This post is all about our cost to live in an RV full time, back in year 1 of our full time RV travels. We’re now part way through year 4 of full time RVing with our two kids and a dog in a fifth wheel, so we have a lot of cost data and experience we want to share with you. Last time, we told you about our first RVing experience, just the 2 of us, 6 months in a travel trailer going all around the country and living like we were on vacation. Now you’ll be able to see the cost difference between that RV road trip and the cost of full time RV life.
Watch the video below to hear what year 1 on the road cost us. Then continue scrolling down to read more!
What Does It Cost To Live In An RV Full Time?
“What does it cost to live in an RV full time?” is a question that is asked all the time. We thought because we have all this information, we could share it with you. We hope that we can inspire you in your own travels, and sometimes the financial piece of that can be daunting. So we want to show that it is possible. Then maybe this information can help you plan your next steps too.
So here we’ll take you through each category & overall costs like last time, but now, with a larger RV, a bigger family, and showing you how RV full time costs differ from an extended trip. Keep reading so we can answer how much it cost us to live in an RV full time in our first year.
How We Got Started Full Timing
After our 6 month RV roadtrip when we relocated to Denver from the D.C. area and started work again, we originally thought we’d be there long-term. We really did love it and it’s still one of our favorite places. But we eventually started thinking about RVing again. We had our two kids and I was already working remotely, so we thought fulltime RV life was possible and what we wanted to do next.
So we bought a fifth wheel at the beginning of 2018 and moved in right at the end of February. So our RV full time costs for this first year will be from March 2018 through February 2019.
Year 1 Fulltime RVing Route
A quick story about what our first year looked like for some context for the numbers. This was now our life so we wanted to live more reasonably, pace ourselves, and have more of a budget compared to our 6 month trip. We now had two very young kids and a dog and we were working while on the road.
- Starting off we were semi-stationary in the Denver, CO area for the first 6 months and still had our Subaru as a 2nd vehicle for part of the year. We weren’t stationary in one spot but various campgrounds around Denver (mostly the state parks).
- Then we took a trip out to IL to visit family.
- Another trip took us to the west coast to see more family. We stayed with family in both instances so that saved a lot on campgrounds.
- We went to Germany for a few weeks but this was cheaper for us than you’d expect and we’ll talk more about that later when we get into the numbers.
- At the end of the year we then headed to FL to establish residency there.
There are various items that are not included in the monthly RV costs or in the grand total costs. These include:
- Our Truck and Fifth Wheel: We used money from the sale of our townhome & savings to pay those outright so there weren’t any monthly payments. But we’ll share those costs here:
- Truck cost: $47,204. It’s a 2016 RAM 3500 dually and it had ~31K miles on it at the time of purchase.
- RV cost: $66,981. It’s a 2018 Jayco Pinnacle 37MDQS. We bought the RV new. What we wanted seemed to be more expensive on the used market than we could buy a new one for. So that’s what we did!
- Getting the truck and RV: We bought both out of state so Kevin took a trip to pick up the truck in OH and then later the RV in IN. If you’re willing to look out of state, you may find a better deal. Just factor in that you then may have costs to get it to where you are.
- Moving into the RV: Theses costs included boxes, RV storage for a week until we were ready to begin moving in, additional camping days to overlap our apartment during move-in, and travel expenses to take some additional things to Christine’s dad’s storage unit where we keep some things.
- Keeping a home or rental, storage fees, laundry: We didn’t have another home, or storage fees we personally had to pay, or laundry fees since we have that built into our RV.
- Savings & investments, charity, business expenses: We don’t include these in what we’re sharing here.
So if you have any of those, keep that in mind for what additional costs you may have.
Why RV Costs Can Vary
Also keep in mind that RVing costs vary drastically from person to person depending on the size of your family, how you’re living, what you’re doing, how fast you’re moving, and many other factors. We just want to show you what this cost our family. It may cost you more or less.
Included RV Costs
So here we go, our average RV living cost per month for each category and their annual totals. We’ll tell you a bit about each category in the bullet points. Then check out the table for average monthly costs and total annual costs for year 1. We’ll give you the grand totals of everything combined at the end.
- Groceries: This is food, drinks, and anything else we buy at grocery stores. We’ll share restaurants and additional general merchandise separately.
- Fuel: This includes diesel fuel for our truck, and gas for our Subaru which we still had at the time. We used the Subaru mostly to get around locally while we were still in CO. We didn’t take it on our longer trips and sold it before heading to FL. Also, there was gas for the generator we bought a couple months in but didn’t use much, as well as propane.
