The Average Monthly Cost Of RVing Full-Time
What is the average monthly cost of full-time RVing? Several factors go into the cost of full-time RVing, and they can all change depending on your lifestyle.
Factors such as how often you travel can affect the amount you spend on gas. Do you like to boondock, or do you prefer to stay at classy, upscale RV resorts? Maybe you are retired and have a pension that will supplement your lifestyle. Maybe you can work on the road to supplement your budget.
These are just a few of the things you will want to consider as you contemplate your future as a full-time RVer. Here are a few of the basics you will need to budget for in your monthly cost of full-time RVing.
Not everyone can pay cash for their RV. If you believe that your monthly budget is going to be tight, based on your income, start with a less expensive RV that can handle your budget.
Consider that travel trailers are usually the least expensive RVs and are cheaper as you go down in size. You will also need to have a vehicle to tow, which will be another expense, unless you already have one. Make sure your lienholder for your RV is aware that you are full-time. This could affect your cost as well.
We recently refinanced our RV loan for a better interest rate and a quicker payoff, although the amount we pay per month is higher at around $450/month.
Truck or car loan
Getting a new tricked-out pickup that will pull your trailer or fifth wheel is going to be another expense. You might want to go for a gently used truck that will suit your needs. The cost of the truck, how much you put down, etc., will all affect your payment. In the end, make sure you have the truck with enough power to pull the trailer you purchase.
Our truck loan was around $500 per month. When we received some extra money, we chose to pay it off. Even if you have a motorhome, you will likely want to tow a small car that will have its own expenses as well.
Gas is a very big factor in the monthly cost of full-time RVing. Right now, we are stationary in the Phoenix area and the cost for diesel is $3.90 per gallon. The cost for gas is around $3.50 per gallon. Of course, the more you travel, the more you will pay for gas, and where you are located will determine the price.
If you get on the road and find gas prices are becoming a hindrance, plan to take more of a long-term stay somewhere you would enjoy. Explore the area and get back on the road when you can. The great thing about RV living is you can usually be very flexible.
A 30-pound tank of propane is around $30 and should last a while, depending on your personal preferences. We choose to use space heaters and stay in places that don’t get cold enough to need the furnace. Our electric fireplace is great to take the chill off in the morning. I don’t do a lot of cooking on the stove or in the oven, so that keeps our propane costs down as well. You can probably budget to fill two tanks a month at $60.
This is another gray area expense. I’ve seen monthly campground fees for as little as $300 a month to thousands of dollars. Places that have a lot of amenities are going to be more expensive. You are going to pay more on a nightly basis rather than a monthly rate. You also need to consider whether electricity is included in that monthly cost.
More adventurous RVers should check out RV clubs and memberships like Harvest Hosts. This subscription runs around $100 per year and allows you to park at participating farms, wineries, breweries, and more around the US. Be aware, most of these places do not have hookups.
Boondocker’s Welcome is similar. You pay a yearly fee to park at sites all over the country. Your budget might allow you to do a combination of places such as state parks, which run around $25 per night, then maybe a stay in a nicer place with all the hookups and amenities for a change of pace and a long, hot shower.
Eating at home every night will keep your food budget on the manageable side. Make eating out a treat and you will find that it holds more value when you don’t do it as often.
For us, eating out is a special occasion, and the fact that we don’t have a lot of food storage means we go to the grocery store about once a week, each about a $100 trip.
Rig repairs and maintenance
Have money set aside for emergencies. An RV repair can be a major expense. Having your own ability to fix things can help a lot. Don’t be afraid to ask your RV neighbors as well. They might at least be able to help troubleshoot so you might not have to call out a repair company or take your RV in to be fixed.
Make sure you have a supplies budget for items such as hoses, tanks supplies, etc. For us, it’s rare that there isn’t something that needs to be purchased for the RV on a monthly basis. Hoses wear out and a leaky one for your black tank has to be changed out immediately. Having a spare on hand is a great idea too. A black tank hose on Amazon is around $40.
