The Cost Of Full Time RV Living

One of the most common questions I am asked when I tell someone myself, my husband and our four kiddos travel and live full time in an RV is, “How much does it cost?!”. That is a deeply personal question of course, but we get it so often I thought sharing our budget information may help others plan a realistic budget for their RV travels. the-cost-of-fulltime-rv-livingBefore we hit the road we did a bit of research, and research shows that families who travel full-time often spend less on living costs than your typical family in a “traditional” home. We have no heat, electric, HOA, cable, water, landline phone, security system, property taxes, mortgage, etc. For us, this lifestyle is, by far much more affordable than our sticks and bricks home was and feels just as much (if not more) like home to us.

Our monthly travel cost is listed below and is just an example of what it can cost to travel full time. As one would imagine there is no standard answer. The answer is highly personal and varies from person to person based upon personal living style and income. This should by no means be an indicator of what it could cost you, but it is a general guideline. 

Our Full Time RV Living Cost

Truck Loan $1100
Van Loan $325
5th Wheel Loan $560
Vehicle Insurance $236
5th Wheel Insurance $85
Internet $175
Thousand Trails Membership $50
Laundry $70
Mail Forwarding $50
Food $1500
Fuel $700
Other $400
TOTAL $5,221

Keep on reading for explanations of a few odd columns. Some people reading this will wonder how a family of 6 gets by on so little, some will think we are living an overly indulgent lifestyle, but this is just a raw and honest explanation of our budget.

Truck Loan: This is a real sore spot for me. Our interest and thus our payment is out of this world. We purchased a brand new 2015 Dodge Ram 2500 end of June 2015. Beginning of July we took that truck to an RV dealership and asked them for a 5th wheel we could tow with no problem. They sold us our Monty. Fast forward a few weeks, we hopped on a CAT scale and realized that the 2500 was way, way over weight. We didn’t have but a quarter tank of gas, our holding tanks were bone dry and not even half of our stuff was actually inside of the camper. We ended up having to trade the brand new 2500 in for a 3500. This greatly increased our payments and our interest rate, but it was the safest option for our family. Lesson to be learned? Don’t trust any RV dealer, check, check and double check your weights.
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Second Vehicle: When we launched in June of 2015, we traded our Sienna in for a Ram truck. We had NO idea that a year later, we would find ourselves at a Toyota dealership looking at another minivan. Having one vehicle was nice. I could work on the road on move days, but driving only the truck just didn’t make sense. Not only did the truck suck fuel, it was huge. Parking it in Key West was a nightmare! So we did the math (which I will share with you below) and realized that buying a second car would  practically pay for itself!
Let’s look at 30,000 miles. Which is what we do in about 6 months.
Van – 25MPG, gas average $2.50 – $3,000
Truck – 12MPG, diesel average $2.80 – $7,000
This means in 6 months, the van saves us $4,000 in gas ALONE. Not to mention, an oil change on the van is $60, verses $500 for the truck! It pays for itself and then some.
5th Wheel Insurance: Getting a true full time RVing policy is very important. We choose Progressive. If we get into an accident our coverage covers us more than a typical RV policy. We have $7,500 for hotel reimbursement and $20,000 worth of stuff inside my RV that weekend travelers may not have that will be reimbursed.
 Full Time RV Living Cost
Thousand Trails Membership: With out our Thousand Trails membership, full time travel would not be possible. After our initial purchase price, we pay only $550 per year. That means if we camp 365 nights a year, we are paying only $1.50 per night. If you camp every weekend all year round, that ends up being $5.39 per month. The most reasonable rates ever, you will not find a cheaper option. Resort fees can easily be $50+ per night.  Check out reviews of some of the campgrounds we have stayed by clicking here. Memberships can be purchased from ThousandTrails.com or by calling the sales team at 855-558-3010.How to fulltime RV Affordability
Internet: Finding unlimited and unthrottled internet is not easy. We were lucky and found one thanks to another full time family sharing their ebay contact. I fully believe that unlimited internet is a must have for full time RVing. We use a ton of internet each month. If we had to pay per GB, our bill would be thousands. As of August 2016, Verizon is cracking down on rented unlimited plans. Our provider asked us to stay under 90gbs per month, which is really hard since we are used to streaming whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. We are still deciding what to do from here. I think a TMobile plan is our best bet since Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and more are “free” to stream. As of November 2017, since AT&T now offers unlimited, we switched to them directly. We have a homebase, a mifi and two phones on our plan. Last month we used 568GB.
FulltimeTravelMail Forwarding: Since we don’t have a piece of property, we do not have a street address. In order to recieve important mail, register our vehicles, get insurance, etc we needed to use a mail forwarding system that provided us with an address. We chose Saint Brendans Isle. They are only $11.99 per month and we opted to add the Mail Scan Pro for $7.99 which allows me to view my incoming mail online the day it is received. We budget more than that because my husbands medicine is shipped there and we have to then pay them to ship it to us. More info here.

