We started living in our RV last year and have since received many questions. One of the top questions we receive is about how much it costs to RV and whether cheap RV living is even possible.
This is a hard question to answer, as RVing can be extremely cheap or it can be very expensive.
While there is no one size fits all RV budget, there are many common RV expenses. We definitely aren’t experts at RVing either, so you may find that your RVing expenses are slightly different than ours. I’ve heard that new RVers tend to spend more than the average RVer, because we like to drive all over the place with no idea of what we’re doing, haha! Plus, everyone travels a little differently too.
RVing is a lot of fun, and I really don’t know when we will go back to living a more “normal” life. It took my husband a surprisingly long time to convince me to get an RV, but now I know it was the best decision for us.
We love being in our RV!
Typical RV expenses include:
- Your RV
- Campgrounds and RV parks
- Cell phone and internet
Below, I have expanded on the typical RV expenses. You can travel for a lot less and make cheap RV living possible, or you can live in an RV for a lot more. Like I said above, everyone’s RVing style is different.
So, is cheap RV living possible?
Typical expenses related to your actual RV include the RV you buy, sales tax (this can be quite high in some states!), license and registration fees, property taxes, and maintenance.
RV prices can vary widely. You may be able to find a used RV for less than $10,000, or you can buy a brand new and extremely luxurious RV for over $1,000,000.
Whether you buy a new or old RV, many are purchased by taking out a loan, and RV loans are a little different from car loans. You can often get an RV loan for 15 or 20 years. So, I always recommend that you are careful, because a 15 or 20 year loan can make an RV seem more affordable when in reality it is not.
Fuel is super cheap right now. There are many RVs out there only getting around 6 to 10 miles per gallon, and this cheap gas is probably changing some people’s lives, haha!
If you want to save money on gas, one big thing you can do is to travel more slowly. Lately, we have been traveling at a slower pace and have noticed a huge difference in fuel costs.
Our typical monthly expense: $200. By traveling more slowly, our average monthly gas cost is low despite living a life on the road.
Campgrounds and RV parks.
Your nightly stays when RVing can vary widely. There are numerous awesome places to camp for free in the United States, and then there are RV resorts that can charge $150+ a night.
To find free camp stays, I recommend searching All Stays, Free Campsites, and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. We love free camping, because you can usually find some amazing places with beautiful trails close by. Plus, you may also get a large amount of area to yourself. Free camping can include something like parking at a Walmart (this is for when you are trying to get somewhere and just need a place to rest and/or sleep) to staying on amazing BLM land in national forests. There are no hookups, but many RVs are fine for a week with no hookups anyway.
Campgrounds at state and national parks can vary widely. I’ve been to a state park in California that was $50 a night (California has the most expensive state campgrounds I’ve seen so far) with no hookups, and I’ve also been to beautiful campgrounds for $8 a night in Colorado.
RV parks can vary too. Sensing a theme here? Everything varies! We’ve stayed at an RV park for $17 a night with our Passport America card, and we’ve also stayed at one for $60 a night. The longer you stay at an RV park, usually the cheaper the cost. So, if you book a place for a whole month, you may be able to save a considerable amount of money versus moving to a new spot every day.
If you plan on staying at a lot of RV parks, I highly recommend getting both a Passport America and Good Sam card. They usually pay for themselves in just one or two uses and are well worth it.
Our typical monthly expense: $600.
There are many different types of insurance that you may need when traveling in an RV. You will need insurance for your car, RV, health, and possibly others.
RV insurance can vary depending on the company you choose to go with, the state you live in, the type of RV you have, and whether you are RVing full or part-time.
If you are interested in RVing, then health insurance can be a tough hurdle. A post I recently wrote for Winnebago details the different health insurance options for part-time and full-time RVers and may help you decide which route to take.
Our typical monthly expense: $100 for RV and car insurance, and $250 for health insurance (we now belong to Liberty Healthshare).
Whatever you spend on food now is probably a similar amount to what you’ll spend if you travel or live in an RV. This is because your RV still has all of the same things your home has, such as a stove and fridge.
You might start spending slightly more on eating out if you RV, because you may want to try out all of the popular restaurants when visiting a new town. It’s all about personal preference, though.
Our typical monthly expense: $750. This includes restaurants, drinks, and groceries. It’s high right now, but I expect it will soon go back down to around $500.
Entertainment costs are something that may go up once you start RVing. You will probably want to check out events happening around you, which can add costs such as admission among other things.
For us, we love doing things outdoors. Because we already have all of the equipment we need in order to go mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, and so on, our entertainment costs are pretty similar when compared to before. We still keep an entertainment line in our budget, though, as we still like to go on guided rock climbing trips, we occasionally need to replace some of our equipment, and more.
Our typical monthly expense: $100.
Cell phone and internet.
The main way the average RVer seems to stay connected is by having both AT&T and Verizon services. With these, you will almost always have service when working on the road.
We have a Verizon MiFi for our internet coverage, and it’s something I definitely recommend if you are working on the road. It’s not cheap, but it’s pretty much a need if you work online. It starts around $50 for 5 GBs, but the price per GB gets cheaper as you buy more. There are other options as well for internet and even for Verizon, but this just works for us.
Our typical monthly expense: $175. Yes, this is high, but I need internet in order to work, so I am willing to pay for it.
This is pretty much just everything else you might spend money on. This could include flights back home (if you need to make a quick trip back), pet costs, mail forwarding service (we use My Dakota Address), laundry, propane, clothing, and more.
We find that we do a lot less shopping now that we’re in the RV. This is because RVs have limited space and can only hold so much weight, so you really think long and hard about whether or not each purchase is worth it.
Our typical monthly expense: $75 for our dogs (food, treats, annual vet visit, etc.), $18 for the mail forwarding service, $25 for laundry, $15 for propane, and $75 for clothing.
Are you interested in traveling or living in an RV? Why or why not? Would you be interested in cheap RV living, or do you think you would spend a lot of money?
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