How Much Does It Really Cost to Live in an RV?

how much rv life costs

Key Takeaways:

  • How much does it cost to live in an RV full-time? I would say between $1500 – $3500 most people and couples can make it in 2024.
  • RV Cost: RV prices vary significantly, ranging from under $10,000 for used models to over $1 million for luxury Class A motorhomes. Second-hand mid-range RVs typically cost between $40,000-$60,000.
  • Finding Low-Cost RVs: Various avenues, including online classifieds, auctions, RV rental companies, networking, and private sales, offer opportunities to find affordable RVs.
  • Maintenance and Repairs: RVs require regular maintenance and repairs, including slider lubrication, AC cleaning, roof cleaning, dicor application, water heater cleaning, annual inspections, battery check-ups, tire and brake maintenance, and engine maintenance.
  • Campground Fees and Parking: Overnight camping fees at paid campgrounds typically range from $15-$150 per night, while high-end RV resorts can cost up to $100 per night. Boondocking on public lands or house-sitting can offer cost-saving alternatives.
  • Utilities: Full hookups at RV parks cost around $30-$150 per night, while expenses for electricity, propane, and water vary based on personal usage and location. Solar panels offer a sustainable and cost-effective solution for electricity needs.
  • Insurance and Fuel Expenses: RV insurance costs around $100-$200 per month, while fuel expenses vary depending on driving frequency and fuel prices, typically ranging from $3-$6 per gallon.
  • Other Expenses: Additional expenses to consider include food and groceries, entertainment and activities, healthcare, RV depreciation, taxes and registration, internet access, and storage costs.

The classic American dream usually involved a white picket fence enclosing a home with the perfect lawn and a beautifully decorated interior. But the times have changed, and the millennial generation is opting for a minimalist lifestyle. One popular way of achieving this is by living in an RV. RV living is cheaper and provides an abundance of travel opportunities. But before you take the leap to RV living, the ultimate question to ask is, how much does it cost to live in an RV? Let’s break it down.

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RV Cost

Firstly, an RV can vary in its price range. The cost can range from under $10,000 for a used, smaller model to $250,000 or more for a newer and larger one. A new Class A motorhome can cost up to $1 million! The average cost of a mid-range RV bought second-hand, can be anywhere between $40,000-$60,000.

Finding Low-Cost RVs to live in

Online

Online classifieds like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or different groups and RV-related websites are some of the best places to look for low-cost RVs. These sites allow you to search for RVs by price range, location, and other important factors. You should be patient and search these sites regularly to find low-cost deals that match your needs.

Auctions

Auctions offer another option for finding affordable RVs. Depending on the type of auction, you may be able to find a good deal on a pre-owned RV that is in good condition. You can attend local auctions or even bid on RVs through online auctions. However, you need to make sure that you research the auction process and set a budget before making a final decision.

RV rental companies

RV rental companies sometimes sell their used RVs once they can no longer use them for renting. These companies typically maintain their RVs in good condition to ensure that they can be rented for an extended period. You can reach out to these companies and ask if they are selling any of their used RVs. They tend to sell their older models for lower prices.

Network

Networking with other RV enthusiasts can be an effective way to find low-cost RVs. Joining an RV club or attending an RV meet-up can provide access to a network of people who can help you find an affordable RV. RV enthusiasts have been known to help each other out, so it’s worth getting out there and connecting with others in the community.

Private Sales

Finally, private sales are an excellent way to find affordable RVs. People often sell their RVs for cheaper prices because they need to make a quick sale or are not aware of the fair market value of their RV. You can find private sales through online classifieds or by putting a “wanted ad” in your local newspaper or on social media. Please make sure to record every detail of the RV before purchasing it.

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Maintenance and Repairs

Mechanical and physical issues will inevitably arise with an RV, and the repairs can be quite costly. Additionally, the cost of general maintenance varies, from basic oil changes to more substantial repairs such as replacing or fixing significant parts such as transmission, brakes, or suspension. The average cost to maintain an RV would be around $3000 a year.

Essential Maintenance

Slider maintenance and lubrication

Sliders are an essential part of an RV, and it’s crucial to take good care of them. If your sliders aren’t moving smoothly, it’s time for some maintenance. Start by cleaning out any dirt or debris from the tracks. It’s recommended to lubricate the sliders with a silicone-based lubricant. This keeps them moving smoothly without leaving any residue or attracting dirt.

