If you are thinking about RVing full-time and wondering if you can afford it, this post is for you.
Ready to start planning your full-time RV budget? Download our interactive budgeting worksheet.
So How Much Does it Cost to Full-time RV?
Living and traveling full-time in a RV is of course not free, but I was surprised how affordable it can be. You actually have a lot flexibility when it comes to expenses – depending on your budget and how you like to travel.
Full-time RV Campsite Budget
Think of campsites like your mortgage or rent. Campsites are, in my opinion, where you can either spend the most money or make full-time RVing cheaper than “normal” life because there are so many options.
Depending on your budget and camping style, you can stay in RV parks, State Parks, on free Boondocking land, or utilize a RV host website. Learn more about different places to stay here.
RV Parks with full-hook ups (electric, water, sewer) will cost on average anywhere from $30-$50 a night. Many provide showers, which has nothing to do with the budget but sure is nice
Bonus: You are able to fill-up potable water and dump your tanks at no extra charge.
State Park Campgrounds
State Park campground fees will vary by state and what is offered. We’ve been found State Park campgrounds with partial hook-ups (electric, usually water) anywhere from $15-25. Dump stations are hit or miss. Most State Parks with dedicated campsites that do not have hook-ups will range from $10-15 in our experience.
Monthly average with hook-ups: $600
Monthly average without hook-ups: $360
Boondocking is basically camping at free spots without hook-ups. Several State Forests and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) locations have free dispersed camping. Typically, you can stay in one location for a maximum of 14 days. We have also found a few state parks have free campsites. While this option is free, you do have to find and pay for dump stations.
There are several RV websites out there that allow you to pay an annual fee to camp at members’ locations. For example, we use Boondockers Welcome which costs us $25 a year. We are able to stay with Boondockers Welcome hosts throughout the country for no additional charge. Another website out there is called Harvest Hosts. We’ve haven’t tried this one yet, but it looks awesome!
Usually, we can spend a few nights a month at different host locations. At $25-45 a year, it pays for itself after a few nights.
Our Monthly Campsite Budget
We budget $200 a month for campsites, which means we are boondocking the majority of the month. As long as it’s not too hot, we usually dry camp on BLM land or at State Forests. It works great for us – we can let the dogs run free, have plenty of space to spread out, and it’s free!
Monthly Campsite Budget: $200
Full-time RV Gas Budget
Honestly, I’m not sure if there’s a way to generalize the gas budget, since gas prices, gas mileage, and the number of miles you travel varies so much. BUT I’ll do my best to help you make your own gas budget.
How much should you budget for gas
Determine your gas mileage. If you are RVing with a tow-behind car, make sure you calculate your mileage when towing.
Next, plot out your trip on Google Maps. Since we are traveling for 7 months before heading home for the holidays, we put all our stops for the next 7 months on the map to get the total mileage.
Then, find the average gas price for the area you are traveling. We used the nationwide average, since we went coast to coast.
Formula: Price per gallon/gas mileage x total miles traveled = $$
Or skip the math and use the Gas Buddy Trip Calculator.
If you are a member of Good Sam Club, I highly recommend using their Trip Planner. It works like Google maps but gives you an RV estimated drive time and a gas budget.
Don’t forget to add in gas money for your car if you plan on parking the RV and driving to do things.
Our RV Gas Budget
So again, this varies month to month depending on how far we travel, the gas prices and how much driving around we do in our tow-behind car. We typically spend between $300-$500 a month on gas.
Monthly Gas Budget: $400
Since our RV is our home, we upped our RV insurance when going full-time. I recommend doing some research on providers and finding out exactly what you need. Our RV insurance plus our tow-behind car is around $145 a month.
Monthly Insurance Budget: $145
RV Maintenance and Repair Budget
If you’re planning to RV full-time, just know things break – often. This isn’t to scare you – full-time RVing is totally worth it, but just be prepared to spend $50-100 a month on repairs or maintenance. Thankfully, Luke can fix most things on our RV, so we just have to buy the parts. Depending on the condition of your RV and your handiness, you may need to adjust this number.
