The Cost of RV Living

How much did it cost to go from being an apartment dweller to moving into a RV in the end you ask? If you want the short answer, I’ve spent close to $19,000 during the past seven months on everything from buying the truck back in October up to this point. But hold your horses, because it’s actually much more complicated than that.

So complicated in fact that I can understand why most people who go full-time RVing and blog about it don’t bother to post the information about the initial costs and just stick with the monthly upkeep numbers.

I have a running tally of everything I’ve bought related to RVing, and I wouldn’t mind posting it right here except that: 1. It’s a rambling two page list that is hard to understand and make use of without considerable explanation, and 2. would quickly get buried by new posts and I could see this information being something that people would like to refer back too.

So putting it all on a separate page in my navigation bar makes more sense. It’s also been niggling in the back of my mind that my About page is horribly out of date and that Bertha and the Casita (name still pending) deserve their own page. I’d like to say that you could expect a overhaul of all of these things within the next week, but there’s a reason nothing has changed since I launched the blog in November: I have next to no web design prowess.

It will get done, but I make no guarantee that the process will be pretty or efficient. Maybe I should put a little Construction Zone: Hard Hat Required graphic up in the banner. But in the meantime, I can’t just leave you all hanging so here are some of the larger points when it came to my initial RVing costs. I’d say sorry for the fact that the following paragraphs are so convoluted but as I said: the financial aspects of getting started RVing are a complicated thing and require some explanation.

The truck and RV were the biggest purchases of course, at $6,984 (after $4,000 trade in on my previous car) and $8,995 respectively. As I said when I purchased the Casita in March, I haven’t paid sales tax on it yet so that number will be going up next tax season when I pay that in. That already brings the total to $15,973.

I didn’t count the registration/title/insurance for the truck in my numbers since it ended up being slightly less than my car had been – it was a equal replacement that would have been about the same had I stayed in the apartment. The RV registration and title were only $49 total, I got lucky on account that the Casita is 13 years old and most travel trailers of that age are on their last legs, er, wheels? The RV insurance was added to my policy on the truck which runs from 1/16 to 7/16. It was $100 for about the 4.25 months remaining. Here I will note that it is a part-time use policy through Geico with an estimated use of 20 days a year, when the policy comes due in July I’ll have to switch to a full-timing policy which will probably cost more and will also probably be though a different carrier.

The next two largest purchases were my laptop at $1,100, and my $747 trip to Camping World which included a Reese weight distribution hitch (which still isn’t in working condition – sigh), a new 7-prong electrical plug casing, and installation of both. You could argue that the laptop isn’t technically RV related, but to me it totally was in that I wouldn’t have bought it otherwise since I had a monster of a desktop that was less than two years old and would have served me well for at least another year.

If you’re keeping track, we’re at $17,969 now. The last thousand went for other RVing supplies that I’ll list in full when I make that finances page, including the brake controller, storage lot rent for the two months the Casita was parked, the supplies needed to re-caulk the bad seams, fix the holes left by the rusted dinette screws, and wash and wax the trailer. Then the water and sewer hoses, water filter and pressure regulator, and leveling blocks, etc.

Equally important to the tricky RVing money equation is how much you have left after all is said and done. Do you guys remember waaaay back in November I laid out a plan for going full-timing? If you’ve been following along since the beginning you know that I originally wanted $25,000 in the bank before I went out and bought the truck, but decided not to wait that long and had $23,700 at the time of purchase (if I’d waited I would have had that amount by now, except that I switched jobs in January so perhaps not).

Anywho the truck and Casita money came directly from my savings, but most of the rest of the stuff came from the $1,800 in tax refunds I got back in February from 2011. I’m sitting right around $7,500 in the bank at the time of this writing which is about where I should be, but I’ve been losing money instead of saving it since said job switch.

Living costs here at Stoney Crest are going to be nearly $300 less per month than what they were at the apartment as long as Julie is living with me, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to start saving again now that the big ticket purchases are over for a while. This is a good thing because I expect that getting solar installed on my trailer is going to be about 2 grand for what I want.

All in all, my costs to get started RVing came out to about what I expected, not because I knew everything I was going to need to buy, but because I planned on there being things I couldn’t know about until the process was underway. It’s funny actually, because nearly three years ago when I moved from Wisconsin to South Carolina the total cost ended up being around $3,000, and asides from the actual truck and trailer purchase that’s what I’m at now.

Any questions? I know money is a touchy subject for some people but if you’d like to add anything about your own RVing costs or expected costs, I’d love to hear. The picture for today’s post show our lovely screen tent, which we’re borrowing from local friends who haven’t been using it. Earlier this week Julie and I spent hours one evening enjoying the crickets and frogs chirping and a cool breeze unhindered (mostly) by insects, it was glorious.

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Daniel A. on June 19, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Good job Becky.

    My costs totaled around 15,000.00 truck & camper luckily for me I took an early retirement offer which gives cash flow.
    Anyone with a good attitude and a bit of confidence can fulltime.

    I’m looking at Cabo for the winter.

    • Becky on June 20, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      Hiya Daniel, thanks for posting and welcome to IO.

      I had to do a google search to see where Cabo was, the Baja peninsula is pretty far south indeed. 🙂 Have you wintered out there before? I wonder what it’s like.

  2. Pleinguy on May 19, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Another reason start-up costs for RV living are not covered is because it is so variable. Each persons wants, needs and resources will be quite different. It is nice to see your numbers though, because someone else may want to do the same thing as you.

