People all over the world are daydreaming about being nomads. Before they know the truth about full-time RVing, they imagine quitting their jobs. Maybe they sell their home, too. Then they buy an RV, and travel around. They imagine the freedom, excitement, discovery, and cost-saving.
Without a mortgage payment, homeowner’s insurance, home maintenance fees, or HOA fees, you won’t need much, right? Just some food and gas. If you’re already buying those things now, you assume that it has to be much more affordable than living in a sticks-and-bricks house. I’m here to tell you to stop assuming. Here’s why.
The Full-time RVing Truths We Discovered
Being nomadic sounds great doesn’t it? For the most part, it can be. But don’t quit your job and sell everything yet. Here are the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from doing the same thing.
Don’t rush into the full-time RV lifestyle
The first and most important advice I can give anyone who is seriously thinking about full-time RVing right now is to slow down. There are over 46 million people planning RV trips in 2020 according to RVIA. This is a very popular idea right now. Most other forms of travel are so fraught with problems caused by the pandemic.
But this transition from living at a fixed address to living in a moving box that’s about 1/10 the size of your current home changes EVERYTHING. Psychologists warn that too many changes (even if they all represent a positive alteration) can be highly (even dangerously) stressful. On the scale of the top 10 most stressful life events, changing or losing your job, and selling your home are near the top of that list.
Downsizing problems for full-time RVing
Now add to this stress the additional stress of disposing of all your personal property. Invariably people who make the jump to full-time RVing decide to sell virtually everything they own. What they don’t sell needs to be stored somewhere. Make a note of that. We’re going to add it to a list of unanticipated expenses later in this article.
The bigger the house or estate, the more difficult this process can be. Some people are able to disassociate their feeling from the inanimate objects around them. But almost everyone has some physical property that is near and dear to their heart.
For me, it was my tools, art, and the furnishings and decorator items my father made for me in his shop. Your thing could be the classic cars you store in your barn, or your sewing machine and quilting frame. Everyone has something, and sorting and deciding what to keep, what to sell, and how to sell every single thing you own is a daunting, draining, and emotionally stressful process.
It’s bad enough to get a house ready for sale. To go through all the upgrades and repairs, to vacate the house for every showings. Oh and to go through the ups and downs of that process. But now take a minute and look around your house. What are you going to do with every single item in every drawer, and cupboard, and closet?
Don’t forget the garage, the shop, or barn, if you have those spaces. Every screwdriver and power tool, the hutch and fine china that were your mother’s special keepsakes. There’s the cute piece of art you picked up on your last vacation in Mexico. Your bedding, and clothes and shoes, all have to be sorted too.
Take it with you, keep it in storage, sell it, give it away, or throw it away? That is the brutal question you’ll need to ask and answer. This is regarding everything you own. The more you keep and put in storage the more space that will require. Every month while you are out enjoying your new RV lifestyle, that storage bill will come due. You’ll wonder if you should have even kept the things you did keep.
Check out this Do It Yourself RV article for tips on how to downsize your things for full-time RVing.
Did you find the best RV for full-time RVing?
Now the property has been sorted, the house is on the market, and you’ve said goodbye to your coworkers. You’re ready to find the perfect RV for your full-time adventure. But hold on. There are still hundreds of questions that need to be addressed. Again, I want to warn you to slow down. The process of finding the right RV takes a lot of thoughtful consideration. Take some time to learn about RV financing. Bill and Kayla from The Wandering RV have put together an excellent, in-depth article on RV financing and loans. It’s called RV Financing: How to Get the Best Rates on Your RV Loan.
There are many RV types to choose from and there are pros and cons for each type. There are Class A, B, B+, and Class C motorhomes, fifth wheels, and travel trailers of various sizes. You may need to tow your RV, or your RV may need to tow your car. These again are lifestyle choices.
- How much space will you need to feel comfortable?
- Are you able to drive a big rig?
- Can you back a 40’ fifth wheel into a camping space on a dark rainy night?
There are stresses involved in living in cramped quarters. And there are stresses involved in living in a larger RV as well. Just driving, pulling, maintaining, gassing, and parking a “big rig” can be stressful.
Then there’s the question of a new RV vs a used RV.
Even if you know what type of RV you want, there are hundreds of different floor plans, configurations, appointments. The new vs used decision affects more than just the price tag of the RV. There are warranty (or lack thereof) issues. Oh, and maintenance concerns, and wear and tear. Damage may not be evident until you’ve already taken ownership of the RV. And believe it or not, this is true for both new and used RVs.
I’ve talked to RVers that carefully bought a used RV and they couldn’t have been happier with their decision. I have also talked to people who bought a brand new one that caught on fire in the first week they owned it. Their family was lucky to have escaped with their lives! Other folks swear by the idea of buying a new rig. Some other people wouldn’t have a new RV as a gift.
Read our post here on the different types of RVs and how to decide which one would be best for you.
Examples of Full-time RVer regrets
There are as many decisions to be made about your future home as there are about the physical property in your old home. I met a couple who had just started on their full-time journey in a brand-new Class B RV. The first thing they said was that they wished they had purchased a bigger rig like a mid-size Class C. Another couple went through 5 different RVs (each one bigger than the last) in the first 6 years of their marriage. They weren’t even full-time RVers at that time.
