Last Updated on September 23, 2021 by Chris and Lindsay
If you are wondering how much does it cost to live in an RV full-time you’re not alone. Understanding RV living costs will help you make many decisions about your next RV adventure.
Whether you just want to get started with some shorter camping trips throughout the year or are considering full-time RV living, we want to help you understand how much it costs to live in an RV.
From the amount involved in purchasing and maintaining your RV to actual road expenses, you’re going to want to have a good idea of what to expect when it comes to budgeting for RV travel.
In this post, we’ll give you both the big picture overview of the different line items to account for in your RV budget as well as share several real-life example budgets to give you an idea of how much it costs to live in an RV.
|Initial||Fixed Monthly||Variable Travel Expenses|
|Cost of RV||RV/vehicle insurance||Camping|
|Administrative Fees||Life/health insurance||Meals|
|RV Essentials||Cell phone/WiFi||Entertainment/Activities|
|Maintenance and Repairs|
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.
The Cost of Living in an RV – RV Living Costs Explained
There are several categories you need to consider when determining how much it cost to live in an RV.
- Initial Costs
- Fixed Monthly Costs
- Variable Travel
In short, initial costs will be those related to finding and preparing your RV for the road. Fixed monthly costs are those that you incur whether you travel or not. And the variable travel expenses, as you can imagine, are those related to how much travel you do.
Some of these will be either one-time or annual and others are dependent upon if and how much you travel.
Initial RV Costs
The initial costs of living in an RV relate to those it takes to acquire your RV and prepare it for the road. As you can imagine, these costs vary widely. If you are considering living in an RV full time then check out this post on how to pick the best RV for the next chapter in your life.
Now let’s break down some of the initial costs you need to expect when budgeting for living in an RV.
- Cost of RV (and towing vehicle, if applicable)
- Admin fees (tax, tag and title)
- Accessorizing RV Essentials
Cost of the RV
The cost of the RV is incredibly variable. You can find a used trailer for as little as a few thousand dollars or could splurge on the newest and nicest motorhomes for over a million dollars.
Which RV is right for you depends on a lot of factors and you should consider renting an RV if you’re interested in testing a few options.
Remember that there are two basic types of RVs: driveable motorhomes and towable campers.
Clearly, you can expect to pay a bit more for a motorhome as you are purchasing both the driving and living quarters in one. These are Class A, Class B and Class C motorhomes and each offers its own pros and cons.
Towable campers include travel trailers, fifth wheels and slide-in truck campers. As the name suggests, these require the ownership of a towing vehicle, typically a ¾ to full ton pickup truck.
While these campers will be on the more affordable side, you must consider that you must also purchase a truck. This combination can make the initial cost of the RV comparable to that of a motorhome.
Of course, if you have an RV payment each month you have to add this to your monthly budget.
Pro-Tip: Purchasing a used RV is a great idea from a value standpoint. Like other vehicles, new RVs lose value the moment they are taken off the dealer’s lot. Take a drive through any neighborhood and count the number of RVs in driveways, under carports or in long-term storage. The fact there are so many people who own RVs means there is a huge market for used RVs and you can almost always find a great deal if you are patient and look hard enough.
With the purchase of your new RV you’ll also need to be aware of the administrative and/or governmental fees that you will incur upon purchase. You will need to pay state and/or county sales tax, vehicle tag (if applicable) and title and registration fees.
These vary on a state-by-state and county-by-county basis but expect anywhere in the 5-10% of the purchase price range. Note that you will need to plan for your annual registration renewal.
Accessorizing with RV Essentials
Just because you own the title to a new RV doesn’t mean that you are ready for the road. There are quite a few RV essentials you will need before you can head out for an adventure.
From functional items like sewer hoses and water hoses, jacks and leveling blocks to those items such as coffee makers, pressure cookers and storage containers that make life more comfortable on the road.
This is not to mention if you want to do any RV remodeling or upgrading of decor or appliances. We recommend that you consider these RV essentials as you prepare for the initial costs to RV full time.
Fixed Monthly Expenses
Now that you own your RV you have to consider how much does it cost to own the RV whether you take the RV out on the road or not. We call these fixed monthly expenses.
It is not that these remain fixed month after month. But rather, they are fixed while you are either stationary or traveling.
- RV/vehicle insurance
- Life/health insurance
- Cell phone/WiFi
- Miscellaneous personal expenses
Like initial expenses, fixed monthly expenses depend upon your personal situation and can vary from as little as nothing to several thousand dollars per month.
