RV Living Costs: Full Time in a Motorhome for One Year

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After a year of full time RVing in a Class A motorhome, we sat down to look at our RV living costs. Some costs are calculated on an annual basis and other costs are calculated on a monthly average. RV living costs will vary depending on the number of people, pets, life style, spending habit, and other factors. We hope you find this information helpful as you plan for full time RVing.

RV Living Costs: Full Time in a Motorhome for One Year

Since no two budgets are a like, here are a few notes about our full time motorhome lifestyle to serve as a point of reference.


RV Living Costs Infographic

Cost of RVing full cost breakdown

Fixed Annual RV Living Costs: $15,755 ($1,313 Per Month)

RV Payment: $7,200
Medical Insurance: $5,832 Plan for two adults
RV Insurance: $1,200 Full Time RV Policy
Tow Car Insurance: $1,008 Auto Policy
Club Memberships: $215Costco Executive, Escapees RV Club, Harvest Hosts, and Boondockers Welcome
Vehicle Registration: $205 – Class A RV $132, Tow Car $73
Mail Forwarding Service: $95 Escapees RV Club Mail Forwarding Service

Average Variable RV Living Costs Per Month $1,619:

Food: $539 groceries, restaurants, coffee and alcohol
Gas for RV: $286
 1,000 miles
Gas for Tow Car: $111 1,128 miles
RV Parks/Campgrounds: $153
RV/Tow Car: $132 oil changes and supplies
Dog: $47 food, vet visits, toys, treats
Cell Phone: $184 family plan for 5 lines
Miscellaneous: $167

Lessons Learned:

  • Save money with Gas Buddy App – One of our Essential RVing Apps. This free mobile app displays user updated gas prices in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Find RV Services with Allstays Camp & RV App. We use it to find free dump stations, BLM campgrounds, free campsites, LP stations, rest areas, repair shops and much more.
  • Free and low cost camping isn’t always available. Many places we would typically park for free did not allow overnight parking due to city ordinances. We also found dispersed camping spots that were difficult, if not impossible to get to with the motorhome.
  • Full hookups are well worth the splurge. Although we enjoy dry camping, having full hookups once in a while gives us the ability to take long hot showers, run the heater/ac, enjoy amenities such as spas, laundry, free wifi, unlimited electricity and water.
  • Drive slower and shed some weight! When we increased the speed on our cruise control from around 62 to 70 mph, we noticed a decrease from 7 to 6.5 MPG. Since we do a lot of dry camping we always top off our fresh water tank (75 gallons) whenever we can. This means that we typically drive long distances with an extra couple hundred pounds of water. Shedding the extra weight increased our MPG.
  • Stock up at Costco. Buying certain items in bulk can help save money in the long run. Items like canned goods, oils, paper towels, toilet paper, spices are good to stock up on. Check out How We Save Money at Costco.
  • Research Sales Tax. We were going to make a Costco run in Mobile, AL until we found that the tax rate was 11%! Since we were headed to Tallahassee, FL, we decided to make our purchases there and saved the 3.5% on sales tax.
  • Cracker Barrel is better than Walmart for overnight RV parking. We’ve found that Walmart is very hit or miss in terms of allowing RVs to park overnight. Many Cracker Barrels not only have dedicated RV parking spaces, but they are always friendly and consistent with regards to their overnight policy.
  • The further east we go, the fewer free dry camping spots there are. We have been accustomed to dry camping on BLM or National Forest land and only stay at a campground when we want hookups for a few days. The further east we went, the fewer free camping spots were available. We did seek out more Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome options.
  • 10G data plan is not enough. We started with a 10G AT&T family plan and now have a 20G data plan. This has allowed us to upload more videos from home instead of driving to a coffee shop.
  • Expect the unexpected. We encountered a tornado warning in Florida and can’t stress enough the importance of being prepared for different situations. Twice, we found a screw in our Jeep tire and had to take it in for repairs. Another reason we have a pre-departure check list, which includes checking the tires before taking off.
  • In addition to an emergency fund, put aside money specifically for RV repairs and related costs. We spent a good chunk of money on the spare tire in April and quite a bit on replacing the front windshield on our motorhome in May. Labor for RV repairs is expensive and it’s good to have a separate fund for these unexpected repairs.
  • Save propane with an electric cooker. We started with a slow cooker and now have an Instant Pot. It’s perfect for travel days and the electric cooker doesn’t heat up the motorhome the way a gas range would.
  • Street camping for an extended amount of time is not ideal. Not being able to put our big slide out made living in the motorhome uncomfortable. The sound of city life was also wearing us down. School busses, trash trucks and helicopters became our morning wake up calls.
  • Buy a National Park pass. Individual fees for each park add up quickly, if you plan to go to more than a few parks in a year, this could offer a huge savings. The pass also grants entry to Forest Service and BLM land but does not cover camping fees.
  • Slow down. It’s easy to focus on the destination sometimes and forget about the journey. Take time to enjoy the experience and see where the road leads.

