Wednesday, November 29, 2023


ABCs of full-time RV living

We are full-time RVers, living our dream. We belong to that ever-growing group of adventurous people that have sold their sticks-and-bricks houses, gotten rid of almost all their belongings, and left friends and family behind to live the dream of RV living full-time.

What is full-time RV living?

A full-time RVer has stopped vacationing in an RV and begun calling it home. Full-time RV living is taking all of the fun and excitement of an RV vacation and combining it with the everyday chores and sometimes mundane aspects of daily living. We are living in an RV full-time and living our dream, traveling this amazing country, but our lives are still filled with “to-do” lists and everyday chores.

Living in an RV full-time: Haven’t made up your mind yet?

Full-time RV living is certainly a big decision. It is not one to make without careful, informed consideration. There are a lot of things to think about, questions to ask and explore before taking the plunge:

  • If in a relationship or married, are both equally excited by the idea? If not, it is important to talk it through and set up some parameters both can agree to. Perhaps it is taking a test run for a few months and then deciding. It may be that one person is okay with a trial period but doesn’t want to change anything on the homefront yet.
  • What is your risk tolerance? There is a certain amount of risk involved in any major change. Illness, money, accidents are all amplified when living in an RV full-time.
  • What is your capacity for change? The first big change is changing everything, and the next one, particularly if traveling, is changing places, people and climates often.
  • Try it out. Try living in an RV full-time for six months without making any major changes at home. That will help determine if it is right for you.
  • Can you afford it? Make a realistic budget ahead of time. Living full-time in an RV is not necessarily cheaper than living in a house or apartment. Things break down, gas prices are high and campsites can run as much per day as an apartment.

Full-time RVing costs and expenses

Figuring out a rough budget will help determine the next steps. Balancing costs against financial resources will determine what is essential and what is nice to have. There is not a set amount for full-time RVing costs. Each circumstance is different. Do your research for your specific state, vehicle and needs. These are the general costs to consider.

RV purchase

This is obviously the biggest investment. If towing an RV, you will need a vehicle to pull it. If you’ll be in a motorhome, you may want a tow car to give more flexibility when you arrive at your destination. Connecting and disconnecting an RV just to go to the grocery store gets old really quickly. Factor in interest payments, or long-term rental costs if not buying.


Campsites can range from $20 to more than $100 a night depending on the type of campsite or RV park. State, county and city parks are usually the cheapest but with limited hookups. RV resort camping is the highest. 

Monthly RV park rental can be substantially less costly for the full-time RVer than are nightly rates, but they will usually charge separately for electricity. Work camping will reduce or eliminate campsite costs, while boondocking or dry camping is usually no cost but have no hookups. 

Internet and phones  

Staying connected with friends and family or when working remotely is more important than ever. We keep two different cell providers to have service wherever we travel and have invested in Wi-Fi and cell booster systems. If you’ll be working from your RV, you will probably need to invest in equipment that allows access to enough data and bandwidth to work. We have invested more than $2,000 in equipment to keep ourselves connected because RV park Wi-Fi is notoriously slow and sometimes nonexistent.

Maintenance and repairs 

Repairs can take a huge chunk of your money. Even in the newest RVs, things can go wrong, very wrong, and it is expensive, particularly when out of warranty. Your tow vehicles, whether towing a trailer or being towed, will need servicing as well. When living full-time in an RV, maintenance and repairs become a major issue, particularly if you can’t stay in the RV during the repairs. 


There may well be equipment you want to add to your RV. Things like satellite dishes, air compressors, tire minders, water filtration systems, antennas and boosters, tow bars or tow dollies all add additional expense.


Costs will be similar, if not higher, for the care of your pets when on the road. They are more prone to accidents while in new, unfamiliar areas, and not having a permanent vet may cause visits to be more expensive.


Costs can be similar to home if you plan to cook most of your meals in the RV. Food costs will be much higher if you decide to enjoy the local cuisine and want to eat out often.


Clothing is usually a minimal cost as there is not a lot of closet space and most of your clothing will be casual! Even if working from your RV, you probably won’t need a suit and tie.

