RVing Costs During Covid: Cost To Live In An RV Full Time
This post is all about our cost to live in an RV full time, back in year 3 of our full time RV travels. Last time, we told you about our second year of full-time family travel, where we did a lot more awesome traveling, including fall in the northeast and down the east coast. Now we’ll share the cost of full time RV life in year 3 compared to our previous years.
The cost to live in an RV full time can definitely change from year to year, but we had anticipated a bit more consistency from year 2 to year 3, considering we felt like we had hit our stride and were continuing on with more travel; however, this was the year Covid hit and that all went out the window.
Watch the video below to hear what year 3 on the road cost us. Then continue scrolling down to read more!
What Does It Cost To Live In An RV Full Time?
We’re sharing our cost to live in an RV full time as we think transparency around RVing costs is helpful and we want to share what we’ve learned. We hope it helps you or you at least find it interesting!
We’ll take you through each category & overall costs like last time, but now, as our original plans drastically change along with some of our costs! In this video we’ll share our cost to live in an RV full time from March 2020 through February 2021. Keep reading so we can answer how much it cost us to live in an RV full time in our third year.
Year 3 Fulltime RVing Route
At the end of year 2, we were back in Florida after our fall in the northeast caravanning with Christine’s Dad in his RV, and traveling down the east coast. We had just gone to a Fulltime Families Connect Rally to round out Year 2, and at the beginning of Year 3, we attended another rally with the group, the Fulltime Families Reunion Rally, with lots of people and lots of fun.
If Year 1 was being stationary in Denver for 6 months with a few trips mixed in, and then truly going full time and heading to FL to establish residency… And Year 2 was tons of travel with some visits with friends and family mixed in… Year 3 was going to be another year of lots of travel and sightseeing, checking off more new states on our map, meeting more new friends on the road through several planned events, and more.
After the Fulltime Families Rally, we were going to go into Alabama to the RV Entrepreneur Summit, which we had been wanting to do every year since its inception, but with pregnancies and young kids we hadn’t been able to, but this year was finally going to be it…but no…Thankfully they were able to do a virtual summit instead which was great also, but not the same. We had planned to visit a friend and see the U.S. Space & Rocket Center as well before heading to Colorado to see friends and then on to the west coast.
On the way we were going to do two stretches of a week or so of nothing but Harvest Host stays as we went cross-country. We told you about Harvest Hosts in the last post and video. Staying at a bunch of farms, and wineries, and so on would have been awesome. We still need to do something like that at some point.
We had planned to get to the West Coast to go to the Track and Field Olympic trials with my Dad in Eugene, OR in the summer. Since I, Christine, ran track and cross-country when I was younger, as did my Dad, that was always something we connected through as I was growing up and would have been such a neat experience. After that we would have explored out west a bit and then taken a trip to Germany. Well, we spent some time being sad about what couldn’t be, and then made the best of it. So now let’s tell you what the year really looked like.
The other plans we had for the year changed very quickly once the pandemic began and we instead decided to head west from Florida to Colorado via Louisiana and Texas and then on to family in Washington and Oregon to have a place to stay for a while as we waited to see what would happen. We were fortunate to be able to do that and not have to worry about what campgrounds were open, or what places would shut down.
On our way cross-country the Louisiana state park we stayed in closed down the day we left, and in Colorado a state park we were going to stay in for a bit before continuing on was closing as we arrived in the late afternoon. They thankfully let us stay one night and figure out next steps because of a high wind advisory on the interstates. Otherwise that would have been a tricky situation. We found another park in Colorado in Glenwood Springs to rest for a bit, and then headed first to family in Washington for almost 2 months, and then to family in Oregon for another almost 2 months.
Starting To Travel Again
When we finally started traveling a bit again we went through southern Idaho, to northwest Montana. Due to the wildfires in the west we then headed south pretty quickly for a little while, into Utah and Nevada where we explored for a bit.
We headed back up to Oregon for late fall and to spend time with Kevin’s brother and his family as they welcomed a new baby, then spent the holidays through the new year in Nevada with Christine’s Dad. In January we went to Arizona and spent the next several months there to round out year 3 for us. What started as a very different year ended up being one that despite the challenges and changes, was one with many blessings as well. We had a lot of time with family, more than we’d had maybe ever. That was great for us, and even more special for the kids.
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 back in the D.C. area & savings to pay those outright so there weren’t any monthly payments. But we shared what those originally cost us in our Year 1 post & video.
- Keeping a home or rental: We don’t have another home we maintain or rent out. We sold our townhome a few years after we left the D.C. area originally and were only renting prior to starting full-time RVing.