On another occasion, we met a recent full-timer in an RV park in Tennessee. We pulled into that park about an hour after a freak 70 MPH straight-line wind storm tore through that area. It toppled trees, crashing limbs onto the parked RVs, scattering outdoor BBQs, chairs, and mats across the road. Wind pushing several RVs and trucks onto their sides on the freeway. The event caused widespread power outages.
This couple had their brand new fifth wheel parked in that campground during the storm. We met him while he was on the roof inspecting it for damage. He told us they were on their way from Michigan to the Texas Gulf. That was where they hoped to spend the winter, and they had already been through two massive storms. Plus, he damaged his new RV by driving under a low structure in a parking lot. He and his wife regretted selling their home and all their physical belongings. The stress and unanticipated expenses of the new traveling lifestyle had already taken its toll.
They had no home to return to and were nervous and anxious for what lay ahead. The threat of winter storms along the Gulf Coast. Also, the uncertainty of where else they could winter. And of course the difficulty of driving and parking a huge fifth-wheel trailer. Everything was stealing the joy and excitement of this new life they had chosen. This man was distraught and he described his wife’s emotional state as even worse than his.
Full-time RV Dream Truths Are Not Always What you Expect
Part of my slow down mantra is a warning that the dream and the reality are not always in alignment with each other. Some people adapt to the uncertainty with very little psychological impact. But for other people, the uncertainty, and rootlessness of the full-time RV lifestyle are deeply unsettling.
When you make the change to living and traveling in an RV, you give up more than your house and personal property.
Your choice to full-time RV changes EVERYTHING.
- It affects others with whom you are associated.
- Your routines are all gone, friends, family, church associates.
- Members of other groups will also be impacted by your decision.
- Some people will cheer you on while others will resent your choice.
You’ll also need to decide where you want to domicile. There are some states that make this easier than others. Wherever you decide to “call home” (or domicile) that is where you will vote, register your vehicles, get your mail, list as your address for insurance, and pay taxes. South Dakota is one of the most liberal states in which to domicile.
There are service providers there to receive and forward your mail. You only have to be in the state for one day, to get your domicile set-up and to register your vehicles. We are from Oregon and we decided to remain Oregonians after going full time.
There are tax disadvantages in that decision, but it felt right to us. We contacted the elections office and explained our new situation. They now mail our ballots early with the absentee ballots. The Oregon DMV has identified us as “Continuous Travelers” which is stated on the first line of our driver’s licenses. Where you domicile is an important decision and needs to be researched.
The Full-Timing Nomad, Rene Agredano, shares the best states for full-time RVer domiciles in this RV LIFE article.
Full-time RVing Costs
There’s just so much about this full-time RV lifestyle that are not immediately apparent. In the interest of full disclosure, there are many more expenses involved in this lifestyle than you may think. You can park your RV on some BLM or public land for free. Life is good with are no camping fees.
You can also stop for free in most rest stops for a night, or stay in the parking lot at Walmart or Cabela’s, without any fees. But when you are living in an RV full-time, that only takes care of a few days while you’re traveling. There are 365 days (and nights) every year and you’ll need a place to park your RV for every one of them.
Additionally, even if you have huge holding tanks and are very conservative, you’ll eventually need to hook up to a sewer connection and fresh water supply. Camping fees add up quickly.
Do It Yourself RV author Chelsea Gonzales shares great advice in this article on how her family lives and travels full-time on just $2000 a month.
Best memberships for full-time RVers
You can purchase memberships in discount camping clubs to help mitigate some of these costs. With a KOA membership, you can save 10% on every night’s fees. That could save you $4 or $5 per night and the KOA annual membership fee is under $50. Other camping clubs that can save you on fees include Thousand Trails, Passport America, etc.
We are members of two of these and have spent roughly $4000 in each of these membership programs. In Thousand Trails, we can stay in any park for three weeks at a time and pay no camping fees. With our particular level of membership, we can also go from one Thousand Trails park to another without any “out” time.
The couple we are currently camping next to in a Thousand Trails campground told me that they only camp in Thousand Trails parks. They are from Florida and we are camped next to these full-time RVers in a campground in Northern Washington State.
They have traveled across the country camping only in Thousand Trails campgrounds and after paying for their initial membership fees, they only have to pay their annual dues of about $700. These folks are getting the full value out of that membership program, but most people do not camp exclusively within their membership campgrounds and that is when the camping fees begin to accumulate.
We follow one family on Instagram, and they spend 10 days out boondocking (dry camping on public land) then they check into a campground for a week. There they get their laundry done, empty their tanks, take on fresh water, enjoy long showers, and recharge their batteries (both physical and emotional). Every 15 days or so they pay a few hundred dollars in camping fees.
While boondocking can save you a ton in camping fees, you will also need to head in well-prepared. Make sure you have this essential gear for off-grid camping and go in prepared knowing these boondocking lessons.
Other full-time RV costs
State parks cost between $30 and $45 and the amenities can vary. Private parks can cost anywhere from $20 to $120 per night, again depending on the season, location, and amenities. Federal parks, and forest service park prices vary but many of these are rustic camps with no hook-ups.
Another expense you may not have thought about is the number of times you will want to go out to eat. Part of the fun and excitement of traveling is experiencing the local cuisine and there’s only one way to do that.
Additionally, when you live at a fixed address, you have places you typically shop that you know will have what you like at a price you can afford. But when you’re traveling, you have to shop in unfamiliar places and they often are not the most economical providers.
And let’s not forget the storage fee for all the property you kept and put in storage. I pay over $150 per month for a 10 x 10 heated storage space.