Mail service 

Will you subscribe to a mail service ($20 – $40 a month) or have someone forward your mail? Either way, there are costs to getting your mail.


Fuel costs are soaring. Full-time RV living implies that you will be moving, at least part of the time, and it can get expensive. If you want to cut fuel costs, staying in one place for a month or a season will significantly reduce those costs.


Many RVs heat and cook with propane. Like all fuels, the costs have risen. Because we generally use electric heaters and minimal propane, we can get by on about 80–100 gallons a year. 


Most overnight or short-term RV parks don’t charge for electric use. If renting by the week or month, you will generally need to pay a separate charge for individual electric use. That can really add up in hot summer months or if you’ll be heating with electricity. We made a significant investment in solar power that is more than adequate when boondocking.

Vehicle registration   

The amount of your vehicle registration and ongoing licensing will depend on the state you decide on for residency. If you’re buying a new or relatively new RV, expect a big chunk of sales tax in whatever state you have residency in.

Vehicle insurance 

You will need full-time RV insurance. Check with your agent. Progressive, GEICO, National General are all popular policies when living in an RV full-time. Just like a house, insurance can cover belongings in the event of a catastrophic loss.

Health insurance

Talk with your health insurance agent. Research is needed to make sure any existing policies will cover different states while traveling.

Recreation and entertainment

Living in an RV full-time provides the opportunity to explore and see new things. There are admission fees, travel fees, and memberships to account for. If your bucket list contains the National Parks, buying an annual pass or senior lifetime pass can cut costs.

Storage units

If you just couldn’t get rid of all your stuff, storage units are available for monthly or yearly rental. Storage units can run from $35 to well over $200 a month. Long-term storage can definitely eat into your bankroll. We paid for two years’ storage and realized we could buy the stuff for less than our storage fees. That being said, we did force our kids to hold on to a few things for us.

Establishing a full-time RV budget

When establishing a budget you will need some flexibility – things happen, plans change. A good starting point is to look at the current day-to-day expenses that you will still have when full-timing. As we put most of our expenses on a credit card or paid online I could get a rough idea of costs we would still have. 

We already owned our house and our RV. It was easy to see that full-time RV living could be equal to or exceed our current monthly expenses. The highest costs would be gas, campsites and potential RV repairs.

  • I created a rough spreadsheet and easily listed known costs, food, clothing, medical, medications, and subscriptions that we planned to keep.
  • I then added those items that will be replacing those estimated costs. For example, existing home cable Wi-Fi would be exchanged for increasing data on existing and new cell plans. Cable TV would now be exchanged for Netflix, Hulu and/or Amazon Prime video.
  • Gas was in the unknown category. Fuel costs were going to jump in an RV. How much depended on how much we planned to travel.
  • Some RVers put aside money every month into an emergency fund to cover repairs, hotels, and airfares if needed.

Six years into living in an RV full-time, I have a good idea of costs. When we travel for the summer and I spend money with abandon, I can count on racking up thousands of dollars a month. When we hunker down for the winter and work camp, I still spend with abandon and our costs can be less than a thousand dollars a month. The advantage of an RV is that there is only so much room. Something in, something out. By now, we have all the major items purchased and no place for anything else.

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Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon has been a full-time RVer living “The Dream” for the last six years and an avid RVer for decades more! She works and travels across the country in a 40’ motorhome with her husband. Having been a professional food photographer for many years, she enjoys snapping photos of food, landscapes and an occasional person. They winter in Arizona and love boondocking in the desert. They also enjoy work camping in a regional park. Most of all, she loves to travel.



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Neal Davis (@guest_228072)
8 months ago

Thanks Nanci! I bought Gaylord Maxwell’s book about full-timing from the RV Travel bookstore before Chuck closed the bookstore. DW and I took the quiz at the end and confirmed our suspicions that we were not full-time material. A four-month trip to Alaska during the summer of 2019 confirmed the quiz results. Safe travels! 🙂

Joe Allen (@guest_210329)
1 year ago

Great article and one that should resonate with your readers. We are on our 9th year of full time living and have done this twice. My mom & dad this this for 17 years on the road and when they quit, their only regret was “they didn’t see it all”! Says a lot about our great and beautiful country. We really don’t regret anything, but wish we had also done it sooner with our small children back then. We both retired at 56 and have been on the road 6 years and went back to a stick and brick and then started it again with this being our 3rd full year. Never enough time and sometimes money to boot! Enjoy life, nobody gets out alive!