Again, this monthly RV cost is going to be different for each person depending on where they are located (or domicile state) and what is being insured. You are likely going to have to budget around $3,000 per year for all your vehicles—truck and trailer, or motorhome and tow car.
Our 2019 Ford F250 was about $123/month in Texas. Most RVers domicile in Florida, South Dakota, or Texas, so it’s a good idea to do some insurance shopping before you buy to get an idea of what state might save you the most money.
This was one area I was concerned about when we hit the road. I have several prescriptions and didn’t want to pay the full amount for each one. Pharmacies are great for helping you find discounts. You can also check out GoodRx and other similar programs.
Depending on your health insurance needs and income, you could pay virtually nothing on the US Government healthcare exchange. The cheaper premiums usually come with a higher deductible. We pay $96/month for two on the exchange. For us, checkups have a $50 copay and prescriptions are generally a zero-dollar copay.
You can also find companies that have alternative health care options. You pay a certain amount per month to someone who is in need at that time. When you have a surgery or other healthcare need, they pay you. Last I checked, it was around $300 per month and doesn’t provide any well-checks or prescription coverage.
You need to be approved before you are considered for payment. It’s available no matter what state you are in and might fit what you need. Samaritan Ministries and Medi-Share are two popular providers.
Are you someone who sits outside and watches the stars every night without a device in front of you? If you are, then you can skip this section. Otherwise, keep in mind that between phones, internet, and television, you will likely pay around $350-400 per month.
Like everything else, there are a lot of variables in that cost. If you like to boondock and still want to use your devices, you can get a hotspot on your phone so you can use your phone without needing Wi-Fi. You might also need to get a device that will boost your signal.
A portable satellite dish will cost around $400, and a Dish subscription, depending on the channels you get, will be around $100 per month. This is a great option because you can get the service every month and turn it off whenever you don’t need it. Some RV resorts provide a cable connection, usually for a cost.
You can also rely on campground Wi-Fi if you don’t need a reliable signal. Some are better than others, but if you work from home, it’s probably best to get a booster or use a hotspot. If you don’t need anything fancy, get a basic phone with a cheap plan for emergencies.
Entertainment can include anything from visiting parks and monuments to digital entertainment such as Netflix and Hulu subscription costs.
Consider that national parks will be about $20-$25 per visit, or $80 a year with an America the Beautiful pass. The pass is good for all national park sites and covers up to four adults. For those 62 and older, you can get a lifetime pass for $80 or an annual one for $20.
Fees for state parks are generally around $10 per car for entrance and $30-$35 for camping. You can purchase yearly passes that are only good for that particular park. States such as Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee have no entrance fees.
Other costs you will likely incur during your RV adventures include:
- Laundry – Average about $4.00 to wash and dry a load
- A mail service – $100 per year plus postage
- Pets – Food, medications, vet care, miscellaneous toys, leashes, etc.
- RV wash – $50 at Blue Beacon. Consider that some RV parks do not allow you to wash your rig on their property. Others will allow a wash service to come to you, which is around $150, depending on the services you receive.
- Tolls – Based on axles
- Electricity – When it is not included in your RV site
Set up a budget
So many people want to live the RV lifestyle but choose not to because of fear of the unknown or they don’t think they can afford to live this way. After doing this for three years, I can say we have enjoyed what we do and have been somewhat frugal. Setting up a budget has been a no-brainer. This is where the rubber meets the road, even before you get on the road.
Set up a monthly budget with known and fixed costs. Some things, like gas, you won’t know for sure until you hit the road, but you can always adjust your lifestyle if you find it’s getting too expensive.
When you set that budget, be realistic. Keeping a close track on your expenses will give you a full picture on where you are spending your money.
Find ways to save money
Once you start tracking those expenses, you will know what’s eating at your budget. Do you spend too much on going out to eat? Cutting back will certainly help your budget.