Remember, you’ll also be putting some miles on your RV, so oil changes and regular maintenance should be in your budget.
Worst case scenario: our RV’s transmission went out a month before we were supposed to head out on our trip. That took $2000 out of our emergency fund before we even started, but it gave us peace of mind that the transmission would be good for the trip. So, we kind of got lucky. Moral of the story: have an emergency fund that can cover your worst case scenario.
Monthly RV Repair and Maintenance Budget: $100
RV “Utilities” Budget
While you may no longer have a water, sewer, or trash bill, you may need to include utilities in your budget. Since we dry camp or boondock over half of the time, we have to pay RV dump fees. When we’re dry camping, we typically have to dump the tanks every 7-8 days.
We’ve found gas stations or travel stations to be the cheapest – and sometimes free. When there isn’t one close by, we typically pay $10 to use one at an RV Park. Of course, if you’re staying at an RV park, you can dump the tanks for free.
Monthly RV Dump Fees: $30
Cell Phone + Internet RV Budget
Before we hit the road, we upgraded our cell phone plan to the Unlimited Plan with Verizon. We use our phones as hot spots for internet, so we knew we’d blow through the data in no time. For the most part, we’ve had good coverage and no issues using our hot spots to get work done. We also use our hot spots to stream Netflix – on the rare occasion we want to watch TV.
Monthly cell phone budget: $230
Full-time RV Laundry Budget
Laundry budget. This is my least favorite chore – even before full-time RVing. So now that we have to pack everything up and go to a laundromat, it’s really not my favorite. But it has to be done. Some RV parks will have washers and dryers onsite, but if you’re boondocking a lot like us, you’ll find yourself at the laundromat.
We probably do laundry 2-3 a month. If you can find a place that has the industrial size washers and dryers, then you’re in luck. You can wash about 8 loads in one machine for $8. If we’re washing clothes, bedding, towels and the dogs’ stuff, we spend about $18-20 to wash and dry it all.
Monthly Laundry Budget: $40
We really weren’t sure how much to budget per month for propane. We read online that one family spend $40 a month, so that’s what we originally budgeted. Luckily, we don’t spend anywhere close to that. We refilled our propane tank about a month ago for $5, and that should last us another month or so.
We only use propane for cooking and heating the hot water tank. We don’t use our furnace – we have a little Mr. Buddy Heater that we using sparingly if it gets really cold.
Monthly Propane Budget: $5
RV “Fun Money” Budget
This totally depends on what you want to do for entertain and fun while full-time RVing. Our fun money budget is way less on the road than at home. This for a few reasons:
- We eat out way less on the road than we did at home.
- Buying a bottle of wine from the store and drinking it outside under the stars is just as fun – if not more fun – as going out for drinks.
- We can go explore or hike for free versus paying for entertainment.
- We’re not buying little things (coffee or smoothies or delicious treats from Whole Foods) on the way to work or on the weekends just because.
We do spend fun money on is the occasional date night, fishing licenses, and drinks if we’re meeting up with someone.
We also purchased the America the Beautiful National Park pass, which I highly recommend. The pass costs $80 annually, and it gets you into all the National Parks.
Monthly Entertainment Budget: Up to you 🙂
Normal Living Expenses
Normal living expenses include food, cleaning supplies, toiletries, health insurance – all the non-specific RV items you already pay for. This varies from family to family and shouldn’t change too much from your current budget. Except there’s a lot less space to clean meaning less cleaning supplies!
Monthly Living Expenses: Varies
How Much Does it Cost to Full-time RV for Us: $1,175 a month*
*This doesn’t include the last two items: Fun Money and Normal Living Expenses.
Ready to start planning your full-time RV budget? Download our interactive budgeting spreadsheet.
Let us know what questions do you have about full-time RVing? We’ll be happy to answer them!