Living in an RV Full-Time: What You Need to Know
Thinking about living the life of a nomad? Want to brave the open road in an RV? There’s a lot to love about throwing caution to the wind and exploring the world on wheels, but it’s not without its own set of complications. Before you put your house up for sale and pawn off all your worldly possessions for a mobile existence, take this guide to living in an RV into consideration. (See also: How to Travel Full-Time for $17,000 a Year (or Less!))
1. An RV May Not Be Cheaper Than Traditional Housing
Think the only costs you’ll incur living in an RV is the monthly loan payment and gas? Think again.
While RV living can be less expensive than a home mortgage and the regular maintenance costs that are associated with home ownership overall, there are plenty of other costs to consider. In addition to the loan payment (unless you have the cash to buy it outright) and fuel (gas ain’t cheap these days, y’all), you’ll need to pay for insurance, site rentals if you plan to stay in an RV park (which can run $300 to $500 a month), propane and electricity (which are available at RV rental sites for an additional fee), and maintenance. Considering these costs, you’ll still be paying about the same per month as you would living in a small apartment.
2. The RV Will Require Much More Gas Than a Car
Many factors play into the amount of fuel consumed by an RV — the weight of the vehicle, engine size, fuel, driving habits — but even the most frugally minded RVers can expect to pay a pretty penny keeping the RV running. Smaller RVs get about 10-15 mpg while larger RVs come in at about 6-13 mpg. Most regular RVs hold between 40 and 85 gallons of gas (depending its class), which translates to between $148.12 and $314.75 per tank, based on the current average regular unleaded gas price of $3.70.
3. RV Insurance Is Not Regular Auto Insurance
Because you’ll being using your RV as a mobile home, insurance considerations are different than those associated with a regular vehicle. A specialized policy may require you to cover things like total loss replacement, replacement cost of personal belongings, full-timer liability, campsite liability, emergency expenses, medium-duty tow trucks, all of which will rack up that insurance bill quickly.
4. Can You Live Without Wi-Fi and Phone Service?
While many modern RV parks and campsites have Internet access on-site, Wi-Fi may not be an option. And if you’re in a remote area, you can probably forget about cell phone service, too. You’ll be able to get online from time to time, but it may be days or even weeks between access availability. So you have to ask yourself, can you live a life without being connected 24/7? Something to ponder before embarking.
5. Where Does the Mail Carrier Deliver Your Mail?
If you’re not staying in one place for more than a couple weeks, how will you get your mail? You can give your personal contacts the address of the park in which you’re staying if you plan to stay in a park, but it’s not feasible to expect your bills and other important mail to arrive at each of your destinations. Thus you’ll have to cancel most of your mail and set up online bill pay so you don’t get behind on payments because you didn’t receive them. Out of sight, out of mind is an easy way to forget about your obligations, but it’ll catch up with you in a bad way eventually.
6. You Have to Drain the Sewage Yourself
One of the great things about RV traveling is that the vehicle is self-contained. You can make meals in it, you can sleep comfortably in it, and you can do your 1s and 2s in it without having to pull into a rest stop or fast-food joint. Your 1s and 2s have to go somewhere though, and that somewhere is in a septic tank attached to the underside of the vehicle that will need to be emptied — and that can get messy. If you’ve got a weak stomach, definitely think hard about this necessary evil.
7. Can You Manage All the Other Stuff, Too?
RV living isn’t just driving from one location to the next, parking, and propping your feet up in nomadic bliss. There are lots of little things to remember, such as checking the battery water level monthly, lowering one corner of your awning to permit easier draining when there’s precipitation, and stocking up on rectangle storage boxes so you make efficient use of limited space. Once you arrive at the RV park, there's lots more to do, starting at the front office (requesting park maps, asking about discounts, and inquiring about Internet service), and then locating your RV space and setting up, which includes deploying decks and other heavy external features of the RV, connecting electricity, turning on water pumps, and raising roof-mounted accessories, among a host of other duties.
8. You’ll Need to Earn Money
Unless you’re embarking on your RV existence with a bank account full of money, you’ll need to work along the way, so you can ensure that there’s a consistent cash flow in case of emergencies, which, in an RV, can be quite costly. If you have the luxury of working remotely in your normal life, that’s still an option while living in an RV, but chances are you’ll need at least somewhat consistent Internet access. Otherwise you’ll have to find new ways to make money — helping out at the RV park, finding odd jobs on Craigslist, and other one-off projects — to bring in dough on the regular.
RV living isn't for everyone — as you can see, there’s a lot to it. Are you considering, or have you made, the transition from Average Joe to Road Warrior? Tell us about your experience in comments.