How Much Does Full-Time RV Living Cost in 2024?

We have been full-time RVers since 2021 and are breaking down exactly how much full-time RV living costs.

While many people assume it must be cheaper to live in an RV than to live in a traditional home, some of the costs and expenses might surprise you.

Let’s shed some light on exactly what it costs to RV full-time (and how you can save money while doing so) so that you can fulfill your RV travel dreams – no matter your budget!

Full-Time RV Living Expenses

An RV camping at a Harvest Host location next to a yellow building  overlooking a small harbor town in Newfoundland

When you decide to go full-time RVing, you can expect your expenses to generally fall into the following categories:

Fixed Expenses: These are your regular monthly costs that you can expect to stay the same month to month. This gives you a baseline for your expected costs and can help you budget for other expenses within your control (like entertainment and dining out)

  • RV payments
  • Vehicle payments
  • Internet costs
  • Cell-phone bill
  • RV Insurance
  • Vehicle Insurance
  • Medical/Health Insurance
  • Virtual Mailbox fees (if you choose to use a mailing service)
  • Storage unit cost (if you place items in storage)
  • Annual registration fees
  • Extended warranties
  • Roadside assistance
  • Camping memberships

Variable / Fluid Expenses: These are your costs that can go up or down depending on a variety of factors including where you are in the country, the type of camping you are doing, the weather, and unforeseen circumstances

  • Fuel costs
  • Campground costs
  • RV maintenance
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • RV repairs
  • Vehicle repairs
  • Grocery costs
  • Entertainment (eating out, fun activities, etc.)
  • Propane
  • Dump stations & water filling fees
  • Miscellaneous & Hidden Expenses (pet costs, laundry fees, toll roads, unexpected medical events or things you would want to have an emergency fund for)

Phew, that feels like a long list. Whether you choose to RV full-time or live in a traditional home, life does come with quite a scroll of expenses.

What we love about full-time RV travel is not the idea of how much money we could save compared to living in a home, but how much we gain in terms of experiences.

We highly recommend using the above list of RV life expenses as a starting point to estimate what full-time RV living might cost for you based on your needs and spending habits.

As we will break down below, the true costs of RVing can vary greatly depending on factors like where you travel to, how often you travel, where you choose to stay, what type of RV you choose, and what vehicle you own.

We have met budget RVers who spend just $1,000 a month all in as a couple, as well as full-time RV families spending between $5000 and $8000 a month.

The range can be shockingly large!

This is what our average spending looks like as a full-time RV couple traveling throughout the U.S. and Canada:

Our Average Full-Time RV Living Costs

Fulfilling Travel founders and full time RVers, Zach and Alyssa, sitting in front of their RV with their labradoodle, Azalea.

We are a full-time RV couple who have been traveling around North America with our fifth wheel and diesel dually truck since 2021 with our labradoodle Azalea.

We consider our style of RV travel a middle ground between a true budget RVer and a luxury RVer.

While we do look for ways to save money while living on the road in our RV, we also are willing to spend money to make the most of our travel experiences.

We enjoy a mix of camping including spending time off-grid boondocking (free camping), nature-centric State Park and National Park campsites, as well as the odd RV park or RV resort with additional amenities (like a hot tub or swimming pool!).

We move roughly every 2 weeks and typically cover around 10,000 towing miles a year (yes our fuel expenses are generally very high😅!)

Want to learn how to camp for FREE? Check out this great resource on boondocking for beginners!

On average, this is what a monthly breakdown of our full-time RV living costs looks like:

Fixed Expenses

A black t-mobile home internet tower set up on a wood table inside an RV so that full time RVers can work while traveling
  • Cell Phone Bills: $50/month
    • Zach and I both have T-mobile phone plans with unlimited data
  • Internet: $140-$290 / month
    • Our T-Mobile Home Internet Plan = $50/month
    • Our 100GB Verizon Data Plan = $90/month (NOTE: it cost about $1500 for our Peplink Router & Poynting Antenna setup)
    • We pause our Starlink when we don’t need it, but when in use that is $150/month (NOTE: There is a $599 hardware cost for the dishy and router)

Our internet costs are high, but as RVers working remotely from the road, it is important we have reliable internet no matter where we go – hence the redundancy in our setup!

Do you plan to work remotely while RVing? Here is everything you need to know about working from an RV!

