Living in an RV Full Time: What are the Costs?

Summary:

Living in an RV full time will typically cost between $2,000-$2,500 per month for most people, but this is by no means set in stone. Depending on how you paid for your RV, where you go, what creature comforts you have, and other items, your monthly full-time RV living costs could be higher or lower. There are also some easy ways to cut costs and make your RV lifestyle more affordable.

These days, if you tell someone you are moving into an RV, you might get a response like, “You are so lucky. I wish I was doing that!” With the rise of remote work, more and more people are ditching life in a static house and opting for a life on the open road in an RV. Even celebrities like Tom Green are moving around the country in tricked-out RVs doing van-life podcasts. The ability to move around can be an eye-opening experience for singles, couples, and families with children. However, before you sell all your possessions to live the digital nomad life, you should ask yourself, “How much does full-time RVing cost?” We’ll help you break down the monthly costs of RV living.

Costs of living in an RV full time

When calculating the costs of a full-time RV lifestyle, the first cost is purchasing the RV itself. How will you pay for it? Can you buy in all-cash upfront, or do you need a loan? The second item to consider is how much you will pay to survive in an RV. You will need items like food, safe drinking water, and various utilities, such as gas and water, to live in your RV. Once you cover the actual RV and the basics of survival, you will want to consider a few other expenses. You probably want to enjoy life outside of the RV, so you’ll want to budget for entertainment and related travel costs. And finally, there are several other items that aren’t absolutely necessary, but you might want to figure into your monthly costs.

Quick monthly cost overview

Here is a quick breakdown of your potential monthly costs. Consider this list the bare minimum when exploring an RV lifestyle.

ExpenseMonthly cost
RV loan payment$400
Propane$20
Water$40
Electricity$80
Food$400
Gas$400
RV insurance$250
Entertainment$600
Total monthly cost$2,190

Buying the RV

The first order of business when contemplating life on the open road in an RV is the cost of the actual RV. Here are some RV types you should consider:

Class A

Class-A RVs are larger than typical RVs and, in some cases, can even look like a bus. They range in length from 25-45 feet, which gives plenty of space to the RV dwellers. A Class-A RV can range from $40,000 for a basic model to $500,000 for the most luxurious, well-designed RV you’ve ever laid eyes on. Depending on how much space you need, you might want to consider this type of vehicle for full-time RV life.

Class B

Class-B RVs are the typical camper-style RVs that you have probably seen before. They are smaller but more affordable and with better gas mileage than a Class A. An older used Class B can be found for as little as $15,000, whereas a new top-of-the-line Class B can set you back $200,000.

Class C

Class Cs offer a medium size, good gas mileage, and a high degree of comfort. You can pick up a used Class-C RV for as little as $12,000, and a new model will run you up to $150,000.

Conversions

Converted passenger vehicles are low-cost DIY ways to turn a vehicle previously used for another purpose into an RV. Remodeled vans, buses, ambulances, and even hearses can act as a reliable RVs while saving you a lot of money. You will, however, need to get an RV registration and license for the new vehicle before you can use it as an RV.

Pro Tip

Another option is to attach an RV trailer to your current vehicle. Pop-up trailers and fifth-wheel trailers are popular RV trailers with full utility hookups, and they often cost less than full-sized RVs. However, for the purpose of this article, we are focusing on full-sized RVs.

Buy the RV in cash or with a loan?

Once you know your choice of RV, the next step is to decide how to pay for it. If you don’t have the cash to buy it upfront, then you are probably going to look for an RV loan. In that case, it works like any other financing option, in which you make a payment every month. As the overall cost of your RV will determine the payment amount, which can range from $250-$700+, the exact payment can differ. The average loan payment, however, should be around $400 a month.

Monthly cost to own the RV: $400

Utilities

Every time you turn on the faucet or switch on a light in your home, you are using a utility most likely connected to your city’s utility system. With an RV, however, you won’t automatically have the privilege of running water on tap, heat at the turn of a button, and electricity at the flick of a switch. If you live in an RV, you will have to pay to acquire or hook up these utilities. Here are some utilities you might need.

Propane

If you’ve ever used a propane-fired grill, you know about buying propane. In an RV, a propane canister will replace the gas you would normally use to cook at your house. A medium-sized propane tank that weighs 30 pounds can hold seven gallons of propane. This should hold you over for a couple of months at least. You can also use propane to heat the interior of your RV if need be. As the price of propane is related to energy prices, this can vary. However, expect to pay around $30-$40 for a seven-pound tank.

Monthly cost for propane: $20

Water cooler

In your RV life, you’ll need water to drink, wash dishes, shower, and more. Some people will opt to fill up various tanks with tap water while they make stops. However, it’s much easier to buy water in a cooler form or have a tank that hooks up to the rest of your RV kitchen nook. The cost to maintain a water cooler/tank is around $30-$50 a month, which includes plenty of water replacement.

