Life on the road doesn’t need to wait for retirement. Anyone can manage to make a living on the road and live affordably and comfortably in an RV.
While there are limitations, you’ll be able to have everything you need in your home on wheels. You may not be able to pack all of your current belongings into an RV, but you’ll likely have all of the essentials.
However, if you think full-time Rving is going to save you tons of money, you might be in for a shock. Without a doubt, RVing can be expensive if you’re not planning ways to save money. What you save on rent could easily be spent on gas, RV parks, and repairs.
But don’t let this scare you, RVing can cost significantly less than living in a house or an apartment. Let’s explore a few ways to live in an RV affordably while having a great lifestyle.
Rent an RV for more than a week to try out the lifestyle
While renting an RV can be expensive, it might be worth it for your next vacation. Full-time RVing isn’t for everyone. The fact is, there are things about this lifestyle that you won’t fully comprehend until you actually experience it.
You need to spend more than a weekend living in an RV to fully appreciate it. Before you start selling off your things or buy an RV to hit the road for good, you need to experience long-term RV life firsthand.
If you really can’t afford to rent an RV for a week or two, learn as much as you can from full-time RVers. However, be careful to watch YouTube RV channels that don’t focus on “personalities”. Quite a few popular RV channels feature “talking heads” either creating drama or, the perfect lifestyle, for clicks.
Learn from the RVers who not only love RVing but also from those who tried RVing and found out wasn’t for them. Being brutally honest with yourself could prevent an expensive lifestyle decision.
Only Buy an RV from a Reputable Dealer
The most expensive part of RVing is buying the RV. Purchasing the right one could ultimately save you thousands of dollars. Many people on a tight budget will buy an old RV on Craigslist for an unbelievably low price, only to find it is a bottomless money pit. Having your home on wheels broke down for weeks on the road, in need of thousands of dollars in repairs, won’t save you money.
Find an honest RV dealer who has a genuine grasp of the RV lifestyle and who can honestly go over the pros and cons of every RV on the lot. Not only that, try to find a dealer who has gone over and repaired the used RVs, and who might be able to offer you a warranty on a used model.
Consider these factors:
- First of all, you’ll need to decide on a towable (trailer) vs a motorhome. Really research this before you go shopping. But, be open to changing your mind as you shop.
- If you decide on a trailer, you’ll also need to research and buy the right truck. If you already have a truck, you’ll need to match its towing capacity to your new trailer.
- The type and size of RV you purchase will depend on your lifestyle. Are you single or a couple? Don’t underestimate how cramped RV living can be.
- Buy something that you can afford, but don’t buy one you know you deep down won’t be comfortable. Find the balance between spending what you can and being comfortable long-term.
Look at as many RVs as possible before you decide on the type and your specific RV. Spend time in each one, and be realistic about your budget. Take your time, and don’t just buy the first one you fall in love with. Buyer’s remorse can be costly.
Plan on Moving With the Weather Slowly
While you may want to visit your relatives in Michigan for Christmas, be aware, no RV is really built for freezing weather. You’ll risk frozen water lines and frozen tanks, which can be costly to repair. Not only that, Rvs are typically thin on insulation and can be hard to heat.
The same goes for spending the 4th of July in Phoenix with your friends and family. Sure, RVs come with air conditioners, but once again, the thin insulation and many windows will easily defeat the AC.
The best advice is to follow the weather, to avoid extreme temperatures. It would be smarter to visit the folks in Michigan for the 4th of July, and your friends in Phoenix for Christmas.
Save Money by Staying a While
Also, one big way to save money while traveling in an RV is to stay at each destination for a while. This will not only save wear and tear but also gas money. While state and national parks, as well as BLM land, have 2-week stay limits, you can stay in each region for a few months. Driving 200 miles per month will save you a lot, compared to driving 2,000 miles per month. This will not only save money, but you will also get to know each region; you’ll be able to develop a list of good mechanics, nice RV parks, laundromats, and other essentials.
Make a List of Affordable Places to Go
The amount of affordable and nice places to RV varies throughout the country. First, look for affordable places around your starting point, and search out from there. Look at state and national parks, RV parks, and even rest stops and Walmart parking lots for quick overnights.
Read online reviews on sites like Campendium, or Campgroundreviews.com. Also, join online RV forums and groups. Keep a notebook of all of your finds, including comments, addresses, phone numbers, and GPS coordinates. Also, if you plan to work online, you’ll need to find places with good internet.
The great thing about RVing is that if you end up someplace that you don’t like, you can always leave.
Stock Your New RV with Essentials that Make Life Comfortable
While there will be limited space, and, you need to keep your weight down, bring along things that will make it feel like home. Since space is limited, so choose your RV essentials very carefully.
For instance, if you plan on boondocking on solar, you might want to give away your blow dryer, coffee maker, and toaster oven. The fact is, they will likely draw too much power unless you’re plugged in at an RV park. Rather, you’ll need to learn to cook with propane.
Also, unless you plan on having high-level, on-the-road business meetings, you can get rid of the suit and tie. The same probably goes for evening gowns too. And leave behind the bric-a-brac that will only create clutter.
If you are bringing along your pets, be sure to make space for them. A cat’s litter box in a small RV can be problematic, so plan carefully.
Budget for Gas, Maintenance, and Repairs
RVers save money by budgeting for the expected and the unexpected. You can expect to spend a lot of your travel budget on gas, which is one of the biggest money tradeoffs of RVing.
Most RVs only average 6-8 miles per gallon, so, once again, one of the best ways to save money is to limit your travel. That doesn’t mean you can’t do a cross-country trip; it just means, takes it slow. If you stick to a region seasonally, rather than full-speed cross-country trips every month, you’ll save a lot of money.
Another big expense on the road is maintaining your RV. New tires can cost thousands of dollars, and they’ll need to be replaced every five years or so. Also, don’t neglect basic vehicle maintenance, such as oil changes and tune-ups. At a minimum, put aside a couple of hundred dollars every month for repairs and maintenance.
Have a Plan for Making Money on the Road
If you’re not retired and collecting a pension, you’ll need to find a way to keep the money coming in. This might seem like a challenge, but it’s not impossible.
You could continue to work your present job remotely, or, you could start a new career working online. There are also seasonal jobs available, such as campground host, festivals, farm work, and much more. You’ll need to be honest about your skillset and what you can actually do. Also, whatever you do must meet your financial needs.
You should also have enough money set aside for a few months of living expenses, as well as for maintenance and repairs.
We hope this brief article gives you a few ideas to get you started on the road. Living full-time on the road takes some planning, but once you get going, you won’t want to turn back.