Then don’t forget the cost of fuel, which can add up fast if you travel between campgrounds often. Lastly, some of your unanticipated expenses may be in the form of insurance. Because we’re driving a 26,000 lb vehicle, we know that an accident with another motorist could cause a lot of damage, so we carry an additional $2 million in liability insurance, in addition to our regular insurance, just in case.
How to get started full-time RVing
I’ve tried to give you a larger view of what this daydream of full-time RVing could actually be. The experience is different for everyone. It’s perfect for some and a nightmare for others. My caution throughout this post has been to slow down and acclimate to all the changes brought on by this new lifestyle a little bit at a time, to reduce stress and to keep you from making any serious mistakes.
The perfect scenario would be for you to purchase an RV while you’re still living in your home. Take your RV on many trips, get a feel for what it’s like to live in a small space and to drive, park, and camp in an RV.
Try to imagine camping in this small space for weeks on end. think about what it would be like in the middle of winter when it gets dark outside at 4 PM and stays dark until after 8:00 AM and it rains all night. Imagine Thanksgiving and Christmas in your RV. If you can’t afford to buy an RV, then at least rent one for an extended vacation or two and do the same evaluation.
How to find campgrounds and RV parks
One of the most stressful aspects of full-time RVing is planning where to camp and making the reservations. It takes a lot of time to research new locations and to contact the parks. When you’re traveling you may not be familiar with what’s available along the road ahead, so tools like RV LIFE Trip Wizard and the RV LIFE App With RV-Safe GPS are absolutely essential. When we drove from coast to coast and back, we used RV LIFE Trip Wizard and the integrated RV LIFE Campgrounds to locate and contact campgrounds in every state in which we traveled.
Learn more about finding campgrounds, gas stations and and other points of interest on RV LIFE Trip Wizard here.
Full-time RVing: It’s not for everyone
I don’t want to be the voice of doom or try to dissuade you from pursuing this dream. We’ve been doing it for over three years, and we just love it. This lifestyle is perfect for us. We don’t like the heat in the summer, so we spend our summers in places that are relatively cool.
In fact, last summer we were on Vancouver Island and spend most of the hot summer months in sweatshirts because it was that cool where we were camping. We also don’t want to get caught in any huge snowstorms, so we spent two winters on the Oregon Coast, and last winter we camped in the sunshine in Palm Desert.
We’ve driven from one coast to the other and back again, and have been all across the south. We’ve discovered that people everywhere are open and friendly, and always willing to share a story or lend a hand to help if needed. We enjoy exploring when we have the opportunity, and we enjoy working in our motorhome just as much. Like I said, this is perfect for us. But it may not perfect for you.
The last thing I would want for you is to be the folks who had just started out as full-time RVers and had overwhelming regret that they had sold their home and all their personal belongings, or the other couple who wished they had purchased a Class C RV and not a Class B. I’d hate for you to be the people who bought and sold 5 RVs in six years just because they didn’t take the time to understand what they really needed in an RV.
For more insight, check out this video from Youtubers Liz Amazing on the downsides of RV life:
Join the discussion with other full-timers
Living full-time in an RV can be exhilarating. The things we’ve seen and done in the past 3 years will be precious memories for the rest of our lives. But this lifestyle has its own set of challenges, and I implore you to do your research and get all the facts before you commit with no way to go back.
We bought our first RV in 1999, we camped in it for about 18 years before we decided to go full time. In that amount of time, we knew what we were getting into and because of that we have been able to make the dream come true.
The best way to transition into full-time RVing is to do it slowly and do your homework before you make the switch. You can learn a lot about RVing and from other RVer’s experiences on Facebook groups and RV forums such as iRV2.
Peggy Dent is an author, writer, and full-time RVer, traveling around the US and Canada. She’s traveled more than 130,000 miles in a motorhome, over the past 20 years, and is currently writing for the RV industry. You can contact her through her website at www.APenInYourHand.com
silvana clark says
Great advice! I see so many people selling their home and thinking they’ll live a carefree life in an RV. Add young kids and pets in the mix and it gets more complicated. Just try living in an RV for at least a week before you make a major decision!
My Full-time 15+ Years Experience:
Basically its a matter of $$$ money, the more $ You have the more options You have but nothing beats experience from a full timer. The nice guy at Joe’s Mega RV Coral will only tell You so much, He needs to ‘sell’ You an RV first and ‘advise’ You 2nd.
1) Don’t buy a brand new RV , buy an almost new RV that has been ‘upgraded’ by the 1st owner. Buy one from the 1st owner who has already worked out all the bugs and addressed all the problems , who has put a few thousand miles on it, and then who added the cool expensive upgrades such as solar, upgraded batteries, and all the low hassle high value goodies that You would eventually buy or didn’t think about because You don’t know.
2) Buy a larger rig, at least as large as Your budget will allow just ad 5 to 10 feet more to the one you think You want. If Your single You can live comfy in a Dodge – Mercedes Sprinter ‘van’ style RV . If You are a mature couple for peets sake ad at least 10 more feet , if Your looking at a 25 get a 35 etc….
3) If You can afford it then buy a diesel pusher ( not a gas tractor ) also called a DP and get one with ‘air ride’ – air bags. When you drive a diesel pusher the engine is in back and it is so quiet up front when you drive it is like driving an electric bus, and a diesel engine will last 10 times longer. An air ride RV will float like a luxury boat on a smooth calm lake.