We’ll outline a few of those you can expect in this category. But we’ll leave it to you to fill in the blanks for your own fixed expenses based on your personal situation.
One of the benefits of owning a motorhome is that you will have just one insurance payment for the vehicle. RV insurance is incredibly affordable due to the fact that most RV owners do not travel as much as they think they will.
There are many options for comprehensive coverage for an average cost of under $75-100 per month. But this will also increase substantially dependent upon the age and overall value of your RV.
If you have a towing vehicle (or a towed vehicle) you will also have to consider the insurance you will need to carry on that. Of course, these vary as well.
Our best advice when it comes to auto and RV insurance is to be sure that you only pay for the products and services you need.
For example, for lower-value used RVs, you may not want to pay for comprehensive coverage, especially if you have a history of safe driving. But you will always want to have liability insurance protecting the “other guy.”
You may also not need or want as much protection as insurance companies may quote you. Be sure to talk with your agent about the specific coverages in your policy so you only pay for what you want and/or need.
For example, if roadside assistance carries a hefty price tag we recommend you consider Good Sam roadside assistance as a separate policy.
And if you are planning to travel to either Canada or Mexico be aware of whether or not your insurance will cover you and to what extent. (Note, Mexico requires you to purchase separate Mexican insurance but Canada accepts reciprocity with US insurers in most cases).
Pro Tip: We carry ample liability insurance to cover someone we may hit but a very limited comprehensive coverage in the event we are the cause of the accident. This saves us quite a bit in our premium and we consider the cost of replacing our RV “punishment” for us causing an accident. We believe that this makes us more aware and safer drivers (which it has for the past 20 years!).
While life insurance is not the most glamorous purchase, it is intended to protect you and the ones you love from financial catastrophe in the event of an accident.
For this reason, we do recommend that you consider having life insurance in place for yourself and your significant other while traveling.
No, you never want to think about life without them. But ensuring that they are well provided for in the event you pass away is imperative to having full peace of mind while you travel.
Pro Tip: We recommend that you consider term life insurance as a way to protect your assets for the most affordable premiums on the market. With term insurance, you only pay for life insurance for a duration of time in which you think you will need it based upon your personal financial situation. We have 15 years left of 20-year term insurance in which we pay $500 per year for 500K insurance with the idea that by the time the plan expires we will have at least 500K in our savings and no longer need to “rent” life insurance.
Health insurance is important whether you are 18 or 80. Again, it is intended to protect you in the event of an unforeseen accident and/or to assist you in monitoring your health while you travel.
If you plan to go full-time RVing there are several options available to you including an insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act, an employer, a private insurer or a healthcare sharing ministry.
But be sure that you are aware of the restrictions on travel for whichever insurance you choose. You will always be treated by a hospital in the event of an emergency.
But whether the brunt of those costs are deflected by your insurance or not depends on your coverage.
Additionally, it is possible to receive ongoing medical treatment as you travel if you select a plan that permits you to do so. We are members of FloridaBlue, a Blue Cross and Blue Shield affiliate, and have qualified in-network coverage in most of the US states.
Pro Tip: Florida is a great state for establishing domicile which will, among other things, permit you to access the health care marketplace in the state. Florida health care plans are one of only a handful with the advantage of being able to offer in-network medical care when traveling out of state.
Cellular and/or WiFi plans
Even if you live under a rock most days of your life, when you travel in your RV you’re going to want to be sure that you have a great cell phone and/or WiFi data plan. This is definitely an expense worth having whether you are on the road or not.
As there is more and more competition and demand for cost-effective products and plans, finding a cellular plan is more affordable than ever. While there is much debate as to which network is best for RVers, we have found that in very few occasions in traveling throughout the US in which we have gone without access to AT&T, Verizon and Sprint/T-Mobile.
If you full-time RV we highly recommend diversifying your plan by having a voice plan with one company and a phone internet plan with another. This ensures you are almost always likely to have service when you need it – whether you are working from the road or have a breakdown.
Adding a cellular signal booster is a great way to add to that insurance to ensure that you are always able to make a call for help if needed.
Pro Tip: We have always had AT&T for our cellular service and either Verizon or Sprint/T-mobile for a data plan when traveling. And while there were times when we did go with limited to no service, these were very few and far between. And once when we were broken down during the offseason in a remote part of Glacier National Park we were able to boost our cellular signal enough to make a data phone call for assistance.