Take a few months to be frugal and put back some savings if you can. Then take a portion and enjoy a nice restaurant or splurge on something you really want to do. We spent time at Lake Powell this fall and said yes to renting a powerboat. We got so much out of our day on the lake that it was worth the extra expense.
You might find that camping on Bureau of Land Management land or finding free camping along the way is a route you are willing to take to save some money. I found out that boondocking every once in a while is not bad. However, I don’t like to get hot, so having no air conditioning on a hot summer day is a no-way for me.
You also don’t want to budget all the fun out of your RVing experience. Like with our Lake Powell experience, you want to make sure you aren’t so cheap you don’t do anything extra. Rent a kayak, take a float trip, visit that museum, or stay at a posh resort for a few days. It’s all about keeping everything in moderation.
Make sure you add a miscellaneous line item to your budget. This can cover needed RV purchases, souvenirs, or maybe something that would make your RV life more enjoyable. Getting that Blackstone Grill might be something you want and will keep you eating at home more. Do whatever works for you.
Plan your trips in advance with RV LIFE Trip Wizard. This way, you will know where you are going, and it will allow you to do less driving and save on gas. This will also help because some campgrounds are booked up to a year in advance. If you know you want to be on the Gulf Coast next winter, you can plan for it now.
Look for campgrounds that are low-cost. Also, travel at a slower pace. You can save gas and wear and tear on your rig when you drive around 65 mph. Keep your days as short as feasible and don’t drive at night. You will be much less likely to be in an accident.
Use the one thing in, one thing out rule to keep a lid on spending. Your RV will only hold so much weight. If you keep this in mind, you will find it’s easier to say no. Do you really need to purchase that item? What can I get rid of when I buy it?
Find ways to finance your RV lifestyle
Finding ways to finance your RV lifestyle is a great way to have money while on the road, especially if you are not retired. Consider working remotely. You might even be able to talk your boss into letting you Zoom into your office when needed. If not, there are plenty of remote jobs including virtual assistant, content writer, webmaster, or customer service representative. Since COVID hit, many employers had to find ways to get work done remotely and found it to be a great option.
If you have never heard of the term work camp, it’s also a great way to have fun, meet people, and make money on the road. Work campers, at the very least, work for their site. Taking those camping fees out of your budget can save a lot of money. Work campers can also find jobs that provide the site and pay for hours worked. Some even have extra benefits such as free laundry, rig washes, and entrance to the park’s amenities.
Work campers can do things such as work at state or national parks, which could include taking money at the entrance gate, cleaning up sites, or working in a retail setting. You could be a camp host and provide services to the guests such as providing firewood, cleaning sites, giving out information, or helping people get into or out of their site. Work campers can also do jobs with Amazon as an Amazon Camperforce seasonal worker.
You could also help with beet harvest in the northern states in the fall. We worked for a Christmas décor company and put up Christmas lights several years ago.
No matter what your RV life looks like, you will have expenses—planned and unplanned, no different than life in a sticks and bricks house. If getting yourself out on the road full time is your goal, then start now. Make a budget if you don’t already have one. Get debts paid off if you can. Research jobs you can do on the road.
You’ll find out that things will work out if you plan for the good and the bad. No matter what, you will make memories with all the friends you make and with those who travel with you.
For all of your camping and trip planning needs, look no further than RV LIFE Campgrounds and RV LIFE Trip Wizard. RV LIFE Campgrounds is a trusted source of campground and RV park reviews offered by camping and RV enthusiasts just like you. With its accompanying RV LIFE App, RV LIFE Trip Wizard gets you to your camping destinations utilizing RV-friendly routes specific to your RV and travel preferences.
Terri and her husband, Todd, are full time RVers and work campers. They have been living full time in their RV for nearly three years with their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Newton, and their Mini Aussie puppy Remi. They are currently wintering in Arizona with plans to continue their travels next summer. Writing is Terri’s passion but she also loves hiking, kayaking and anything she can do outside.
