A couple of folks have asked about the costs to full time in an RV and I figured that with two years under our belt, I know have a decent Idea of the costs for this lifestyle. A little disclaimer here, most of this stuff is really up to you, how connected do you want to remain, how nice of places do you want to stay in, how often do you want to move since longer stays are normally discounted for a week or more and what type of RV do you want. So I plan to break them down into different parts to try and explain how We do it.
So if you decide to full time, there are some costs you have to pay each month as part of the lifestyle:
Costs to stay at a Campground is one, it changes based on length of stay, we average a week to try and get the cheaper weekly rate, and we stay at a mix of commercial, military and state parks. We do very little free parking at BLM land. I budget $900 a month to cover our stays, about $30/night and through 2018 we are averaging about $919/month.
Another cost is Insurance on the Motorhome, which is about $2200/year or about $185/month pretty reasonable when you figure you are driving around in a 38,000lb vehicle that is worth more than several new cars .
Fuel for the RV costs are budgeted at $400/month we get around 8 miles/gallon of diesel, it depends on how much you move around and we tend to end up going coast to coast once a year to see family and friends on both coasts. We are averaging about 12,000 miles/year in travel as of now.
We pull our jeep and drive it around when parked so I budget about $250 in Jeep fuel costs each month and about $100/month for Jeep Insurance.
Health Care is another wild card that varies between folks, we have great medical care being retired military but it is not free and I think we are averaging about $300/month when we include premiums and deductibles, we fill prescriptions at military bases and stay within network to try and minimize costs. We had a fair about of dental work this year, but both of us did not get sick and needing to see the doctor much other than annual visits and lab work.
RV & Jeep Supplies and Repairs, you just have to face it, the fact you’re moving your house down the road at 65 miles and hour means stuff will rattle loose and stuff will break. Lucky that I can fix most things but I do need parts and supplies so I budget $300 a month and this year I spent more doing a complete upgrade on my Satellite entertainment system which cost me an additional $750 to do it but that should last a few years. I had to replace the door locking mechanism, a few shade motors, we got new outside chairs, bought a new firepit for example. Things wear out and need to be replaced and were are finally settled in so I think this should go down a little over time. Jeep repairs have been higher this year as we replaced the shocks, replaced all the brakes, along with the periodic oil changes. I also had to repair the Air Conditioning system this year so costs on the Jeep were a lot this year but last year was mainly oil changes.
Food and Eating Out is tougher, we try to budget about $800 in groceries and $600 eating out since we tend to want to try out new places when we go into different areas. Clearly we could save some here by eating in more, it all depends on what you want to do. I am surprised it is so high, Cathy does most of the grocery shopping so I don’t pay a whole lot of attention except when I am adding it all up.
Cell Phone’s and Satellite TV Programming is another item that will vary from person to person, we both have unlimited cell phone plans which run $200/month between cell plan and leasing the phone. We also pay for Satellite TV programming with premium channels run another $150/month, we record and watch shows in the evening and when the weather keeps us inside, but some folks could save by cutting down the connectivity costs.
Entertainment/Personal Spending/Gifts is sort of a catchall, we periodically do things and visit local attractions, state parks and other things like amusement parks. We periodically replace clothing that wears out using the bring something in causes something to go out. This can vary widely and I will try and break this out into separate categories in the future. Right now I budget $400 and we are trending higher right now.
Vet, Grooming, Pet Supplies are another category I track and budget $150/month for covering both Layla and Phoebe.
Life Insurance is $224/month to cover me for a replacement for my Military Retirement which is our main source of income.
We do pay for the Motorhome monthly as we did not want to take out our 401K money, pay taxes on it and pay for the Motorhome all at once. Each person will have to decide what makes sense for them, we see it as a large luxury automobile payment that gets spread over 20 years and a low interest rate at the time we purchased it. A lot of factors will come into play here and there is no one right way of looking at it. The Motorhome is a depreciating asset and we put enough down to always be on the upside of our loan. It is something to think about and my guess is our costs are about $1000/month in loss of value. That is just a sunk cost to get to live this life and will vary greatly depending on what type of RV you have and what it depreciates each month. But it does go down in value over time, whereas a home should hold its value or appreciate over time, so go into this with your eyes wide open.
As for tools I use, I created a form to track our spending and collect all of our receipts and log the spending every few days. At the end of the month I tally it on a simple spreadsheet that captures the entire year. I also separate out any one time costs and list them as footnotes in the spreadsheet. Here is the form I made to capture the spending…
So is this vastly cheaper than having a home somewhere? No, not really….some of the costs are the same for utilities and connectivity, you need to pay for insurance and a place to stay, food and such. I say we would be spending about the same if we had moved into a house in a lower coast area after retirement and would have to be spending more money if we wanted to travel. We know of folks who only spend about $3000/month and travel around in a small RV, they stay at free campgrounds, they don’t have satellite, find farmers markets to shop at, don’t go out much and have a small RV and don’t pull another vehicle. It is all variable as to what you want to do and spend, and we tailored our budget to fit into our income stream from my military retirement pay before we hit the road and had a cushion set aside. This is what I would recommend, look at your budget and where money is spent today, figure out what you would spend on the road trading say a mortgage, taxes and certain utilities against paying for RV, insurance, a campsite and other RV related costs. The benefits of this lifestyle are pretty easy to see…
We did have some unexpected costs crop up along the way that we dipped into savings to cover and some of my guesses were off, but after two years we are just about hitting an equilibrium.
One side note is we were renting our townhouse out that should have covered most of our townhouse costs, but we had issues with our tenants, had to get them out of the unit and now have it up for sale, it has hit our savings cushion hard. In hindsight, it most likely would have been better if we had just sold the unit before we hit the road. Dealing with renters just added a lot of stress to our lives. We now have it rented again for a year and hope to sell it in early 2020. Once we sell the unit we can replenish our savings and not have that drag on our lives. This again is what works for us, we never intended to live long term in MD, so selling the house was always in our plan, but timing to sell it now was dictated by our poor rental experience. More to come on this saga later.
Let me know if this helps answer your questions or not, and if you want me to do an update next year.