    Consider that your costs have been about what one would pay for one year lease on an apartment, plus furnishings. However, you now have your housing costs covered for many years to come. I suspect your monthly housing bills will be considerably less over time than a fixed abode. And, you will be moving your apartment to new places without incurring the usual moving expenses.

    I’d say the costs are pretty reasonable considering the flexibility and exciting lifestyle you will be enjoying. Congratulations on making it happen ahead of schedule.
    Pleinguy recently posted..Progress ReportMy Profile

    • Becky on May 19, 2012 at 7:26 pm

      Thanks Pleinguy. Indeed I have no regrets and am so much happier for doing it, it’s like a new lease on life. Now when I drive to work in the morning I smile when I realize that it’s truly only for a little while longer and if it ever got real bad like at my own job I could just pick up and leave, so liberating. I’m excited when I think about where I’m going from here, instead of the vague anxiety I use to feel before I started pondering what I really wanted to do with my life.

      I didn’t talk much about it in this post but yeah, nobody’s costs are going to be exactly the same as mine, there are as many ways to make full-time RVing pre-retirement work as there are people doing it. And that’s a good thing, because it means it’s more attainable that most folks believe. The trick is it’s not as simple as following exactly what someone before you has done because it’ll be a bit different for everyone. That scares some people away from the lifestyle which makes me sad.

  3. Kylene on May 19, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Becky, next time you’re over, let’s talk WordPress. It’s what I use for my own website and I can walk you through that whole thing.

    Kylene recently posted..To own or not to ownMy Profile

    • Becky on May 19, 2012 at 7:18 pm

      Sounds good Kylene!

  4. Kim on May 18, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Good information! Thanks for sharing.
    Kim recently posted..Minimalism: Quantitative ProofMy Profile

    • Becky on May 19, 2012 at 7:17 pm

      Your welcome Kim. 🙂 I’ve been following along on your blog, so happy to see that things are progressing for you and congratulations on the house offer!

  5. Misty on May 18, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    I have a hard time calculating what I would be spending to move into an apartment vs. full-timing. I guess I just haven’t been keeping track! I’ve been keeping the costs down by avoiding expenses that aren’t immediately necessary, but I’ve still probably spent a lot. 😛

    For me, the biggest expense after purchase of the trailer is going to be gas! It’s going to easily cost me $400-500 to get to South Carolina (maybe more, since that’s just a rough estimate based on what I’ve observed so far).

    Luckily my work has picked up. I still haven’t made as much this month as I would have liked, but it’s nothing to sneeze at!
    Misty recently posted..This week’s inspirational link: Adam FrankMy Profile

    • Becky on May 19, 2012 at 7:13 pm

      Yeah gas is a big one. It costs almost twice as much in gas (well, maybe about 80% more) to drive Bertha as my Civic, and when I was driving 60 miles a day for work that added up fast. Fortunately the new job is closer so it’s less of an issue now. I didn’t factor that into the cost of how much living in the RV is costing me vs. an apartment but it’s true I’d be paying a lot less if I still had my little car. Then again I’m now longer paying water, electricity, or internet so it kinda evens out.

      When I’m on the road I’m planning on staying in one spot for a while instead of being constantly in motion. It’ll save on gas, allow me to really get to know a place and experience it fully, and also save in campground fees for places that offer a monthly rate. Also kinda goes with the territory of taking seasonal jobs.

      I’m glad your work has picked up, Julie and I are looking into places for you to get reliable wifi around here for work since I know it’s important for what you do.

      • Misty on May 19, 2012 at 9:04 pm

        I don’t know how far you are from work, but you might consider eventually investing in a decent bicycle. I can give you some blogs to read up on bike commuting or offer some of my own experiences, if you’re interested. I’ve saved so much money on gas by using my bike for short trips! I think it may be harder in the RV, since parks tend to be farther from civilization, but you’d be surprised how far you can go on a good, well-maintained bike, and how quickly!

        I’m also planning to stay in one spot for awhile, though I’m taking the trip from Texas to SC pretty slow. I think I’m going to swing by Nashville, just for fun. I have money for the gas to get up there, but don’t know if I’ll have the money for the site rental until the end of June, so I’m just going to take my time getting up there and take advantage of free places to overnight along the way. This is such a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants adventure, but I’m less stressed now because of some awesome work things that have come up.

        • Becky on May 19, 2012 at 10:07 pm

          Fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants adventures are my favorites, that’s kinda how our original move down to SC felt. 😛

          I am interested in getting a bicycle eventually, that’s one of the reasons I wanted a covered cap for the truck, because the bike will be kept back there when not in use. I haven’t done much research on them yet though because that was something I didn’t consider a necessity for full-timing and thus it got put lower down on the to-do list. I think I’m a bit far to be biking to work still from where I am, it’s about 17 minutes by car and more than half of it is on a 50mph highway that’ll go much slower on a bike. Go ahead and give me those sites though – that way I’ll have them when it comes time to start looking.

          Julie wants me to get one since she already has one. There are some great bicycle trails on Hilton Head Island actually and many places out there rent bikes to tourists. I was telling her when you visited we definitely had to get out there and spend a day biking around since I knew you had one and liked it.

          Slow trips are good. I had to really rush to get the Casita back to SC when I bought it after the purchase in Florida, and that wasn’t a very fun drive. Being a country music fan I wouldn’t mind seeing Nashville either some day, it’s sorta on my list.