RV Living Costs: Monthly Reports

Each monthly report includes fixed costs (vehicle payment, insurance, mail forwarding service) along with variable costs (food, entertainment, gas, RV supplies). The lessons learned section is where we share tips that helped us or mistakes to avoid. We include a quick snapshot of stats for the month with cost per day, miles driven, generator hours, MPG, nights of paid camping, nights of free camping and meals eaten out.

Note: Businesses expenses such as hosting costs for this site, camera gear, computer gear are not included in these reports.

Full Time RVing Costs: September 2016 – Cost/Day $93.86

Full Time RVing Costs: August 2016 – Cost/Day $104.80

Full Time RVing Costs: July 2016 – Cost/Day $82.68

Full Time RVing Costs: June 2016 – Cost/Day $85.93

Full Time RVing Costs: May 2016 – Cost/Day $99.86

Full Time RVing Costs: April 2016 – Cost/Day $88.08

Full Time RVing Costs: March 2016 – Cost/Day $87.18

Full Time RVing Costs: February 2016 – Cost/Day $97.76

Full Time RVing Costs: January 2016 – Cost/Day $92.13

Full Time RVing Costs: December 2015 – Cost/Day $91.26

Full Time RVing Costs: November 2015 – Cost/Day $97.63

Full Time RVing Costs: October 2015 – Cost/Day $86.65

Full Time RVing Costs: September 2015 – Cost/Day $127.60

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70 thoughts on “RV Living Costs: Full Time in a Motorhome for One Year”

  1. Hey Kait and Joe!
    Thanks for this great finance resource. I recently went full-time on the road in my old RV. As a digital nomad, my biggest cost is currently internet data and insurance (I come from Switzerland and Insurances aren’t cheap at all). I think the area where I’m saving most of my money is camping. I can mostly stay in the wild as I’m fully autonomous regarding electricity. Let’s see how it goes this winter ^^

    Reply
  2. We will soon start our 1st RV trip in our 36 ft. Dolphin. I was wondering what the general gas prices were for your $286 per 1000 miles.

    Reply
    • Hi Karen – we didn’t track the average gas price and that 1,000 miles was for both our RV and Jeep so I don’t know how many total gallons we used. That said, the current national gasoline price is $3.20/gallon. Of course that varies widely across the US. California tends to be the highest in the nation so you’ll need to check prices in the area(s) you plan to travel.

      Reply
  3. Hello thank you all for sharing. We are planning on going full time in an RV and its nice to see where we can save money and things to do at low cost.

    Reply
  4. Hi Kait and Joe! Loving the inspiration given by your stories and Breakdown of costs. I have just now accessed this information and we are in the fall of 2019. I was just wondering if you had a more current breakdown for those of us that are considering doing this in the near future?

    Thank You for Your Time

    Carrie

    Reply
  5. Hi Guys,

    I have a two-part question related to your budgets. While we do not currently plan to live full-time in the van I am trying to make some decisions about camping services. I have signed up for both Allstays and Harvest Hosts so we can Boondock. I have a question about Thousand Trails – you have mentioned it in a couple of videos but I did not see it in the budgets. Do you have any thoughts or recommendations on if the membership is useful and which level you recommend? We got a limited trial membership when we bought our van – but $6000 – $10000 dollars for the membership plus annual dues seems like a lot.

    Car & Denise

    Reply
      • Joe –

        Thank you for the quick response and the link to your comments on Thousand Trails membership.

        We currently have the one zone pass ( for the Northeast region ) that you mention. it is subject to the restrictions you mentioned. I visited one site and spoke with the representative – he is trying to sell me one of the various flavors of a lifetime membership with access to all parks. Those range up from $6000 and still have the annual membership fees ( there may be a reduced rate ).

        So far we have not stayed at a park as there are only a few in the northwest and they are seasonal.

        I will follow your recommendation and try a simple cost benefit analysis – trying to estimate how many days we could stay in a park before breakeven.

        Reply
  6. Just finished reading your book Take Risks and fell in love with the family protector Duke! Your book gives me hope and strength to take the chance of a lifetime!!

