same company, the Roadside Service side of Good Sam operates independently and requires its own membership. This membership is based on the type and number of RVs you own and whether you are towing or will tow a vehicle.
While many auto insurance companies offer roadside assistance, they usually lack the RV-specific needs you will face in the event of an accident or breakdown. With Good Sam Roadside you know they will have the tools and equipment needed and know what to do with you specific RV.
America The Beautiful (US National Park annual pass)
This annual pass is the absolute best way to prop up your entertainment budget. For $80 annually you gain access to every US National Park and public land with an entrance fee.
Additionally, you can receive up to a 50% discount in national land where fees are collected. Senior and military passes are free so if you qualify there is no reason NOT to have this pass.
Most National Parks range in cost from $20-$30+ for entry so within 2-3 parks per year your pass pays for itself. That’s one trip through Utah or Wyoming!
RV Apps and Technology
Aside from RV memberships, having access to the right apps and technology will make life on the road as a full time RVer that much better. These are the top apps we recommend.
All of them offer free versions that will get the job done while some offer premium upgrades if you are interested.
In addition to your standard phone navigation app (Siri, Google Maps, etc.) you’re going to want to have these apps ready to open as you travel.
While AllStays is tailored around finding places to camp it is actually a huge database of pretty much everything related to RVing needs. You can set filters to search for a variety of different resources – from LPG stations to BLM public lands to rest stops – AllStays gives you an idea of the resources ahead of you.
We also like that AllStays will show road grades and bridge clearances so you can anticipate whether your RV is suitable for different driving routes.
Gas Buddy and/or Gas Guru
Both Gas Buddy and Gas Guru are great options to have to help you find the most affordable upcoming fuel options. We have and use both and love that it takes the guessing out of whether there is going to be a gas station in the next stretch of highway and how much fuel will cost.
It is updated by user input so there is sometimes some discrepancy in current prices. But particularly in times where we were not certain when we’d see the next gas station, these apps added certainty and peace of mind to our plans.
RV Camping Apps
There is no reason to guess where you can spend the night when you have a variety of great apps to assist you in finding camping.
iOverlander is the gold standard for finding free camping worldwide. It is a great first place to start if you are particularly interested in saving money in boondocking.
However, it is a wiki so it is user-sourced and sometimes the landmarks are a bit questionable. But we can’t count the number of times we’ve been able to find great camping, LPG or water refills and dump stations using iOverlander.
It is always the first app we open.
As already referenced in the Navigation section, AllStays is an awesome app with more than just camping information. But for camping, it is hard to beat as it will show reputable and established camping opportunities.
From Wal Marts to chain RV campgrounds, AllStays has you covered when searching for RV camping.
Campendium is our third go-to when searching for RV camping in general. You can access a wide range of established camping sites – from free or nearly free public lands to established private campgrounds and RV parks.
We will often start our search with Campendium when we are willing to spend a little money camping in national parks and forests because it is not going to have you pull off on the side of a dirt road the way iOverlander might.
Your Camping Membership
If you are a member of Harvest Hosts or Passport America there is an app to help you find locations within their respective networks. The same holds true for other memberships for which you are a member.
Keep these handy for the times when you know you want to stay at a particular member host site.
Insurance (Life, Health, RV, Roadside)
Full-Time RV life is great until something bad happens. And if you’ve lived long enough you know that something bad is always lurking around the corner in life. Fortunately, the insurance industry exists to help us exchange some payment (premiums) for peace of mind in the event the worst happens.
As an RV full-timer you’re going to want to consider life, health, RV and roadside assistance insurance to keep you totally at peace with the world while you’re out exploring the beauty it has to offer.
Life Insurance for RVers
We’re not going to tell you what company to purchase what policy from. There are too many out there and your life situation may dictate one over another. But we will say that life insurance is the foundation for financial peace.
While we don’t like thinking about what will happen if one or the other of us passes away, it is good to know that the other will be taken care of quite generously in the event of a catastrophe.
And we do recommend that you purchase term insurance as it is incredibly affordable and customizable to your family and financial circumstances and goals.
Health Insurance for RVers
Health insurance is a far more practical form of insurance need when you live full time on the road. But this is not an easy topic to navigate in the US either. While we claim that the states are “united,” when it comes to healthcare it seems they are anything but that.
Depending on your financial situation you may qualify for insurance through the Affordable Care Act. But depending on which state is your domicile you may not be able to receive covered services outside of your home state.
We can say as Florida residents that the healthcare marketplace in Florida is robust enough that we could find a health insurance plan that is portable with us outside of Florida. But we’ve learned from RVers from other states that this wasn’t the case.
So you will need to check with the health insurance provider to make sure you can be treated at in-network rates if you travel outside of your state of domicile.
Another popular option for full-time RVing is through a “healthcare sharing ministry.” These are starting to pop up in smaller names.
As the name suggests, these are networks of members under a faith-based umbrella. Members do not pay premiums or receive actual insurance. Instead, when a member incurs a medical cost it is shared among members. Each ministry has pre-negotiated discounted medical rates.
But as a member, you will pay the bill and then be reimbursed by checks sent from other members. This is a great option but know that each ministry is faith-based and requires some form of commitment to their value statement and/or declaration of faith.
Of course, the last option for health insurance is simply to find private insurance through a health insurance broker. This is likely to be the most expensive option. But you will be able to find the most customized and thorough healthcare options as a full-time RVer by going this route.
RV insurance is the most affordable insurance on the market. And full-time RVers can take advantage of the fact that premium rates are lower because most RVers don’t travel much in their RVs each year.
Depending on the kind of RV you have, the typical “big box” auto insurers may be able to build a policy for your RV that suits your wants and needs. State Farm, Progressive and All State all advertise RV policies.
Another great option is going through Good Sam RV Insurance as they are at the center of everything RV-related.
Rates will be comparable to what you will find with the national auto insurance brands but you may find they are more customizable because of Good Sam’s experience in working with full-time RVers.
We used State Farm for years with our personal auto insurance and when we owned a truck camper we were able to add riders to our policy to incorporate the camper. But when we had a breakdown and needed to tow our truck camper the company had difficulty understanding the type of tow truck we needed. We have since switched to Good Sam and Progressive as we now insure our Class C motorhome for around $75 per month.
RV Roadside Insurance
The final insurance you should consider when full time RVing is RV roadside insurance. As previously mentioned, most national auto insurance brands offer roadside insurance as part of their RV insurance policies. But they may or may not truly be able to handle the needs of RV roadside assistance.
We recommend GoodSam Roadside Insurance for the peace of mind of knowing that an RV-specific breakdown can be assisted properly.
With plans starting around $65 per year you can insure your vehicle’s roadside needs and add on additional services such as travel interruption reimbursement, rental car use and even medical evacuation.
RV Essentials for Full-Time RVing
We have a handful of RV essentials we recommend you have regardless of whether you are full-time RVing or not.
We start with safety essentials as a priority and follow up with practical RV essentials that you need when you are on the road. From there we recommend all sorts of RVing accessories that will make life comfortable or make your RV feel like home.
Check out the following Buyer’s Guides for our Top Recommended Products that you should consider having before you start RVing full time.
This guide should just be the beginning of your adventure! You are sure to discover all sorts of things about yourself and the style and preferences you have as a full-time RVer.
But the most important thing is congratulating yourself on making the decision, ensuring you are safe before you hit the road and then getting out on the road!
We look forward to seeing you out there somewhere!