AC Cleaning

Air conditioning is an essential part of RV living. When it’s hot and humid outside, it becomes an absolute necessity. To make sure your AC unit is working at optimal levels, it’s important to clean it out regularly. First, turn off the power to the unit, then remove the filter and clean it thoroughly. After that, use a soft brush to clean the coils and fins, then vacuum away any dirt or debris. You will find tons of videos on YouTube for details.

Roof Cleaning

Over time, dirt, debris, and weather conditions can cause grime to build upon the roof of your RV. To keep your roof in good condition, it’s important to clean it at least twice a year. A soft-bristled brush and a mild detergent solution are all it takes to get your RV’s roof sparkling clean. Before you clean, ensure that there aren’t any loose shingles or possible weak spots in the surface.

Dicor for filling holes

Whenever you drill holes in your RV’s roof or walls, it’s important to seal them with dicor. This self-leveling sealant is designed to expand and contract with the different seasons, making it an ideal choice for all kinds of outdoor conditions. Dicor is very easy to use and an essential part of an RV owner’s toolbox.

Water Heater Cleaning

Taking care of your water heater is an essential part of RV maintenance, helping to keep it functioning efficiently. To clean your water heater, start by turning off the power source, then drain all the water from the tank. Remove any sediment or debris that may have collected with either vinegar or magnesium. Finally, flush the tank with fresh water and restart the power source.

Annual Inspection

It’s essential to keep your RV in top shape and ensure the safety of you and your passengers by getting an annual inspection. If you are handy you can do it but if you are not a professional inspector can check the basic systems of your RV, including the electrical, plumbing, and propane, to make sure everything is in good condition. In addition, they can identify any damage, leaks, dents, or scratches that you might miss, so you can repair them before they become a more significant problem.

Battery Check-up

Your RV’s battery powers all of your electrical systems, so it’s important to keep them in good condition. You should have your batteries inspected and tested annually, and replace them every few years, depending on their age and usage. You should also clean your battery terminals, check for corrosion, and keep them well-maintained to ensure they function optimally.

Tire And Brake Maintenance

Tires and brakes are the most critical aspects of your RV, so you need to keep them in good condition. You should check your tires’ pressure regularly, rotate them, and check the brakes for signs of wear and tear. Moreover, if you’re traveling in winter weather, you need to install winter tires, and in hot weather, you need to ensure your tires are in good condition to prevent blowouts.

Engine Maintenance

If you have a motorhome then maintaining the engine is crucial to ensure your RV runs smoothly. You should change your engine oil and filter regularly, check for leaks, and make sure your engine doesn’t overheat. Additionally, you should take your RV for a tune-up regularly to check the RV’s overall engine and transmission performance.

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Campground Fees and Parking

One can park an RV in their own land, but that is not always a viable option if you want to be in the heart of the city amidst the action. RVs cost money to park at paid campgrounds. On average, overnight camping fees for an RV would cost $15–$150 per night at campgrounds that provide basic amenities such as electricity, water, and sewer hookups. However, camping at high-end RV resorts billed at premium rates might cost as much as $100 per night.

If you prefer free then boondocking (dry camping) on public lands can be your way of living. There are also RV memberships like Thousand Trails which can be cheap in the long run.

Paid Campgrounds

Paid campgrounds are the most common option for many RV parkers. They provide basic amenities such as electricity, water, and sewer hookups, making it an excellent option for those who want the convenience of living in an RV without sacrificing all the comforts of home. However, it does come at a price. The average overnight camping fee for an RV would cost $15-$150 per night, depending on what amenities you require. So, while it may be a convenient option, it can become expensive in the long run.

High-End RV Resorts

For those who want more luxurious amenities, high-end RV resorts are the way to go. These resorts have facilities that include swimming pools, hot tubs, fitness centers, and more. They are billed at premium rates and can cost as much as $100-$180 per night, depending on the location. While they are a bit more expensive, the high-end RV resort experience is unbeatable and worth it for some.

Boondocking on public lands

If you prefer to live off-the-grid and want to avoid campground fees, boondocking is the way to go. Boondocking, also known as dry camping, is when you camp in your RV without any hookups or facilities. You can camp for free on public lands, and it can be a great way to save money in the long run. However, boondocking does require some preparation and self-sufficiency, as you’ll need to bring your own water, food, and power sources.

RV Memberships

RV memberships like Thousand Trails can also be a great way to save money on camping fees. These memberships provide free or discounted camping at their various campgrounds across the country. While there is usually an upfront fee for the membership, it can be cost-effective in the long run, especially if you plan on doing a lot of RV camping.