Professional long haul truck drivers who retire and buy an RV buy a DP or tow a 5th wheel behind a large diesel pick up truck for good reason.
DP motorhomes have a large city bus type of entry / exit door so You can bring in and out larger items and open / close the door remotely while sitting in the driver seat. DP motorhomes can also have an on board air compressor.
Larger RV’s have queen / king sized bed in back and you can walk on both sides of the bed.
4) Get a small *toad ( small light weight comfy *SUV ) to tow behind. Study the difference between using a tow bar vs a tow dolly they both have advantages and disadvantages.
5) The more deep cycle RV type battery’s You have wired in series the better. 4 is way better than 2 etc…
The trusted old gold standard is Trojan brand BIG 6 volt lead-acid batteries wired in series they give You a LOT of long lasting 12 volt power specially in today’s LED lit RV’s. The new gold standard is *BattleBorn brand lithium ion batteries wired in series ( * super expensive )
Try to get an RV with a large well made pro installed solar panel array that along with many quality deep cycle batteries will allow You to go a L-O-N-G time almost indefinitely without needing to hook up to an AC power cord.
Your RV refrigerator- freezer is like a gun safe, 1 month later You wish You had a bigger one lol
Have Your propane heater upgraded to a hybrid ‘Cheap Heat’ brand electric heater blower ad-on to your propane heater electric heater.
RV’s are HOT in the summer and COLD in the winter. Everything You can do to make the queen happy will make You happy.
Get a WasteMaster brand complete sewer hose system You will thank Me one day.
If You have the $ get a auto tracking Dish Network satellite TV system .
Get “Visible” brand cellular as Your cell phone AND internet provider. Visible piggybacks on the Verison 4G LTE cell network. Visible charges $40 a month for UN-limited data streaming ! That means You can live watch endless YouTube movies etc… streaming 24/7/365 for only $40 bucks. Go to the TechnoMedia Youtube channel and watch a married couple who full time RV and who run an internet media company from remote in their BIG bus DP motorhome they give great advice.
Obviously I could go on and on but that is a start….cheers
Sharon Westerman says
I have a question. Have you ever met anyone in your travels that kept their bricks and mortar home and rv’d full time? If so, what logistical headaches if any did that create, assuming the house was not rented?
Ken 3d says
Excellent objective piece on full-time RVing. We bought a brand new Ford f450 truck and new camper last year. We are in our 70’s and in good health. We found that we really liked road trips up to a few weeks but after that it felt good to stay put for a few months and then travel again. We solved the problem by buying a ‘park model’ in a Arizona RV park that we use as a base of operations for the winter. Full time on the road was not for us, but shorter trips are great.
Cameron Stokes says
Excellent, specific advice. Thank you.
Norm & Kat says
Thanks to Elon Musk we will have Star Link by the end of the year (2021). Internet will be available in every square inch of the world. I imagine it will come with phone service. Not sure all the details yet but it will change the internet of things.
John Koenig says
There is a valuable educational product available for “wanna be”, “newbie” and even experienced RVers. It’s called RV Boot Camp. I believe that the Escapees RV Club created this program. Over a weekend, several hundred people receive training that covers just about every aspect of RVing. All of the systems found on a modern RV are explained and demystified. Complex topics such as the various weight ratings are explained in a way that “the average Joe” can understand them. Mistakes made with RVs are often expensive and, sometimes dangerous. RVBC graduates are safer RVers and, smarter RV buyers. Many RVBC attendees drive or fly in for RVBC, staying in a camping cabin or local motel. Other attendees already have RVs so, that gives potential RV buyers the opportunity to see many different RVs and talk to the owners. These weekends are often held just before an Escapade (what Escapees call one of their major RV rallies). The Covid19 Pandemic has forced the cancellation of just about all RV events but, I’ve read that the Escapees were thinking about running a virtual RV Boot Camp. There are also other groups offering similar RV training. FMCA, RVSEF & RV~Dreams quickly come to mind. However you choose to get this important training, JUST DO IT!
PS: at many major RV events, extras like RV Driver Training and Smart Weigh services are available. Driving many (most?) RVs IS different from driving a passenger vehicle. A relatively modest amount up front can result in a monetary savings and, a much better RVing experience.
Rick Sidebottom says
Great Job on this. I would say that if you are not handy with basic tools and the thought of dealing with a sewer problem send you running for the hills and a shower from the mere mention of it, you better re-think you full time decision.
There will always be a flat, an empty water tank, a full black tank, the roof membrane peeling off or something on an RV no matter how new it is. If this thought stresses you out be really careful about jumping into this lifestyle with out a travel buddy.
Safe travels, good adventures and remember, there are no wrong turns, just new adventures.
Marci Huttunen says
It’s all great advice!
I am a 2 timer at full timing in an rv. I’ve been on the road since 2014 with a short break of 2 years in between.
I felt much younger the first time I hit the open roads and i was much more resilient. As I’ve aged I’ve become a little less excited about my adventures. My husband lost his job due to covid and we where forced to sell our home and the Rv, ing lifestyle was forced on us and it’s been harder to accept and enjoy.
We try to make the best of life.
We are in our 50s now and now we have doctors and take medications regularly for various ailments.
This was something we had forgotten to consider how complicated it can be to have a schedule 2 medication filled while out of state. And some medications must be picked ou every 30 days.