Monthly cost for water: $40

Electricity

RVs have various methods of providing electricity, including built-in generators with cords that you can plug into outlets at an RV park and rooftop solar panels. You could also run a gas-powered generator once you park your RV. But most likely, you will need to pay to use the power stations at RV parks, which are there for part-time and full-time RVers to use. In most circumstances, a 30-foot RV will use about 20 kWh per day or 600 kWh per month. The cost depends on the state where you get your electricity, but on average, you are looking at a monthly cost around $80.

Monthly cost for electricity: $80

Pro Tip

One big way to save on energy costs is to get solar panels installed on top of your RV. This will obviously be a separate upfront cost, but it can save you money down the line. You may be able to avoid using charging stations except on the cloudiest days.

Food

Your food costs may be different during RV life but you will still have some. Assuming you cook most of the meals yourself, you can save a lot of money on your food costs. Furthermore, eating cheaper foods that are easier to cook, like hot dogs, can save money. Your food costs will vary depending on the size of your family and how often you eat out, but you can probably get by on $400 per month if you are careful.

Monthly cost of food: $400

Gas

Although hybrid-electric RVs are becoming more commonplace, most people are going to drive an RV with a traditional gas engine and associated RV gas mileage. Most drivable RVs (not trailer RVs) will get somewhere in the realm of 10-20 miles per gallon. The amount that you spend on gas is determined by how much you drive the RV. However, say you drive the RV 300 miles a week. In this case, at $4 a gallon for an RV that gets 20 miles a gallon, the cost to fill up your gas will be about $400 a month.

Monthly cost for gas: $400

RV insurance

If you drive any vehicle in the United States, you are legally obligated to have insurance. For a part-time RV driver, this can cost as little as $100 a month. For a full-time RV driver, expect to pay in the $200-$300 range per month. So we’re going to estimate a cost of $250 per month.

Monthly cost for insurance: $250

Entertainment

The reason that you switched to an RV lifestyle is not so you could sit in a small, enclosed space all the time; it’s to enjoy new places. This means that you will probably spend a good amount of money on entertainment. National parks, museums, nights out in a city, and other activities to keep you busy will cost money. This amount will vary from person to person, but $600 should get you into all the national parks and museums, as well as a couple of nights on the town.

Monthly cost for entertainment: $600

What is the bare minimum cost to live in an RV?

For an RV with a loan, gas, utilities, various entertainment options, and food, your monthly costs will be approximately $2,190.

However, note this is close to the bare minimum of costs. Here are some other ancillary costs that you might want to incorporate into your budget.

Other cost considerations

  • Health insurance, especially if you are a freelancer
  • Laundry services
  • Homeschooling for kids and relevant supplies
  • Internet and connectivity
  • Mail forwarding
  • Equipment rentals
  • RV parking fees in an RV park or pay lot

Find an auto loan for your RV

Looking to get into the RV lifestyle, but need a loan to purchase a vehicle? Here are some options to compare.

FAQ

Is it practical to live in an RV full time?

That depends on your definition of “practical,” but yes, it can be done. As long as you budget and plan the costs, it can be a practical venture. Break down every cost you might possibly have and compare that to your income to make sure it will work with your budget.

Is it financially smart to live in an RV?

That depends on how much your RV costs and what you spend outside of the RV. For most people, however, it is. You save on rent, as your car payment is basically your rent, as well as utilities and your general living costs. A lot of people have used the money they saved by living in an RV to put toward a house down payment later.

What to know before living in an RV full time?

You will need to know how to operate your RV and how to fix any issues that go wrong. This includes electrical, mechanical, heating and cooling, as well as water issues that can pop up. You also need to figure out how you will work, where you will park your RV, and what modern conveniences you want inside.

Key takeaways

  • Living in an RV full time will typically cost between $2,000-$2,500 a month for most people, but this is by no means set in stone.
  • The first step to planning RV lifestyle costs is to determine which RV you want to buy and how will pay for it. Most people will need to get an auto loan.
  • All the basics you need to live, including water, electricity, food, and gas, should be taken into account. Then you should factor in items like gas and insurance that are specific to an RV lifestyle.
  • Although this article covers the essentials, there might be other expenses to consider, such as laundry service and homeschooling costs.
View Article Sources
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  1. How to Build a Tiny Home & 6 Ways to Finance It – SuperMoney
  2. How To Get Better Gas Mileage: 8 Simple Ways – SuperMoney
  3. 60+ Travel Hacks Everyone Needs to Know – SuperMoney
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  5. U.S. Electricity Grid & Markets – EPA.gov