- Storage fees: We don’t have storage fees we personally have to pay, but we do store some items with Christine’s Dad.
- Laundry: We don’t have any laundry fees since we have a washer and dryer built into our RV.
- Firewood: We have a propane fire pit.
- 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 our own family’s cost to live in an RV full time. 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 individual sections. Then check out the table for average monthly costs and total annual costs for year 3. We’ll give you the grand totals of everything combined at the end.
This is food, drinks, and anything else we buy at grocery stores. We’ll share restaurants and additional general merchandise separately. This cost increased for us again in Year 3. I think we can again attribute it to our kids eating even more and grocery costs continuing to get more expensive, especially during the pandemic. We also mostly cut out restaurants starting in March except for some take out here and there, so we bought more groceries instead. With the unknowns there were times we stocked up more on various things as well.
This includes diesel fuel for our truck, gas for our generator, and propane. Fuel costs in year 3 were the cheapest yet in our RV travels. Even though we did a long haul across the country and then to some additional states later in the year, once we got to the places we were going, we didn’t drive much at all compared to the previous year.
General Merchandise / Miscellaneous
This includes things that aren’t food and drink but we couldn’t buy at the grocery store, 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 in year 3 were a hitch lock and generator spark plugs. This cost went up a bit from the year before, mostly because we were due for another new phone, new bedding and clothes, and bought some artwork as well. In year 3 these costs were mostly non-RV related.
Since we were working while traveling, we were covered through my company and an HSA.
Entertainment & Travel
This category includes the things we do for fun. We find free or cheap things to do when we can and this year spent a lot of time hanging out with family, but this year we paid for the Fulltime Family Reunion Rally, the virtual RVE summit, a Datebox subscription, a Christmas Lights drive in Vegas, and a National Parks Pass.
This year we didn’t have anything additional for travel, which would typically include any flights, rental cars, or hotels. Though we had planned to go to Germany and had already bought tickets, these were thankfully refunded in full. This category also typically includes any parking and tolls but we didn’t have any costs for those this year. Our entertainment and travel costs definitely decreased from the year before.
Our restaurant costs went way down this year, for obvious reasons. We’ve always enjoyed going out to eat and checking out local places as we travel the country so this was definitely a change for us, but we fairly quickly got used to it.
These include truck and RV insurance, phone & internet connectivity, mail service, legal shield and long-term care insurance. Truck insurance was through USAA. RV insurance was through Progressive. Phone and internet increased again from the year before, because unfortunately the awesome AT&T unlimited plan for our Togo router was discontinued so we switched to Nomad Internet and our costs went up. We still both had our phones through Google Fi. Our mail service was still through St. Brendan’s Isle in FL.
Vehicle Maintenance Budget
These costs included routine maintenance and repairs for our truck and RV, as well as RV projects. This year we had a large cost for our battery upgrade and RV solar system installation. Without those two projects, which together were $17,319, the rest of the maintenance costs were actually a bit lower than last year.
For the truck this included: new tires, an oil change, and truck tags. For the RV this included: new tires, water flow meters, an air compressor, a TPMS, water filters, replacement drawer rails, a new sewer hose & drain de-clogger, & our 2 year registration renewal.
We decided this was the year we would give ourselves the ability to do some extensive boondocking. It was something we had hoped to do eventually, though if it weren’t for several factors we might have waited a bit longer to upgrade our batteries & add solar, or we might have spread out the install and created the larger system over a greater period of time. However, at the Full-time Families rally we went to, we were able to get our 6 Battle Born Batteries as part of a group buy and therefore get a discount as well as Full-time Families credit per battery that we could then use for future events or merchandise. So Kevin got the batteries and installed them during the end of the rally week.
Then we were still debating for a bit as to when to add solar panels. We found a Memorial Day sale of the Renogy flexible solar panels we wanted. By then we knew we were headed to Kevin’s parents’ house for a bit where he would have time to do the install, so we made the purchase. We bought 15 solar panels that would equal 2625W and allow us to run our ACs while boondocking. We had also been seeing campgrounds and other locations being shut down to RVers. There was still a lot of uncertainty, so giving ourselves more options as to where we could go and how we could camp, seemed like a good idea. We were also just excited to camp out in some amazingly scenic areas outside of campgrounds.
We have individual posts & videos on our battery upgrade & the RV solar system installation as well as the parts lists and cost breakouts in the blog posts if you want to know more.
In the cost table below, we’ll give you the total vehicle maintenance costs both factoring in our battery and solar projects, and the costs without it. Since the total cost with these projects isn’t an entirely accurate picture since it lumps all of the cost of the projects into this year with only some of the savings that we plan to realize, we’ll also show you the numbers with the $17,319 project costs removed.