  • RV + Truck Payment = $0
    • One of our biggest goals when deciding to pursue RV life was to do it debt-free. We bought a used RV and a used truck in cash and therefore do not have an RV or a truck payment. You can save a lot of money buying used!
    • RV and truck payments can range anywhere from $250-$750+ each, depending on your purchase. (NOTE: RV financing typically comes with 7%-20+% APR)
  • RV Insurance = $1350 / year ($12.5/ month)
    • Our RV is insured for full-time use through Progressive and has similar coverage to homeowners insurance, such as 100k in personal liability
  • Truck & RV Registration: $100 / year ($8/month)
  • Vehicle Insurance = $1800/ year ($150/month)
  • Health Insurance (provided by employer): $115/month
  • Virtual Mailbox (St. Brendan’s Isle) = $20/month
    • This service helped us to domicile in Florida, serves as our mailing address, and allows us to scan mail and send packages anywhere we are RVing through their Florida-based mail center
    • Other popular virtual mailbox options for RVers include Escapees and America’s Mailbox.
  • Camping Memberships + Road Side Assistance:
    • Harvest Hosts = $89 / year ($7/month)
    • RV LIFE = $60 / year ($5/month)
    • CoachNet = $175 / year ($14.50/month) (this service is specifically for RVers and covers roadside assistance and towing of your RV and tow vehicle

READ MORE: Is A Harvest Hosts Membership Worth It?

Fluid Expenses

A full time RVer filling his truck with fuel at a gas station as it tows his large fifth wheel RV behind it
  • Fuel Costs = $500-$600/month
    • With a large diesel truck towing our 20,000 lb 40-foot fifth wheel and our rate of travel, our fuel expenses are high. These expenses can fluctuate depending on location (our time spent in California and Canada are real killers at the pump!) and how much exploring we do in a given area
  • Campground Costs = $350-$1000/month (when boondocking is available it works out to about $500/month on average)
    • We prefer to do a mix of boondocking ($0/night) and State and National Park Campgrounds (typically $30-$45/night)
    • If we can’t find free camping or get into a local park (whether because of our RV size or due to lack of availability), we will stay at RV Parks ($50+/night)
    • Some months we boondock more, and others we do more campground stays. Campground costs are highly dependent on location. Free boondocking is much more plentiful in the Southwest compared to the East Coast, for example.
  • Grocery Costs = $400 / month average
    • We save money on groceries by shopping at cheaper store like Walmart and Aldi when we can. We also look ahead at our trip and stock up when we won’t have access to more budget-friendly grocery options
    • We also find it easier to stick to our grocery budget by ordering our groceries online for pickup at either Walmart or Target so that we can shop for deals and track costs. This also saves us time by not having to learn the layout of each new grocery store we find ourselves near
  • Entertainment =$350 / month average
    • We spend most of our free time hiking and exploring in National Parks, where our entrance fee is covered by our $80 annual National Park Pass
    • We typically eat out 2-3 times a month to check out local restaurants (while some months this goes down to 0 when we are in remote areas) and also play golf on occasion
    • Some months entertainment costs are higher for bucket list experiences (such as our camping trip to Channel Islands National Park and sea cave kayaking adventure, which cost around $600)
  • Routine Truck Maintenance = $1000 / year ($83/month)
    • Fuel filters, oil changes, transmission fluid, servicing systems, etc.
    • You will want quality truck tires for towing, which will cost about $1500-$2000 every couple of years to replace
  • Routine RV Maintenance = $1,000 – $2,000 / year ($166/ month on the high end)
    • Bearings, caulking and sealing, replacing filters, tire alignments, etc.
    • Things like RV tires will cost a bit more and will need to be replaced about every 5 years

Use this Year-long RV Maintenance Checklist to stay on top of all of your RV maintenance needs! Trust us, this will help you save money on repairs in the long run!

