If you’re considering full time RVing, you may be asking yourself how affordable is full time RV living? Admittedly, there are a lot of ways to live in a RV. There are many kinds of ways you can choose to live in an RV, and they can range wildly in price. Affordable is, of course, a relative term, but I would define it as ‘Spending less than you would otherwise in a regular home’. And to that, I would give a resounding: Yes.
The Cost of Housing
In the majority of cases, full-time RV living will be more affordable than living in a house, although there are a few exceptions. At the very least, this blog will help you save even more money than you already would by going mobile.
The average price for a two bedroom rental in the U.S., as of June 2022, is about $2,000. Well that means that as long as you’re spending less than $66 on average for a campsite per night, then you’ll be saving money. And you’ll be pleased to hear that most campgrounds do indeed cost less than $66 per night. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the average campground costs somewhere between $35-50, depending on where you’re staying.
Some people can go a step farther too, either by dry camping, camping in places that are in low demand, or camping in free locations. Now of course, it’s important to keep in mind that, in addition to campgrounds, you also have to spend money on the RV itself, which means that yes, in the short term, you won’t be saving money. But if you’re confident in this as an investment, then you’ll be more than satisfied in the long run.
Gas will likely be your second biggest concern when it comes to expenses. You probably don’t need to be told that RVs don’t get great gas mileage, and this is very true. The distance you’ll get per gallon will range from 6 to 20 miles, and this is affected mostly by the size of your rig. A 40 foot class-A RV will get far worse mileage when compared to a little 15 foot travel trailer. You also have to consider ever fluctuating gas prices, which, depending on where you’re staying, can be as high as six dollar per gallon right now. And if you think that’s expensive when you’re filling up your Subaru, you should see how much it costs to fill up a mega-size motorhome. Regardless though, the amount of traveling you plan on doing will determine a lot when it comes to your budget.
Now we need to address storage, because that can potentially be an unseen major cost. When compared to a house, a storage unit is relatively affordable, but it can be pricey if you intend on storing an entire house’s worth of furniture. On a per square foot basis, the average price in the U.S. sits at around $1.20 per month. This means that, if you plan on saving a few boxes of important belongings, you won’t be spending much. However, if you plan on saving every single thing you own when moving into an RV, then this will quickly begin to stack up. We suggest selling anything that you don’t have strong sentimental attachment to (assuming your confident in wanting to full time RV). If you live in a well populated city, you should have little trouble finding potential buyers on Craigslist, Ebay, or any other used and resale sites.
Other Cost Savings Tips
There’s no doubt living in an RV will still cost a substantial amount of money, but there are a few ways a full timer can save money. Finding a campground that isn’t situated in a major vacation destination is key. You’d be surprised how much cheaper of campgrounds there are by looking at places to stay that are ten or fifteen miles out of the way of major travel destinations. Settling for less posh amenities will save a few bucks too (things like nice bathrooms, pools, and playgrounds). Another way you can save money at campgrounds is by paying for sites that don’t have full sewer hook ups. If you plan on moving campgrounds a lot anyways, this one will be a no-brainer, and on average you’ll save between $5-15 per night.
How We Saved Money on Campgrounds
Many RV parks offer a huge discount for monthly rates often 50 to even 70% less than what their nightly fees are.
Thousand Trails Membership
We have a basic Thousand Trails membership with the Trails Collection add on and depending on where we travel to, this saves us a lot of money. It’s important to note though that many of the Thousand Trails campgrounds are just glorified trailer parks. Thousand Trails also only has campgrounds in a few states. If you are traveling to California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida then this is a good option. If you plan on sticking to the middle of the US, then it’s not. The best part of staying at the more popular Thousand Trails campgrounds is that there is a good chance you’ll meet other RV families. You can learn more about Thousand Trails by checking out our full blog post here.
We actually have not used this yet but plan on using it more this next year. We have met many people who do use it and love it. I think it depends a lot on how fast you plan on traveling since you can only stay one night at a time.
Finding good free camping spots is easier that you might think. You can download the iOverlander and Campendium apps for great ideas or our friends over at Opting Out of Normal have some great blogs on free camping locations.
Saving Money Summary
In conclusion, you’ll likely save money if you go full time into RV living, although there are a few exceptions. The first, would be if you plan on driving large distances (i.e. across entire states) on a frequent basis. Driving all day can be immensely expensive, and although that doesn’t mean you need to stay in one place and live as a hermit, distance is something you always have to take into consideration.
Second, if you plan on only camping at the absolute nicest campgrounds, you will find yourself spending more than living in the average American housing rental.
Lastly, if you’re a single person moving into a large RV, then you likely won’t find yourself saving money, unless of course you’re choosing something along the lines of a sprinter van, or if you know of a good free camping spot. No matter what your situation is, always consider which one will make you happier, because the joy you get from your day is easily the most valuable thing you can pay for in life.