Miscellaneous Personal Expenses
This is a very broad category you will definitely have to personalize. It includes any rent or storage fees you may pay, mortgages and dues/fees on any properties you own, ongoing medical expenses for doctor visits and/or medications and virtually any other personal expense you may have.
Make sure you list everything you may need to pay while you full-time travel.
Pro Tip: When RVing full time you’ll want to reduce these expenses as much as possible before setting out on the road since they represent items and services you are paying for without receiving the benefit of full use. Even if you don’t RV full time, it is a good idea to reduce these anyway.
For over 10 years we have lived 100% debt-free. We cannot tell you how free this makes us feel as we have lived on the road the past 3+ years.
If you have debt, particularly revolving debt in the form of credit cards, we advise you commit to paying this off as quickly and reasonably as possible. Yes, this means instead of buying an RV in the first place you should put that money toward your debt and then start saving to pay cash for your RV.
Debt is a chain that will weigh you down and indefinitely add to the ongoing cost of living in an RV.
Variable Travel Expenses
Now that you understand how fixed expenses relate to the cost of RV living either at home or on the road, let’s quickly break down variable travel expenses. These are, of course, dependent upon how you live on the road.
They can depend on whether you plan to boondock often or stay in campgrounds, travel quickly or stay in the same place for a while, sign up for lots of activities or make the most of free things to do when camping.
However, regardless of your travel preferences and whether you travel full time or just on occasion, understanding these RV costs of living will allow you to plan your next adventure.
Whether it’s a weekend getaway with friends or family or a multi-year journey across the North American continent, expect these expenses to show up each month when you travel.
- Maintenance and Repairs
Pro Tip: When we budget we aim to establish these amounts in advance as flat amounts. For example, we may budget $25 per night for camping, $15 per day for meals and $300 per month for fuel. We may also have a separate category for other spending of $20 per day in which we group the other expenses listed.
RV parks and campground fees can either be a significant part of the cost of living in an RV or a minimal part. But we have mastered the art of camping on a budget.
The average cost you can expect to spend is easily $20-$40 per night for a basic campsite in most RV parks in the US and Canada. In Mexico, these are approximately half.
But just because you allocate this amount doesn’t mean you have to spend it. In fact, if your RV is equipped with great solar power and battery system then you can save lots in your RV budget by boondocking. There are plenty of great apps to help you find free camping.
Another way to save money camping is by joining any number of RV camping memberships we recommend, particularly if you are RVing full-time. Harvest Hosts, Passport America and Good Sam are the three most popular and highly recommended camping memberships.
You’ll save 100%, 50% and 10% respectively off your camping fees when you are a member of these organizations. Even saving one or two nights in your camping category each month will go a long way toward extending your journey.
Pro Tip: Harvest Hosts is by far our favorite RV camping membership that offers free one-night stays at unique, beautiful places such as vineyards, farms, distilleries and other small businesses across North America. If you use this link you can save 15% on your annual membership! Most full-time RVers are members!
Yes, meals are another variable expense that is entirely up to you and your eating habits. If you enjoy ramen noodles and peanut butter and jelly you can probably get by on $100 or so per month (but you won’t be healthy!).
Or you could plan to go for each meal as you travel and end up spending over a thousand dollars on this expense.
We recommend splitting the difference and giving yourself a healthy food allocation that allows you to go out on occasion but primarily cook in the comforts of your RV. The amount of money you set aside for meals will also depend on whether it is just you or two people or more in a van or your family of 5 in a Class A motorhome traveling full time.
Fuel is perhaps the most variable of all because not only will this change based on how many miles you drive, but also on circumstances beyond your control that impact the fuel costs.
If you full-time RV your cost of living in your RV increases the more you travel.
Pro Tip: Try to plan your fuel use as conservatively as possible. This includes budgeting the highest price per gallon you anticipate paying and at least 25% more miles than you expect to travel in that time. You will also want to have a pretty good understanding of your fuel economy in situations like driving on the highway or through the mountains.
Entertainment & Activities
Yup, you guessed it – these items vary quite a bit just like the others! Much of this depends on how long you want to travel and if you have any particular activities on your travel bucket list (such as swimming in the Arctic Ocean).
You can easily spend several hundred dollars per month on a halibut fishing trip in Homer, Alaska or in a multi-day rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. Or you could save much of this money by investing in an America The Beautiful US National Parks annual pass that gives you access to amazing (free!) trails and waterways to explore.