Other: This includes clothing, shoes, haircuts, toilet paper, toothpaste, school supplies, oil changes, tires. urgent care visits etc. It varies from month to month, but I set aside the same amount each month. What we don’t spend one month, rolls into the next month where we may spend more then. I also wrote a post about the hidden costs of RVing. You can find that here.

Health Insurance: My husband is a disabled veteran, health care for veterans is sub par, but free. This is a large bill for most other fulltime families and should have a budget of $500 plus for typical families of 6. You can also look into medical share companies.

Find additional RVer articles by clicking here.

Things I did not include in our budget above include, but are not limited to RV maintenance, retirement, savings account, yearly registrations, credit card debts. I plan to make another post in the future covering most of these. There are no state taxes in Florida.

Skye About Skye

Real Mom Review's founder and main author, Skye Moyer is a 27 year old, stay at home mother of four beautiful children who is currently traveling all over the U.S. in her RV! She has been married to her best friend for almost 10 years and is happiest when surrounded by family & friends!

Comments

  1. May I ask what the original allure was in the 2500? I bought a dually even before I had a big enough camper to need it for two reasons:
    1- Just in case.
    2- Ya never know.
    Both of which I see as valid reasons.
    I’m glad I did because we ended up with a behemoth! Any time someone asks “what truck?” My answer is always, “the biggest you can find.” You can never have enough truck.
    OK, enough of my rambling. Back to my question. What made you decide on the 2500?

    • There were a few things..

      1)There were NO duallys anywhere around where we were shopping. Like none for 400 miles I think it was. We needed was a 6 seater. It was literally like searching for a needle in a haystack. They all had gorgeous center consoles, but I can put a kid in a center console.

      2)We knew nothing about tow ratings, GVWR, transmissions or wheel ratios. We had a minivan- lol. We knew we wanted a cummins engine and trusted our sales man (big mistake) that the 2500 could pull anything, It was after all, the biggest truck on their lot!

      • I sent my dealership 600 miles to pick up the truck I wanted. Told them either they were driving to get it, or I was. Their choice.
        That was just so I could get the AISIN transmission!

  2. Lana Jennings Mcilwain says:

    I’ve never heard of Thousand Trails..we travel year round as well with a family of 6 I’m definetly heading to their website! Your expenses are fairly spot on to ours. My husband’s truck is $1200 mo and our rv is $700 but I don’t think that’s the case with most ppl!!!

  3. ellen bendana says:

    thanks for sharing…we also purchased a Dodge 2500 4×4 Diesel, then when we got weighed, although not overweight, we were too close for comfort, so we traded for a 3500 dually 4 x 4 diesel, we were very pleased with the trade in price for our 2500, but the new truck was 10k more…we got lucky though in that it had been about a year between transacations, and our interest rate fell from 5.25 to 1.99…payment did go up about $35 per month! Mountainview Dodge in Blue Ridge Georgia gave us a very fair trade value and new price on car…I highly reccomend them!

  4. Thanks so much for this post. What about campground fess/rent? For the times when you aren’t staying in TT’s.

    • Thus far we have only stayed at Thousand Trail parks. We have no need to visit other ones, there are TT parks everywhere we have traveled so far!

      • TT parks are far from everywhere! They are good basically for the coasts, but once you get into the middle of the country much more than Ohio or so, it stops being an option. I have the 81 parks or so and found that we used TT parks for about 1/2 of our first 6 months. Without it, we couldn’t have gone to a lot of places so conveniently- Colorado Springs, Chicago, family in Indiana, Cincinnati, and on and on.

        We use it when we can and like it a lot. But it’s certainly not everywhere.

  5. Alan Kirk says:

    I am disabled vet ( Desert Storm and Somalia conflicts) as well and thank your husband for his service.
    My questions are:
    1. Does your husband work a fulltime job now? Work camp? or own his own business with you?
    2. Do you home school your kids or do they go to school where you are?
    3. Which Thousand Trails package/membership do you currently have and if you have more than the basic membership, how much did that package cost without financing?
    4. How do you budget in your annual fees like Truck registration, trailer tags and so forth, Also may sound silly but i only seen truck/5th wheel insurance as well as Some healthcare too but what about life insurance for husband or yourself? I know living on a fixed income is hard to budget for things like vehicle/5th wheel repairs but do you budget for those things as well as maintenance like oil changes?
    Thanks,
    Alan ( RV ADVENTURER)