  • RV + Vehicle Repairs = $1000 – $2000 / year ($166/ month on the high end)
    • These repairs can hit you when you least expect it. We have had 2 major truck repairs in our years of full-time RVing that cost $2000-$2500 each.
    • Thankfully we have only had minor RV repairs or items that have been covered with our Progressive insurance
  • Propane = $200 / year ($16/month)
    • We go through about 6 40-pound tanks a year
  • Dump Stations & Water Filling = $0-$10 / month
    • We do our best to take advantage of dumping and filling our tanks while staying at campgrounds with those facilities
    • When we can’t, we use the following resources to search for FREE dump stations and potable water
    • If you can’t find free facilities, most RV parks and Pilot fuel stations will offer dumping and water filling for a small fee (typically $10-$15)
  • Miscellaneous = $65 / month
    • Dog Food = $60 / month
    • Laundromats +Tolls = $0-$5/month (we have a washer and dryer in our RV and do all of our laundry at home and we typically avoid toll roads when we can)
    • NOTE: We like to keep an emergency fund on hand for any unexpected expenses as well as repairs. It is recommended to have an emergency fund that covers 3-6 months of expenses. We try to keep ours at about $15,000 to cover about 6 months of expenses in order to err on the side of caution.

Total Average Full-Time RV Living Costs

When you add it all together (using the middle ground for each category for a conservative estimate), our grand total for monthly RV life expenses are:

  • $600 (Fixed Expenses) + $2550 (Fluid Expenses) = $3,150 / month in total expenses for full-time RV living

That comes out to a rough average of about $37,800 per year that it costs for us to live and travel in an RV full-time

Whether this number comes as a major shock or perhaps feels like a relief, keep in mind that the costs of full-time RV living can vary greatly and there are many things you can do to make it fit within your budget.

Here are some factors to keep in mind that can really impact what full-time RV living could cost you:

Factors That Impact The Cost Of Full-Time RV Living

How you set up your life and travel as a full-time RVer can drastically affect the costs associated with this lifestyle.

RV Type

RV boondocking for free in a field of wildflowers

If you are looking to save on full-time RV living costs, your best bet will be to buy an RV that you can pay for in cash.

In our experience, you can often buy a nicer, higher quality, used RV for your money compared to what you could buy brand new for the same price.

While you do have to be careful that you are buying a used RV that has been well-maintained and cared for, the benefit of buying a used RV is that often the kinks or problems of the new RV has already been fixed and worked out by the previous owner.

Generally speaking, the cheapest RVs will be travel trailers. These will also be the lightest RVs and typically the lowest quality in terms of construction and features.

In the mid-range, you will have fifth wheels, which can range from standard to luxury fifth wheels. These will most likely require a larger tow vehicle compared to a travel trailer, but will also have a more homey feeling.

Driveable RVs like vans and Class C’s can also fall in the middle to upper range in terms of price.

The most expensive RVs to own will be Class A diesel pusher motorhomes, which will have both the highest price tag and the highest maintenance costs.

  • Travel Trailer: Lowest purchase price & maintenance costs
  • Diesel Motorhome: Highest purchase price & maintenance costs

READ MORE: Expert Tips For Buying A Used RV

Camping Preferences

Fifth wheel RV and Ram 3500 dually in a sunset glow while boondocking in South Dakota

Another big way to increase or decrease the cost of full-time RV living is by changing where you stay.

Boondocking is a great way to camp for free in beautiful places on public lands. This said, this does require a willingness to be off-grid and highly conservative with your resources as you will have to live with limited water, holding tank space, and battery power.

  • We installed a $10,000 solar system and lithium battery bank on our RV to comfortably camp off-grid, in addition to our portable generator, water bladder, and portable waste tank
  • Our solar system has paid for itself in terms of campground savings over the years, but it was a larger upfront cost. You DO NOT NEED solar to boondock, but you will at least require a generator to keep your batteries charged

The most expensive way to RV is to stay at luxury RV resorts and private RV parks often with amenities like pools, hot tubs, and more.

State Park and National Park campground costs fall somewhere in the middle and often come with larger or more private campsites and close proximity to nature sights and hiking trails, but fewer amenities. Some parks will have no hookups, some will have partial (electric and water) and you can find some great ones that offer full hookup sites with electric, water, and sewer!

  • Boondocking: Lowest cost ($0/night)
  • State Park and National Park Campgrounds: Mid Range ($30-$45/night)
  • RV Parks & Resorts: Highest Cost ($50+/night)

Full-Time RV travel vs. Stationary RV living

When living in an RV full time you can expect the costs to be higher the more you travel.

Stationary RV living or living in an RV permanently parked in one spot, will be cheaper as it will require no fuel for towing the RV around and will likely come with discounted rates for long-term stays.