Well that can really stop you from getting very far. if you need to be back every 30days how many places could you find to travel to?
There are some ways to manage this, we are having a freind pick up and overnight is our medications. But it can be harder then you would think to find a freind who is willing to do this for you because there is some question regarding its legality…
Just think ahead about the increasing need for medical attention doctors and medications while on the road. Were all growing older in our travels.
Great article. Old guy’s ponderings. Managing financials; accessing cash requires pause. Having an “out plan” in your pocket is advisable ….just in case….life has a mean breaking ball. Health insurance is another big issue…..coverage away from domicile base, cost and time returning for appointments, issues, emergencies, maintaining personal fitness, etc. Traveling with firearms is a major consideration ….. hunt/competition/hobby, exploding Burn/Loot/Mayhem domestic terrorism, personal defense, anti-freedom/rights Liberal jurisdictions render lawful citizen in one state a “felon subject in waiting” across state …maybe county….line. Politician with a law never stops bad guy. He only controls good guys….his true agenda. At 71, alone, I’m probably only going to do one RV unit. Road tripped 🙂 🙂 🙂 over 6,000 miles 2019 viewing RVs…..ready to pull trigger Spring 2020…CV-19 hit…..more quandary. Decided on 43′ DP tag 1-1/2 bath, specific options…..”If you can’t run with Big Dogs, stay on the porch” mantra……feels least porta-potty; extra GVWR for toys. Keeping two houses as fall back base/time out position……overflow spare toys. You can domicile one state (be sure to declare correctly) for tax/estate (yeah, we all will) planning. Escape NOW before CA does their “10yr suck back attack”…..revenue is part of comfort equation, what you keep is bottom line. Own property in other states (homes, farm). Montana LLC for RV (sans sales/property taxes, inspections)….then lease/rent/non-compensated Manager benefits access. “Camp” (I don’t camp. I LUXURIATE…..wife was a keeper) where sales/use taxes lowest and desire to enjoy attractions…or lack thereof per choice. Met 81 year old couple, 1-1/2 year into Class A DP tag……having blast of their lives…kids again. Only regret…..they didn’t do it 10 years earlier……71 is their “10 years earlier.” The years are blasting past now. Thought deceased wife would be here pondering together. Tomorrow not guaranteed; allotted heartbeats God “plays close to His vest”……only non-renewable resource. Considering RV path? Do it…..with clear head and “out plan” in hand. Always found “shouldn’t haves” personal forgiveness easier than “didn’t” regrets. OH, SO after “your only girl……goes on ahead.”
Bill T says
Thanks Peggy for the great article. On this subject, I have read many articles from many blogs, websites and YouTube and never see – what I believe is the biggest issue with full time RV living – is the other side of the cost coin. We can read about average monthly budgets and the average cost of RV’ing but where do you get renewable income? How much savings are involved? and What does it cost when it’s time to hang up the keys? I believe this reality is the biggest stressor for buyers/full time RV’ers remorse. Is there pensions involved on top of social security? Do you need a 1/4 of a million as a nest egg, to actually retire with, once the traveling is done, because it will happen to all of us eventually. Not to be a downer but I like to be thorough. Thanks.
Jo Burst says
Excellent article. We have been Rvers for 41 years. When we retired we had to decide whether to full time or halftime. We decided to halftime. 6 months in the RV in Florida . 6 months in a 1 level home in an area we loved to vacation. We had already been spending the winters in FL for 2 years when we sold our home. In our 41 years of rving we were able to take a month vacation in our rv for many years. This gave us a feel for living in the small space with only our favorite necessities. We are insanely comfortable in our 32 ‘ fifth wheel (our 4th rv). You have to find the perfect fit for you both.
We didn’t want to get rid of all of our stuff. For me it was some family heirlooms & for my husband his tools. We heard horror stories about storage units & knew you had to have heat & AC which is pricey. What really made me choose to buy a house with low maintenance was watching rv friends get ill & just aging. I wanted a sticks & bricks home to go to if & when we have illnesses but also mobility issues that come with age.
For the life of me I can’t understand people that jump into full time Rving that have never owned an rv!
It is not a real house. It is a tin can 🤣. It is way more scary in bad storms & don’t get me started on Tornado warnings at 3am. They are not like just driving a car. Picture dragging a real house behind your truck. How are you going to turn a corner in gorgeous old historic district with narrow streets & low tree limbs.
Lastly it will not be cheaper than living in a house. Repairs are constant. My husband is mechanically inclined. Other rvers are really helpful but if you are not, repairs will take a big chunk out of your budget.
Happy trails all!
JEAN TANGUAY says
Some people can’t leave well enough alone they have to put on their armchair expert advice & print it to scare the delights of people to make a buck selling their outrageous advice. I say leave well enough alone if people are that stupid they should stay in their stick & brick homes.