House Sitting

House sitting is another option for RV parkers looking to save money. Some homeowners are looking for someone to watch their property while they are away, and they may allow you to park your RV on their land for free or at a reduced rate. In exchange, you’ll need to take care of their property while they’re away, such as watering the plants or taking care of the animals.

Utilities

If one is considering living in an RV full-time, one must factor in the cost of utilities such as water and electricity. RV parks and campgrounds provide options for hookups for an additional cost. If you are parked on private land or can’t access hookups, the cost depends on your electricity consumption. Power usage varies dramatically, and the average range of cost for electricity would be between $200-$300 per month.

Full-Hookups

One of the most convenient options for RVers is staying at RV parks and campgrounds. These sites often offer hookups for a fee that includes water, electricity, and sometimes, sewer service. The cost of hookups varies depending on the park and location. In general, you can expect to pay around $30-$50 per night for a full hookup site. If you plan to stay in one place for an extended period, many parks offer discounts for weekly and monthly stays.

Private Land

If you’re parked on private land, you’ll not have access to hookups. That means you’ll need to rely on your RV’s water and electricity supply. While water usage varies based on personal usage, electricity consumption is usually the biggest concern. The cost of electricity depends on your power usage and can range from $100-$300 per month for an average RVer. The exact amount you’ll pay would depend on factors such as the size of your RV and your energy usage habits.

Propane

Propane is another utility that RVers must consider. It’s used for heating, cooking, and refrigeration. The cost of propane varies depending on location and season. In general, you can expect to pay around $20-$70 per refill. How often you’ll need to refill also depends on how frequently you use your propane appliances.

Going Solar

A great way to avoid relying on hookups or cutting down electricity costs is by setting up solar panels and a better battery bank. While installing solar panels can be an expensive initial investment, it proves to be an ecologically friendly and cost-effective long-term solution in the long run. The cost varies depending on the panel array’s capacity, but on average, it should be expected to cost between $5,000-$10,000. The battery set-up and installation are additional, so it means spending around $2,500, depending on the configuration. Once you have your panels and batteries, you can use them to power your RV’s appliances without needing a generator or hookups.

Insurance and Fuel Expenses

Insuring an RV is mandatory and can be quite costly depending on state regulations and the type of coverage opted for. Fuel is the second most significant expenditure in RV living. Fuel prices typically range from $3-$6 per gallon in various regions across the United States. RVs are heavy and fuel efficiency is not the best. Depending on how often you drive, you can expect fuel prices around $3000-$15000 a year

Insurance

Insuring an RV is mandatory and varies depending on state regulations. Depending on the type of coverage opted for, insurance can be quite costly. Before you purchase an RV, research the different insurance options available. It’s essential to have your RV appropriately insured to ensure you and your fellow travelers are protected in the event of any accidents or damages. Be sure to shop around for the best rates to reduce insurance expenses. Insurance can cost around $100-200 a month.

Fuel

Fuel is the second most significant expenditure in RV living. Fuel prices typically range from $3-$6 per gallon in various regions across the United States.  To reduce fuel expenses, plan your route ahead of time to avoid long detours and make sure to keep your RV well-maintained. Proper maintenance ensures your RV runs efficiently and can save you money on fuel over time.

Other Expenses

  • Food and Groceries: Just like in a traditional home, you’ll need to budget for groceries and dining expenses. Cooking in your RV can save money compared to eating out regularly.
  • Entertainment and Activities: Enjoying your RV lifestyle often involves exploring new places and engaging in recreational activities. These costs can vary widely depending on your interests.
  • Healthcare: Health insurance and medical expenses are ongoing costs that RVers need to consider, especially if they’re traveling full-time.
  • RV Depreciation: Like any vehicle, RVs depreciate over time. While this isn’t an immediate out-of-pocket cost, it’s crucial to account for your overall budget.
  • Taxes and Registration: You’ll need to pay registration fees and potentially personal property taxes, depending on your home state and where your RV is registered.
  • Internet: Staying connected on the road may involve cell phone plans, internet access, and possibly satellite TV costs.
  • Storage: If you have possessions or another vehicle that won’t fit in your RV or sometimes you plan to leave your RV someplace, you may need to budget for storage costs.

Conclusion

Living in an RV might be the perfect adventure for some; it can be an adventure-filled and relatively affordable way to live life. That being said, the cost of living in an RV depends on various factors, such as maintenance, parking, utilities, insurance, and fuel consumption. However, when done right, the cost of living in an RV pales in comparison to the cost of regular living in a house, especially if the house is located in a major city or coastal area. Whatever your reasons might be to consider living in an RV, make sure to factor in all the additional expenses involved before settling down.

Last update on 2024-04-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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