Regardless of what you do, you’ll also want to account for digital subscriptions such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify, etc. Digital subscriptions make it easy and affordable to have some downtime entertainment while you’re on the road.
Variable travel expenses primarily include things like tolls, parking and other items specific to travel. Most of the time these are hard to predict and so it may be best just to be aware that these will occur at some point and you will want to account for them in some way.
We absorb these costs into “entertainment and activities” because we usually pay for parking only when we want to explore an area and will only take a toll road if it is taking us toward something fun to do.
Pro Tip: Use the “avoid toll roads” feature of your navigation app to save money on tolls. These routes typically take you on backroads and highways and introduce you to places you may never have known existed.
Maintenance and Repairs
You can’t predict when you’re going to break down. But there is a pretty good chance you’ll have a breakdown, especially the more you travel.
This is an important RV living cost to include because investing in the regular maintenance of your RV can often lead to reduced repair expenses. Things like frequent oil changes, tire rotation and balance and other routine service checkups will not only keep you safer but also more comfortable on the road.
You may spend more one month than another so it’s good to always save unspent funds for future maintenance.
Pro Tip: We account for our annual Good Sam Roadside Assistance as this is a proactive way to ensure we are protected in the event of a breakdown. The extra cost of this provides the peace of mind of knowing there is help to fix us on the spot or to tow us to the nearest repair shop at no cost this is a worthy expense in this category.
Cost of Full-Time RV Living
Now that you have an idea of the different line items to expect in setting an RV budget let’s get into the cost of full-time RV living.
Below are a few examples as you set out on your RV adventure.
Note: We’re removing the initial amounts in the assumption that you already own your RV and have equipped it for the road. We’re also removing the fixed monthly RV living cost as these would vary for you. Add the total monthly fixed living expenses to these scenarios. These are actual examples reflect for two people.
|Item||OPT 1: $1,000/mo||OPT 2: $2,000/mo||OPT 3: $3,000+/mo|
|Camping||$15/night ($450/mo)||$25/night ($750/mo)||$40/day ($1,200/mo)|
|Meals||$10/day ($300/mo)||$25/day ($750/mo)||$40/day ($1,200/mo)|
|Maintenance and Repairs||$75/mo||$100/mo||$100/mo|
Option 1: $1,000/mo
This is a bare-bones option. At $15/night for camping, you’re likely going to have to free camp at least once every other night. Make the most of your camping membership or camping on free land. Hit up an RV park when you need a hot shower or can’t find dump stations..
$10 per day for meals won’t get you many meals out. But you should be able to stock up your pantry pretty well. You won’t travel very far each month, depending on your RV fuel economy and the price of fuel.
And your maintenance is pretty much preparing for the next oil change or miscellaneous fix.
Option 2: $2,000/mo
While this isn’t phenomenal it does afford more comfortable living. $25 per night for camping will afford you most campgrounds and your camping membership will help trim this because you want to not because you have to.
Bumping up your meal allocation will also let you enjoy a few meals out as you travel to new places. And doubling your fuel budget will let you do a little more exploring.
And while you can bump up your entertainment and activities for the month, your travel and $100 a month for maintenance and repairs should be around the same.
Option 3: $3,000+/mo
At $40 per day for camping, you’re not worried about whether you can afford a campsite in campgrounds, state parks or national parks.
You’ll likely save some of this when using your camping membership and you can put that money to use elsewhere. You’ll also be able to go out to eat at least one meal per day and/or pick up a delicious alcoholic bottle or two from a Harvest Host.
Extend your travel with a little more fuel and add more excitement with an increased amount for entertainment. Again, your travel and maintenance expenses will likely be around the same.
RV Travel Budget
Use the following table to help you plan the cost of RV living. Feel free to download the sheet here.
|Fixed Monthly||Amount||Variable Travel||Amount|
|Vehicle insurance (towing or towed)||Groceries|
|Life Insurance||Going Out To Eat|
|Cellular Service||Vehicle Fuel|
|Prescriptions/Dietary Supplements||Digital Subscriptions|
The RV lifestyle is addictive. When trying to determine the cost of living in an RV full-time or part-time there are a lot of variables. However, as you take a look at your personal finances you will be able to better estimate what it will cost to live in your RV.
There are always ways to trim down your budget – both before and after you leave – so we want to encourage you to get out on the road in any way you can!