For many people, the idea of living in an RV and traveling around the country or across the world is their dream come true.
If you’re one of these people, it might be easy to think that it would be cheaper to live in an RV than a house – but you’d be wrong!
Living in an RV can be quite expensive, and so before you commit to this type of living arrangement, it’s important to calculate how much it will cost you to do so.
Why did you want to live in an RV?
When I first decided to get out of debt, one of my goals was to live on less than $30,000 per year. This sounded like a lot of money when we spent more than three times to own and maintain our home (which is located in an area with very high property taxes).
At the time, we were spending almost $50,000 per year on housing alone. Once we realized how much money we would have leftover by getting rid of our mortgage and moving into an RV full-time, saving another $20,000 a year seemed easy!
Choosing your RV
Several factors go into choosing your RV. You need to know how big you want your RV to be, for starters, from MR RV Expert.
As with houses, bigger doesn’t always mean better: Some people prefer small, cozy trailers for their camping experience, while others may opt for something spacious and luxurious that can easily fit their entire family and belongings.
However, whatever size of trailer you choose, some important things should go into your decision. Durability is key for RVs; if you don’t have one built from high-quality materials, then your vehicle could cost more money over time because repairs will inevitably be needed at some point.
Selling your home
In most cases, you’ll have to sell your home before buying an RV. To do so quickly and for top dollar, hire a real estate agent who has experience selling homes similar to yours.
Your agent will guide you through every step of selling your home—from pricing it correctly (more on that later) to hiring a top-notch photographer.
But remember: Don’t try selling your home on your own—it won’t sell fast and for top dollar, if buyers think you might be desperate or don’t know what you’re doing.
Cost of Home Ownership
It depends on where you live, but there are plenty of places where owning a home is significantly more expensive than living in an RV.
For example, if you lived near Los Angeles and rented out your three-bedroom house for $2,000/month ($24K per year), you could probably get by spending around $5k for rent and utilities each year.
In some states—like California—you’d be looking at spending as much as $10k just on property taxes each year. On top of that, you’ll have utility bills (electricity, water), maintenance costs, and general wear-and-tear expenses.
The Actual Costs of Living In An RV Full Time
It’s one thing to think you can save thousands of dollars by living out of your RV. It’s another thing entirely when you crunch all those numbers and find out that sometimes it can be more expensive than renting an apartment or buying a small home.
What did I discover after all those hours of research and number-crunching? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Depends on your particular situation.
Pros of Living In An RV
There are a lot of reasons why living in an RV is more cost-effective.
Here are some of them:
- RV parks have amenities like electricity, water, sewage disposal, Wi-Fi, and cable TV that make life easier. For example, you don’t have to pay for lawn care or heating and cooling systems.
- Transportation costs can be significantly reduced because RVs are very fuel-efficient (I average about $4 per gallon of gas), so your transportation costs will be lower. Also, there are no license or registration fees since RVs do not need plates or tags.
- You can move your home every few days if needed because they’re mobile. Many RVers stay at RV parks, while others prefer boondocking (no hookups). Boondocking is free but may require some planning ahead to ensure you have access to clean water and a bathroom nearby.
Cons of Living In An RV:
The biggest drawback of living in an RV full time is space. If you want a lot of room, then buying an RV isn’t work for you.
Another drawback is having limited options when it comes to entertainment. Most communities don’t allow overnight parking, so if you want access to restaurants and stores, staying at campgrounds or boondocking might not work for you either. If these things aren’t deal breakers for you, living in an RV might be perfect!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it financially smart to live in an RV?
Many people dream about getting out of their day-to-day life and just hitting the road, but financial limitations often put these goals on hold.
But is there an alternative? If you’re looking for a low-cost living situation that will free up your money for other uses (such as traveling), you might want to consider living in an RV.
Unlike what you may have heard, living in a recreational vehicle doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars per month.
Can you live permanently in an RV?
The first and most obvious advantage of living full-time in your RV is seeing more of North America. No surprise there! But, living on the road has other financial benefits as well.
You can save big on housing costs—particularly if you enjoy boondocking or off-the-grid camping. A typical space rental for two people is about $1,500 per month. So, paying $1,000 (or less) a month for mobile homes saves thousands over time.
Can living in an RV save money?
RV living is something most people dream about, but few follow through with. Maybe they’re scared of having nowhere permanent to call home, or they’re worried about saving enough money for a down payment on a big enough plot of land.
If you’re serious about living on less, consider moving into your RV and camping out of state instead of forking thousands for rent or mortgage every month.
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You can buy your travel trailer or rent one (the vacation rental site Airbnb rents out RVs and campers). Not only will you save money, but by getting away from home for a bit, you’ll have time to think about what makes sense for your family and whether that suburban dream is sustainable.