    Reply
  7. RV Parks in San Diego area are slim. we’re staying at a park that runs 1075/mo and with this heatwave we’re paying anywhere between 350-450/mo for electric, some are paying up to 700. We’re retired and on fixed income and have 5 years left on our loan. Our rig is a 2004 and are at a loss as to what to do with everything going up. Stay in it til it paid off ? Then no mortgage, just rent or sell and move to an apartment. We’re 72 & 78 years old and now regretting our lifestyle change that we took in 2004.

    Reply
    • You can move out of state where your expenses are not so much Texas is full of the nicest people in the world and way cheaper!!

      Reply
  8. Hi Joe we sold everything 3 years ago and hit the road.We pull a Jayco 28 ft Rls with a Yukon xl. We have 2 large dogs with us .We camphost for 3 months then travel for 3 months. The money we save doing this is our mad money for luxuries in the months we travel. Just wanted ya to know your numbers are pretty accurate. We favor stateparks but have stayed in many different types of campgrounds.Wouldnt trade this life style for any other. Let the good times roll.

    Reply
    • Since we may be losing our housing in the south bay of Los Angeles, my adult son, my ESA and I have considered living in an RV. But since neither of us has ever done this, and he works nearby (he doesn’t drive). We would like to know not only the availability of parking the RV near the area, the expenses we could expect to incur if we aren’t really traveling, and anything else you could tell us to help us decide what to do. (Such as, length of time we can stay in a place, possibilities of rv rentals that allows long-term staying that may already be set up, etc. Anything you can say will help.

      Reply
  9. Hi Kait, I read your post and your website is great. This is a perfect start for us. Thinking about traveling with our 4 dogs in an RV/motorhome. We are tired of corporate America as well and we are good with our money. No debt and such.

    My question is we traveled with 2 dogs before and a lot of the national parks don’t take dogs (not allowed to hike). I know however that national forest though. If you experience the national forest, were they all great hikes in the USA?

    Also have you crossed the borders?

    Reply
  10. Great info, I am retiring in 2 years on a net income of around 5k per month. We plan to stay in long term resorts and not as much traveling. What type class a would you suggest? Gas or DP. Were thinking 38 t0 40 footer.

    Reply
  11. Greetings!
    Thank you for the information on RV monthly expenditures. We will be on the road shortly and have so many questions!! When you were traveling in your gas motorhome and pulling your jeep, how difficult was it going up the mountains in the west U.S. A.? My husband says we should get a diesel motorhome instead of a gas, because of the “wear and tear” on the gas engine.

    Reply
  12. Hi Joe & Kait –
    Just found your site. What a relief it is to find other like minded souls. My wife and I are currently in the scared as sh$* phase as we are putting the house up for sale next month. We did our budget and are more conservative (have higher monthly allowances) than you are showing so it is comforting seeing it can be done for that. Love the idea of living life as we choose and will be following your site and really digging into your tips and suggestions over the next few months. Keep up the great postings! They are very inspirational!

    Reply
    • Hi Marty, can you update us on how things are going? We are considering selling and buying a motor home. Very scary. Our motorhome would be paid for so we would not have that cost. We are on a fixed income of 2600 a month. Can we do it?

      Reply
  13. Hi,

    I have just recently started watching your youtube videos and have enjoyed them alot. I was looking at your cost breakdown per month. I was wondering what company you get your health insurance through? Is there some website I can go to? I appreciate your response.

    Thanks,

    Norm ~

    Reply
  14. I have enjoyed reading your blog. Great ideas and information. My husband and I have just retired and sold our home! We will be heading out shortly…and are excited for the journey. The All stay app sounds like a key…would love to be included in the drawing. I can’t wait to show my husband your site…if he hasn’t seen it already! Thanks for sharing! Happy Trails!

    Reply
  15. Hello Kait and Joe and Leo

    Thanks so much for all the info and videos

    I am wondering how many amps it takes to run the Instant Pot? How much battery capacity and solar does the van have?

    Thanks!

    Katy

    Reply
    • Hey Kathryn,

      I believe it’s around 10amps at the highest setting, but like an oven, when it reaches pressure/temp, it turns the heating element off (and back on when needed). We have 320w of solar and 400 amp hours of lithium ion batteries. They key though is having a large enough inverter to run things like the instant pot. You would need at least a 2000w pure sine inverter. Ours is 3000w.

      Reply
  16. Joe and Kait its been said before here, but i would really like to thank you two for being so very transparent with all of your financial information. For “us” newbies looking to get started it is a huge relief to know that the numbers that we have worked out for “our” full timing are realistic. My wife and two cats are in the process of downsizing and moving full time in too our 30ft 5th wheel. My wife is retiring in August 2017, but i will be working for a couple of two more years full time to get the last few bills paid off before we hit the road full-time. Looking at your way of living gives us both the peace of mind that we are making the right move. Thanks again and please keep posting, your insights and adventures are wonderful.