Let’s start off discussing RV Rent costs by showing you the number of nights we stayed in various types of locations.
Nights By Type
Here are the number of nights stayed in various camping locations:
- 163 nights in various campground types (private & state parks, recreation areas, and even an Airbnb camping spot)
- 135 nights Moochdocking on family and friends’ properties
- 38 nights Boondocking
- 27 nights Thousand Trails
- 2 nights Harvest Hosts
Let’s dive into the 163 nights in various campgrounds. This year started with a rally & a special campground for that, which was more than we typically pay. Then the pandemic started & so there were more costs for campgrounds as we went cross-country east to west, just trying to snag what was available along the route. When a cheaper state park in CO was shut down on us, we had higher expenses at a KOA where we found availability instead. But then we had several months where we were with family. After that we did a mix of boondocking & mostly cheaper state parks. October was another expensive month for us when we stayed in a more expensive private campground to be in a specific location. Then staying in one spot in Nevada for several months over the holidays at a monthly rate was again fairly inexpensive.
For moochdocking, there were definite costs savings staying with family for months. We did incur some costs though by buying some things needed for the RV connections there, contributing some to utilities, and dump fees.
Dump Station Fees
In the past dump station fees were very minimal, but this year it was higher because in one location we had electrical & water hookups with family but no sewer. So we rented a portable waste tank from a local septic company and arranged for several pumpouts while there. And that worked pretty well. Now we have our own portable waste tank and water bladder to extend our boondocking abilities, so we would use that instead in the future.
We already talked about our battery and solar install costs earlier that now allowed us to start doing some boondocking. In a future video we’ll look at boondocking related costs more closely, taking into account the installation costs vs nights boondocked and discuss what it has saved us in camping fees, and when we might be able to declare a break even. We also paid $40 to join Boondockers Welcome. With this membership we were able to stay the night on host’s personal property. This accounted for 6 nights of our boondocking total.
Let’s talk about how our Thousand Trails membership factored into RV Rent for Year 3. We told you all about TT in the year 1 and 2 RV costs video so you can check those out if you’re not at all familiar with them.
In year 2 we had upgraded our membership so that we could spend more time in the parks, go from one park in the membership directly to another, and in general just get more use out of the program and save more money.
Less Use Than Expected
However, we didn’t get anywhere close to the use out of it that we had hoped. We used it for a week-long stay in March in FL between our two Full-time Families rallies, and then not again until we started traveling again later in the year. Even then it was only one night passing through and then 3 weeks in Arizona for a total of 27 nights this year.
When you don’t use your membership it’s especially a bummer because we still had to pay the $74 monthly fees and a $65 annual fee while not getting any use out of it. Our monthly fee went down to $56 in November because we dropped the Trails Collections parks add-on as we didn’t see ourselves needing that for now. We had an average of $73 a month and total of $881 in Thousand Trails fees this year, and only 27 nights used, but even then our nightly rate was about $33 which is mid-range. We would have liked for that to have been way lower, and to have continued to bring our lifetime TT nightly rate down factoring in everything we’ve paid for our memberships over the years, but it was a crazy year and we knew we’d just use it more in the future.
We also had high hopes for more Harvest Hosts stays this year with our membership, but only ended up being able to use it twice by staying at a distillery and an event venue. Our membership rate is $67/year, but factoring that in with what we spent at the locations to support the businesses, came out to about $51 per night stayed. Other people might spend less but to us it’s not just a parking spot it’s an experience.
Total RV Rent Costs
Year 3 was the lowest our RV Rent costs have been so far in our RVing history!
RV Costs Table
So with the battery upgrade & solar installation, that brings our year 3 grand totals to $5,356 per month and a total of $64,273. But again, since those massive projects skew the numbers and we really need to look at those over the long-run, if we were to remove it, the remaining costs were an average of $3,913 per month and $46,954 for the year. That actually brings our costs within a few dollars of our Year 1 costs interestingly enough!
So now we’ve shown you our cost of full time RVing for year 3 of our family travels on the road. We hope this info is helpful to you!
Stay tuned for our next RV cost video and blog post. When our current year on the road concludes at the end of February 2022, we’ll talk year 4 which will have more boondocking than ever, more Thousand Trails campgrounds, and lots of exploring out west.
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.
- Cost To Live In An RV Full Time: Monthly Costs From Our 2nd Year On The Road
- Cost To Live In An RV Full Time: Monthly Costs From Our 1st Year On The Road
- How To Overspend: Epic 6 Month RV Trip Expenses
- RV Budget and Expense Report – September 2021
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