Sadly, the really stupid ones are too stupid to realize how stupid they are. As much as many surely need it, they say one shouldn’t shoot stupid people. OK, let’s just remove the nanny warning tags, letting nature sort ’em out. 🙂 🙂 🙂
Excellent article, great advice. Everything there sounded true. We just started our 15th year of boondocking fulltime, and are now trying to go back to sticks and bricks. Imagine buying a house and you don’t even have a bed,..yes, it is difficult. Once again, great article with great advice, we’ve seen the very same scenarios numerous times.
g. alston says
My wife and I are on the road living in our rig 8 months a year by necessity; we have booths in major renaissance festivals around the usa. What we see: a) people buy campers with woeful cargo capacity and b) haul these with rigs that are not really suited well to the task. Re (a) — people are so worried about floorplan and cutification of their space that they wind up overloaded and dangerous. Please advise people to look **CLOSELY** at the net cargo CCC number on the RV sticker. Realistically you need 2400 lbs or more to be comfortable. We’ve seen far too many people who discover that they can’t even fill their cabinetry. We’ve seen people cutify and personalize their rig by tossing 200lbs of RV furniture etc only to replace this with 600 lbs of IKEA. It’s hip, it’s cute, it’s cool, it offers storage under the furniture; it also eventually breaks their slide. Re (b) we know people dragging 5ers with gas powered 3/4 ton trucks. At the 125 mile mark they’re looking for a gas station. Gas trucks will get 6-8 mpg. Moreover these trucks are overloaded as well. The pin weight of the 5er is roughly about the stated truck capacity. Then they add humans and pets and stuff extra tools etc in the truck bed. Whoops, they’re no longer legal. If they get into an accident guess who isn’t covered.
Yes! Please tell people there there are too many problems and they shouldn’t do this. Because I find it’s getting too crowded out there! Lol!!
Thomas Carsten says
Good article and comments by experienced RVer’s.
Great advice by g. alston! The CCC is such a crucial consideration for full timers (or part timers). We see many “ultralites” overloaded and towed by 1500 series trucks at the maximum (or greater) capacity w/o weigh distribution bars. Your advice is top notch and the safety of family travelers should not be compromised. Adding in a limited fresh water supply, propane, campfire jazz, tables, chairs, bicycles, firewood, etc. etc. adds lots of weight.
We are full timing in a Class A 26K chassis with a 2608 lbs CCC. Best advice is to get on the CAT scales and keep loved ones alive and safe.
I have people telling me the same thing. “Rent an RV blah blah blah”. The rental RV does not have the same setup I was looking for so it wouldn’t be much fun for me. I am unmarried, and no kids. Still relatively young when I am going to retire (45 years old), and am a single male. I have used a friends 5th wheel multiple times, which is great since he has a decent solar system and batteries, and netflix/prime ect ect. Been RVing almost my whole life, and boondocking for most of those RV adventures I have been on.
People always telling me though that I will regret it. I am going to be purchasing a 5th wheel here this year, and will take a year boondocking, and setting up the 5th wheel the way I LIKE IT. I am solitary, and do not have a ton of friends so I won’t be losing much. I have a kitty and will get a puppy when I am close to leaving. I rent as well so I have no permanent address. I will have about 700k when I retire at 45. If I can keep expenses down to about 2k per month the money should last me a long time (living on interest for the most part)…
Mike Caldwell says
I have just finished a 3.5 year period of living full time on my Airstream. My reasons were job related but not a travel job, more of facility construction and management so I stayed in 1 place with full hookups, for a longer period. Previously I had sold all my furniture and put things I kept in self storage for $100 month. All of that is ending as I just bought a new home and will build an RV garage for the Airstream and return to using it as I originally planned.
I have no regrets and saved thousands of dollars but….I was not running up and down the highways. Great article but just know, full time RV life is not for everyone.
Great article and comments have added a lot to the discussion 🙂 My husband and I had never RV’d before buying a 38-foot fifth wheel and a one-ton dually Chevy truck to tow it, sold our 3000-sq-ft house, and headed out onto the road. I tell people we didn’t have a learning curve, we had a mountain to climb, and there were times we didn’t think we’d make it to the summit. But we did. We’ve been full-time RVers for over 11 years now, and can’t imagine stopping! Our desire to roam and explore outweighed the challenges of those early years.
To the person who wondered about income on the road: we’ve met people (like us) who have investment and retirement income; others make money on the road (LOTS of ways to do this); some people do both. If you have a desire to live this nomadic life, you can find a way to finance it. The one piece of advice I’d give is DON’T BORROW MONEY to pay for your rig. Don’t finance it. Buy it outright. You don’t want to be obligated to pay for a rig over 30 years that might last only 15! When we went on the road we had no debt–owed nothing on the rig, truck, credit cards, nada. If you have debts, that can add considerably to the cost of your lifestyle.
Safe travels, all!
Rohan Gillett says
This is the stuff dreams are made of. I’m originally from Australia but have been living in Japan for the last 30 years. If I ever get back home I’ll be in an RV for sure. Would love to travel around the OZ, making my way from place to place. Thanks for all the advice in this article though, it was a good read!
Thomas Callahan says
Excellent article, and many interesting and varied stories in the comments
I’m a full timer, traveling Union Electrician, currently living in a 21’ no slide tag, dragged with a a V6 Chevy, all within weight specs.
Grew up in rigs part time and have full timed in a 13’ tag, a 12’ pop-up, an 8’ slide-in, and tents and a teepee over the years since ‘82. Love the life, but absolutely agree with the author that it’s not for everyone.
Tom Overeem says
That downside couple mentioned Internet, when boondocking it’s not that cheap, but satellite Internet may be the only option. I think Dish and Hughesnet may both be options, and there are such things as satellite phones, I spoke with one supplier over 10 years ago that covered the CONUS and 200 miles out to sea in all directions.