    Reply
  17. I am so glad to have found your site. Retirement is probably a decade away for me but I find myself dreaming about traveling around with a little trailer I plan to buy (a Happier Camper or HC1). I have started researching being a full timer. I am single, have two dogs and plan to continue having dogs. (i.e., if I don’t get to do this for 10 years, I will have two dogs then; possibly three). I would not have all the luxuries of an RV with fully equipped showers and stuff, but I guess that would cut down dramatically on some expenses too. Were I to do this today. I’d be driving my 2016 Jeep Renegade, pulling the lightweight HC1, a kayak and my bicycle. And writing about my travels. I am so glad that well-written sites like yours are out there! Any ambitions to go International in your travels? Thank you again.

    Bernadette

    Reply
    • Hi Bernadette! Thank you for the wonderful comment. The HC1 is really cool and I love all the color options. We do have plans to go international starting with Canada and Mexico, then we’d love to head over to Europe. Look forward to seeing you on the road one day with your pups in the Renegade and HC1 in tow.

      Reply
  18. My husband and 3 kids are about to embark on a camper journey of our own rather unexpectedly. The home we’ve rented for 2 years is being sold due to landlord’s health. Our poor decisions of our younger years has left our credit as less than desirable but getting better. Housing costs being what they are, we are left with little choice but to try camping as a lifestyle. We are all equally terrified and thrilled at the prospect and have learned a great deal since deciding to do it. I’m going to learn more about the Allstays app. It will come in very handy in my area. We don’t intend to travel so much as live and save every penny we can, so that someday we can buy a home. If nothing else, this will be a grand adventure…

    Reply
    • Hey Crystal – good luck with the new adventure! We’ve met many families who live out of a trailer or motorhome and their kids enjoy it. Good luck with your savings and who know, maybe by the time your ready to buy another house, you won’t feel like you need one any more.

      Reply
    • I think your success will be in your attitude. We HAVE to camp is so different from.. We CHOOSE to camp… As is camping vs rving. I loved the simplicity of it all.

      Reply
  19. One of the things that keeps my wife off the road full-time is health insurance (I’m covered by the VA). If she leaves her job, she could do COBRA for 18 months but the cost would be about $600/mo.) I see that your health insurance costs are substantially less. What type of policy do you have?

    Reply
  20. Your numbers are more complete than others that I have seen. We have been full timing for 9 years so I know there are a lot of things that need to be considered. It appears that laundry is in your misc. entry. Maybe other things are hidden in there too but I wonder about propane, co-pays for medical and drugs. I think you should have a line item for RV and Jeep maintenance and repairs. This can be a significant amount. Another item is admissions and entertainment. Don’t you buy gifts for each other or for relatives? I didn’t see anything about that. The last item has been mentioned in other remarks but I have to bring it up again and that is RV parks. You mentioned in August, 2016 that you spent 21 nights in RV parks and only spent $260. That is an average of $12.38 per night. I don’t know how you found sites this cheap unless you were in a membership campground such as Thousand Trails. If that is the case then you need to add in the prorated purchase price and the annual fees. If it is not the case then good for you. I have budgeted $25 per night and more recently $35 per night. Going to the east coast is more expensive than the midwest or western states. I agree that boonbocking can save some money but it seems like your numbers are pretty unrealistic.

    Reply
    • Doug – every dollar we spent over the year was included so this is realistic for us and how we travel…as stated in the post: RV living costs will vary depending on the number of people, pets, life style, spending habit, and other factors. Yes we wrap various items in the Misc category but we do have the Jeep/RV expenses listed on its own line in the avg monthly costs… RV/Tow Car: $132 oil changes and supplies. If you’re interested in more detail, check out our monthly expense reports and it will break our costs down further – including what we spent on Misc items that month: https://weretherussos.com/cost-of-living-full-time-in-a-rv/

      Reply
  21. My wife and I are new to the Full Time RV life style. We share a very similar situation as the two of you. A Class A Coach, a Jeep Tow Vehicle as well as Pets yes, we have two. A Big Boy, and a little one.
    Your Site provides some great insightful information. I am sure we will follow your site and gain from all of your experiences.
    Thank You for your investment of the time, and effort in sharing all of this.