- General Merchandise / Miscellaneous: This includes things that aren’t food and drink but we also couldn’t just buy at the grocery store. Things like clothes, presents, toys & games, other supplies, postage, ATM withdrawals that we didn’t tie specifically to other categories, essential oils, electronics, etc. It also includes RV related things which this year were items like a bike rack, shoe rack, our awesome dishwasher, tubs & organizational items, the generator, a WeBoost, HEPA filter, easy starts for the ACs, you get the idea. We did have to buy a lot for the RV to start off in the first year.
- Medical/Dental/Vision Care: Since we were working while traveling unlike the first time, we were covered through my company and an HSA.
- Entertainment & Travel: This category includes the things we do for fun. We find a lot of free or cheap things to do when we can. At times we pay for entrance tickets, museums, events, festivals, state parks and so on. This also includes our National Parks Pass which is essential. Travel includes any flights, rental cars, hotels, for example so it included our Germany trip to visit family. The travel portion is fairly low because we stayed with relatives and shared costs for food. It’s thankfully not too expensive once we get ourselves there. This category also includes any parking and tolls.
- Restaurants: We definitely liked to eat out at restaurants and still did more of this at the time. It’s a fun part of travel for us to try the local places and enjoy the experience. But back then we didn’t typically need to order a meal separately for our kids. They were so young and would often share.
- Recurring Costs: These include truck, Subaru, and RV insurance, phone & internet connectivity, mail service, and long-term care insurance. At the time we still had our vehicles and the RV rolled into a single USAA plan. Kevin’s phone plan was still a business expense this year. And we’d just tether from our phones. This also included Netflix for a couple months until we cut that. For mail service we started with a P.O. box in CO initially and then St. Brendan’s Isle in FL later in the year when we left CO and needed a mail forwarding service.
- Vehicle Maintenance Budget: This was to maintain our truck, Subaru, and RV. These costs included routine maintenance as well as repairs plus any RV projects. There were things like oil changes and alignments, filters, new tires, a windshield replacement, replacing the RV door latch, generator oil, building a gate for the RV loft, TV antenna repair, and so on. Though there seemed to be less maintenance this year with a new RV compared to later years, we recommend you budget for maintenance and expect things to happen that need to be repaired, because they will.
- RV Rent: This includes the cost for traditional campgrounds of all types, minimal dump station fees we had a couple times, as well as a Thousand Trails membership. We bought this in October and used it mostly in FL after heading there in November.
- Thousand Trails is a membership program with campgrounds around the country. You can use them without paying an additional nightly fee. The number of nights you can stay, how far in advance you can book, and if you have to spend a certain number of nights outside of the system between stays, are all dictated by the specific membership and membership contract that you have. We started with the annual camping pass, for one zone in the country (of which there are 5). We added on the Trails Collection, which gave us additional Encore campground access. With our membership we could stay for 14 nights, but then had to be out for 7 days. My dad had been using this membership for years and told us about it. When there was a TT location where we wanted to be, it really worked out well. We actually ended up upgrading eventually, but we’ll talk about that in the video for our year 2 RVing costs.
- Our RV rent costs were much lower than they would have been if we hadn’t stayed with family for quite some time. When we weren’t in CO, we were visiting family on the West Coast or in IL and staying with them. So we were thankful for that and that worked out well to offset the cost of staying in campgrounds otherwise.
RV Costs Table
That brings our grand totals to $3,912 per month for our first year as full time RVers that cost us a total of $46,947.
So now we’ve shown you what it cost to live in an RV full time for our 1st year as we initially hit the road. What do you think? We hope this helps you and we would love to answer any questions you have on this topic.
Stay tuned for our next RV cost video and blog post. We will talk year 2 and how the RV cost picture changes when we’re not semi-stationary for half the year but instead do a lot of awesome traveling.
Free RV Budget Resources
We also post our current monthly RV expense reports that are very in depth. You can check those out monthly. You can even download the spreadsheets and graphs and charts that we use to track our budget.
Additionally, we’ve been posting our high level current monthly RV costs on Instagram if you want to check it out in that format.
- How To Overspend: Epic 6 Month RV Trip Expenses
- RV Budget and Expense Report – August 2021
- RV Budget and Expense Report – July 2021
- RVing Budget and Expense Report – June 2021
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