You covered a lot of the expense categories and gave good descriptions of each. The issue I have with your information is with the costs you list in your description. Our experience is these costs you list are the low end of the cost spectrum for each category. We have found most of the costs to be higher and going up. I do not think you are painting a clear picture of what the full time RV lifestyle can really cost. We did not enter into this lifestyle to just sit in one place. Our two biggest expenses are fuel and RV parks. Our RV is paid for and so is our Jeep and we are running $3800 to $4000 per month not including medical insurance. I know boondocking can reduce the cost per night but we have found very few boondocking places in the areas we want to see. I know this can be different as you head west as there are a lot more BLM and National Park land available for boondocking. As far as boondocking goes I have not seen an RV of any type that can boondock for more than a few days without a number of modifications. Your article is good but you do not cover any of the planning and perpetration it takes to understand what the real cost of full time RVing can be.
Tom Meyer says
Bruce, I got more out of your $4,000/mo than anything in the article. I don’t need expense categories. Rough estimates and lifestyles is what I’m interested in discovering.
Thanks for sharing your lifestyle on the road::::S.K. In Austin Texas.
Wow…. So I’ve been living in my RV for almost 5 years in Los Angeles. I pay between 100$ and 150$ a month FOR EVERYTHING. “Between phone/internet/tv” 300$? My phone bill is 50$ a month with unlimited day data. I stream live tv and so on to a chromecast. Propane is about 50$/60$ a month (3$ a gallon right now) and gas for air con maybe 50$ a month when it’s hot. I have 400w of solar. I live a mile or 2 from free dumping and water at a waste management site. Insurance is less that 10$ a month. I don’t travel in my RV so I can’t comment on that, but everything else in this article is extravagant! Should be a little more realistic.
I just returned from a month in AZ in my Class B campervan. Gas cost nearly $900. Food was $400. 17 days of paid campsites were $240. 15 days boondocking free. I have a Senior Federal Pass so park entrance is free. Medicare is $172. Medicare advantage is $19. Then there’s all the miscellaneous stuff like an oil change for $60, 3 propane fills for the camper coasting about $45-$55. Charcoal for my Dutch oven to cook outside. A new deep cell battery with 2 year warranty and install for $270, but that is amortized over time. Cell phone $70. I download books and Netflix on an iPad. Also pay once a week for a shower at truck stops, so that’s another $40-$60. Suffice to say it’s about $2000 -$2500 per month with gas ranging from $3.15 to $5.00/gallon. And there are so many clueless people out there who really should stay home, and lots of truly homeless living in campgrounds all over AZ. I’m hoping many people decide they don’t like camping/RV life. It’s been completely ruined the past two years. And costs have gone through the roof.
Frugal Fanny says
Join a gym like Planet Fitness and you get free showers anytime at hundreds of gyms nationwide for $30/mo. No need for truck stops.
Flamingo Moon Campers says
Personally what I got from the article was that it’s about a budget! You can do all the research in the world but most of the costs are available if you search for it.
Cost can vary as some have noted in the comments some costs are higher and some are lower.
But basically if you are living in a S&B place your current budget will be similar, you still have all of your regular expenses that you have in a home, you are swapping rent or mortgage for camping fees and loan payments on your depreciating assets. You can find cheaper plans or camping fees, or stay in one place longer, but I personally have found that most of my costs go for fuel and camping fees and they can vary from city to city. It’s a good article and it highlights that your normal everyday life can be transplanted to the road with some modifications. Happy Camping y’all
John Imrie says
Hey, I’m in Australia and found the US perspective very interesting. One thing that wasn’t mentioned in the excellent article concerns the relationship between you and your travel partner. If the relationship is even slightly unstable or argumentative, think very carefully because things will become increasingly tense once you are on the road together in a confined living area. Believe me, I know!