Dear RV Shrink:
Can you give me an idea of what the RV lifestyle costs per month? My wife thinks we should buy an RV and start spending months on the road exploring North America. We live on our Social Security checks and small retirement investment. It seems to me owning an RV and traveling all the time is as expensive as living on a cruise ship. I don’t want to be a spoiler, but it makes me nervous to think about traveling around not having a handle on budget costs. My wife says I worry too much, and that millions of people are living this very lifestyle. Any help would be greatly appreciated. —Bean Counter in Boston
Dear Mr. Bean:
The simple answer is “NO,” I can’t tell you. But I will give you some food for thought. Everyone has a personal lifestyle. Some cost much more than others. Your basic cost of living shouldn’t change much – you are just taking it on the road. The unknowns for you are rent, gas, maintenance and entertainment. You are still going to eat, drink and be merry whether you stay home or travel.
It is like taking a cruise. Are you going to stay in a suite, steerage or something in between? Are you going First Class or Coach? Are you buying a Rock Star Bus or a pop-up? Are you paying cash or financing? Do you like to eat out all the time or mostly in? Do you want to boondock or stay at the RV Ritz?
The RV lifestyle can be whatever you want to make it. You can guesstimate your fuel consumption when you know where you want to go and what you will be driving. You can figure your rent costs when you know where you want to stay and for how long. You can estimate your monthly budget on ownership after you know what you are going to buy and how you are going to pay for it. These are all variables that need to be tweaked constantly. Fuel prices go up and down, camping fees just go up, maintenance issues are unknown, and entertainment is a personal choice.
Bottom line is, don’t sweat it. If you want to travel badly enough, you can make it fit any budget.
Do some comparison math. Take a pretend plane or train trip across the country. Include your fares, entertainment, room and board, other transportation, and how you are going to finance it. Then do the same trip in an RV with all its costs included. I think you will discover it is a lot cheaper to take a much longer RV trip than a train or plane ride.
You have a lot more control over your costs when you have your housing with you. Being frugal, going nuts, or finding some financial middle ground will make all the difference in whether an RV lifestyle will work out for you.
In my opinion, spending time in an RV exploring is no more expensive than staying home, if all other aspects of income, financing and lifestyle are the same.
There is only one way to find out for sure. Go for it! —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink
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