The Cost of Full Time RVing

One of the most common questions asked by people looking to full-time RV is “how much does it take?”. The simple answer is “whatever you have” and honestly, that’s quite accurate. There are people who full-time on $1K/mo and those who full-time on $5K/mo and then there are those who work along the way, either volunteering at campgrounds or picking up workamping jobs to close the gap.

If you live off your investments you have to be flexible in how you spend your money and the beauty of full-timing is that you can be exactly that.  The key is to manage your variable costs to whatever you have available, and as long as you’re willing to do that, the sky’s the limit. The biggest portion of your variable budget is camping fees, gas, groceries and miscellaneous buys and managing those costs gives you the ability to stay flexible on the road. Here’s a look at your budget on a monthly basis:

FIXED MONTHLY COSTS:

  • RV Payment                            $   -
  • Health Care                             $ 200
  • Internet/Phones                       $ 150
  • RV/Car Insurance                    $ 120
  • RV/Car Registration/Tags        $   35
  • RV/Car Maintenance/Repair   $ 150
  • Mail Service                            $   25
  • Pets                                         $ 200
  • Storage                                   $ 110

                              TOTAL:          $ 990

  1. This assumes you do not have any RV payment. For some this might be a monthly cost.
  2. Health Care includes monthly high-deductable insurance premiums ($150/mo), plus $50/mo for extra expenses (yearly check-ups etc.).
  3. For Internet/Phone most carriers offer a 5GB/mo broadband plan. Many offer unlimited data plans.
  4. Many use Geico for RV/Car Insurance. Costs include Good Sam’s Emergency Roadside Assistance, Good Sam’s Extended Warranty Service. (Not an endorsement for either)
  5. Registration costs reflect rates in South Dakota. Rates vary from State to State.
  6. Costs include regular yearly car and motorhome maintenance as well as money set-aside for repairs and major service items in the future.
  7. There are a number of mail forwarding services from which to choose. Costs include yearly membership, plus mail forwarding fees.
  8. Pet costs include food for up to 3 pets as well as yearly vet visits & money set aside for emergency funds. For some people this cost would be zero.
  9. Most people keep a piece of their lives in storage while others sell everything. For some people this cost would be zero.

VARIABLE MONTHLY COSTS:     THRIF       NOT SO MUCH

  • Gas/Diesel                                        $ 100                   $ 350
  • Camping                                           $   -                      $ 600
  • Groceries                                          $ 300                   $ 500
  • Propane                                            $   20                   $   40
  • Entertainment                                   $   -                      $ 200
  • TV                                                     $   -                      $   60
  • Gifts/Charity                                      $   10                   $   50
  • Clothing/Books/Misc                         $   20                   $ 200

                                         TOTAL:         $ 450            $2,000

I’ve just used a range of very general numbers here, but it’s easy to see that the variable costs are KEY to overall budget.

Camping Fees: If you boondock or volunteer your camping costs can be zero or very close to it. There are people who boondock year-round and only pay small monthly fees to dump, and there are lots of people who enjoy workamping at campgrounds, State Parks, National Forest, Wildlife Refuges and other areas which provide a free campsite. On the other hand those looking to splurge might pay upwards of $1,500/mo in camping fees for fancy “resort-style” campgrounds.

Gas Costs are entirely dependent on how much you travel.  As an example a Motorhome that gets 8 miles/gallon. Current gas prices are $2.25/gallon, so for $100 we can travel 350 miles and for $225 we can travel 800 miles. Many RV’ers do their extensive traveling in the Spring & Summer, while settling in during the Winter months.

Grocery costs on the road are likely to be very similar to what you use at home. There are ways to save by smart-shopping and using farmers markets. It is easy for RV’ers to be tempted to eat out a lot, especially while traveling.

Propane: Propane use can vary a lot depending on how much cold-camping you do (and thus how much you use the furnace). Daily propane use for cooking and refrigerator (when not hooked-up) is fairly modest. Many people plan theirr RVing around warmer climates and only filled-up their 40-gallon tanks a couple of times per year.

Other Costs are very personal and variable. Some are very similar to what you currently spend at home and some will change.  Most likely your clothing costs will decrease drastically, and personal entertainment costs can be close to zero since there is so much to see in America for free and if you eat in the RV most of the time. Depending on your interests and habits you might have other costs that are not included in this article or that other full-timers don’t have.

There are a lot of good websites that list example costs and budgets:


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