    Reply
  22. Joe, thank you for your information on full time RVing. My husband and I are in the process of getting rid of all our stuff, house and cars to get ready for retirement in 13 months. We are learning all we can about the RV lifestyle so we will be as prepared as possible and are so excited about this upcoming chapter of our lives. After a lot of research, we decided to go with a Forest River Cedar Creek Silverback 5th wheel and 2500 Diesel truck as our new home. Now the search is on. We have heard a lot about the All Stay app and would love to be entered in your giveaway. We had planned on getting it prior to hitting the road.
    Thanks again for your insight. Hopefully we will meet on the road sometime.

    Reply
    • Hey Karen! You’re very welcome and you’ve been entered. Very exciting times that you’ll be retired in just over a year and hope to see you as well once you’re on the road!

      Reply
  23. Hi! I’m fairly new at this RV living thing and I’m curious about the $153 per month average cost for RV/camping fees you note. I understand that summer is less expensive than winter, for the most part, but a minimum of $20 per night for a week in a National Park, that $153 would come up awfully fast. And full hookups at an RV park I’m seeing anywhere from $20 to $90 (yeh, $90, Candlestick Park in S.F., CA!!! And no, not worth it). Are you boondocking most of the time?

    Reply
    • Hey Jill – yes, we do a lot of boondocking and when we only plan to spend one night, we’ll look for free options such as Cracker Barrel or Walmart. Winter for us is typically the least expensive because we can boondock more and not have to worry about summertime heat/humidity and needing to run the AC.

      Reply
    • Jill, we are early retirees and have been fulltiming for three years. We average about $600 a month in RV site expenses. We prefer state and national parks with electric but do a little boondocking and often in the winter stay longer, taking advantage of monthly rates. Escapees parks are the best for long term stays. We could lower this amount with some effort but it is still less than the taxes were on our home in Austin. Our most expensive stay was $85/night in Jersey City, in view of the Statue of Liberty. Considering hotels in the area are $3-400, we were ok with this in exchange for a short subway or water taxi ride to NYC.

      Reply
  24. Thanks for this! Ours was similar, but we didn’t leave the S.F Bay Area… (Safe clean RV parks are pricey out there!)

    Reply
  25. RV/Tow Car: $132 oil changes and supplies ?
    How many oil changes do you do in a year and what kind of supplies work out to $1,584 over the period of a year?
    Can the average toad (ours is a Ford Focus) expect those costs?
    Toni and Sally
    thebrightwayrvrs.com

    Reply
    • This is an important budget item. In our third year of fulltiming, we had huge repair expenses including the clutch and air conditioning going out in our tow car (2 year old Forester that just had engine replaced by Subaru because of oil consumption issues). We seem to go through tires quickly on the Subaru too even though we are religious about rotations and alignments. Our RV steps cost over $600 to get repaired (three different places over 2 states). We also had to have a $300 repair on the propane heater. Our Tiffen motorhome is 15 years old, has undergone major refurbishment and in great shape but you have to expect repairs, just like in an older home. Better than having a “house” payment to us. Our motto has become “Expect the unexpected”. If you are lucky and don’t have any problems, enjoy the “bonus” at the end of the year.

      Reply
      • You’re completely right…we bought our coach new and in the first year we had to replace the windshield which cost us some money. Always good to expect that these things will happen and being prepared for it.

        Reply
  26. Thanks for being so transparent and sharing this info. Very helpful in planning a future RV lifestyle. I am hoping my husband and I will be full time late next year. I would love to cross paths with you. Will you be still be Rving the next couple of years?

    Reply
    • Hi Tess! We have no plans to stop and would love to keep going for as long as we can. Let us know when you hit the road full time. We have a section at the bottom of our website that shares our current location. If you are close by, feel free to send us a note.

      Reply
  27. Hi, thanks so much for sharing. I am retiring at an early age next year (51). I am single and my budget is $3200/month. So you’re confirmed again that I will be able to do this comfortably.
    I am a big fan of the GasBuddy app but I think it is fair to put an asterisk next to it. If you are in an RV and towing you can’t always use the lowest price stations. As you know navigating with a toad in a tight station can be next to impossible for some stations. Need to check the station via google maps before using a station. IMO of course.
    I agree one needs to be prepared for an emergency. I live in FL now and it can turn quick. I keep an emergency radio that knows my location and “follows” me as I go.

    Reply
    • Hey Joe – to be honest we never had an issue getting in/out of a gas station with our toad. We try to fill at Costco’s and they always have plenty of room but even small country gas stations have worked. However to your point, you can’t just drive in and expect to make it out, there is some planning that needs to happen to ensure you can get in and then back out without having to disconnect the toad. Which radio do you have?

      Reply
  28. So, you use the Instant Pot even when dry camping? How does it affect battery use? Watching your cooking videos is making me want one!

    Reply

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