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Is Living in an RV Cheaper Than Renting?

Is Living in an RV Cheaper Than Renting?

Many people start full-time RV living because they think it’ll be cheaper than renting an apartment or house. Is that really the case?

We’ll compare average rents nationwide with various RV life scenarios to find out.

Let’s dig in!

Average Studio Rental Costs

Comparing RV costs with renting a home is a little tricky.

First, we need to understand that even most studio or efficiency apartments have more square footage than the largest RV. However, these are the closest we can come for our comparison. In addition, it has a lot to do with where you’ve been renting.

For example, a studio apartment in our hometown of Fairhope, Alabama, costs an average of $779 in 2021 and even less in Madison, Wisconsin, at about $713 per month. But, if you’re from a larger city such as Seattle, you’re paying around $1,523 per month for an efficiency, and New York City is around $2,800.

The national average, though, for a studio apartment is about $1,641 monthly. So let’s go with that for comparison.

RV cheaper than renting
Save money by living in an RV, which can be cheaper than renting

Full-Time RV Living Costs

Living in an RV full-time can include anything from boondocking the majority of the time, staying in a local RV park year-round, to bouncing from resort to resort and everything in between.

Boondocking ‘Rental’ Costs

If you boondock most of the time, you may have an initial outlay for a solar power setup or a good generator, or both. You might include lithium batteries and even change your toilet out for a composting one.

RV cheaper than renting when boondocking. Use solar
A solar power set up can make boondocking easier and much cheaper than renting

The pricing for all this varies, depending on what you do, but it’s typically an initial cost and not ongoing. We know people who’ve set themselves up well for anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 or more.

Your RV ‘rent’ for boondocking could be anything from nothing up to a small fee, such as $75, to stay at a BLM long-term site for several months to a year. You’ll need to find potable water regularly and a place to dump your tanks. Depending on where you’re located, these could be free or have a small fee associated with them.

Still, compared to the average national rent, your setup could be paid for within the first few months and certainly within a year. The remaining costs are extremely low, so a boondocking RV lifestyle can certainly be much cheaper than renting.

Keep in Mind: Living in an RV can be cheaper than renting, but here is The Unfortunate Truth of RVing on Social Security

Annual RV Park ‘Rental’ Costs

In this case, you have two general options: pay annually for a leased lot at an RV park or purchase a lot in an RV community. Many RV parks offer seasonal or year-long rentals or leases that typically cost a few to several thousand dollars annually.

Not all will do this, and most that will don’t post their rates, so we suggest you call to talk with them directly.

If you purchase a lot in an RV community, such as an Escapees co-op, you own that space and can often rent it out if you’re traveling. Lots can range from $2000 to $50,000 or more, depending on the location, type of hookups, and whether or not it has improvements like a casita or other outdoor living space.

RV cheaper than renting. Purchase lot in RV community
Consider purchasing a lot in an RV community to make your budget cheaper than renting

Waiting lists for the better RV communities and lots are long, so put your name on the list sooner than later if you’re interested in this option.

Again, how you go about an annual RV space rental makes a difference in your costs versus a rental. The annual lease will likely be a huge cost saving. However, the lot purchase will be a larger outlay at first but should pay off over time.

In addition, look at your travel desires. Do you want to be able to pick up and explore another part of the country? Having a purchased lot might be great as a home base unless you can’t afford to travel because of the payment.

Pro Tip: We spoke with Bob Wells from Cheap RV Living, these are his tips for cheap RV living.

RV Resort Hopping

For those who want to travel and want more amenities than boondocking provides, moving from one RV park or resort to another is the way to go. Even most of the basic RV parks across the country have shower and laundry facilities and small pools.

RV cheaper than renting. RV resorts can be expensive
RV living is not always cheaper than renting if you are staying at RV resorts with extra amenities

The resorts go above and beyond, providing large or multiple pools, entertainment and activities, and workout rooms. Many also include specialty areas such as wood shops, sewing rooms, and more.

With all those features comes a higher price tag. You can expect site rental fees to cost around $20 to $40 per night or more for a basic park. Some of the more luxurious resorts, such as the Malibu Beach RV Park, charge upwards of $265 per night. Of course, the location, view, and park features will factor into the pricing.

However, you can often significantly reduce costs by staying during the off-season and purchasing a week or, better yet, a month at a time. Longer stays mean more time to explore an area too.

On the other hand, the spendier resorts are still expensive, even for a monthly stop. The rate for a 28-day stay at the above-mentioned Malibu Beach RV Park is $6,116, which reduces your daily rate to about $218. Still, that’s $6,100 for monthly rent!

RV cheaper than renting but you must do repairs on your RV
While monthly rent might be cheaper, remember you don’t pay to repair your apartment but will have to pay for your RV

Additional Full-Time RV Living Costs

You’ll also need to factor in your living costs. Yes, you’ll have fewer household items to purchase and clean. You may even have less clothing to maintain. However, you will have an RV to maintain and repair. Whereas with an apartment, you don’t typically pay for upkeep.

In addition, if you’re traveling, think about all the extra activities you’ll be enjoying and paying for. Exploring all the National Parks, finding adventure at tourist attractions, and potentially eating out more all increase your costs.

Full-Time RV Living Can Be Cheaper Than Renting

You can make your RV life much cheaper or much more expensive than renting an apartment. Where you land along that line is entirely up to you and the kind of life you want to lead. If you’re living in an RV full-time, are you living cheaper than when you were renting?

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  1. Lorrie Leaver says:

    I’m moving back to the United States after 20 plus years of living in the United Kingdom. I love New England but have yet to explore all the possibilities each State has to offer. After a year of chemotherapy treatment followed by the pandemic it’s time to explore all the options and also avoid the weather extremes. The thought of just buying a property and regretting that choice seems irresponsible and expensive. Buying a decent RV for 2 adults and a dog seems to be a lot more adventurous and might open up opportunities that would be missed. I can only imagine how expensive it would be to rent a good size motorhome so, the idea would be to buy one and at the end of the year make a decision on the best possible place to live. With motorhomes becoming more popular and safer than hotels for the immunosuppressed it’s starting to feel like a plan. We could hopefully recoup much of the costs when we sell our RV to settle down or continue to live the life permanently.
    I’m open to hearing from others about their thoughts and where to start.
    Also what does one do about receiving mail and opening bank accounts etc?
    I would love to hear from people who may have gone down the same route as we’re thinking.
    Safe travels everyone.
    Lorrie (she/her)