After 50+ years trucking, and the wife working for [Oregon State] Treasury for well over 30 years We retired and thankfully had bought our “shack” several years earlier.. As said earlier by another poster.. Yes , me being a truckdriver..We did buy a used 40′ Diesel Pusher .. If I had known then what I know now..Would have bought the 45 footer..Have found very few private parks that cannot handle the length..But some state /Federal parks take a bit of sleuthing to find large enough pads.
We left Oregon for South Dakota due to the Oregon income taxes on our retirement income.
(SD does not have an Income Tax) And their requirement for a fixed residential address.
[Oregon would not accept a mail forwarder’s address and We did not want to depend on friends or family to handle our mail..]
We went with the Escapees Organization for mail and use their satellite Mail office address in Box Elder as our Legal Residential address [and the PMB# is considered an apartment by the State of SD]
A note about debt.. BE “Free and Clear” of Debt
DO NOT take the proceeds from selling your house to buy a RV!! INVEST the proceeds for Long Term..and leave it Be..
You MUST have an Exit Plan in Place!!!!
The time will come.. that for whatever reason You WILL have to come off the road.. Your Long term investment of the house proceeds, insure that You have funds to again buy a place …and remain out of debt..
NOW ..If We do not like the Weather, the Neighbors, or the fishing….We “Just Turn the key!”..
[side benefit…… If the kids want to “Move” back home..or..borrow money…They cannot find Us..]
Just a few observations on searching for that “Perfect” RV of any type..
Keep in mind..
You Do Not Know……What You Do Not Know..
Your 1st coach is simply a learning tool..
When You tour/view “In Person” any perspective coach..
View it First with all slides retracted, then shuck your shoes and do a dry run in the shower, sit on the throne (AND Close the door!), lay on the bed,study the galley(enough counter room/pantry space/pots & pans storage?) Do You have access to all these with slide retracted???
If the coach is fully usable without the slides extended, then give it a second look.
(Think wally-docking,rest areas,truckstops…any where that you cannot/do not have room for the slides to be extended)
BUY USED! & buy one with everything you “think” you want and will need..
IF the perspective coach seems a bit small but still “DO-Able” …….REMEMBER!!!
What seemed small… becomes unbearably TINY after being Coop’d up” for a week or more due to weather…
A coach that is “Too Big” lasts for a week or two..One “Too Small” lasts forever.
And…. You WILL make mistakes and have booboo’s We all have…..
Within a year or less, you will discover..about the RV
What you love about the RV…
What you can kinda-sorta tolerate with the RV..
And what you absolutely hate about that !@#$%^%$#@! RV.
Then you can go get what you should have gotten in the first place..
Every day you “put off” retiring…is just one LESS day you have remaining to enjoy being RETIRED !!!
We have a 2006 Travel Supreme, 38′, DP. We have yet to find a better RV. It ran great until a coolant line ruptured and we suddenly lost all of the antifreeze. We got towed to a garage that ended up not knowing how to correctly reconnect the drive shaft (which is routinely disconnected whenever you get towed). The damage from when the drive shaft came loose was over $18,000 (bell housing, torque converter and transmission plus a new drive shaft). It might be covered by insurance or it could take a year in court. Meanwhile, in addition to being out of all of the money, we were unable to use our coach for several weeks. If we had been full-timing, it would have been much worse. Furthermore, the towing process resulted in some torquing of the frame, which damaged one of the windshields so badly that we couldn’t use the wipers. Our insurance is currently looking for replacements.
We usually get about 6.5 miles/gallon of diesel on the freeways, sometimes a bit more, sometimes less. At 65 MPH speed, that equals 10 gallons of diesel/hour. Ten times the cost of fuel/hr is what we will spend, minimum, when moving. With that cost, the time to find the cheapest campground or fuel stop might not be worth the cost of fuel to get there. Two miles off the freeway is a lot less expensive than 10 miles on narrow, country roads hitting low-hanging tree branches.
Tires last 6 to 7 years tops, no matter how much tread you have left. Read the manufacture date on the side walls. Failure to replace the tires by then will be disastrous. When one tire disintegrates, anything near the tire can be destroyed including hydraulic lines, wiring and compartments. There is usually no room to carry a spare. They cost $600 each, even with discounts, since they will need to be mounted, balanced and the old ones disposed of.
A good full sine wave inverter/charger comes in handy. Some electronic devices, like heating pads and electric blankets, won’t work on the less expensive square wave models. But computers, TVs and microwave ovens don’t seem to mind.
Batteries have become much more expensive, especially the lead-acid ones. A 6V Trojan T-105 can cost $200 or more. They weigh over 60 pounds each and they don’t last very long. The acid fumes will corrode your battery storage tray. Maintaining them is a pain. You can easily get water and acid on your clothes. You can only discharge them to 50% of their stated capacity. Keeping them fully charged doesn’t seem to significantly extend their lifetimes. When just 1 of the 24 cells in your 4 T-105 array goes bad, it will result in all kinds of strange electrical issues as well as increased corrosion. Battleborn lithiums cost $1000 each but they can be discharged to their full stated capacity (100 amp-hours each) over 2000 times! You can’t do that with lead-acid or AGM batteries. There’s no fumes. They can charge to 95% in just 2 hours. Maintenance is minimal and there are Bluetooth applications that can monitor their performance. 2 Battleborns, weighing about 20 pounds each, can replace 4 of those T-105s. I see no reason why a 1/2 million dollar RV would not have lithium house batteries. It’s no longer a luxury but a headache reducer.