    • Thank you for your service as well.!
      1. Nathan is a stay at home dad. He spends a lot of his time taking care of the kids and helping them with schoolwork.
      2. We are currently homeschooling three of them. Cirriclum was much more affordable than I thought it would be. Extra stuff we need comes our of our “other” fund. We always ask for art supplies for birthday gifts, so that cuts down on those costs a bit.
      3. There are so many different options for Thousand Trails memberships. I believe ours is called Platinum Plus? I’d recommend calling the sales team to get a price, they vary from 4,000 and up. Ours allows 21 days in a park, then we need to move to another one. We can stay in the next park for 21 days, or move back to the park we were at before after 7 days.
      4. Good question! We actually just had to register the camper, then get our drivers licenses switched to Florida. Like we just did that Monday. That cost us $268.00. Half we took from our “other” budget. The other half we took from our food budget. We will just be more careful about what we eat. Have pasta 3 times this week instead of steak.

      Neither of us have life insurance! I know that’s not what you want to hear. But when your 20 something, its just not on your list of things to have. Once we are out of credit card debt, it high on our list of things to do!

      • Alan Kirk says:

        Thank you for answering my questions and it isn’t a matter of what I want to hear or not but instead what and how do you plan for these things now and in the future. I know it is hard to “Plan or Budget” for every little thing. So what I am saying is: We all learn from one another in this RV Lifestyle. Older folks can learn from younger and vice versa!! I am closer to the older folks and have kids your age and older. I find their knowledge of technology is far advanced from mine and will always seek out the advice of the younger folk for things like that. In turn, Younger folk learn from the experiences that older folks have. 🙂
        We have the TT Elite package which is similar to yours 21 days at a park and we can go straight to another TT park. Yes they have benefits for membership. May I recommend Passport America at some point as well.
        I am sure you both are realizing the pluses and minus’s to being a full time family!!
        Thanks,
        Alan ( RV ADVENTURER)

  6. Texas Momma says:

    We have been looking at RVing full time for the last year of so, and the Thousand Trails camping pass sounds awesome. But I was looking at their disclosure sstatement & it says, “Your ZPP may be used for recreational purposes only, and may not be used to create residency at any of our preserves or preserves
    affiliated with us. Violation of this condition may result in suspension or revocation of your ZPP.” and “You may stay at one preserve up to 14 consecutive nights. If you stay at any preserve for more than four consecutive nights, you must wait seven nights before you can stay again at any preserve.” Am I looking at the wrong pass or is there something I’m missing? I think this sounds like it could work for us if we can use it every night!

    • From reading that disclosure, it appears that they dont want people using their campgrounds for residency purposes. We use Saint Brendans Isle for that. Their address is where we register our vehicle, get our insurance quote from, etc.

    • It looks like you also have a zone pass, not a more expensive pass that allows you to stay longer without breaks between stays.

  7. Please share your internet plan. We are planning on going full time later this year and this is one of the things I am working on.

  8. Skye, Thanks for sharing your expenses. That is helpful and our potential cost of living is unknown to me and somewhat concerning. We are seriously considering fulltiming but I find that I keep coming back to purchasing a motorhome (leaning toward a Class A diesel) and pulling our small car. Schooling the kids during the drive is my main reason. I want to be on the road often and enjoy as much of the country as possible for a year or so. Did you consider a motorhome and if so, why did you decide on a truck & 5th Wheel? Seeking out the pros and cons of each. Thanks for your feedback!

    • We certainly did consider a motorhome!! Looked at quite a few models actually. The main problem for us was space. They simply do not offer the amount of storage and interior room when parked that a 5th wheel can. Living in something fulltime means there will be rainy days, sick days and days where you just end up hanging around in your home. A 5th wheel will give you more space than a motorhome.

      Additionally, there really is no safe places for kids to ride inside a motorhome. Every car seat manufacturer forbids their use in them.

  9. Michelle Waller says:

    Oh I hate that about your truck. We pay around $2100 a month for our bills, vehicle payments, progessice etc. I would be more than willing to lay the extra to get to travel the country.

  10. vickie couturier says:

    very interesting,,didnt realize there was so much expense involved,but if you enjoy it then its totally worth it

  11. Wow. That’s more than we spend (family of 7) with all of our extra activities. What sort of job do you have that provides for that? This is such an intriguing idea for us, at least for a little while, but no way could we afford that.

  12. Renee Walters says:

    This is something I have always dreamed of doing. Perhaps, once the kids go away to college?

  13. This was eyeopening! Thank you for being so forthright about how much it costs–it ain’t cheap! LOL. Having said that, your kids will have AWESOME stories and memories. I think it is a GREAT idea.

  14. Corp of engineers parks good place to camp seniors national pass half price free or disabled people 80 dollars for lifetime pass

    • Yes!!! We’ve stayed at ACOE parks a few times. They end up being way more expensive than utilizing our Thousand Trails pass though, even with my husbands America The Beautiful Pass!

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