When you’re in a house on wheels, the RV lifestyle can cut costs on travel. But many wonder how much the expenses are for full-time RVers.
Once you own the motorhome free and clear, all you have to worry about is gas, right? Not so fast. It’s easy to forget some nitty-gritty details, such as RV parks or basic maintenance.
We’ve broken down the cost of living in your camper to give you an idea of how much you need to ditch your mortgage permanently.
Let’s take a look!
What Are Basic RV Lifestyle Costs?
When people start planning their nomadic life, the checklists fill up quickly with RV-specific costs. But it’s easy to forget that most of your essential budget will carry over from everyday life. You’ll still need to pay for food, a phone, and other monthly payments.
Some expenses may cost the same on the road, but you might find others more expensive than you’re used to. For example, it can be hard to predict how much food costs from one town to the next. You may not always find your favorite grocery store with the best prices. But with savvy shopping, you can keep a similar food budget while living in your RV.
The Grateful Glamper offers some good advice for building your budget. Plus, she covers details other Youtubers often leave out of the conversation.
Who Is the Grateful Glamper?
Charity DeVries is a Youtuber that documents her RV travels with her husband Ben and their kids. As the Grateful Glamper, she hopes to inspire families to enjoy experiences over material things.
DeVries highlights her favorite locations and has a uniquely honest approach. She’s happy to laugh at her mistakes and share everything so her audience can learn from them. Charity likes to travel in comfort, and her blog has lots of tips for making a small space cozy.
Her Youtube channel shares great tips for newbies and experienced RVers alike. From product reviews to great destinations, there’s a lot to learn from following her experiences. She also has a lot of great suggestions on ways to save money.
What Are True RV Lifestyle Costs?
You may already have a budget for the basics. But there are several costs unique to the RV lifestyle.
If you plan to stay in campgrounds or parks, your budget will need to include those costs. Or if you like to boondock, you may need to find a suitable internet solution if you want wifi in the boonies. It also costs money to keep your vehicle running and stock it with quality-of-life accessories.
Gas and propane are two things you’ll want to include in planning your budget. Staying well-stocked on both so you can cook, drive, and stay comfortable on the road is important.
Not everyone can afford to buy their tow car, truck, or RV outright. So if you’re financing vehicles, you’ll need to make monthly loan payments.
RV insurance is different from standard car insurance. You’ll need coverage whether you’re towing or driving it. And on that note, finding the right health insurance plan will take special consideration.
So, let’s take a look at some additional costs associated with the RV lifestyle.
Finding a reliable internet service involves some out-of-the-box thinking. Basic internet plans for RVers can cost between $50 to $150 monthly. They run on a hotspot, which is cheap to buy but relies on cell phone coverage. Satellite plans can run between $60 to $400, but you’ll need to install some pricey equipment before using them.
Starlink is a newer option with an RV-specific plan. They have smaller upfront equipment costs and monthly plans run around $135. However, there’s been some debate on whether or not they can deliver the speeds they promise.
Insurance premiums vary depending on your “RV domicile state” or the state you choose as your physical address. Most RVers opt for Texas, Florida, or South Dakota because of the benefits they offer for full-timers.
When choosing your policy, finding one that covers your property inside the camper is a good idea. If it’s your full-time residence, you should pay for better coverage than just liability. Keep in mind not all insurance companies offer specific full-timers coverage. This can be very important to have especially if you’re planning to travel frequently.
Older RVers, or those with certain medical concerns, will want to find a good health insurance policy. If you’re never in the same place, it’s hard to have a primary care physician. You’ll want coverage that lets you see doctors from a wide network to avoid out-of-network pricing.
The overnight price for camping can be as low as $20 or as high as $300 at some resorts.
Sometimes you can park free overnight at a big box store like Walmart or Home Depot. While they don’t have all the amenities of an actual RV camp, they can help you save money in a pinch.
With Thousand Trails, once you pay for an annual or lifetime membership, you can camp for free at the parks within their network. However, there are some catches. You’ll want to read the rules that spell out maximum stay lengths at each location. Sometimes, you may have to stay out of network for a few nights before you visit again without paying a fee.
TSD Open Roads Program
While gas prices may fluctuate, diesel is usually stable but is typically more expensive than gasoline. Luckily, TSD Open Roads has a great discount program. Using stations inside the network can save an average of 30 to 40 cents per gallon every time you fill up. Actual savings will vary, but since the card is free to apply for, we feel it’s worth getting if you have a diesel vehicle.
However, you may occasionally pay an extra $1 when using the card at out-of-network stations. TSD also charges an additional 65-cent fee every time you use the card. But even with these extra costs, most users find they save enough to make the card worth using.
When you’re living the RV lifestyle, the last thing you want is a breakdown. So you’ll want to keep up with all the standard vehicle maintenance. Don’t skip oil changes, and keep your brakes and tires in good condition. Top off your fluids, and don’t skip filter changes.
The costs associated with maintaining your RV will likely be more than they are for your car or truck. So don’t be surprised if you spend at least $1,000 each year on your rig.
Experienced full-timers also travel with an emergency toolbox with plenty of spare parts. But, of course, that only helps if you’ve taken the time to learn how to change a tire or swap out your brake pads.
On that note, adding roadside assistance to your insurance is a good idea if you don’t have it through another provider. AAA, Good Sam, and Coachnet are a few companies full-time RVers depend on to help them out of a jam.
Is the Cost of the RV Lifestyle Worth It?
Part of the joys of the RV lifestyle is the different adventures you can experience. Yes, you can save money by not paying a mortgage or HOA fees. You can even put those savings towards the cost of sightseeing. But if your goal is to cut costs, you may end up breaking even.
In the end, the actual RV lifestyle costs aren’t necessarily cheaper. This is especially true if you plan on embracing your inner nomad and soaking up the adventures on the road. But maybe the Grateful Glamper has a point about the value of experience. The memories truly do outlast anything you can buy.
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