In summary, an RV is a luxury, an expensive one, with a lot of potential headaches. It is NOT an investment! Walk away from any sales dealer that says that it is. Expect 20-30% depreciation on a new RV in the first year. Insurance on it can cost almost as much as homeowner’s insurance. Be able to set aside about $300-500/month for anticipated maintenance, even more if you can’t fix the small stuff yourself. Make sure you have enough saved up for your retirement first. You’re not rich if you’re a millionaire – not any more, thanks to inflation. The recommended “safe”, yearly, withdrawal rate of 4% of your $1M is only $40,000/year. Try not to spend it all in one place.
Debbi Harris says
Thanks for the great article. We are just starting on our RV life and I have noticed most of traveling apps mentioned in articles are for the U.S. Does anyone know if there are good apps for Canada? Because of age and health insurance costs we are planning on staying in Canada.
We have been planning for a number of years, not selling the house however. We plan to lease it, earn rental income while on the road…1-2 yrs. We have a large shop that we can store our belongings in, however, we have started to purge some stuff that we no longer need or want. We decided to purchase a used 5th wheel…we have owned 2 trailers and now on our 4th 5th wheel. Our priorities were, large fridge, king bed, washer/dryer hookups, generator and auto leveling.
Question…with some RV parks, it sounds like you have to make reservations a yr in advance…any advise on how to do that without knowing or having to map out a yr in advance?
Tom Anderson says
This doesn’t sound like a dream, it sounds like a nightmare.
My parents wanted to travel a lot when retired. The thought of giving up everything and doing it full time never crossed their minds. My best friend’s parents did it, they lasted about a year before they went nuts. Re-bought a small house and RV’d about 3 times a year, which is what makes freaking sense.
No home, no possessions, just a constant challenge of finding the next place to plug in, hoping the roof doesn’t leak in heavy rain, wanting to stop driving but you can’t, and no “escape”. The nonstop drone of an engine or a generator. “Seeing new places” is not exciting forever. Pretty soon, seen one forest, seen them all. You’re a bum in a coach.
No more building things. No more barbecues in your yard. No more pool. No more sewing room/pool table room/rec room. No more entertaining. No more having family over for holidays. No more real holiday cooking. No more restoring a car, or even having a collector car. No more community. No more security of a real home.
Good luck with that, and keep telling yourself you’re happy when you are on the side of the road, 10 degrees, blowing cold, your generator doesn’t work and you have a knocking sound coming from your engine….
you appear to be in the wrong place.
Well, looks like I’ll bring the cheese since you brought the whine
Robert Douglas says
First if you aren’t ready for RV life you will complain and want out. We’ve been doing it 11 years, we talked, tryed different places for a week here and there, talked with many people, then bought a new 43′ 5th wheel, we love it, but we were told never buy a new RV and they were correct. RV living is not expensive we never stop at Walmart or ant other trailers park. One thing we would never use Camperland or any other pay large fee then yearly, and then pay again when using. So many great places if you look, Have a check up on trailer once a year, not expensive but saves problems. You meet the most nicest and interesting people. so don’t complain and spread your bad feelings, think things through and maybe down size home buy a smaller RV and go once in awhile
JAMES Gasaway says
Wow! Sounds like we won’t be meeting you on the road, and so glad for that!
Be prepared and educate yourself. The government will punish you for living full-time in your RV. You can not use the banking system without a “residential address”. That comes directly from the PATRIOT Act legislation passed in 2001, section 326, the mandated CIP rolled out by FinCEN in 2004. The SEC is a little more flexible on the issue. Be sure to take a minute to thank the fine folks in Congress paid to representatives you:
Do not be fooled into believing you can substitute for this fact or you’ll lose things like your healthcare along with your finances. Also be aware you may also lose your ability to vote. A legal opinion has already been rendered in Clay County Florida ( Google ‘Voter Registration – Registration based on mail forwarding service address and declaration of domicile’ ). Seems, given the current political environment, more challenges to this will be on the horizon.
JAMES Gasaway says
Hmmmm…I guess that’s why so many thousands of people are out there RVing full time, and enjoying it.
One’s routines aren’t gone. They have changed by your choice. Can be changed back if one doesn’t slam all doors behind them. Choices can always be reversed, changed. That’s why we worked all those years, made good choices earlier, so we would have choices in retirement.
Robert Schroeder says
Having camped for about 34 years (if you don’t count 20 years in the Army), I think the article and all of the comments are correct, including the negative ones. It’s not a matter of “if it will happen but “when”. I also drove a big truck for 17 years. We currently live in a 2 room condo, you could say 4 since we had to buy the condo next door for “stuff”. But, having run team with wife in the truck our current 33 foot tag along with a double slide seems like heaven. I believe our main problem is doctors and medication. I knocked my left foot off 4 years after I retired from the Army and am on light opioids. In Florida I must see my pain doctor every month to obtain a new subscription for medications. With other problems, I must see my regular doctor every 3 months. Full timing is out of the question. living in South Florida and the camper stored where we used to live in Northwest Ohio takes 2 days to get there. We bought the trailer, pulled by a one ton Dodge 3500 with standard transmission just before covid hit. We were able to pull most of the stuff out of the 5th wheel toy hauler (that’s a story for another time and reason I’ll never return to Camping World), back it into the pole barn and head to Florida. It.s still new and I for one am chomping at the bit to take off with it. The 5 to 7.00 diesel is stopping us at the moment since we want to hit Reno in one trip which would be costly for just 21 days.