Tom H. (@guest_210325)
1 year ago

Funny, right before reading this a gentleman passed by and said “you look like you got it made”. And you know what we do. We sold everything that’s not in the truck and 5th wheel in 2019. We’ve not looked back and wondered did we make a mistake. Our only regret, when asked, is not doing it sooner. Was it hard? Selling everything? No. Leaving friends and family? Yes. But we do not regret it. When that gentleman said “you look like you got it made” I thought “Yes I do”. My 30 plus years of military service now pays for a lifestyle of slowing down and exploring thisgreat country I spent so many years defending. We workkamp now t supplement the budget and life is good.

Joe Allen (@guest_210330)
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom H.

Thank you for your service! USAF 62-66

Gordon den Otter (@guest_210324)
1 year ago

One other cost to take into account: if you later decide to stop RVing (maybe due to health issues), your RV will likely be worth a lot less than what you paid for it. It may even be almost worthless. Do you have the resources to live in a fixed location? Can you buy or rent a home? This is a really hard question, because nobody knows what the future is like.

Ival Secrest (@guest_156390)
1 year ago

You did an excellent job describing the many aspects of full-timing. We embarked on our 2nd stint of full-timing. The cost of RV sites has soared within the past 5 years. Years ago, we joined a few organizations that gave us access to membership parks at a reduced fee. We have reduced the number of organizations to those we use most frequently. Examples are Coast-Coast, AOR which provides access to ROD, Passport America, FMCA, and Thousand Trails.

John Johnston (@guest_156040)
1 year ago

Thanks for your contribution. I realize this is a blog written by an American travelling mostly south of the 49 parallel. My question concerns health insurance. It is already probably a big budget item already, but as Canadians wanting to travel in the States, it becomes an issue. How do you budget it in? Do you have to spend time in a particular place not to lose certain benefits? Thanks

Rosy (@guest_155955)
1 year ago

We have been fulltimers for six years. I just told a frIend considering this lifestyle to go big or stay home! There is much to be said for weekend, even two weeks, of camping in smaller rigs, but I can’t imagine living in a 28 foot travel trailer day in and day out! To those who do, I respect your choice so there is no need to tell us how much love and tolerance allows you to be happy with only two pair of shoes, paper plates, and having to unfold your bed nightly. This lifestyle is full of unknowns! A magnet on our refrigerator reminds us that life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain. And there’s been a lot of rain!

Leslie P (@guest_155939)
1 year ago

We’ve been full time for 5.5 years. It’s definitely not cheap but has been a wonderful choice. We’ve switched RV’s 4 times. That can get expensive! One of the biggest surprise to me was when we moved into our current truck camper, we put our 40’ fifth wheel in storage. I was going to transfer my full time coverage from the fifth wheel to the truck camper. Not so fast! I was told that since we were registered domicile in South Dakota, (our Vilano is stored in Washington state) that we either had to move it to SD or re-license our Vilano to Washington state. Otherwise we were to pay an additional $1400 a month for out of state storage! It was cheaper to keep the full time insurance, which is not cheap at all. Decisions often cost more than expected. We are thrilled with our decision none the less.

Chris O (@guest_155992)
1 year ago
Reply to  Leslie P

Four times in a little over five years is a lot! I’d be curious to know what your choices in RVs were, and why you chose them.

Bonnie (@guest_155936)
1 year ago

Food, fuel and fun are the biggest costs in our full-time RV budget. Similar to sticks & bricks days. More DIY in RV though.

Cindy (@guest_155882)
1 year ago

Been full time since early 2020. Repairs have demolished our savings and retirement plans. Otherwise, we have enjoyed RV life.

Tommy Molnar (@guest_155950)
1 year ago
Reply to  Cindy

Now THERE’S a real endorsement for full-timing . . . 🙂
Actually, I’m sorry to read this.

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