Rate of travel and where you visit

If you plan to travel while living in your RV, your expenses will fluctuate based on how often you move and the places you visit.

For example, we move about every 2 weeks which means we miss out on discounted rates at private RV parks if we were to stay 1 month or longer. This said we often do get a discounted rate for staying 1 week or more, which we would miss out on if we moved more often.

In addition, some states and destinations are just more expensive than others.

Campground costs and fuel costs are much higher in California, and boondocking is nearly non-existent on the East Coast, which left us staying in paid campsites more often than typical during our East Coast RV Road trip.

  • Seasonal or long-term stays will be the best way to cut campground costs as a full-time RVer
  • Traveling less frequently will also help you cut down on fuel costs

how to save money while full-time RVing

A small sandy campsite surrounded by brown fence with the bright blue ocean out beyond the site

If you are a budget-conscious RVer, there are a few ways to cut costs while full-time RVing:

Camping Memberships

If you plan to stay at private RV parks, you might be able to save a lot of money with a campground membership. The most popular ones are:

As we try not to stay at many RV parks, we instead use our Harvest Hosts membership for low cost overnight stays and do our best to plan in advance so we can reserve highly competitive State and National Park campgrounds.

Campground host or work camping jobs

Another popular way for RVers to save money is by working as a campground host or other work camping job where you work in exchange for a free campsite to stay in (with varying levels of utilities) and in some instances earn additional pay.

Here are a few resources for finding positions like this:

Moochdocking

One of the best things about RVing is having the flexibility to visit with family all around the country!

Another potential benefit of this is having a place to stay on your family and friends’ land or in their driveway where you can use their electricity and water while visiting.

It sounds exactly like it is – mooching off your loved ones. Chances are they will just be happy you are there and won’t mind lending you those services.

is full-time rV living cheaper than a house or apartment

Fifth wheel RV camping among tall green pine trees on land backing up to a blue body of water

The long and short of it: full-time RV living can be cheaper than owning a home or renting, but that isn’t always the case.

These things are all relative!

If you go from living in a big expensive house to boondocking for free and staying at State Park campgrounds, you will likely see your expenses go down.

If you buy a quality used RV, do a mix of boondocking and stays at more budget-friendly campgrounds, and are smart with your fluid expenses, you likely will notice you are able to save a bit more money.

If you buy an expensive RV and stay at luxury RV resorts, your expenses could be higher.

Compared to apartment living, RV life can come with much larger fluctuations in expenses and surprise costs, but to us, it is worth the tradeoff.

is an rV a good investment & A Sound way to save money?

All this said, it is important to remember that purchasing an RV is NOT an investment.

RVs will always be depreciating assets so you will not be building equity like you would if you purchased a home and were paying off a mortgage.

This said, if you make financially sound decisions and live within your means, you can save money and build your wealth while traveling and exploring beautiful places in a much more budget-friendly manner than if you were to fly and stay in hotels and AirBnBs.

While we are not building equity in a home, we are able to travel full-time while maintaining a debt-free lifestyle and building our wealth through investing and utilizing high-yield savings accounts (HYSA).

This tradeoff is absolutely worth it to us and we wouldn’t give up our opportunity to RV full-time for anything!

Housing costs you avoid with full-time RV living

While some RVers are able to build equity in a home by renting our their properties while living and traveling in their RV, many full-time RVers do not own any real estate and instead choose to embrace a fully location-independent lifestyle.

There are some perks to not owning property, which include:

  • No mortgage payments or rent (although this is replaced by campground fees unless you free camp or boondock exclusively)
  • Property taxes
  • HOA fees

It is a running joke among the RV community that one of the best ways to take advantage of the perks of your tax dollars is by living for free on public lands!

As with anything, there is no perfect solution or way to “game the system” when it comes to saving money, cutting costs, and building wealth.

While full-time RV living for some is done out of necessity as a cheaper alternative to renting or living in a traditional home, for many (like ourselves), full-time RV living is about embracing the opportunity to live a life of freedom and travel full-time.

There are many ways to fit full-time RVing into your desired budget, and the main thing to keep in mind is that RV life is what you make it.

The RV community is full of people from all different walks of life living their RV travel dreams and no matter how you choose to RV, we can guarantee you will fit right in!

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